Newsflash: volgende generatie Toyota Aygo wordt mogelijk elektrisch

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+++ British prime minister Boris Johnson put BREXIT back at the center of his election campaign during a visit to northeast England, where he promised to protect automakers including Nissan after the UK leaves the European Union. Johnson made a general election campaign visit to Fergusons Transport in Washington, west of Sunderland. The logistics company is 6 km from Nissan’s UK plant, which is the country’s largest car-making factory. The company’s website says it was named Nissan UK’s best overall logistics provider for 2015 / 2016. Johnson was asked whether he can guarantee the continued existence of the Nissan plant. “Of course. It’s absolutely vital we protect supply chains, we protect Nissan Motors, we make sure people continue to want to invest in our country”, Johnson said. “As we come out it’s all protected from the point of view of big motor manufacturing investors in our country”. Johnson said automakers in the UK will be protected after Brexit, suggesting their supply chains will not be disrupted by Britain’s divorce from the European Union. Nissan Europe chairman Gianluca de Ficchy has warned that if a hard Brexit leads to tariffs of 10 % between the UK and EU, the Sunderland factory’s future will be in doubt. “If it means the implementation of World Trade Organization tariffs of 10 %, the overall business equation is not sustainable for us because 70 % of our vehicles are exported to Europe, he told in a recent interview. The UK election takes place on December 12. Polls show Johnson’s Tories on course to win a majority, which would mean the British Parliament voting to deliver Brexit by January 31. +++ 

+++ FORD said it expects its full year 2019 loss, before interest and taxes, from China to be nearly halved from the year ago. For 2020, the company expects to further cut down its China losses, before interest and taxes, by nearly half that of what it expects to post for 2019. Ford says it could further improve its performance in China in 2021. The company, in a meeting with certain analysts and investors, said the statement should not be construed as guidance for China. In October, Ford had cut its full-year profit outlook for 2019 citing higher warranty costs, bigger discounts and weaker-than-expected performance in China. +++ 

+++ It has been revealed that General Motors (GM) will provide $40 million in financing to LORDSTOWN MOTORS , the company which recently agreed to takeover GM’s Lordstown Complex. Legal documents filed late last week reveal that GM has made the $40 million loan available to help Lordstown Motors buy the facility and start building its planned electric pickups. If needed, the startup will be able to borrow up to $50 million from GM. Files have also revealed that GM has an option to repurchase the facility and all transferred assets while also holding the option to lease 500,000 square feet of the factory and another 400,000 square feet of land. The plant was sold to Lordstown Motors on November 7 after it was idled by GM back in March following an announcement in November 2018 that it would be closed. It had been responsible for building the Chevrolet Cruze. Lordstown Motors intends on building an electric pickup dubbed the Endurance at the facility using components licensed from Workhorse, itself another electric pickup startup in the US. Details about the Endurance are limited, but the company says it has been designed for fleet sales, will sell for approximately $50,000, and come equipped with allwheel drive. Company chief executive Steve Burns says production of the pickup is scheduled to start by the end of next year. Initially, the site will employ 450 staff. The $40 million loan from GM won’t be enough to get Lordstown up-and-running. Consequently, the company has retained Cleveland investment bank Gibbons Lang & Co to help it raise no less than $450 million. +++ 

+++ Sajjad Khan heads up MERCEDES-BENZ ‘s future technology development, grouped under the name CASE, short for connected, autonomous, shared and electric. He recently spoke about the challenges slowing the debut of self-driving cars. “We are already testing our Level 4 cars with safety drivers on public roads in Stuttgart, with permission from the local authorities. What is unique about San Jose is it’s a pilot project with special parameters. We plan to do this together with Robert Bosch in Germany too, but you will have to wait a little bit. It will be in the foreseeable future. Once we have the technology ready and available for fully autonomous vehicles that require no human drivers, we believe policymakers will work together hand in hand with us to bring them to market. The first task is to develop it. But the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe has yet to approve a Level 3 system for sale in Europe, and the S class that should feature this is coming next year. I am optimistic that we will have clarity on the specific regulations by the middle of the next year. Daimler wouldn’t approve its use anyway, however, until we are convinced it is 99.999 % safe and can drive in the same neighborhood where children are playing. There is no one specific issue that is impeding progress. We have challenges to overcome in terms of perception, path planning, mapping and the accuracy of certain sensors, for example. Some of these things are more complicated to solve than others. Ultimately, these are all manageable because it’s the combination that matters. If one part of the equation is less advanced, we have the opportunity to compensate elsewhere. In 2015 and 2016 when we were working on in-car connectivity, we talked about bringing a game-changing technology to market. That baby came to be known as MBUX (short for Mercedes-Benz User Experience, which is the automaker’s in-car multimedia system). With that same passion and focus, we are working on autonomous driving”. +++ 

+++ Japan’s markets watchdog will likely recommend soon that the financial regulator fine NISSAN about 2.4 billion yen ($22 million) over false reporting on its financial statement. Nissan’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Tokyo in November last year over allegations of financial misconduct, including understating his salary by around 9.1 billion yen ($84.71 million) over a period of nearly a decade and temporarily transferring personal financial losses to the books of Nissan, Japan’s No. 2 automaker. Reuters reported in June that Nissan would be fined up to 4 billion yen and it may receive a reduced fine of around 2.4 billion yen if the automaker filed documentation to the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) before the formal investigation begins, citing a source. The fine would cover a four-year period through March 2018, the source previously told. +++ 

+++ OPEL and French battery manufacturer Saft can move forward with a plan to build electric vehicle battery cells in Germany after the European Union approved the use of state aid for the project. The companies plan to produce battery cells at Opel’s components plant in Kaiserslautern in western Germany near the French border. The European Commission said that state aid could be given for the project. It said battery production in Europe is of strategic interest. Opel said the decision will allow the PSA / Opel / Saft joint venture, which is called Automotive Cell Company (ACC), to finish drafting a business plan for the project, but declined to provide further details. “The project partners will now prepare to complete an examination of the project before a final decision is taken”, Opel said in a statement. A positive assessment could be made in weeks and a decision could potentially even be taken before the end of the year, a source familiar with the matter said. Production could start in in the middle of the next decade. Carlos Tavares, CEO of Opel parent PSA, had said in September that the project was dependent on receiving support from France and Germany, because otherwise its would be deeply loss-making. European automakers are investing heavily in electric cars to meet the EU’s tougher CO2 reduction goals. Tavares said the bloc needs its own battery suppliers for these vehicles. “If you set a very demanding CO2 reduction objective for 2030 and at the same time you don’t have the batteries, we are all going to run to the Chinese suppliers and they will set the price”, he said. Tavares declined to provide details of the Kaiserslautern plan, but said it was a significant investment “in the several hundreds of millions of euros”. In total, the European Commission gave the go ahead for governments in seven countries to grant €3.2 billion to support projects for research and innovation in battery technology. The countries are Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Poland and Sweden. The public funding is expected to unlock an additional €5 billion in private investments, the Commission said. The state-aided projects will involve 17 direct participants, the release said. Germany sought approval to grant up to €1.25 billion; France up to 960 million; Italy up to approximately 570 million; Poland up to 240 million; Belgium 80 million; Finland up to 30 million; and Sweden up to 50 million, the Commission said. Besides PSA / Opel / Saft’s ACC joint venture, companies involved in projects include BMW, BASF and Varta in Germany and the Swedish Electric Transport Laboratory (SEEL). The German government said it plans to finance projects proposed by BMW in addition to Opel, as well as plans by chemicals giant BASF and battery manufacturer Varta. Belgium’s Umicore is also involved. BASF said it planned to manufacture intermediate products and active materials for battery cell cathodes to equip 300,000 electric materials. It has already begun scouting a site in Harjavalta, Finland. It said a final decision had not been taken. BMW said it would tap the funds to help it research chemical composition, cell mechanics, cell design and production processes to aid third-party cell manufacturers. German industries minister Peter Altmeier said in a statement that his department was funding the various projects with aid amounting to over €1 billion. “We want to build the most innovative and sustainable batteries and in so doing secure production and jobs in Europe. Our approach is therefor a holistic one, from materials to manufacturing and recycling”, he said in a statement. The Kaiserslautern plant would be the second EV battery cell factory in Germany after Volkswagen Group’s 16 gigawatt hour site in Salzgitter. VW and its partner Northvolt is investing €900 million in the factory with production due to start by 2024. Neither VW not Northvolt are part of the projects mentioned in the Commission release. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE has taken down payments from 30,000 customers in Europe for its Taycan, the luxury car maker’s first fully electric model, CEO Oliver Blume told. These customers have made down payments of €2,500 each and 10,000 of them have already placed a firm order to buy a Taycan, Blume said, adding that this number exceeded the company’s expectations. Porsche, which is starting shipment of the Taycan to U.S. dealerships this month and to other markets shortly thereafter, is planning to deliver 20,000 Taycans in 2020. Porsche is under pressure from peer Tesla, which last month announced that it will build its first European factory and design center near Berlin. The purchase contract for the site is currently being negotiated and construction of the factory will start in the spring of next year. +++ 

+++ The PSA Group, pressured by local rules pushing for electrification, will start to offer electrified versions in 2020 for all new and retooled gasoline models to be built at Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen Automobile, its main joint venture in China. The next generation Peugeot 2008 will  go on sale in China with a full-electric version. It will be followed by 2 other gasoline crossovers (the retooled Peugeot 4008 and Citroen C5 Aircross) set to go on sale in 2020 with plug-in hybrid variants, PSA’s local partner Dongfeng Motor Group said. By 2023, the full product line of PSA’s Peugeot and Citroen brands will be offered with an electrified option, according to Dongfeng. Peugeot Citroen Dongfeng, a 50-50 partnership established in 1992 between Dongfeng and PSA, produces and markets vehicles for Peugeot and Citroen brands. The joint venture has only one electrified vehicle marketed under its proprietary Fukang brand. The EV is a rebadged car developed by Dongfeng. In China, PSA also operates a 50-50 partnership (Changan PSA) with Changan Automobile, which focuses on assembling gasoline DS vehicles. Changan PSA has failed to achieve meaningful sales volume since its incorporation in 2011 and Changan last month placed its 50 % interest in the joint venture up for sale. +++ 

+++ RENAULT ‘s board wants Luca de Meo, who heads Volkswagen Group’s Seat brand, to become the automaker’s next CEO, French reports said. De Meo won out over Patrick Koller, CEO of the supplier Faurecia. The board has chosen De Meo as their preferred candidate at its meeting on Tuesday. De Meo (52) won the support of the French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder with a 15 % stake. However, a stumbling block to de Meo’s appointment could be a non-compete clause he has with VW Group. De Meo, an Italian executive, emerged as favorite for the Renault CEO post because of his success in making the Spanish brand profitable. He also speaks French and started his career at Renault before working for Toyota and Fiat. Renault’s interim CEO, Clotilde Delbos, the automaker’s finance boss, was not considered for the CEO job because she is relatively new to the industry and has only a financial background, reports said. Renault has been searching for a new CEO since its board ousted Thierry Bollore in mid-October, as the French automaker and its alliance partner, Nissan, cleared out managers closely associated with the Carlos Ghosn era. +++ 

+++ The sky is the limit: optimism about SELF DRIVING CARS is giving way to tougher questions about how expensive automotive artificial intelligence will ever make a profit. Those are questions the founders of Argo AI (and automaker partners Ford and Volkswagen) are betting they can answer by taking a different road than more highly valued rivals. They are steering away from building a robotaxi fleet and focusing instead on getting paid by the mile by customers that will use robot vehicles for multiple purposes, including delivering goods or transporting groups of people in vans. The self-driving systems developer led by Bryan Salesky, who got his start developing automated vehicles for a Defense Department sponsored competition 12 years ago, is at the center of a multibillion-dollar bet by its auto giant partners that autonomous vehicle technology must be good for more than replacing taxi drivers. “I hate the word robotaxi”, Salesky said in a rare interview at Argo’s Pittsburgh headquarters. “There are so many applications and businesses to be built, and (try to) understand which ones are more profitable than others”. The Argo business plan hinges on a unique revenue-sharing deal that will pay Argo fees based on miles traveled in self-driving Ford and VW vehicles equipped with Argo’s technology. Details of that arrangement have not previously been reported. Argo’s financial structure is also different from rival autonomous vehicle ventures. Ford and VW each own just under 40 %, with Argo’s management team holding just over 20 %, according to sources familiar with the business. Details of the ownership structure also have not previously been reported. Among the prospective commercial applications of Argo’s technology: Long-haul trucking, e-commerce deliveries, the transport of people along fixed routes in cities, and off-highway applications such as mining. Founded in Pittsburgh in late 2016 by Michigan natives Salesky and Chief Operating Officer Peter Rander, Argo is headquartered in a nondescript building in The Strip, an old warehouse and market district overlooking the Allegheny River. Argo’s main rivals focused initially on deploying robotaxis. Waymo, however, is now working on adapting its automated “driver” to commercial vehicles, including Class 8 trucks, Waymo Chief Executive John Krafcik said. Argo’s plan is to provide automated driving systems that Ford will launch in late 2021 in 3 U.S. cities, likely using a compact shuttle based on the redesigned Ford Transit Connect. VW executives revealed they expect to follow in 2022 or 2023 with a VW designed all-electric vehicle, which could be deployed initially in the German automaker’s Moia ride services business. Ford executive Jim Farley said at a Detroit conference in November the No. 2 American automaker was exploring applications for Argo’s technology “that could make more sense than robotaxis”, including automated materials deliveries to trades people via a subscription service. In addition to deploying Argo-outfitted vehicles in its own ride services fleet, Volkswagen has received interest from other ride hailing and transportation companies in buying VW vehicles equipped with Argo’s system, said Thomas Sedran, head of VW Commercial Vehicles and the automaker’s autonomous vehicles initiative. That could be another way for Argo and its partners to make money as the technology finds its way into more vehicles and the number of miles traveled multiplies. “The details, the concrete conditions, how many cents per mile are we talking about or what’s the share of revenue? That’s still open”, Sedran said. “At this stage, we are still working on making that technology generate revenue”. Salesky said Argo’s self-driving technology can be adapted to a variety of vehicle types, sizes and applications: “This is going to be a multi-stage thing where there are going to be a number of different platforms and potentially different businesses”. Some rivals are not convinced Argo has any advantage. “We didn’t start from scratch”, said Glen De Vos, chief technology officer of Aptiv, which has bolstered its own expertise through acquisitions of self-driving startups nuTonomy and Ottomatika. De Vos pointed to Aptiv’s partnership with Lyft in testing self-driving vehicles in the latter’s Las Vegas ride hailing network, and said Argo “doesn’t have the component engineering capability that Aptiv has”. Investors so far have assigned Argo a lower valuation than robotaxi-focussed rivals. Waymo is valued at $105 billion, while Cruise had a valuation of $19 billion at its last funding round. Argo’s valuation is estimated at $7.25 billion following Volkswagen’s $1.9 billion investment, matching the $7.25 billion valuation of Uber Technologies’ Advanced Technologies Group, the ride services company’s self-driving unit. Salesky said he and Rander are open to bringing other investor-partners into the business: “The more diversity, the better, but it needs to complement the portfolio that we’re already building with Ford and Volkswagen. But we know that this is really the early days. The ballgame hasn’t really started”. +++ 

+++ A British government-funded energy research body has called for “immediate action” to halt rising sales of SUV cars and other large vehicles because of their negative impact on vehicle carbon emissions. According to the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), which is comprised of researchers base in several UK institutions and funded by UK Research and Innovation, the rapid growth in SUV sales in the past decade has led to a rise in total CO2 emissions from the global car fleet, despite the growth in battery-electric vehicles. SUVs accounted for 21.2 % of total vehicles sold in the UK last year, up from 6.6 % in 2009 and 13.5 % in 2015. In total, 1.8 million SUVs have been sold in the past 4 years, which the UKERC suggested was likely down to car financing schemes and the freeze in fuel duty. The UKERC says that SUVs produce around a quarter more CO2 than a medium-size car due to their extra size and weight. It calculated that, assuming vehicles stay on the road for a decade, the 1.8 million SUVs sold in the past four years will produce around 8.2 million tonnes of CO2. While sales of full electric vehicles are rising, they are outsold 37 to 1 by SUVs. The UKERC also noted that the bulk of plug-in hybrid models sold in recent years have been SUVs, which it says means that “even the relatively small number of electric vehicles that have been sold in the UK are consuming more energy than they need to”. Professor Jillian Anable, the UKERC’s co-director, said that “the rapid uptake of unnecessarily large and energy consuming vehicles just in the past few years makes a mockery of UK policy efforts towards the ‘Road to Zero’ ”. She added: “The decarbonisation of the passenger car market can no longer rely on a distant target to stop the sales of conventional engines. We must start to phase out the most polluting vehicles immediately. It is time to enact a strong set of regulations to transform the entire car market towards ultra-low carbon rather than focusing solely on the uptake of electric vehicles”. The UKERC’s finding are contained in its annual Review of Energy Policy report, in which it makes 10 recommendations on how the UK can achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In order to reach that target, the UKERC says that sales of combustion-engined vehicles, including hybrids, should be brought forward until 2030. The news follows claims from the European Federation for Transport and Environment think tank in September 2019, which said SUVs were to blame for rising CO2 emissions rather than diesels. +++ 

+++ TESLA plans to build 500,000 electric vehicles a year at its new factory on the outskirts of Berlin. Last month, chief executive Elon Musk announced that a site in Grünheide, Brandenburg, had been chosen to build Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. Tesla will invest up to €4 billion in the plant. Tesla’s Gigafactory will create 10,000 jobs at the site which is as large as 420 soccer pitches. Construction will start in 2020. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA will not abandon Europe’s minicar segment unlike rivals such as Ford and Opel but the next version of the Aygo could be electric. The current Aygo, which was launched in 2014, will get a successor, Toyota Europe CEO Johan Van Zyl said. “The Aygo has been a very good product for us in terms of conquest and bringing younger people into our brand. We still see it as a good segment for us to be in”, Van Zyl told in an interview. The Aygo is currently Toyota’s only car sold in Europe without a hybrid option. Van Zyl said a replacement Aygo might be electric given the car’s urban usage. “Some cities are applying zero-emissions zones, so we must think about the future and say, ‘how are we going to ensure that we have an electrified version of an A-segment car that we’ll be able to utilize for these cities?’ “, he said. Toyota’s development partners for the current Aygo, Peugeot and Citroen, have indicated that any replacement for their minicars will need to be electric. The Aygo is built alongside the Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1 in a joint plant with PSA Group in Kolin in the Czech Republic. Toyota sold 83,030 Aygos in Europe in the first 10 months; up 3.7 %. Peugeot sold 48,542 units of the 108; down 1.4 % and Citroen sold 44,399 units of the C1; down 1.9 %. Toyota has agreed to buy PSA’s share of the joint venture in 2021. This means Toyota has to fill a plant with annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles. Van Zyl said the company will be able to keep the plant busy. “We will utilize the full capacity in future”, he said, without disclosing which cars Toyota intends to build there. Toyota remains one of the few automakers, along with Hyundai and Kia, to commit to Europe’s smallest segment. Automakers are increasingly abandoning the segment due to the cost of updating the low-profit minicars to meet tougher European Union regulations to reduce CO2 and NOx emissions. Most recently, Ford and Opel exited the segment. Volkswagen Group’s VW Up, Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii minicars are expected to be replaced by battery-powered cars based on  a shortened version of the automaker’s Modular Electric Drive Toolkit (MEB) architecture. Replacing the Aygo with a new gasoline version could be unviable in such the price-sensitive minciar segment. The cost of cleaning up NOx emissions on a gasoline engine car to pass Euro6d Temp standards due in September next year is around €2.000 a car, Ford has estimated. Toyota has said it will launch 3 battery electric vehicles by 2021 in Europe, including an EV version of the Lexus UX. The other 2 are expected ot be an electric version of the C-HR and a PSA sourced Van. Toyota will be able to carry on selling gasoline Aygos without penalties after tough new CO2 regulations start in January because its hybrid models account for over half its sales across the automaker’s European product range, helping to reduce the company’s average CO2 emissions. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has been charged with importing nearly 128,000 vehicles into Canada contravening the country’s environmental legislation, a Canadian government agency said. Volkswagen was charged with 60 counts of breaching the Canadian Environmental Protection Act by importing vehicles that did not conform to prescribed emission standards, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) said. The charges included two counts of providing misleading information. The court hearing is scheduled for December 13 in the Ontario Court of Justice. A Volkswagen spokesman said the company has cooperated fully with the investigation by the ECCC. “At the hearing, the parties will submit for the Court’s consideration a proposed plea resolution and seek its approval”, he added.In 2015, the agency launched an investigation into the importing of certain vehicle models allegedly equipped with a prohibited “defeat device”. In this case, the device was software that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system during normal vehicle use, according to the agency. News in 2015 that Volkswagen has used such devices to cheat emissions tests has so far cost the company about €30 billion in fines, vehicle refits and legal costs, and also triggered a global backlash against diesel vehicles. +++

 

+++ Production of the VOLKSWAGEN T-ROC CABRIOLET , a 2-door convertible crossover, has begun at VW Group’s Osnabrück, Germany plant. The T-Roc cab isn’t the first mashup of convertibles and crossovers. Icons such as the Range Rover Evoque convertible and Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet came and went before Volkswagen unveiled the soft-top T-Roc earlier this year. Volkswagen will build the T-Roc Cabriolet at its multi-brand plant in Osnabrück, Germany, where VW Group also builds the Porsche Cayman. The T-Roc cab is an expansion of the T-Roc lineup, which already includes your typical 5-door crossover variant. VW debuted the new crossover in November 2017, giving the brand a supermini offering as the segment continued to grow. The T-Roc Cabriolet is more about style than offering the versatility you’d expect from a crossover. Power, which comes from either a 115 hp turbocharged 1.0-litre 3-cylinder or a 150 hp turbocharged 1.5-litre 4-cylinder, only goes to the front wheels. A 6-speed manual is standard, though customers can upgrade to the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Power and performance are not the T-Roc Cabriolet’s forte. It’s about style, and the VW has plenty of that. The soft top can open in 9 seconds at speeds up to 35 km/h. VW offers the cabriolet with 2 design packages: Style and R-Line. The Style offers 17-inch wheels, ambient lighting, and an available leather interior package. The R-Line adds upscale niceties such as fog lights and fabric and leatherette sport seats. It, too, comes with 17-inch wheels, though 19-inch ones are optional. Options include a Beats audio system, an 11.7-inch digital gauge cluster, and more. The Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet, which is the brand’s only convertible, won’t go on sale until spring 2020. +++ 

+++ VOLVO is planning a mid-life refresh of its S90 and V90. External changes will be subtle. Both will get a lower grille and a redesigned frontbumper. Otherwise it appears that the S90 and V90’s design won’t be altered greatly. There will be more significant revisions under the skin, however. Chief among which will be the adoption of 48 Volt mild-hybrid technology, already found in the refreshed XC90 and XC60, across most of the line-up. The system combines a 48V battery with an integrated starter/generator and energy recovery system, capturing kinetic energy during braking or coasting and using it to boost overall efficiency. It’s expected that, instead of the ‘T’ and ‘D’ badges to signify petrol and diesel variants, both fuel types will be badged ‘B’, with B4, B5 and B6 variants found in the XC60. Further changes are likely to be incremental, with equipment upgrades across the line-up and small revisions to the car’s infotainment software. The T8 plug-in hybrid is expected to carry on unaltered, but Volvo could introduce a more sportily tuned ‘Polestar Engineered’ model to top out the range. Given the timeline of the facelifted XC90, first launched in 2015, expect the 3 year old S90 and V90 to be updated in the middle of 2020 and go on sale towards the end of the year. +++

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