Newsflash: opvolger Ford Mondeo komt al in 2021


+++ ALFA ROMEO will unveil a new model on June 24. It’s either a compact crossover or a sporty grand tourer, according to Italian media. The crossover seems far more likely to be the new entry in the lineup. The roadmap, which was presented late last year, indicates a vehicle fitting this description is on the way for 2022. There’s no mention at all of a new performance-oriented product joining the range. As further evidence that Alfa Romeo is unlikely to introduce a sporty model, the company recently dropped plans to introduce new iterations of the 8C and GTV. The automaker said the decision came from a desire to “focus on current market strengths with reduced global reach and overlap with other FCA Group brands”. +++ 

+++ BMW will introduce an i4 concept at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Previous rumours said the German carmaker would show the new 4 Series in Switzerland, so now it’s unclear we’ll see the new model. The i4 won’t be a wild Vision concept. We’ll see a very production-ready concept akin to the M8 Gran Coupe Concept. BMW has already teased i4 specs late last year, along with releasing 2 images of a camouflaged prototype. The company says the EV will produce 530 hp while offering approximately 600 kilometres of range, though it is uncertain which test cycle BMW used to achieve that number. BMW claims the liftback will run 0-100 kph in about 4 seconds, which is quick for a car with a 550 kilo battery pack. The top speed is a modest 200 kph, though still fast enough to break a few laws. The i4 will arrive in the showrooms in 2022 and will utilise the automaker’s fifth-generation eDrive hardware, which puts the electric motor, transmission, and power electronics into a single housing. The tech will debut in the iX3, which will be launched this year, and BMW says charging the battery pack to 80 % will only take about 35 minutes. That’s 100 km of range for every 6 minutes of charging. BMW, like other automakers, are introducing new, electrified models at break-neck speed. It seems like every week there’s a new electric vehicle that’s either teased, produced, or is talked about being teased or produced. For BMW, that means expanding its “i” of electric cars, which could happen much sooner than previously expected. The i4 and iX3 are all apart of BMW’s grand plan to electrifying 25 models (fully electric or hybrid) by 2025. +++ 

+++ In EUROPE , the auto industry is likely to contract this year, industry association ACEA said, fueling concerns that automakers’ best years are behind them for now. Forecasting the first downturn in EU car sales in 7 years, the Brussels-based lobby group said it expects registrations to drop 2 percent in 2020. Sales ended last year 1.2 % higher after a year-end buying spree in December. “One of the biggest drivers of change for our sector is the need to address environmental concerns”, ACEA president Michael Manley said in a statement. “The good news is that carbon-neutral road transport is possible”, he said. A lot needs to change in the next few decades, he said. Manley said Europe’s regulators should ensure that their policies strengthen the industry’s global competitiveness and also keep road transport and mobility affordable for everybody. “At the very time when our industry is massively stepping up investments in zero-emission vehicles, the market is set to contract, not only in the EU but also globally, so the transition to carbon neutrality needs to be very well managed by policy makers”, he said. Automakers in Europe are dealing with pressures on several fronts, with trade tensions between the U.S. and China, as well as regulations taking effect this and next year aimed at lowering carbon emissions. A bright spot for automakers is the rise of electric cars. Electric-vehicle sales are expected to grow 32 % this year. Those will be vital for the continued success of car companies, as the European Union has limited the amount of carbon dioxide car fleets can emit on average to 95 grams per car per kilometer, or face steep fines. Manley, who is also CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, became ACEA head in December. Europe is not the only region facing a tough 2020 for car sales. China, the world’s largest autos market, saw its second annual fall last year, with drops in 18 of the past 19 months. +++ 

+++ FORD will launch the successor for the Mondeo at the end of 2021, a parts tooling catalogue published on its European website appears to confirm. The document, which dictates the specialist tools that dealers will need to work on upcoming models in Ford’s product plan, lists a tool for the rear axle assembly of the “2022 model year CD542”. The CD542 model code is assigned to the replacement for the Mondeo. Ford has decided to not replace the model directly, but it will be succeeded by a cross-over stationwagon with a transverse leaf spring rear axle similar to that used on models such as the Volvo XC90. Such a set-up would help save space for packaging a battery pack, likely for a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Mondeo Hybrid loses much of its luggage space due to the battery pack being mounted under the boot floor. The plug-in hybrid powertrain will likely be the same as the set-up used by the new Kuga PHEV, which combines a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine with a 10.3 kWh battery pack and an electric motor to deliver 225 hp and a 50 kilometre electric-only range. The Mondeo successor is expected to adopt crossover styling cues, although it now looks less likely to be classified as an SUV. The suspension, however, will be raised considerably for a more offroad-like stance. The successor for the Mondeo is intended to be launched in Europe, China and North America and beyond. In the US, the model is being compared by insiders to the Subaru Outback, a very popular high-riding estate car. In 2018, Jim Farley, Ford’s president of new business, technology and strategy, hinted at the move away from conventional cars towards what he called ‘utility’ bodystyles. He said the thinking behind the move into medium-rise crossovers is that customers will get “utility benefits without the penalty of poorer fuel economy”. The name of the successor for the Mondeo will likely be Stormtrak. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI and LG will join hands to produce batteries for electric vehicles. “Hyundai and LG Chem are collaborating to build a battery plant for electric vehicles, but specific details, including the size of the investment and location of the plant, have not yet been decided”, an industry insider said. The companies are said to have established a 50-50 joint venture with the total investment running into the trillions of won (US$1=W1,16). A site in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province owned by Hyundai Steel is being considered for the plant, but they are also considering the option of building it overseas. Hyundai last month announced plans to invest W9.7 trillion in its electric car business by 2025 to become the world’s second-largest manufacturer of EVs. Currently the carmaker uses EV batteries supplied by LG Chem and SK Innovation. As Hyundai recently signed a deal with SK Innovation to buy batteries for 500,000 EVs, SK is likely to remain a supplier for the carmaker even after the joint venture is established. U.S. corporate raider Elliot Management has sold off its entire stake in Hyundai. The ‘activist’ hedge fund, whose sole objective is to extract huge dividends and short-term profits for investors, put $1 billion into Hyundai in April 2018. Financial industry insiders said Elliot sold off its entire 2.9 % stake in Hyundai, 2.6 % stake in Hyundai Mobis and 2.1 % stake in Kia late last year. Armed with those stakes, Elliot tried to block Hyundai’s governance structure reforms while demanding a merger of Hyundai and Mobis, and W8.3 trillion in dividends. But Hyundai succeeded in a counter offensive at shareholders’ meetings last year. Elliot was pushing for the appointment of outside directors who backed its proposals as well as its dividend demands during Hyundai shareholders’ meetings in March last year but was voted down. Instead, Hyundai’s proposal to appoint its own choice of outside directors, investment plans in future mobility vehicles and shareholder return policies won the day. Elliot seems to have concluded that there was no big money to be made and liquidated its holdings when the stock prices edged up late last year. An industry source said, “Elliot thrives by taking advantage of a company’s weaknesses and demanding ultra-high dividends but seems to have exited Hyundai after breaking even”. +++ 

+++ KIA had a good 2019, with net profit rising 58 % as SUVs from Korea’s second-largest carmaker sold well. The 4th quarter was particularly strong. Despite the popularity of the company’s SUVs, especially the Telluride and the Seltos, challenges remained in China and Latin America. Between October and December last year, the company posted net profit of 346.4 billion won ($297 million); up 267.1 % from 94 billion won posted in the same period a year earlier. Operating profit was up 54.6 % to 590.5 billion won from 382 billion won, while revenues increased around 19.5 % on year to 16.1 trillion won. Full-year operating profit jumped 73.6 % to 2.01 trillion won, from 1.16 trillion won in 2018. The net profit surged 58 % on year to 1.83 trillion won, and total revenue was up 7.3 % to 58.1 trillion won. “Continued political and economic instability in some major regions resulted in difficult managerial conditions and sluggish overall market demand”, a Kia investor relations spokesperson said in a conference call. “Although the aggregate sales for all regions, including China, fell, earnings improved from better profits from selling more profitable new cars and favorable value of the won against the dollar”. According to the Bank of Korea, the won traded at 1,175 to the dollar in the fourth quarter, significantly weaker than the 1,127 in the same period a year earlier. If the value of local currency depreciates, Korean exports become more price competitive overseas and profits can increase. During the 4th quarter, Kia sold a total of 728.296 units worldwide; down 1.4 % on year. For the whole year, the company sold 2.77 million vehicles worldwide, also down 1.4 % from a year earlier, which is in line with the global trend of falling demand for new cars. Kia outperformed the overall auto market as its SUVs did well in North America and India. Kia sold 45,000 Seltos small-size SUVs in the Indian market. The automaker also succeeded in the U.S. market with the popularity of the Telluride large-size SUV. Its 2019 sales in China dropped 30.2 % on year while the totals for Russia and Latin America fell 0.9 % and 12.2 %, respectively. The automaker said that in 2020 it plans to continue building its SUV lineup in the global market by introducing new models and expanding production capacity for its best-selling models. Kia plans to roll out the new Sorento n March and introduce a new version of the Carnival MPV by July. To strengthen its competitiveness in the U.S. market, the company is expanding its Telluride production capacity from 80.000 units as of November to 100.000 by July. It is also targeting to introduce the Seltos in the North American market while expanding eco-friendly vehicle options in Europe to meet tightening regulations. The company projects sales to rise 4.9 % in 2020 to 2.96 million units. +++ 

+++ MASERATI has begun testing its first electric powertrain, which will be fitted to the GranTurismo / GranCabrio successor that’s set to be launched in 2021. The prototype test vehicle is based on the GranTurismo, whose production run ended after 12 years in late 2019. Technical details remain unconfirmed, but the replacement for the GranTurismo / GranCabrio can be expected to offer quicker acceleration than its petrol-powered predecessor. Also previewed is the sound of the electric motor. Maserati says that it’s working to ensure the powertrain has “a distinctive sound, already a unique attribute of all Maserati cars equipped with traditional combustion engines”. It’s not yet clear how this will be achieved, but it’s unlikely that the firm will artificially recreate the noise of its V6 or V8 engines. The testing is taking place at private facilities and on surrounding roads, meaning camouflaged prototypes will likely soon be seen in public, giving more clues as to what to expect of the new model. The announcement follows September’s confirmation that Maserati is to extensively upgrade its Turin production facility and launch a wave of new models, including a heavily updated version of the Ghibli with the firm’s first hybrid powertrain. The highly anticipated Alfieri 2-seat sports car will make its debut later this year in a radically different form to the original concept from 2014. It will be available in both plug-in hybrid and fully electric forms. +++ 

+++ Daimler has been forced to reduce its 2020 production targets for the MERCEDES-BENZ EQ C electric car to 30.000 from about 60.000 due to a supply shortage of battery cells from LG Chem. Daimler wanted to sell around 25.000 EQ C vehicles in 2019, but only managed to build around 7.000 for the same reason. The battery cell supply bottleneck comes as carmakers face huge fines next year if they fail to cut their fleet emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) to an average 95 grams per kilometre. Carmakers have been given individual targets based on the weight and size of their vehicle fleet. Daimler had average fleet emissions of 130.4 grams in 2018 and needs to hit a target of 103.1 grams per km by 2021. If Daimler fails to cut its CO2 footprint, it faces a fine of €997 million. In 2018, average CO2 emissions in the European Union rose by 1.6 % to 120.4 grams per km as customers abandoned diesel vehicles and gravitated towards buying bigger vehicles. Figures for 2019 are not yet available. Daimler’s works council chief Michael Brecht told that one of the reasons the company is struggling to meet battery demand is because Tesla bought Grohmann Engineering, a battery automation specialist hired by Mercedes-Benz to build up its own battery manufacturing capacity. This caused problems for Daimler which was in the midst of ramping up electric car battery production at its electric vehicle battery production unit Deutsche Accumotive. The launch of the EQ C has been hampered by production problems, including a recall last October after Daimler identified a potentially defective bolt in the differential. The launch of the EQ C in North America has been postponed by a year, until 2021, because of the production problems. +++ 

+++ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) chief executive Michael Manley said that MERGER talks with PSA to create the world’s No. 4 carmaker are progressing well and he hopes to have a deal within 12-14 months. He said he doesn’t expect any major obstacles that could delay a final agreement. “Talks are progressing really well”, Manley said about negotiations with the French carmaker ahead of a briefing by the European automotive association ACEA, of which he is president. His comments come 1 month after the 2 carmakers agreed a binding deal worth about $50 billion to combine forces in response to a slowdown in global demand and mounting costs of making cleaner vehicles amid tighter emissions regulations. Manley’s timeline for completing the deal by early 2021 is in line with a forecast made by the companies in December. FCA and PSA are now getting into the details of how the merger will work, including choosing which vehicle platforms (the technological underpinnings of a vehicle) will fit which products in a combined company. Because customers in different locations still prefer vastly different cars, there is room for multiple platforms in a combined group, Manley said. “That global platform is an elusive beast”, he added. “This concept of a massive global platform in my mind is almost a myth but that doesn’t mean to say we’re not going to recruit significant volume”. The auto industry faces further consolidation and jobs will migrate to lower-cost countries as companies struggle to develop cleaner vehicles in an economic downturn, Manley said. Tighter emission rules introduced in the wake of Volkswagen’s diesel pollution cheating scandal are forcing carmakers to cut average fleet emissions of carbon dioxide to 95 grams per kilometer in 2021, from an average 118.5 grams per kilometer in 2017. The investments in low-emission powertrains are being made at a time when European passenger car sales are set to drop by 2 % this year after 6 consecutive years of growth, so carmakers will have to cut cost to offset the expense, Manley told. “There will be a migration of jobs to lower-cost countries”, he said, explaining that the cost of low-emission hybrid and electric powertrains are higher than those for combustion engine variants. “This needs to be rebalanced”, Manley said. Carmakers and suppliers will need to make greater use of lower-cost manufacturing locations and seek broader partnerships to share the costs of the investment. “We want to ensure a thriving industry. This will require some consolidation”, Manley said. “People are looking more rationally at regional requirements and regional scale. In terms of number of carmakers that survive, your guess is as good as mine”. The European Union’s Green Deal should be used to strengthen the EU’s industrial base and the global competitiveness of its automobile industry. Any efforts to shift towards a carbon-neutral economy need to be carefully thought through and reviewed. “There will be unintended consequences. Employment is an example”, he said, explaining that electric cars take less time to assemble than combustion-engined equivalents. “The transition to carbon neutrality must be well managed, taking into account social and economic dimensions. Mobility must remain affordable for all European citizens, regardless of where they live or their financial means”, Manley said. Manley called for an EU-wide network of charging points and refuelling stations for both passenger and commercial vehicles. +++ 

+++ The NISSAN LEAF recently reached a cumulative sales milestone of 450.000 (since December 2010). This number is in line with my estimations (450.000-460.000) from the beginning of January. Nissan called the Leaf “the world’s most popular EV”, but we are just weeks from the switch for the first position, as the Tesla Model 3 is outselling it significantly (about 448.634 Model 3 were sold by the end of 2019). Leaf milestones since December 2010 were: 100.000 in 2014, 200.000 in 2015, 300.000 in 2018, 400.000 in 2019 en 450.000 in 2020. It’s a great success for the Leaf to achieve this in about 9 years. Nissan did a great job by acting early in the EV market but unfortunately softened its efforts at a later stage. I hope that Nissan will return in a big way with its new EVs and a new platform. Before that happens, the Japanese manufacturer offers the Leaf in 2 versions (40 and 62 kWh) as well as the e-NV200 (in passenger and cargo versions). The e+ (62 kWh) turns out to be quite a popular option in Europe. Helen Perry, head of electric vehicles for Nissan Europe said: “Anyone who has ever driven a Leaf will know that it is fun to drive. The e+ version adds even more excitement with an amazing 215 hp motor, which (combined with a bigger battery and the e-Pedal) makes the Leaf even more exhilarating. It has been a real hit with customers too, with around 20 % of all sales being this top-of-the-range model”. +++ 

+++ Total has received a contract to install and operate as many as 20.000 new PUBLIC CHARGING POINTS in the Netherlands for electric vehicles. The French oil and gas giant is growing its electric mobility business as part of its foray into cleaner fuels and power generation as European governments introduce more stringent rules on car emissions, which could curb demand for gasoline and diesel fuel sold by Total and its rivals. The contract for the new charging network, set to be Europe’s largest, will span the 3 provinces of North Holland, Flevoland and Utrecht and service 3.2 million people. The move is a “significant and unprecedented step towards sustainable mobility”, Total head of marketing and services Alexis Vovk said in the statement. And is in line with the company’s ambition to operate 150.000 charging points in Europe by 2025 to “become a major player in the electricity mobility business”. Under the contract signed with Metropolitan Region Amsterdam Electric, Total, which already operates more than 4.500 charging points in the region, pledged to use only renewable power to supply the new network, and will study new solar power production opportunities in the area. +++ 

+++ Hyundai said that its vehicles were in first place in 5 segments of the J.D. Power 2019 India Initial QUALITY Study. Of vehicles sold in India, Hyundai’s Santro, Elite i20, Verna, Venue and Creta ranked the highest in the compact, the premium compact, the midsize, compact SUV and SUV segments, respectively, the company said in a statement. Honda’s Amaze and Maruti Suzuki Ertiga ranked highest in the entry midsize and MMPV segments, respectively. Initial quality was measured by J.D. Power by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles for 66 models from 13 brands sold for one year through October 2019, it said. Hyundai expects the J.D. Power study results will boost its sales in India, which fell 7.2 % to 550,000 units last year from 510.000 a year earlier amid a slowdown in the local automobile industry. +++ 

+++ RENAULT chairman Jean-Dominique Senard has dismissed talk of changes in the shareholding structure of the alliance with Nissan, saying any modifications could come after the automakers have turned their struggling operations around. “It’s not a priority”, he said in an interview, adding that strengthening industrial cooperation between the partners and coming up with a coordinated response to the shift to electric cars are more urgent. The future of the partnership was thrown into turmoil over the past year after the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, who led both automakers and headed the alliance that also includes Mitsubishi. Following a change in top management last year at Nissan and the naming of a new CEO at Renault “in the coming days”. Senard said prospects for the venture are improving, without the need for tinkering with the difficult cross-shareholding structure. Ghosn held the partnership together for years despite a lopsided relationship favoring Renault that was put in place when Nissan was in financial difficulty. The French automaker owns 43 % of Nissan, with full voting rights, while the Japanese company holds only a 15 % stake in Renault and lacks the ability to vote its shares. Senard has said the structure could evolve in the future. “Nothing is fixed for eternity”, he said. “One day in the future, if things are settled and rebalanced, why not? It’s not the priority. It’s not at the center of discussions”. Asked whether Renault could sell down its stake in Nissan, he replied that “it’s probably not the right timing in terms of the price of the shares. It could come some day”. The chairman also pushed back on the possibility of more partners for the alliance. “We are not hunting, because we have many things to do, but in the future people might start hunting again within the alliance”. The board of the alliance will decide on new, common projects at a meeting this month, and the partnership is moving toward greater convergence of platforms and technology in the face of the massive investment needed to develop new cars, Senard has said. Renault said France’s anti-corruption agency was carrying out checks at the company, though a source at the carmaker, which was rocked by the arrest of former boss Carlos Ghosn, said the inspection was a routine matter. There was no initial indication that the checks were explicitly linked to judicial investigations into Ghosn, the former head of the Renault-Nissan alliance arrested in Tokyo in late 2018 on financial misconduct charges which he denies. Ghosn fled to Lebanon in late December, and the anti-corruption agency’s probe began shortly before then, a source familiar with the matter said. The company has been in the limelight over the Ghosn scandal for the past year, however, and the source did not rule out this had raised questions over governance at Renault and prompted a closer look. One of the anti-corruption agency’s remits is to ensure that French regulations from 2016 (known as the loi Sapin and aimed at improving financial transparency and helping firms detect irregularities) are being implemented correctly. Other businesses have also been targeted by routine checks into internal procedures, which can lead to financial sanctions if serious flaws are found. “Renault confirms that it has been informed by anti-corruption agency AFA that it is carrying out an inspection of the measures contained in ‘loi Sapin’ ”, a spokeswoman for the carmaker said, adding that the company was cooperating to provide the necessary information and documents. The chief executive of Volkswagen said Luca de Meo, who stepped down as chief executive of the carmaker’s Spanish Seat brand this month, is probably in talks with Renault. The Italian-born de Meo has served as chairman of Seat’s executive committee for 4 years, overseeing a resurgence in the Barcelona-based company’s sales and boosting its prominence within the Volkswagen group. “We are very, very sad that Luca is leaving us because he played a very important role in the group”, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess told. “He did a great job with us but we accepted that he’s going to leave and he’s probably in talks with Renault, that’s what he told us”, Diess said. De Meo has been in talks with Renault but faced a potential hurdle over a stringent non-compete clause in the contract, sources told previously. The French state, which has a stake in Renault, has given its tacit backing to de Meo’s possible appointment. “There’s no reason the state would oppose de Meo’s nomination”, a source at the economy ministry said. +++ 

+++ SUZUKI will stop selling the Jimny in Europe. The small offroader emits too much CO2 for Europe’s strict new emissions regulations. However, it will return as acommercial vehicle. When you think of vehicles that struggle to meet emission standards, the pint-sized Suzuki Jimny probably isn’t on your list. And yet, Suzuki will drop the Jimny from its European lineup because it won’t meet new emission regulations slated to take effect starting next year. Thanks to loopholes it won’t completely disappear, and a revamped model could return down the road. Without going too deep on the European Union’s 2021 emission regulations, automakers must maintain a certain fleet-wide average for CO2 emissions. Despite having a small 1.5-litre petrol engine, the Jimny actually pumps out surprisingly high levels of C02. Combine this with it being an extremely popular vehicle (wait times for a new Jimny are reportedly upwards of a year) and Suzuki’s overall average takes a hit. As such, the Jimny will bow out after this year in Europe but here’s the catch. The standard passenger version will be cut, but a commercial version with small interior changes and no rear seats will emerge in 2021. Commercial vehicles aren’t subject to the same emission standards, so yeah, you might say Suzuki is working the system to its fullest extent. Beyond that, a full-blown passenger version is likely to return with a different engine, but exactly when that might happen is unknown. +++ 

+++ TESLA has overtaken Volkswagen as the world’s second most valuable carmaker behind Toyota, as the meteoric rise in the U.S. electric vehicle maker’s shares reshuffles the global market. Tesla’s stock has more than doubled in value in the last 3 months, with its market capitalization piercing $100 billion; a first for a listed U.S. automaker. During the rally, its value has leapfrogged more established global rivals: Honda, BMW, General Motors and Daimler. Toyota still holds pole position with a market cap of $233 billion. The recent gains have been fueled by a surprise third-quarter profit, progress at a new factory in China and better-than-expected car deliveries in the 4th quarter. Many investors remain skeptical that Tesla can consistently deliver profit, cash flow and growth. But the gains highlight growing confidence among investors about the future of electric vehicles and Tesla’s shift from a niche car maker into a global leader in cleaner cars. A glance at its results shows it has a long way to go before it can eclipse larger rivals. Based on 12-month forward sales estimates, it doesn’t even appear in the top 20 in the world. The company’s sales will reach $31 billion, a slither of Toyota’s $276 billion, Volkswagen’s $283 billion and Daimler’s $191 billion. In the plot of land outside Berlin where Tesla wants to build its first European factory, 7 U.S. bombs from World War Two have been found. The duds weigh about 50 kg each and explosives experts plan to defuse them in future, said a spokesman for the interior minister in the state of Brandenburg where the property is. Tesla has agreed to buy land in Grünheide just outside Berlin where it wants to build a giant factory that would give its cars the “Made in Germany” branding. Tesla’s local rivals are preparing to launch their own range of electric vehicles to compete with the U.S. company, whose decision to produce in Germany is sure to give BMW, Mercedes and Audi a good run for their money. Unexploded bombs are often found in and around German cities, where authorities evacuate residents near the site to ensure their safety while disposal experts defuse them. A 500 kg World War Two bomb was found in the western city of Cologne this week and similar dud was found near a main square in Berlin. Tesla has agreed to pay €40.91 million for the 300-hectare plot for its factory. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA had its credit outlook lowered by Moody’s Investors Service, showing even the world’s most valuable carmaker isn’t safe from turmoil in the industry. The outlook was changed to negative from stable, Moody’s said in a statement as it affirmed its Aa3 rating for the company; the 4th highest level. The Japanese giant has held that rating since 2011. Global car demand is sputtering as consumers move toward ride-sharing services, reducing the need for individual ownership. An industry shift to electric and self-driving vehicles is also forcing manufacturers to increase investment, putting pressure on profit margins. “The change in the outlook to negative reflects the material challenges related to megatrends in the global automotive sector”, Motoki Yanase, a Moody’s senior credit officer, said. Yesterday, Japan’s Rating and Investment Information upgraded Toyota to AAA, making it the only company in the country to have the highest rating, as well as the sole domestic issuer ranked above the sovereign. +++ 

+++ The chairman of TVR has disclosed via a newsletter to prospective owners new developments in the project to build an all-new 500 hp Griffith. The newsletter, written by Les Edgar, was first sent to depositors last month and comes more than 2 years after the Griffith project was first revealed. Since then, bar promises that work will soon start at TVR’s Ebbw Vale factory, all has gone quiet, so the new details will be intended to reassure depositors of the project’s progress. Edgar’s newsletter reveals that TVR has now road-registered the original 2017 show car, which is believed to be the only Griffith built so far. The car will hit the road in the coming months for testing and event participation. The company has also negotiated a deal with Ford to use the latest 5.0-litre V8, updated to meet EU emissions regulations. It will still feature the Cosworth-developed dry sump and TVR-specific revisions. TVR has also appointed a new CEO, Jim Berriman, who is best known for his career at the Rover Group, where he worked on the first Land Rover Freelander and Mk3 Range Rover. He was also a key figure in the rebirth of Rolls-Royce, playing an integral part in the launch of the 2003 Phantom. Edgar said Berriman “brings valuable end-to-end experience of getting new cars off the drawing board, into production and out into market”. Significant problems remain, though. Progress on the Ebbw Vale factory has been “slower than hoped” and the building is said to need a new roof. Edgar said TVR is working with the Welsh government to resolve these issues and get the work under way. Until further news is forthcoming, the saga looks likely to run on, and given the time it takes to develop, build and tool a car factory from scratch, don’t expect to see more than the one new Griffith on the road for quite some time. +++ 

+++ A judge in Canada approved a $149.7 million fine against VOLKSWAGEN after the company pleaded guilty to dozens of counts of diesel emissions violations. Volkswagen was charged in December with importing nearly 128.000 vehicles into Canada violating emissions standards. VW pleaded guilty after being charged with 60 counts of breaching the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and providing misleading information. The fine was by far the largest environmental penalty in Canadian history, prosecutors said. “This resolution serves the public interest. It reflects the gravity of the conduct, and is consistent with Canadian sentencing principles”, said prosecutor Tom Lemon in a statement. “This is an unprecedented fine in Canada. It is 26 times greater than the highest federal environmental fine ever imposed”. Prosecutors had proposed the fine to resolve the issue. “The resolution acknowledges the extensive measures by Volkswagen to make things right in Canada and strengthen its global compliance policies. The payment from the company will be used to support environmental projects nationally and in the provinces across the country”, Volkswagen said in a statement. VW admitted to using illegal software to cheat U.S. pollution tests in 2015, triggering a global backlash against diesel vehicles that has so far cost it €30 billion in fines, penalties and buyback costs. In May 2019, it set aside an additional 5.5 billion euros in contingent liabilities as it continued to face penalties and lawsuits around the world. Volkswagen previously agreed to spend up to $1.8 billion to buy back or fix 125.000 polluting diesels and compensate owners in Canada. Volkswagen previously paid $13.3 million in penalties in Canada to resolve a Competition Bureau investigation. +++

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