Newsflash: Volkswagen Up krijgt mogelijk Braziliaanse opvolger

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+++ ASTON MARTIN will not put its all-electric Rapide E into production as originally planned, Autocar understands. The Rapide E was first revealed in 2015 as a concept and confirmed for production in 2017. Aston Martin had essentially finished the car’s development by the time it made its dynamic debut at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. It was planned to make limited production at the end of last year, with 155 examples mooted at an undisclosed price. However, a source close to the firm has told it will now become a research project used to further Aston Martin’s broader electrification programme, with no intention of producing customer cars. It’s not clear yet how many orders of the model were taken, or whether refunds will have to be issued. The British firm is focusing most of its efforts on the launch of the DBX, a crucial model that it hopes will have the desired impact of improving its difficult financial position. First deliveries of the super-SUV will begin in the second quarter of 2020. Aston Martin issued yet another profit warning for December as CEO Andy Palmer described 2019 as a “very disappointing year”. Shares fell to an all-time low, below £4, down from £17 a share when the company was first floated. +++ 

+++ Despite challenging conditions, AUDI can report a positive performance of deliveries to customers for 2019: Approximately 1.845.550 cars represent an increase of 1.8 %. In all 3 core markets, the Four Rings delivered more automobiles in 2019 than in the previous year. In China, the company set a new record with a total of 690.083 vehicles delivered (+4.1 %). In the United States, deliveries continued at the very high level of 2018 with an increase of 0.4 %. And demand in Germany increased by 4.3 %. In the month of December, the company delivered approximately 176.000 cars; 13.9 % more than in December 2018. “After a mixed first half of the year, we successfully caught up in the second half”, says Hildegard Wortmann, Member of the Board of Management for Sales and Marketing. “In 2019, we clearly showed the potential of our brand and our young model portfolio. Although the demands placed upon us will remain high in 2020, we have set the course for further growth”. In terms of the model range, Audi increased its deliveries in the SUV segment in 2019 by 46.2 % compared with the previous year. This is primarily due to the positive performance of the e-Tron and Q8, although the models have only recently become available in all core regions. The first all-electric large-scale production model of the Four Rings was launched in Europe in March, came to North America in early summer, and has been available as an imported model in China since November. In a cross-segment electric-SUV comparison, the e-Tron is the market leader in Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria. The model is also the first ever electric car to receive the Top Safety Pick+ award in the United States. In China, Audi achieved a new record of 71.487 cars in the month of December (+9.0 %). On the one hand, the Four Rings achieved growth in full-year 2019 for the locally produced premium models A4 L (+3.0 % to 168.189 units) and Q5 L (+17.0 % to 139.297 units). On the other hand, demand for the A8 L flagship in the luxury class had a very positive effect with 12.451 units delivered (+21.6 %). The Q2 L e-tron, the first locally produced electric car, also set an important milestone for the electrification of the Chinese model range in the final quarter of 2019. Local production of the e-Tron will start by the end of 2020. In the United States, Audi once again achieved a high volume of deliveries in 2019 and completed the year at the prior-year level with a total of 224.111 automobiles delivered. Throughout the year, the key drivers were once again the new full-size models, with demand rising sharply for each of them (A6 +68.6 % to 17.807 cars, A7 +28.6 % to 4.955 cars, A8 +85.3 % to 2.963 cars). In 2019, one in three Q8 models was delivered to a customer in the USA. Despite strong December sales in the North America region (+12.3 % to approximately 29.000 vehicles), deliveries for the full year were slightly down on 2018 (-1.8 % to about 270.100 units). Numerous political and economic uncertainties, model changes and the aftereffects of WLTP conversion were key features of Audi’s business in Europe in 2019. Across all models, deliveries on the home continent rose by 3.5 % to approximately 769.650 units in the full year. Audi achieved significant growth in the final quarter primarily due to prior-year effects. The new Q3 provided positive impetus, with sales rising by 55.5 % to 93.900 units. With around 19.550 models delivered, the e-Tron was extremely well received by European customers, with more than a quarter of that number delivered in Norway. In Germany, the manufacturer completed the year with 271.613 units. +++ 

+++ BELGIUM ’s federal police have fallen foul of tighter emissions controls that entered force at the start of the year, with a number of its cars and vans now too dirty to enter the cities of Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. The police force said it did not have sufficient funds to renew its entire fleet of several thousand vehicles and had already warned the authorities of the risk. A spokeswoman declined to say how many vehicles now failed to meet the stricter rules. Some exceptions have been made for certain cars clearly marked as for police use, such as those equipped with a blue flashing light and a siren, she added. Other vehicles have been shifted to duties outside the major cities. Belgium also has local police forces, such as 6 covering the capital Brussels. The European Union introduced rules in 1992 to tighten emissions from new cars, with an initial set of standards known as Euro 1. Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent already had bans in place on the most polluting vehicles, but from the start of this year also barred the ‘Euro 3’ standard, which covered vehicles registered from 2001 to 2005. The standards relate to the emission of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and particulates. +++ 

+++ BMW said it sold 2.52 million BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce vehicles in 2019, making it the best-selling premium car group, ahead of rival Daimler. Daimler said it had sold 2.34 million Mercedes-Benz passenger cars in 2019 for a 9th consecutive year of record sales. BMW said its main brand posted a sales record of 2.17 million vehicles in 2019. The BMW Group achieved record sales in China and the United States last year. Sales of the BMW and Mini brands in Europe fell slightly year-on-year, the carmaker said, citing political and economic uncertainties and added that it expected 2020 sales to be at the previous year’s level. The BMW Group said it was aiming for a slight increase in 2020 sales, counting on robust Chinese demand. “Thanks to our major model offensive, we were once again able to increase our sales in 2019 and achieve another new all-time high”, underlined Pieter Nota, member of the Board of Management of BMW and responsible for Customer, Brands and Sales. “This confirms our strategic approach, the “Power of Choice”, which allows our customers to choose the optimal drive train for their preferred model. In this way, we are able to meet our customers’ individual mobility needs worldwide”, added Nota. The BMW Group expects to grow sales in the year 2020 through its model offensive. “I am confident we will be able to maintain our successful course and sustain our profitable growth. We are targeting a slight sales increase overall for the BMW Group in 2020”, said Nota. The BMW brand reported a new all-time high last year, with a total of 2.168.516 (+2.0 %) vehicle deliveries worldwide. The new and revised X models made a significant contribution to this positive development, with sales rising 21.0 % to 958.732 vehicles. Thanks to the new 8 Series, the facelifted 7 Series and the all-new X7, sales in the luxury segment saw a significant year-on-year increase of 66.0 % (105.331 vehicles) for the full year. The BMW Group plans to double sales in the luxury class between 2018 and 2020. As an e-mobility pioneer, the BMW Group has already delivered half a million electrified vehicles to customers worldwide. A total of 145.815 electrified BMW and Mini vehicles were sold in 2019; an increase of 2.2 % over the previous year. The i brand continued its positive sales trend last year with the i3 and the i8 (42.073 units; +12.1 %). Sales of the Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 plug-in hybrid were up 28.1 % in 2019. The introduction of the new BMW 330e, the X5 xDrive45e, the X3 plug-in hybrid and the pure-electric Mini Electric brings the total number of electrified vehicles in the BMW Group line-up to 12. The BMW Group plans to expand its range of electrified vehicles to 25 models by 2023; more than half of them fully electric. A quarter of the BMW Group vehicles sold in Europe are expected to be electrified by 2021; a third by 2025 and half by 2030. With sales growth of 32.2 % (135.826 deliveries), 2019 was also the most successful year in the almost 50 year history of BMW M GmbH. More emotional M high-performance models were introduced last year than ever before: In addition to the X models X3 M, X4 M, X5 M and X6 M, the M2 CS and luxury sports cars M8 Coupé, M8 Convertible and M8 Gran Coupé also made their debuts. In China, the BMW Group delivered a total of 723.680 vehicles to customers in 2019; a 13.1 % increase compared with the previous year. This was the company’s best-ever sales result in China since entering the market in 1994. With growth of 1.8 % and 360.918 units sold, the BMW Group also posted its highest-ever sales in the U.S. in 2019. The BMW brand led the premium segment in the U.S. market. In Europe, total BMW and MINI sales were slightly lower than the previous year, reflecting the political and economic uncertainty in a number of markets. The BMW brand was nevertheless able to increase its market share in the UK. In its domestic market of Germany, the company delivered 331.370 vehicles to customers; an increase of 3.8 % over the previous year. The BMW Group also continued to expand its market leadership in Germany in the field of electromobility last year. +++ 

+++ Growing sales of SUV models with a DIESEL engine are helping to prevent the European market share of the powertrain from sliding more than it already has in Europe. The continuing increase in popularity of compact SUVs from volume automakers such as the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Peugeot 3008 means that segment is now the largest for diesel sales, with 621.242 sold through 10 months of 2019. Between 2015 and 2018 diesel sales in the segment increased 19 %, while elsewhere customers were abandoning the powertrain. The damage done by the Volkswagen Group emissions-cheating scandal, the threat of higher taxes and the growing number of bans in urban areas has caused a dramatic decline in diesel demand in the last 4 years. Analyst firm LMC Automotive predicts the overall European diesel share will slip to 32 % this year, down from a high of 56 % in 2011. The downturn for diesels was at its most dramatic in 2018, when demand fell by more than a million units. Automakers scrambled to react by increasing production of gasoline-powered vehicles, shutting down diesel-engine production lines, and bringing out new models without a diesel variant. The biggest drop for diesels in terms of numbers came in the B segment, Europe’s second largest vehicle class overall, where sales of the powertrain declined by 45 % between 2015 and 2018. The switch to gasoline wiped almost 600.000 diesel sales from the B segment in 2018 compared with 2015 as the change in diesel share broadly mirrored the overall average, which slipped to 33 % in 2018 from 53 % in 2015. Diesel’s steep decline is largely because European buyers prefer smaller cars. The rise in fuel consumption switching out of a more frugal diesel into a gasoline is just not big enough to give buyers of small cars much pause. This has prompted some experts to predict an early demise for the powertrain. “I think it’s dead”, David Bailey, professor of business economics at the UK’s Birmingham Business School, said. He believes diesels are likely to only remain relevant in segments such as large SUVs. “Governments have turned against it,” Bailey said, “and the industry has failed to get across a clear message about its cleanliness”. However, the figures show that for the last 6 months diesel sales have actually leveled off. They will continue to stay flat in 2020, LMC predicts. “That doesn’t sound particularly good for diesel, but in the context of a decline in 2019, it is very positive”, Al Bedwell, director for global powertrains at LMC, said. He believes that as long as customers in Europe continue to buy SUVs, diesel has a future. “Logic says diesel will linger in the larger segments where the benefits for drivers are still tangible and automakers can sell diesel cars at a profit”, Bedwell said. Diesels still account for more than half of total sales in segments from midsize and above, apart from the ultraluxury sector. In the first 10 months of 2019, the premium SUV segment that includes the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC had more diesel sales than any other premium segment at 274.454. Automakers have long fought against clean-air legislation that penalizes the diesel, citing the effectiveness of the latest technology used to clean harmful particulates and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Automakers need them to help comply with tougher CO2 targets that arrive this year and, they argue, customers still want them. Far from ditching them, some premium brands are expanding their diesel lineups. Audi, for example, has switched to diesels over gasoline engines in larger high-performance S-badged cars such as the SQ5 premium midsize SUV to help lower CO2. “SUVs are still strongly diesel partly because of the lack of electrified variants. As more electric and hybrid versions arrive, the shift away from diesel should be rapid”, JATO global analyst Felipe Munoz said. The shift to electrification in bigger cars is well under way. Toyota doesn’t offer diesels in its RAV4; a move that Honda followed with the CR-V in the same segment. Both brands focus on offering those SUVs as gasoline-electric hybrids instead. Nissan will also drop diesels from its next Qashqai, which will instead offer the automaker’s fuel-saving e-Power hybrid powertrain when it arrives this autumn. “What is most relevant to me is not the question, ‘What about the future of diesel?’ but ‘What about the future of conventional engines?’ What we underestimate today is the weight of the CO2 regulation”, Nissan Europe chairman Gianluca de Ficchy told. Both premium and volume brands are also rolling out more plug-in hybrid and full-electric models. These include the plug-in hybrid version of the Ford Kuga and a full-electric crossover from Nissan, which will be based on the Ariya concept and is due sometime next winter. Electrification would be less of a pressing concern if diesel remained popular, but automakers are cautious about relying too much on the recent leveling off of diesel sales. “Diesel has been stable over the last 6 months at about 30 %. Is that going to move down 10 percentage points by the end of next year? No one knows”, Citroen CEO Linda Jackson said. LMC predicts that after a flat year in 2020, the diesel share will fall below 30 % in 2021, dropping to 23 % in 2025 and falling to 9 % by 2030. Ironically, given its role in the diesel downturn, the Volkswagen Group remained the largest seller of diesels through the first 10 months of 2019. Like many others, VW has cut diesels from its range; most notably the 1.6 liter TDI from the new Golf. BMW also plans to stop making its 3 cylinder 1.5-liter engine. But there is still plenty of life in its core diesel range, BMW development boss Klaus Frölich said: “Our 4 and 6 cylinder diesels will remain for at least another 20 years”. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES ‘ (FCA) deal to pool its fleet with Tesla to comply with stricter emissions rules in Europe is in effect funding the electric-car maker’s upcoming Germany factory, according to a U.S. investment bank. FCA reached an agreement with Tesla last spring that could cost FCA an estimated $2 billion through 2023. That breaks out to about $150 million to $200 million per quarter and will pad Tesla’s profit margins starting in the first 3 months of this year, according to Ben Kallo, a Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst. “While we acknowledge investors may want to strip out credits in evaluating operational execution, we do note the credits effectively fund Tesla’s European factory”, Kallo wrote in a report. CEO Elon Musk announced in November that Tesla planned to build a plant outside Berlin. Tesla will build several models at the factory starting with the Model 3 and Model Y (a crossover), according a public notice published by the German state of Brandenburg. FCA plans to launch a new electric version of its Fiat 500 in Europe this year, along with plug-in hybrid versions of its Jeep Compass, Renegade and Wrangler models. That, combined with the Tesla credits, should make the company compliant with Europe’s emissions rules, CEO Mike Manley told analysts in July. While FCA would otherwise struggle to meet new CO2 emissions standards in Europe, the so-called open-pool option available in the European Union allows automakers to group their fleets together to meet targets. Compliance has gotten harder for automakers as consumers have shifted toward gasoline cars, which emit comparatively more CO2, following Volkswagen Group’s diesel-emissions scandal that first erupted in 2015. +++ 

+++ China’s GEELY Automobile Holding is in talks with Aston Martin management and investors about taking a stake in the iconic British luxury carmaker, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Geely is conducting due diligence as it considers taking a stake in the 107-year-old UK firm, the FT said citing 4 people familiar with the discussions. The talks come almost a month after Aston Martin confirmed it was in early-stage talks with potential investors as it launched a review of its funding. Earlier this week, Aston Martin warned its 2019 profits would almost halve due to weak European markets. Geely sees potential synergies on technologies and vehicle platforms between Aston Martin and its own Lotus brand, the source familiar with the discussions told. A spokesman for Aston Martin declined to comment on whether the company is in talks with Geely, and reiterated an earlier statement: “We remain in discussions with potential strategic investors, which may or may not involve an equity investment into the company”. Daimler, which owns a 5 % stake in Aston Martin and supplies the carmaker with Mercedes-AMG engines, supports efforts by the British carmaker to secure its long-term future, the source said. Geely’s chairman Li Shufu, owns a 9.69 % stake in Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler. Geely and Daimler run the Smart brand as a joint venture out of China. +++ 

+++ Former Nissan boss Carlos GHOSN ’s lawyer told Japan’s government that the authorities had failed to arrange for a fair trial that respected universal rights. Francois Zimeray, French lawyer for Ghosn, said that it had been for Japan’s prosecutors to prove Ghosn’s guilt, not for Ghosn to prove his innocence. “It belongs to the prosecution to prove guilt and not to the accused person to prove its innocence”, Zimeray said in a statement. Japanese Justice Minister Masako Mori launched a rare and forceful public takedown of auto executive-turned-fugitive Ghosn after he blasted the country’s legal system as allowing him “zero chance” of a fair trial as he sought to justify his escape to Beirut. +++ 

+++ General Motors (GM) will revive the HUMMER name to sell a new family of electric pickups and SUVs. The vehicles will be sold under the GMC nameplate. GM plans to build a new family of premium electric pickups at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant beginning in late 2021. GM is considering selling the battery-powered truck in existing dealerships under the marketing name “Hummer by GMC”. GM also has a large SUV in the works for Hummer. It will be produced soon after the pickup truck if the brand relaunch proves successful. If the company follows through with that plan, it would address the 2 biggest problems that doomed Hummer 10 years ago: its gas-guzzling image and its costly network of stand-alone showrooms. Hummer, a rugged, off-road brand with roots in the military, was dropped in 2010 after GM’s 2009 bankruptcy that also resulted in the demise of Pontiac, Saturn and Saab. GM eventually shuttered Hummer after a deal to sell the brand to an obscure Chinese machinery maker was blocked by Chinese regulators. GM acquired the Hummer brand in 1998 and sales of the vehicle peaked in 2006 before declining precipitously at the end of that decade as gasoline prices soared, hurting demand for the 10-miles-per-gallon H2. GM plans to build 4 electric vehicles at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan by the end of 2023. Detroit-Hamtramck was 1 of 4 U.S. plants slated to close last year as part of a sweeping restructuring plan, but it was spared by the new labor contract with the automaker that UAW members ratified in October. GM agreed to invest $3 billion and use the factory to build electric pickups and vans. Production of the rumored Hummer and another EV likely will start in 2021. It will be followed by electric Sierras and Escalades in 2023. The investment moves the automaker into a part of the EV market that is largely untested and where GM has a higher likelihood of turning a profit, analysts said. Ford, Tesla and Rivian are also planning electric pickups. Electric versions of pickups and SUVs (the heart of the U.S. market) could help Ford and GM generate the significant sales of EVs they will need to meet tougher emission standards and electric vehicle mandates in California and other states. The Trump administration is moving to roll back those standards, and eliminate extra credits that automakers receive from EV sales, but the electric trucks are a hedge if California prevails. +++ 

+++ ITALY ’s new-car sales rose 13 % to 140.075 in December. Demand was boosted by self registrations, which increased to 24.622 from 16.260 for dealers and to 6.472 units from 897 for automakers, according to market researcher Dataforce. Self-registrations accounted for 22 % of total sales in December as automakers registered and had dealers register vehicles with higher CO2 emissions in order to avoid paying fines under stringent new emissions rules introduced at the start of 2020. Sales to long-term rental companies increased 50 % and sales to short-term rental companies were up 8.4 %. Sales to private customers declined by 6.4 % after a 15 % slide in November. Business registrations were down 2.7 %. Registrations in the last 3 days of December accounted for 33 % of the entire month’s sales, down from 47 % in November, according to Dataforce. December had one more selling day than the same month in 2018. Sales of gasoline cars rose 32 % during the month, while diesel demand dropped 16 % for a market share of 34.6 %; the lowest since April 2001. Sales of full-electric vehicles rose 122 % for a 0.6 % market share. The Tesla Model 3 was the most popular vehicle with 296 units sold. Plug-in hybrid registrations jumped 287 % for a 0.5 percent market share. Full hybrid-vehicles rose by 63 % for a 6.4 % share. The market share for cars powered by LPG rose to 6.7 % from 6.1 %, while sales of vehicles powered by CNG rose 141 % to 3.443, and their market share increased to 2.4 % from 1.1 %. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sales declined 2.3 % as Jeep and Lancia sales fell 14 % and 10 % respectively. Fiat brand sales were up 2.9 %, Alfa Romeo gained 4.8 % and Maserati rose 10 %. PSA Group’s Opel brand sales fell 40 % as the automaker continues to lose volume after axing its Karl and Adam minicars. Peugeot registrations were up 4.8 % and DS registrations increased 113 %. Citroen sales were flat. Within the Volkswagen Group, VW sales declined 5.2 % while Audi registrations rose 3.5 % and Skoda posted a 6.3 % increase. Seat brand sales jumped 84 % and Porsche registrations were up 6.1 %. Renault Group’s Dacia brand rose 22 %, while Renault brand grew by 8.2 %. The Dacia Duster small SUV was the third most popular model in Italy both in December, with 3.950 units sold, and in 2019 with 43.701. Of these annual sales, 54 % were LPG powered. Asian brands had mostly positive results. Mazda sales jumped 127 %, Kia rose 30 %, Hyundai increased 19 % and Toyota registrations were up 10 %. Nissan sales suffered a 7 % decline. BMW brand sales were up 27 %, while Mercedes-Benz rose 40 %. For the second month in a row, the Smart brand benefited from a surge in demand for the ForTwo. Sales jumped 447 % and the ForTwo was Italy’s second best-selling car in November. The surge in Smart registrations in Italy comes as the brand clears stocks ahead of its change to an electric-only automaker, dropping the gasoline version of the ForTwo after December 31. Through December, sales in Italy were up 0.3 % to 1.91 million units. Dataforce forecasts sales will fall 4.2 % to 1.84 million this year. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) posted a 5.9 % fall in full-year vehicle sales after a challenging year in which its performance was hit by the weakening Chinese market and falling European demand for diesels. Retail sales were 557.706 in 2019, the company said. Land Rover sales fell 3.8 % to 396.105 for the year, while Jaguar sales dropped 11 % to 161.601. JLR’s sales last year were hit by a 14 % slump in China, but in the last 6 months the company reported double-digit growth in the country. “2019 was a year of 2 halves”, said chief commercial officer Felix Brautigam. “Over the last 6 months we saw a marked improvement in China, where intensive work with our retailers, combined with significant process and product improvements are starting to gain traction”, he said. JLR’s global sales increased 1.3 % to 52.814 in December. Land Rover’s volume rose 9.6 % to 39,442, but Jaguar sales dropped 17 % to 13.372. At the start of 2019, JLR announced plans to cut around 10 % of its workforce and it has been pursuing measures to reduce costs and improve cash flows by 2.5 billion pounds. The company, owned by India’s Tata Motors, returned to the black in the 3 months to the end of September 2019, posting a 156 million-pound ($204 million) profit. 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. It has paired up with BMW to jointly develop electric motors, transmissions and power electronics which should allow it to share some of the high costs of advancing the green technology. +++ 

+++ Focusing on profitable sales growth in a highly competitive segment, worldwide MINI brand deliveries totalled 346.639 units last year (-4.1 % year-on-year). John Cooper Works models were once again especially popular in 2019, as well as the Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 plug-in hybrid, with a total of 16.932 delivered to customers. The fully-electric Hatch joined the Mini line-up in late 2019. More than 90.000 prospective customers have registered so far; reflecting the strong interest in this pure-electric vehicle. +++

+++ NISSAN executives mostly derided attacks by Carlos Ghosn, who lashed out at the automaker he used to lead in a closely watched news conference in Lebanon following his stunning escape from trial in Japan. “I don’t have time to be dealing with a one-man-show by someone who broke the law and escaped justice”, said Nissan independent director Masakazu Toyoda, one of the people singled out in a lengthy tirade by the automaker’s former chairman and CEO. Ghosn struck out at Japanese prosecutors and Nissan’s top managers in a 2,5 hour news conference in Beirut, the first since his arrest in November 2018 on suspicion of financial crimes, and a Hollywood-worthy journey to freedom by train, concealment in a black box and flight to the Middle East via private jet. He mostly blamed the likeliest suspects, including successor-turned-accuser Hiroto Saikawa, who himself had to step down as CEO following an overcompensation scandal in September. “If that’s all he was going to say, he could have just said it in Japan”, Saikawa told reporters outside his home in Tokyo, on the morning after Ghosn’s news conference. “The real reason he ran away is because he was afraid of being found guilty”. Saikawa was instrumental in Ghosn’s arrest and attacked him in a news conference on the day the auto executive was arrested, barely containing his anger over accusations that Ghosn had sought to pay himself more than what was publicly disclosed, and using Nissan’s money for his personal gain. Ghosn returned the favor, singling out Saikawa for attack. Ghosn said when Saikawa became CEO, he told him “you take care of it, now it’s your turn”, leaving him $20 billion in cash. Ghosn said Nissan started to decline in 2017, the year Saikawa took over, and implied that Saikawa needed to find an excuse for underperformance and therefore orchestrated his predecessor’s downfall. Saikawa in turn said, “I feel, very strongly, that I was betrayed by a former boss I used to trust”. Nissan’s shares are down about 37 % since Ghosn’s arrest, and the automaker has reported decade-low profits with plans to cut 12.500 job cuts. Auto sales are slowing across the globe and new technologies from self-driving cars to electrification are disrupting the industry. In addition to Toyoda and Saikawa, Ghosn also identified Hitoshi Kawaguchi, another Nissan executive in charge of government liaisons, as being part of the plot against him. “Saikawa, Kawaguchi; the names that came out were mostly expected”, said Koji Endo, analyst at SBI Securities, of Ghosn’s remarks. “The protestations of innocence and criticism of the criminal justice systems were also predictable”. Saikawa had struggled to mend the ties that were frayed between Nissan and Renault, its top shareholder and partner in a car-making alliance that also includes Mitsubishi. Saikawa stepped down as CEO in September after an internal investigation by Nissan found he had been overpaid by 96.5 million yen ($883,700) via stock appreciation rights, or 47 million yen after tax. Nissan issued a statement ahead of Ghosn’s news conference, saying the former leader was removed after a “robust, thorough” internal investigation and said it will continue to take appropriate legal action. The deterioration of relations between Renault and Nissan after Ghosn’s arrest has taken its toll on their stock performance. The French carmaker is trading near a 7 year low, while the Japanese manufacturer is at levels not seen in almost a decade. An industrywide sales slump and Renault’s failure to merge with Fiat Chrysler have also weighed on the stocks. +++ 

+++ Carmakers Daimler, BMW, Audi and Jaguar Land Rover released annual sales figures for their PREMIUM brands. Here is a rundown of how they have performed: Mercedes-Benz sold 2.34 million passenger cars in 2019, the brand’s 9th consecutive year of record sales, retaining the title of biggest-selling premium car brand ahead of BMW. Daimler said Mercedes-Benz sales rose 6.2 % in China, where local customers ordered the top-end Maybach S-Class limousine at a rate of more than 700 vehicles a month. Mercedes posted sales records in Germany, China and the United States thanks to strong demand for its sports utility vehicles (SUV) and high-end limousines. Daimler did not provide sales data for its struggling electric Mercedes-Benz EQ C model. The Munich-based company’s main brand, BMW, posted a sales record of 2.17 million vehicles in 2019 with its X branded SUVs accounting for 44 % of global sales. The group achieved record sales in China and the United States last year. It said it was aiming for a slight increase in 2020 sales. Audi said it sold 1.84 million cars last year; up 1.8% year on year, thanks to a 4.1 % jump in Chinese sales including Hong Kong. Audi said it sold 19.500 e-Tron units in Europe last year. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) sold 557.706 vehicles in 2019; a drop of 6 %, after a challenging year in which its performance was hit by the weakening Chinese autos market and falling demand for diesel vehicles in Europe. JLR’s retail sales were hit by a 13.5 % slump in China, but in the last 6 months the firm reported double-digit growth in the country, with overall company sales up 1.3 % in December. +++ 

+++ RENAULT is ramping up its electrified vehicle strategy with low-emission hybrid versions of its 2 best-selling models, the Clio and Captur. The automaker gave the Clio full hybrid and Captur plug-in hybrid variants a global debut at the Brussels auto show. It said the Clio hybrid will have CO2 emissions of less than 100 grams per km, without giving an exact figure, while the Captur plug-in will have emissions of 32 g/km. Both figures are based on mixed-cycle testing under the new Worldwide harmonized Light vehicle Test Procedure, Renault said. Renault has not yet announced pricing or exact release dates for the hybrids. They are expected to go on sale in May. Renault launched new generations of the Clio and Captur with internal combustion engines last year. Both cars are built on the Renault-Nissan alliance’s new CMF-B platform. The 2 hybrids use Renault’s E-Tech electrified drivetrain that has 2 electric motors mounted to a specially developed clutchless transmission that the company says involved more than 150 new patents. One of the motors is a small starter / alternator, which starts the vehicle in electric mode, and the other is larger and is used to power the wheels. A 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine producing 91 hp is the primary power source. Regenerative braking also helps to charge the system’s battery. The Clio E-Tech full hybrid produces 140 hp and has a 1.2 kWh battery. Renault did not release the Clio E-Tech’s electric-only driving range, saying only that up to 80 % of urban driving can be done in full electric mode at a top speed of 75 kph. The Clio hybrid’s fuel efficiency is improved by up to a 40 % overall compared with a gasoline-only engine, Renault said. The Clio hybrid’s emissions of under 100 g/km are a big improvement on CO2 figures of 119 g/km for the 130 hp 1.3-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. The Captur’s plug-in version of the E-Tech system produces 160 hp, and uses a 9.8 kWh battery that Renault says allows up 50 km of mixed-use driving in full-electric mode, with a top speed of 135 kph. Compared with the E-Tech’s emissions of 32 g/km, the Captur’s least-powerful gasoline model produces 133 g/km. The Clio is Renault’s topselling model, with European sales of 291.021 units; down 5.5 % in the first 11 months of 2019, according to JATO Dynamics market researchers. The Captur, at No. 2, rose 2.5 % to 202.850 units. Both models accounted for about half of Renault’s sales of 957.904 (down 5.7 %) through November. The 2 hybrids are part of a push by Renault to broaden its range of electric and electrified vehicles. By 2022 the Renault brand will sell 8 full-electric models and 12 hybrids. Later this year Renault will introduce a plug-in version of its Megane. European automakers are adding electrified vehicles as they scramble to meet the EU’s new, tougher fleet emissions standards for 2020-21 of 95 g/km. While increasing common in large cars, hybrids are rare in small-vehicle segments. Toyota sells a full hybrid version of its Yaris, while Kia launched new full and plug-in versions of its Niro crossover at the Geneva auto show last March. +++ 

+++ ROLLS-ROYCE posts an all-time sales high. In 2019, with 5.152 units sold worldwide (+25.4 %), it reported the highest sales in the brand’s 116-year history. Strong sales growth was recorded in all regions worldwide. North America was once again the most important market. The past year was characterised by exceptional demand worldwide for the Cullinan and Black Badge models. The Phantom, Wraith and Dawn models were also in demand. In its 11th and final year, production of the current Ghost ended in late 2019. The new Ghost will be released onto the market in the 4th quarter of this year. 2019 also saw new all-time highs in bespoke custom personalisation orders, which is clearly reflected in Rolls-Royce’s position as a genuine luxury provider. +++

+++ Soaring demand for SUV models drove record sales for premium carmakers including BMW and Mercedes last year, leaving the industry on collision course with government efforts to tackle global warming despite big investments in electric vehicles. BMW said deliveries by its main luxury brand rose 2 % to a record 2.168.516 vehicles last year, thanks to a 21 % jump in sales of its X branded SUVs which now make up 44 % of its global sales. At Mercedes-Benz, the world’s best selling premium car brand, every third luxury car sold last year was an SUV. Automakers across the world are investing billions in electric vehicles to try to meet tougher emissions regulations. But the jury is out on how many drivers will buy them. “Consumer preferences for SUVs could offset the benefits from electric cars”, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned in its November World Energy Outlook 2019 report. The IEA said a doubling in market share had seen emissions from SUVs grow by nearly 0.55 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) during the last decade to roughly 0.7 gigatons. As a result, SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector; ahead of heavy industry including iron and steel, cement, aluminium, as well as trucks and aviation, it said. There are now more than 200 million SUVs around the world, up from about 35 million in 2010, accounting for 60 % of the increase in the global car fleet since 2010, IEA data shows. “If the popularity of SUVs continues to rise in line with recent trends, this could add another 2 million barrels per day to our projection for 2040 oil demand”, it said. The German carmakers say their vehicles are among the most fuel efficient available, thanks to hybrid and other technologies, adding customers could also choose to buy smaller, more frugal cars instead of SUVs. Both BMW and Mercedes-owner Daimler say they aim to achieve new sales records this year, and are preparing to launch fully electric SUVs (the BMW iX3 and Mercedes-Benz EQ C) which they say shows a commitment to a cleaner future. While acknowledging the growing popularity of SUVs, Germany’s powerful VDA auto industry association said much of the demand was for more efficient models. “Only just under 5 % of SUVs are large luxury class vehicles. The market success of the SUV segment is mainly due to the model offensive in compact and medium-sized SUVs, with correspondingly lower fuel consumption”, VDA said. The newly registered SUVs of German group brands had reduced their CO2 emissions by 35 % since 2008, it added. European Union lawmakers agreed in December 2018 that automakers had to cut CO2 emissions from cars by 37.5 % by 2030 from 2021 levels, in addition to a 40 % cut between 2007 and 2021, or face fines. Evercore ISI analysts say the average German auto fleet emission is still too high at around 124 grams per kilometre in Europe, compared with the average limit of 95 grams per kilometre for 2020. “The current CO2 performance is simply not good enough and we continue to flag that carmakers run the risk of facing considerable fines if more is not done”, they said in a note. Electric and hybrid vehicles made up only 3.9 % of new European sales in the third quarter of 2019. BMW plans to launch 25 hybrid and electric cars by 2023, with more than 12 models being fully electric versions. By 2025, half of all its cars are expected to be hybrid or electric vehicles, it said. Mercedes expects half of its sales to be hybrid or electric by 2030, with Europe reaching the 50 % mark in 2025. Peter Fuss, a partner at EY, said German carmakers pushed sales of higher-margin SUVs last year ahead of the introduction of the more stringent European clean air rules in 2020. In the 4th quarter of 2019 there was an unusually large rise in commercial registrations in Germany, Italy and Britain compared with figures for private consumers, in a sign carmakers were pushing more polluting models into the market. “We will not see the same growth rates in this segment as we did last year”, Fuss said. Electric car registrations are expected to take off in mid 2020, he added. But that will depend on drivers being prepared to buy them, and perhaps also on how cheaply manufacturers are prepared to sell them. +++ 

+++ The push for greater regional autonomy that has helped VOLKSWAGEN win back market share in Brazil could now reap benefits in its European home market. VW’s latest South American model, the Nivus, will come to Europe after senior executives were impressed by its combination of urban styling and low investment costs when they visited the company’s design studio in Sao Paolo last year. After testing the car’s look during clinics with European customers, VW executives last March approved Nivus production starting in 2021. Chances are the car will also be built for Europe in Pamplona, Spain, where its siblings, the Polo and T-Cross, are made. “I am a fan of the new Nivus”, sales chief Jürgen Stackmann tweeted last month, congratulating the Brazilian team after they released an early teaser video of the small coupe-styled crossover. The Nivus, previewed by the New Urban Coupe concept, will go into production this year in Anchieta, Brazil. It is the first VW designed and engineered entirely in a virtual environment. Only individual parts that differed materially from the Polo were constructed for validation purposes, but no conventional, full-scale prototype was built. Designers say customers will not notice the time and money-saving shortcuts. The car was developed using existing subassemblies from other vehicles. To give the Nivus its coupe-like look, for example, the longer rear module of the Skoda Rapid was used to stretch the vehicle. Shorter than the South American T-Cross, the Nivus is positioned in the high-volume small segment that accounts for about 70 % of Brazil’s passenger car market. “It has the wheelbase of the Polo, but the tires of the T-Cross. We see the MQB platform as Lego blocks with so many parts that we can combine to come up with something different”, said JC Pavone, the head of VW’s design studio in Sao Paulo. For years, Brazil was VW Group’s third-largest market behind China and Germany, largely because of strong demand for the small, affordable VW Gol, which was a top-seller. Overall VW brand deliveries in Brazil reached 661.000 vehicles in 2012, but an aging model range caused volume to plummet to 218.200 units 4 years later. The share halved and the brand, once the dominant local player, fell behind current market leader Chevrolet. VW made Pablo Di Si head of its operations in Latin America, which includes Brazil, in late 2017 and is investing about €1.5 billion into the country between 2016 and 2020 to rejuvenate its lineup. “We have the autonomy from Volkswagen in Germany to develop all our own tools”, Di Si told reporters last month in Anchieta. Those tools include a new digital dealer experience and the equipment needed to engineer a new model such as the Nivus 9 months faster than the norm using virtual prototyping. “If we launch something and it doesn’t work, we change it here locally”, Di Si said. The Nivus is the fourth MQB model launched under Di Si following the Novo Polo hatchback, Virtus compact sedan and South American T-Cross SUV. According to VW’s latest figures, its sales in Brazil have grown twice as fast as the overall market, lifting its share to 15.3 % from 12.5 % since 2017. Because of upheaval in Argentina, however, the South American region failed to break even in 2019, continuing a long streak of losses. Top executives from the VW brand board returned a few weeks ago to survey the progress by the Brazil team, Di Si said. Asked whether more cars designed in Brazil might make their way to Europe at the request of headquarters, he replied: “I hope this is just the beginning. Actually, it’s more than a hope”. Pavone gave a few clues about the latest model shown to the board. “It’s something in this segment (small) and is in a very late stage of development already. The German board appreciated it a lot so there is a possibility that this might be taken to Europe as well”, he said, hinting that the new model would feature a more progressive and modern look than the Nivus. “We had more freedom to be a little more creative for this car, with fewer technical limitations and a little more budget”, Pavone said. “When people had a look in the clinic, they said it looks like it is connected more with future VW designs than current ones”. Fortunately, Wolfsburg has an inside track into his thought process. VW brand’s head of exterior design is JC’s twin brother, Marco. +++

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