Newsflash: Ford heeft al 32.000 reserveringen voor Mustang Mach-E


+++ The leaders of the embattled Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi ALLIANCE put forward a unified face by unleashing a new divide-and-conquer plan to bolster their troubled business. The strategy calls for dividing the world geographically, with partners spearheading operations in the regions where they are strongest. And it adopts a leader-follower approach to engineering, in which they will divide responsibilities for r&d among them. Details of the plan will be fleshed out by May, when the individual companies plan to individually announce new mid-term plans that take into account their production footprints and product development needs, Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said. But some directions are already clear. In terms of geographic responsibilities, Renault will take the lead in Europe, Nissan will be the director in China and Mitsubishi will head Southeast Asia. They did not specify a point company for North America, though Nissan is the biggest player there. The companies will also divide engineering work, with one company leading r&d and product development in a given area and the other companies sending people to assist. This will differ from the old method which had teams, for example, in France and Japan working in tandem. New areas to divvy up include the upper body of vehicles, where the alliance companies hope to eke out more synergies and commonization. They will also split work on platforms and powertrains. Renault will also be handed the lead in developing light commercial vehicles. “The auto industry is facing big transformations”, Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said while announcing the new approach. “We discussed how to fully utilize the strength of each entity”. The strategy was agreed to earlier in the day by the Alliance Operating Board, a new steering committee launched last March following the arrest of former alliance chairman Carlos Ghosn. The push to improve efficiencies comes amid continued upheaval at world’s biggest auto group. Its leaders are fighting falling sales and shrinking profits and struggling to find joint projects that can boost results and deliver on the alliance’s promise of massive scale and combined resources. Combined global deliveries for the alliance fell 5.6 % to 10.2 million vehicles in 2019, below Toyota’s 10.7 million vehicle sales for the first time since 2016 and the 10.9 million sold last year by Volkswagen Group. Toyota’s sales climbed 1.4 % and VW’s gained 1.3 %. Overcapacity is pressuring the automakers as they face spiraling costs for new technologies. And all the while, the Alliance endures unprecedented sniping from Ghosn, who jumped bail in Japan and escaped to freedom in Lebanon where he paints the alliance as a failed “masquerade”. The 4-member panel is overseen by Senard, in his role as Ghosn’s successor, and seats the heads of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. But the Alliance Operating Board’s lineup has already seen significant churn since its creation less than a year ago. 2 members are new since October. Representing Renault is interim CEO Clotilde Delbos, who was appointed in October, and coming from Nissan is Uchida, took office as CEO only last month. Mitsubishi chairman Osamu Masuko sits in for his carmaker. At its start, the initial board was composed of Thierry Bollore from Renault, Hiroto Saikawa from Nissan, along with Mitsubishi’s Masuko. At the time, Masuko served as both chairman and CEO of Mitsubishi. Masuko handed the CEO role to Takao Kato in June. Over the last year, Bollore was pushed out at Renault. And just this week, Renault appointed Luca de Meo, the former head of Volkswagen Group’s Seat brand, to replace Delbos from July 1. Saikawa resigned in September after improperly receiving excessive payouts under a stock-linked executive compensation program. An acting CEO filled in until Uchida took office. To give the so-called AOB more teeth, the partners created an alliance general secretary position last month who will coordinate major projects across the 3 carmakers. They appointed Hadi Zablit to that role. Zablit had served as the alliance’s senior vice president of business development since March 2018, heading such programs as the development of the Common Module Family A platform, a shared architecture for small cars. Zablit, who attended the January 30 meeting, is charged with accelerating the efficiency of joint operations among the companies, in an effort to boost operating profits across the board. Nissan will hold an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting on February 18 to appoint Uchida and several other new directors to the Japanese carmaker’s board. The gathering will also be platform for the Nissan management to offer fresh details of its latest restructuring plans. Aside from Uchida, shareholders will vote on approving COO Ashwani Gupta as a new director as well as Hideyuki Sakamoto, Nissan’s executive vice president in charge of manufacturing and supply chain management. Also up for appointment is Pierre Fleuriot, a Renault nominee. Renault, which rescued Nissan form bankruptcy in 1999, has a 43 % controlling stake in Nissan while Nissan holds a 15 %, non-voting stake in Renault, whose top shareholder is the French government. Nissan took a controlling 34 % stake in Mitsubishi in 2016. Renault has previously indicated a desire to move toward a full merger, something Ghosn is said to have championed and which Nissan has strongly opposed. Fuel economy credits would be pooled by the 3 carmakers in Europe, they added. The automakers need to improve profitability to compete with global rivals, which are investing heavily to develop electric vehicles, self-driving cars and other new technologies that are transforming the industry. +++


+++ Global logistics firm UPS has ordered 10.000 electric delivery vans from London-based start-up ARRIVAL . The vans, based on Arrival’s Generation 2.0 EV architecture, will be rolled out across the UK, Europe and North America before 2024 as UPS transitions to a zero-emissions fleet. The American company also has the option of ordering another 10,000 vans in the future, having made an investment in Arrival of an undisclosed amount through its venture capital arm. The transaction, said to be worth “hundreds of millions of euros”, comes just 2 weeks after Arrival announced an £85 million investment from Hyundai and Kia, which will go towards developing a new line of bespoke commercial EVs for the Korean manufacturers. UPS and Arrival have been working together since 2016, with the former providing “valuable insight to how electric delivery vans are used on the road and how they can be optimised for drivers”, according to Arrival CEO Denis Sverdlov. Detailed technical and performance figures for Arrival’s electric van remain unconfirmed, but the firm claims it will “surpass traditional vehicles in cost, design and efficiency with 50 % operational cost savings for fleet owners”. It’s also yet to be confirmed which of Arrival’s 5 low-footprint ‘microfactory’ sites will produce the UPS vans. Last year, online retail giant Amazon placed an order for 100,000 electric vans from American start-up Rivian, which, like Arrival, bases its EVs on a skateboard chassis and can adapt them to suit the specific needs of its customers. +++

+++ AUDI is returning to the Super Bowl with an all-new commercial that promotes the 2020 e-Tron Sportback. The 60 second spot stars actor and climate activist Maisie Williams who is best known for playing Arya Stark on Game of Thrones. In the clip, Stark drives the e-Tron Sportback on streets clogged by old gas guzzlers including a knock-off version of Dominic Toretto’s Dodge Charger from the Fast & Furious. As she’s stuck in traffic, Stark begins singing her own take on the award-winning “Let It Go” song from Frozen. The company describes the new version as a “more defiant take on a song that took the world by storm, but still showcases that transformation always starts with letting go of something old to create something new”. In this case, the ‘new’ is a sustainable and electric future. That theme is echoed throughout the ad as the intersection in the clip is designed to represent a crossroads between “today’s preconceptions and old notions of consumption, success and status”. In essence, it’s the electric future versus the gas guzzling past. While the clip isn’t as memorable as the 2016 Super Bowl commercial promoting the R8, Audi says the ad highlights their goal of ushering in a new era of sustainable mobility. As we have previously reported, the company plans to offer 30 electrified vehicles by 2025 including 20 EVs. The Super Bowl ad is part of a larger global campaign that will be rolled out on television and social media in major markets such as China, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. As part of the campaign, the company will release “additional chapters” highlighting electrification, connectivity and design. Audi hopes this will “rejuvenate the brand, and in particular, build awareness and attract new audiences by emphasizing topics like sustainable mobility as new forms of luxury”. Getting back to the e-Tron Sportback, it’s a stylish crossover coupe which features a 95 kWh battery that powers 2 electric motors. This gives the model all-wheel drive as well as a combined output of 360 hp and 561 Nm. In terms of performance, the crossover can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 6.6 seconds and hit a top speed of 200 km/h. More importantly, the model can travel up to 466 km on a single charge in the WLTP cycle. Those looking for even more performance can put the vehicle into S mode. When this occurs, the Sportback can generate 408 hp and 664 Nm for 8 seconds at a time. Thanks to the extra power, the dash to 100 km/h is cut to 5.7 seconds. Besides the range-topping Sportback 55, there will be an entry-level Sportback 50. It features a smaller 71 kWh battery and less powerful motors that develop 313 hp and 540 Nm. Performance takes a hit as 100 km/h comes in 6.8 seconds and the top speed is 190 km/h. Of course, the biggest concern is range as it falls to 347 km. +++ 

+++ BMW has another busy year ahead, and the company is poised to reveal 6 new models. The most divisive of these will be the all-new 4 Series Coupe, which is due to be officially revealed in the summer, before going on sale at the end of the year. The firm’s recent design language (including ever-larger front grilles) has been a major talking point, and that is set to continue. Heavily disguised prototypes of the 4 Series are being put through the final stages of their development testing, and they’re hiding a big surprise. The 4 Series will be BMW’s first coupe to adopt an enlarged vertical grille since the E9 of the seventies. The more polarising look is designed to put greater distance between the coupe and the 3 Series saloon on which it’s based. Indeed, the BMW Concept 4 that previewed the forthcoming new model at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show is said to be “85 %” the finished article. There will also be a focus on performance with the 4 Series line-up. A hot M440i xDrive version of the coupe is marked out by its more aggressive bumper design. It will be powered by a 3.0-litre turbo charged 6-cylinder engine developing 374 hp, which deploys its power through an 8-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive. Above that, BMW will also engineer a flagship M4. This isn’t due until 2021, but it too will be powered by a 3.0-litre motor; one developed specifically by BMW’s M Division. This will be twin-turbocharged and generate 510 hp. Plus for the first time in an M4, a selectable 4-wheel-drive system will be used. Elsewhere at BMW, the German marque will unveil the final production version of the pure-electric iX3 SUV. This is due to be officially revealed in the coming months, and BMW has confirmed that the model will be able to cover at least 425 kilometres on a single charge, thanks to the use of a large 74kWh lithium-ion battery. It will also be the first BMW to use a new fifth-generation eDrive system that combines the electric motor, electronics and transmission into one central housing. The firm says the set-up is more compact and lighter than the previous system. The iX3 will develop 290 hp and 400 Nm of torque, and power will be sent to the rear wheels, although an extra motor at the front could be introduced for four-wheel drive. The addition of an electric option to the X3 makes it the first BMW on offer with petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid or fully electric power. Later in the year, updated versions of the 5 Series saloon and Touring, along with the facelifted M5, will be introduced. An all-new M3 will arrive at the end of the year. +++ 

+++ BMW will extend its factory holidays at its plants in Shenyang, China, by one week until February 9 over travel restrictions imposed to contain the CORONA VIRUS , a company spokesman said. The measure applies to workers in production. Office workers will resume working on February 3, but from home. +++

+++ It’s been roughly 2 months since the FORD Mustang Mach-E premiered at last year’s LA Auto Show and while its reception was somewhat controversial, the car manufacturer appears to have received as many as 32.000 customer reservations for the all-electric crossover at $500 a pop. Those placing reservations for the Mustang Mach-E are receiving reservation numbers in the mid-30.000s. A lack of customer reservations numbered between 1 and 4.000 has led the forum user to speculate the first 4.000-odd Mach-Es produced will be dealer demonstrators and vehicles used by Ford for other purposes. It is also understood that the reservation numbers compiled come from various international markets and not just the United States. Ford has previously indicated it would aim to build 50.000 units in the first year of production so if it receives approximately 14.000 additional reservations, the EV could effectively be sold out for its first year of production. Of course, there is a difference between placing a reservation for the Mach-E and actually buying one and it’s inevitable that some shoppers with reservations won’t pull the trigger and actually buy a Mach-E. The cancellation rate for the Tesla Model 3 is thought to be between 12 % and 23 %. If Ford experiences a similar rate, then it may end up selling between 24.640 and 28.160 Mach-Es of the 32.000 that are currently reserved. No less than 5 Ford Mustang Mach-E variants will be produced, ranging from the entry-level Select to the high-performance Mach-E GT. The first customer deliveries are expected late this year. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI will introduce its Kona Electric model at its factory in the Czech Republic from March as it looks to triple availability to European customers this year, the company said. Hyundai said it would also increase supply from its Ulsan plan in South Korea. “This will drastically reduce delivery times for customers in Europe”, it said in a statement. Hyundai aims to provide more than 80.000 zero-emission vehicles to European customers in 2020, including the Kona Electric, Ioniq Electric and Nexo fuel cell car. More than 60.000 of these vehicles could be the Kona Electric. The Kona went on sale in the second half of 2018, but demand rapidly outstripped projected supply. By early 2019 the waiting list was up to 12 months for the EV, with brand sources admitting they significantly under-estimated demand. Restrictions on battery supply and the desire to sell more EVs in 2020 to aid fleet average emissions targets were also a factor. Last month sister brand Kia confirmed it would begin a “major ramp-up” in supply of the powertrain-sharing e-Niro and e-Soul. The Kona Electric topped What Car?’s Real Range test with the 64 kWh variant achieving the longest driving range of any electric model tested. Hyundai claims an official range of 445 kilometres. Hyundai aims to be the biggest producer of electric cars in Europe this year after launching output of a battery-powered version of the Kona at its Czech Republic plant. Production will begin in March at its factory in Nosovice 380 km east of Prague. Gasoline, gasoline-electric hybrid and diesel versions of the small SUV will continue to be imported into Europe from Korea. The moves will triple the availability of its Kona Electric for customers in Europe and drastically reduce delivery times, Hyundai said. “Since going on sale in 2018, demand for the Kona Electric has surpassed expectations and the increased capacity is intended to keep up with rising demand”, Hyundai said. “With this development, Hyundai expects to become the biggest provider of zero-emissions vehicles in Europe in 2020”, the company said. Hyundai most likely will procure batteries for the Kona Electric in Europe and an announcement is expected in the next weeks. Korean battery makers LG Chem and SK Innovation have plants in Europe: in Poland and Hungary, respectively. The Kona is Hyundai’s second bestseller in Europe after the Tucson. European sales of the Kona increased 61 % to 107.409 last year. Hyundai said the figure included more than 20.000 units of the Kona Electric. The Nosovice plant builds the i30 and the Tucson. The factory has an output of 1.500 units a day. Hyundai ended production of the ix20 at the plant last year. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER posted a pre-tax profit of £318 million in the final quarter of 2019, boosted by the popularity of the new Range Rover Evoque, recovering sales in China and the success of a major cost-cutting drive. The British firm posted revenues of £6.4 billion in the 3-month period; up 2.8 % year-on-year despite a 2.3 % dip in total sales. That slight decline was offset by the popularity of the new Evoque (with sales up 30 % year-on-year) and the recently updated Land Rover Discovery Sport. Jaguar Land Rover was also helped by the continued recovery of its sales in China; up 24.3 % year-on-year. The £318 million pre-tax profit compares to operating losses of £273 million in the final quarter of 2018. The firm credited the turnaround, which began when it posted a profit in the previous quarter, to the impact of its Project Charge restructuring programme, which it says has reduced operating costs by £154 million and investment by £200 million. Since the programme began, Jaguar Land Rover says it has achieved £2.9 billion in savings, exceeding the original target of £2.5 billion three months ahead of schedule. The firm has now launched Project Charge+ as the next phase in the restructuring, with the aim to save a further £1.1 billion of cost and cashflow improvements (bringing the total to £4 billion) by March 2021. “Our improving financial results and the cost and cashflow achievements of Project Charge will support the next phase of our pipeline of exciting new vehicles and technologies, with a choice of outstanding electrified, petrol and diesel powertrains”, said outgoing CEO Ralf Speth, who will step down from his post in September this year. The firm is optimistic of further growth in the first quarter of 2020, with the new Land Rover Defender expected to go on sale alongside the facelifted Jaguar F-Type. +++ 

+++ Electric vehicle start-up Rivian will develop a new luxury electric car based on its skateboard platform for Ford’s premium brand, LINCOLN . The new machine will be the first full EV from Lincoln, which operates in North America, Asia and the Middle East. It will build on an existing arrangement between Rivian, which is currently developing a series of electric pick-ups and SUVs, and Ford that involves the car giant using Rivian’s platforms as the basis for a range of EVs. Lincoln and Rivian will work together on the full EV, which will join plug-in hybrid versions of the Aviator and Corsair Grand Touring SUVs in Lincoln’s electrified vehicle line-up. Lincoln said the car will feature the firm’s “connected and intuitive technologies”. The Lincoln EV is part of Ford’s previously announced £8.8 billion investment into EVs that will be spearheaded by the Mustang Mach-E. Ford invested £386 million in Rivian when it agreed the deal to use the firm’s platform for a range of EVs. Rivian is currently developing the R1T pick-up and R1S SUV, and has also agreed a deal to provide Amazon with a fleet of electric delivery vans. +++ 

+++ MITSUBISHI said there was no reason to believe it had committed fraud as suspected in a German investigation into the Japanese automaker over illegal emissions defeating devices used in its diesel vehicles. The Japanese car maker is the latest manufacturer to be investigated on suspicion of hiding illegal levels of pollution following a regulatory clampdown on toxic fumes triggered by Volkswagen’s 2015 admission that it had cheated emissions tests. Mitsubishi said in a statement that none of the engines it makes and uses in its cars were equipped with “defeat devices”, adding that the 1.6-litre diesel engines subject to the investigation, including its control system, were made by PSA. A PSA spokesman confirmed that it is the maker of the engines in question and said it complies with homologation in every market where it operates. Mitsubishi added that it would continue its own investigation into the matter and cooperate with German prosecutors in their probe. Last week, the Frankfurt Prosecutor’s Office said officials were investigating an employee at an international car maker for fraud, as well as a unit of an international dealership company, and two auto suppliers over the cheating issue. German auto supplier Continental has said it is a cooperating witness in the probe. Dutch authorities also ruled last week that diesel models made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Suzuki broke European emissions rules and must be fixed or face a ban on sales across the region. Fiat declined to comment last week, and Suzuki said it was cooperating with Dutch authorities on the findings. +++ 

+++ European automakers are making the switch this year to electrified drivetrains. The pressing question is whether buyers will too. The stakes are high: If automakers can’t get their fleet carbon dioxide emissions below their targets within the EU’s new 95 g/km limit, they will be hit with fines that could total billions of euros. Whether that will happen is now largely in the hands of consumers, who have a dizzying array of emissions-friendly powertrains to choose from, starting with mild hybrids (most of which are not an option but standard equipment on internal combustion engines), through conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full electric vehicles. Many, no doubt, will instead choose familiar gasoline and diesel engines. At PEUGEOT , PSA Group’s largest brand and economic engine, the early signs are good, at least according to sales executives in France, which accounts for 40 % of European sales. With a target of around 93 g/km of CO2, Peugeot is rolling out electrified variants of its most popular models, starting with electric versions of the 208 and 2008; adding a plug-in hybrid powertrain to the 3008 (in both front-wheel and 4×4 versions); and plug-in versions of the 508. There is no guarantee of course that PSA Group as a whole will meet its target. The group’s brands are pooled together for emissions purposes, so while Peugeot’s lineup is largely electrified, brands such as Citroen (1 plug-in hybrid) and Opel (1 electric vehicle and 1 plug-in hybrid) could push up the average. Benoit Picandet, the head of new vehicle sales in France, Peugeot’s largest market, said at a Peugeot test event in Spain that 15 % of customer orders for the 208 since the beginning of January were for the electric version. The figure for the dealer pre-orders was even higher at 27 %. That may not translate directly into sales, however, partly because dealers want to have electric versions available for prospective buyers to test. Peugeot dealers are being pushed to put electric cars front and center of their displays. Salespeople have been trained to persuade buyers that the total cost of ownership (TCO) for an electric or plug-in model is similar to certain internal combustion versions. The figure takes initial purchase or lease price, maintenance, registration fees and energy costs into consideration and averages it over several years. Those order figures are in line with what Peugeot boss Jean-Philippe Imparato told last October. If they play out for the full year, Peugeot will most likely be in good shape to meet its target, especially since vehicles with emissions of 49 g/km or less qualify for double EU “super credits”. Peugeot’s plug-in hybrid CO2 emissions are 29 or 30 g/km on the WLTP cycle. Picandet said Peugeot expected that in France plug-in hybrids would account for 15 % to 20 % of 3008 sales and 20 % of 508 sales. To put those numbers in perspective, the 208, 2008, 3008 and 508 together account for around 65 % of the brand’s sales in France. Success in meeting emissions goals could have a downside, too: Selling too many costly to produce and low-margin electrified cars could hurt profits. But it beats the alternative. +++


+++ PORSCHE has started construction of a new Porsche Experience Center at Italy’s Autodromo di Franciacorta racetrack, which is set to become the automaker’s 8th facility of its kind. The site occupies 60 hectares of land and boasts a 223 square-meter multi-purpose building clad in glass and complete with a curved roof. Housed within this building will be a restaurant, a terrace, and room to display a multitude of Porsche models. The heart of the facility will be made up of a 2.5 km racetrack that will allow visitors to sample some of the marque’s finest models. In addition, there will be a dedicated off-road track as well as more than 30.000 square meters of space for safe driving and dynamic driving courses, including a Low Friction Circle and a Kick-Plate track. Porsche expects the Franciacorta site to attract 20.000 visitors annually. Complementing the racetrack experience will be an advanced Simulation Lab offering virtual reality driving experiences. The site will also house an electric go-kart track and local customers will have the chance to have their new Porsches delivered to the site should they choose. Porsche Experience Center Franciacorta joins similar facilities in Leipzig, Silverstone, Atlanta, Le Mans, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Hockenheimring. “The Experience Centers embody what Porsche is all about: first-hand experience that gets under your skin”, member of the executive board for sales and marketing at Porsche Detlev von Platen said. “Franciacorta will be a further contact point for customers and fans from all over Europe who want to experience the Porsche feeling for themselves”. +++ 

+++ The PSA GROUP will build a battery cell factory in Kaiserslautern, Opel chief executive Michael Lohscheller said, in a step which creates 2.000 jobs at a site which is heavily dependent on making parts for combustion-engined cars. “We will build the largest plant for battery cells in Germany in Kaiserslautern. Together with our Partner Saft we are making an investment in the €1 billion range that will lead to the creation of 2.000 jobs. By doing do, we are building a true giga factory”, Lohscheller said. “This marks the start of the transition to a future-proof e-mobility site”. A joint venture between French energy major Total and PSA will aim to produce batteries for 1 million electric vehicles per year by 2030, Total chief executive officer Patrick Pouyanne said. “That will be around 10 % to 15 % of the market and will require €5 billion in investments. It is an important bet”. Pouyanne said at the launch of a pilot line for the project in southwest France. The project, through a joint venture of both companies known as Automotive Cell Company (ACC), is backed by the French and German governments and the European Union, as the bloc races to build a competitive battery sector to challenge Asian dominance. In December, the European Commission approved €3.2 billion of state aid from seven countries for research and development projects in the battery sector, including the Total-PSA project. The project will receive €1.3 billion in public funding during the development phase, Total said. “We need to move fast. Our clients are asking for electric batteries because Europe is demanding it. We have to launch the industrial phase to produce the batteries by 2023/2024 in France and Germany with Opel”, Pouyanne added. The first phase will trigger the investment decision for a large-scale production plant of 8 gigawatt hour (GWh) initially, which will be ramped up to 24 GWh later. A second production plant of equal capacity will be constructed in Germany, taking the combined capacity to 48 GWh by 2030, Total said in a statement. The battery technology will be provided by Total’s battery subsidiary Saft. It said the high performance lithium-ion batteries will offer the highest level of energy performance, both in terms of range and charging time, and a lower carbon footprint than the competition. “I am convinced that this project, with our partner Total/Saft, will create a benchmark player in automotive battery cell development and production in Europe”, Carlos Tavares, PSA group chairman, said in the statement. Europe’s electric vehicles market is estimated to reach around 400 GWh in 2030, or 15 times current needs, corresponding to more than seven million electric vehicles. +++ 

+++ The ability to improve your car’s SOUND SYSTEM simply by downloading new software could become reality as manufacturers and their suppliers look to find new ways to upgrade existing cars during their lifetime. Buying premium audio at a later date is the brainchild of American company Harman, which has a significant presence in the automotive field through its Harman Kardon, JBL, Mark Levinson and Bang & Olufsen brands. This seemingly impossible task, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in the US, will be made possible as wireless software updates become more prevalent. Harman’s pitch to car makers is that they install slightly better speakers and more computer power into models sold with the base audio system, then persuade the customer to buy an upgrade from whichever audio brand they prefer. Harman argues that tuning audio systems via software is nothing new, and that they already do it to achieve a certain quality of sound to suit each particular brand. Those unconvinced will be able to download a trial or receive a demonstration at a dealership. Harman is currently talking to car makers about offering the digital upgrade; it estimates this will be slightly cheaper than the current premium option, which costs around $1.000 in the U.S. Harman also suggested that rental companies could offer temporary upgrades for customers who value better sound in their hire cars. Wireless upgrades were a big topic at CES as car makers figure out how to boost revenue by enabling customers to add more features over the life of the car, much like many do with smartphones. They argue that this would keep the car up to date and therefore could boost residual values. Audi, for example, showed different on-demand options, such as upgraded parking assistance. “You have the decision to upgrade the car at any point later, and that’s a huge difference to what we have now, because you have to make a decision when you purchase the car”, said Jana Ackermann, the company’s electronic modules manager. One advantage presented by upgrades and add-ons after purchase of the car is that they wouldn’t increase its list price, she added. This would reduce taxes affected by list price, such as benefit-in-kind tax for company car users in the U.K. +++


+++ Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) boss Ralf SPETH will step down from his role as executive director and chief executive officer in September, the company has confirmed. A statement issued by Mr Chandrasekaran, chairman of parent company Tata Motors, confirmed that Speth “has agreed to maintain his relationship with JLR by becoming non-executive vice chairman”. He will also keep a place on the board of holding company Tata Sons. A search committee has been formed to look for Speth’s successor, Chandrasekaran revealed. He also praised the CEO for his “passion and commitment over the last 10 years”, turning JLR “from a niche UK-centric manufacturer to a respected, technological leading, global premium company”. Speth said in a statement: “I feel very honoured to have worked with so many dedicated and creative people, both inside and outside of JLR. We have elevated Jaguar and Land Rover. We offer our customers multi-award-winning products and will continue to surprise with the best pipeline of new innovative products we have ever had”. German-born engineer Speth has been in charge of Jaguar Land Rover since 2010, when Tata bought the company from Ford. During the past decade he has helped the firm to grow substantially, leading an expansion of its model range and a major push into new markets. The firm has opened production plants in China, the US and Slovakia, and widely expanded the company’s line-up, including ground-breaking models such as the electric I-Pace. But JLR has struggled in recent years, with falling demand for diesel engines and a dip in sales in China leading to a series of major losses. That prompted the firm to launch a £2.5 billion cost-cutting drive, including a number of job losses, which helped the firm to return to profit last year. Speth has led the company since 2010 during which it has pursued a major global expansion with new factories in China, Brazil and Slovakia putting it on course to make 1 million cars per year. But sales ended last year at just over 550.000 vehicles as the firm was slower than some rivals in electrifying its line-up whilst large drops in diesel demand and a slump in China, the world’s biggest autos market, hit its performance. JLR posted a 6 % decline in 2019 sales but it has bounced back in China in recent months and overall company sales rose by 1.3 % in December. +++ 

+++ The request from Mahindra is simple: Please lend us 270 billion won ($229 million) for SSANGYONG , our car-making subsidiary. For the Korea Development Bank (KDB), the South Korean auto company’s main bank, it might just be worth approving the loan, even though the manufacturer has been in the red for almost 3 years, its stock has fallen more than 70 % in 4 years and the company lacks a clear recovery plan. It could be a bad bet worth taking. Mahindra managing director Pawan Goenka said in a meeting with employees last week that SsangYong needs 500 billion won over the next 3 years to return to black. Goenka was in Seoul for discussions with KDB Chairman Lee Dong-gull to discuss how to get the Korean car company back on track. Mumbai-based Mahindra will invest 230 billion won in SsangYong if its board approves, which means the rest (270 billion won) needs to come from other entities. History doesn’t bode well for the bank’s participation. When GM Korea was facing possible bankruptcy in 2018, and a permanent halt in operations in Korea was a possibility, the KDB poured in a total of 800 billion won into the Korean unit of General Motors, becoming the second-largest shareholder in the process. General Motors promised in return that it would maintain its production volume and manufacturing facilities for more than 10 years. But the arrangement has been brought into question. When GM Korea joined the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association last year, the company seemed to be signaling a possible surrender of its domestic manufacturing business and a shift to becoming just an importer. General Motors is engaged in global restructuring efforts to cut costs, which has made the end of GM Korea’s operations a possible outcome, a measure that could leave thousands of workers laid off. As survival is in question, the KDB has been publicly criticized for wasting taxpayer money in saving a company that still might pull operations from the country and leave thousands unemployed. The KDB doesn’t have any equity in the car company. Mahindra owns 72.85 % of SsangYong and the rest is owned by smaller investors. In March 2011, the Indian company acquired a 70 % stake of SsangYong in bankruptcy proceedings for 523 billion won. In 2019, SsangYong sold a total of 135.235 vehicles; down 5.6 % from 2018. The automaker’s earnings results are expected to be released in coming weeks. Analysts say it is almost certain that SsangYong remained in red again last year. It reported a net loss of 107.9 billion won in the third quarter last year, with revenue falling 7.2 % from 901.5 billion won in the same period a year earlier to 836.4 billion won. The company has accumulated more than 300 billion won in losses and recorded net loss for 11 consecutive quarters. A SsangYong spokesperson said that the automaker has no plans for new models this year and has yet to commit to future business plans. The automaker is more focused on improving its financial structure and is only planning to release modified versions of its current lineup to the market. He added that the only business initiative that remains under consideration for certain at this point is a plan for releasing electric vehicles between late this year and early next year. The main factor in favor of the deal on the table is the threat of mass unemployment if SsangYong shuts down. The possibility could be enough to convince the bank to sign on the dotted line. If SsangYong goes bankrupt and closes, its 5.013 employees could lose jobs immediately. It also has 240 subcontractors and suppliers, and the loss of SsangYong business could force them to lay off employees. Experts contend that the KDB will eventually have to pour in funds, as a decision not to help SsangYong could hurt the ruling Democratic Party in the April general election. “If considering how big the impact will be in terms of job losses and potential public backlash directed at the ruling party, the Korea Development Bank will have no choice but to throw in cash for SsangYong”, said Kim Pil-soo, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University. “But if the funds are to be poured in, the money should be used to teach SsangYong how to catch a fish, not just feeding fish to it”. Kim said the KDB should be directing the possible investment toward enhancing SsangYong Motor’s research and development capabilities, which will help the cash-strapped automaker in developing new vehicles and broadening its product portfolio. “Thankfully, the union and management are together for survival and have no conflict issues, which could provide a boost for SsangYong in launching new initiatives”, he added. SsangYong concluded wage agreements successfully for 10 years running, and considering financial difficulties of the automaker, its unionized workers have voluntarily been compromising on compensation. +++ 

+++ Zero-emission cars will be a road test of conglomerate power. Tata is drawing on expertise from across its $160 billion empire to support an electric vehicle initiative. Patriarch Ratan Tata attended Tuesday’s unveiling of the Nexon EV in Mumbai along with bosses of more than a half-dozen related companies. If the plan works, it could deliver rare and valuable synergies. The bold strategy signals a strong commitment to turn TATA MOTORS into a force in green cars. The Indian government, keen to reduce pollution and high oil import bills, wants 30 % of new passenger vehicles sold to be electric by 2030, up from less than 1 % of the 3.4 million sold in the year to March. But they are already popular for fleet customers and volumes will rise as battery costs fall and more models become available. China’s Great Wall Motors, for example, is widely expected to roll out a super-cheap model in India next month. Tata Motors will have been able to move faster, thanks to its ownership of Jaguar Land Rover. The Indian group is tapping many other parts of the realm, too. Tata Power, for example, will have 650 charging stations across the country over the next year. Owners of Tata-branded cars will have priority access and tariffs. Meanwhile, Tata’s partnerships should in theory be less messy than the sorts of outside deals struck by Tesla with Panasonic and General Motors with LG Chem. The Indian group is tapping many parts of the realm, allowing it to move faster. Tata AutoComp will assemble power packs, retail chain Croma is set to sell vehicles to its electronics customers and Tata Motors Finance will provide flexible financing. Tata Consultancy Service has built an app to make related payments and more. Tata Chemicals will explore recycling batteries, but the group won’t have any obvious advantage in the global race to secure critical raw materials cobalt and lithium. Even so, it’s a potentially lucrative way to extract value from a sprawling outfit. Few beyond entertainment powerhouse Walt Disney have mastered the form. Tata is tightlipped on how much money its various divisions are investing in the electric-vehicle push. In a fast-moving industry, though, Tata will need to ensure its ”in-house” partners and suppliers stay competitive on quality and price. It’ll be a corporate triumph to get the project humming on all cylinders. The corona virus outbreak in China could hit profits at luxury carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), parent Tata Motors said; the latest company to warn of an impact from the epidemic that has killed 170 people and forced businesses to suspend operations. It could hamper JLR production in China as the epidemic has raised concerns that thousands of Chinese factory workers on extended Lunar New Year holidays may struggle to get back to work next week due to extensive travel restrictions. The Indian carmaker said the outbreak could impact its profit margin forecast of around 3 % for the JLR unit in fiscal 2020 at a time when it was making progress on a turnaround plan to improve sales in China. Several companies including Tesla, Apple and Starbucks have warned of a possible impact from the outbreak. “We need to see when people come back and resume work, how soon they can replenish pipeline inventory”, chief financial officer PB Balaji said as the company reported its third-quarter results. A 24 % rise in sales at JLR in China in the latest quarter helped the company beat profit expectations however. Tata Motors said it expects capital spending at JLR to rise to 4 billion pounds ($5.26 billion) in 2021 from 3.6 billion pounds in 2020. Tata Motors last year mapped a revival plan for JLR and decided to cut around 10 % of its workforce, following a drop in sales at the unit. The company’s overall revenue from operations fell 6.8 % to 716.76 billion rupees in the quarter as its home market, India, faces an economic slowdown. Tata Motors, like the rest of the auto industry in India, has been struggling with tighter credit and higher insurance costs, which have bruised demand and caused a pile-up of inventory. +++ 

+++ TESLA has entered into a partnership with South Korea’s LG Chem and China’s CATL for supply of batteries used in its electric cars, the company said. Tesla, which has a long-standing battery supply agreement with Japan’s Panasonic, said its pact with LG Chem and CATL was at a smaller scale. Last year, reported on Tesla’s talks with LG Chem to source batteries for vehicles to be made in its Shanghai plant. A source had also told that the electric carmaker may source batteries from CATL in the future. +++ 

+++ The TESLA MODEL S & MODEL X are set to receive a handful of upgrades for the 2021 model year. One of the most important updates for 2021 will be the introduction of wireless phone charging for the Model S and Model X; features Tesla has sorely lacked in recent years despite the tech-focused nature of the electric car manufacturer. Tesla recently updated its website to include the wireless phone charger as a standard feature for the Model S and Model X. Also, 2 new battery types will be available for the Model S and Model X in several configurations, but the capacities of these units remain unclear. The new batteries could see the Model S and Model X switch from their traditional 18650 battery cells to the more advanced 2170 cells of the Model 3. It’s also possible that models with larger battery capacities than the current 100 kWh pack are just around the corner. Other upgrades include something dubbed “new lumbar” (perhaps new seats) and a new charge port type that may allow Tesla owners to use CCS charging stations. Also mentioned is a new suspension system that will likely offer improved ride comfort. No mention is made about the 2021 modelyear Model S and Model X receiving the same horizontally-oriented infotainment display as the Model 3 and Model Y, as some recent reports have indicated. Tesla is expected to announce these new features and upgrades imminently. +++ 

+++ The all-new TESLA MODEL Y crossover has entered the first phase of production at the company’s facility in Fremont, California. Tesla says the first examples will reach American customers at the end of spring this year. European customers will have to wait a little longer for the Model Y, because Tesla’s current estimates place delivery dates for these regions at the end of summer. When it does eventually arrive in Europe, the Tesla Model Y will be priced from around €65,000 in The Netherlands The update was issued in the company’s yearly financial report, alongside Tesla’s projected sales figures. Currently, the Fremont facility is churning out Model 3s and Model Ys at a combined rate of 400.000 annual units, but once the company has finished upgrading its production lines, that number is expected to swell to a total of 500.000 units. Tesla also aims to start construction of the Model Y at its plant in Shanghai later this year, at a capacity of 150.000 annual units. The company is also preparing its European production site in Berlin-Brandenburg, which is set to deliver its first customer vehicles in 2021. In addition, Tesla has fiddled with the Model Y’s powertrain and battery pack, increasing the Dual Motor AWD variant’s maximum claimed WLTP range from to 500 kilometres; giving it an extra 55 kilometres of range over the 62 kWh Hyundai Kona electric. The upgrade means the Model Y has one of the longest claimed ranges of any electric car on the market. The styling of Tesla’s baby crossover is inspired by its larger sibling, the Model X. It retains the X’s 5-door silhouette, blanked-off radiator grille, pair of narrow LED headlights and neat ducktail spoiler. However, the ‘Falcon Wing’ doors have been omitted, probably for reasons of cost and complexity. Most of the Model Y’s interior is lifted from the Model 3. Features include a minimalist dashboard, a panoramic glass roof, a wireless smartphone charger and an enormous 15-inch, centre-mounted infotainment screen, which controls everything on the car; from its navigation system to its glove-box lid. Like the Model X, the Model Y offers seating for up to 7, thanks to a pair of stowable seats behind the second row. However, Musk confirmed the extra seating will only be available as an optional extra. Musk claims that the Model Y “will have the functionality of an SUV, but the capability of a sports car”, promising neat handling, thanks to its low-mounted battery pack. It also has a drag coefficient of 0.23, making it more streamlined than a Toyota Prius. +++


+++ Car production in the UNITED KINGDOM (UK) dropped for the third straight year in 2019 to fall to the lowest output since 2010, according to newly released figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The 1.3 million production figure was a 14.2 % drop on 2018 and more than 400.000 units down on the highest figure in modern times of 1.72 million units in 2016. SMMT boss Mike Hawes said the latest fall was down to weakened business and consumer confidence in the UK, the continued drop in demand for diesel models (of which the UK is a large producer) across Europe and a drop in demand in key export markets, including China, Japan and the US. Now that the prospect of remaining within a customs union with the EU has been removed, Hawes has also called on the British government to ensure a free trade agreement with the European Union that includes tariff-free and quota-free trade between the UK and EU for the automotive industry in a trading deal that the Government has said it will negotiate before the UK/EU’s post-Brexit transition deal on current terms expires at the end of 2020. That’s significant because 81 % of all cars built in the UK last year were exported, with the EU taking almost 55 % of that figure at 576.000 units. Hawes said there is a desire from automotive industries on both sides of the Channel to strike such a deal, given that the UK imported more than 1.6 million vehicles from the EU in 2019; some 7 out of 10 of all cars sold here. “We are still very dependent on the EU for exports and imports”, he said. Striking such a deal will not only preserve that trade, believes Hawes, but also free up an expected bottleneck of decisions from car manufacturers to invest in UK production sites due to uncertainty around the UK/EU future trading deal, most notably with the PSA Group’s delayed decision on whether Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port factory will build the next-generation Astra. Hawes believes delays on decisions like this show that the UK car industry is not in cyclical decline, with car makers believing they can grow businesses here with the right conditions. Hawes has made clear to the Government, including business secretary Andrea Leadsom, the SMMT’s position on what a future trade deal should look like, and while he doesn’t know whether the Government would extend the current transition phase beyond the current 31 December deadline, he does expect the UK’s position on what that trade deal should look like to become clear in the space of a few months to allow the delayed investment decisions to be made. Should the UK diverge from the EU regulations in the automotive industry, there have already been warnings from the likes of Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson that the range of models offered would be reduced to British buyers due to the increased costs and complexities of meeting regulations for an additional market. Some 400 models are offered for British buyers, so each would need to be developed to meet UK regulations, with associated costs. Fresh investment into the UK car industry stood at £1.1 billion in 2020, most of which came from Jaguar Land Rover’s announcement that it would build electric cars including the next Jaguar XJ in the UK. That figure is 60 % lower than the rolling 7-year average of £2.75 billion into the UK industry, which has benefited from many of its highest-volume models having been committed to being produced in the UK before the Brexit decision. While production in the UK should stay largely stable to the short to medium term, it’s investment in replacements for these cars and additional models that has not been forthcoming. There was better news in 2019 for the UK’s smaller, specialist car makers, including the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce, whose combined production rose 16.2 % to just over 30.000 units. Alternatively fuelled vehicle production, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars, also increased by more than a third, to total just under 200.000 of all vehicles produced. The SMMT projects that there will be a further fall in UK car production in 2020, dropping to 1.27 million units, despite there being an expected positive impact from the likes of the Sunderland-built all-new Nissan Juke and the first full-year production of the Toyota Corolla in Derbyshire. An all-new Nissan Qashqai, Britain’s most-exported new car, will have its first full year in production in 2021. That should help compensate for some of the lost production when Honda’s Swindon plant closes at the same time. +++

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