Newsflash: Mercedes maakt van de GLA een échte SUV

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+++ AUDI has confirmed that Markus Düsmann, a former BMW board member, will become the company’s new CEO. The 50-year old will take the position on April 1 next year replacing current boss Bran Schot. Düsmann, whose background is as a mechanical engineer, has worked across the automotive industry for over 30 years. His former roles include time at BMW, where he worked in engine development and most recently as Board of Management Member for Purchasing. Speaking of the appointment, Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess said: “As an excellent engineer, Markus Düsmann will do everything in his power to leverage the great potential of the Audi brand and will once again demonstrate the promise of Vorsprung durch Technik”. The announcement also confirmed Schot, 58, will leave the Group by mutual consent at the end of March. Diess thanked him for his contribution to the brand since his appointment in June 2018: “He took over the management of Audi at a difficult time, very successfully managed the business and initiated important changes. We expressly thank him for that”. Schot had held the position on an interim basis, following the arrest of former Audi CEO Rupert Stadler in 2018 for his involvement in the Dieselgate scandal. Volkswagen has been on the lookout for clean-engine expertise at Audi ever since it was discovered that engine management software, which was used to manipulate exhaust emissions tests at Volkswagen, was designed by Audi engineers. Düsmann is the second high-profile defection from rival German carmaker BMW after VW poached of Herbert Diess in July 2015. Audi’s works council chief, Peter Mosch, welcomed the appointment of an external manager. “From Markus Duesmann and his team we expect the stable utilization of our factories and a more courageous approach”. +++ 

+++ BMW is preparing to launch its next “technological flagship” tentatively named the iNext. If you think that’s a bad name, then you’re not alone. Now, though, it appears BMW has decided to just call it iX. The new name falls in line with BMW’s other naming conventions while giving the automaker some breathing room going forward. The i3 and i8 already exist, and the company is preparing to launch the iX3 and i4, too. Calling BMW’s new flagship iX5 could have caused some problems down the road, especially when the automaker electrifies the X5. BMW will also keep its traditional naming convention with the iX, meaning the automaker will denote the iX’s power output as well after the model name. Think BMW iX xDrive40, iX xDrive50, and iX M50 xDrive. We can expect BMW to offer the EV with several different power, range, and pricing options. I don’t know when the iX will be revealed, but it’s expected to arrive at dealerships for the 2021 model year. +++  

+++ FERRARI hopes the elegant look and “less intimidating” power of its new Roma 2+2 coupe will help to win over deep-pocketed customers who currently pick SUVs for their daily drive. “The Roma is designed to attract an important number of new customers to Ferrari”, chief marketing officer Enrico Galliera said at the car’s unveiling at Rome’s monumental Foro Italico sports complex, which hosted the 1960s Olympic Games. “The largest group among them will be car buyers who drive luxury SUVs or sedans and have never owned a proper sports car”, he said. Galliera said the world is full of lucky people who can afford Ferrari cars but only 0.05 % of them actually buy them. “Most of them don’t buy a Ferrari because they don’t know how fun it is to drive one. We want to lower barriers with a less intimidating car”, he said. The car is aimed at customers who “prize understatement and like to drive their car every day”, Galliera said. Ferrari said the Roma’s clean, harmonious and elegant styling contributes to the understated look. “It’s like a Formula One car in evening dress”, chief designer Flavio Manzoni said. Customers will have the option not to have the Ferrari badge on the side of the car. “The idea was to make the Roma’s shape as simple as possible”, Manzoni said. The Roma was inspired by Ferrari’s mid-front-engine grand tourers (GTs) such as the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso and 250 GT 2+2. GTs from the 1960s are among the most popular Ferrari models at auctions. They are designed to be more comfortable on long journeys than sports cars. Ferrari has said that GT models could make up about 40 % of its total sales by 2022, up from 32 % now. The Roma is named after Italy’s capital city and Ferrari hopes it will be associated “with the carefree, pleasurable way of life that characterized Rome in the 1950s and 1960s”. Rivals will include Aston Martin’s DB11 V8, Aston’s Vantage, the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S and the Mercedes-AMG GT. The Roma is Ferrari’s fifth new model announced this year, as the automaker seeks to almost double earnings and boost profit margins, without sacrificing exclusivity. This year’s other new releases include the 812 GTS, presented in September, which the company described as a return for the GT model type that has played a “pivotal role in the marque’s history”, along with the F8 Tributo and F8 Tributo Spider. Ferrari has promised several special edition hybrid cars and the Purosangue SUV, which is expected by late 2022. Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri said last week the hybrid SF90 Stradale was attracting “huge interest” despite initial skepticism by clients used to roaring combustion engines. Ferrari said last year that it wanted 60 % of its cars sold by 2022 to be hybrids. A full-electric vehicle is also being considered but is unlikely to arrive before 2023. Ferrari has no plans to build a modern version of its 1960s Dino as an entry-level sports car. The possibility of such a revival created split views within the automaker’s management because of fears that it would dilute the brand’s exclusivity, former Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne said in 2017. The Dino is currently not part of Ferrari’s future product planning, Galliera said. “Our strategy is based on exclusivity, so we have to keep our current positioning of dream cars”. Ferrari will slow down its massive range expansion plans next year, with Galliera saying its focus will be on pushing sales of its new nameplates. The Italian firm has committed to releasing 15 new models within a 5 year window, and 5 of those have taken place this year. These included the SF90 Stradale and Roma, both new models aimed at brand-new market segments. While that still leaves 10 new models to come, including a first SUV in 2022, Galliera said Ferrari would slow down the pace of its launches next year. Asked about its future plans, he said: “We’ve committed to introducing 15 new models in a 5 year plan, and we launched 5 in 2019, so certainly something will happen in the future. But 2020 for us is a year of consolidation. “We just introduced 5 new cars, some of them are in new segments; now we need to make sure that our network and clients can clearly understand the position of the new models. 2020 will not have the same launch rate, and we’ll be more focused on creating the success of the models we’ve introduced in 2019”. Ferrari has pledged that its future launches will become more unpredictable and is looking at a number of new segments. Galliera hinted that approach would continue in the future. Ferrari is also set to expand its hybrid line-up. While the Roma features a 3.9-litre V8 engine, the platform it uses was developed to accept a petrol-electric powertrain. However, technical chief Michael Leiters ruled out a hybrid version of the Roma, or any other model in Ferrari’s current range. “We could fit a hybrid powertrain to the Roma platform, there’s no doubt about it”, he said, “but we would never do it on the same model”. +++ 

+++ FORD has apparently changed its mind about launching the Bronco in Europe, as a new trademark application suggests that they might introduce it on the other side of the pond. Filed with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) on October 31, the Bronco moniker can be used on “land motor vehicles, namely, passenger automobiles, pick-ups and SUVs”. So, is this solid proof that we will find the new-gen Bronco at Ford dealers on the Old Continent? Some could see it like that, but the truth is that we cannot be certain about it, as it’s common practice among automakers to secure nameplates without launching the actual product in some markets, keeping the competition away from specific monikers. A direct rival to the Jeep Wrangler, the new Bronco will be unveiled next spring. It’s expected to get the body-on-frame platform of the upcoming Ranger pickup truck which, combined with the long-travel suspension, low-range gearbox and other features, should make the Bronco very potent off the beaten path. Customers will have to choose between several powertrains, which might include a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo-4 gasoline burner, in addition to the mandatory V6 and probably a hybrid too. In terms of styling, Ford’s rugged SUV will go for a boxy look, and it is understood that it could get removable doors, a trick that will help it to better challenge the likes of the Wrangler. A detachable cloth top could also be on the list. +++ 

+++ HONDA is such a low-profile company you have probably never heard its CEO was named Takahiro Hachigo. But it recently said this is the right time to bet on EVs. In an interview, Hachigo said something that apparently contradicts that: he thinks EVs will not become mainstream anytime soon. With some goodwill, we could interpret that what the CEO said does not conflict with what 2 Honda Europe executives declared recently. It could just be a matter of not letting the ship sail. But you could also guess the CEO and his executives have opposite points of view when it relates to electrification. Tom Gardner, Honda Europe’s senior vice president, told The Sunday Times:  “The electric car market started 2015 at about 2 % (in the UK). It’s now looking like 7 % or 8 %. It’s beginning to be significant. We’ve seen the curve be quite exponential, and we’re watching it not just in our automotive brand, but in areas like our motorcycle brand as well”. Ian Howells, another Honda Europe’s senior vice president, also has a positive idea of BEVs, while he sees challenges ahead of FCEVs: “There is an infrastructure being developed very rapidly for battery-electric cars, but there’s nothing really to talk of about hydrogen, so there’s a way to go yet”. Honda’s CEO pointed to another direction when he said “there are issues with infrastructure and hardware” for EVs to have a “dramatic increase”. He deems that as unlikely. Hachigo prefers to state Honda wants to cut CO2 emissions rather than just selling EVs. It is obvious electric cars cut carbon emissions dramatically. Anyway, Honda’s CEO is probably concerned with all the investments the company currently has in producing combustion engines. That is why mainstream manufacturers lag so much behind Tesla: they are committed to previous investments, as Hugo Spowers, founder of Riversimple, once told me. “I think that the business model of the industry absolutely has to change, but I don’t believe it’s possible in any industry for mature industries to change business models. It’s much harder than changing technology. When you go through a technology disruption almost invariably the business model needs to change as well. Even the senior executives in the auto industry have a very limited mandate of what they can do. The company isn’t theirs”. That is the same sort of speech Mazda has towards EVs, even if it more radical with Honda’s competitor. Mazda promised not to have a pure EV, even if it seems to be willing to offer one with minimal range due to the small battery pack. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI will start a car-sharing service near major subway stations in Los Angeles this month, the company said. The plan was announced during CoMotion LA, an urban mobility exhibition hosted by the city of Los Angeles. The service will be offered through Mocean Lab, a Hyundai corporation dedicated to developing futuristic mobility solutions, including multi-modal mobility services and urban air mobility services. The U.S. firm, based in Los Angeles, was founded in August. The move comes as Hyundai pushes to become a mobility service provider, not just an auto manufacturer. The car sharing service will first be offered at 4 subway stations in Los Angeles including Union Station and Westlake Station, then expand to other downtown areas including near Hollywood. Hyundai said it plans to offer up to 300 cars in a free-floating car sharing service, which enables users to book a car at any point within a specified area rather than only at designated parking zones, in the near future. The company and Los Angeles will collaborate to test more futuristic mobility services. The project by Mocean Lab to start a car sharing service will be run in collaboration with the L.A. Metro and L.A. Department of Transportation. The U.S. city, according to Hyundai, is putting a lot of effort into upgrading its urban transportation system ahead of the 2028 Summer Olympics to be held in the city. While some future mobility businesses like ride-hailing are facing difficulty in expanding in Korea due to local regulations, the Korean auto group has been actively investing in foreign mobility start-ups. The group has already invested in India’s car-hailing service Ola and Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab as well as U.S. firm Migo and Australian peer-to-peer vehicle sharing network Car Next Door. +++ 

+++ Ever since RX-8 production ended in 2012, MAZDA has toyed and teased the future of the rotary engine. Will there be a new rotary-powered sports car? Time is running out for that reality. However, that doesn’t mean the engine has withered and died on the development vine yet. A strange, new video uploaded to Mazda’s YouTube channel suggests the rotary isn’t dead within the Japanese automaker. The video, titled “Rotary’s 50th anniversary”, is 12 minutes of “Mazda Rotary Heritage B-Roll”, highlighting the rotary engine’s history at Mazda. But the video tells us nothing. It’s the video description that gives the rotary engine a potential future at the company, saying, “The story of Mazda and Rotary is not over”. This all but confirms there could be a rotary-powered Mazda vehicle in the future, I just don’t know how the company will use the engine. That’s far from vague, but the automaker hasn’t been quiet about its hopes for the mill either. Just last month, Mazda said there’s still hope for a rotary-powered sports car, but it’s still not in development. Then, earlier this year, patents were discovered that appear to improve the rotary engine, including its intake efficiency and more. The patents also hinted at turbocharging the mill, too. Mazda’s mixed messaging about the rotary over the years hasn’t helped the speculation. Back in March, Mazda said it planned to use the engine as a range extender initially but added that the mill has become much more versatile than that. In June, Mazda CEO Akira Marumoto reiterated the company wants a rotary-powered sports car; however, it’s not a priority as the company focuses on lowering its vehicles’ emissions. There’s a good chance a future Mazda vehicle will have a rotary engine. I don’t know how Mazda will use it, though. It could be the range extender we’ve been told is coming. Or Mazda will find time to focus on a proper rotary-powered sports car. But the cards are stacked against the company. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES is putting the finishing touches on the new GLA. The model will be unveiled during an “online presentation” in a few weeks. The GLA has always been on the small side, but the redesigned model will reportedly be 20 mm shorter than its predecessor. Despite this, the wheelbase will grow by 30 mm to 2.729 mm. The latter change will benefit rear seat passengers who will find additional legroom. Passengers will also find more headroom as the second-generation GLA will be approximately 100 mm taller than its predecessor. The extra height also has styling benefits as the model will look more like a crossover than an off-road inspired hatchback. Engine options will be shared with other MFA-based models and reportedly include a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder with 163 hp. Petrol fans can also expect a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder developing 224 hp. On the diesel side, choices are slated to include an entry-level 1.5-liter with 116 hp. There will also be two 2.0-liter units with outputs of 150 hp and 190 hp. Further down the road, we can expect a plug-in hybrid and a handful of AMG variants. The GLA 35 will have a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that produces 306 hp. The GLA 45 will also use a 2.0-liter engine, but it will be rated at 387 hp. Likewise, the GLA 45 S will have 421 hp. +++ 

+++ The PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, in hatching plans to merge and create the world’s 4th largest automaker, say they will not close factories. They can probably keep such a promise in most markets, but not with China. PSA and FCA each operate joint ventures with local peers in China, but all of the partnerships are in dire need of restructuring and downsizing. While PSA and FCA have not disclosed how they plan to integrate their global operations, one of PSA’s 2 Chinese partners has decided to break ties with the French automaker. On Oct. 28, 3 days before PSA and FAC disclosed the merger, Changan Automobile, based in the Southwest China municipality of Chongqing, placed its 50 % stake in Changan PSA on the market via a local exchange that trades corporate assets and other equity. Changan, which also runs an unprofitable joint venture with Ford, can’t wait to free itself of the financial burden under the PSA partnership. Changan PSA was established in 2011 in the south China city of Shenzhen to build and market Citroen DS cars. It has been bleeding losses ever since launching output in 2013. As of September, the joint venture has racked up 4.9 billion yuan ($703 million) in losses over time, according to information disclosed by Changan. PSA has largely failed to establish DS as a premium brand in China as it planned to do. As a result, the joint venture, which can build up to 200.000 vehicles a year, has never sold a meaningful number of vehicles. Annual sales peaked in 2014 at around 23.000. In 2018, the number shrank to less than 4.000. In the first 3 quarters of this year, Changan PSA only sold 2.030 vehicles. After Changan disclosed plans to offload the stake in the joint venture, PSA’s China office said in a statement last week that the DS brand will “receive significant development” in China instead of exiting the market. Given the extended downturn in China’s new-vehicle market, who might be interested in taking over the 50 % stake in Changan PSA from Changan? The most likely candidate would be Dongfeng Motor Group. Dongfeng also operates a joint venture with PSA. In addition, it also holds a 12.2 % stake in the French automaker. Incorporating DS models in its product mix would allow the joint venture, Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen, to make a better use of factory capacity. Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen, formed in 1992 in the central China city of Wuhan, produces and distributes Peugeot cars and Citroen’s lineup, except for the DS lineup. Behind volumes generated by new models, especially crossovers such as the Peugeot 2008 and 3008, Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen’s annual volume reached a record high of 704.000 vehicles in 2015. But the joint venture’s sales have since shrunk as other global automakers such as General Motors and Nissan add crossover models. Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen operates 4 plants capable of annually churning out a combined 840.000 vehicles at full capacity, yet sales fell 33 % to around 253.000 cars in 2018. In the first 9 months of this year, deliveries plunged 56 % to 91.049 units. As the sales slump accelerated, Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen lost more than 2.5 billion yuan in the first half alone, according to the latest available financial information Dongfeng has revealed on the joint venture. Like PSA, FCA’s China operations face challenges. FCA in 2010 established a joint venture with GAC Motor in the central China city of Changsha, which initially built cars for the Fiat brand. The partnership enjoyed robust growth from 2016 to 2017 on volumes generated by 3 locally produced Jeep models: the Cherokee, Renegade and Compass. But the sales boom was short-lived for GAC FCA: Their plants in Changsha and the south China city of Guangzhou combined can produce up to 328.000 vehicles annually. With the market slipping and other global brands such as Volkswagen launching more SUVs in China, sales at the joint venture quickly ran out of steam. In April 2018, GAC FCA launched the 4th locally assembled Jeep model, the Grand Commander. Yet annual deliveries of the big SUV slumped 39 % in 2018 to less than 125.200, according to GAC. Neither FCA nor GAC discloses financial results for the joint venture. But such a small volume made it impossible for the joint venture to be profitable. GAC FCA is FCA’s main business in Asia Pacific. Largely because of sales decline at the joint venture, FCA’s operations in the region finished 2018 with an operating loss of €296 million versus an operating profit of €172 million in 2017. The joint venture’s sales have dropped another 46 % to 52.372 in the first 3 quarters of 2019. Both PSA and FCA are operating at a small portion of their local production capacity as overall vehicle demand in China remains subdued amid a weakening economy. The 2 automakers, looking to revive the operations, probably have no way out but to shut down some of the underutilized plants they run with local partners. +++ 

+++ Tesla’s Model 3 and S sedans both regained “recommended” status in Consumer Reports magazine’s annual RELIABILITYsurvey, allowing the electric carmaker’s overall standing to rise slightly. Tesla’s ranking improved 4 spots to No. 23 out of 30 brands in the U.S. market as it worked to resolve production problems with the Model 3, said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports. Both the Model 3 and S raised their reliability ratings to “average”. “People really like their cars”, he said of Tesla owners. “Hopefully, if that frantic rate of change can slow down a bit, they can maintain reliability”. Tesla has touted the popularity of the Model S, listed in the top ranks of a different Consumer Reports survey, on owner satisfaction, every year since 2013 when the carmaker was first included. Fisher cautioned he expected Tesla’s reliability to remain fluid given its inconsistent track record. Tesla’s Model X still ranks among the least reliable models, according to the annual survey. The poll predicts which new cars will give owners fewer or more problems, based on data collected for more than 400,000 vehicles. Its scorecard is influential among consumers and industry executives. Reliability rankings tend to suffer when automakers offer new or redesigned models, which dragged down Volkswagen namesake and Audi brands. The VW brand slid 9 spots to No. 27, while Audi fell 7 spots to No. 14. Brands with no major changes to their lineups, such as Dodge and Chrysler, made significant gains. Dodge was the highest ranked U.S. brand at No. 8, making the biggest gain of 13 spots. Chrysler rose 7 spots to No. 19, while Jeep finished at No. 26. Lincoln and Ford brands were No. 15 and 16, while Buick, GMC, Chevrolet and Cadillac brands ranked No. 18, 22, 25 and last at 30, respectively. The reliability of full-sized pickups, the most popular vehicles in the U.S. market, was weak. Ford’s F-150 and FCA’s Ram trucks were rated “well below average”, while GM’s pickups (the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra) both had “below average” reliability. The most reliable vehicles were built by Japanese automakers. Lexus took the top spot with an average predicted reliability score of 81. They were closely followed by Mazda and Toyota, which tied at 77. Rounding out the top ten were Porsche (75), Genesis (71), Hyundai (69), Subaru (68), Dodge (63), Kia (62) and Mini (59). Cadillac came in dead last with an average predicted reliability score of 23. This means the luxury brand performed worse than Alfa Romeo (27) and Acura (29). Other lackluster brands include Volkswagen (33) and Jeep (35). Volkswagen was dragged down by the Atlas and Tiguan which have much worse than average reliability. The publication says problems include “power equipment, in-car electronics and [the] emissions / fuel system”. Other problematic new models include the Audi A6 and Q8, and also the BMW 3-Series and X5. While these models weren’t great, they didn’t make the least reliable list. That dubious honor went to the Chevrolet Colorado which had a reliability rating of 4. The only other vehicle to score in the single digits was the Chevrolet Camaro which was rated a 5. +++ 

+++ Elon Musk picked a glitzy event a few hours’ drive from the birthplace of the internal combustion engine to drop a bombshell before some of the world’s biggest car bosses: TESLA plans to set up shop in their backyard. The billionaire chief executive officer announced that Tesla will round out its global manufacturing network with a factory in Berlin. At a red carpet awards ceremony attended by the heads of BMW, Volkswagen and Audi, he said the company will also establish an engineering-and-design center near the city’s new airport. “Some of the best cars in the world are obviously made in Germany”, Musk said while accepting a trophy for the Model 3, which beat out BMW and Audi sedans for midsize car of the year. He said the country is “not that far behind” in electric cars, while also acknowledging that the market for them is “unproven”. The news wasn’t completely out of left field: Musk has said before that Tesla would announce the location for a factory in Europe before the end of this year, and that Germany was a frontrunner. But it nonetheless bolstered the CEO’s flair-for-the-dramatic reputation. Fresh off a surprise profit report that sent Tesla shares surging, he threw down the gauntlet in front of rival executives that no longer dismiss his company as a niche automaker. “Elon Musk has an ability to make a splash”, said John Boyd, principal of an eponymous manufacturing site-selection firm based in Princeton, New Jersey. “Not only does Germany bring top-level manufacturing skill sets and positive supply chain dynamics to the table, but there is a cache value to Tesla establishing a brick-and-mortar presence in Germany; a nation synonymous with precision car manufacturing”. Musk has until now relied on a single auto assembly plant in Fremont to build a $63 billion company. That facility is supported by the first of the company’s so-called gigafactories near Reno that makes batteries. Tesla is on the verge of starting sales of Model 3s produced at its latest production facility near Shanghai. While adding a European factory raises the stakes for established automakers already facing a serious threat from the electric upstart, it’s likely going to take time for the plant to get up and running. Musk estimated earlier this year that Tesla’s European gigafactory probably won’t be operational until 2021. “The Berlin location serves 2 unique goals”, said Gene Munster, a managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures. “It’s strategic to lure German automotive talent to Tesla, and it’s a statement that Elon wants to one-up auto companies from that region”. While the future of Germany’s electric-car market looks crowded, the politics of shifting away from the internal combustion engine also are going to be messy. Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, is running into labor-union resistance over where future electric cars will be produced ahead of a critical meeting with investors in London. Audi, the biggest profit contributor to VW Group, faces similar fights over safeguarding employment at its main German factories that specialize in sedans and station wagons. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and local automakers have agreed to boost incentives for EVs, intensifying Germany’s effort to move away from the combustion engine to reduce exhaust emissions. Still, building vehicles in a country that has some of the highest labor and energy costs worldwide is bound to be a challenge. European customers also expect a network of dealers and repair shops to reliably handle maintenance and repair work, which Tesla has struggled with lately. Adding production in Germany and China will probably help Musk boost Tesla’s sales in those regions, according to Kevin Tynan, a Bloomberg Intelligence auto analyst. “The sustainability of the demand will be more the question”, he said. “And if local competition becomes real competition, it will be more difficult”. Tesla will begin constructing its new European plant in the first quarter of 2020, a leading German politician said. Tesla also has signed a declaration of intent for the factory with the state of Brandenburg where the plant will be located, the state’s economics minister, Joerg Steinbach, told the German press. Musk said earlier this week that the electric-car maker will build its European gigafactory near the yet-to-open Berlin Brandenburg international airport, with a engineering and design center within the city limits. The factory will make batteries, powertrains and vehicles, beginning with the Model Y crossover unveiled earlier this year, Musk said in a tweet. It’s also expected to add the Model 3. The plant will be built on an industrial estate in Grünheide and will involve an investment “in the billions”, state authorities said. The first phase of production, which is scheduled to begin in 2021, is expected to create 3.000 or 3.500 jobs in its first phase, rising to 7.000 or 8.000. Steinbach sees Tesla’s schedule for the factory as ambitious. “They will have to submit documents at record speed”, he said. The government in Brandenburg, 1 of 5 federal states in Germany’s former communist east, lobbied hard to win over Musk, offering at least €100 million in aid. The state’s negotiators touted Brandenburg’s proximity to Berlin, its skilled labor force and an abundance of clean-energy plants. Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess said the German carmaker has no plans to cooperate with start-up electric carmaker Tesla. “Tesla should be admired for how quickly they innovate and sets the benchmark in some areas of technology”, Diess told reporters at a press conference in Wolfsburg. So there’s no discounting Tesla’s role in the EV revolution. Not unlike recent comments by Diess, former Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche gives Tesla and CEO Elon Musk due credit. It has become abundantly clear that the Silicon Valley automaker has been integral in sparking the EV revolution. It’s nice to see that these revered and accomplished CEOs realise Tesla’s worth and aren’t afraid to praise the company in public, but they are also still rivals. After stating that he adores Elon Musk and his goals, Zetsche reminded that German automakers will still remain ahead. He said: “Elon has a mission, he wants to solve the problems of humanity”. Zetsche also gave Tesla credit for making “absurdly quick” EVs, which has clearly lead to increased adoption. Tesla has dispelled the myths surrounding electric cars, such as inadequate performance, minimal range, and slow charging. German automakers are known for their cutting-edge technology and incredible build quality. They also have virtually unlimited capital and resources, which is not the case with Tesla. While these legacy automakers are beginning a slow transition toward electrification, there is still a primary focus on petrol-powered cars. Nonetheless, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz plans to transition half its cars to electric by 2030, and it has already committed to ending ICE development. Despite Daimler’s future plans, Zetsche is still concerned that Tesla will struggle since it relies solely on battery-electric cars. He doesn’t believe that everything the company produces should be centred around one technology, though he does discount hydrogen fuel-cell technology. +++ 

+++ Last month, TOYOTA promised “multiple” performance variants of the new Yaris are in the cards and even a hardcore WRC “homologation special” is possible. This got us excited about the future of the hatchback and a teaser from early November confirmed the first new Yaris hot hatch to come will arrive very soon. The automaker’s initial plan was to reveal the Yaris GR-4 during the Rally Australia, but it has just announced it has postponed the global debut of the car due to the catastrophic fires in the country. “The Toyota team is devastated to see this disaster in our communities and want to ensure we lend a hand to support those who are affected at this time, which is why we and our parent company in Japan are pleased to provide a quarter of a million dollars to the Australian Salvation Army”, Toyota Australia president Matthew Callachor comments. “We have the highest admiration and respect for the Salvation Army and the many other organisations and individuals who are rallying to support everyone in need”. So far, the fires have destroyed more than 2.5 million acres of farmland and bush around Coffs Harbour. The natural disaster has forced the organisers of the Rally Australia to cancel the event and Toyota says it will announce its plans for the reveal of the Yaris GR-4 at a later date. The Japanese manufacturer encourages people to support the many aid organisations on the ground, financially, morally, and physically, in their fight with the devastating disaster. As for the Yaris GR-4, I expect to hear news about its upcoming debut very soon so watch this space for more information. I hope to see the new hot hatch before the year’s end but nothing has been confirmed so far. +++ 

+++ As consumers embraced crossovers in the UNITED STATES , a number of automakers begin trimming their sedan lineup. This recently resulted in the death of the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus in the United States. While both models have seen better days, they were still relatively popular with consumers. Chevrolet sold 142.617 Cruzes in the United States in 2018, while Ford moved 113.345 Focuses. Without direct replacements for the Cruze and Focus, there’s been a lot of speculation about whether or not customers would remain loyal to these brands. Analysts looked into the issue and found Cruze and Focus owners are abandoning Chevrolet and Ford. According to a study, there have been “record low levels of owners, trading in the Focus and Cruze, staying in the Ford and Chevrolet brands”. In just the past 3 years, the loyalty of Focus owners has dropped 7 %. It is expected that number to fall even further in the future as Ford is also planning to eliminate the Fusion (Mondeo). On the GM side, the number of customers trading in Cruzes for another Chevrolet model dropped 13 % from 2016 to 2019. That’s a big decrease and the study also noted 9 % of Cruze trade-ins this year have been used to purchase another Cruze. That won’t be an option much longer as the last Cruze was built in March and dealer inventory is dwindling. However, Chevrolet might be in a better position to retain Cruze customers as the company isn’t abandoning sedans altogether. Instead, the company will continue to offer the Malibu and Sonic. Regardless, the study found that 42 % of Cruze and Focus owners trade-in their cars for another sedan. With the elimination of these models, customers will likely embrace the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla in greater numbers. That trend is already visible as analysts found “Cruze trade-ins for Civics and Corollas nearly doubled from 2016 to 2019”. Another interesting finding from the study is that compact cars were responsible for 9.1 % of new vehicle sales this year. That means they’re even more important than midsize sedans which have seen their market share plummet to just 8 %. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group raised spending on developing electric-car and digital technologies to €60 billion over the next 5 years as the automaker pushes ahead amid an industry slump. The new 5-year budget amounts to an increase of about 36 % compared with its previous plan, VW said following a meeting of the supervisory board that represents key stakeholders. The annual average spending on areas such as hybridization, electric mobility and digitalization rises to €12 billion from €8.8 billion. “We are resolutely pressing ahead with the transformation of the Volkswagen Group and focusing our investments on the future of mobility”, chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch said in the statement. VW said it will increase investment for electric vehicles by about 10 % to €33 billion. The automaker plans to build 75 electric car variants and about 60 hybrid vehicles, it said. New EVs on its mass-market MEB electric platform will include an ID-badged SUV, with production expected to start in 2022 at its factory in Emden, Germany, Volkswagen said. The SUV will be about the same size as the Tiguan. About 20 million of the battery-powered vehicles planned through 2029 will be based on the MEB architecture, it said. These will include models for the VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat brands. Most of the remaining 6 million, mainly upscale Audi and Porsche EVs, will be based on the PPE high-performance electric platform. VW said a decision about a new multibrand plant is scheduled to be made by year-end. Last month the company postponed the final decision on whether to build the factory in Turkey amid international criticism of the country’s military operation in Syria and concerns about potential reputational fallout. VW’s spending plan comes amid pressure from Tesla, which this week stepped up the electric-car race on VW’s German home turf by announcing it would build a factory outside Berlin. VW lowered its global vehicle delivery forecast last month as demand waned in key markets including its biggest sales region, China. Chief financial officer Frank Witter said VW reduced output plans by 900.000 cars and is prepared to cut that further to avoid bloated inventories. He acknowledged the weaker market development would affect future budget planning. +++

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