Newsflash: nieuwe Opel Astra krijgt een coupé design


+++ ASTON MARTIN has confirmed it is in talks with potential investors in a statement to the stock exchange. “The company confirms that is reviewing its funding requirements and various funding options”, the statement read. “It is also engaged in early stage discussions with potential strategic investors in relation to building longer term relationships which may or may not involve an equity investment. A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate”. The formal confirmation of talks comes after interest in the firm from billionaire Lawrence Stroll was revealed last week. Investors, including rival car makers and firms based in the Middle East, India and China, were also interested in a stake in the firm. A consortium is looking to take control of Aston Martin, in the belief they can take advantage of its current low stock value and lower than expected sales prior to building the brand’s equity up again in future years, most notably by taking advantage of anticipated sales for the recently launched DBX. While pre-orders for the SUV are said to be exceeding expectations, deliveries do not begin until mid-2020. Aston Martin has come under intense scrutiny since floating in 2018, with a valuation of around €5.8 billion, and earlier this year had to issue a profit warning after substantially downgrading its sales forecasts in the face of slowing global demand for its products. In the first 6 months of 2019 it reported losses of nearly €95 million. +++ 

+++ The BMW Group increased sales in November in key regions like the US (+7.6 %) and China (+12.1 %). In Germany, 28.833 BMW and Mini vehicles (-2.9 %) were sold in the same month. In the year to date, 298.526 vehicles (+3.0 %) were delivered to customers in Germany. In a global market environment that continues to be volatile and highly competitive, BMW expects to achieve a slight increase in sales for the full year and remains committed to its strategy of prioritising profitability over volume. It is stepping up its electric vehicle game and one model that’s about to go down the zero-emission route is the X2. As far as official details go, BMW has refrained from commenting on an electric version of the X2. We do know that the current generation 1-Series, which shares the same platform, will launch with a zero-emission powertrain by 2021, probably under the i1 moniker, so the X2 should follow it, maybe with ix2 badges. BMW has built the 20,000th i8 plug-in hybrid sports car since production started in May 2014 at its plant in Leipzig. In the grand scheme of things, building 20.000 cars in 5,5 years is not an impressive feat, not even for a plug-in hybrid vehicle. However, the BMW i8 is far from an ordinary PHEV as we’re talking about an expensive sportscar. The milestone model is a BMW i8 Roadster of the Ultimate Sophisto Edition that will go to a customer in Germany. Limited to 200 units worldwide, the Ultimate Sophisto Edition features the exclusive Sophisto Grey Brilliant Effect exterior color along with other styling and equipment upgrades. The Ultimate Sophisto Edition will mark the end of i8 production at the Leipzig plant as the assembly line will stop in April once all 200 limited-run models are made. “The i8 is a very special automobile, which stands for the driving pleasure from Leipzig in a unique way”, emphasizes factory manager Hans-Peter Kemser. “We at the plant are all very proud to produce this flagship of the BMW brand in our company”, the representative added. Building the i8 is a very complex process as the plug-in hybrid sports car combines innovative materials like ultralight thermoplastic, carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), aluminum and magnesium with a complex drive concept consisting of electric and combustion engine technology. In their latest version, the i8 features a 11.6 kWh lithium-ion battery located centrally in the car’s underbody that delivers an all-electric driving range of 55 km in the Coupe and 53 km in the Roadster; both figures calculated in the NEDC test cycle. The top speed in EV mode is 120 km/h. Both models feature a combined output of 374 hp from their hybrid powertrain, which consists of a 231 hp 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder gasoline engine and a 143 hp electric motor. Thanks to this setup, the i8 Coupe goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds (4.6 seconds for the Roadster), with the top speed being electronically limited at 250 km/h. +++ 

+++ CADILLAC ’s alphabet soup will end with EV. The General Motors luxury brand said it will drop its alphanumeric nameplates and transition back to actual words as it electrifies its lineup over the next decade. “The rollout of the electric vehicles is the time we’ll start to move back toward naming”, Cadillac president Steve Carlisle said. GM is using Cadillac to lead its electrification efforts, which include 20 new all-electric vehicles globally by 2023. By 2030, Carlisle said, the majority (if not all) Cadillacs sold will be battery-electric. “We’re entering the decade as an internal-combustion-engine brand”, he said. “We’ll exit the decade as a battery-electric brand. It’s the end of the ICE age for Cadillac”. Carlisle said its recently redesigned vehicles likely will go through midcycle freshenings early in the decade before transitioning to an EV architecture. In the near term, the brand plans to introduce the next-generation Escalade in early February and begin selling it next year. The vehicle eventually will get the brand’s Super Cruise hands-free driver-assist system, which Carlisle said will come with expanded features; strongly hinting that automatic lane-changing would be one. Carlisle’s predecessor, Johan de Nysschen, introduced Cadillac’s current naming scheme (CT4 through CT6 for sedans and XT4 through XT6 for crossovers) in 2014, though the Escalade was allowed an exemption. The brand sought to mirror German luxury rivals when it moved away from its rich naming heritage in the early 2000s, dropping Seville, DeVille and Eldorado for letter combinations such as CTS, DTS and SRX. Ford’s luxury brand Lincoln also returned to using names, turning the MKX into the Nautilus and the MKC into the Corsair. +++ 

+++ When I started the 2010s, who’d have thought that, as the decade drew to a close, a great many of my autonews webpages would be filled with electric cars; I’d spend time talking about cars driving themselves; much of our lives would be linked to phones that connect seamlessly with our cars; and a tiny American firm called Tesla would end 2019 as the most talked about (and copied) car company in the world? The shape of the automotive business has CHANGED massively. Would you ever have guessed in 2010 that Opel would now be owned by a French company? And that, by the end of the decade, that French company, PSA, would be looking to merge with FCA, which of course didn’t even exist in its current form 10 years ago! Chinese car firm Geely, which had just bought Volvo in 2010, has turned that company into a premium car maker with real clout and hopes to do a similar job with Lotus. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has had a decade of ups and downs (mostly ups, to be fair), while the trials and tribulations of Aston Martin continue; but at least it has a line-up of cars that’s more desirable and diverse than ever. I could go on, but as you can see, if you’d asked me for my predictions at the end of 2009, I’d have struggled to get any of the above correct! So I’m not going to have a go at predicting how things will shape up over the next decade. Instead I’ll leave it to the words of a man who’s helped bring us some of the best cars I’ve driven over the past 10 years: Nick Rogers, JLR’s engineering chief. “We’ll see more change in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the past 100”, he told me. I can’t wait and hope you can’t, either. I also hope you’ll be with me for the journey. In the meantime, thank you so much for your continued support – hugely appreciated. Have a great Christmas and a very happy and healthy new year! 

+++ General Motors has revealed that the CHEVROLET CORVETTE Stingray has sold out for the 2020 model year, as since the mid-engined sports car premiered back in mid-July, enthusiasts across the United States have been rushing to get their orders in. General Motors North America president Barry Engle revealed that “the first year is sold out for 2020”, adding that 40.000 units were allocated in the United States for the year. It remains to be seen how many Corvettes have been sold in other markets such as Canada. Unfortunately for those that have purchased a new Corvette, they will have to wait a little longer than initially expected to take delivery due to the UAW strikes through the second half of September and most of October. In late November, Chevrolet spokesman Christopher Bonelli told that production will commence in February 2020 at GM’s Bowling Green Assembly Plant. Pricing for the Corvette Stingray currently starts at $59,995 and I know that the car will be hit with a price jump for the 2021 model year. There’s no doubt that the attractively low starting price has appealed to many consumers, although we suspect that the vast majority of C8’s that have been ordered have been specced up to well over $60k. Once deliveries do start early next year, it’ll be interesting to see what options are the most common and which colors customers like the most. +++ 

+++ Decisions from Ford and Chevrolet to leave the COMPACT CAR segment in the United States has proven to be a blessing for a number of Asian automakers, particularly Hyundai. According to an industry study, 42 % of Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze owners have stayed in the compact car segment and many of them are now buying vehicles from Ford’s and Chevrolet’s competitors. “There are 6.5 million car owners who do not have a successor sedan for them from their manufacturer”, Hyundai vice president of product planning Mike O’Brien said during a recent media test of the new Sonata. “44 % of those say they want a sedan, so if you look at the raw numbers, there are still a lot of buyers out here”. Sales of the Hyundai Elantra have jumped by 102 % this November compared to the same month in 2018, and it’s believed that Ford and Chevrolet’s exit from this segment has contributed to the sales growth. In a similar vein, Focus owners trading in their cars to buy another Ford has decreased from 40 % in 2016 to 33 % in 2019, while over at Chevrolet, just 45 % of Cruze owners are trading in their cars for another Chevy; down from 57 % in 2016. Elsewhere in the U.S. market, the Honda Civic has picked up 4 % of Focus buyers while the Toyota Corolla has snapped up 3.5 %. Furthermore, Chevrolet Cruze trade-ins for Civic and Corolla models have nearly doubled from 2016 to 2019. It’s not all bad news for Ford and Chevrolet, though. So far this year, 18 % of Focus owners have traded in their vehicles and upgraded to a more expensive Ford SUV, while 21 % of Cruze owners have traded up for a Chevrolet SUV, just like the car manufacturers had hoped they would. “Ford and GM made a strategic decision to prioritize profit at the expense of market share”, said auto analyst Jessica Caldwell. “While this may set them up better in the long run so they have the cash they need to fund electrification and autonomy, there’s no question that decision is giving their competitors an edge now”. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER is very positive about the prospects for selling luxury cars in China next year, the company’s China boss Hubertus Troska said. “It is going very well. China is a growth market for us. I am very positive for 2020, the demand for premium cars is super”, Troska said. Daimler has built more than 500.000 vehicles in China this year and overtaken Audi in volume terms, Troska said, adding that production of the electric Mercedes EQ C had just started. Troska declined to comment on whether BAIC had raised its stake in Daimler but said the company welcomed all long-term investors. He added that Daimler continues to evaluate further cooperation opportunities with Geely. +++ 

+++ FORD said it would recall 547.538 of its Super Duty pickups across the United States, Canada and Mexico, citing the risk of a post-crash interior fire. The second-largest U.S. automaker said the recall covers certain models between the years 2017 and 2019 with carpet flooring that could experience a post-crash interior fire. According to the statement, in affected vehicles a front seat belt pretensioner that deploys during a crash could generate excessive sparks and possibly ignite a fire. Ford said it was aware of one report of a fire related to this condition in the United States, and was not aware of any accidents or injuries related to this condition. The affected vehicles were built in Ford’s Kentucky truck plant between October 8, 2015 and October 29, 2019, the company said. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS is gearing up for the next-generation Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon as the company has announced plans to invest €1.3 billion into the upcoming pickups. €900 million will go into upgrading the Wentzville truck plant in Missouri. The funds will be used to update the paint and body shops as well as general assembly areas. GM also plans to purchase new machines, tooling and conveyors. The investment will secure the jobs of approximately 4.000 employees and GM president Mark Reuss called it a “firm commitment” to the plant, city and state of Missouri. He added, “This is part of our comprehensive strategy to invest in growth areas and strengthen our U.S. manufacturing base”. GM declined to talk about the next-generation pickups, but noted they have sold more than 700.000 Colorados and Canyons in the United States since returning to the mid-size pickup segment. The company also credited the models with helping them become the “most successful pickup company” in America. While GM is staying tight-lipped about the pickups, previous reports have suggested the next-generation Colorado and Canyon won’t appear until 2022 or later. That’s still a ways off and little is known about the models. However, there was speculation that next Colorado and Canyon could spawn a body-on-frame SUV. The model was rumored to join the GMC lineup and be more rugged than crossovers such as the Acadia and Terrain. That remains unconfirmed and a later report suggested the SUV was shelved alongside the 32XX mid-size truck platform that was originally slated to underpin the next Colorado and Canyon. Instead, the upcoming models will reportedly use an updated version of their current architecture. Of course, that’s not official and we’ll likely have to wait a couple of years before we find out what GM has planned. +++ 

+++ GERMANY , Europe’s biggest car market, will be the one to watch next year. Chancellor Angela Merkel unveiled a landmark climate package in September with subsidies aimed at boosting EV sales. The policy seems to be working, with Germany set to overtake much-smaller Norway as the leader in EV sales in the region this year. Car buyers paying less than €40,000 are eligible for state and company handouts of as much as €6,000. This could cost as much as €2.6 billion. The mechanism will likely influence the way German automakers market their next round of full-electric vehicles, according to Matthias Schmidt, a Berlin-based automotive analyst. “The €40,000 list price is going to be a very important level for BEVs in the next 1 to 2 years”, he said. Volkswagen will sell the most basic ID.3 for under €30,000, while BMW’s electric Mini has an entry-level price of €32,500. Both will offer consumers a domestic alternative to Tesla’s Model 3. Overall, German automakers plan to triple their electric-car offerings to 150 models by 2023 and invest €50 billion euros by 2024, according to Bernhard Mattes, head of the VDA automakers’ lobby. The government also wants 1 million charging points by 2025. +++

+++ JEEP has confirmed it will launch a new “ultra compact” SUV in 2022. Designed to sit below the Renegade in the company’s line-up, Jeep’s latest off-roader will act as a rival to the Suzuki Jimny and it could feature an all-electric powertrain derived from FCA’s planned merger with PSA. When quizzed about the vehicle’s brief, Marco Pigozzi, Jeep’s European Head of Brand Marketing, said it would offer plenty of day-to-day practicality without compromising the brand’s renowned off-road capability. Pigozzi said: “The car will be able to be used as a bad-ass Jeep, but it has also been designed to be used everyday”. He also stated that the forthcoming baby SUV will be around 4 metres in length, which will make it slightly longer than a Suzuki Jimny. Given Jeep’s recent push towards electrification (with the launch of the PHEV Renegade and Compass), it’s almost certain the compact Jeep will feature some form of electrification. When pitched the question of hybrid/all-electric drive, Pigozzi stated: “We have the capability to deliver the electrification we need”. FCA’s proposed merger with PSA means the new baby Jeep could adopt a platform from the Peugeot-Citroen stable, potentially using a modified version of the CMP architecture used for fully electric versions of the Peugeot 208 / 2008, Opel Corsa and DS 3 Crossback. An additional electric motor for the rear axle could be added to deliver four-wheel. Jeep’s rapid shift to electrification should help the brand pull its average CO2 emissions below the forthcoming EU-regulated standard of 95 g/km, which is due to come into force by 2021. +++ 

+++ If you’re an American looking to get behind the wheel of the MERCEDES-BENZ EQ C , we have some bad news for you as the US launch has reportedly been delayed by at least a year. The company recently informed dealers that the US launch will now occur in 2021. That’s a significant change as the EQC was originally slated to go on sale in early next year. Unsurprisingly, the crossover has been scrubbed from Mercedes‘ US website.  The Wayback Machine shows the EQ C landing page was operational as recently as December 8th, but now it just redirects to the homepage where the EQ C isn’t listed at all. While the delay will likely be upsetting for fans, it appears the model is already a hit in Europe. As mentioned in the memo, the company made a “strategic decision to first support the growing customer demand for the EQ C in Europe”. Early sales figures in Europe aren’t too impressive as only 212 units were bought in September, with another 271 snapped up in October. Despite this, former CEO Dieter Zetsche told: “We are certain that we will not be able to meet demand for the EQC in 2019 and probably not in 2020 either”. That suggests the automaker has plenty of orders and is struggling to keep up with demand. If that’s the case, things could improve in the future as EQ C production is slated to double to 200 units per day. This should increase capacity to around 50,000 units annually. Regardless, the delay is bad news for US consumers as Mercedes used to the Los Angeles Auto Show to announce the EQ C would be priced from $67,900. This is $17,090 less than the Tesla Model X and the announcement probably generated quite a bit of interest. It remains unclear if Mercedes will keep the value pricing intact when the EQ C eventually arrives stateside, but the crossover has an 80 kWh lithium-ion battery and 2 electric motors. The latter give the model all-wheel drive as well as a combined output of 408 hp and 760 Nm. This allows the crossover to accelerate from 0-96 km/h in 4.8 seconds and hit a limited top speed of 180 km/h. +++ 

+++ OPEL ’s resurgence under the new ownership of the PSA Group is continuing apace, with a major reinventions of the Astra due in showrooms in the next 24 months. The new Astra will arrive in 2021, and while the car will share much with the next generation Peugeot 308, it will be “something much more than just a Opel version of the Peugeot 308”. The Astra will eschew the current trend towards taller crossovers and be more of a coupé-style hatchback. The new Opel family face, previewed by the GT X Experimental concept from last year’s Paris Motor Show and made real in the soon to be presented new Mokka X, will feature, along with its crisp, blade-like LED front lights. The sloping back end could include door handles hidden in the C-pillars to accentuate the Astra’s coupé-like shape, although clever use of angles will ensure there’s still plenty of headroom in the back, as well as boot capacity to rival the latest Golf’s 380-litre luggage space. Opel will also be looking to take on the Golf inside, with a choice of large central infotainment screens, digital displays in front of the driver (using the 3D tech that appeared first in the new Peugeot 208) plus an even greater use of soft-touch plastics for a plusher feel. Expect everything from wireless phone charging to wireless connectivity to bring the Astra’s multimedia systems bang up to date, while Level 2 autonomy featuring adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance will also be available. Under the bonnet, the GM engine range makes way for PSA motors in petrol and diesel form, with Opel expecting a comeback for diesel power in the coming years. 100, 130 and 155 hp versions of the award-winning 3-cylinder petrol engine should be available in the Astra, along with the 130 hp 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel that is expected to produce emissions below the crucial EU target of 95 g/km. 6-speed manual and 8-speed automatic gearboxes will also be offered. Just as in the Grandland X, a 300 hp plug-in hybrid system will be made available on the Astra, but in a sportier variant wearing a OPC badge. Opel has already said that future OPC models will be electrified. But the Astra Hybrid4 OPC, featuring a 200 hp 1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine, plus electric motors on the front and rear axles, is expected to go on sale shortly after the new Astra’s launch in 2021. Expect a 0-100 kph time of around 6 seconds, with an all-electric range of 50 kilometres. It’s still possible that an even higher-performance plug-in model could make it into the Astra range: Peugeot showed the 400 hp 508 Sport Engineered concept at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, which will make it into production. +++ 

+++ PSA could discuss a merger deal with rival FCA at a meeting of its supervisory board it has called for Tuesday, 2 sources familiar with the situation told. PSA and FCA are finalizing talks after they announced in October a plan for a $50 billion tie-up that would create the world’s 4th largest automaker. The sources said a planned Memorandum of Understanding between the 2 groups could be presented to the PSA board at Tuesday’s meeting, but one of the sources also said details were not yet finalized and discussions were still ongoing. A third source close to the matter said the 2 groups were working to sign a deal before Christmas, possibly by the end of next week. Both FCA and PSA have said they are confident of reaching a merger deal by year-end. FCA chairman John Elkann said last month, when a shock lawsuit from General Motors emerged, that it did not worry him and he was confident of signing a deal with PSA by the end of this year. +++


+++ Jeep has revealed details of a powerful plug-in hybrid version of the RENEGADE , set to go on sale in June 2020. Revealing the Renegade PHEV in cutaway form, Jeep’s Head of Product Marketing Marco Pigozzi said the company intended for the new model “to sell in volume” and, to that end, the Renegade PHEV would be priced “aggressively”. The new car is substantially based on today’s Renegade, with the most major change being the addition of a 136 hp rear-mounted electric motor, mounted on a modified version of the AWD Renegade’s rear subframe. The battery (which will be good for an EV range of 50 kilometres at up to 130 kph in ideal conditions) has been mounted in the floorpan’s centre tunnel and also takes up some space under the rear seat. The fuel tank (also under the rear seat) has been squeezed down to a capacity of 39 litres. Under the bonnet, the 150 hp 4-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine now drives the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic ‘box (in place of the standard 9-speed unit). The engine also gains a belt-activated generator, which recharges the battery when the car is braking or coasting. The car can run in pure EV mode with electric power sent to the rear wheels, in pure petrol mode with drive to the front wheels and as a petrol hybrid with the generator assisting the engine. In all-wheel drive mode, there’s a total of 240 hp shared between all 4 wheels, allowing it to achieve a 0-100 kph time of around 7 seconds. It will also be possible to put the battery on ‘hold’ so it can be used when arriving in city centres at the end of a journey. Jeep is also promising a significant improvement in off-road ability because the rear electric motor offers a very precisely controlled 280 Nm of torque that can be split between each rear wheel. There will also be a ‘TrailRated’ version of this Renegade that will be able to wade through water that’s up to 60 cm deep. Pigozzi says that the intention was to create this plug-in version without compromising interior room and that no space has been lost in the rear cabin, while the boot floor did not need to be raised. The main change was the loss of 15 litres in the boot because some of the electronic control systems are mounted on the boot wall. Interestingly, this PHEV only weighs 120kg more than the diesel Renegade, an important factory when considering high-speed economy. The Renegade PHEV will be launched in early 2020, with the electrified Compass due to follow that summer to coincide with its production switching from Mexico to Italy. +++


+++ SEAT is on track to set another vehicle sales record this year, but the Spanish brand is struggling to remain the most affordable brand within the Volkswagen Group because of the high cost of electrifying its lineup. Seat president Luca de Meo told: “We have had double-digit growth this year (up 11.1 % through October) and we expect to maintain this pace for the full year. The final quarter of 2018 was affected by the switch to the WLTP homologation rules. This year that won’t be a factor. Like everyone in this industry, Seat is investing massively in electrification. That obviously dents short-term profitability. That being said, our contribution to the VW Group is more than what our operating margin (2,2 %) shows because it also includes sharing platform costs, manufacturing investments and components purchasing. Adding the Ateca and Tarraco has helped Seat to increase brand loyalty as much as I had hoped. We increased our loyalty rate by 12 points to 40 % in Europe’s 5 largest markets. However, Seat has targeted annual sales of 40,000 Tarracos but through 9 months I sold about 23,000. That is why I am not totally happy with the sales results of the Tarraco. To address this we are fine-tuning its powertrain mix. This is happening because we have demand from the markets for frontwheel drive versions with an automatic transmission, but we only had that transmission in pricier fourwheel drive versions. Another factor for slow sales is that emissions levels are becoming an issue for midsize SUVs in markets such as France, the UK and the Netherlands. We will address this with a plug-in hybrid variant that arrives next year. Also, we have not yet launched the more expensive FR variant, which we expect could cover up to 30 % of sales. Therefore, we have to be patient with the Tarraco. We are working on a sub-MEB architecture for full-electric vehicles at our technical center in Martorell (Spain) as well as in China with our joint venture partner, Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group (JAC). The current challenge is to see if, and to what degree, these 2 projects could converge. Right now, we are still at the technical-concept phase at both locations. We expect more clarity on how to proceed in about 6 months. This sub-MEB platform will be used for EVs that are at or below 4 meters. Product wise, I have high expectations of the Mii Electric because for more than 3 years I have been driving an Mii modified by Seat to be full electric. It is the perfect car for urban mobility. Sales wise, it could account for between 5.000 and 10.000 units in 2020. The actual number that Seat will get will depend on production allocations decided by the group (the electric Mii will be produced alongside the VW e-up and Citigo EV). Our second EV will be the el-Born compact, which will share its underpinnings with the Volkswagen ID.3. The plan is to be on the market by late 2020 and everything is proceeding well. We really want also to build the Tavascan and to make the production vehicle as close to the concept as possible. It still has to be approved however, meaning the Tavascan won’t be on the market until late 2022 to early 2023. With Cupra, we started 3 years ago with 7.000 units. Last year we increased Cupra sales by 40 % to 14,300 units, mainly due to demand for Cupra versions of the Leon. We were up by 80 % to 20,600 through October thanks to the addition of the Cupra version of the Ateca. The plan is to reach 25.000 units this year. We will launch the Formentor by the end of 2020. It will be the true test bench for the Cupra brand’s potential. When we conceived the Formentor, the plan was to debut it as a Cupra and later add a cheaper Seat variant to reach the volume planned for the project. We have now decided to scrutinize the potential of the Formentor as a Cupra-only model to see what we can reach in terms of volumes and margins. We want to determine if the higher margins offset the lower volume. Cupra variants now sell for €10.000 to €15.000 more than their equivalent Seat models. This has a massive effect on our margins. I am not going to disclose how much that effect is, but it makes me really happy and shows the great potential Cupra has as a stand-alone brand. We have designed Cupra to exists as an extension of Seat. In the foreseeable future, we do not see that changing. Seat is the VW Group’s entry brand in terms of age group while a Cupra buyer both more affluent and older than a typical Seat buyer. The most important thing is that the brands serve 2 completely different customers”. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA said its North America chief executive, Jim Lentz, would retire on April 1, and tasked the unit’s chief operating officer, Tetsuo “Ted” Ogawa, with navigating an industry shift to electrification and automation. Ogawa has worked for Japan’s biggest automaker and the United States’ third-largest vehicle seller in a number of posts since 1984. He was appointed to his current role at Toyota Motor North America in November 2018. In a statement, he said Lentz “was instrumental in the restructuring and bringing our North American region together”. Lentz, a 38-year-veteran of Toyota, said his long tenure including almost 7 years at the helm was in part a function of the automaker’s culture. “We have a long-term view of things and try to keep our eyes on the horizon and not get sea sick with all the dips and twists and turns”, Lentz, 64, said in an interview. “The new normal in the world is a little more chaotic and so we have to do a better job of scenario planning”. While the industry is facing a dramatically different future with the rise of electric, connected and autonomous vehicles as well as mobility as a service, Lentz said he saw the change as more evolutionary and revolutionary. Lentz also noted automakers are still grappling with the continuing shift in U.S. consumer preference toward SUVs. Toyota is building a $1.6 billion joint venture assembly plant in Alabama with compatriot Mazda that it expects to open in 2021. In July, Toyota said it would build SUVs at the plant rather than its Corolla line of cars. Lentz said overall U.S. auto sales were around 400,000 vehicles higher than the firm forecast last year, and estimated the industry would sell about 17 million vehicles in 2019. Lentz guided Toyota in the United States through a number of challenges, most notably the 2010 unintended acceleration crisis that prompted the recall of millions of vehicles. In 2014, Toyota agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department after it admitted to misleading consumers in relation to the matter. More recently, Toyota under Lentz improved its relationship with U.S. president Donald Trump and helped stave off vehicle import tariffs. Lentz attended a White House event in July after presidential adviser Ivanka Trump toured Toyota’s Kentucky operations in March. +++ 

+++ TURKEY ’s very first home-grown car, which is about to be unveiled, was designed by none other than the famous Pininfarina studio, local media has revealed. For years, Turkey has been hard at work making its first car and is now just days away from launching it in prototype guise. The vehicle will be unveiled by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a special ceremony in the Gebze district in the industrial province of Kocaeli. It is understood that Erdoğan will be one of the first people to test drive the prototype and will do so over the nation’s awe-inspiring Osmangazi Bridge. Responsible for bringing the country’s first car to life is the Automobile Joint Venture Group, formed by 5 of Turkey’s largest industrialists. It is understood that the vehicle, whose name remains a secret for now, will be an all-electric SUV capable of charging its battery pack in approximately 10 hours through a normal household socket or as little as 30 minutes via a dedicated fast charger. Moreover, the company is hard at work ditching traditional satellite navigation systems thanks to a partnership with a local startup. “We are working on a system that completely eliminates the need for navigation devices in the car”, Karakaş revealed. “This system, which uses imaging technology with augmented reality, is not currently available as a solution. If we manage the production in time, we will use it in our first SUV model, if not, we aim to use this system in our future vehicles”. Mass production of Turkey’s first car is expected to commence in 2021 with local deliveries starting in the first half of 2022. By 2030, the company wants to be building 5 models. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group is not considering other locations for a new multibrand plant besides Turkey, sources said. Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia were hoping that VW Group would return to an intitial shortlist of sites for the €1.3 billion plant after the VW board postponed the Turkish investment amid international criticism of the Turkey’s military operations in Syria. A decision to build the plant in Turkey is still on hold and will not be made until February, sources familiar with the matter told. Other locations outside of Turkey are not being considered, the sources said. VW had picked Manisa, 40 km northeast of Izmir on Turkey’s western coast, for the plant. It was scheduled to build the next-generation Passat its sister model, the Skoda Superb, starting in 2022, with a maximum annual production capacity of 300,000 vehicles. VW does not expect capacity problems due to the delayed decision. “We have enough leeway in the production network”, a VW spokesman said. If the Turkish plant is cancelled, VW could decide to build the Passat in its factory in Bratislava, Slovakia, after the current Passat production factory in Emden, Germany, switches to building full-electric cars in 2022, sources said in October. +++


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