Newsflash: nieuwe Skoda Fabia komt begin 2021 en krijgt hybride techniek

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+++ Might ALFA ROMEO finally get a true savior in Carlos Tavares? Since 2014, the Portuguese executive has guided the nearly bankrupt PSA Group back into the black, and after taking over Opel/Vauxhall he quickly ended chronic losses at the former General Motors subsidiary. If PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles merge, Tavares would have the chance to attempt what might be his toughest turnaround yet. The storied Italian sports car brand has humbled more than one powerful executive. Under former FCA boss Sergio Marchionne, 3 attempts to put Alfa Romeo on the right track flopped. Mike Manley, who succeeded the late Marchionne in July 2018, needed fewer than 18 months to realize that Marchionne’s final relaunch plan for the brand was unachievable. Manley showed this on October 31 when he announced Alfa Romeo would grow to 4 models by 2022 instead of expanding to 7 vehicles by then, which is what was promised in the 2018 plan. Alfa Romeo’s current cars (the Giulia, Stelvio and the Giulietta) cover 3 different segments, but only 1 is an SUV and none of the models offers electrification. By 2022, the 4-car lineup is expected to include the Giulia, Stelvio, a new compact SUV and a new small SUV. Both of the new SUVs are expected to be electrified. The first-generation Giulia and Stelvio have underperformed, resulting in Alfa Romeo’s 42 % sales decline through September in Europe, where the Italian marque has been passed by Tesla, Jaguar, Porsche and Lexus so far this year. Alfa Romeo’s deliveries were also down 27 % in the U.S. These double-digit declines likely contributed to FCA’s decision to scale back Alfa Romeo’s product plans, a move that will also help the Italian-American automaker reduce capital spending. Alfa Romeo received a bit of good news last month when Tavares, the designated future CEO of the combined automakers, said no brand would be discontinued if the companies merge. The sobering reality is that even if the merger goes through, Alfa Romeo will have to compete with a small, aging product range for the next 2 to 3 years, likely resulting in a further deterioration of its market share. Other positive notes for Alfa Romeo are that Tavares is a true “car guy” who races in his spare time and he successfully resurrected the Alpine low-volume performance brand while he was the No. 2 at Renault. He also could leverage PSA’s platforms to strengthen Alfa Romeo’s future lineup, ensuring a more regular stream of new products than it has had for the last 15 years. Tavares, however, is also a no-nonsense executive who wants profits and won’t hesitate to make hard choices to get them. Some questions to ponder are: What mission should Tavares give Alfa Romeo and how much new money might be committed to the brand, and for how long? Trying to transform Alfa Romeo into a brand with cars for every premium segment would be a Herculean task. The 3 German premium automakers dominate at that level with 25 to 33 body styles and volumes around 2 million vehicles a year. Alfa Romeo hovers at about 100.000 units, but it is certainly not alone in failing to challenge the Germans in the premium market, especially in Europe. Nissan’s Infiniti brand announced in March it would quit western Europe to focus on the U.S. and China. Jaguar made big gains in sales but was recently hammered by its slump in China, quality problems and over investment. PSA’s DS has sold little more than 50.000 units both in 2017 and 2018, and its 2019 deliveries in Europe are below Alfa Romeo’s. Despite its well-documented struggles, the Alfa Romeo name continues to resonate with car executives and might convince even the most goal-oriented CEO to give it one more chance. After more than a decade of over promising and under delivering under FCA, Tavares might be the only automotive executive around capable of setting (and achieving) sustainable success at Alfa Romeo. +++ 

+++ Denso is plunging into AUTOMATED DRIVING with a new system that debuts next year for its No. 1 customer, Toyota. But the engineer in charge of the development is less bullish on the prospect of jumping past Level 2 systems anytime soon. Level 3 autonomous driving faces big safety hurdles because it requires the human driver to remain on alert to take control in emergencies. And Level 4, beyond the challenge of taking humans of out the equation altogether, must cope with enormous power-supply requirements. “These are challenges we have to deal with”, said Hajime Kumabe, executive director of the Japanese supplier’s Tokyo r&d office, set up last year to tackle the task of autonomous driving. Kumabe said Denso has readied a system that Toyota will deploy next summer in a Lexus nameplate. That technology, called Highway Teammate, will enable the Lexus to automatically change lanes, follow lanes and pass vehicles in highway driving. The advancement will work with an upgraded version of Toyota’s Lexus Safety System + technology. Denso supplies the forward radar, forward stereo camera and electronic control unit that is part of the current Lexus Safety System +. The version used for the Lexus Highway Teammate will get, from Denso, one more sensor and an additional ECU to be capable of higher-level calculations, Kumabe said. But Highway Teammate won’t be Level 3, he said. Level 3 should be technically feasible in the early 2020s, Kumabe said. But a timeline for its commercialization is unclear because carmakers are increasingly skeptical of it, Kumabe said. “Denso’s opinion is that Level 3 is a bit of a compromise”, he said. “I think that way of thinking is on the increase. Not many companies are declaring they want to do Level 3”. Some carmakers are thinking of skipping Level 3 and aiming straight for Level 4, which allows the car to drive by itself without needing a human on standby, said Denso’s autonomous driving chief. But Level 4 poses its own problems, he added. For starters, there is the challenge of having to drive the car without any human involvement. Level 4 systems also will require new energy-management strategies because their high-powered computing eats up so much electricity. That will be a critical issue in a future of electric vehicles because battery capacity will be a prized and finite commodity, Kumabe said. Level 4 autonomous driving will require a lot of power, not just for calculating the car’s course but also for cooling the complex onboard computers, Kumabe said. The industry is looking at several ways to reduce the energy requirements, he added. One tactic might be using artificial intelligence to reduce the calculation load. Another approach would be consolidating sensor functions to save electricity. Engineers also are chasing more efficient semiconductors that are smaller and use less power. In July, Denso and Toyota agreed to form a joint venture that will conduct advanced r&d on next-generation, in-vehicle semiconductors. That company, 51 % owned by Denso, is expected to begin operations in April with around 500 employees. But one thing is clear about energy consumption in tomorrow’s Level 4 cars, he said: “We have to reduce it. We need better energy management for autonomous driving vehicles. “That is what we are doing development on at the moment”. +++ 

+++ In GERMANY , the main automobile industry body said it expects global car sales to fall by 5 % this year, the steepest drop since the financial crisis, and warned of more job cuts in 2020 as a result. “The competition is getting tougher, the headwinds are getting stronger”, Bernhard Mattes, president of industry association VDA, told reporters. The association expects global car sales to fall by 4.1 million to 80.1 million vehicles this year, driven by a slump in China, he said. Germany’s export-dependent car industry is struggling with weaker foreign demand, tariff disputes sparked by U.S. president Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ policies and business uncertainty linked to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. The sector, an important driver of overall growth in Europe’s largest economy, is also having trouble adjusting to stricter regulation following an emissions-cheating scandal and managing a broader shift away from combustion engines toward electric cars. “Capacity utilization has declined, limited-term employment contracts are not being renewed, and the instrument of short-time work is being employed once again”, Mattes said. This meant that the number of permanent staff at car factories was likely to fall further. Mattes said employment in the sector had fallen this year and this trend would worsen in 2020, though he gave no figures for the predicted layoffs. In 2018, employment in the car industry in Germany reached 834.000 jobs, its highest level since 1991. Audi said it would cut up to 9.500 jobs, or 10.6 % of its total staff by 2025, freeing up billions of euros to fund its shift towards electric vehicle production. Germany’s largest car supplier Robert Bosch Group said last month it plans to slash 1.600 jobs in Germany over the next 2 year in areas related to combustion engine technology. This followed an announcement by rival Brose Group to reduce staff in Germany by 2.000 over the next 3 years due to a slump in earnings, blaming a declining Chinese market, changes in the car industry and global price pressure. VDA expects car sales in Germany to fall by 4 % to 3.43 million in 2020 and to drop by 2 % to 15.3 million in Europe. The U.S. market for light vehicles is seen shrinking by 3 % to 16.5 million next year while car sales in China are expected to go down by 2 % to 20.5 million, VDA said. Mattes called on German chancellor Angela Merkel’s shaky ruling coalition to get its act together and help companies to better master the structural changes in the car industry that also include trends like digitization and autonomous driving. “Now it must be all about improving the framework conditions in Germany as an industrial business location”, Mattes said. “What we need right now, therefore, is a stable government capable of taking action”. Mattes called on Berlin to cut corporate taxes, reduce electricity and labor costs and do more to solve international tariff disputes. Donald Trump, president of the United States, has threatened to increase import tariffs on cars from Europe to up to 25 %. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross warned such a move was still possible after a review period ended in November with no action. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI plans to invest about 61.1 trillion won ($51.81 billion) between 2020 and 2025, the company said, with a third of the expenditure focused on electric and autonomous vehicles, but analysts want to see it deliver. The South Korean car maker unveiled a “Strategy 2025” roadmap that envisages annual average spending of 10 trillion won, exceeding that of previous years, and up from a 2018 figure of 6.1 trillion won. Shares in Hyundai rose as much as 2 % on the news, only to give up most of their gains by the close of trade, with analysts waiting to see how its intentions translate into action. “Its announcement of investment plan and goals is full of good words, but not real results yet”, said Lee Han-joon, an analyst at KTB Investment & Securities. “The plan itself also wasn’t an amazing one”. South Korea’s top automaker is accelerating efforts to catch up in the race to bring self-driving cars to market. Hyundai is also looking at developing flying cars, which could be commercialized ahead of the most advanced self-driving cars, its executive vice chairman, Euisun Chung, has said. Ensuring survival is a key task as the auto industry’s shift towards zero-emission and self-driving technology requires massive investment at a time of profit pressured by slowing growth, Hyundai said in a presentation to investors. Hyundai aims to devote about 20 trillion won of the total investment, spread across 6 years, to future technologies. It also set an ambitious deadline of 2025 to place itself among the world’s top 3 makers of battery and fuel cell vehicles, with annual sales of 670.000 electric vehicles, including 560.000 battery-based cars. Hyundai plans to cut raw material costs by 34.5 trillion won through 2022. “So, the goal is set, now results should be good, with good products being delivered”, said Kim Jin-woo an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities. “That’s when investors will make a decision about their bets on Hyundai”. +++ 

+++ In ITALY , new-car sales rose 2.2 % to 150.587 in November, according to the country’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. Demand was boosted by self registrations, which increased to 22.058 from 17.725 for dealers and to 4.555 units from 1.077 for automakers, according to market researcher Dataforce. Sales to long-term rental companies increased 49 % and sales to short-term rental companies rose 20 %. Sales to private customers declined by 15 % and business registrations were down 10 %. Registrations jumped in the last 3 days of November to account for 47 % of the entire month’s sales, according to Dataforce. Although the last-minute leap is not uncommon, it was 7 % higher in November than in October. Sales of gasoline and electrified cars rose during the month, while diesel demand dropped. Sales of full-electric vehicles rose 130 % for a 0.7 % market share. Plug-in hybrid registrations jumped 117 % for a 0.6 % market share. Full hybrid-vehicles rose by 36 % for a 6.9 % share. Sales of diesel vehicles dropped 16 % for a market share of 36.9 %. This was a slight recovery from the 35.8 % share in October, which was the lowest since May 2001, according to industry association ANFIA. The market share for cars powered by liquefied petroleum gas declined to 6.4 % from 7.1 %, while sales of vehicles powered by compressed natural gas rose 108 % to 4,031 units, and their share increased to 2.7 % from 1.3 %. Fiat Chrysler Automobile sales fell 4.3 % with all the group’s brands except Alfa Romeo selling fewer cars that in November 2018. Maserati registrations dropped by 44 %, Jeep sales declined by 16 %, Lancia sales were down by 3.2 % and Fiat’s volume fell 1.6 %. Fiat’s Panda remained Italy’s most popular car despite a 13 % decline in registrations to 10,724. The Lancia Ypsilon with 4,320 units sold was the country’s second most popular car. PSA Group’s Opel brand had a bad month, with sales down 26 % despite the launch of the new-generation Corsa, its top seller. Peugeot registrations fell 8.2 %. Citroen sales were up 6 % and DS registrations increased 135 %. Volkswagen Group’s Porsche brand recovered from a poor November last year when new WLTP emissions rules led to supply disruptions. Porsche sales jumped 367 %, while Audi registrations rose 19 %, VW gained 9 % and Seat sales were up 4 %. Skoda registrations fell 0.3 %. Renault Group’s Dacia brand declined by 7 %, while Renault brand saw its sales grow 4.3 %. Ford’s registrations were down 0.6 %. Asian brands had mixed results. Mazda sales jumped 60 %, Kia registrations rose 15 % and Hyundai increased 1.1 %. Nissan sales fell 12 % and Toyota was down 3.2 %. BMW brand sales were up 6.1 %, while Mercedes-Benz rose 1.6 %. The Smart brand benefited from a surge in demand for the ForTwo. Smart sales jumped 238 % and the ForTwo was Italy’s third best-selling car in November. The surge in demand for Smarts comes as the brand converts to an electric only brand, dropping the gasoline version of the ForTwo after December 31. Smart diverted gasoline ForTwos from other European markets to Italy, where demand for the 2-seater has been historically high. Through October, sales in Italy are down 0.6 % to 1.78 million. Dataforce forecasts 2019 sales will fall to 1.90 million from 1.91 million last year. +++ 

+++ The man who engineered one of LEXUS ’ sexiest cars is now taking the helm of the entire luxury brand as part of a personnel shuffle at Toyota. Koji Sato, 50, currently executive vice president and chief engineer of Lexus International, will become president, effective January 1, Toyota said. Sato is best known as the chief engineer of the super sleek Lexus LC sports coupe and for his work developing the GA-L platform for rear-wheel drive Lexus vehicles, including the LS sedan. He replaces Yoshihiro Sawa, 62, and will retain his title as Lexus chief engineer. Sawa, recognizable for his Beethoven-like white mane, has been president of Lexus since 2017. Among other changes announced by Toyota, Hiroki Nakajima will become president of Toyota’s Midsize Vehicle Company, an important internal division that develops such vehicles as the Camry. Nakajima, 57, is currently executive vice president of the unit. Nakajima takes the reins from Moritaka Yoshida, 62, an executive vice president who is assuming new duties as the president of Toyota’s Production Engineering Development Center and as chairman of its Emerging-market Compact Car Company. Yoshida will continue in his concurrent role as president of Vehicle Development Center. Also tapped for promotion is James Kuffner, the American computer guru who is CEO of the Tokyo-based Toyota Research Institute, Advanced Development, the Toyota spin-off that develops the software and systems needed to operate autonomous vehicles. Kuffner will keep that role but also be appointed senior fellow at Toyota’s Advanced R&D and Engineering. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN will bank on expanded sales in Asia and a new generation of hybrid cars as it steers toward a potential public offering, the company’s chief executive said. “We need to put more cars into Asia”, McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt said in a meeting with reporters in Detroit. Sales of McLaren’s carbon fiber and aluminum sports cars have fallen in the United Kingdom, its largest market. Flewitt said that reflects uncertainty over Brexit. Demand in the United States and in Asian markets outside of China remains strong, he said. McLaren plans to open dealerships in Vietnam and the Philippines, Flewitt said. “The next big ones are India and Russia. We’re not in either and probably should be”. Flewitt has said in the past that the owners of the McLaren Group, led by Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, are considering an initial public offering by 2025. An IPO will likely come after all parts of the group, including McLaren Racing and a unit that markets technology, are generating cash, he said. Exotic sports car makers have a mixed record on public markets. Ferrari has been one of the auto sector’s best-performing stocks, up 68 % this year. However, Aston Martin has suffered a 59 % decline. McLaren sold about 4.800 cars in 2018 and is on track for a slightly lower number in 2019, Flewitt said. An important piece of McLaren’s expansion strategy will be unveiled next spring: a hybrid car with a new architecture under the skin. However, McLaren does not plan to follow its rivals into the SUV market. “We couldn’t afford to do it”, Flewitt said, adding, “it just doesn’t fit the brand”. By 2024, McLaren will have additional production capacity coming online to increase sales to 6.000 cars a year if the company can hit that volume without sacrificing profit margins, Flewitt said. Profitability plays a role in McLaren’s decision, so far, not to develop an all-electric car, Flewitt said. Eventually, the supercar niche will go electric, but for McLaren that will have to wait for lighter, lower-cost, solid-state batteries to be ready for commercial use, he said. “Nobody is out there making money with electric cars”, he said. “We can do what we need to do with hybrids”. +++ 

+++ NISSAN ’s third generation Qashqai will go on sale next year, sporting a pair of new hybrid powertrains, an updated version of the current car’s CMF underpinnings and a sleek design makeover. Nissan is also considering ditching the Qashqai’s diesel engine to help lower the crossover’s carbon emissions. Nissan has also confirmed that there won’t be a pure-electric version of the new Qashqai. Full electric power will be reserved for a seperate crossover model based on an all-new platform, which is likely to underpin a whole family of electric cars spanning the B, C and D segments for Nissan and its Alliance partners Renault and Mitsubishi. The next generation Qashqai will be based on an updated version of the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s CMF platform, which offers support for electrification. As said, there won’t be EV variant of the Qashqai with that niche instead being filled by the Japanese brand’s forthcoming all-electric crossover, which was previewed by the Ariya concept at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. Ponz Pandikuthira, Nissan’s Europen vice president of Product Planning, said: “a new platform is what’s best to accommodate electrified technologies. It probably won’t include full electrification, because that’s a complete tear-up and the investment required for that would be considerably higher”. As such, the new Qashqai will be offered with 2 hybrid powertrains: one featuring Nissan’s innovative ePower system and one sporting Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid powertrain. The former system is currently found in the Japanese-delivered Nissan Note, where it’s proven popular. It’s a series hybrid system featuring a petrol engine that works as a generator to charge the battery, which then powers an electric motor. Plug-in hybrid technology will come from Mitsubishi, who is widely accepted as a market leader in the field. Unlike rivals, Mitsubishi has already managed to tweak its Outlander PHEV to produce figures below 50 g/km CO2 under the tougher WLTP testing regime and it’s expected that the new Qashqai will offer similar figures. “We’re investigating the ePower technology for Europe”, explained Pandikuthira. “The biggest difference when you do these onboard generator vehicles is highway driving. In Japan, they typically don’t go above 80 – 110 kph. “Here in Europe, you do 120 – 130 kph on a regular basis. At those speeds, you end up depleting the battery very quickly, so the range extender has to work really hard to keep the energy going and then it goes out of its range of efficiency”. However, Pandikuthira wasn’t convinced about the benefits of plug-in hybrids. He told me: “We’re not pursuing a big plug-in hybrid strategy. On some car lines we’ll try it out, but the business case for plug-in hybrids is not very good. For us, it’s a bridge technology for the next 2 to 4 years until battery costs drop to the point where the variable costs of making full EVs prevail”. With 2 hybrid models planned for the next Qashqai, insiders have hinted that it’s likely to spell the end of diesel power in Nissan’s crossover. Sales of new diesel cars dropped by almost 32 % in 2018 and this trend continued into 2019, with new diesel vehicles declining in popularity by a further 28 %. The next-generation Qashqai will feature more technology, with updates to Nissan’s ProPilot autonomous driving systems and added connectivity features. Styling-wise, the crossover will adopt a revolutionary new design. However, it won’t get any larger, with Pandikuthira saying: “You’ll notice with the last Qashqai we left it at 4.4 metres. We didn’t grow it into a big, bloated vehicle”. +++ 

+++ RENAULT , Nissan and Mitsubishi said they had promoted Hadi Zablit to general secretary of their automaking alliance to accelerate business efficiencies across the companies. Zablit, senior vice president of business development at the alliance, takes up the newly created position on Monday and will focus on maximising the contribution of the alliance’s scale to the profits of each company, the automakers said in a statement. The announcement comes as Nissan and Renault try to mend ties amid falling profits a year after the Carlos Ghosn scandal. Nissan brought in a new executive team this week, while Renault is set to choose a new CEO in the coming weeks. The 49-year-old, who holds Lebanese and French citizenship, began his career at Renault in 1994 as a production process engineer at the automaker’s powertrain division. He later joined Boston Consulting Group where he eventually became a senior partner, before returning to Renault in 2017. Since then, he has served as head of Renault’s digital operations, and among other tasks, heads the partnership’s joint ventures for autonomous mobility services. In his new role, Zablit will be tasked with overseeing special projects to enable the 3 automakers to work more efficiently. In a statement, the alliance said that details of these projects would be announced in coming weeks. Renault has held a 43 % stake in Nissan since the French automaker rescued Nissan from a financial crisis 2 decades ago. Their partnership has focused on using their combined scale to lower costs for research and development, procurement and production. Both automakers and their junior partner Mitsubishi were shaken by the arrest of former chairman Ghosn last November on allegations of financial misconduct, which he denies. Zablit’s position is the first executive role to be announced by the alliance in the past year since Ghosn’s arrest. Since then, some positions which focus on joint tasks, including communications, have stopped operating. Earlier this year, Renault tried to forge deeper capital ties with Nissan, only to be rebuffed by the Japanese automaker. This week, Nissan’s new CEO, Makoto Uchida, told reporters that the alliance had “to benefit each of its partners in terms of revenue and profit”. Uchida added that closer capital ties with Renault were not a focus in the short term. +++ 

+++ SKODA is gearing up to unveil the 4th generation of its big-selling Fabia, due in showrooms in the first half of 2021. The current Fabia was introduced at the end of 2014, so a replacement wouldn’t normally be due until late 2021. However, Skoda has fast-tracked the Mk4 model slightly to hasten a switch of platforms that will allow it to both give the car a more striking look plus upgrade the powertrains and cabin technology. While sister vehicles the Seat Ibiza, Audi A1 and Volkswagen Polo are all now based upon the VW Group’s MQB A0 platform, the existing Fabia sits on a mix of MQB parts and the relatively old PQ26 architecture. Skoda recently started testing early prototypes of the car. When asked whether Skoda was going to speed up development of the next Fabia, CEO Bernhard Maier told me: “Yes, of course, we’re trying to push a bit more quickly. If you talk about the cars that are linked to my personal motivation, it’s the Karoq, it’s the Scala, it’s the Kamiq, it’s the Octavia, the now-refreshed Superb, by all means the MEB electric car, and it will be the Fabia as well”. Then he added: “I just last week drove the first prototype of the Fabia, on MQB A0. I can tell you already that I can’t wait to bring that car to market”. The next Fabia will get a more distinctive look than the current model, which is seen as one of the more conservatively styled superminis. Expect a wider track, more pronounced blisters over the wheelarches and more complex LED lights at the front and back, incorporating Skoda’s most recent crystal-inspired design language. The roofline will remain relatively tall at the rear, however; the Fabia is considered to be a small family car in several key markets, so it will still need to accommodate 2 adults in relative comfort in the back seats. In fact, we should expect similar cabin space to the current car’s, because Skoda has recently introduced the Scala and sees no reason to take the Fabia too close to that model on practicality. However, that will still be enough room for it to remain one of the more spacious cars in its class and moving to MQB should bring gains in soundproofing and noise isolation, making the new Fabia’s cabin a more refined place on the move. There will be a major hike in technology, too. Skoda’s MIB 3.0 infotainment system, as introduced on the Kamiq, will be present at the heart of the range. It’s likely that some versions of the car will make do with a 6.5 inch infotainment display, but more expensive models will probably be offered with a choice of 8 inch or 9.2 inch configurations. Under the bonnet, the Fabia will be powered by 1.0-litre units, with a choice of 95 hp or 115 hp TSI versions and a 80 hp MPI. It’s conceivable that the highest end Fabia will get mild-hybrid tech from the VW Group as this filters down from family cars such as the Volkswagen Golf and new Octavia. Engineers across the different brands have been working on cheaper 12 Volt systems that could be offered alongside the forthcoming 48 Volt configurations. There are no plans for a plug-in version of the car, though, because the complexity, cost and compromises involved in packaging batteries into such a small model remain prohibitive. Senior Skoda sources have told us to expect the Fabia to make its public debut in early 2021 (perhaps at the Geneva Motor Show) with UK sales starting by the summer of that year. Prices should rise slightly. +++ 

+++ New-car sales in SPAIN rose 2.3 % to 93.158 units in November despite one less selling day than in the same month of 2018. The growth was driven by self-registrations as automakers seek to reduce stocks of cars with high CO2 emissions ahead of tougher emissions limits next year. Dealers are self-registering models with high CO2 emissions, especially gasoline-powered cars. These will weigh on tougher CO2 reduction targets that will come into effect in the EU next year. The self-registered cars will be sold as used vehicles in the coming months. About 30 % of cars sold in November were self-registrations. Company car sales rose 21 % and sales to rental companies grew 7.1 % in November. Registrations to private buyers fell 8.1 %. Sales of gasoline-powered cars fell 3.1 % in for a 56 % share of the market; down 5 % compared with November 2018. Registrations of diesel-powered vehicles dropped 4.9 % for a 28.4 % share; 2.1 % lower than November 2018. Sales of all electrified cars including full-electric and hybrid models plus vehicles powered by liquefied petroleum gas and compressed natural gas rose 54 % to a 15.6 percent market share. Hybrid car sales grew 85 % for a 12.5 % market share. The Seat Leon was the most popular model during the month, followed by the Dacia Sandero and the Nissan Qashqai. 6 out of the top 10 bestsellers were SUVs or crossovers. Among automakers, Porsche and Audi had a good month, with registrations up 513 % and 47 % respectively. The brands lost sales in the same month last year because not all their models were ready to be certified under new WLTP tests. Among other Volkswagen Group brands, Skoda’s registrations grew 14 %, VW brand’s volume was up 0.5 % and Seat’s sales fell 0.1 %. Renault brand sales were down 15 %, while sister brand Dacia saw volume rise 12 %. Fiat brand gained 9.3 %, Alfa Romeo registrations rose 5.3 % and Jeep deliveries were down 34 %. PSA Group brands had a bad month, with Opel registrations down 27 %, Citroen down 15 % and Peugeot down 10 %. Asian brands grew sales, with the exception of Nissan. Mazda’s registrations jumped 47 %, Kia’s volume grew by 26 %, Toyota’s sales increased 19 % and Hyundai gained 6.2 %. Nissan’s registrations fell 5.8 %. Among other brands, BMW sales grew 20 %, Ford sales increased 6.2 %. Mercedes-Benz sales were down 1.4 %. The forecast is that the Spanish market will fall 4 % this year. In the first 11 months, registrations are down 5.7 % to 1.15 million. +++ 

+++ U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the TRUMP administration has not ruled out imposing tariffs on imported cars, after letting a review period end in November with no action. “We’ve been having negotiations with the individual companies. We’ve had some very good benefits from that”, Ross told in New York. “It may or may not turn out that there is any need for the tariff”. Ross said it was theoretically possible that Washington could use tariffs authorized by the World Trade Organization under a separate case over aircraft subsidies to impose tariffs on European car imports. But he declined to say if the administration was examining that possibility. Ross said the EU imposes a 10 % tariff on U.S. cars, while the U.S. imposes a 2.5 % tariff on EU cars. “There has already has been a tariff war. The only thing is we haven’t been defending ourselves. We’ve been accepting the lopsidedness of things”, Ross said. U.S. president Donald Trump did not announce any new tariffs after a 6-month, self-imposed review period expired in mid-November following a Commerce Department ‘Section 232′ investigation into whether imported autos pose a national security threat. He has threatened to tax them by as much as 25 %. Asked if there was a new deadline, Ross referred to a White House statement last month that did not include a new deadline. Auto experts have said the U.S. administration may have to find other means if Trump wants to tax European or Japanese car imports, a key part of Trump’s pledge to make America’s trade relationships fairer. Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, said in response to Ross’ comments that the Commerce Department would need to a launch a new investigation before it could impose the tariffs. “Volkswagens and Toyotas don’t pose a national security threat. The window to levy 232 tariffs on foreign autos is closed. If the government wants to impose punitive taxes on Americans who buy foreign cars, they must launch a new investigation. Congress should reassert authority over 232 tariffs”, Toomey said. +++ 

+++ Nissan’s new chief executive Makoto UCHIDA reaffirmed the importance of the Japanese automaker’s alliance with France’s Renault, as it strives to puts its financial scandals behind it. Uchida told reporters he will emphasize transparency and work to restore Nissan’s credibility. He repeatedly acknowledged the company was in a “extremely harsh situation”. Uchida, who also is Nissan’s president, takes over at a time of crisis, with sales and profits tumbling, after its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, was arrested last year on various financial misconduct charges. Ghosn denies wrongdoing. His trial has not started, and the scandal hangs like a shadow over Nissan. Uchida took over after Ghosn’s successor Hiroto Saikawa was ensnared in a scandal of his own, centered around dubious income. Saikawa announced in September he was stepping down. Analysts say hopes are high Uchida and his new team will lead a revival at Nissan. But uncertainties remain, and the effort is likely to take time. “I will most definitely steer Nissan as the CEO”, Uchida said, standing on stage next to a Z sportscar, a symbol of Nissan’s proud history. He said past management had made the mistake of fostering a corporate culture that encouraged the setting of unrealizable goals, although Nissan engineers and workers were very talented. He said the “Nissan Way”, as outlined by Ghosn and Saikawa, will be reviewed, but said specifics on targets weren’t yet ready to be disclosed. But he stressed the alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi must remain strong, deepening cooperation but respecting each other’s independence “as equal partners”. Janet Lewis, an analyst with Macquarie Capital Securities Japan, said Uchida appears to be well-liked at the company, and has experience with the Renault alliance and with the Chinese market, where Nissan is doing well. Although he lacks U.S. experience, Uchida’s deputies have that experience, Lewis said. A recovery will likely take several years. “I think it is naive to think that anyone can turn Nissan around within a year”, she said. She said Nissan has fallen behind in product development, a problem dating back to the years under Ghosn. It’s up to the new leadership team to fix that. “We believe investors should remain on the sidelines until there is more evidence that the turnaround is on track”, she said. Analysts say Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi need to keep their alliance and should cultivate a more positive relationship. Mitsubishi was brought into the alliance after a series of scandals, and Ghosn’s troubles coincided with mounting friction over more closely integrating Nissan with Renault. Research development and platforms, the basic parts on which vehicles are built, are being shared among the alliance members. It would be nearly impossible to pull out without drastic consequences, the analysts say. Takaki Nakanishi, an analyst with Jefferies, said Uchida and his new team will try to show the company is turning over a new leaf, perhaps disclosing their own plans by May. “While management policies of the new executive team are undetermined at this point, they are likely to involve the development of a new business revitalization and shift to an accommodative stance in the relationship with Renault”, said Nakanishi. Ghosn has said other managers at Nissan colluding with the Japanese government and prosecutors to arrest him on trumped up charges as part of a plot to block Ghosn from working toward a fuller merger of Nissan with Renault. Prosecutors insist they have a case. +++

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