Newsflash: Pininfarina komt met 1.000 pk sterke elektrische cross-over

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+++ The Mustang Mach-E may not be the only new Ford with an iconic name to be built in Mexico. It’s no secret that Ford is reorganizing its production base in North America and plans to use the excess capacity created by axed subcompact and compact sedans to introduce new pickups and SUVs. In Mexico, for example, Ford is said to be preparing the Hermosillo facility in the state of Sonora for the production of the Transit Connect van as well as a new off-road SUV built on the platform of the new Kuga. We’re talking about the “baby” BRONCO , obviously, which apparently will be called Bronco Scout. Billed as the off-road version of the new Kuga, the Bronco Scout will cater to more adventurous buyers as it will offer more rugged hardware, greater ride height, as well as a boxier design. The Ford Bronco Scout is believed to target the Jeep Compass (another Mexican-made SUV) and other compact-sized SUVs with off-road capabilities. The automaker has not officially confirmed the manufacturing of Bronco Scout at its Mexican plant, but people familiar with the project estimate that production could start in the last quarter of 2020. Suppliers will soon start assembling parts for the new SUV. For example, Gestamp, a Spanish manufacturer of chassis and body components, confirmed that it will build about 10 components for the new Kuga and Edge platforms at a new plant in San Luis Potosí, 40 % of which will be sent to the Hermosillo plant where the Bronco Scout will allegedly be made. Ford’s Mexican factory currently builds Mondeo and Lincoln MKZ sedans, and it’s unclear whether the 2 models will be discontinued before the start of production for the baby Bronco. I’ve reached out to Ford’s PR people for comments and I heard back from Jiyan K. Cadiz, North American Icon Communications and Media Relations Manager. “While Bronco will have its world debut in spring of 2020, we will talk more about the rugged Ford SUV at a later date”, he told. As for the alleged Bronco Scout name, the executive said it couldn’t be used in the United States since the trademark for International Harvester Scout is still active. In Europe, the name is used by Skoda. +++ 

+++ Chinese electric vehicle startup BYTON said it has received a distributor license from California, paving the way for the company to launch its first electric SUV vehicle, the M-Byte, in the United States. The license will facilitate Byton to sell and service vehicles through its own infrastructure as well as via retail partners in the country. The company will launch its electric SUV in China in 2020 and in the United States and the European Union in 2021. Byton also said it has established Byton Cars California as its retail entity, and once this retail company secures a California dealer license, it will be able to sell and lease directly to customers in California and sell online in other states. The company, which has a presence in the United States and Germany as well, is among several largely Chinese-funded EV startups betting on U.S. production to compete with Tesla Inc and other auto giants in the EV space. Byton was launched in September 2017 by Future Mobility Corp, a company co-founded by former BMW and Nissan Motor executives. +++ 

+++ CALIFORNIA has always been at the forefront of U.S. states that try to minimize polution caused by vehicles, and it has just taken yet another bold step towards this direction. According to SacramentoBee, California’s state government announced that it has stopped buying gas-powered sedans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), General Motors (GM) and Toyota as part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The directive by the state’s Department of General Services, which oversees purchasing and contracts for California state government, exempts public safety vehicles. The department did not respond by deadline to requests for clarification about the order’s extent. The new rules also require that, starting next year, state agencies only buy vehicles from manufacturers that recognize California’s ability to set its own air pollution standards, a power the Trump administration is trying to revoke. California, along with 22 other states, is challenging that attempt in court and has struck deals with several car manufacturers who say they will comply with California’s standards in spite of the Trump administration’s efforts to roll them back. “Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of California’s buying power”, Newsom said in a written statement. “In court, and in the marketplace, California is standing up to those who put short-term profits ahead of our health and our future”. California’s state vehicle fleet includes about 51,000 cars and trucks, according to Newsom’s office. A little more than 3,000 of those vehicles were hybrids or zero-emission vehicles as of last year, according to the Department of General Services. The state had already begun to step up its purchasing of zero-emissions and hybrid vehicles under former Governor Jerry Brown, who signed orders in 2012 and 2016 directing the state to buy more of them. “Our state continues to lead by example by eliminating sedans solely powered by gas”, Department of General Services Director Daniel Kim said in a written statement. “This is one of many steps California has taken, and will continue to take, to drive demand for green vehicles”. Car makers that have sided with California on the matter include Honda, Ford, BMW and Volkswagen, while GM, Toyota, Mazda and FCA have aligned themselves with the Trump administration. The Association of Global Automakers and the Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation (a group including GM, Toyota, Mazda, FCA and Mitsubishi) split with the 4 automakers that had agreed to follow the tougher rules imposed by California. The coalition said it simply wants to avoid a 2-track system in which carmakers have to follow one set of rules for California, and the states that are supporting its standards, and another set of rules imposed by the federal government. Such a scenario would create chaos in the industry, the group argued. Now the ball is on President Trump’s turf, and something tells me he’s not gonna take long to respond to the state’s decision. +++ 

+++ Olivier Brosse, Renault program director for small cars, is responsible for the brand’s 2 bestselling models, the Clio and CAPTUR . A new generation of each model is being introduced this year on the Renault-Nissan alliance’s CMF platform, including a hybrid version of the Clio and a plug-in hybrid Captur. Brosse, 47, expects the Captur to continue to lead its segment despite the arrival of many new competitors. “We have pushed all the elements that made it a Captur even further. We have increased the interior flexibility, we have increased the trunk space, we have increased the options for customization, which was one of the strong selling points of the original Captur. We have also increased the length by 11 cm. We know that the subcompact SUV segment was moving toward longer cars and we wanted to take advantage of this trend”. The official start of sales will be at the end of this year for some markets, but in all markets by early 2020. The plug-in hybrid version will be introducerd by the end of the first half of next year. “We will announce the pricing at the beginning of next year”. Bross thinks a double percentage of buyers will choose the plug-in hybrid. “It really depends on incentives in the individual markets”. The Clio and Captur have different kinds of Renault’s e-Tech hybrid drivetrains because the engine compartment easily allows the carmaker to use either a hybrid or plug-in hybrid system. “We sell a lot of Clios to fleets, and the hybrid is more appropriate for that kind of usage”. The cost impact of electrification will be several thousand euros per vehicle. “It will be a challenge for us to retain our customers but the Clio, especially, has a dynamic feeling that we think will attract car buyers, especially in the city (Renault estimates that 80 % of city driving will be full electric). The e-Tech will be the most “electrified” hybrid on the market”. When the Captur was introduced, it had 1 serious competitor, the Nissan Juke. Now there are about 20, and some automakers such as Volkswagen even have 2 models in the small SUV segment. Renault however decided not to go with 2 models in the small SUV segment. “We would like to be able to cover, for example, the price of the Volkswagen T-Cross and the perceived quality of the Volkswagen T-Roc, but we think we can do this with one model”. The new Nissan Juke is on the same platform as the Captur, but is is more sporty. “Nissan is going after a younger customer than we are”. Captur’s top market, in terms of segment performance, is Portugal. “We have 26 percent of the small SUV segment there. Spain and Italy are also key”. Renault will start building the Captur in China. “We will produce it at the Dongfeng joint venture plant in Wuhan. This is the first application of the alliance’s CMF-B platform in China. We will have only one engine there, a 1.3-liter gasoline unit. After that we will adjust to local tastes, including adjusting the interior colors. When asked if minicars have a future in Europe as meeting emissions compliance rules makes them more expense to make, Bross answers: “It’s a very interesting and complicated question. Basically, the A segment in Europe is about 900,000 units. Half of that is in Italy. So, what happens in Italy will be key for the rest of the segment. A large portion of sales are driven by a need for maneuverability in cities, and some of it is driven by cost. For the cost-driven part of the market, the price of entry is going to increase, therefore the benefit of buying an A segment car over a B segment car is probably going to be reduced. Part of the market will have a hard time fighting with the B segment which has much more volume (usually more than 2 million units a year). The need for maneuverability will likely remain. There will probably be a switch to electric vehicles, as Smart has already decided. Cost is less an issue for those who need small, maneuverable cars. But this segment will also probably see a new ownership model. Customers might move to car-sharing much more than we think”. +++ 

+++ In EUROPE , passenger car registrations rose 8.6 % in October, to their highest level since 2009, driven by robust demand in Germany and France and a rebound in demand for Volkswagen which posted a 29 % gain. Registrations rose to 1.214 million cars in the countries of the European Union and the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA). In the year-earlier period, registrations were depressed as carmakers struggled to certify new vehicles to meet the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). Volkswagen, which is also preparing to launch a new version of its Golf, is whittling down inventories of the old model, helping the German brand to outsell Renault, which posted a 15.8 % gain and Hyundai, which saw sales rise 13.4 %. A 12.7 % overall rise in Germany and an 8.7 % increase in France helped to outweigh a 6.7 % drop in registrations in Britain. Volkswagen Group registrations jumped 31 % in October, driven by rises of 394 % at Porsche, 65 % at Audi, 29 % at the VW brand and 28 % at Seat. Registrations of Skoda cars increased 6.8 %. PSA Group sales fell 4.9 %, as a 27 % drop in Opel registrations offset a 12 % gain at Citroen. Peugeot’s volume was flat. Renault Group sales rose 13 %, with the Renault brand gaining 16 % and Dacia 7.8 %. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles gained 2.5 % with rises of 11 % at Alfa Romeo, 5 % at Jeep and 1.3 % at the Fiat brand. Ford registrations were flat. The BMW brand was up 6 % while Mercedes-Benz’s volume gained 2 %. Among Asian brands, Hyundai registrations rose 13 %; Toyota brand gained 9.4 %; Kia was up 1.3 % and Nissan rose 0.6 %. Europe’s October registrations were at their highest level for the month since 2009 but the rise masked a dismal outlook. The latest monthly figure takes registrations down 0.7 % to 13.3 million vehicles since the start of the year, putting 2019 on a path for a full-year decline. Forecasters LMC Automotive said no progress is expected next year due to economic headwinds. The downward trend has put pressure on the region’s automakers to join forces to navigate an unprecedented industry shift toward electric and self-driving cars. PSA Group confirmed last month that is in merger talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Automakers from Volkswagen to Daimler have lowered their expectations in recent weeks on weakening demand in some regions and the threat of tariffs. A shrinking of the Chinese market has also deepened the gloom, with October car sales marking the 16th decline in the past 17 months. +++ 

+++ FORD has avoided a potential strike as UAW members have agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement. According to the UAW, only 56.3 % of workers voted to approve the contact. That’s a relatively slim margin. Both the Lima Engine Plant and Chicago Assembly Plant (which builds the Explorer) voted against it. While everyone isn’t happy, the agreement provides hourly workers with a number of benefits including a ratification bonus of up to $9,000. The company also said employees can expect “wage increases, bonuses and continued profit sharing”. The use of temporary employees has been a contentious issue, but Ford says they’ll now be given a “guaranteed path to permanent full-time employment”. Furthermore, current temporary employees will have an opportunity to make the top wage rate by the end of the new contract. In return, the UAW will allow Ford to use more temporary workers and create a retirement program that will “improve workforce composition, lowering labor cost”. The automaker also won’t have to increase pension obligations or payments to retirees. Unfortunately, the agreement also calls for the closure of the Romeo Engine Plant in Michigan. The plant opened in 1973 and currently employs around 531 hourly workers. While one plant is closing, Ford says the agreement includes a $6 billion investment in American manufacturing facilities and this will help to create or secure 8,500 hourly jobs. The company also said employees at the closing plant will be offered jobs at a nearby facility. Speaking of plants, the Flat Rock Assembly Plant will reportedly get $250 million for a “new product”. There’s no word on what that vehicle will be, but the plant currently builds the Ford Mustang and Lincoln Continental. In a statement, Ford’s Joe Hinrichs said “This deal helps Ford enhance our competitiveness and protect good-paying manufacturing jobs”. He added, the company was pleased the agreement could be made without a “costly disruption to production”. That’s a subtle reference to the GM strike which delayed the launch of the 2020 Corvette and cost the automaker billions. With Ford and GM out of the way, the UAW will now turn its attention to FCA. The automaker released a statement saying they welcome the talks and hope to “reach an agreement that will allow us to continue investing in our future and create opportunities for our employees, their families and the communities where we live and work”. The talks come at an unusual time as FCA and PSA announced plans to merger in October. This will likely push the union to seek guarantees promising to protect US jobs. +++ 

+++ A year after his arrest, Carlos GHOSN ’s strategy to exonerate himself from allegations of fraud and financial wrongdoing is becoming clearer: It’s all a conspiracy. Out on bail, the former chairman and chief executive officer of the global alliance between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi intends to show that prosecutors, the trade ministry and the Japanese automaker colluded to arrest and charge him. They leaked “false information to the media to damage Mr. Ghosn’s reputation and impair his ability to receive a fair trial”, according to Junichiro Hironaka, Ghosn’s lead counsel. While media attention has faded since his shock arrest last year, Ghosn’s legal battle is likely to be Japan’s biggest-ever corporate trial. The outcome could also influence foreign nationals’ perceptions about working in Japan and fuel questions about the country’s legal system, in which prosecutors have a near-perfect conviction rate. “It has been one full year since our client was ambushed and arrested without warning at Haneda airport”, Hironaka said in a statement. “Prosecutors have repeatedly and systematically denied Mr. Ghosn fundamental rights of due process and turned the presumption of innocence on its head”. The prosecutor’s office and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry declined to comment. Nissan spokeswoman Azusa Momose said the company will take necessary steps for Ghosn to be accountable for his actions but declined to comment on the former chairman’s specific defense strategy. Ghosn has hired more than a dozen lawyers and publicists to assert his innocence and defend his reputation. The team has been filing motions for dismissal and dealing with the press while Ghosn, 65, spends most days working in his lawyer’s office preparing for a trial that will probably start in the first half of 2020. Hironaka says he can prove his client’s innocence. In addition to disputing the four charges against the former executive, the lawyer plans to show that prosecutors worked illegally with government officials and Nissan employees to “drum up allegations of wrongdoing” to remove Ghosn and prevent further integration between Renault and Nissan. They also tampered with and concealed evidence, his lawyers argued in a filing to the Tokyo District Court, seeking dismissal of charges. The goal of the conspiracy was to oust Ghosn to prevent him from further integrating Nissan and Renault, which threatened the carmaker’s autonomy, according to Hironaka. Prosecutors relied heavily on some of Nissan’s employees and consultants to trample on Ghosn’s legal rights, he said. They are still investigating in order to collect more evidence to present at trial because what they have right now isn’t enough to establish Ghosn’s guilt, the lawyer said. Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor, says the defense is right to focus on how authorities decided to bring charges against Ghosn. He also says that prosecutors are still gathering evidence and because of that, the pre-trial proceedings will be dragged out. “It’s abnormal, this whole process”, said Gohara, who has his own legal practice and isn’t involved in Ghosn’s defense. “They probably arrested Ghosn for the sake of arresting him. There’s no way they can build a case with just Nissan’s support”. Prosecutors detained Ghosn multiple times as they handed down indictments. Ghosn has been charged with financial misconduct related to alleged underreporting of compensation. He’s also accused of aggravated breach of trust: one charge for transactions that allegedly transferred Ghosn’s personal investment losses to Nissan and for transactions in Saudi Arabia that benefited Ghosn, and another related to payments in Oman that allegedly moved money from a dealership into a company controlled by Ghosn in Lebanon. The former auto executive, who spent a total of 130 days in jail, has denied all charges. Stories about the French-Lebanese-Brazilian, one of the most recognizable foreign executives to ever work in Japan, no longer dominate nightly newscasts. Yet newspapers still cover developments, such as a recent report of a tax investigation into the former executive. The stories, fueled by leaks, are part of the conspiracy, Ghosn and his lawyers argue. Although the French government has been careful not to interfere in the legal process by giving strong backing to Ghosn, behind-the-scenes political support is getting in gear. Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy met with Ghosn at the French Embassy in Tokyo last month, after getting a green light from president Emmanuel Macron. Sarkozy also voiced his concerns about the Japanese legal system. Nissan and Greg Kelly, who worked at the automaker’s CEO office, are also defendants in the trial. In the year since Ghosn was detained at Haneda after landing in a private jet, the automaker has seen its own share of turmoil: Ghosn’s loyalist-turned-accuser Hiroto Saikawa was ousted as CEO, profits are at decade lows and Nissan’s relationship with top shareholder Renault was damaged. Pretrial hearings are being held about once a month at the Tokyo District Court’s 17th Criminal Court Division. Their purpose is to narrow the scope of charges in order to streamline legal proceedings and speed up the trial. 3 judges (Kenji Shimozu, Kazunori Fukushima and Kenji Matsushita) will preside over proceedings and render a verdict. It’s likely that the pretrial process Ghosn is going through right now will last longer than the actual trial, said Hiroki Sasakura, a professor specializing in criminal procedure at Keio University Law School in Tokyo. “The pretrial process involves a series of back-and-forths where the prosecutor discloses evidence to the defense, and the defense examines it and can rebut the claims. It’s like a game of catch”. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI teased a plug-in hybrid crossover concept last week, and now the company has confirmed it will be joined by 4 other models in Los Angeles. The company is tight-lipped on specifics, but said there will be a mix of concepts and production models. The automaker also added we can expect vehicles with petrol, plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains. This latter news isn’t too surprising as Hyundai recently confirmed plans to stage the US debut of the facelifted Ioniq Electric, Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid in LA. The fifth model is a bit of a mystery, but it will be a global debut. That’s an interesting tease, and it’s possible the mystery model could be a concept as Hyundai stated they will “debut 5 vehicles, including concepts and production models”. The plural on concepts suggests at least 2, but it remains unclear what the second concept could be. However, I have a gues. The most obvious is a pickup as Hyundai confirmed plans to build a production version of the Santa Cruz concept last week. The original concept was introduced over 4 years ago, at the 2015 North American International Auto Show, and it’s possible the company could introduce a new concept to help preview the upcoming pickup. That’s just speculation at this point, but the Santa Cruz will be built at the company’s plant in Montgomery, Alabama in 2021. The model will be aimed at millennials and combine the “traditional attributes of a compact SUV” (the next generation Tucson) with the “day-to-day versatility of an open bed”. +++ 

+++ The Volkswagen ID.3 electric hatchback is not even in dealerships yet and the automaker is already announcing a second manufacturing facility. In addition to the Zwickau plant, the ID.3 will also be made at Dresden’s iconic Gläserne Manufaktur, a.k.a. the Transparent Factory. The announcement ends the uncertainty regarding the plant’s future following the discontinuation of the Phaeton in March 2016 and the temporary assembly of the e-Golf there. VW says the Gläserne Manufaktur will evolve into a Center of Future Mobility where “innovative technologies are developed and tested in collaboration with industry partners and startups”. The company will also intensify efforts to pursue new areas of business such as the function testing station. In addition, its vehicle collection is to be significantly expanded, with the location set to become even more attractive as a destination for visitors and customers. “The decision to bring the ID family to Dresden lays a solid foundation for the future of this location in Saxony. Employment levels remain stable. And at the same time, we are stepping up the pace for e-mobility. We need the Manufaktur as an important showcase to take our customers on board for e-mobility and digitalization”, said Gunnar Killian, board member for Human Resources at Volkswagen. VW did not talk numbers, but given its many roles it has to fulfill simultaneously, the Dresden factory is expected to have a smaller production capacity than Zwickau. According to Jens Rothe, Chairman of the General Works Council at Volkswagen Sachsen, the team in Dresden is “extremely well prepared for the future of e-mobility and well equipped for our ID family”, given its experience with the e-Golf. While the Zwickau plant started series production of the ID.3 two weeks ago, assembly of the EV will start in Dresden in fall 2020. Later on, the plant could possibly assemble other models from the ID family as well. +++ 

+++ Ralf Speth likes talking about the future. It’s no surprise, given the challenges he has faced in the recent past. It can’t be much fun for JAGUAR LAND ROVER ’s CEO to keep raking over the ashes of a recent £3.6 billion financial loss that triggered cuts of 4.500 jobs, something he took very personally. From his early days, looking forward has always been an important part of Speth’s make-up. At BMW, where he began a 20-year engineering career in 1980, it was a given among his generation that you embraced new technology and watched it lift the brand image while generating impressive sales. BMW was a very happy place for a young engineer to be. Let it not be forgotten, either, that for most of his nine years at the top of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Speth’s penchant for keeping the company focused on growth and constant improvement met unprecedented success: the company remains this nation’s largest car maker and biggest spender on research and development. Still, it is more than a year since Speth first signalled that things were going seriously wrong at JLR. The company was abruptly hit by a perfect storm of difficulties, including a disastrous drop in demand for diesels, rising Brexit fears, a rapid weakening of the Chinese market and a consequent need for a downward revaluation of JLR’s entire business. Within months, Speth unveiled a £2.5 billion plan called ‘Charge and Accelerate’ aimed at dramatically cutting costs and improving cash flows. Much has been done, but it is still a work in progress. When I meet Speth at Warwick University’s National Automotive Innovation Centre (a magnificent car creation facility mainly established through Speth’s own unstinting efforts) the logical first question is to ask exactly how the recovery is proceeding. “We began our restructuring and transformation earlier than other companies in our kind of business because we are smaller than them”, Speth begins carefully, “which meant we struck problems earlier. We don’t have banks and insurance companies that let us spread difficulties as others can, so we were criticised early on. But others are now facing the same problems and ours are no longer a surprise. Our advantage is we’re agile. We are on track to over-deliver on the short-term part of our programme, called Charge, to cut costs and improve cash flow”. JLR’s second-quarter results showed the truth of this, with a predicted upturn in fortunes (revenue up 8 % year on year and a £156 million pre-tax profit) following impressive recent sales improvements, especially in China. Speth says: “The longer-term part of our plan, called Accelerate, aims to attack systemic issues like improving quality and time to market. That will take longer. We’ve asked our existing teams to meet and communicate better, and that’s also working. And a data analytics team of seasoned, experienced people I set up a couple of years ago has started paying off in a big way. We’ve implemented our toughest decisions first. Do it any other way and you lose momentum”. Times have been tough, but it’s very telling that Speth (who turned 64 last month) continues firmly in the biggest job at JLR, unmolested by rumour mongers and financial denizens who have recently taken to giving other car industry leaders a hard time. “The task now is to prepare for new things”, says Speth, “to simplify our engine and model ranges as much as possible, and also to prepare some very go-ahead projects we have in the drawer”. “I’m so glad that during restructuring we haven’t had to reduce our investment much”, he says, reaching instinctively to the future. “I defend our big projects because they define segments and also earn salaries for our next generation. When this disturbance ends, we want to be ready”. Speth doesn’t seem to care much about what the car market will be like in a decade’s time, except to say that diesel and petrol cars will be around “for a long time”. He reckons maintaining a high degree of manufacturing flexibility holds the key, and already sees this policy, steadily maintained at JLR for years, starting to bear fruit. The centralisation of JLR engine manufacturing (production of modular triples, fours, sixes and EDUs (electric drive units) at the company’s Wolverhampton factory) is one huge move towards flexibility, allowing JLR to source conventional, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric powertrains from one site. The same goes for an embryo battery assembly operation at nearby Ham’s Hall, where a run of 7500-cell batteries even larger than that of the I-Pace (perhaps for the luxurious XJ saloon and its Land Rover sibling?) will be constructed by an automated process that involves 15,000 welding operations to be completed in just 11 minutes. However, Speth reserves special pride for the forthcoming Battery Industrialisation Centre (BIC), which is under construction on a huge site near Coventry Airport. There, the capabilities and innovations from universities all over the UK can be brought together in realistic manufacturing conditions, and also tested for re-use and recycling. Speth has long recognised the need for at least one UK battery gigafactory. Success for the BIC could lead directly to this; highly desirable provided the new place embraces next-generation technology and is run on a financially competitive basis. “This could be sensational for the UK”, says Speth, “but there’s no point in setting up a battery factory just to have one. It has to deliver great products at a competitive price”. The JLR chief may see his own company selling pure diesel and petrol vehicles for years to come, but his commitment to electrification and zero emissions (along with zero congestion and zero accidents) seems to be total. JLR’s factories are already carbon neutral. Speth is scathing about the fact that 1000 coal-fired power stations are currently under construction around the world, and critical of a German process that subsidises coal mining, sends the mined product to Poland for firing, then brings it back as clean fuel. “Does the environment know it’s clean?” he asks. Whatever the future, says the CEO, Jaguar Land Rover must grow to be stable and successful. He’s optimistic about the prospects: “Of course, it’s not manufactured volume that matters: it’s cash in the pocket. But economies of scale are vital. To be competitive, you need advanced technologies and they’re expensive. If you’re VW and can divide your costs by 10 million, that helps. If you’re JLR and the figure is 600,000, it’s tougher”. I press for the ideal JLR annual production figure, admittedly without much hope. Speth is famous for not revealing targets. But maybe because it’s nearly Christmas, he relents. “1 million is not out of reach”, he murmurs. “We have plans to expand our model range and we have some great designs in the drawer. But we must accompany any expansion with the very best sales and marketing techniques. But I believe we have the substance. Look at our cars in the high street: they are authentic, honest and they all have their own character. I am proud of that”. Speth is late for his next appointment so we really have to stop talking. Trouble is, I always find interviews with Speth turn into uplifting events and so I hang about to the last. This quietly spoken man has rare insight, quiet wit and a powerful ability to fill you with enthusiasm for the future. He is most definitely (we can say this now) a national treasure. It turns out that Speth likes quotes from great people, an enthusiasm I share, and I’m delighted to find that he recently used a favourite from Abraham Lincoln in a recent speech, as a way of inspiring others. “The best way to predict your future is to create it” was Lincoln’s killer line. Here and now in 2019, the person making best use of these words is a slim, moustachioed engineer from Munich, who nowadays lives in Leamington Spa. +++ 

+++ KIA said its new SUV targeted for North American market was named SUV of the year by auto publication MotorTrend. The magazine also chose Peter Schreyer, president and head of design management of the Hyundai Motor Group as the “person of the year”. Describing Telluride as a new flagship SUV that has raised Kia’s profile, the magazine said 7 of its 11 judges who tested the driving performance, fuel efficiency, overall design, safety and other technological features gave it the thumbs up. The Telluride is the first Korean SUV brand to win the SUV of the Year Award. It competed against 41 vehicles with 8 being shortlisted. The finalists included Audi e-tron, BMW X5, Lincoln Aviator, Mercedes-Benz’s GLS and Porsche Cayenne. Assembled at Kia’s manufacturing plant in Georgia, the Telluride is specifically targeted for the North American market. Since its launch in February, the company sold a total of 45.284 units of the Telluride as of last month. As for the Person of the Year Award, MotorTrend honored Schreyer, citing his design leadership that pursued new direction for Kia and Hyundai. The former designer for Volkswagen renowned for his work on Audi TT, has changed the perception of the Kia brand, and is still in charge of overseeing long-term design vision for the South Korean automaker, the magazine said. The award was given to Sergio Machionne, former CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles last year and Mary Barra of General Motors in 2017. +++ 

+++ The MAZDA 3 has been declared the 2019 Women’s World Car of the Year. The compact model was voted by a panel of female jurors from 30 different countries, who weighed in different factors such as aesthetic appearance, practicality, safety, environmental footprint and value for money. The big winner was announced at the 2019 Dubai International Motor Show and aside from the golden medal in the World Car of the Year category, it was also voted Women’s World Family Car of the Year. The Mazda 3 managed to beat some very well established rivals from the upper classes such as the Audi e-Tron, Tesla Model 3 and BMW 3-Series. In the Women’s Urban Car of the Year, the Kia XCeed was declared the big winner. The sporty-looking compact hatchback with a jacked-up ground clearance builds on the new-gen Ceed family, has longer front and rear overhangs and is wider. It also adds plastic body cladding and a sloping roofline, whereas the interior has mostly been carried over and includes an infotainment system up to 10.25-inch in size and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Kia has also bagged the Women’s Green Car of the Year title with the e-Soul. As for the other 3 winners, these are the BMW 8-Series, Porsche 911 and Range Rover Evoque. The German GT won the Luxury Car category, whereas the 911 was declared the Performance Car of the Year and the British high-riding vehicle won the SUV/Crossover of the Year. +++

+++ NISSAN ’s fortunes are still uncertain 1 year after the shocking arrest of former chairman Carlos Ghosn. The Japanese automaker’s policy of pursuing expansion that had been led by Ghosn has backfired badly, leading to a serious financial slump. Nissan’s new top executives find themselves on a rocky road as they also face the challenge of rebuilding its alliance with Renault Mitsubishi. On December 1, senior vice president Makoto Uchida will take over as Nissan’s new president and chief executive officer after his predecessor Hiroto Saikawa, who pushed out Ghosn, resigned in September over a pay scandal. Mitsubishi chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta was tapped for the same position at Nissan and senior vice president Jun Seki will become vice chief operating officer, shifting Nissan into a collective-style leadership. Nissan’s crucial task is to revamp its businesses. For the fiscal year through March 2020, its group net profit is seen plunging 66 % from the previous year to ¥110 billion, reflecting excessive discounts in the United States. The annual figure was the worst since the ¥42.3 billion that was posted in the year ended in March 2010 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008. The automaker’s worsening performance has battered its biggest shareholder, Renault, which was making half of its profit from its stake in Nissan. In July-September, the French company’s profit from the Nissan stake slumped by about 40 % year on year to €233 million. It is obviously difficult for Nissan to survive alone at a time when automakers are merging to scale themselves up in an era of transition in the industry facing electrification and other innovations. But the 3 companies have been in dispute over who should take the wheel after Ghosn’s departure. Gupta has said the 3 automakers are all struggling and need each other. In a meeting held last month in Japan, executives of the 3 automakers agreed to strengthen the alliance further. After the meeting, Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard tweeted, “We stand on the threshold of a new era”. Still, worries persist among Nissan officials that Renault could use the need for streamlining as an excuse to pressure the Japanese automaker into a merger with it. +++ 

+++ All-electric Italian luxury brand Automobili PININFARINA has revealed the first of a new range of models set to follow its existing Battista hypercar. The Pura Vision concept will be revealed at the annual Pebble Beach car show event in Calfornia in August 2020. The production version of the concept will be the first of 4 new cars to arrive before 2025, following on from the £2 million Battista that will begin to arrive with customers next year. Pura Vision is the first model to use a new ‘skateboard’ electric car platform developed between Pininfarina, Bosch and Benteler, which Automobili Pininfarina CEO Michael Perschke confirmed would also be made available to third party customers. The car will mirror many of the Battista’s statistics including a 120 kWh battery, 1.000 hp of power, a sub 3 second 0-100 kph time and 500 to 550 kilometres of range. However, the price is set to be around a tenth of that of the Battista, with Perschke confirming “between $200,000 to $300,000”. Although official images of the concept won’t be seen until closer to the unveiling next summer, Autointernationaal.nl can reveal that the new car takes its inspiration from a number of Pininfarina’s historic GT designs such as the Alfa Romeo Superflow with its glass canopy. Perschke referred to the Pura Vision as “not an SUV, but an S-LUV: a Sustainable Luxury Utility Vehicle”. At 1.588 mm high it sits 50 mm lower than Lamborghini’s Urus (named by Perschke as a rival for the production model) while it’s over 5 meters long. Chief design officer Luca Borgogno gave some further insight into the design. “We tested the sportiest of SUVs (the Lamborghini Urus) and the most beautiful shooting brake (the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo)”, he told. “But we thought; why don’t we put those things together, so it’s not a shooting brake or an SUV?”. Following Automobili Pininfarina’s ‘Design Above All Else’ philosophy, Borgogno has created a car that makes strong use of Italian GT heritage for the Pura Vision. “Every Italian recipe has super-simple ingredients and design is the same”, he told. “We have clarity, where one line can define the design, we use sculpture for sexiness and we have a family feeling where our cars are perceived as relatives of the overall design approach. “There are no lines that are not needed: everything is designed to be sexy”. The standout feature of the Pura Vision is the glass canopy, supported by an intricate, but almost invisible, aluminium structure underneath. The glass appears to cover the entire cabin from the windscreen (set back to allow for a GT-like long bonnet) across the roof, around the sides and onto the rear screen. It even incorporates a rear spoiler, too. Borgogno promised a high-tech approach to the glass with electro chromic materials used to change the colour or shade at the touch of a button; similar to the technology used in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. Slim front lights sit atop a wide nose that’s a deeper version of that found on the Battista, while sculpting of the sides gives a Coke bottle profile from above, leading to prominent rear wheel arches that are wider than those on a Porsche 911 Turbo. The rear end also features slim, wide LED lights while the boot door protrudes just below the rear screen, falling back inwards as it goes down towards the bumper. Darker panels around the bottom of the car hint at where the skateboard platform houses its battery packs, with Borgogno telling us that the panels will be finished in carbon fibre on production models, although customers will also be able to personalise their car with a huge array of different finishes. Rear-hinged doors are only for the show car and won’t make it to production, according to Borgogno, but the concept’s 24-inch wheels will be available to buyers. Inside, the concept’s cabin is pretty close to the production car’s with a clean sweeping dash featuring an extra-wide digital instrument display and a large, low-set infotainment screen. And although the concept features 4 individual chairs, the production car will be available with a 2-plus-1 rear bench. “We wanted to put really rich materials inside the car”, Borgogno told. “Around 90 % of what you touch is advanced wood, although it could be carbon fibre, too”. “2 of our benchmark cars are the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborgnini Urus”, admitted Borgogno. “But our car will be both sporty and elegant at the same time”. It will also have a fair degree of off-road ability from the 4-wheeldrive system that features 1 electric motor at the front and 2 at the back. Air suspension will also raise the car for off-road use. The production version of the Pura Vision concept will be made in a new factory in Italy that will eventually be able to produce up to 20.000 vehicles per year, according to Perschke. He also confirmed that first deliveries will be in 2022 and that right-hand drive is definitely part of the plan (unlike Battista) to serve the United Kingdom as well as the Indian home market of Automobili Pininfarina’s owner Mahindra. However, Automobili Pininfarina won’t be stopping with the production version of the Pura Vision. A slightly smaller, sportier SUV will follow shortly afterwards. “Think Range Rover Sport to the Range Rover”, an insider told, while Perschke also hinted at what else might follow saying candidly, “Our designers have already shown me a GT”. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen parts supplier PREVENT GROUP filed a lawsuit alleging the German automaker used anticompetitive tactics to stop larger suppliers like the company from acquiring smaller rivals in the United States. In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, the auto parts supplier said Volkswagen extracted written agreements from suppliers not to sell themselves to Prevent Group. The company, which is seeking damages in excess of $750 million, said that after the diesel emissions scandal, Volkswagen used its market power to squeeze smaller suppliers and stop any acquisitions to cut costs. Volkswagen’s lower-tier suppliers had no choice but to suffer bankruptcy or comply with Volkswagen’s “unfair terms and prices”, Prevent said in a statement. In 2016, Volkswagen and 2 of its suppliers, a part of Prevent, resolved a contract dispute that had hit output at more than half of the automaker’s German plants and threatened to undermine its recovery from the diesel emissions scandal. +++ 

+++ The majority of unions representing workers at PSA are in favour of a planned $50 billion merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), executives and union representatives said. However, the unions said that once the merger deal was signed, they would be seeking detailed information about the plans for the combined company. At a PSA works council meeting, all trade union representatives on the council voted to give a favourable opinion on the merger. “We will remain vigilant about the social impact and await a clearer and more detailed picture of the plan’s implications for plants, volume, and how much work will be given to the foundries”, said Franck Don, representative of the CFTC union. “But the project in the form it’s been presented makes sense because the two groups complement each other, are in good financial health, and thanks to the new format will attain a critical size which is vital in the auto business today”. The merger would help the firms pool resources to meet tough new emissions rules and investments in electric and self-driving vehicles, as well as counter a broader downturn in car markets. Securing support from Europe’s powerful trade unions will be critical for the merged company, which will employ more than 400,000 staff and operate hundreds of factories worldwide. The deal has stirred concerns in Germany and Britain where plants making Opel and Vauxhall cars have seen jobs cut in recent year as part of a cost-cutting drive. +++ 

+++ RENAULT is challenged on numerous fronts and still smarting from a nasty spat with its largest owner, the French government. Even in good times, remuneration restraint at state-owned enterprises makes it hard to attract talent. To snag the right new boss, €13 billion Renault will need to pay up. It can look to the skies for some inspiration. Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard is compiling a shortlist following the ouster of Thierry Bolloré, an acolyte of ex-boss Carlos Ghosn. It will be a difficult job. Senard has done creditable work in stabilising the company following Ghosn’s arrest a year ago in Japan. But relations with alliance partner Nissan remain strained, and rival PSA is hooking up with Renault’s former prospective partner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Meanwhile, operational performance has deteriorated: Interim CEO Clotilde Delbos recently announced that 2019 sales would be lower than previously forecast. That makes bagging the right person key. Delbos is a leading internal possibility. Patrick Koller, the CEO of Franco-German car parts maker Faurecia, and Luca de Meo, of Volkswagen-owned Seat, are also possibilities. The ideal person would have extensive experience in Japan, which ought to favor Toyota executive vice president Didier Leroy’s candidacy. Attracting high-calibre contenders will be costly. Yet like other French state-controlled enterprises, Renault is expected to show restraint over executive pay. Ghosn received around €3.5 million from the carmaker in 2018, or roughly half what his rival Carlos Tavares earned at Peugeot. But Ghosn was also paid for his roles at Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, and even that was not enough, if Japanese prosecutors’ charges are to be believed. General Motors boss Mary Barra made almost $22 million in 2018. Renault’s state of semi-crisis gives Senard and his board some leverage to argue for fattening the new boss’s salary. And there’s a salient precedent: Air France KLM busted through its own self-imposed “compensation ceiling” when it hired Canadian Benjamin Smith to run the airline. His target remuneration of some 3€.25 million this year compares to the maximum €1.2 million his predecessor could trouser in 2017. Arguing the case for higher remuneration will be delicate, particularly given the allegations against Ghosn, which he denies, not to mention his extravagant spending habits chronicled in the press. But when a repairman is needed urgently, money is often no object. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess, who has grown increasingly friendly with TESLA ’s Elon Musk, said the electric-vehicle maker may find Germany a more accommodating place for manufacturing than its home state of California. “What Tesla probably is looking for is the environment, the infrastructure, to build high-quality cars, which is probably much more the case here in Germany than on the West Coast of the United States”, Diess told. Musk announced last week that Tesla will build a vehicle and battery factory on the outskirts of Berlin, plus an engineering and design center within the city limits. While the plant will be the second to assemble Teslas outside the U.S. (one near Shanghai is on the verge of making cars for sale) the company’s massive facility in Fremont, California, isn’t going anywhere. Preparations are underway for Model Y crossover production to start next summer. Tesla hasn’t yet said where it will build a new electric pickup that Musk, 48, plans to unveil in Los Angeles later this week. +++ 

+++ The clock has run out on president Donald TRUMP ’s authority to impose ‘Section 232′ tariffs on imports of foreign-made cars and auto parts, and he may have to find other means if he wants to pursue tariffs on European or Japanese cars, legal experts say. Their view was supported by a new U.S. trade court ruling, that Trump’s authority had lapsed in a previous Section 232 investigation on imports of foreign steel. Trump took no action last week as a deadline to impose the national security tariffs of up to 25 % on automotive imports from the European Union, Japan or South Korea expired. Automakers had expected another delay in Trump’s tariff decision as his administration pursues broader trade negotiations with the European Union and Japan. In May, Trump invoked a 6-month negotiating period under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, a law aimed at protecting the U.S. Cold War-era defense industrial base. He has hailed the threat of tariffs as a strong negotiating tool to gain leverage over his opponents. But an initial trade deal with Japan reached in September did not address autos trade, while talks with the EU have not formally started as the two sides remain at odds over the scope of the negotiations. “I don’t see the law as giving the president any options other than take action against imports or determine to take no action and the case is closed”, said Jennifer Hillman, a Georgetown University Law School professor and a former World Trade Organization judge. By not acting by the deadline, Trump has forfeited his authority to impose the Section 232 tariffs, added Clark Packard, a trade policy counsel. The Court of International Trade ruled that Trump ran out of time on a Section 232 investigation of steel imports, when he tried to double the tariffs on Turkish steel to 50 % in August 2018. The move aimed at freeing an American pastor detained in Turkey was challenged by an Transpacific Steel LLC, an importer of Turkish steel, which claimed that, among other things, the move came too late to follow proper procedures laid out in the law. The New York-based federal court, which handles appeals of U.S. duty determinations, ruled in Transpacific’s favor and said Trump’s “expansive view” of his Section 232 powers were “mistaken”. “Although the statute grants the president great discretion in deciding what action to take it cabins the president’s power both substantively, by requiring the action to eliminate threats to national security caused by imports, and procedurally, by setting the time in which to act”, wrote CIT judges Claire Kelly and Jane Restani in the decision dated Nov. 15. Devin Sykes, a trade lawyer with Akin Gump in Washington, wrote in a note to clients that the case lays the groundwork for future challenges to Section 232 cases. A spokesman for the U.S. Commerce Department, which conducted the Section 232 probe, could not immediately be reached for comment. Although the department’s report to Trump has never been published, it determined that auto imports were “weakening our internal economy” and causing the “American-owned automotive industry”, to contract, according to a White House statement here released in May. Hillman, who is now serving as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that even if courts deny him authority on Section 232, Trump could invoke other statutes to impose tariffs, including the broad International Emergency Economic Powers Act widely used to impose sanctions and fight terrorist financing. Known as IEEPA, the statute “does not have much of an investigatory prerequisite to it, so it is something the president could do quickly”, Hillman said. “Ditto for the Trading with the Enemy Act and he seems predisposed to deem the EU as an “enemy”, at least with respect to autos trade”. But not using Section 232 as the basis for tariffs could make them more vulnerable to challenges at the WTO, which provides an exception for matters of national security. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN cut its forecasts for operating profit and sales growth due to a downturn in demand for passenger cars, while keeping profit margin targets. “It is fair to say that the very best of the party is over”, chief financial officer Frank Witter told analysts in a call to discuss the company’s outlook. Volkswagen joins a string of automakers in warning of tough times for an industry facing higher investments into cleaner and self-driving technologies at a time when a trade war between Washington and Beijing is curbing global growth. Volkswagen now expects operating profit before special items to rise by at least 25 % over 2016-2020, down from a previous forecast of more than 30 %, presentation slides showed. The Wolfsburg-based company also cut its forecast for sales growth over the period to 20 % from more than 25 %. “We believe this largely reflects softer volume growth expectations”, Citi analysts said in a note. Volkswagen confirmed its targets for an operating margin of 6.5 % – 7.5 % in 2019-2020 and 7 % – 8 % in 2025. To counter the cost of rolling out electric cars, the company will increase sales of higher-margin SUVs and work on lowering the cost of producing electric vehicles, chief executive Herbert Diess said. Electric cars will reach cost parity with gasoline and diesel variants from about 2025 onwards, the company said, helping to deliver profit margin targets. +++

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