Newsflash: Volkswagen ID.4 cross-over debuteert in april

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+++ Honda said it will recall 2.7 million older U.S. vehicles in North America for potentially defective AIRBAGS inflators. The defect involves a different type of Takata inflator than those that have prompted the largest-ever auto safety recalls worldwide covering more than 42 million U.S. vehicles by 19 automakers with Takata airbag inflators. The new recall covers Honda and Acura automobiles from the 1996 through 2003 model years. Honda said it is aware of one field rupture of a inflator in the new recall campaign (a 2012 crash in Texas that resulted in an injury) and 2 in junkyards in Japan. The campaign covers 2.4 million U.S. vehicles and 300,000 in Canada, Honda said, adding that it has not determined recall numbers for other countries. Takata issued a new defect notice in November for inflators from 4 automakers, including Honda. Honda said all 3 vehicles “potentially were exposed to unusually high amounts of moisture prior to the rupture events”. Honda said the recalls cover driver front airbag inflators manufactured with non-azide propellant and said “all inspections and repairs will begin in approximately one year, as replacement parts from alternative suppliers are not yet available”. Honda said it “regrets any inconvenience or distress that this situation may cause to our customers as we seek to resolve this situation. Honda believes that the risk of improper airbag deployment in its vehicles remains very low at this time, but we cannot absolutely guarantee the performance of any recalled part”. Toyota also said it will recall 3.4 million vehicles worldwide because of an electronic glitch that can result in airbags not deploying in crashes. The recall, which includes 2.9 million U.S. vehicles, covers 2011-2019 Corolla, 2011-2013 Matrix, 2012-2018 Avalon and 2013-2018 Avalon Hybrid vehicles. The vehicles may have an electronic control unit that does not have adequate protection against electrical noise that can occur in crashes, which could lead to incomplete or non-deployment of the airbags. Toyota dealers will install a noise filter between the airbag control module and its wire harness if needed. Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Mazda and Suzuki are offering to buy back roughly 60.000 vehicles in Australia impacted by the latest Takata airbag recall. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed on January 10 that Toyota, Mazda and Suzuki announced voluntary recalls of more than 18.000 cars built between 1996 and 1999 equipped with Takata Nadi 5-at airbags. Car manufacturers in Australia are being forced to buy back affected vehicles as engineering and developing replacement airbags would be more costly and time-consuming. Toyota models embroiled in the recall are all from the 1997-1999 model years and include the Starlet, Paseo, Celica and RAV4. The sole Mazda recalled is the 1996-1999 Eunos 800 while the sole Suzuki model recalled is the 1998-1999 Grand Vitara V6. Toyota will provide long-term vehicle replacement hire until the problem is rectified if owners don’t want the carmaker to buy back their vehicle. About a week after these buybacks were announced, the ACCC confirmed that Honda and Mitsubishi will offer to do the same in a move totaling 42,000 vehicles. Select Honda and Mitsubishi models feature the same defective Takata airbags that can miss-deploy during an accident and fling metal fragments at high speed into the cabin. 2 drivers have already died in Australia due to these defective airbags. Both Mitsubishi and Honda will buy back affected cars at market value and provide alternative transport until the buy-back is complete. Honda models recalled include the 1998-2000 Legend, CR-V, and Accord while those recalled by Mitsubishi are all from 1997-2000 model years and include the Pajero, Lancer, Express, Mirage and Starwagon. +++ 

+++ London Electric Vehicle, the UK-based maker of iconic BLACK CABS , rolled out a plug-in hybrid variant of its TX taxi in Tokyo as part of a global expansion under its Chinese owner, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. The plug-in hybrid TX will be imported and distributed in Japan by Fleetway and Service, a company based in the Japanese city of Yokohama, Geely said. Order books for the vehicle will open in February with customer deliveries set to begin in the second quarter. The plug-in hybrid, London Electric Vehicle’s first electrified model, can carry six passengers and drive up to 130 km on lithium batteries only. An onboard 1.5-liter gasoline engine can charge the battery to extend the plug-in hybrid cab’s range to 600 km. Geely acquired London Electric Vehicle, previously known as London Taxi, in 2013. To date, the Chinese automaker has invested more than £500 million to restart production and product development for London Electric Vehicle in Coventry of England. The plug-in hybrid TX was unveiled in early 2018. Aside from the UK, the vehicle is also available in Germany, France, Switzerland, Denmark and Malaysia. Accumulative sales of the vehicle globally have now topped 3.800, according to Geely. +++ 

+++ Automakers with UK operations will not face a regulatory cliff-edge that damages their competitiveness in European markets at the end of 2020, according to prime minister Boris Johnson’s government. Nadhim Zahawi, a business minister, said he is “confident” British negotiators will be able to broker a deal with the European Union which ensures no tariffs or quotas on car parts and keeps just-in-time supply chains running when the 11-month BREXIT transition period is due to expire at the end of the year. Opposition politicians have warned Britain faces a no-deal divorce on December 31, disrupting trade and damaging the economy, if Johnson fails to negotiate a free trade deal by then. EU leaders have said there is not time to broker a full agreement under the prime minister’s schedule for ending the transition, during which trading rules will largely be unchanged. “Those who are fighting the old battles of Leave/Remain still have this binary view of the world of ‘oh my goodness, if we can’t get a deal there is going to be a cliff-edge’. I don’t believe that is true”, Zahawi said in an interview.
“The heads of terms agreed by the UK and the EU say there are no tariffs, no quotas, and that is what we are going to strive for. And that, I believe, we will be able to deliver”, he said. The UK auto industry suffered a number of blows in 2019 as production slumped and automakers idled plants to cope with three Brexit deadlines that came and went. Jaguar Land Rover has said it will cut thousands of jobs, while Honda said it will close its only British factory in 2021 and Nissan scrapped plans to build the X-Trail in Sunderland. The PSA Group has suggested its Vauxhall factory in England’s Ellesmere Port is in jeopardy if Brexit affects profitability. Ruling out tariffs and quotas will eliminate the bulk of paperwork, according to Zahawi. “The rest then becomes about the actual quality of the product and that already works for manufacturers around the world that are selling into the EU”, he said. “Components have to be made so that they satisfy British standards in the future as well as satisfying European standards. It is not incompatible”. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid warned business leaders they will need to adjust to new rules after Brexit because the UK will not align with European regulations. But Zahawi suggested the UK is unlikely to diverge too much. “We will make sure our rules are as good as the industry needs to be in order to take the opportunity of selling into America, selling into Europe, selling all over the world”, Zahawi said. “The chancellor was stating a fact which was that we will not be a rule-taker. But at the same time, whether it’s the chemicals industry or the auto industry, we already manufacture to the same quality standards across the board”. +++
 

+++ A future electric BUGATTI model would move away from the maker’s core business of hypercars and instead offer a more practical vehicle, but still with the performance and ultra-exclusivity for which the brand is famous. “If we speak about a second model as Bugatti”, said CEO Stephan Winkelmann, “I am convinced we don’t have to do a car which is only for weekends. This is a car to be used on a daily basis. It has to have a different shape and have a different mission. He continued: “If we do something outside of the hyper sports car business, there will be a car that is not in the direction of the W16. In my opinion, electrification would be the right approach”. A second Bugatti model has long been in contention and is likely to be either an SUV or a 4-door GT, but Winkelmann has repeatedly stated that no decision has yet been made by the Volkswagen Group board. “For Bugatti, it is a good opportunity and could be a winner. But I also see that a big group like VW Group has a lot of priorities. It is in the midst of an electrification revolution and it must decide where to spend its money. A second model would mean doubling the size of the company or more. It’s clear we need 100 % commitment from everybody. It’s not enough that I’m convinced!” While group-wide sharing of platforms is commonplace (for example, Audi and Porsche are sharing EV platforms), Bugatti would create its own. Winkelmann commented on the possibility of platform sharing: “This is not the case for a car with the performance of a Bugatti”. He added that repeatable acceleration and top speed would be far more important than range for a Bugatti EV. “I’d rather have some reserve performance than keep range on a high level”, he said. Charging is another major barrier, Winkelmann said, adding that EV charging times would need to be equivalent to filling up a combustion car. He said: “We would sell electric cars where the infrastructure is best (the east and west coast of the US, North West Europe, Asia and so on). On top of that, our customers have more than one car (to say the least) so they are not depending on one particular car”. Adding a higher-volume model than the Chiron would not affect Bugatti’s exclusivity and (crucially) resale values, believes Winkelmann. “If we’re talking about a car that would be in the low thousands, we’re talking 300 cars in America, 300 cars in Europe, 300 cars in Asia and so on. At the end of the day, there would be close to zero visibility of these cars so there would be no impact on exclusivity. It’s not going to be a car that is perceived as a commodity or something that is not exclusive enough”. Winkelmann does not believe in hybrid technology for Bugatti models, only wishing to use either internal combustion engines or fully electric powertrains. “It is my belief you will never have cutting-edge technology with hybrids. Today, with the mindset, it’s clear that infrastructure, range and trust in electrification is not where it could or should be, but in 5 years, when an EV could hypothetically come out”. He added that there is a new generation of customers coming into the business, which are “expecting things that today we are not even talking about as a given”. Winkelmann also referenced the previous work of founder Ettore Bugatti. “We have to look back in history because when Ettore Bugatti did the car, he did every possible bodystyle, engine, price segment. He did a lot more than what you see today and I think roots are important. At the beginning of this century, it was a long time that nothing had happened at Bugatti. It was good to position the brand with the hypercar but if you look at the history of Ettore, he really did a lot. We are at the very beginning but being small, we do things step by step and we always we have to prove that what we are doing is the right thing”. +++ 

+++ CITROEN will come with a replacement for the ageing C4 Cactus and the C4 hatchback this year. The all-new model will undergo an extensive overhaul, morphing into a coupe-SUV and adopting PSA’s latest range of combustion engine and all-electric powertrains. It will probably be unveiled at this year’s Paris Motor Show in prototype form, before going on sale between late 2020 and early 2021. Design-wise, Citroen’s C4 Cactus successor will ditch the old model’s conventional SUV shape, opting instead for coupe-inspired styling with a sloping rear roofline and a slightly longer bonnet. Some elements of the old car’s design will be retained, though, as hinted by this mule’s low-mounted headlamps and narrow grille. The C4 Cactus replacement will be based on the same version of PSA’s CMP underpinnings found under the latest Peugeot 2008, which means buyers should have access to the same range of 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol and 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engines, as well as the 136 hp electric motor from the new e-2008 and same 50kWh battery pack offer a similar range of around 320 kilometres. A 10 to 80 % charge should also take around 8 hours when the car is plugged into a 7.4 kW wallbox charger. By using the same CMP architecture as the 2008, Citroen’s C4 Cactus replacement will also receive a significant technology boost. I expect it will employ Peugeot’s suite of driver assistance technology, as well as its 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system, digital instrument cluster and a reversing camera on higher-specced models. +++ 

+++ DS was spun off from Citroen in 2014, but it took until 2018 before its first brand-specific model, the 7 Crossback, went on sale. The smaller 3 Crossback, which has an electric version of parent PSA Group’s CMP architecture, was launched last year. 4 more DS models are expected in the next 4 years. One of them will be a midsize sedan. When aksed what the goals for the car are, CEO Yves Bonnefont said: “The logic of the DS range is very simple. We will introduce 6 cars in segments that are both global and growing. While in Europe it might seem that large sedans are a thing of the past, it’s not the same in other regions. The premium sedan segment is stable in China, for example. Even in Europe, there are still people who like the elegance of a nice sedan. Elegance is part of our DNA, so it makes sense for us to have a modern sedan in our range. It’s been a year and a half since we launched the 7 Crossback and the 3 Crossback is also out now, so it’s a good time to check on where we are. While we don’t want to manage the brand by volume, it’s still good to be growing. It’s solid growth because it’s driven by 3 factors: product launches; new dealers, about 2 a week worldwide, so we are growing our geographic range; and we are also taking market share. The 7 Crossback has about a 20 % segment share in France; it’s No. 1 in the premium C SUV segment, ahead of the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. In the premium B SUV segment we have a 50 % share in France with the 3 Crossback. In Italy, we grew 36 % in the second quarter in a premium market that was down 8.5 %. In the Benelux, we are up 35 % in a premium market down 3.5 %. The first deliveries of the 3 Crossback E-Tense started at the end of 2019. Based on firm orders, we are predicting that we will see a mix of close to 10 %. To be honest, I thought demand would be lower. It might be that it’s early adopters who are familiar with electric cars. We try to show people the benefits of driving electric. For DS, electric is a high-end powertrain. The cars are a real pleasure to drive. You don’t buy an electric car because you don’t have a choice; you buy it because you are excited by the fact that it’s electric. The second reason is that many of our customers live in the city center, and some cities are closing their centers to non-zero emissions cars. It’s a future-proof car: it will allow buyers to use it without restriction on their mobility. On top of that, the total cost of ownership is equivalent to that of a car with an internal combustion engine, but I think in the case of premium, it’s not the No. 1 reason to buy. Our dealers need to train salespeople to explain the pros and cons of electric and provide the proper guidance so people get the cars they need. This is a huge transition for the dealers, so their first reaction is to say, “This is complicated”. But they understand why it’s going that way, and they are getting excited now that they see the mix of orders. With the 7 Crossback plug-in hybrid, we are in the same range as the 3 Crossback E-Tense: about 10 % of orders. Without any cars available for test drives, it’s higher than we would have expected. We are in pre-series production, still adjusting software. I expect production will start soon. PSA boss Carlos Tavares has said we won’t pay any emissions fines in 2020-21, so we will be compliant. That is the economic element. There’s a more fundamental element: We will not make a trade-off between emissions and economics. We will not tell our customers that we will pay emissions fines, even if we would be better off economically. It’s our responsibility to be compliant with any emissions regulations, even if there is an option to pay for it. This is an ethical responsibility. Our entire range will be electrified from the beginning of 2020, and we will be a positive contributor to the group. What people like about SUVs is the high driving position. You dominate the road. You see more so you feel safer. But at the same time the main issue with SUVs is their CO2 emissions. It is not very efficient at high speed to have a high-riding car. You have a lot of aerodynamic resistance, which increases emissions and reduces the range of electric cars. We think cars will become lower. That is why we have introduced the Aero Sport Lounge concept. It’s a next-generation SUV that is much lower and is optimized for aerodynamics. In China, we will deploy a new strategic approach for the benefit of our 75.000 customers and business partners, but we can’t say more about the plan at this time. When it comes to the potential for DS outside of Europe and China, I like to say that before you sell 10,000 cars you must sell 100. There is no such thing as a small market for us because we are a new brand. For example, we will soon cross the 1.000 vehicles-sold threshold in Japan, and we will go on from there. We do have priority markets, of course, and we are relentlessly pushing the brand there. Japan is one of them, South Korea is another attractive market. We are making inroads in Morocco and Turkey as well, even though conditions there are very difficult right now. +++ 

+++ Automaker interest in attending auto shows ebbs and flows. Some will skip Paris, but arrive in style at GENEVA . Or vice versa. Or maybe skip both altogether. As technology has connected much of the world, automakers no longer need expensive auto show displays to attract eyes, and Geneva’s powerhouse status on the auto show circuit is starting to dull. Peugeot won’t attend this year’s Geneva Motor Show, which likely means other PSA Group brands (Citroën, DS and Opel) will miss the glitzy event as well. The reason for Peugeot’s absence? The lack of novelty at the show. Auto show displays are pricy to build and, more often than not, end up being cars sitting on plush carpet. Peugeot isn’t the first automaker to pass on Geneva. Lamborghini announced earlier this month that it would skip, too. This carmaker said it would focus on standalone events where its cars wouldn’t have to compete with rivals for time in the spotlight. It’s a justification many automakers have cited as to why they are skipping auto shows. Standalone events are slowly becoming the norm for automakers in the digital age. They can drum-up excitement before revealing their latest model to a captivated audience unconcerned about another automaker’s press conference that starts in 15 minutes. Instead, automakers can take their time presenting the car, and journalists have more time with the vehicle. It’s a win-win, really, except for auto shows that rely on hot new models to draw attendees. Geneva also isn’t the only auto show getting the cold shoulder from automakers. Both Audi and Mercedes are skipping New York while Volkswagen is bypassing Paris; however, it will be at this year’s Geneva show. +++ 

+++ One can accuse Carlos GHOSN of many things, but not knowing how to run a car company isn’t one of them. Not only did he accomplish the almost impossible task of turning Nissan’s fortunes around, but he also managed to make the Renault-Nissan Alliance work and even attract Mitsubishi under its orbit. He also pushed for a closer integration of Renault and Nissan and many believe that’s what ultimately led to his downfall. While we’ll probably learn if that was the case in the coming years, it’s certain the man knew what he was doing. This is why I find it very interesting to learn that Ghosn said the Japanese automaker would go bankrupt within 2 or 3 years. Ghosn’s attorney in Japan, Nobuo Gohara, said the former CEO told him exactly that during more than 10 hours of interviews last year, shortly before skipping bail and escaping from Japan in spectacular fashion. “He told me that Nissan will probably go bankrupt within 2 to 3 years”, said Gohara, a former prosecutor who, much like Ghosn, is a vocal critic of Japan’s justice system. The attorney held a news conference in Tokyo recounting his conversations with Nissan’s former boss. Gohara added that Ghosn did not get into details regarding his grim prediction for Nissan. The attorney also said he met and interviewed Ghosn 5 times in 2 months for a book he planned to publish before the start of the former executive’s trial. Gohara added he last met with Ghosn 2 days before his escape to Beirut and he had permission from the ex-CEO to disclose the details of their conversations. Obviously, Ghosn’s prediction that Nissan will go bankrupt should be taken with a grain of salt given that he’s at war with the automaker which accuses him of many wrongdoings. However, the truth is the company is seeing declining car sales, especially in China and Europe. Nissan has cut profit and sales forecasts for the current fiscal year and said it would eliminate 12.500 jobs worldwide. A lieutenant to Ghosn who is facing charges in Japan for underreporting his salary at Nissan stands a very high chance of being acquitted, as would Ghosn had he remained in Japan to face trial, a former prosecutor said. Both Ghosn and former Nissan director Greg Kelly face charges of financial misconduct over allegedly failing to report more than $109 million in salary, while Ghosn has also been charged with aggravated breach of trust for using company funds for personal purposes. Both deny wrongdoing. Kelly remains in Japan awaiting trial. It was not obvious that the additional salary due to Ghosn after retirement constituted a crime under Japanese law as it had yet to be paid out, said Gohara, who does not represent Ghosn or Kelly, who is accused of arranging the payments. “Personally I believe that there was a very high chance for Mr Ghosn to be acquitted based on the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act”, he told reporters. “Likewise for Mr Kelly, there is a high likelihood that he will be acquitted as well”. The trial of the 2 men and Nissan, which is also facing the same charge, is due to begin in 2021 or 2022. It was unclear whether the schedule would be updated after Ghosn’s escape. Japan’s Ministry of Justice has said it will try to find a way to bring Ghosn back from Lebanon, even though the 2 countries do not have an extradition treaty. Gohara said a separate trial over aggravated breach of trust would likely drag on for years as prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to prove Ghosn was guilty of crimes including temporarily shifting a personal loss-making currency transaction onto Nissan’s books. The lawyer said he had conducted about 10 hours of interviews with Ghosn in November and December for a book he had written about the case. The project has since been placed on hold, for reasons Gohara said were unrelated to his subject’s escape. +++

+++ There are official power outputs of the new Volkswagen GOLF GTI and 3 other hot versions set to debut throughout 2020. Set to make its official debut at the Geneva motor show in March, the GTI follows the plug-in hybrid GTE, revealed last year and will be joined by a high performance TCR variant, a new diesel GTD and a range-topping R. The GTI’s power output will be 245 hp, as previously reported. That’s the same output as the GTE. The TCR variant (which may be badged something else) will have an output of 290 hp. The diesel GTD returns, too, with power upped to 200 hp, but it’s the Golf R that once again heads up the range. This appears to put out 333 hp. Following the reveal of the GTI and GTD at Geneva motor show, the R version is expected to be shown in July at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The transformation from regular Golf to GTI is likely to be as subtly handled as previous variants. It will include the usual dual-exit tailpipes, red brake calipers, chunky air intakes and a bodykit extending around the lower portion of the car. +++ 

+++ You would expect that HONDA would respond with a cold, hard no to the prospect of a faster Type R variant of its E electric hatchback but surprisingly this isn’t the case. Honda E’s assistant project leader Takahiro Shinya said: “Well, this new platform, the motor and tyres can all take more power”, opening the door to Honda’s first electric hot hatch. “What I can say is we love Type R, it’s such a strong halo brand for us. As engineers we want to make Type R of every model, but it’s whether the customer wants it that matters”. This contradicts an earlier report on the matter, when the model’s project leader Kohei Hitomi said last September that a Type R is not the way to go with the E. It’s not hard to understand why Honda isn’t ready to green light a performance version of the E just yet, as the Japanese car maker is still not sure if there’s a market for it. However, and until the decision time arrives for Honda, it’s good to remind ourselves that the ‘normal’ E hatchback is still a pokey thing; it’ll become available with 2 power outputs (134 hp and 152 hp), making it capable of a 0-100 km/h in 8.3 seconds. Add to that the rear-engine, rear-drive configuration and its fully independent suspension and the Honda E suddenly sounds pretty fun to tool around. Both models are offered with the same battery pack, measuring 35.5 kWh in capacity and delivering up to 220 km from a full charge. Now that bit is perhaps the most disappointing figure that accompanies Honda’s very loveable electric car. Shinya also revealed that Honda is already working on a slightly spicier variant of the E; “You’ll probably see something more in a couple of years, not a Type R, but something”, he said. Does he mean a Type S/Si sort of version? Only time will tell. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI turned in its best quarterly operating profit in over 2 years and said it was on track for higher profit margins in 2020, powered by more sales of SUVs such as the Kona. The better-than-expected operating earnings, which fueled a rise in shares, indicates measures by Hyundai heir-apparent Euisun Chung to revamp the image of the automaker are beginning to pay off. So while overall vehicle sales for the South Korean company held mostly steady on year over October-December, its bottom line benefited as high-margin SUVs accounted for more of the sales mix: 42 % versus 37 % a year earlier. Hyundai said it would meet its target for a 5 % operating profit margin this year, versus 3.5 % in 2019, by selling even more SUVs and launching a fully redesigned version of its bestselling model, the Tucson. “We understand that achieving this year’s operating profit margin of 5 % is more important than ever”, Kim Sang-hyun, head of finance and accounting division, said on an earnings call. “The company views this year as the first to fully establish a virtuous sales cycle by optimizing supplies, profits and strengthening brand competitiveness. We will do our best to secure a sustainable revenue base in a difficult business environment”. Sales for Hyundai and affiliate Kia hit a 7-year low in 2019 as business in China slumped, missing their target for a fifth time, but they have forecast better numbers for this year. Hyundai expects SUVs to account for about 43 % of its sales in 2020, helped by the launch of a new premium Genesis brand SUV in the second half, in addition to the GV80 launched last week. “The market has been skeptical of the 5 % profit margin target, but it seems to be achievable thanks to new Genesis models”, said Lee Jae-il, an analyst at Eugene Investment & Securities. While Hyundai is seeing a recovery in U.S. sales, thanks to demand for new SUVs and a favorable currency exchange rate, its business in China continues to suffer amid a broader slowdown in the world’s biggest auto market. Its passenger car sales in China fell 4.8 % on year in 2019. Hyundai, however, expects its wholesale vehicle sales in China to reach 730.000 this year from 650.000 vehicles in 2019. It also said it was looking for the best time to launch its premium Genesis brand in China and Europe. For October-December, Hyundai’s operating profit was 1.24 trillion won ($1 billion), highest since the second quarter of 2017. It was more than analysts’ average estimate of 1.06 trillion won. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) is to make hundreds of staff redundant at its factory in Halewood. The plant, which produces the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport, will switch its operating pattern in April, affecting around 10 % of its 4.500-strong workforce (excluding agency staff). The British car manufacturer said in a statement: “Through its ongoing transformation programme, JLR is taking action to optimise performance, enable sustainable growth and safeguard the long-term success of our business. Central to the Halewood manufacturing strategy, we are moving from a 3 shift to a ‘2+’ shift pattern from April 2020. This will deliver significant operating efficiencies at the plant, while enabling us to meet the growing customer demand for our new Evoque and Discovery Sport. Halewood employees have the opportunity to leave through an enhanced voluntary redundancy programme”. Both models produced at the factory are continuing sales successes, having respectively entered a new model generation and undergone heavy revisions last year, and JLR states that the shift change “is about efficiency, not loss of volume”. JLR has been undergoing a wide-reaching, €2.9 billion cost-cutting programme in the past few years. Named Project Charge, it has returned the company to profit in the third financial quarter of 2019 and is due to be completed in the next few months. JLR posted a 6 % decline in 2019 sales, hit by the weakening Chinese autos market and falling demand for diesel vehicles in Europe. But it has bounced back in China in recent months and overall company sales rose by 1.3 % in December. Halewood is 1 of 3 of JLR’s car factories in Britain. The Discovery Sport was the best-selling model globally last year with sales of 83.574; down 13 %. Evoque sales increased 10 % to 81.688. Both models are also built in JLR’s China factory for local sales. JLR, like much of the car industry, has also faced the challenge of stepping up investment in zero and low-emissions vehicles as regulations tighten while simultaneously dealing with a drop in demand for some conventionally-powered models. +++ 

+++ NISSAN was one of the first carmakers to launch a dedicated all-electric series production vehicle, the first Leaf, back in 2009, and it was signalling to the world that it had big EV ambitions. Now, more than a decade later, all it’s done is launch a second-generation Leaf and made an electric version of its NV200 commercial vehicle, but that’s pretty much it. Not for long, though, because the Japanese automaker is developing an all-new platform which will be used by all Alliance brands for their own pure-electric vehicles. So it won’t just underpin Nissan models, but vehicles from Renault, Mitsubishi and Infiniti too. The platform allows for a lot of flexibility when it comes to the size and style of vehicle that it can be used in, according to Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior VP of design. But since we live in crossover crazy times, the first vehicle to be built on this new architecture is a high rider: the production version of the Nissan Ariya concept. Even the design study was built on the new platform, as was the Infiniti QX Inspiration that debuted at the 2019 Detroit motor show; It also previews a production model. The Ariya will be a larger crossover alternative to the Leaf and it will be considerably more expensive. What’s especially exciting about the Ariya production model is it’s focus on performance. Albaisa pointed out that it is fast, “faster or as fast as a Z car”. That means it’s going to be a crossover with a naught to sixty time of around 5 seconds, which puts it in the same league as the Ford Mustang Mach-E. It will most likely be powered by the e-AWD system that is comprised of 2 electric motors. This setup has been demonstrated in a Leaf where it makes a combined 306 hp and 700 Nm. The rest of the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s future EV lineup is kept under wraps for now, but this EV platform will underpin models from Renault, Infiniti, as well as Mitsubishi, and make no mistake, there will be quite a few of them popping up in the next few years. They may not all be pure EVs, though, since the platform does support hybrid powertrains too. +++

+++ PSA said it did not know if its 1.6 liter diesel engines it supplied to Mitsubishi between 2015 and 2018 are part of a probe in Germany. “At this stage, we do not know which vehicles or families of engines are targeted by the ongoing probe of Mitsubishi”, a PSA spokesman said. Mitsubishi is being probed by German prosecutors for suspected use of illegal defeat devices installed in its diesel engines, the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office said. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has confirmed it will launch its all-electric Twingo ZE this year. It will be 1 of 2 new EVs launched by Renault in the next 12 months. Alongside the Twingo ZE and existing Zoe, the French maker will unveil a Kadjar-sized zero-emissions crossover. This car will debut as a concept at the Paris Auto Show in October. The announcement comes as Groupe Renault reported a 23.5 % increase in sales of its electric vehicles between 2018 and 2019, led by demand for the Zoe. The Twingo continues to use the same platform as the Smart Forfour EQ. There are no performance figures yet for the Twingo ZE, but they’re likely to be similar to those of its Smart sibling. That car has a 17.6 kWh battery and generates a peak output of 81 hp and 170 Nm torque from a rear-mounted motor. It offers a claimed range of around 110 kilometres and its battery can be charged from 10 to 80 % capacity in 40 minutes. Last year, future product planning boss Ali Kassaï told: “We need to add an A-segment electric car to address customer needs”. It’s a relatively easy project, because the Twingo was always engineered to be electric, thanks to Renault’s partnership with Smart. Kassai explained that the plan had been to launch it much sooner, but there was “no infrastructure” to make it tenable. Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said he hoped the decision on the French carmaker’s new CEO would be made in “the coming days”. In an interview, Senard also reiterated there was “no stress” concerning the CEO issue. +++ 

+++ A rally in RHODIUM , a precious metal used to reduce vehicle emissions, has exploded into high gear, with surging demand and an uncertain supply outlook pushing prices up 40 % in just 3 weeks to near record highs. Rhodium is used to neutralise nitrous oxides in car exhausts, and increasingly stringent emissions regulations, particularly in China, are forcing auto makers to use more of the metal. Demand is expected to outstrip supply this year and supplies are being disrupted by power outages at South African mines which produce more than 80 % of mined rhodium. Prices have rocketed to $9,975 an ounce from $6,040 at the start of January; 10 times their level through the mid-2010s and within a whisker of an all-time high of $10,050 in 2008. “It’s being driven by insatiable demand from Asia”, said Scotiabank analyst Nicky Shiels. “There is also a supply side trigger with power cuts in South Africa. That injects a certain amount of fear into the market and in a small, opaque market that can have a huge impact”, she said. Rhodium does not trade on an exchange, and producers who mainly sell through long-term contracts are releasing little into the spot market and creating a lack of liquidity, a trader in London said. “There’s very little material around”, he said. “It’s trading to illiquidity, not to fundamentals. There is the incessant thought that prices are going to go higher, so every offer is taken”. Rhodium has rallied in parallel with palladium, another precious metal in increasing demand to neutralise engine emissions and whose price has risen 25 % this year. Unlike palladium, the roughly 1.1 million ounce a year rhodium market has seen small surpluses in recent years, according to specialist manufacturer Johnson Matthey. However, consumption will rise more rapidly than output, pushing the market into a 100,000-150,000-ounce deficit this year, said consultant Johann Wiebe. Auto makers account for around 85 % of rhodium demand, and emissions standards entering force in China, the world’s largest car market, require 50 % more rhodium per vehicle, said Standard Chartered analyst Suki Cooper. Holdings of rhodium by exchange traded funds have drawn down to less than 20,000 ounces from over 100,000 ounces in mid-2017, removing a potential source of supply. South African data shows production of platinum group metals including rhodium fell 13.5 % in November, and traders expect more disruption due to an ongoing crisis at state power firm Eskom. A shift in mining activity in South Africa to shafts less rich in rhodium also means production there will gradually decrease in the coming years, helping keep the market in deficit, said David Davis, an independent analyst. These fundamentals mean rhodium won’t repeat its experience in 2008, when a rally ended with a collapse from $10,050 to less than $1,000 in a matter of months, but illiquidity means prices could be volatile, analysts said. “It’s overextended by every measure”, said Scotiabank’s Shiels. “But the path of least resistance for prices is clearly higher”. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA has launched a new mobility brand in Europe named Kinto as a “defensive” move against the rise of leasing companies and also to prepare for the arrival of robotaxis. Kinto bundles together services Toyota already operates or has tested in Europe into 4 categories: leasing, short-term rentals, car pooling and subscription services. Kinto One renames Toyota’s fleet leasing operations and looks to expand the company’s full servicing lease package, which it currently offers in Spain, France, Italy and the UK. “That’s the primary focus to start with and then very quickly we will build the other services”, Toyota Europe’s head of sales and marketing, Matt Harrison, told. Toyota is reacting to the growth of leasing as a way of financing new cars in Europe. The method is becoming more popular at the expense of traditional hire purchase as leasing firms begin to move away from their traditional corporate clients to target private customers. As part of its expansion, Toyota bought the UK leasing arm of Inchcape for €117 million in October 2019. “What that means for us is that we are losing control of the relationship with the customer”, Harrison said. “Once the leasing companies get the customer, frankly we’re just a supplier. Kinto is partly defensive”. Once Toyota controls the leasing it can begin to offer more services, including those bundled into the Kinto brand. “We can activate a lot more additional revenue streams than we can do today”, Harrison said, citing the ability to offer tailored servicing or insurance. Toyota has invested a “substantial amount” in Kinto, Toyota’s head of mobility, Ian Fux, said at the launch of the service in Amsterdam. He did not disclose the investment. “We believe that in the future a significant proportion of future revenue will be delivered by mobility services”, Fux said. “It won’t replace our core business but will be an add-on”. Fux was previously head of the now renamed Toyota Fleet Mobility before being promoted in December. Leasing will give Toyota crucial experience for when autonomous technology makes self-driving cars viable. “We need to know how to manage fleets, so when we have robotaxis we have the in-house ability to manage those fleets”, Fux said. Toyota will deploy its E-Palette autonomous shuttle for limited journeys at this summer’s Olympic games in Tokyo. Toyota Europe CEO Johan van Zyl said leasing requires a big financial commitment. Cars that are leased are not sold, “so you need to finance those costs until you have recovered your money, so you need a very strong balance sheet in the future to be able to cover this”, he told. “The cash-to-cash cycle is just getting longer and longer”. Toyota expects that its Kinto services will eventually be offered within a single app, allowing customers to choose different modes of transport or take advantage of offers. Toyota is already trialing short-term rentals under its Yuko brand in Dublin, Venice, Copenhagen and Madrid. It will be renamed Kinto Share. The company is also trialing subscription sales, which is a more comprehensive form of full-service leasing that allows customers to lease cars over more flexible time periods, and car pooling. Car pooling will now fall under Kinto Join and subscriptions come under Kinto Flex. Toyota said it was also evaluating whether to offer ride-hailing services. The Kinto name is also used by Toyota in Japan, where the company last year began offering car leasing via Kinto One and a more premium offering call Kinto Select, which allows customers to drive 6 Lexus vehicles over a 3 year period. The Kinto name is derived from the Japanese word Kintoun or Flying nimbus, a cloud which provides on-demand transportation for a famous animated character in Japan. +++ 

+++ The TRUMP administration is snubbing Congress by refusing to turn over a report detailing an investigation into national security risks potentially posed by imported vehicles and auto parts, citing pending international negotiations and executive branch deliberations. Congress inserted a provision in a spending bill last month demanding the White House turn over the long-secret government report that U.S. president Donald Trump used to declare in May 2019 that some unnamed imported autos pose risks to national security. Trump opted not to impose any immediate tariffs on imported cars or auto parts because of the alleged security threat and then ordered another six-month review on a decision on tariffs of up to 25 %. The delay was to allow for more time for trade talks with the European Union and Japan. Trump said he was still considering imposing tariffs and mentioned imported European vehicles in particular, without singling out any brands. “We expect to be able to make a deal with Europe. And if they don’t make a deal, we’ll certainly give that very strong consideration”, Trump said. “But if we’re unable to make a deal, we will have to do something”. A person briefed on the matter said Trump had relied on a Justice Department opinion to order Commerce not to turn over the report under a Section 232 investigation. The Commerce Department said in a statement it was “not releasing the 232 autos report because releasing it now would interfere with the President’s ability to protect confidential executive branch communications and could interfere with ongoing negotiations”. The Justice Department opinion said Trump was justified in “withholding the report until the resolution of diplomatic negotiations” and any subsequent action. Some U.S. lawmakers want to restrict presidential authority to invoke the tariffs on national security grounds. In May, Trump said he agreed with the undisclosed report’s finding that found some imported cars and trucks were “weakening our internal economy” and threatened to harm U.S. national security. But automakers have warned tariffs would cost hundreds of thousands of auto jobs, dramatically raise prices on vehicles and threaten industry spending on self-driving cars. A group representing major German and Asian automakers including Volkswagen and Nissan called the suggestion some auto imports pose a national security risk “absurd”. Toyota in May called Trump’s designation of a national security threat “a major set-back for American consumers, workers and the auto industry”. Trump struck a cautiously optimistic tone on trade talks with Europe, but kept the threat of new car tariffs firmly on the table. Having long accused the European Union (EU) of gaining an unfair trade advantage, Trump has threatened to slap new tariffs on European cars and car parts, a vital export product, particularly for Germany, the euro zone’s biggest economy. After a meeting with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Trump said he had “very good” talks but maintained that if a deal was not struck, Washington would strongly consider auto tariffs. “We expect to be able to make a deal with Europe. And if they don’t make a deal we’ll certainly give that very strong consideration”, Trump said, referring to tariffs. The United States this month concluded fresh trade deals with China, Mexico and Canada, revising earlier agreements long claimed by Trump to be unfair. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said these deals could boost the U.S. economy this year and that growth would outperform projections, including those by the International Monetary Fund. The White House has repeatedly delayed a decision on whether to impose tariffs of as much as 25 % on cars and car parts from Europe, using these threats as leverage in negotiations. Europe’s vast manufacturing sector sank into recession last year, mostly on waning export demand for cars, raising pressure on EU officials to agree to a deal. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN ‘s next ID production model, the ID.4 crossover, will be revealed at New York motor show in April. The new EV will retain many of the same exterior themes as the ID Crozz concept car, which was first shown in 2017. The electric crossover-style SUV will be an important part of the brand’s ID range offensive in the US, as well as in Europe, following the launch of the ID.3 hatchback. There will be 2 versions: a standard model and a coupe-SUV in the vein of the original concept, which are expected to be named the ID.4 and ID.5 respectively. The ID.5 will be revealed at a later date. The straight SUV will have a more conventional roofline and tailgate design, and is also expected to have conventional rear doors, ditching the sliding ones on the 2017 Crozz concept, but it will keep the rising and falling shoulderline, plus the imposing front-end and high haunches. The ID.4 and ID.5 will be built in Europe, the US and China, cementing its status as a truly global model and a crucial kingpin of the brand’s rapid EV rollout. “As early as 2020, we aim to sell 100.000 all-electric Volkswagens per year”, said VW Group chairman Herbert Diess at the Crozz concept’s 2017 unveiling. “But this is just the beginning. By 2025, annual sales could increase tenfold to one million vehicles”. The ID.4 and ID.5 aims to combine the dynamic lines of a modern-day sports car with the all-terrain capability of a dedicated off-roader. It’s said to offer interior space on a par with the Tiguan Allspace, a long-wheelbase version of VW’s best-selling SUV model. The ID Crozz concept is 4.625 mm long, 1.891 mm wide and 1.609 mm tall, putting it in between the 5-seat Tiguan and 7-seat Tiguan Allspace in terms of dimensions. The wheelbase is 2.773 mm. The MEB-based ID Crozz features 2 electric motors (1 mounted within the front axle and 1 at the rear) powered by an 83 kWh lithium ion battery housed within the floor structure. The front electric motor sends its 102 hp and 150 Nm to the front wheels. The rear unit delivers 204 hp and 300 Nm to the rear wheels, giving the car a combined output of 306 hp and 450 Nm. This is just under 100 hp more than the powertrain used by the rear-wheel-drive ID.3 hatchback, intended to offset a likely weight increase. The ID.4 is set to have a range of more than 500 kilometres, with no specific figure yet quoted. No performance figures have been revealed, though VW says it intends limiting the top speed to 180 kph. With the car’s large battery mounted low down within the floor structure and the electric motors also housed within the axle assemblies front and rear, VW also claims it possesses a front-to-rear weight distribution of 48:52. VW officials have talked up the dynamic qualities, suggesting the new platform and chassis provide a “large spread between handling and comfort”. +++

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