Newsflash: groen licht voor goedkope Mini uit China

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+++ ASTON MARTIN unveiled its first-ever SUV at events in Beijing and Los Angeles, signalling it was banking on China’s growing appetite for luxury to prop up sales. Dubbed the DBX, the new vehicle is the biggest expansion in Aston Martin’s range in the brand’s history, CEO Andy Palmer said at its launch. The company (whose cars play a central role in the fictional British spy James Bond blockbuster films) has struggled financially in recent years, posting a loss of 13.5 million pounds last quarter. But with its growing appetite for gas-guzzling SUVs, China presents an opportunity for the ailing carmaker, which has been hit by Brexit woes and slowing demand in Europe. Founded in 1913, Aston Martin hopes to “more than double” its sales in China, which currently stand at around 500 units per year, Palmer told. Nearly half of all new car purchases registered in China last year were SUVs, according to industry sources. But the growing demand for SUVs was causing environmental headaches. Emissions from SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from 2010 to 2018 after power generation, the International Energy Agency said last month. In that period, SUVs more than doubled their global market share from 17 % to 39 %, with a contribution to annual emissions rising to more than 700 megatons of Co2, the agency said. Palmer said that the DBX was “obviously geared for performance, that’s what an Aston Martin is all about” when asked about the environmental impact of the new car. With a 4,0 liter V8 twin turbo-charged engine, the DBX is capable of a top speed of 290 kph and doing 100 kph in 4.7 seconds. Aston Martin says it has splurged on the details and was betting on China’s growing demand for luxury for success. Palmer said Aston Martin plans to follow in the footsteps of its German rival Porsche, which unveiled an electric model in September, and relaunch its Lagonda series “as a fully electric brand” by 2022 or 2023. +++

+++ AUDI said it is in talks to buy batteries from China’s BYD for its locally made cars, a move that would break the luxury automaker’s reliance on a single supplier in the country as it rolls out new electrified models. “We are in talks with BYD, but I cannot tell you details”, Gaby-Luise Wüst, Audi’s recently appointed Audi China president, said in an interview ahead of the Guangzhou auto show. People familiar with the matter said in August that Audi was in talks with Warren Buffett-backed BYD, China’s top electric automaker and No. 2 auto-battery supplier, as well as other potential suppliers. Audi plans to start selling 9 new-energy models in China over the next 2 years, with more than half of the new models purely battery-electric, Wüst said. Parent company Volkswagen has set a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050 and has been pushing to electrify its fleet. The world’s largest automaker will invest more than €4 billion next year to add battery-car production and more SUVs to its lineup. Audi is its biggest profit generator, and every third customer of the brand comes from China. Electric-vehicle sales in China have been held back by cutbacks in subsidies and stagnant consumption, even as contenders from Mercedes-Benz to Tesla bring out new models. Audi is working hard to maintain relationships with local OEMs as well as suppliers, Wüst said. “It’s a painful transition”, Wüst said, referring to costs of electrification. But “there is really no other way under stricter emission regulations”. Automakers are seeking to diversify supplies of critical components as the rollout of electric models gains traction. Volkswagen plans to deliver 22 million fully electric vehicles worldwide by 2028, with more than half of them built in China. Audi currently uses battery cells from CATL for its Q2 L e-Tron sold in China. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY is set to offer its Range Rover-rivalling Bentayga with a choice of 4 or 7 seat configurations. The luxurious 4×4 will come as standard with 4 seats, forsaking a central perch on the rear bench in favour of a centre console with an armrest and storage space. However, standard V8 and Speed models will be offered with an optional central seat and a third row in the boot, bringing the total to 7. According to the Crewe-based carmaker, the option reinforces the Bentayga’s status as “the world’s most versatile luxury vehicle”. The company claims the new layouts mean the enormous SUV can double as a family bus or luxury limousine, depending on the customer’s preference. Bentley says the 4-seat layout is designed to provide an “enhanced space for relaxation”, as well as allowing the space to be used for “entertainment” or as a mobile office. Because of the extra space, the company says the 2 rear seats provide passengers with most of the same seating features found in the front, including 12-way electrical adjustment, heating, ventilation and massage functions. As an option, Bentley will offer cars in four-seat guise a choice of Bentley Rear Entertainment, Bluetooth headphones, and fold-down picnic tables. Customers will also be able to choose the Mulliner-Console Drinks Cooler, which sits between the rear seats and essentially provides a cool box for your champagne. In 7-seat guise, however, is described as offering “maximum versatility” and extra passenger-carrying capability. The third row of seats fold away electronically, to provide maximum luggage capacity, while the middle row folds manually so passengers can enter and exit the car. Bentley Rear Entertainment is also available as an option for those travelling in the back. The 7-seat layout will not be offered on the Hybrid version of the Bentayga, which combines a 3-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine with an electric motor to create a plug-in hybrid SUV. Bentley calls that model (which will have to ‘make do’ with a 4-seat configuration) the luxury SUV sector’s first plug-in hybrid and its most efficient model ever. However, the base V8 model, which uses a 4-litre, twin-turbo charged V8 petrol engine with 550 hp will be available with seating for 7. That means the whole family can experience the 4.4-second 0-100 kph time and the 290 kph top speed. Similarly, the W12-powered ‘Speed’ version will also come with the option of a third row. That car uses the same 6-litre W12 seen in the top-of-the-range Continental GT, complete with 635 hp, and it’s capable of hitting 306 kph when it’s travelling flat out. +++ 

+++ The BMW Group expects to spend over €2 billion on Korean parts by the end of next year, the Korean unit of the German auto giant said during a meeting with its local suppliers held in Incheon. The automaker also announced it inked a €2.9 billion battery supply deal with local battery maker Samsung SDI, one of 30 first-tier suppliers from Korea that BMW has been working with. The announcement came as the German auto group held its Supplier Day event, a long-established practice by BMW to share future partnership plans with local suppliers, for the first time in Korea. The Korean subsidiary of BMW Group said the event was held to recognize the growing importance of Korean suppliers to the group. The auto group’s purchasing volume with Korean suppliers has been constantly growing, from €70 million in 2012 to €500 million in 2016 and €1.5 billion last year. “As one of our most important markets, Korea plays a key role in the performance of the BMW Group and across numerous aspects of the business”, said Andreas Wendt, a member of the board of management of BMW in charge of purchasing and supplier network during the event. “We highly value your contribution, especially when it comes to e-mobility, automated driving and connectivity”. While BMW Group plans to have 25 electric models in its portfolio by 2023, with more than half of those being fully electric cars, Wendt said it is crucial that the group secures enough battery cells to achieve the goal. “Battery is a key component in every electric vehicle as it significantly determines not only the range, but also the performance capabilities of the car”, said Wendt. “That is why I am very happy to say that yesterday we signed a long-term supply contract with Samsung SDI on our fifth generation of battery cells”. According to the BMW Group, Samsung SDI will be offering fifth-generation battery cells to BMW from 2021 to 2031 under the deal. “We source the best-available future-oriented battery expertise and technology from our Korean suppliers”, he added. The BMW Group is also working in the field of 5G connectivity with two Korean companies, according to Wendt. Korea was the first country in the world to commercialize a 5G network for mobile phones earlier this year. “We are expanding our network in companies of all sizes, also including more and more small and medium enterprises and start-ups”, Wendt said. “Altogether, we have identified more than 25 Korean start-ups with potentially interesting, forward-looking technologies for the BMW Group”. The German automaker is already working with Korean start-ups in the field of autonomous driving and intelligent self-cleaning glass, the company said. Self-cleaning glass can be used in sensor cleaning systems for cameras. The BMW Group has been working with Korean companies to promote sustainable business practices. The group has set up a pilot project at a subsistence mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo and brought BASF, Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics on board as partners. The partners are jointly funding the project, dubbed Cobalt for Development, which officially launched in the Congo in September. While cobalt, a key material used to make electric car batteries, is mostly mined in the Congo, child labor and bad working conditions there have been cited as a major concern. The relationship between the BMW Group and Korea goes back roughly 25 years. Next year will mark 25 years since BMW established it local subsidiary in Korea. It was the first foreign car company to do so. Currently, 7 dealer groups with 72 showrooms and 82 service centers represent BMW Group’s presence across the country. “The BMW Group recognizes Korea is one of the world’s powerhouses of high-end technology”, Wendt said. “As innovation is more important than ever, we will intensify our cooperation with Korean companies to leverage the expertise and talent here”. Globally, the BMW Group has some 12,000 suppliers and 4,500 production locations. +++ 

+++ A standalone BMW M car has been on the cards for many years, and it seems that it might finally be greenlit for production. Confirmed by the division’s chief, Markus Flasch, during the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show, it’s reportedly due in 2021. “I can think of doing standalone M cars. I like the idea and I think we’re going to do something in this direction”, When asked about the body style of the car, or if it could be an SUV, Flasch replied: “I don’t know. Well, I do know, but I’m not saying yet!” Electrification is expected to be part of the package, as such powertrains could be “an easy answer to every question”, and not “rocket science” or “the game changer that people think”, according to Flasch. “We will bring electrified propulsion systems as soon as they’re better than the predecessor, that’s the first rule, we don’t have to be the first, we have to be the best”. Although BMW M’s head honcho wouldn’t say whether the Vision M Next Concept previewed the halo car, the company’s design chief, Domagoj Dukec, is convinced that this is the right approach. “We have a heritage of bringing art cars and race cars together with M. I am convinced that the Vision M Next is the right way. BMW deserves to be ahead in terms of brand identity. What we did with the M Next is a complete different approach in terms of communication and artwork around the car”. The Vision M Next has a hybridized 4-pot with a total system output of 600 hp that enables a 0-100 km/h sprint in 3.0 seconds and a 300 km/h top speed. It can also drive on electricity alone for 100 km. +++ 

+++ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ top shareholder EXOR will have a total of €3.6 billion in 2022 to invest once a deal to merge the carmaker with rival PSA goes through, boss John Elkann said. Elkann, who leads the Agnelli family’s investment vehicle, said he was confident FCA and PSA would sign a binding agreement by the end of the year and dismissed concerns a lawsuit filed against FCA by General Motors could derail the deal. In presenting Exor’s new strategy to investors 10 years after the holding company was established, Elkann said Exor would have about €2 billion of cash in 2022 for acquisitions, before taking into account an expected special dividend of around €1.6 billion euros from the FCA-PSA deal. In addition to being chairman and chief executive of Exor, Elkann is chairman at FCA, in which Exor holds a 29% stake. Besides FCA, Exor’s assets include controlling stakes in luxury carmaker Ferrari, industrial vehicle manufacturer CNH Industrial, re-insurer Partner Re and Italian Serie A soccer team Juventus. It also has a 43 % stake in publishing group The Economist. Elkann said Exor would not pay out special dividends to its investors following the FCA-PSA merger. He also ruled out in the short term a new share buyback, which is the traditional tool for the group to award its shareholders extraordinary remuneration. “We have just completed an own-share repurchase program and we don’t plan to launch a new one, so all the extraordinary dividend we would get from a PSA deal will be used for acquisitions”, he said. Elkann added Exor had not yet decided in which industries it may expand its business. “But I see ourselves buying new companies in the future”, he said, adding Exor would keep a strong focus on investments in the ‘environmental, social and governance’ (ESG) category. Elkann said the family intended to remain a stable shareholder in the auto sector. +++ 

+++ Auto sales at FORD ’s China venture with Chongqing-based carmaker Changan are likely to turn positive next year, Changan’s president said. That points to a potential reversal in Ford’s declining fortunes in the world’s biggest auto market, as the U.S. auto maker has grappled with shrinking sales and problems such as an ageing model lineup. The slide in Ford’s sales has been unprecedented for a major global automaker in China. After a peak of 1.08 million vehicles in 2016, sales began faltering in late 2017, then nearly halved last year to 504.488. “There are good signs that Changan Ford’s sales will get better”, Changan president Zhu Huarong told. “Changan, Ford and JMC are jointly discussing about future product planning”, he said, referring to Jiangling Motors, in which Ford also has a stake. When asked when sales might start growing again, he said “next year”, without providing more details. Changan Ford sold 147.276 vehicles in the first 10 months this year, more than halving from 335.535 over the same period last year, according to its filing. +++ 

+++ The racketeering lawsuit brought by GENERAL MOTORS against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is a legal bombshell for the U.S. car industry. GM’s broadside lays out in forensic detail how FCA allegedly conspired over many years to funnel payments to UAW officials, corrupt the collective bargaining process on wages and thus secure a competitive advantage. In essence, it’s trying to rewrite the American auto industry’s past decade of history, which saw both GM and Chrysler bounce back dramatically from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In GM’s telling, the merger of Italy’s Fiat with Michigan’s Chrysler and their subsequent renaissance under the leadership of Sergio Marchionne was built on corruption. It may have a hard time proving parts of its case, particularly its assertion that the goal of the alleged conspiracy was to weaken GM and force it into a merger with FCA. The Italian company says the lawsuit is groundless, implying that any bribe-paying would have been a case of a few bad apples. This is an awkward defense, though: Federal prosecutors have accused FCA managers of trying to keep union officials “fat, dumb and happy” and 3 of the company’s executives have pleaded guilty to various charges. Regardless of whether GM succeeds in extracting billions of dollars compensation from its rival, the lawsuit seems calculated to punish Fiat and destabilize its recovery. FCA’s proposed merger with PSA, a prospective labor deal with the UAW and the reputation of the deceased Marchionne are in the balance. Relations between the 2 carmakers and with America’s trade unions will never be the same again. GM’s lawsuit contains plenty of salacious claims, but this goes far beyond the accusations of fancy meals, trips and gifts to UAW officials to secure lower and more flexible labor costs. In GM’s allegations, the original sin goes all the way back to 2009 when the Italian company “managed to win the support of the U.S. government in obtaining operational control, for no cash, over an iconic U.S. auto company”. And GM leaves little doubt about where the buck stops for the alleged orgy of trade union bribery that ensued: former Fiat boss Marchionne. This is shocking because for many investors Marchionne was a hero who created huge value. Doubtless this grated with GM, whose own remarkable post-crisis recovery allowed it to fend off FCA’s merger overtures. There are other things that cast a cloud over the Marchionne era. Last year the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission found that during his tenure FCA fraudulently misled investors about how many new vehicles it and its dealers sold each month. Furthermore, the U.S. brought criminal charges against FCA this year related to alleged diesel emissions cheating between 2011 and 2017. The automaker agreed to pay $800 million in January to settle diesel lawsuits brought by states, car owners and the U.S. Department of Justice, which labeled it a “bad actor”. While Marchionne isn’t alive to defend himself, the mantle of savior of the auto industry has passed to PSA’s boss Carlos Tavares. He acquired GM’s Opel/Vauxhall European subsidiary in 2017 and turned it around in record time, an embarrassment for GM which achieved nothing but losses there. The GM lawsuit will be a big test for him, and may encourage him to rethink the terms of the PSA -FCA merger, which clearly favor the Italian side. GM’s move also puts the screws on the UAW to bargain particularly hard with FCA over a new labor deal. If the union fails to emerge with good terms from those talks, it will look beholden to a carmaker from whom former officials allegedly accepted bribes. These scorched-earth tactics could yet backfire for GM. The technological and regulatory upheaval that’s upended the auto industry probably needs cooperation, not feuds. GM has already secured a new labor deal with the UAW, but re-airing the union’s dirty linen won’t help its own employee relations, which have been scarred by 40 days of strikes this year. GM says the timing is coincidental but nothing about this lawsuit feels haphazard. It’s a precision-guided declaration of corporate war. +++ 

+++ Indicted former Nissan chairman Carlos GHOSN was finally allowed to talk with his wife, 7 months after a Japanese court banned direct contact between the 2. Ghosn spoke with his wife Carole for about an hour around midday by video conference from Ghosn’s attorney’s office, one of his defense team lawyers confirmed. The Tokyo District Court approved the brief one-off call a day earlier, after rejecting repeated petitions by Ghosn to do so over the months. The court had prohibited contact as part of the strict bail conditions set when Ghosn was released from jail a second time in late April. Prosecutors had argued that allowing Ghosn direct contact ran the risk the 2 would conspire to tamper with evidence. Ghosn’s team countered that his wife has no direct involvement in his case and that the restriction is merely a penalty designed to apply psychological pressure. “This court decision is valid only for this one time, and we are not sure if the court will grant another chance, going forward”, one of Ghosn’s lawyers said. “But we will continue to request that the court ease bail conditions to allow Ghosn to communicate or meet his wife”. The couple was allowed to speak only with the oversight of a lawyer, and they were barred from discussing the legal case brought against Ghosn. Carole Ghosn last saw her husband in early April, when Ghosn, then out on bail from his first arrest, was taken into custody for the second time. During both lockups, Ghosn spent a total of 129 days in solitary confinement. Ghosn faces 4 indictments in Japan following his initial November 19 (2018) arrest. The first 2 are charges of failing to disclose more than $80 million in deferred compensation. The 2 other counts are breach of trust charges accusing Ghosn of diverting company money for personal gain. Ghosn, who denies the entire slate of charges, faces up 15 years in prison and a fine of up to 150 million yen ($1.4 million) if convicted on all 4 counts. +++ 

+++ In JAPAN , slumping new vehicle sales are starting to take a toll on the employment situation in the automotive industry. From November 8, Mazda stopped soliciting new fixed-term workers at its head office plants in Hiroshima Prefecture, which mainly make finished vehicles, and the Hofu plant in neighboring Yamaguchi Prefecture. Honda has also suspended seeking such workers at its Yorii plant in Saitama Prefecture, which produces SUVs and sedans. Both firms have no idea when to restart the hiring of new fixed-term workers. Employment conditions for fixed-term workers tend to be easily affected by swings in the economy. Such employment adjustment steps came on the heels of stagnant factory operating rates amid faltering sales in not only the domestic but also major overseas markets, such as the United States and China. Sales of new automobiles in Japan in October tumbled 24.9 % from a year before, the first decline in 4 months, due to the effects of the powerful Typhoon, which hit the country in the month, and the consumption tax hike from 8 % to 10 % on October 1. Concerned about growing uncertainty over the course of the world economy, 6 of 7 major automakers have revised down their global automobile sales estimates for fiscal 2019. On top of Mazda and Honda, Nissan in July announced a plan not to renew contracts with a total of more than 880 existing fixed-term workers at its plants in Tochigi and Fukuoka prefectures, as the company aims to shore up its operations. Auto parts maker Aisin, an affiliate of Toyota, has passed over hiring such workers. Mitsubishi, whose earnings are slumping, plans to reduce back-office workers. +++ 

+++ KIA said it has produced 3 million cars at its Georgia plant over the last 10 years. The plant, which is celebrating its 10th birthday, started operations in November 2009, producing Sorento SUVs. In the first year, the plant produced some 15,000 cars. In September this year the plant passed the 3-million-vehicle mark, according to Kia. The carmaker said the factory has contributed to expanding its presence in the U.S. auto market. “Even while the U.S. auto market has contracted this year, sales of Kia cars through October increased by 3.3 % year-on-year”, Kia said in statement. “Among the Kia cars sold in that period, the 3 models produced at the Georgia plant (Optima, Sorento and Telluride) account for over 40 %”. While the plant started producing the Telluride SUV from February this year, the model has already proven popular in the U.S. market, boosting sales. An average of 5,600 Tellurides have been sold every month from March through October, according to Kia. “Dealers are striving to secure Tellurides, as supply falls behind demand”, a spokesperson from Kia said. According to Kia, the car was selected the winner of MotorTrend’s 2020 SUV of the Year award. The auto magazine has been announcing winners at the end of each year since 1999. The Telluride is the first Korean car to win the SUV of the Year award. The SUV was evaluated alongside seven other finalists including the Audi e-Tron, BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne on 6 key criteria including safety, design and driving performance. Last year’s winner was Jeep’s Wrangler. The carmaker said it will raise this year’s Telluride production target from 60,000 units to 80,000, considering demand. “The support we have received since the very beginning (from state and local governments, civic organizations and various partners) has been critical to the success of Kia’s first American plant”, said Euisun Chung, executive vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, at a ceremony in Georgia. Chung added that Hyundai and Kia will become paradigm-shifters as the the global auto industry is rapidly disrupted. “We will offer the world’s best smart mobility services, expanding our horizons beyond vehicle production”, Chung said. “In the future we will manufacture not only cars but also personal air vehicles and robots, as well as offer all related services”. The Georgia plant has the capacity to produce 340.000 cars a year. It is the third overseas production base of Kia, after plants built in China and Europe. +++ 

+++ LAMBORGHINI is having its best year ever in Korea, with sales up more than tenfold from 2018 as the Italian maker of super-high-end vehicles does well selling SUVs. A number of other luxury car brands are also thriving as many wealthy Koreans are prospering despite the overall economic difficulties in the country. Lamborghini said 130 of its vehicles were purchased in Korea so far this year, up from 11 in 2018. Stefano Domenicali, chairman and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, attended the event for the first time and introduced Aventador SVJ Roadster to the local market. “Automobili Lamborghini is enjoying the most successful year in its history this year from high sales achievements in the global market”, Domenicali said during the event, adding he expects the total sales for this year to reach 160. “Korea is a fast growing market, so the country is a very important market for us. Lamborghini will work to provide everything up to Korean customers’ expectations”. The Urus is driving the growth. Lamborghini is one of several foreign luxury brands experiencing success in Korea. According to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (Kaida), the total sales of imported vehicles in the country between January and October this year dropped 12.2 % on year to 206,229 units. But during the same period, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini, the quintessential super-luxury brands, recorded double-digit sales growth in Korea. Through October, Rolls-Royce sold 140 vehicles; up 44.3 % from 97 units posted a year earlier. Porsche recorded total sales of 3.351 vehicles from January to October; up 10.3 % from the same period a year earlier. Ferrari, which doesn’t disclose its sales numbers in Korea, may have sold more than 100 vehicles in the country so far this year. “As the economy worsens, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, so the demand for extremely expensive luxury cars is destined to rise even though the overall demand for cars falls”, said Kim Pil-soo, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University. “This trend will likely continue considering the economy will not recover anytime soon”. Not all high-end brands are doing well. Bentley, the third most expensive car by average price of its models in Korea (after Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini), sold 73 units this year so far; down 66 % from the 215 units from January to October last year. Other imports are also struggling. Volkswagen sales in Korea dropped 70.1 % on year to 3.682 units, while sales have dropped for Japanese automakers as Koreans avoid Japanese goods due to tensions related to disagreements over wartime compensation. +++ 

+++ The first LEXUS full-electric vehicle is a battery powered version of the UX compact crossover that will go on sale in Europe and China next year and in Japan in early 2021. The UX 300e has brisk acceleration and a 400 km range, Lexus said. Toyota’s premium brand unveiled the EV at the Guangzhou auto show in southern China as a step toward electrifying the entire Lexus lineup by 2025. Leading with an EV offering for China and Europe is seen as crucial to meeting those markets’ increasingly stringent emissions regulations. Lexus and Toyota have been seen as late to the EV race, preferring to lean more on the parent company’s trademark gasoline-electric hybrid technology. Lexus president Yoshihiro Sawa said last month the brand will develop a dedicated platform for EVs and a plug-in hybrid in the early 2020s. All nameplates will get an electrified offering by 2025. The brand calls the strategy “Lexus Electrified”. Having an EV on tap could further spur rapidly rising Lexus sales in China, where the brand was the fifth largest luxury car seller last year, behind Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Cadillac. Despite an overall slump in China demand, Lexus has booked double-digit sales growth in China this year. In the first 10 months, local deliveries advanced 22 % to 160.914 vehicles. “The all-electric UX 300e was developed for excellent on-road performance”, Lexus said in a release. “Lexus engineers kept the distinctive design and the utility characteristics of the UX crossover intact and focused on the opportunities to build on the performance advantages unique to EVs. The UX 300e’s high-output motor provides a natural-yet-brisk acceleration”. Under the hood, the full electric UX crossover teams a 54.3 kWh lithium ion battery with a 204 hp motor mounted in the front to produce 300 Nm. The UX 300e comes with paddle shifters that provide an engine brake feel when drivers click through different levels of battery regeneration while decelerating. Floorboard placement of the battery and low positioning of the motor provide good handling with a low center of gravity. Lexus also says the electric UX has one of the quietest cabins in its class, thanks to better insulation. Wind-shedding wheel covers and an underbody cover also improve aerodynamics. “The UX 300e provides excellent dynamic performance”, Lexus said. “Drivers can feel the powerful acceleration and instant torque of the EV powertrain as they push the pedal”. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES has kicked off the teaser campaign for the new GLA. Set to be unveiled on December 11th, the redesigned crossover will be larger and more luxurious than its predecessor. The company is keeping details under wraps, but they released a digital countdown clock that shows the GLA in the background. The image isn’t very revealing, however it confirms the model will have a new greenhouse with a third quarter window. That’s a change for the GLA and it should help the model look more like a crossover and less like a lifted hatchback. While Mercedes isn’t ready to talk specifics, previous reports have suggested the crossover will be 20 mm shorter and 100 mm taller than its predecessor. The wheelbase is also set to grow by 30 mm, which should result in additional rear seat legroom. An assortment of engines will be available and petrol choices will reportedly include a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder with 165 hp and a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder producing 228 hp. Diesel fans will reportedly get 3 options including a 1.5-liter with 116 hp and a 2.0-liter with 150 hp and 190 hp. Of course, there will also be a handful of AMG variants. The GLA 35 should arrive shortly after launch with a turbocharged 2.0-liter that produces 306 hp and 400 Nm. Later on, the GLA 45 and GLA 45 S will be added as the range-toppers. The base model will have a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 387 hp and 480 Nm, while the S will boast 421 hp and 500 Nm. +++

+++ Great Wall has gained domestic regulatory approval to build a factory in China together with BMW, paving the way for the German carmaker to develop and build a low-emission MINI . Since February 2018, BMW and Chinese SUV manufacturer Great Wall, which sold around 1 million vehicles last year, have tried to share the costs of building a low-cost electric vehicle on a joint platform to be used by both brands, but the project ran into regulatory hurdles. The project, with total investment of 5.1 billion yuan ($724.4 million), will have annual capacity of 160,000 combustion engine cars for export, Great Wall said in a Shanghai Stock Exchange filing. The filing said plant construction will begin next year and be completed in 2022, but the company added that capacity for new energy vehicles has yet to be approved by authorities. A BMW statement said: “The initial focus of our cooperation with the Chinese manufacturer Great Wall is the joint research and development and the future local production of Mini electric vehicles”. The German carmaker also said that a further announcement about the joint venture will be made in the city of Zhangjiagang on Nov. 29. The 2 manufacturers had envisaged building low-emission vehicles in China, but a trade dispute between China and the United States had led BMW executives to freeze plans for the creation of a Chinese export hub. “We have no basis for taking a decision at the moment. Whether this is financially viable and whether it makes sense needs to be evaluated”, BMW’s chief executive told journalists at the Geneva car show in March. +++

+++ NISSAN has been mostly preoccupied with a management overhaul and infighting with alliance partner Renault since the arrest of former boss Carlos Ghosn a year ago, making only limited progress in fixing its battered earnings. But analysts agree that the automaker needs to strengthen its alliance with Renault to remain competitive in the global auto industry, where the focus is shifting to autonomous, connected and electric vehicles. Nissan needs combined efforts with the French partner to cut costs and share the investment burden in developing next-generation vehicles while it shores up its business, particularly in the United States. In the U.S. market, it has relied heavily on incentives to sell cars, denting profitability and hurting brand perception. “The relationship they have with Renault, this alliance, it needs to be mended”, said Christopher Richter, deputy head of research at CLSA Securities Japan. “Maybe the issue of whether they merge or not need not be addressed immediately, but they need to have a friendly relationship with Renault. Because at the end of the day, the competitors are not standing still”. Richter cited the recent plan by FCA and PSA to merge into what would be the world’s fourth-largest automobile maker by volume. “They either need to hang together or they are going to need to hang separately”, he said of the Nissan-Renault alliance, which was created by Ghosn 2 decades ago and has grown to become one of the world’s largest automaker groups. Analysts also point to the possibility of bigger automakers such as Toyota and Volkswagen stepping up competition by allying with smaller rivals or teaming up with cross-industry partners such as technology companies. “Toyota has recently been very open to partnering with companies beyond the auto industry. It is no surprise to see mobility-related tech groups choosing to tie up with a solid company like Toyota”, said Tatsuo Yoshida, Bloomberg Intelligence senior auto analyst. “Nissan and Renault should not dwell on the reviewing of cross-shareholding structures or the possibility of a merger because their stances are conflicting and the issue will not be resolved anytime soon”, Yoshida said. “Nissan should rather concentrate on bringing out the full potential of the alliance. That is the strength which differentiates it from Toyota or Volkswagen”, he said. Talk of a review of the capital alliance structure has been at the heart of tensions between Renault and Nissan. Renault holds a 43.4 % stake in Nissan, which has a nonvoting 15 % stake in the French peer. Before stepping down as chief executive in September, Hiroto Saikawa called for increased autonomy for Nissan within the capital alliance, calling the current structure “unbalanced”. Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, meanwhile, proposed a merger of the 2 companies to Nissan this spring, which Saikawa rejected. Adding to the complexity is the intervention of the French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, which is keen on enhancing the competitiveness of Renault and has pushed for a merger in the past, according to sources close to the matter. Senard recently told a French radio station that he does not rule out the possibility of his company lowering its 43.4 % stake in Nissan but also stressed that the issue is not a priority. “Nothing can ever be excluded, but this is not what we’re focused on”, Senard told. “My obsession is for the alliance to take off in 2020”. Bloomberg Intelligence’s Yoshida said: “It is not the time for Nissan and Renault to be stuck in a tug of war when their rivals are going ahead in the race”. Nissan has revamped its management formed after Ghosn’s arrest on November 19 last year for alleged financial misconduct, replacing Saikawa, Ghosn’s lieutenant and hand-picked successor, with Makoto Uchida as chief executive, effective December 1. Saikawa resigned after admitting he was overpaid by an equity-linked remuneration scheme run by the company. The new executive team, also including Ashwani Gupta, chief operating officer at partner Mitsubishi, as Nissan’s new COO, and Senior Vice President Jun Seki as co-COO, faces massive pressure to pull the firm out of its profit nosedive. Nissan predicts a 10-year-low net profit of ¥110 billion ($1 billion) and 11-year-low operating profit of ¥150 billion in the current business year through next March, with sales dropping notably in North America, Europe and Japan and the stronger yen squeezing its profitability. The carmaker announced in July restructuring steps including 12.500 job cuts in the next 3 years, aiming to depart from the aggressive expansion long pursued by Ghosn. Gupta said earlier this month that through his experience at Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi, he is convinced the three carmakers need each other more than ever at a time when current market conditions are posing new challenges. Ghosn, who has been stripped of the chairmanship at Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi and of the chief executive role at the French company since his arrest, is set to go on trial possibly next spring. Released on bail in April, he is set to assert his innocence of all charges. The former auto industry tycoon has said he was the victim of a “conspiracy” by Nissan executives who felt that a possible convergence or merger with Renault would threaten Nissan’s autonomy. Despite the tough bail conditions, including limited internet use and banned contact with his wife, he is “well” and commutes to his lawyer’s office almost every day to prepare for his trial, according to one of his lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka. +++ 

+++ Fans were eagerly watching the unveiling of Tesla’s Cybertruck, but General Motors has attempted to steal their thunder. At the Barclay’s Global Automotive Conference, CEO Mary Barra confirmed the an electric PICKUP would go on sale in the fall of 2021. That’s much sooner than many people thought as GM’s vice president of global strategy downplayed plans for an electric truck back in January. The company has changed their tune since then and confirmed an electric pickup is in the works. In fact, the truck was one of the reasons the automaker saved the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant which was originally slated to close. Barra didn’t say much about the pickup, but called it a BET (Battery Electric Truck) and described it as a “very capable truck” that she’s “excited about it”. It will be one of 20 EVs launched globally by 2023 and Barra said customers will benefit from the company’s long history of electrification with vehicles such as the Bolt and Volt. Little is known about the truck at this point, but rumors have suggested the company could revive the Hummer name for use on a range of electric pickups and SUVs. That remains unconfirmed and so do reports about a performance version of the pickup arriving in 2022. These models are just the tip of the iceberg as an electric Hummer SUV could follow in 2023. Cadillac is also working on an electric crossover and rumors have suggested there will be an electric GMC pickup in 2023. Speaking more generally, Barra said customers want a beautiful electric vehicle with the “right range”. She went on to describe 483 km as the “sweet spot” and noted the Bolt (Opel Ampera-E) is close to hitting that mark as it can now travel 417 km on a single charge. The executive also said customers need access to a large charging network, so they’re partnering with firms to make it happen. She added rapid charging will be critical to EV adoption and doesn’t believe many consumers will be willing to wait around for 30-40 minutes just to get an 80 % charge. Instead, she wants to lower that time to 10-15 minutes. Despite focusing on an all-electric future, Barra confirmed GM will continue to offer a few hybrids. However, she conceded customers aren’t really interested in them. +++ 

+++ PININFARINA has announced plans to launch 2 new models that will compete with Lamborghini and Bentley. Both will be high-end models but cost a fraction of the €2 million 1.900 hp Battista hypercar, and will be launched before 2025. The first was shown in concept form as the Pininfarina Pura Vision ahead of the LA motor show, the company describing it as a Luxury Utility Vehicle (LUV). Its design will be heavily influenced by the clean, sensuous lines of some of Pininfarina’s most admired sports car concepts from the past. Though likely to be high-priced, it will be nothing like as expensive as the limited edition Battista. To be unveiled in concept form as the Pininfarina Pura Vision, it will be the first more mainstream model to fulfil CEO Michael Perschke’s intent of taking on the world’s luxury car makers. The production version of the Pura will be followed by another model, both cars making their debuts before 2025. The pair will share the same scalable skateboard EV platform co-developed with Bosch and Benteler, and will be manufactured in a factory in Italy that will be bought next year. Pininfarina plans to offer its EV architecture to other manufacturers, although exactly which ones is yet to be detailed. The company also plans to offer a Formula E driving experience to Battista buyers via the team parent company Mahindra, which runs in the race series. It is believed, though not officially confirmed, that the maker has not yet filled the order books for the Battista. About 50 six-figure deposits have been taken so far, a strong return given the car has seemingly not yet been driven by anyone outside of the company. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE wants to make wagons great again with their upcoming electric Taycan Cross Turismo that our spies caught with its pants (or rather, camouflage) halfway down at the company’s parking lot in Stuttgart. The Cross Turismo will get a unique styling at the back, much like the Panamera and its wagon-brethren, the Sport Turismo. Porsche’s intentions of adding a second bodystyle to the Taycan range became official back in 2018 with the reveal of the Cross Turismo concept, which posed as a crossover-styled wagon featuring extra body cladding and a raised ground clearance. Customers will be offered pretty much the same powertrain options with the regular Taycan, which as of now starts from the base 4S, the 4S Performance Battery Plus, the Turbo and the Turbo S models. All versions feature 2 electric motors, one per axle, for all-wheel drive and a 2-speed transmission mounted at the back. Performance should be on par with the regular Taycan, which on the range-topping Turbo S version offers up to 761 hp and 1.050 Nm on overboost, along with a neck-snapping 0-100 km/h in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 260 km/h. As with almost every wagon variant available in the market, the upcoming Taycan Cross Turismo is expected to offer a much more practical (and larger) luggage space, together with slightly more room for the heads of rear passengers. The Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo is expected to launch in the end of 2020, and if you find yourself wondering how the final product will look like, just take a look at the 2018 concept. +++ 

+++ General Motors’ surprise racketeering lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has raised the risks for FCA’s plan to combine with PSA . The suit filed in federal court in the U.S. alleges FCA inflicted billions of dollars in damages by bribing United Auto Workers’ officials for competitive advantages that the union denied to GM. The allegations in a years-long corruption scheme have already landed car executives and labor leaders in jail. FCA has called the allegations “meritless” and said it assumed GM was trying to undermine the Peugeot deal, which was unveiled last month and expected to be signed in the coming weeks. GM’s general counsel Craig Glidden told reporters the tie-up has no bearing on GM’s complaint. FCA chairman John Elkann said he’s confident the company will sign a binding agreement before the end of the year. A representative of PSA declined to comment. Here are some questions raised by the lawsuit: Has PSA gained bargaining power? GM may seek at least $6 billion in damages, and given it’s filed the suit under the U.S. federal RICO act, the amount “could yield a figure as high as $15 billion”, estimates Ryan Brinkman, an analyst with JPMorgan Chase. PSA may use the lawsuit to bargain down the price of the combination, according to Commerzbank analyst Demian Flowers. Still, he cautioned, PSA boss Carlos Tavares’s possible use of the litigation is difficult to evaluate without knowing whether GM’s claims are credible and likely to result in damages. Tavares honed his negotiating skills with the purchase of GM’s Opel and Vauxhall brands in 2018 for €1.3 billion. Since the Fiat deal was announced, intense talks have continued between the 2 companies, intent on getting a signed agreement. In the meantime, analysts have questioned the value of the deal for PSA. The French carmaker’s shareholders are “taking all the risks”, Deutsche Bank’s Gaetan Toulemonde wrote earlier this week. RBC Capital Markets has said PSA is overpaying, while Citigroup called the proposal heavily skewed in FCA’s favor. Could the lawsuit whip up a political backlash? The suit describes Chrysler Group (purchased by Fiat in 2014) as an “iconic U.S. auto company”. Shortly after the acquisition, GM alleges, Fiat “betrayed our government’s and the U.S. auto industry’s trust and embarked on a systemic and near decade-long conspiracy to bribe senior union officials to corrupt the collective bargaining process and labor relations”. GM’s Glidden went further. “Something’s wrong when a foreign company can come to the U.S. and say it will abide by law, but then systematically violate those laws”, he told reporters. “If GM ends up being able to ignite political interests in this issue, then you have a risk factor”, Flowers said. Could U.S. regulators scuttle any FCA-PSA deal? U.S. economic adviser Larry Kudlow has already warned that the Trump administration intends to review the planned merger. He pointed to the fact that PSA counts China’s Dongfeng among its investors, meaning the combined entity would have a Chinese shareholder. “We have to make sure that whatever China business developments occur do not occur to the detriment of not only of our economy but our own national security”, he told. While analysts haven’t necessarily seen China as a dealbreaker, the Trump administration has shown its willingness to take aggressive policies on trade to protect the domestic car industry. Trump last week said he will decide fairly soon on whether to impose tariffs on imports of European automobiles. Do other U.S. lawsuits have any bearing? GM hasn’t stated the amount of any damages it could seek against FCA, but U.S. litigation and regulatory fines are viewed from the European vantage point as a potentially costly endeavor. 2 German examples bear out their fears. The Volkswagen Group has yet to see the end of the fallout of the U.S. probe into its diesel cars that first came to light in September 2015. The financial toll has reached $33 billion in fines and other expenses and led to consumer lawsuits and criminal cases on both sides of the Atlantic. Drugmaker Bayer’s headache over weedkiller Roundup would certainty provide reason to pause for deal makers. CEO Werner Baumann staked his credibility on last year’s $63 billion takeover of the product’s producer, Monsanto. There are now more than 42,000 U.S. plaintiffs suing over Roundup’s alleged cancer-causing properties and analysts estimate a settlement could cost more than $10 billion. The GM-FCA trial could be years away and in case of a settlement, amounts paid could be substantially less than originally sought, analysts cautioned. +++ 

+++ TESLA unveiled its electric pickup, a truck with a futuristic angular body in gunmetal gray that resembled an armored vehicle and takes aim at the heart of Detroit automakers’ profits. Starting from $39,900, the Cybertruck is less expensive than initially flagged but its polarizing design could limit sales in a popular segment symbolic of a rugged, practical American lifestyle. At a launch event in Los Angeles, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said other versions will be priced at $49,900 and $69,900 with the most expensive offering a range of more than 800 km. Production is expected to begin around late 2021. Made from ultra-hard stainless steel which Musk claimed was bulletproof, the 4-door 6-seater truck’s sharp geometric body was set atop massive tires. Its tinted windows were made from armored glass, while a single strip of white light wrapped around the truck’s front, replacing headlamps. “Trucks have been the same for a very long time, like 100 years”, he said, as an audience of Tesla fans chuckled at a slideshow of pickup truck designs throughout the decades. “We need something different”. Musk’s assertion that the Cybertruck’s exterior “won’t scratch and dent” appeared to be borne out after it was hit with a sledgehammer. But in a snafu that invited much mockery online, the armored glass windows cracked like spider webs when metal balls were thrown at them. “Room for improvement”, Musk said, although he noted the glass had not completely broken. The truck marks the first foray by Tesla, whose Model 3 sedan is the world’s topselling battery electric car, into pickups, a market dominated by Ford’s F-150, along with models by General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. But analysts said its design meant the Cybertruck was unlikely to become more than a niche product and as such would have little impact on energy sustainability as Musk touted in his presentation. “It feels like it’s a truck for Musk and his friends in Silicon valley, not necessarily Joe the plumber who needs the truck to run his plumbing business”, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at automotive consultancy Edmunds. The design of the truck, which can accelerate from 0-100 kilometres an hour in 3 seconds, was partly influenced by the Lotus Esprit sportscar that doubled as a submarine in the 1970s James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” as well as by the movie Blade Runner. Reactions on Twitter ranged from love to hate. Tesla’s focus on the high-performance end of the pickup market is only natural given the success of Ford’s 450-hp F-150 Raptor truck, which launched in 2009 and whose sales have since risen annually. Ford has never had to offer incentives on the model, which costs in the high $60,000 range, according to Ford spokesman Mike Levine. Ford also offers the more expensive F-150 Limited, its most powerful and luxurious pickup. Some analysts said they were concerned Tesla might not be able to deliver on its promised base price for the Cybertruck, given that it will be made from the same stainless steel to be used in the SpaceX Starship rocket and which could make it hard to keep a lid on production costs. Ford and GM are also gearing up to challenge Tesla more directly with new offerings like the Ford Mustang Mach E electric SUV as well as electric pickups. Ford aims to sell an electric F-series in late 2021, sources familiar with the plans said. GM plans to build a family of premium electric pickup trucks and SUVs, with the first pickup due to go on sale in the fall of 2021. In April, Ford invested $500 million in startup Rivian, which plans to build its own electric pickup beginning in fall 2020. Electric pickups and SUVs could help Ford and GM generate the significant EV sales they will need to meet tougher emission standards and EV mandates in California and other states. The Trump administration is moving to roll back those standards, but electric trucks are a hedge if California prevails. Demand for full-size electric pickup trucks in the near term may not be huge, however. Industry tracking firm IHS Markit estimates the electric truck segment (both full- and mid-sized models) will account for about 75.000 sales in 2026, compared with an expected 3 million light trucks overall. The Tesla truck is not part of that estimate. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN ID.SPACEVIZZION concept will enter the market in 2022, according to Scott Keogh, CEO and president of Volkswagen Group of America. But the ID.SpaceVizzion may not reach showrooms looking quite like the vehicle VW showed off at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. That’s because Keogh said the company is still looking at “different iterations” of the handsome, battery-electric estate. Notably, markets may receive a tougher, Alltrack like variant of the vehicle. Expect such a model to sport bigger wheels and tyres, additional body cladding, and a set of roof racks. Of course, these features might negatively affect the ID.SpaceVizzion’s Toyota Prius-like 0.24 coefficient of drag and Keogh admitted such items may lead to “some compromises to the ID.SpaceVizzion’s range”. The ID.SpaceVizzion concept Volkswagen displayed sports an 82 kWh battery pack that affords a driving range of 480 kilometres and feeds electricity to a rear-mounted 280 hp electric motor. An Alltrack-like model, however, may drop the range figure. That said, Volkswagen isn’t done toying with the battery-electric estate’s exterior details. Specifically, Keogh noted the company may add more rake to the concept’s C-pillar shape. Such a design change wouldn’t just alter the look of the ID.SpaceVizzion, it may also “get a little more driving range out of it”, per Keogh. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN T-CROSS will get an expanded lineup which will include a more powerful engine option. The new range-topping version is powered by a 1.5-liter TSI with 150 hp and 250 Nm, and paired exclusively to a 7-speed DSG. The range-topping T-Cross is hardly a GTI or an R, but performance is very decent for a SUV of this size. 0 to 100 km/h takes 8.5 seconds and flat out it will do 200 km/h. In addition to the new powertrain, which was announced at the car’s launch more than a year ago, the T-Cross also gets plenty of kit, including a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones and four USB ports, whereas for the digital instrument cluster you will have to pay more as it’s an extra. Rear legroom can be improved thanks to the sliding back seat, which leaves between 385 and 455 liters of space in the boot. Fold the rear seats down and you will get an impressive 1,281 liters. Elsewhere, the T-Cross comes bundled with a range of driving assistance systems that used to be reserved for vehicles in the upper classes. Thus, it boasts Front Assist Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring and City Emergency Braking, Lane Assist, Blind Spot Monitor with integrated Rear Traffic Alert and Hill Start Assist. +++

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