Newsflash: nieuwe Nissan Qashqai debuteert september volgend jaar

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+++ Nissan’s new boss says a top priority was to restore trust after the scandal over former chief Carlos Ghosn roiled the Japanese carmaker and its uneasy 3-way ALLIANCE with Renault and Mitsubishi. In his first foreign media interview since taking office on December 1st, Makoto Uchida told he wanted everything laid bare “without hiding”, as he seeks to regain credibility and sales for the once-mighty auto giant. “The difficulties of the past may have sometimes left people insecure in terms of what they are doing. So it is my job to go back to the basics”, said the new boss, in a clear reference to the Ghosn scandal that resulted in his arrest over financial misconduct. Uchida said he wanted everyone in the 3-way alliance to “respect each other, understand each other, be transparent, put any problem or issue on the table, without hiding. To show everything. Once we start to do this, definitely the trust will come. This is one of my first priorities”, stressed Uchida. The 53-year-old, who was previously in charge of Nissan activities in China as well as alliance group purchasing, has taken the reins at one of the most difficult moments in the company’s long history. The new CEO has a mountain to climb to restore Nissan to health in an industry in turmoil, undergoing a once-in-a-generation restructuring. The firm was last month forced to slash its full-year forecast for both sales and profits, admitting it had been hit by weak demand in Japan, the U.S. and Europe. This came as Nissan reported its worst first-half results since the global financial crisis a decade ago. Uchida said he didn’t feel Nissan had been “left behind versus the others” despite recent difficulties but “definitely we have to further enhance our strengths in order for us to keep competitive in the market”. Uchida declined to be drawn on the issue of Brexit, stressing that the company was “preparing for what external things may come in the future”. Former chief executive Hiroto Saikawa resigned in September after an investigation prompted by the Ghosn scandal revealed he was among Nissan executives who received excess pay by altering the terms of a share price bonus. Uchida inherits the harsh cost-cutting measures Saikawa proposed as a way out of the crisis. These include reducing dealer incentives and promotions but also cutting global production by 10 % to 2023; a measure that means the loss of 12.500 jobs. The new boss said such plans “always sound like a restructuring” but that actually his strategic priority was to ensure focus on “the right product, the right market for the customers”. Ghosn says that he was brought down in a “plot” by Nissan insiders because he wanted to bring the Japanese company closer to France-based Renault. Renault holds 43 % of Nissan, which in turn has a 15 % stake in Renault and a 34 % controlling stake in Mitsubishi. The alliance has always been an “important asset” that has overcome “past incidents”, said Uchida. The tie-up now has to focus on developing future products together and identifying potential market difficulties for each company, he said. +++

+++ Even though there were others before it (such as the 1995 Suzuki X-90), the BMW X6 launched in 2008 is generally considered as the de facto creator of the coupe-SUV segment. Since then, the Bavarians have extended their Sports Activity Coupe (SAC) portfolio to include the smaller X4 and the entry-level X2, while other automakers have started to follow the recipe perfected by BMW. In an interview, AUDI ’s design boss March Lichte saluted BMW for carving the new niche that blends coupe and crossover design cues, but he admits he is not a fan of those X models: “I have a big respect for BMW for coming up with the idea to combine a coupé with an SUV but, honestly, I don’t like it”. He went on to say Audi spent time figuring out how it could make the coupe-SUV mashup “in a very attractive way”, mentioning the recently unveiled e-Tron Sportback is the result of their efforts. Lichte explained how the coupe-SUV’s styling came to be, by taking the bottom part of the conventionally styled e-Tron and putting the A7 Sportback’s roof on top of it in a design process he described as being “very simple”. Some might say the coupe-SUV segment is not a niche anymore seeing as how plenty of automakers have launched models to go after BMW. Take for example Mercedes with the GLC and GLE coupes, while Porsche now has a Cayenne Coupe in its portfolio. Audi has a second model in its portfolio that tries to blend the 2 body styles with the Q8, which is mechanically related to the Lamborghini Urus that falls into the same category. In addition, the Q3 Sportback goes up against the X2. Even mainstream brands are hopping on the coupe-SUV bandwagon, with Renault launching the swoopy Arkana while Volkswagen has also presented an ‘SUV Coupe Concept’ for the Chinese market. Also worth mentioning is Toyota and its funky C-HR that received a mild update a few months ago. +++ 

+++ Say what you want about BMW ‘s new F40 1 Series, but there’s no denying that the model has always been a big hit for the German brand. Responsible for massive sales and platform for some of the most interesting hot hatches from the brand (yes, I’m talking about you, M135i), the latest generation takes a huge detour, much to the dismay for many diehard BMW fans. Sure, the new architecture and front-wheel-drive layout may be a bummer for some, but the added practicality and interior space are welcome for most people, especially since majority of 1 Series buyers can’t tell or won’t care about the difference between which wheels the power is being sent to. It also seems that there’s a rumour going around that BMW is going to keep the F40 1 Series the way it is until the end of its production. How long? Just 4 years. This isn’t exactly the first time that BMW has strayed away from its usual 7-year production cycle, but that won’t stop BMW from adding some technical improvements to the 1 Series over time; you just won’t get a facelift or redesign if the rumour is true. It has something to do with the 1 Series adopting an electric-only model in the coming years. What’s for sure is that the current F40 is perfectly capable of taking on a plug-in hybrid or EV role from a technological standpoint, but the jury is still out on whether the EV model will be introduced in the F40 or succeeding generations. On the plus side, if an EV model does get introduced, we could be seeing a big improvement in cabin space thanks to smart compartmentalization of the batteries, while still retaining the premium feel and ease of acquiring BMW’s most accessible car. Seems like a win-win. +++ 

+++ Seat sister brand CUPRA will finally put its first standalone model, the Formentor, on sale in the middle of next year. As expected, the design stays wholly faithful to that of the earlier Geneva motor show concept, with the same profile and surfacing visible beneath this disguise. It’s the second production model to be badged a Cupra following the Cupra Ateca, and the first not to be based on a model from parent firm Seat. Cupra says the Formentor offers “the benefits of a performance car with the qualities of an SUV”. The Formentor takes styling cues from the Seat 20V20 concept shown at Geneva in 2015. As a coupé crossover, it also fits Seat’s vision for Cupra as a ‘premium performance’ brand, rather than as a producer of pure high-performance vehicles. The Formentor sits lower than most crossovers and features a sloping roofline, sharp sculpted lines on the side, a 2-tone body and pronounced rear haunches. The front grille of the car takes cues from the Seat Tarraco, while the rear features a single LED light strip running the length of the car’s boot lid. While Cupra has yet to provide the Formentor’s dimensions, we know it’s lower, wider and longer than the Ateca on which it’s based in an effort to improve ride and handling as well as looks. The concept car presented at Geneva features a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine mated to an electric motor, providing a combined system output of 245 hp and a WLTP-certified electric-only range of around 50 kilometres. The power is delivered via a dual-clutch DSG transmission. The use of a hybrid system such as the fits Seat’s plans to use Cupra as a ‘technological flagship’. A pure petrol version will also be offered, too, but it’s not clear yet if this will come at the same time as the launch. The Formentor features the Volkswagen Group’s DCC chassis set-up system and differential lock along with progressive steering. Cupra says the system has been tuned so that it handles “majestically”. While no interior images have been revealed yet, Cupra says it features a leather-clad steering wheel and bucket seats, dark chrome trim on the dashboard, a digital cockpit and a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen. The Formentor takes its name from a peninsula on Majorca, following parent firm Seat’s convention of naming cars after Spanish geographical features. A production version of the Formentor forms a core part of Cupra’s plans to reach 30,000 sales within 3 to 5 years. The brand sold 14.400 models last year, a figure that includes Seat-badged Cupra models such as the Leon Cupra R. Cupra design chief Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos previously told that the new Formentor was “100 % designed as a Cupra”. +++ 

+++ China’s BAIC Group has launched its plan to become DAIMLER ’s largest shareholder and win a board seat in the German car manufacturer, upstaging rival Geely at the same time according to the latest report. BAIC aims to double its current stake to around 10 % by buying shares from the open market. The Chinese state-owned BAIC Group is currently Daimler’s third largest shareholder, but if it increases its stake to 10 % it will surpass Chinese rival Geely, which owns 9.69 % of the German car maker. In addition, the 10 % stake will probably secure to BAIC Group a seat on Daimler’s supervisory board, something that Geely doesn’t currently have, according to the same sources. HSBC, which advised BAIC Group on its earlier 5 % stake purchase, is once again helping the Chinese car maker in its new venture. Daimler says that it had not received any notification about BAIC raising its stake currently, with the company’s China chief Hubertus Troska simply stating that “We welcome long-term investors in Daimler”. When asked about BAIC and the possibility of becoming Daimler’s largest shareholder, Troska said: “We like each other. Let us see how things develop”. Another source said that BAIC wants to become a bigger shareholder than Geely in Daimler in order to be seen as the German manufacturer’s most important partner in China. The BAIC Group has been Daimler’s main partner in the country for years, running Mercedes factories in Beijing through their main joint venture Beijing Benz Automotive. The 2 partners reportedly plan to build Mercedes Benz-branded trucks through their commercial vehicle joint venture Foton Daimler Automotive. +++ 

+++ The saga surrounding FORD and the defective transmissions in the Focus and Fiesta models continues, with a number of Ford employees breaking their silence and admitting that the gearbox was indeed faulty and everybody knew about it. Numerous Ford employees claim that speaking up during the development of the Focus and Fiesta regarding the poor transmission proved fruitless, as Ford was determined to bring the cars to the market, despite itself knowing about the gearbox problems. “My hands are dirty. I feel horrible”, one Ford engineer who helped develop the Focus and Fiesta said. “You think of the gentleman who stood up for the space shuttle Challenger, saying if they launched that with the ice on it that it’s going to blow up. Well, these kinds of really horrific technical errors seemed to pass right through at Ford on this project. We’d raise our hands and be told, ‘Don’t be naysayers’. We got strange comments. It seemed the ship had sailed”, he added. “After that, if you ask questions, you’re accused of mutiny, so you put your head down and make it work. Good people tried to make it work. But you can’t violate the laws of physics. It’s a mechanical catastrophe”. +++ 

+++ The LOTUS Evija has entered the next stage of its development programme. It’s the British brand’s first new car in a decade and, when it enters series production next year, Lotus says it’ll be the world’s most powerful road car. The Evija (pronounced E-vi-ya) is Lotus’s first all-electric model. It’ll be assembled at the firm’s headquarters in Norfolk, in a limited production run of just 130 units. Lotus is currently taking refundable deposits of £250,000 to secure a production slot, with the first cars due to be completed in mid-2020. The car’s full retail price is £1.7 million. Lotus says it’s the most advanced model in its test fleet, which sports production-ready panelling, suspension, brakes and electric powertrain. The prototype’s cabin is equally complete, with customer-specific seats and a ‘floating’ centre console. However, key aspects of the Evija’s electrical system, such as its stability control and torque vectoring systems, are yet to be fitted and tested. Gavan Kershaw, British GT racing driver and Lotus’s Director of Attributes, says this ensures the Evija’s chassis will develop plenty of mechanical grip, and not simply rely on the electronics to keep the suspension in check. Kershaw said: “We’re currently evaluating the fundamentals of the chassis, to create the mechanical advantage before the other layers, such as the electronics, are added. It means we can really read the car. Later we can tune what we’ve gained as a mechanical advantage as we add layers. It’s the Lotus way: get the fundamentals right from the start and use baseline aerodynamics, suspension kinematics and geometry to feel the vehicle’s response”. +++ 

+++ Just days after it emerged that Android Auto will be coming to BMW models from the middle of next year, it’s been revealed that MINI owners will have to wait a little longer. “Mini won’t receive Android Auto functionality at the same time as it was just announced for BMW”, a spokesperson said. “At this time we don’t have a confirmed timeline of when this functionality may become available on Mini models”. It remains to be seen why Mini isn’t following the same timeline as its parent company. Making things all the more curious is the fact that all new Mini models since 2017 have been offered with Apple CarPlay even though Android’s smartphone operating system makes up much more of the global market than Apple’s iOS. Fortunately for BMW owners, Android Auto will be available wirelessly from the get-go, unlike most other vehicles that only currently use wired versions of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. “Many of our customers have pointed out the importance to them of having Android Auto inside a BMW for using a number of familiar Android smartphone features safely without being distracted from the road, in addition to BMW’s own functions and services”, senior vice president product management, Peter Henrich, said last week. “We will offer this service to our customers starting in July 2020”. BMW’s use of smartphone-mirroring technologies has long been different than its rivals, most notably due to the fact that it had been charging a yearly fee to use Apple CarPlay. Recently, this controversial move was scrapped and CarPlay will now be available free-of-charge to its customers. +++ 

+++ NISSAN will replace every model in its SUV range in Europe within the next 18 months as the automaker seeks to rebound from a sales slump. Nissan relies on SUVs such the Qashqai, Juke and X-trail for most of its volume in Europe but the aging range has contributed to falling demand for the brand. Nissan sales in the EU and EFTA markets fell 24 % to 334,505 vehicles in the first 10 months, according data from to industry association ACEA. Between now and mid 2021, Nissan will replace the Qashqai, X-trail and launch a new electric SUV previewed by the Ariya concept, the automaker’s European chief, Gianluca de Ficchy told. Nissan started the European rollout of its latest generation Juke last month. The SUV  replaces the model first unveiled in 2010. It is underpinned by the same CMF-B platform used by alliance partner Renault for the Clio and Captur. Nissan is dropping the Juke’s diesel engine due to falling demand for the powertrain. De Ficchy gave no further details of subsequent model-launch timings, but a source close to the company said the next model to be replaced will be the X-trail within the next 6 months. Nissan had planned to build its largest SUV in its Sunderland, UK, plant but changed its plans and will continue to build it in Japan for European markets. European sales of the X-trail fell 59 % to 18.368 over the first 10 months. The new X-trail’s exterior was styled in Nissan’s design studio in the U.S., where it is badged as the Rogue. Nissan will unveil the new Qashqai in September 2020, the source said. The Qashqai is Nissan’s best-seller in Europe with 183.896 sold in the first 10 months; down 11 %. Nissan will drop diesel versions of the next Qashqai, the source said. Instead it will introduce its E-power hybrid technology that has been a big success for the brand in Japan. The new Qashqai was previewed by the IMQ concept at the 2019 Geneva auto show. Both the X-trail and Qashqai are expected to be offered with alliance partner Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid system used in next Outlander model, media reports have said. All 3 models will use the alliance’s CMF platform. The electric SUV previewed by the Ariya concept at the Tokyo auto show in November will arrive late 2020 or early 2021, the source said. The car uses a platform shared with partner Renault and will sit at the premium end of the SUV market. The price will range from €50,000 – €70,000, a separate source with knowledge of Nissan’s intentions said. The price range put the car in competition with Ford’s Mustang Mach E electric SUV. The 4 new models mean Nissan would have one of the youngest passenger car lineups of any brand in Europe. The company replaced the Micra in 2017 and the Leaf in 2018. Despite the new model offensive, Nissan has said it will not take a stand at the Geneva auto show in March. +++ 

+++ The PSA Group has secured the backing of its most important shareholder, the French government, for its plan to merge with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), according to people familiar with the matter. The French government, which holds a stake in PSA through state-owned investor BPI France, is backing a memorandum of understanding, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private. PSA’s board is scheduled to meet Tuesday to review the terms of what will be a binding agreement, the people said. An official at the French finance ministry declined to comment. The automakers sketched out at the end of October their plan to combine to create a regional powerhouse to challenge rivals including Volkswagen Group. The new company would be based in the Netherlands and headed by PSA chief executive officer Carlos Tavares. FCA chairman John Elkann would keep his role as chairman. +++ 

+++ RENAULT ’s former chief executive Thierry Bollore, who was ousted in October, had sought to flag alleged conflicts of interest and governance problems at the company’s Japanese alliance partner Nissan before his departure. Bollore had raised questions over the firm’s internal investigation surrounding former alliance boss Carlos Ghosn. Nissan and Renault were left reeling by Ghosn’s arrest in Tokyo a year ago, on financial misconduct charges which he denies. They have since tried to reboot their strained partnership by revamping their management teams, including by purging them of Ghosn allies and removing people in top jobs at the time of the scandal. Bollore, who took a step up at the French carmaker when Ghosn left even though he was known for his close ties to the alliance founder, was eventually pushed out as Renault’s CEO on October 11, days after penning his letter. Nissan spokeswoman Azusa Momose denied there were any irregularities in its internal investigation of Ghosn’s affairs, and added that the company had reviewed its processes once again following Bollore’s letter. “Nissan’s independent directors confirmed that the investigation was properly conducted and could be relied on”, Momose said. Nissan directors had discussed all the allegations raised by Bollore and the company “concluded that Bollore’s concerns were not founded and were based for the most part on inaccurate information and speculation”, she added. Bollore said in the letter that he was particularly concerned by the revelation that Nissan had a list of 80 managers implicated in financial dealings similar to the ones attributed to Ghosn. He also raised issues with the chain of command at Nissan, saying some key board members were sometimes kept in the dark on internal matters. Renault, which is still searching for a permanent replacement for Bollore as CEO, had no immediate comment. As well as changing its CEO, Nissan recently demoted senior vice president Hari Nada (a key whistleblower against Ghosn and whose role was also questioned in Bollore’s letter) although its internal investigation had found no evidence against the executive. +++ 

+++ FreeNow, the RIDE HAILING venture owned by Daimler and BMW, expects to double revenue this year and next in a fresh challenge to Uber in Europe and Latin America. FreeNow’s so-called gross merchandise volume, which mirrors revenue, is forecast to reach about €2.4 billion in 2019, CEO Marc Berg said in an interview. “We know it is aggressive and really ambitious, but we want to double our revenue again next year while further improving our profitability”, Berg said. Half of the 130 cities in Europe and Latin America where the company that was previously named MyTaxi currently operates in are already profitable, he said. Mobility providers face intensifying pressure to show they can generate profit, as indicated by the lackluster stock performance of Uber and U.S. peer Lyft since their initial public offerings. Varying transport regulations across regions can complicate efforts to scale up, and authorities worldwide have increased scrutiny of background checks for drivers to address safety concerns. Still, Uber’s market value of $48.6 billion underscores investors anticipate technology firms will play a key role in shaping future transportation. Uber’s adjusted revenue is estimated to rise 15 % to $12.9 billion this year. FreeNow is pursuing a collaborative approach with regulators so it can avoid the legal battles that have ensnared Uber in London, its biggest European market. It requires drivers to show up in person to obtain a license and agree to criminal record checks, Berg said. “It’s a very regional business since regulation varies a lot from city to city, and our focus is to constantly work with local authorities to build mutual trust”, Berg said. “It’s about sustainable growth, and not about growth at all cost”. Ride-hailing is expected to remain FreeNow’s main growth driver as it can be scaled up quickly once regulations are met. The company is exploring options to complement its main business with more private-hire services, short-term rentals, micromobility options like e-scooters and adding public transport services in some cities. Apart from the main FreeNow brand, the company operates the Beat and Kapten ride-hailing services as well as Hive electric scooters. It’s active in 130 cities across 18 countries in Europe and Latin America. MyTaxi was bought by Daimler in 2014 and the automaker merged its mobility operations with BMW earlier this year to gain scale and share cost. The 2 automakers have pledged to inject more than €1 billion in the joint venture, which also includes services like car-sharing, e-car charging and parking. “We have the full support of our shareholders, who just approved our growth plans for 2020”, Berg said. He declined to comment on the prospects of a possible IPO as it would be a matter for the 2 shareholders to decide, but signaled openness to discuss potential steps to develop the business further. “We are open to explore options for partners” that can deliver strategic value in the long run, he said. +++ 

+++ SOUTH KOREA ‘s super-rich are bucking the economic slump, with sales of imported luxury cars that cost more than W300 million tripling over the last year. The overall car market is shrinking, but 360 foreign cars sold for over W300 million in Korea from January to November, compared to 123 in the same period last year, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association. The total amount their buyers splurged on them came to W147.8 billion, a 2.6-fold increase. Some 150 Rolls-Royces, which cost W400 million to W700 million, were sold here; up 39 % and a new record. Even last year Korea ranked third in terms of Rolls-Royce sales in Asia after China and Japan. Also, 155 Lamborghinis, which cost W300 million to W500 million, were sold here, up 15.5 times. And Koreans bought 144 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S 650s for W302 million each. +++

+++ TESLA ‘s expansion in Germany, the home of Volkswagen Group, Daimler and BMW, is gathering pace. The U.S. automaker will open its largest service center in Germany as it scales up Model 3 deliveries across Europe. The decision comes just weeks after Tesla unveiled a plan to build a factory near Berlin. The site of the new service center south of Hannover, about an hour’s drive from VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, covers 3,000 square meters, Tesla said. The company has moved local staff from a previous location in downtown Hanover and will also recruit more people. Tesla’s sales expansion in Europe had been overshadowed by complaints about poor quality and customer service in Germany. Europe’s largest economy recently embarked on a fresh government-backed push to promote a shift toward electric cars after previous efforts fell short of expectations. Success in Germany is critical to Tesla’s global expansion strategy. The company will construct a plant near Berlin after completing a gigafactory in Shanghai to boost its presence in China, the world’s largest electric-car market. +++ 

+++ The UNITED KINGDOM , Europe’s second-biggest car market is battered by Brexit uncertainty, so growth in electric vehicle sales has given some relief to the broader slump. Sales of full-electric cars more than doubled through November to 32.911 units, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Yet they captured just 1.5 % of the overall market. The UK offers grants and rebates on pure electric vehicles of as much as €4.000 after phasing out subsidies for hybrids last year. To be eligible, cars should be capable of traveling 100 kilometres without any emissions. The SMMT auto industry lobby is also seeking government help for battery manufacturing investments, as well as incentives and infrastructure spending to help prop up demand. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will introduce no less than 4 new SUVs in India over the coming two years. Specifics about the vehicles remain unclear at this stage. What I do know is that, while the first of the four SUVs will hit showroom floors in the middle of next year, all 4 will be unveiled at the New Delhi Auto Expo in early 2020. Moreover, at least one of them will be mid-sized while another will be a large SUV. “The Volkswagen Group had outlined an investment of about $1.1 billion in 2018 up to the year 2022, for its group, and the launch of new models will be part of the overall investments in India, which includes an R&D center in Pune”, director of Volkswagen passenger cars India, Steffen Knapp, said. Despite the impending arrival of 4 new SUVs, Volkswagen doesn’t have any intention of scrapping any of its existing models and will continue to sell the Polo, Vento, Tiguan and others. Beyond launching the new SUVs, Volkswagen’s investments in India will see a massive expansion at its Pune R&D center. Currently, the facility houses 650 engineers but when expansions are complete, it will employ no less than 5.000 engineers. The presence of the site should also help to make Volkswagen’s cheaper for Indian buyers. “There has been a perception in the minds of people that Volkswagen cars are costlier to own”, Knapp said. “We have addressed this with innovative schemes, which brings down the total cost of ownership with four-year warranty. This along with a reduction in spare parts by about 15 %, we are sure will make a huge difference in the market”. +++

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