Newsflash: nieuwe Ford Focus RS krijgt hybride techniek


+++ ASTON MARTIN has just unveiled the DBX, a SUV that will be crucial to the company’s survival after lower-than-expected demand for its core sports cars pushed it to losses in the second and third quarters. CEO Andy Palmer has had to increase the company’s debt to cover the DBX’s final development ahead of deliveries in mid-2020. Palmer told that he is confident the SUV will win the company new customers and pave the way for the promised rollout of a mid-engine sports car and the Lagonda luxury electric brand. “Every car we launch is important because of the way the business runs. But in terms of changing the company so that we address each of the luxury clusters, the DBX is really important. So far, we have replaced the core GT and sports cars; our historical ground. This is the first model that expands the portfolio. I think we can sell about 4,000 units a year with a peak of 5,000. We are about 6,000 to 6,500 sales this year. In 2020, we will not have a full year of DBX but we’ve more sport cars coming: the Vantage roadster arrives next year and the mid-engine car (the Vanquish, comes in 2021). The DBX will represent the largest-single volume. Today, more than 70 % of Aston Martin customers have an SUV in the garage, so the hard work is already done. We just need to convert those people from their daily driver into an Aston Martin. They are coming out of Porsche Cayennes and Range Rovers. What we are looking to do is cream off the top of that premium SUV sector. The Cayenne has been an important benchmark in the development of the car. Our cars don’t compete directly, but they (Porsche) are a very credible source when it comes to ride and handling, and build quality. We revealed the DBX in 2 places (Beijing and Los Angeles) because China and the U.S. are the car’s biggest markets, but also it’s a signal that we are a very traditional British car company trying to be more global in our approach. The DBX has, in particular, been very much designed with Chinese and American customers in mind. By the middle of the 2020s, including the DBX, all of our cars will have a hybrid offering. I’m not a big fan of the plug-in hybrid because you are adding weight and complexity. My preferred delivery is a self-charging hybrid. The only reason for thinking otherwise is the definition of regulations and getting the CO2 credit and in some places that might push us to add a plug-in. The Lagonda luxury electric brand will be rolled out by 2023. That it’s a lot to do, but we have also achieved a lot. The most difficult car we did was the DB11 because it was essentially a new factory, new electrical architecture, new engine, new platform. Nothing that we will do will be as difficult as that. Moving into the SUV format with the DBX has also challenged us, but we have delivered everything on time so far”. When asked why Aston Martin has reduced its sales guidance to 6,500 from 7,000 for 2019, Palmer answers: “Our sports cars are growing both in volume and in market share, but the Vantage market is difficult. It borders on premium and that market is more in line with the total industry volume. Still, with the Vantage we are in a market we need to be in. What the Vantage allows us to do is to climb a ladder into luxury. None of the other luxury automakers provide that step, so you go from a high-end Porsche into the luxury arena. Vantage provides a platform to do that inside the brand. It’s also a platform on which we build our specials and our racecars, so we have creditability when we do stuff like Le Mans”. When asked what actions to improve efficiencies and reduce costs have been taken, Palmer answers: “The DBX is being developed much more efficiently than we anticipated and that impacts capital expenditure. When we drew the development costs curves we followed those we experienced with the DB11, but what we found is that we have been able to operate much more efficiently than in the past in terms of manpower spend or changes to tooling in the design. That has allowed us to reduce our forecast on capex by quite an extraordinary amount. In February, we gave a guidance of 320 to 340 million pounds, however, in July we revised it to 300 million pounds. The increase in virtual testing is a huge benefit. We operate in a lean environment where everyone is looking at places where it’s possible to eke out improvements”. +++ 

+++ After a successful November when the new all-time monthly sales record was set, the BMW Group (BMW and Mini brands) just delivered its 500,000th plug-in electric car, which happened to be the BMW 330e. The number includes 60,000 cars sold in Germany, where BMW is the top plug-in brand by sales volume since 2016. The next big goal is to double the result and sell a total of 1 million plug-in cars before the end of 2021, which means another 500,000 in less than 2 years. The other important targets are: 1) plug-in car sales to be 25 % of total volume by the end of 2021; 2) plug-in car sales to be 33 % of total volume by the end of 2025; 3) plug-in car sales to be 50 % of total volume by the end of 2030. “With 12 electrified vehicles currently, the BMW Group is one of the world’s leading providers of electric mobility. The company has been the market leader for electrified vehicles in Germany since 2016 and also occupies a leading position in Europe and worldwide. The company has formulated clear goals for sales of electrified vehicles for the years ahead: A quarter of all vehicles sold in Europe should be electrified by 2021. This should reach a third by 2025 and half in 2030. Soon, the lineup of 12 models to be expanded with many more longer-range BEVs and PHEVs. Half a million vehicles is the best proof: Our broad range of electrified vehicles is meeting exact customer needs. Now, we are stepping up the pace significantly: We aim to have one million electrified vehicles on the roads within two years. This is our contribution towards effective climate protection”, Oliver Zipse, chairman of the Board of Management of BMW said. +++

+++ While the rest of us were preparing for Christmas, these past few days CHEVROLET was apparently busy putting a new-gen Corvette through its paces at the Nürburgring. The mid-engine sports car posted a lap time of 7:28.30. Still, in spite of being a couple of tenths of a second quicker than the Porsche Carrera GT and only half a second slower than the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and McLaren MP4-12C, it’s not the quickest Corvette at the German track. That title belongs to the Z06 C7, which posted an amazing 7:13.90. At 7:19.63, the ZR1 was also quicker, and so was the Z06 equipped with the Z07 Package, which ran across the finish line in 7:22.68. The Camaro ZL1 1LE did it in 7:16.04 and the Camaro Z/28 in 7:37.47. Should they want to officially claim the Nurburgring lap record for production cars (all of the times posted above are unofficial), then Chevrolet needs to come out with an even more faster version of the C8 ‘Vette. The target is 6:44.95, a time set by the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ last summer, which managed to beat the Porsche 911 GT2 RS by more than 2 seconds. The sub-7-minute time would be a truly amazing achievement for the rumored C8 ZR1, as only a few vehicles managed to do it, including the Lamborghini Huracan Performante, Porsche 918 Spyder and Radical SR8. The range-topping edition of the C8 is said to feature a twin-turbocharged V8, possibly with electrification, that should put out an amazing 900 hp, or 145 hp more then the C7 ZR1, so if that’s indeed the case, we guess it does have a shot at posting the outright Nordschleife record. +++ 

+++ FERRARI argues that it would be a “mistake” to design a sports car for women, because its existing female clients don’t want a more feminine Ferrari, but rather to experience the brand’s performance and aggressive design. “We know there’s an important number of females who want to drive a Ferrari. The important thing we learned is that they don’t want a Ferrari for females”, Enrico Galliera, Ferrari’s chief marketing and commercial officer told. “A female that wants a sports car wants to drive a sports car. The mistake that automotive companies do and that we’re trying not to do is design a car for ladies. I design a car that delivers emotion then male and female have exactly the same need”, Galliera added. Ferrari also worries that a sports car for women would hurt its image with its male customers, who represent the biggest percentage of its customer base. “If you create a female car in the sports car segment (I’m not talking about a general car, maybe that’s different) but in the sports world if I create a Ferrari which is a little bit less powerful and aggressive then all the males will not buy it. They will not buy a female car. And the females won’t buy it because why should they be discriminated against? Why should they have a less powerful car?”, Galliera said. And it’s not that Ferrari doesn’t enjoy success with female customers; in fact, the Italian brand has seen an increase in women buying their cars around the world, which, according to them, is unrelated to specific models but rather due to the company’s offered couples’ activities. “All the activities we do all over the world. They are done in a way where you can enjoy the environment, have nice food, nice restaurants, these kinds of stuff so that now we have the companion pushing to come to the event and this is reducing the distance between Ferrari and the female segment”, Galliera explained. The new, more elegant Roma will certainly help drive even more women into Ferrari dealerships but the company exec is quick to point out that their new model is aimed at both men and women. According to Galliera, the new Ferrari Roma “is in terms of performance a pure Ferrari and can be driven by anyone. But the design of the car is less aggressive, more elegant so that it should reduce the fear that some segment of the population has, female and male”. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) and PSA plan to merge in the biggest auto tie-up since Daimler’s ill-fated purchase of Chrysler in 1998. The merger will help the 2 automakers to shoulder the costly investments in new technologies transforming the industry, creating the world’s 4th biggest automaker with a market value of about $47 billion. FCA and PSA will have annual sales of 8.7 million vehicles and generate recurring operating profit of more than €11 billion on revenue of nearly €170 billion, based on aggregated 2018 results. Once completed the merger is expected to generate €3.7 billion in annual synergies starting from the fifth year. The companies said they expect to reach 80 % of synergies by the 4th year. The companies expect to make about 40 % of savings from product-related expenses, 40 % from purchasing and 20 % from other areas, such as marketing, IT and logistics, they said in a statement. The companies have potential manufacturing capacity of 14 million vehicles, according to forecasters LMC Automotive. They have yet to say precisely how they plan to tackle that potential excess capacity but have said no plants will be closed. NordLB analyst Frank Schwope says the automakers will have to consider shutting plants. “The merged group will have to make massive savings and probably also close plants, even if the CEOs’ choice of words is different”. Unions have warned they will resist job losses. The finance ministers of both France and Italy welcomed the deal, but also said they would closely monitor any impact on jobs in their respective countries. The group will have 14 brands. Tavares said in November that there were no current plans to scrap any of the brands, but he acknowledged that managing the portfolio would be part of the “challenge” he and his leadership team will face. More than two-thirds of production will be concentrated on 2 platforms. Sources say 3 million vehicles will built annually on PSA’s EMP2 compact/midsize platform and 2.6 million on PSA’s CMP small platform. The EMP2 platform covers the upper part of the compact segment up to midsize models. It is used for models such as the Peugeot 3008 and 5008, Citroen C5 Aircross and Opel Grandland X, all of which are SUV/crossovers. The Peugeot 508 is the first ‘low’ passenger car to use the architecture. EMP2 can accommodate gasoline and diesel powertrains, as well as gasoline plug-in hybrids. PSA said EMP2 could also underpin future pure battery models. The CMP platform covers the small car and the lower part of the compact segment. It is used by the new generations of Peugeot 208 and 2008, Opel / Vauxhall Corsa and DS 3 Crossback. It allows for gasoline, diesel or full-electric power. Ram pickups and larger Jeep models will continue to use FCA underpinnings. Exor will become the new automaker’s single largest investor, with a stake of just over 14 %. Exor is the holding company of the Agnelli family which controls FCA with a 29.2 % stake. The Peugeot family will have a 6 % stake, as will the French government’s Bpifrance investment bank. China’s Dongfeng Motor will have 4.5 % after reducing its 12.2 % stake in PSA by selling 30.7 million shares to PSA in a move that could help smooth U.S. approval. PSA and FCA expect the deal to close in the next 12 to 15 months. They will have to win over regulators in the U.S. and Europe. “This is obviously a huge consolidation of the sector that will surely require a considerable effort in securing competition approval across a variety of jurisdictions and especially the European Union”, said Jonathan Branton, head of competition at global legal business DWF. Financial analysts Bernstein said PSA – FCA will have dominant share in low margin small cars in Italy and a massive share in profitable light commercial vehicles so EU regulators will closely scrutinize the merger. +++ 

+++ The next FORD Focus RS is entering the latter stages of development. The new RS will remain allwheel drive but with, quite literally, a twist: GKN’s e-Twinster electric 4-wheel drive means the Ford will drive its rear wheels via e-power alone while the potent combustion engine (expected to be good for some 400 hp with mild-hybrid assistance) drives the fronts. It should make for excellent traction, and the ability to tweak torque vectoring (the ability to shuffle drive left to right across the same axle, and front to rear, in an instant). Expect hyper-alert handling as a result. This will be the moment that Ford presses 2 contrasting buttons: the RS is tipped to include a 48 volt integrated starter-generator (ISG) for a gentle boost of all-electric power at low revs. Adding electrical assistance is a smart way of assuaging the Blue Oval’s green ideals, and complements recent launches like the Mustang Mach-E all-electric crossover, yet gives the chance to boost the RS’s performance creds further. And we all know how fast Fords mustn’t give any quarter on outright brawn and muscle… Naturally, the next RS will look as extreme as a Focus can, inevitably ride harder than a faulty dodgem car and accelerate faster than most sports cars. That electrically-assisted all-wheel-drive system might even allow a continuation of Ford’s Drift Mode, to compete with the sideways-inclined Mercedes-AMG A45. Ford has form with its 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine, so we expect that unit to remain the basis of its next hardcore all-wheel-drive hot hatch. The last RS made 370 hp and 500 Nm in Mountune-fettled spec. The next Focus RS will stand proud as evidence that electrification doesn’t have to mean the end of silliness. +++ 

+++ The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is holding talks with GENERAL MOTORS on the automaker’s petition to deploy a limited number of self-driving vehicles on American roads without steering wheels or other human controls, the head of the agency said. Acting NHTSA administrator James Owens said his agency aims to make a decision soon on GM’s January 2018 petition as well as a request by SoftBank backed driverless delivery startup Nuro to deploy a limited number of low-speed, highly automated delivery vehicles without human occupants. The agency’s review comes at a time of heightened concerns about the safety of automated piloting systems in vehicles and aircraft, a potential revolution in ground and air transportation. “I expect we’re going to be able to move forward with these petitions soon, as soon as we can”, Owens told, adding action “definitely” would come next year. “This will be a big deal because this will be the first such action that will be taken”, Owens said. GM, the No. 1 U.S. automaker, confirmed it has been in talks with NHTSA about the petition. Nuro also confirmed it is in talks with NHTSA. GM chief executive Mary Barra and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao recently met and discussed the petition at a high level, officials said, but significant work remains at the technical level. Owens said NHTSA officials are “crawling through these petitions because we want to make sure” they are at least as safe as cars on the roads. “There’s a lot of back and forth between us and the companies”, Owens said during an interview that also included Chao and other Transportation Department officials. “We’re sharing with them thoughts and ideas and concerns. They come back to us with additional information”. Chao said it is important that the NHTSA take its time in reviewing the GM petition. Chao suggested that some auto industry officials and analysts were too optimistic about the timing for deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. “I think the complexity was far greater than what a lot of very optimistic advocates were thinking”, Chao said. In GM’s petition, NHTSA is for the first time looking at a vehicle in which all driving decisions are made by a computer rather than a human driver. Nuro, which partnered with Kroger last year to deliver groceries, seeks approval not to include a windshield in the vehicle. The petitions (formal applications for action by the agency) seek exemptions from U.S. vehicle safety rules largely written decades ago that assumed human drivers would be in control of a vehicle. The petitions are for up to 2,500 vehicles per manufacturer. GM initially said it hoped to win approval to deploy the vehicles by the end of this year. But in July its self-driving unit, Cruise, said it was delaying commercial deployment of cars as more testing of the vehicles was required without specifying a new target date. +++ 

+++ Hyundai’s premium brand GENESIS has sold more than 300.000 units worldwide since its launch in November 2015. Hyundai said it sold 71.411 Genesis sedans globally from January to November this year, taking its 4-year cumulative sales to 302.573 units; 215.840 abroad and 86.733 at home. The flagship EQ900 full-size sedan, currently called G90, was the first model released under the Genesis brand in December 2015, followed by the G80 large sedan in 2016, and the G70 sports sedan in 2017. The G80 has been the most popular model with 170.006 units sold. The G90 has sold 74.029 units and the G70 58.538. The automaker took the brand to Australia, opening its first overseas showroom in downtown Sydney in June this year. It also recently opened a Chinese subsidiary for Genesis and is getting ready to launch it in the luxury car market there. “We are about to release the first Genesis SUV, the GV80”, a Hyundai spokesperson said. “Sales will increase significantly as a totally revamped version of the G80 will be launched in the first half of next year and the GV70 compact SUV in the second half”. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI will present its vision of how mobility technologies will shape future cities at the CES 2020 next month. In terms of transportation, future cities will have 3 main components: urban air mobility, purpose-built vehicles and transit hubs. “The most important task would be ensuring that these 3 are closely connected to each other”, Hyundai explained. Urban air mobility refers to transportation methods that fly above ground. In its long-term investment plan, Hyundai announced earlier this year that it would commercialize flying cars by 2025. Purpose-built vehicles are eco-friendly cars that can be personalized according to customer needs, Hyundai explained. Hubs are transmission centers that connect the different mobility methods on and above ground, functioning as transportation nodes in smart cities. Hyundai has released an image that depicts all 3 components. Details on Hyundai’s vision for future mobility and smart cities will be shared at a media event scheduled to take place January 6 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Held in the same U.S. state every year, the upcoming CES 2020 will take place from January 7 through 11. +++ 

+++ The new MCLAREN Speedtail has concluded its final testing phase with a series of 400 kph runs at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. A development prototype, named XP2, was taken to its top speed more than 30 times on the Johnny Bohmer Proving Ground’s 5 kilometre runway, confirming its status as the fastest car McLaren has yet built. That title was originally held by the firm’s iconic F1 hypercar, which achieved a 370 kph top speed following its launch in 1994. McLaren’s chief test driver Kenny Brack was at the wheel of XP2 for the high-speed runs, which followed previous tests at locations including Idiada in Spain and Papenburg in Germany. The company calls the £1.75 million Speedtail “a showcase for the brand’s expertise in lightweight engineering”, and notes that it is more aerodynamically efficient than any of its previous models. The hypercar is McLaren’s first series-production hybrid model since the 800 hp P1, and its first three-seater since the F1. At 5.137 mm long, it is also the longest production car to come out of Woking. McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt said: “The Speedtail is a truly extraordinary car that epitomises McLaren’s pioneering spirit and perfectly illustrates our determination to continue to set new benchmarks for supercar and hypercar performance”. At its unveiling in 2018, McLaren said the Speedtail will be a true driver’s car. It has been designed as a ‘hyper-GT’, and is said to balance “a mature, stiff ride with comfort and speed”. Exact details of the Speedtail’s 1080 hp petrol-electric powertrain remain under wraps, but McLaren claims the battery pack has a power density of 5.2 kW/kg, giving it “the best power-to-weight ratio of any automotive high-voltage battery system”. With testing now complete, the Speedtail has now officially entered production at McLaren’s Woking factory, with deliveries of the 106 cars already sold set to begin in February 2020. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have reached a settlement over the company’s recall reporting and recall execution practices. According to the NHTSA, they opened an investigation into Mercedes-Benz USA and found the company had 101 recalls between 2016 and 2018. During 6 of those recalls, customer notifications weren’t mailed out within the required 60 day time frame. In 22 of the recalls, documents weren’t uploaded to the “recalls portal” within 5 business days. In another 14 recalls, Mercedes listed the estimated launch date of the recall as unknown and then failed to update that information when it was available. The settlement agreement mentioned other similar situations and potential issues with the company’s VIN lookup tool. However, the government acknowledged that “in all cases, consumers were notified of the recall, the recall campaign was launched as soon as parts became available, and there was no effort to mislead the agency with regard to any recalls”. To settle the issue, Mercedes agreed to a settlement that requires the company to pay €11.7 million within 45 days. The automaker could also be on the hook for an additional €6.3 million if they don’t get their act together and “specified conditions are not satisfied”. While the issues don’t appear to have been severe, NHTSA acting administrator James Owens commented on the issue: “Safety is NHTSA’s top priority, and the agency’s reporting requirements help ensure that consumers are protected and given important information about how to get recalls repaired”. On their part, Mercedes-Benz USA told: “We believe that we did not deliberately do anything wrong, but unfortunately we missed some deadlines in informing the agency of the measures we had taken in fulfilling their requirements”. The company went on to say they resolved the matter “in an effort to answer NHTSA’s questions and move forward”. +++ 

+++ The executive tasked with leading a recovery at NISSAN said he had decided to resign just weeks into his new job, a move that could disrupt the automaker’s push to turn the corner on scandal and slumping sales. Jun Seki, Nissan’s vice chief operating officer and a former contender for chief executive, told he was leaving to become the president of Nidec, a Kyoto-based manufacturer of automotive components and precision motors. He will likely depart in January after 3 decades at Nissan, including a stint heading its China business. “I love Nissan and I feel bad about leaving the turnaround work unfinished, but I am 58 years old, and this is an offer I could not refuse. It’s probably my last chance to lead a company too”, he said in a brief interview. “It’s not about money. In fact, I will take a financial hit since Nissan pays us well”, Seki said. He declined to elaborate further. Seeking to roll back some of the costly expansion under ousted chairman Carlos Ghosn, Nissan has embarked on wide-ranging turnaround plan. That plan, which began in April, is now on track to generate a cumulative few hundred billion yen in cost cuts and operational efficiency gains by the year to March 2022, according to 2 Nissan sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. One hundred billion yen is roughly equal to $915 million. Adding to concerns about disruption among Nissan’s top management, the sources said that Seki, chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta and chief executive Makoto Uchida have so far failed to gel as a team after being named to their posts in October. They officially took over on December 1. “There was no instant, cohesive chemistry achieved by those appointments”, one of the sources said. Seki’s resignation could further complicate Nissan’s relationship with top shareholder Renault. Seki recently worked in Paris for a year and was seen as relatively close to the French automaker. Asked if he was leaving Nissan because he was passed over for the role of chief executive, Seki said that was not the case but did not elaborate. He and Uchida, most recently the head of the China business, had been seen as top contenders for the CEO job. Uchida was seen as more favored by Renault. Before being named vice-COO, Seki was a senior vice-president charged with leading the turnaround. Nissan has been profoundly shaken over the last year, first with the downfall of long-term leader Ghosn, who is now awaiting trial on allegations of financial misconduct that he has denied. Former chief executive Hiroto Saikawa then left in September. One of the sources said Seki was contacted by a headhunter about a job at Nidec in April, after he returned from a year working in Paris. Nidec’s 75-year-old chairman, the brash and confident Shigenobu Nagamori, has been searching for an eventual successor to lead and expand its business. Nidec, which sees electric vehicles as a key driver of growth, has a 40 % global market share in automotive electric steering motors and has said it wants to boost its share in electric vehicle propulsion motors. After April, Seki had no additional contact with Nidec until the recruiter called him again on October 8 when Nissan announced the new management team, including Uchida as CEO. After that second call, Seki agreed to meet Nagamori, to turn down the offer, the source said. “Nagamori talked Seki into accepting his offer in the end”, the source said. +++ 

+++ A small Israeli start-up by the name of Aurora Labs has developed an innovative software suite for what it describes as a ‘ SELF HEALING CAR ’. With the rise of electric, autonomous, and connected cars, the number of passenger vehicles available with over-the-air updates continues to grow. Aurora Labs has taken this one step further by developing a system that is able to detect and fix potential vehicle functions and update the car remotely without any downtime. The Line-Of-Code Behavior technology used by Aurora Labs uses machine learning and artificial intelligence and creates a deep understanding of the software installed in over 100 vehicle ECUs. Should the system detect a fault or an impending fault, an over-the-air update can be automatically installed or a short-term fix can be applied to ensure the vehicle remains operational, reducing the need for large recalls. Aurora Labs has raised $11.5 million since being founded in 2016 and is working with a number of large car manufacturers from Germany, the U.S., Japan, and Korea, to implement its system. “The human body can detect when something is not quite right before you pass out”, executive vice president of marketing Roger Ordman described. “The auto-immune system indicates something is wrong and what can be done to fix it: raise your temperature or white blood count. Sometimes the body can do a self-fix, and sometimes that’s not enough and needs an external intervention. Our technology has the same kind of approach: detecting if something has started to go wrong before it causes a catastrophic failure, indicating exactly where that problem is, doing something to fix it, and keeping it running smoothly”. +++ 

+++ BMW and Daimler will exit the SHORT TERM RENTAL MARKET in North America, the United Kingdom and 2 mainland European cities. The companies said that they will halt Share Now operations in Montreal, New York, Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, along with London, Brussels and Florence. Share Now, formerly known as Car2Go, is part of a joint venture between the 2 German automakers. It cited the “volatile state of the global mobility landscape” and “the rising infrastructure complexities facing North American transportation today and the associated costs needed to sustain operations here”. Car2Go had 1 million North American members and 3 million worldwide, Daimler said last year. The company also said it was halting operations in Florence, London and Brussels where “we are unable to continue operations in a manner that’s sustainable for our business due to low adoption rates”. It said it would focus on the remaining 18 European cities where Share Now operates that show the greatest potential for profitable growth and mobility innovation. The service allowed consumers to rent vehicles by the minute and park them on city streets or at parking meters without charge. The service faced tough competition from ride-hailing firms such as Uber, Lyft and electric scooters. Share Now said it “had remained hopeful that we would be able to come to a solution, especially these last few months, we are ultimately not in a position to commit to the level of investment necessary to make the North American market successful both in the near and long term”. In October, Share Now / Car2Go ended operations in Denver, Austin, Portland and Calgary and said they were ending operations by year-end in Chicago. In 2018, Daimler bought Europcar’s remaining 25 % stake in Car2Go for €70 million. Earlier this year, BMW and Daimler merged their short-term rental units Car2Go and DriveNow as well as ride-hailing, parking and charging services. +++ 

+++ With a track record of streamlining PSA’s portfolio of vehicles, engines and platforms and offering generous layoffs, Carlos TAVARES has a ready-made manual for combining France’s most profitable carmaker with FCA. FCA, which is merging with PSA in a $50 billion combination, has so far failed to reach sustainable profitability for its small passenger car business in Europe, something which Tavares found a successful formula for at Opel and Peugeot, which are both heavily exposed to the segment. Before Tavares took on PSA in 2014 it was loss-making, requiring a capital injection from the French state, while Opel, which it bought from General Motors in 2017, had racked up losses of €20 billion in the previous decade. By the first half of 2019, after Tavares and his team went to work cutting complexity, Opel made a €700 million profit. “The key element of this deal, the very fulcrum, is Carlos Tavares. He’s been talking about the assets and attractions of FCA for at least 4 years”, said Bernstein analyst Max Warburton. “He’s long coveted the profit potential of Jeep and RAM. He’s long pondered the potential of FCA’s European brands and business”, Warburton added after the FCA – PSA deal was finalised. Tavares success came partly from streamlining the model line-up, the company is phasing out the Peugeot 208 GTi, 308 GTi, as well as the Opel Adam, Cascada and Karl models, and moving all new vehicles to PSA’s CMP or EMP2 car platforms. This contrasted with General Motors, which built Opel and Vauxhall cars and vans on 9 different platforms. One area Tavares will be able to use to the combined company’s advantage is that PSA’s underlying vehicle architecture is more modern and flexible than FCA’s giving it an edge ahead of stringent new emissions rules in 2021. By next year, CO2 must be cut to 95 grammes per kilometer for 95 % of cars from the current 120.5 grammes average in Europe; a figure that has risen of late as consumers spurn fuel-efficient diesels and embrace SUVs. PA Consulting, which extrapolated future emissions penalties by using historical registration patterns, forecasts that FCA could face a €430 million fine as a result. A further 15 % cut in CO2 is required by 2025, extending to 37.5 % by 2030. Fines of €95 per car, per excess gramme of CO2, can quickly add up to hundreds of millions. Even by the time PSA bought Opel in August 2017, Tavares had cut about 3.000 French assembly line jobs at PSA each year through voluntary departures to trim the wage bill to 11 % of revenue from 15 %. Tavares also took a more stringent look at the profitability of distribution and sales networks, overhauling Opel and Vauxhall’s sales organizations in Ireland, Greece, Czech Republic and Slovakia, hiring new importers and weeding out unprofitable dealerships. To cut excess car assembly and engineering staff without forced redundancies, PSA offered Opel workers “speed bonuses”, which offered more generous buyouts for those who left quickly. Tavares also publicly stoked competition among Peugeot and former Opel factories to bring down costs and raise quality, successfully playing off workers to achieve his targets. +++ 

+++ TESLA and a group of China banks have agreed a new 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) 5-year loan facility for the automaker’s Shanghai car plant, 3 sources familiar with the matter said, part of which will be used to roll over an existing loan. China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank are among the banks which have agreed to give Tesla the financial support, one source with direct knowledge said. The Chinese banks earlier this year already offered Tesla a 12-month facility of up to 3.5 billion yuan, which is due to be repaid on March 4, 2020, according to a filing the automaker made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That new loan will be partially used to roll over the previous 3.5 billion yuan debt, according to the first source. The second source said the rest will be used on the factory and Tesla’s China operations. The new loan’s interest rate will be pegged at 90 % of China’s 1-year benchmark interest rate, the same as the 3.5 billion yuan loan, the first source said. This is a rate that China banks offer to their best clients. Tesla broke ground on the factory in January and has started producing vehicles from its Shanghai plant. It aims to build at least 1.000 Model 3 cars a week by the end of this year. The factory, which is Tesla’s first car manufacturing site outside the United States, is the centerpiece of its ambitions to boost sales in the world’s biggest auto market and avoid higher import tariffs imposed on U.S.-made cars. The Shanghai government has also thrown its support behind the Tesla project, which would be China’s first wholly foreign-owned car plant and a reflection of the government’s broader shift to open up its car market. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA hasn’t even officially unveiled the GR Yaris. Still, rumours have already started swirling about an even hotter GRMN version. Naohiko Saito, the GR Yaris’ chief engineer, referred to the possibility by saying, “In the future, maybe we can”. He also tempered expectations by adding the even hotter Yaris was “under consideration”. Insiders indicate that the GRMN would weigh even less than the already lightweight 1.180 kg GR Yaris. According to Saito, the company commissioned a feasibility study for a full carbon-fibre body for the GR. Since the new model only received a carbon-fibre-reinforced-plastic roof, the team might have earmarked some of the other carbon components for the GRMN. In addition, the GR Yaris’ 1.6-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder would receive an increased output. For reference, the prototype has a claimed output of over 250 hp and 350 Nm, but the company was clear that these weren’t the final specs. In terms of chassis revisions, there are reportedly extra braces available as dealer accessories in Japan for the GR Yaris. These pieces would likely be standard equipment on the GRMN. The GR Yaris gets an official unveiling at the Tokyo Auto Salon on January 10. Prices reportedly range between €40,000 and €50,000. There’s also an optional Performance Pack that adds Torsen mechanical self-locking differentials to the front and rear, rather than a single limited-slip unit in the standard version. In recent times, Toyota has built on its firmly middle-of-the-road reputation by becoming a champion for electrification and fuel efficiency. But its performance offerings (the old Yaris GRMN and the Supra) haven’t quite delivered on Akio Toyoda’s promise to make cars “fun to drive, again”. The very early signs are that the GR Yaris could be the car to address that. And if that’s the case, then it’s a 2020 debut that we should all celebrate. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , car production fell 16.5 % year-on-year in November, for which the Society of Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has blamed weakened overseas demand and widespread factory closures. A total of 107.753 cars were built in the UK last month, compared with 129,030 in November 2018. The SMMT attributes the deficit to “soft consumer and business confidence, weak demand in overseas markets and model production changes”. The decline rounds off a turbulent year for the UK’s automotive sector; new car output has fallen consistently since January, except in September, when marginal growth was recorded. The number of new cars built in 2019 so far is 14.5 % less than at the same point in 2018. November’s figures show the lasting effects of a number of pre-emptive factory shutdowns that took place at the end of October, when the UK had been scheduled to leave the European Union (EU). That was in addition to a number of previous shutdowns that took place in April for the same reason. Domestic demand for new cars fell by 26.6 % in November, with export rates falling 14.2 %. The SMMT notes that more than 80 % of new cars built in the UK are shipped abroad, including 54.7 % bound for the EU. Commenting on the latest figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes repeated his desire to see the Government reach a mutually beneficial trade deal with the EU. He said: “UK car production is export-led, so we look forward to working with the new Government to deliver an ambitious trade deal with the EU. To ensure our competitiveness at a time of dramatic technological change, that deal needs to be tariff-free and avoid barriers to trade which, for automotive, means that our standards must be aligned. This can be achieved if Government and industry work in partnership to re-establish the UK as a great place to invest and ensure that automotive keeps delivering for Britain”. +++ 

+++ The U.S. government’s highway safety agency has launched an investigation into 4 automakers that have a potentially deadly type of TAKATA airbag inflator in their vehicles but have yet to recall them. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents that it is investigating Audi, Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi in connection with a Takata recall involving 1.4 million inflators. The inflators made by the now-bankrupt Takata have a distinct and separate problem that can cause them to blow apart a metal canister and spew shrapnel into people’s faces and bodies. The problem killed a driver in Australia who was in an older 3-Series BMW, which has already recalled more than 116,000 vehicles. The problem is so dangerous that in some cases BMW has told drivers to park their vehicles until repairs can be made. The safety agency says in documents that Takata didn’t provide details on the affected makes, models or model years of vehicles with the defective inflators. So it is telling the companies to recall them promptly. The agency says that based on when the faulty inflators were produced, it’s likely that the vehicles to be recalled came from the 1995 through 2000 model years. In letters to all 4 automakers, NHTSA says they have 5 business days to notify the agency after finding out about a safety defect. “If your company has not yet gathered enough evidence to make a determination that the subject air bag inflators present an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety, reply with a detailed work plan including the benchmark dates required to make the determination”, the agency wrote to all 4 automakers. A Honda spokesman said it hasn’t determined yet whether its vehicles are affected, but a decision should be made soon. Audi, Mitsubishi and Toyota said they are still investigating. NHTSA has told the companies to respond by January 17. On December 4, NHTSA posted documents from Takata and BMW detailing the problems. The documents said the Australian driver was killed, while another Australian driver and a driver in Cyprus were injured. Unlike previous recalls, the Takata non-azide inflators do not use volatile ammonium nitrate to fill the airbags in a crash. But the airbag propellant can still deteriorate over time when exposed to moisture and explode too fast, blowing apart the inflator body. They also might not fully inflate to protect people in a crash. Takata says in government documents that it made about 4.5 million of the inflators worldwide but only a portion are still in use because the vehicles are so old. The faulty inflators have problems with insufficient seals. Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit advocacy group, said it’s too early to tell if the automakers are dragging their feet on the recalls. But he says the investigation “highlights the need for aggressive oversight both by NHTSA and by the companies themselves in terms of when they get these reports to take them seriously and move more quickly”. Cars can stay in use for many years, so it’s important to get them recalled, Levine said. “We need to recognize that just waiting these problems out is not going to solve the dangerous situations that defective parts can create”, he said. The recall is another in a long saga of problems with Takata inflators that sent the company into bankruptcy. 19 automakers are recalling about 70 million inflators in what has become the largest string of automotive recalls in U.S. history. The company is recalling about 100 million inflators worldwide. Most of the recalled inflators use ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion and inflate the airbags. But the chemical deteriorates when exposed to high temperatures and humidity and can burn too fast, blowing apart the canister designed to contain the explosion. The remnants of Takata were purchased by Chinese-owned Key Safety Systems for $1.6 billion. A message was left seeking comment from the successor company, Joyson Safety Systems. In the BMW recalls, the company is recommending that people stop driving certain 1999 modelyear 323i and 328i sedans made from July of 1998 through January of 1999. Spokesman Oleg Satanovsky said those cars have inflators that were made at a Takata factory and are known to be faulty because they were manufactured before production improvements. The company also is recalling another 34,000 323i and 328i sedans from 1999-2000 and 323Ci and 328Ci coupes from the 2000 model year. These cars were made from March of 1998 through March of 2000 and have inflators made at 2 Takata plants that could be defective. Satanovsky says these cars will be inspected and some could get new inflators. A third group of cars, just over 74.000, is being recalled. This group includes 323i, 325i, 328i, 330i sedans from the 1999 through 2001 modelyears. They were produced from May 1999 through July of 2000 and may have had airbag inflators replaced by defective ones. They also will be inspected. BMW is still developing a remedy for the problem, but the company intends to replace faulty inflators with new ones. The company says owners will be notified when parts are available. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN Group’s product strategy head, Michael Jost, is the architect and visionary behind the automaker’s unprecedented rollout of electric vehicles. One of his biggest accomplishments was convincing German trade unionists in Emden, the longtime production home of the Passat midsize car, to agree to a risky transformation that will make it the third VW plant in Germany to switch entirely to making members of the brand’s ID family. “We want to reduce the global CO2 footprint of Volkswagen Group passenger cars to net zero by 2050. That means we need to produce the last combustion engine car around 2040, although there could still be some markets where we might have to sell a small number of cars with combustion engines, maybe in the lower single-digit percentage range. If you count backward, that means the last combustion engine car has an SOP (Start Of Production around 2033. If you assume that is the second generation on a platform, then this platform has its SOP in or around 2026. Given the long development lead times, you can say that our engineers are already working today on our final combustion engine architecture. Next year and 2021 might be challenging since we will be ramping up our EV models. We will work hard to be CO2 compliant and we are pretty sure we will reach all the goals set for the passenger cars. By 2022, the situation will be quite relaxed. We also don’t foresee any problems in the subsequent years. By 2024 we will have the next wave of combustion engine and e-models, including an entry-level MEB car about the size of a T-Cross capable of going 200 km to 250 km on one charge and priced below €20,000. At that point we think society’s shift toward electromobility will largely be complete and we will not need to push these volumes”. When asked how these MEB entry-level cars will differ from today to reach that price, Jost answers: “One possible option could be the use of lithium iron phosphate battery cells instead of nickel manganese cobalt. Naturally, we don’t expect to immediately earn as much money with EVs as we do with a technology that we have perfected over decades. In the midterm, however, we expect that the enormous scale effects will help us achieve similar profitability with a battery-powered car as with an internal combustion engine car with some basic level of hybridization. That means we would have no further economic incentive to sell combustion cars over EVs. As far as the customer goes, we have already reached price parity with an ID3 that costs the same as an equivalent Golf diesel. We do not see EVs as enablers that help us to continue selling our combustion cars. There was this notion that we only needed a certain number of electric cars to make our combustion engine car fleet compliant, because that’s where we make our money. But that would mean we would block our own transformation and never achieve the necessary profitability with electromobility. We expect there will be 33 MEB-based models across 4 of the group’s brands by mid-2023. There is the ID Space Vizzion we just showed in Los Angeles last month. Besides that, we have decided what the next wave could look like, but we will wait and see how the current crop of EVs perform before making a decision in mid-2020 whether to release the funds for their development. So far, the ID3 already has 37,000 pre-bookings, and this excludes fleets. About 80 % of those customers are new to the brand. We expect that once you drive an EV, you won’t have any interest in going back to a combustion engine car. After showing the vehicles to our national sales companies, importers and dealers, every figure we are getting from our distribution channels is higher than the last. We already see demand exceeding capacity at Zwickau, so we will begin producing our compact SUV in Emden earlier than planned. Then the Emden factory will add production of our EV sedan, the ID Aero. As a result, however, the MEB entry model originally foreseen for Emden will have to move to another location. Since the vehicle is planned for around 2024, we have roughly a year before we have to determine what the optimal production location will be for that vehicle”. When asked how Volkswagen can protect factory jobs when EVs are 30 percent easier to build than an internal combustion car, Jost answers: “We need to see the full picture. In the current value chain, we as an industry are not adding any value when it comes to fossil fuels save for the few cents to make the plastic bubble that serves as the fuel tank. There’s not much room to innovate there. This changes with electric vehicles. We will produce battery cells ourselves in a joint venture with Northvolt. We can sign a contract to provide electricity via our Elli subsidiary, sell customers a wallbox for their home, or offer our mobile charging station for large events such as concerts. So while we may need fewer workers assembling cars on the line, our company can create whole new jobs here in Europe that never existed before because we simply imported all the energy that was needed to drive. We still need diesels, because they still make sense for large heavy vehicles and for people who drive long distances. Soon these diesels will be so clean that we will reach the limit of our ability to physically determine tailpipe output of nitrogen oxides. A next generation of portable emissions measurement systems (PEMs) would have to be developed before we could accurately gauge on-road NOx emissions at that point”. When asked about the future of Skoda, Jost answeres: “It makes exactly zero sense to position Skoda lower. No one has talked about this. No one has decided this. It’s not in any planning papers. What is true is that Skoda has suffered from bottlenecks in production capacity. We could have easily delivered another 100,000 cars last year, but when you have a limited number of cars, it’s natural that you optimize your business to earn the greatest amount of money. We as a group want Skoda to continue to exploit the sweet spot between €20,000 and €45,000 with a clearly defined range of options and features as an authentic entry brand. It’s our responsibility as a group to provide more capacity to Skoda that it has more room to grow in its dedicated segments”. +++

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