Newsflash: nieuwe Nissan 370Z krijgt retro design

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+++ The BMW M GmbH division is celebrating its best year ever after delivering 135.829 vehicles worldwide in 2019; an increase of 32.2 % year-over-year. The company touts itself as the “most successful manufacturer in its segment” of “performance / high performance automobiles”. Although, with brands like Porsche moving 280.800 units last year, it seems like the company is using a creative method of determining what “most successful” means. “We are very proud of the fact that we have been able to acquire market leadership in the performance / high performance automobile segment for the first time in the almost 50 years of the company’s history”, Markus Flasch, CEO of the BMW M GmbH, said in the announcement of the strong year. The United States was the biggest market for M vehicles with 44.442 deliveries. In Germany, 26.110 models went to customers, which was enough for second place. The United Kingdom was the third biggest country with 17,688 units. By percentage of volume, Switzerland was the largest buyer of M models by accounting for over 22 % of all BMW deliveries. The M division enters 2020 with an onslaught of fresh products like the latest generations of the X5 M and X6 M, in addition to the M8 Gran Coupe and M2 CS. The new M3 and M4 are on the way later in the year. BMW’s teaser indicates they make over 500 hp and the figure might even be higher than the 510 hp output for the X3 M and X4 M. +++ 

+++ FORD has invested €42 million in preparing its production facility in Valencia, Spain for the introduction of hybrid versions of the S-Max and Galaxy. As part of the investment, the factory will gain 2 new assembly lines for the production of lithium/ion battery packs for the electrified MPVs and hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants of the new Kuga. The new versions of the Galaxy and S-Max will use the same powertrain as the Kuga, mating a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder petrol engine to a 48 volt electric motor and an underfloor battery pack. Power is sent to the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Performance details are unconfirmed, but Ford claims the MPV duo have a target output of 200 hp and 200 Nm and will emit around 140 g/km of CO2. Both will be capable of running in electric-only mode for short journeys. Regenerative braking will capture up to 90 % of usually wasted energy to charge the battery, while electrically assisted steering, airconditioning, cooling and vacuum systems are said to reduce strain on the engine. The S-Max will continue to be available in 5- and 7-seat configurations, while the Galaxy gets 7 seat as standard. The hybrid models can be expected to command a premium over their conventionally fuelled counterparts. The hybrids will go on sale in 2021, following the completion of the Spanish battery production facility. They’re part of Ford’s commitment to introduce 14 electrified models to its European line-up by the end of 2022. Ford’s European president Stuart Rowley said: “With electrification fast becoming the mainstream, we’re increasing our investment in Valencia to provide even more electrified models and powertrain options for our customers. By making it easier than ever to transition into an electrified vehicle, we expect the majority of our passenger vehicle sales to be electrified by the end of 2022”. The Ford Mondeo, which is currently produced at the Valencia plant, is expected to be reinvented in 2021 as a high riding stationwagon, called Stormtrak. +++ 

+++ More than 1.350 temporary workers at 14 GENERAL MOTORS facilities in the U.S. will get full-time positions before the end of March, the company says. The workers will start at $21 to $24 per hour depending on their seniority and will get improved health care benefits at a low cost, dental and vision benefits, company contributions and annual profit-sharing checks. Eventually they’ll reach the top wage for a full-time production worker of $32.32 per hour. The manufacturing plants and other sites are in Michigan, Indiana, New York, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky, GM said in a statement. The workers got a path to full-time status in contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers union and the company. The agreement came after a contentious 40-day strike last fall that crippled GM’s U.S. production and cost the company well over $1 billion. Temporary workers can get permanent jobs after 2 or 3 years depending on their start dates, but they start at the low end of a pay scale, so people doing the same work can end up at different pay rates. +++ 

+++ The former chief executive of Renault, Carlos GHOSN , who fled Japan while awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges, is seeking the payment of a retirement payment by the French carmaker that he says was unfairly withheld. Ghosn has filed a complaint with a French employment tribunal in Boulogne-Billancourt outside Paris, when Renault is headquartered, a source close to Ghosn told. A Renault spokesman said the company had received notice of the lawsuit in December. Both sides said a hearing is expected at the end of February, without giving a precise date. The claim focuses on the payment of a retirement benefit of €250,000 which Renault did not pay on the grounds that Ghosn quit at the end of January 2019 while he was still in prison in Japan. Ghosn, 65, was arrested in Tokyo in November 2018 on charges of financial misconduct while head of Renault’s alliance partner Nissan, including a claim he under-reported millions of dollars in salary. However, his team argues Ghosn did not quit of his own free will but left the company as he was no longer able to lead it from behind bars. A source close to Ghosn also added that an even larger claim is planned at a French commercial court to obtain an annual supplementary pension of €774,774 per year, as well as 380,000 shares granted for reaching performance targets. These shares, handed out from 2015-2018 on the condition he was still at the firm 4 years later, are now worth €15.5 million at current prices. Ghosn fled Japan for Lebanon in late January while awaiting a trial he said would not be fair under Japan’s legal system. +++ 

+++ GREAT WALL has agreed to buy General Motors’ car plant in India, the companies said, as the Chinese automaker expands overseas amid slowing domestic demand. The deal, which is expected to be completed by the second half of 2020, will jumpstart Great Wall’s plans to build and sell cars in India and bring to an end GM’s manufacturing operations in the country. People aware of the deal told that the 2 companies had agreed on the sale, with one of the sources adding that Great Wall is likely to pay around $250 million to $300 million to acquire the plant. “The Indian market has great potential, rapid economic growth and a good investment environment. Entering the Indian market is an important step for Great Wall Motors’ global strategy”, Liu Xiangshang, vice president, global strategy at the Chinese automaker said. Great Wall, one of the biggest sellers of SUVs in China, plans to enter India with its Haval and electric vehicle brands and will announce detailed plans at the Delhi auto show in February, Liu said in the statement. Chinese automakers are accelerating plans to build cars in India to combat slowing sales at home and have been encouraged by the initial success of rival SAIC Motor in the country. Although car sales in India are also stuttering, the market is expected to become the world’s third biggest by 2026, behind China and the United States. However, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford and GM are scaling back in India after battling it out in one of the world’s most competitive markets, which is dominated by smaller, low-cost cars made by Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai. GM, which stopped selling cars in India at the end of 2017, has already sold its other plant to SAIC, where the Chinese automaker builds cars under its British brand, MG Motor. Although the American automaker continued to build small cars for export at its plant in Talegaon in Maharashtra state, it has been exploring strategic options for the site, Julian Blissett, senior vice president, GM International Operations said in the statement. “Our decision to cease production at Talegaon is based on GM’s global strategy and optimization of our manufacturing footprint around the world”, Blissett said, adding that the company will provide support to employees affected by the decision. Great Wall is expected to upgrade and modify GM’s plant to suit its needs and set up a base for its suppliers, said one of the sources, adding that the automaker expects to begin production within a year. The plant is expected to have an annual production capacity of about 150,000-160,000 vehicles, the source said. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI is backing a UK electric vehicle startup that plans to begin selling battery-powered delivery vans in 2021, the companies said. Hyundai and sister firm Kia are making the investment of €100 million in Arrival Ltd. Founded in 2015 and based in London, Arrival has developed a boxy, futuristic-looking shuttle bus aimed at the commercial delivery market. The company said its van will have a range between charges of 500 kilometres. In a statement, Arrival said it will work with Hyundai and Kia to develop a variety of electric vehicles, initially for the commercial market. Those vehicles will be built on Arrival’s modular vehicle platform or “skateboard” that bundles motor, batteries and chassis components, similar to the skateboard developed by U.S. startup Rivian. Rivian is backed by Ford and Amazon and has a contract to build 100.000 electric delivery vans for the e-commerce giant, starting in 2021. Hyundai and Kia last year invested $89 million in Rimac Automobili, a 9 year old Croatian company aspiring to build electric supercars that is also backed by Porsche. Arrival said its vehicles will be equipped with advanced driver assist features and can be upgraded with self-driving systems. The vehicles are designed to sell for the same price as similar models powered by internal combustion engines and to be built in small ‘microfactories’. That strategy is the opposite of U.S. electric vehicle rival Tesla which uses massive ‘gigafactories’. Last fall, Arrival, which until now has operated largely in stealth mode, hired General Motors veteran Michael Ableson to head its new North American operations. With a small factory in Banbury, England, Arrival said it now has 800 employees in 5 countries, including Germany, Russia and Israel. Arrival previously said it would use BlackBerry’s QNX operating system to connect safety features in its electric vehicles. Arrival said its prototype delivery vans are being tested by the Royal Mail, DHL and UPS. +++ 

+++ 2 months ago, NISSAN celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Z sports car and what better time to talk about the 370Z successor than now. Now there is preliminary information about the new coupe by sources close to Nissan, and it’s probably safe to say the new Z is already shaping up quite nicely, even before we’ve seen actual test prototypes. The new Z sports car will get a design inspired by the original 240Z, at least at the front, while the overall shape and size will remain relatively unchanged compared to the outgoing 370Z. “They’re going back to the roots of the car”, a source told after seeing the new 2-door car at dealer meetings. On the inside, expect to see a mix of design cues shared with some of Nissan’s latest models, including the new Altima and Sentra. The most important change will be the addition of a proper infotainment system, which is something the current 370Z doesn’t offer. As far as the powertrains are concerned, look for a version of Nissan’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine from the Infiniti Q50 / Q60 400 Red Sport duo. Initially, it will be mated exclusively to a 9-speed automatic but a stick shift option will be announced later during the model’s lifecycle. The report also goes on to claim a hotter Nismo version is possible with power close to 500 hp. While we are happy to hear Nissan is already working on a successor to today’s 370Z, it’s too early to provide a hard date for a debut at this point. We are probably 18 – 24 months away from seeing the new 2-door vehicle but Nissan didn’t confirm this information. Still, it’s most likely coming sooner than later as “it’s part of what makes Nissan, Nissan”, as Stephanie Brinley, IHS Markit principal automotive analyst, says. +++ 

+++ RENAULT said it expected a slight decline in the car market in Europe, Russia and China this year after the French carmaker reported a 3.4 % fall of worldwide sales to 3.75 million units in 2019 as China and Iran weighed. Sales grew by 1.3 % to 1.94 million units in Europe but fell 17.2 % in China to 179.571 units. Sales also fell by 19.3 % to to 453.223 units in Africa, Middle East, India and the Pacific region, Renault said in a statement. Renault has suffered since August 2018 from the closure of the Iranian market where the company sold had around 101.000 vehicles, which it was not able to do last year. Excluding Iran, sales in the region were down 1.3 %, Renault said. In 2019, sales were also down 44.5 % in Argentina and 26.5 % in Turkey. Renault’s executive vice president for sales, Olivier Murguet, said at a press conference that the automotive market would slightly decline in Europe, Russia and China in 2020. The company also expects growth in the market in Brazil and an upturn in Turkey this year. “For the group, 2020 will mark a new stage in its electric offensive with the launch of Twingo Z.E. and the deployment of its new E-Tech hybrid and E-Tech Plug-in hybrid offer”, Renault said. Murguet said the company was targeting 70 % growth in its electric cars sales in 2020. French rival PSA yesterday reported a 10 % fall in 2019 global sales to 3.49 million units, down from a record 3.88 million, hurt by falls in China, the Middle East and Africa. Worldwide sales of the Renault brand fell by 6.9 % to 2.36 million. Global sales of Renault full-electric vehicles grew by 24 % to 62.447, including a 19 % increase for the Zoé to more than 47.000, and a 19 % rise for the Kangoo Z.E. to more than 10.000 units. Murguet said Renault would benefit in 2020 from full-year sales of the fifth-generation Clio and the second-generation Captur. The group’s budget brand, Dacia, increased sales by 10 % in Europe. Its Lada Russian brand gained 0.6 % to to 362.356, with a 21 % market share. The Renault brand was up 5.8 % in Russia, helped by the launch of the Arkana, a crossover based on the compact Kadjar. Renault also pulled out of a sales slump in India, gaining 7.9 % in a market that fell by 11 %. The Triber, a 7-seat version of the Kwid minicar, sold 24.142 units after its launch in August, Renault said. Renault also said it will launch a full-electric version of the Twingo. The Twingo was developed with Daimler’s Smart ForFour, which is built in an electric version. Renault did not provide any other details about the Twingo EV. Renault also said that it would continue to sell the 4th generation of its Clio alongside the latest model. +++

+++ SKODA is planning its most comprehensive Octavia RS line-up yet, with sources at the company hinting that the new models will be the fastest and most focused to wear the RS performance badge so far. Standard versions of the new-generation Octavia were unveiled late last year, but the new RS badged performance models are due to make their debut at the Geneva motor show in March, with a plug-in hybrid variant set to join the RS range for the first time. The new PHEV version promises to offer the most potent version yet of the drivetrain already seen in the Volkswagen Golf GTE. As before, there will also be 2.0-litre petrol and diesel RS models, with the former promising even more power than its 245 hp predecessor. However, sources suggest that the plug-in hybrid version will match the petrol in terms of outright power. That means the now-familiar combination of a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, mated to a DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, should be good for 245 hp and as much as 400 Nm. However, the heavier plug-in is expected to be slightly slower off the line than its petrol-only sibling, with a 0-100 kmph sprint time of around 7 seconds. The acceleration deficit is largely down to extra mass. The addition of the electric motor and a rear-mounted battery pack (suggested to have a capacity of up to 13 kWh) add in excess of 200 kg to the kerb weight, but that will be offset in part by instant, electric-propelled torque and the ability to run for up to 50 kilometres in electric-only mode. The regular petrol is set to be the quickest of the Octavia RS line-up. Details aren’t confirmed, but sources suggest that the Volkswagen Group’s familiar EA888 motor will be tuned to deliver 245 hp, while torque could rise above 370 Nm. Performance is expected to improve over that of the existing car, with the 0-100 kph sprint taking approximately 6.5 seconds. As before, there’s tipped to be a choice of dual-clutch automatic and manual transmissions. However, it’s yet to be confirmed whether either the PHEV or the petrol will get the Volkswagen Group’s VAQ electromechanical limited-slip differential. This hardware did appear on the outgoing RS, so it’s likely to feature once again on the pure-petrol versions. It’s expected that the diesel-powered RS TDI will use essentially the same 2.0-litre engine as before, with 184 hp and 370 Nm. However, changes to the engine’s internals and its management system will ensure that the unit meets the latest stringent emissions regulations. Elsewhere, the vRS is expected to be as versatile as ever. Alongside the 3 different powerplants are the choice of liftback and Combi bodystyles and front- and four- wheeldrive configurations. Externally, it’s expected that the Octavia RS will receive the usual muscular styling makeover and the option of more extrovert colour choices. The interior, meanwhile, will benefit from heavily bolstered sports seats and bespoke trim and graphics. On-sale dates and prices are as yet unknown, but first deliveries are expected at the end of this year. The plug-in hybrid model could prove to be the priciest Octavia yet. +++ 

+++ SOUTH KOREA is no longer a market simply for sales, but also a place for technology partnerships, according to Mercedes-Benz’s Chairman Ola Källenius. Mercedes-Benz has partnerships in Korea “across the board” in terms of technology, from electrification to automation, he noted. “The innovation power of Korean businesses is very strong, and we’re taking benefit from this. I met with them, actually today, and I would say we have a broad commitment to Korea beyond selling just cars”, he said at the Mercedes-Benz CES 2020 booth. Källenius credited the commitment as a reason for the brand’s popularity in Korea. Mercedes-Benz has managed to maintain sales growth despite a general weakness in the imported car market in Korea. Last year, sales were up 10 % for the German carmaker, while overall sales of imported cars slid 6 % during the same period. It ranks as the No. 1 foreign car brand in Korea. Korean customers looking for luxury cars “love our products”, he said, adding that “great dealers” also help. More generally, Mercedes-Benz is facing dramatic changes as the internal combustion engine loses favor. In November, parent company Daimler announced that Mercedes-Benz plans to save more than €1 billion in personnel costs annually by the end of 2022. Källenius identified the shift into electric power as the biggest industrial change for the car industry and the company. The transition requires huge investment, more than for internal combustible engines, that will continue to increase until manufacturers reach a certain level of tech development. “We’re going to face financial pressure from this, certainly up until 2025 and probably beyond, but we will gradually move into a better position”, he said. In that process, at least 10 % of all management positions will have to go in the next 3 years. Traditional powerhouses in the automotive industry also face competition with IT companies making in-roads to car technology. According to Källenius, in the past external partners had supplied software, but now with the sector being ever more important, the company has started to bring the function “gradually more in-house over the years”. “We compete with these tech companies, and we’re not shy, but we cooperate with them as well”, he added. “If you ask MBUX ‘find me a great hotel in Las Vegas’, you will get the answers from TripAdvisor. It would be foolish to think we could develop from the ground up a TripAdvisor-like service – too costly. It does not make sense, and people would probably want TripAdvisor anyways. So compete and cooperate. That’s the name of the game”. +++ 

+++ SUBARU said it aims to lift global production 11 % to a record 1.10 million vehicles in 2020, reflecting solid demand in the U.S. market and a full recovery in domestic output following a series of quality-control scandals. Subaru plans to produce 690.000 and 410.000 vehicles at home and overseas this year, respectively, both up 11 % from 619.000 and 369.000 in 2019. The upbeat plan comes after Japan’s smallest carmaker by volume was forced to slow down domestic production for 11 months through September 2019 to ensure product quality in an effort to restore its brand image, which was tarnished by a series of quality-control issues. The company admitted in 2017 that unauthorized staff had conducted vehicle inspections for more than 30 years in Japan. The maker of the Legacy and the Impreza also had to temporarily halt operations at its vehicle assembly plants in Gunma Prefecture after a powerful typhoon in October disrupted its supply chain. Domestic production dropped 6 % in 2019 from the previous year, while output outside Japan rose 3 %. Subaru expects worldwide sales to rise 3 % to an all-time high of 1.07 million vehicles in 2020, led by 4 % growth in sales in the United States (the biggest market for the company) to 725,000 vehicles. Sales in its home market will remain flat at 131,000 vehicles, Subaru said. +++ 

+++ The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it will review a petition asking the agency to formally investigate 500.000 TESLA vehicles over sudden unintended acceleration reports. The petition covers 2012 through 2019 model year Tesla Model S, 2016 through 2019 Tesla Model X, and 2018 through 2019 Tesla Model 3 vehicles, the agency said. The petition cites “127 consumer complaints to NHTSA involving 123 unique vehicles. The reports include 110 crashes and 52 injuries”, the agency added. In October, the agency said it was reviewing whether Tesla should have recalled 2.000 of its electric cars in May instead of issuing a software upgrade to fix a potential defect that could have resulted in battery fires in Model S and Model X vehicles from the 2012-2019 model years. The vehicles covered by the petition to the NHTSA received a battery management software upgrade in May in response to a potential flaw that could trigger non-crash-related fires. The petition was filed September 17 by the offices of California lawyer Edward C. Chen on behalf of Tesla owners. Chen told that he strongly believes “and various reliable sources have indicated that this number is much larger than 2.000”. The petition review is still pending. Last week, NHTSA said it was launching an investigation into the December 29 crash of a Tesla Model 3 that left a passenger dead after the Tesla collided with a parked fire truck in Indiana. The crash is the 14th involving Tesla that NHTSA’s special crash investigation program has taken up in which it suspects the company’s so-called Autopilot or other advanced driver assistance system was in use. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA said that the automaker will collaborate with U.S. start-up Joby Aviation to develop a mass-produced flying car promptly. Toyota said it has invested $394 million in the California-based firm, which is developing electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft, expected as a solution to traffic issues in urban areas. Toyota will send executive vice president Shigeki Tomoyama to the U.S. firm’s board. The automaker said in a statement that it “will share its expertise in manufacturing, quality and cost controls”. “Air transportation has been a long-term goal for Toyota”, Toyota president Akio Toyoda said in the statement. “As we take up the challenge of air transportation together with Joby, an innovator in the emerging eVTOL space, we tap the potential to revolutionize future transportation and life”, the Toyota chief said. Joby founder and Chief Executive Officer JoeBen Bevirt said: “This collaboration with Toyota represents an unprecedented commitment of money and resources for us, and for this new industry, from one of the world’s leading automakers”. Launched in 2009, the U.S. firm is aiming to offer a flying taxi service using eVTOL aircraft. “I am excited to harness Toyota’s engineering and manufacturing prowess to drive us toward our dream of helping a billion people save an hour-plus commuting time every day”, Bevirt said. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is set to take a 20 % stake in Chinese electric vehicle battery maker Guoxuan High-tech, as the German firm accelerates its electric push into the world’s largest auto market. The deal would mark Volkswagen’s first direct ownership in a Chinese battery maker and comes as the Wolfsburg-based automaker strives to meet a goal of selling 1.5 million new energy vehicles (NEVs) a year in China by 2025, including plug-in hybrid cars. The top foreign automaker in China plans to acquire the stake in Shenzhen-listed Guoxuan via a discounted private share placement in the coming weeks, 2 sources with knowledge of the matter said. Based on Guoxuan’s market capitalization of $2.8 billion; a 20 % stake in the company at present is worth about $560 million. The deal’s details have been mostly finalized and the 2 firms are waiting for new Chinese regulatory rules on private share placements that will provide a more flexible pricing mechanism and shorter lock-up periods for majority shareholders, said one of the people, speaking on condition of anonymity. After the stake purchase, Volkswagen will become the battery maker’s second-largest shareholder with a 20 % stake, behind Zhuhai Guoxuan Trading, a firm controlled by Guoxuan’s founder Li Zhen, which currently holds 25 %. Guoxuan is among a swathe of mid-tier Chinese battery makers behind CATL and BYD. It is based in China’s eastern city of Hefei, where Volkswagen is also building electric vehicles with JAC Motor, one of a number of its Chinese joint venture partners. A third source, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said Volkswagen has long wanted to control a battery maker to better manage its supply chain. To achieve its NEV sales goal in China, Volkswagen has built a new $2.5 billion electric vehicle plant with partner SAIC Motor that will have annual output capacity of 300.000 cars and is also revamping manufacturing facilities in China’s southeastern city of Foshan to build electric cars with partner FAW Group. Volkswagen has also identified CATL as a strategic supplier and Volkswagen board member Stefan Sommer told in July last year that it could even build its own battery cell manufacturing plants in China. “By holding a stake in the top Chinese battery makers, carmakers can gain more bargaining power on battery prices”, said Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based consultancy AutoForesight. “Foreign carmakers are now catching up with their Chinese counterparts on securing battery supplies in China”. Volkswagen’s rivals in China include Tesla, which earlier this month began delivering cars from its $2 billion factory in China. The U.S. electric car maker eventually plans to manufacture 250.000 vehicles a year in the plant’s first phase. China has been a keen supporter of NEV (pure battery electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrids) and has started implementing NEV sales quota requirements for automakers. However, cuts to subsidies have dealt the market a blow, with NEV sales contracting for the first time last year. Sales this year are likely to be flat or rise only slightly, according to China’s top auto industry association. +++

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