Newsflash: nieuwe McLaren Speedtail is 404 km/u snel


+++ Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll recently purchased a 16.7 % stake in ASTON MARTIN thanks to a $240 million investment. However, one major casualty of this arrangement happens to be the launch of Aston Martin’s fully-electric Lagonda brand, which was scheduled for 2022. Now, those plans have been stalled for 3 additional years. While Aston Martin is mainly a performance-oriented brand that gets along just fine with internal combustion engines, delaying their push into electric cars could be seen as a negative in today’s automotive landscape. Yet, this slight strategic shift is inevitable and will see the British carmaker switch its focus to providing hybrid models instead, for the time being. This plan will also result in an unspecified number of job cuts, plus the restructuring of sales and marketing operations. Despite all these changes, the plan is still for Aston Martin to focus its sales strategy around the DBX, with first deliveries of the crossover scheduled to commence later this year. Meanwhile, Aston will continue to work with Red Bull Advanced Technologies “until the Aston Martin Valkyrie is delivered”; something that should also take place before the year’s end. The investment also pretty much guarantees the production of the Valkyrie for the latter half of 2020 and the Valkyrie Pro in early 2021. The new Vantage with a roadster version is still a go in Geneva this year, as is the Goldfinger DB5 Continuation and V12 Speedster special editions. +++ 

+++ BMW ‘s new management team will not change course and follow Mercedes-Benz and Audi by developing a dedicated electric vehicle architecture to better compete against EV leader Tesla. CEO Oliver Zipse believes BMW’s “integrated” platform, which can underpin EVs as well as cars with combustion engines, could be a unique selling point for customers. Therefore, Zipse plans to stick with a conservative investment strategy for EVs that he has carried over from his predecessor, Harald Krüger. European automakers will need to invest heavily to halve fleet emissions to 59 grams per kilometer by 2030 from a target of 95 gram that takes full effect next year. A decade from now, BMW expects every second car it sells in Europe will either be a plug-in hybrid or a battery-electric vehicle to meet targets. “In our view, market forecasts are too uncertain to warrant inflexible, electro-only platforms”, BMW executive Udo Hänle told. “What we don’t want is for our plants to operate below capacity”, Hänle said. The executive last month transitioned from his job as senior vice president of production strategy to a new role in engineering. Financially, this approach makes sense because in the early years of the market’s transition to electrified vehicles factories can quickly adapt to changing demand for combustion-driven and battery-powered vehicles. “Building a new plant would cost roughly €1 billion, whereas ramping up existing facilities to produce battery-electric vehicles will amount to a 3-digit million euro investment, mainly for body shop and assembly”, Hänle said. BMW will retain its current strategy of one architecture for front-wheel-drive and one for rear-wheel-drive cars. This common distinction within the combustion engine world is not found on EV-only platforms. Critics says that BMW’s strategy puts a premium on finances over innovation and could lead to uncompetitive products. Hänle argued that won’t be the case at BMW. “We are not going to compromise on anything that will impact the customer”, he said. BMW already experimented unsuccessfully with a purpose-built electric vehicle when the i3 arrived in 2013. The automaker says it will not carry over the i3’s costly construction and unique body-on-frame layout to subsequent EVs. Last November, Zipse extolled the virtues of the group’s cautious approach, billing it even as a competitive differentiator. “We don’t believe that is at all necessary to have a specialized platform to achieve the desired product characteristics”, said BMW’s CEO, who took over in last August. “Instead you can accomplish these very well with an intelligent platform that fulfills all the requirements”. Audi parent Volkswagen Group takes a different view. Engineers can take full advantage of their freedom to develop traits unique to Audi’s dedicated PPE EV architecture, including its 800-volt system that lowers weight, saves space and enables an ultra-fast recharging speed. Meanwhile Mercedes is developing its EVA2 platform that will underpin the upcoming EQ S. Using BMW’s logic, however, its rivals shouldn’t have bothered with architectures specifically for EVs, especially because Zipse believes its integrated platform does not come with trade-offs such as limited electric range. “It’s not the case that you have to make compromises if you plan long in advance. I believe the fact that we don’t need a dedicated EV platform could be a unique selling point”, he said. BMW’s stance on EV-only architectures may be short lived, however, because the European Union aims to break its dependence on imported fossil fuels that contribute to climate change by going fully carbon neutral by 2050. To facilitate this, new EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in December she plans to propose more punitive 2030 fleet emission targets. +++ 

+++ The BREXIT battle between the UK and the European Union resumed as British leader Boris Johnson clashed with the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier at the start of 11 months of talks on a future trade deal. Barnier said in Brussels that a “highly ambitious” trade deal is on offer for the UK, but only if Johnson signs up to strict rules to prevent unfair competition. Speaking minutes later in London, Johnson rejected Barnier’s demand and insisted the UK will thrive even if negotiations fail. He said instead the UK would be happy with a relationship based on Australia’s far looser arrangements with the EU. Australia doesn’t have a formal trade deal with the EU and faces World Trade Organization tariffs and barriers in many areas. Tariffs would hurt automakers by increasing the cost of new cars imported into Britain and disrupting supply chains for companies with UK production. Last week, the SMMT UK auto industry association warned that a free-trade agreement is needed between Britain and the UK to reignite investment in the industry and stem tumbling production. New-car production dropped 14.2 % last year to 1.3 million cars; the lowest level for a decade, partly on disruption caused by Brexit, the SMMT said. It is expected to drop a further 2.3 % in 2020 to 1.27 million units. About 55 % of all cars made in the Britain are exported to the EU, loaded with parts that have traversed the border multiple times during the manufacturing phase. Tariffs on imported parts and exported vehicles under World Trade Organization rules would inflate manufacturing costs by $4.1 billion, the SMMT said in November, forcing prices to rise and global demand for UK cars to shrink. The rival speeches by Barnier and Johnson took place almost simultaneously. They represent the first formal exchanges between the 2 sides in what looks certain to be a hard-edged and tense negotiation. “The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada’s or more like Australia’s”, Johnson told. “I have no doubt that in either case the UK will prosper mightily”. After 3 years of bad-tempered talks and last-minute breakthroughs over the UK’s political withdrawal, early signs indicate that the EU and UK could struggle to avoid a cliff-edge when it comes to agreeing their future trading arrangement. The EU’s draft negotiating mandate said the UK needs to make “robust commitments” to ensure it doesn’t undercut the EU. On climate change, the UK is expected to maintain a system of carbon pricing and consider linking its domestic emissions market with that of the bloc. In a document, Johnson published his negotiating framework, which is at odds with much of the EU’s plan. In the document, Johnson made it clear that businesses must prepare now to leave the EU customs union and single market at the end of the year. He said British and European financial services regulators should cooperate and allow for a predictable environment for business, including “structured” withdrawal of operating rights under a so-called “equivalence” regime. Crucially, the British document rejected the idea of aligning with EU rules and standards, and insisted the European Court of Justice will have no role over British laws. Johnson’s government thinks that the 11-month time frame is sufficient to get a full deal, one at least as good as the deal that Canada reached with the EU. The EU’s leadership has said this will be impossible. “We now have to address the consequences of the choices the UK has made”, said Barnier. “Because of those choices the UK will no longer be able to benefit from the rights and advantages of the EU”. Barnier said the “exceptional offer” is conditional on commitments to ensure a level playing field in areas such as taxation, labor rules and environmental standards. “We need to make sure competition is and remains open and fair”, he said. Barnier said the EU isn’t looking for “alignment” of rules, but “consistency” from the UK. He added that he wants “mechanisms to uphold the high standards we have”. In his speech, Johnson insisted the UK was not leaving the EU to “undermine European standards” and promised to keep higher standards in many areas, including environmental protections. Britain will do this “without the compulsion of a treaty”, he said. “The anxiety should really be on our side of the Channel, not yours”, Johnson told the bloc. “Look at state aid: France spends twice as much on state aid as the UK”, he said. “Who is using subsidies to undercut? Not the UK”. The Canadian deal that Johnson cited as a model removes tariffs on 98 % of goods trade, raises tariff-free quotas, opens up public procurement so Canadian and EU companies can bid for each other’s governments’ contracts, and protects intellectual property. The EU and Canada negotiated for seven years before signing that accord in October 2016. One unknown factor is how much Johnson really wants an agreement with the EU. Many Brexit purists in his Conservative party would be happy without one. +++ 

+++ Demand for FERRARI ’s Portofino and 812 Superfast models helped the Italian supercar maker hit profit targets for last year though it only a provided cautious upgrade to its outlook for 2020. Ferrari said it planned to boost adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization to €1.38 billion – €1.43 billion this year above a previous target of €1.3 billion given in 2018, disappointing some. Morgan Stanley analysts said the outlook was slightly below market expectations though they did not expect a material reaction in the share price, which has been riding high. Ferrari shares have more than trebled since it listed in 2016 as the brand famed for its racing pedigree clocked up a string of strong results and boosted its profit margins to above 30 %; a return most carmakers only dream of. Rival Aston Martin for example has a margin below 7 %, while Porsche has an operating margin of about 17 %. Ferrari, which is controlled by Italy’s Agnelli family through Exor, said adjusted profit rose 22 % in the last quarter of 2019 to €333 million; just missing a forecast of €340 million. Net revenues rose 10 % in the 4th quarter to €927 million. Deliveries to Europe, Middle East and Africa (by far its biggest market) jumped 29 %; more than offsetting a 25 % drop in the Americas and a slump of 65 % in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which accounts for about 8 % of revenue. Its 4th quarter results left 2019 profit at €1.27 billion, in line with an estimate the company gave in November. Its adjusted core profit margin came in at 33.7 % versus a target of 34 %. After releasing a record 5 new models last year (including the F90 Stradale; the Prancing Horse’s first mass production hybrid) Ferrari is set to slow the roll-out of new cars in the coming years. Ferrari had said it planned to launch 15 models between 2019 and 2022, while achieving a significant increase in their average retail price. In a bid to extract even more growth, Ferrari last year launched a plan to enhance its brand through new clothing and accessory collections, entertainment offers, and other luxury products and services for clients. The strategy includes a manufacturing agreement with Italian fashion house Giorgio Armani and the opening of a restaurant with Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura in the group’s hometown of Maranello in northern Italy in late 2022. Shipments in 2019 were 10.131 units; a 9.5 % increase from the previous year. +++ 

+++ Registrations in FRANCE fell by 13 % in January compared to the same month in 2019, as the market adjusted to stricter new EU and French emissions rules. However, sales of battery-electric, full-hybrid and plug-in-hybrid vehicles soared, and as a result carbon-dioxide emissions fell to an average of 96 grams per km for the month compared with 113 g/km in December, industry association CCFA said. The fleet average for Europe under the new rules is 95 g/km. With 22 selling days, there were 134.230 registrations in January. That was about 77.000 fewer than in December, when sales jumped by 28 % as automakers rushed to sell high-polluting models before new EU emissions regulations started on January 1. December sales were also boosted by an impending lower threshold for the ‘malus’ or environmental penalty for cars that emit a high level of carbon dioxide. Starting January 1, buyers paid the fees on vehicles that emit 110 g/km of CO2 on the so-called correlated NEDC cycle, compared with the earlier limit of 117 g/km, meaning that more cars are subject to the penalty. The penalties increase with emissions, so cars already subject to a penalty will pay even higher fees. The minimum penalty was also raised to €50 from €35 and the maximum payment for the highest-polluting cars increased to €20,000 from €10,500. Full-electric vehicles had an 8.2 % market share in January for a total of 10.952 sales; up from 1.8 % for all of 2019. Plug-in hybrids, which many automakers are counting on to help them reach their emissions targets, had a 2.8 % share compared with 0.8 % for all of 2019. Overall, hybrids made up 11.4 % of the market, while the total for 2019 was 5.7 %. The Renault Zoe was the third-best-selling vehicle in France for the month with 5.331 sales. Many volume brands recorded steep declines in January, with Suzuki down 44 %, Mercedes down 43 %, Dacia falling by 39 % and Mini down 37 %. But sales were up at several brands, most notably DS; up by 40 % thanks to the 3 Crossback introduced last spring. And also Nissan; up by 29 %, following the introduction of a new generation of the Juke. Among French brands, PSA Group sales fell by 5.9 % with Peugeot sales down 1.4 %, Citroen down by 11 % and Opel down by 27 %. Renault Group sales fell by 17 % with a drop of 9.4 % for Renault in addition to Dacia’s downturn. Among foreign brands, Volkswagen Group sales were down 17 % with gains of 16 % for Seat and 5.9 % for Skoda unable to counter declines at Volkswagen (30 %) and Audi (12 %). Other brands that saw sharp drops were Volvo (down 51 %), Fiat (down 36 %) and Ford (down 33 ). BMW brand sales fell by 4.5 %. At Asian brands, Toyota sales rose 16 %, Hyundai sales fell by 3.7 % and Kia fell by 13 %. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI is expected to unveil a new generation of the i20 at the upcoming Geneva motor show in March. Although not yet officially confirmed, multiple sources are suggesting that the supermini will be shown to the public for the first time at the Swiss event, before going on sale later in 2020. The Ford Fiesta and Opel Corsa rival has recently been seen undergoing winter testing in the usual heavy body disguise. Although many of the prototype’s external features are covered up, it is clear that its overall shape and front lighting design bears a resemblance to the larger i30. The current i20 has been on sale since 2015 so initial customer deliveries at the end of 2020 or at the beginning of 2021 fit in with the usual 6-year lifecycle for mainstream models. Little is known about the new i20, but expect an extensive overhaul of the car’s interior and technology to bring it into line with newer Hyundais, such as the i10 and Kona. There’s also a strong possibility that some electrified powertrain variants will be brought in to help the Korean maker meet stringent EU emissions targets. There is also expected to be a hot i20 N next year, but that decision may have been pushed back. +++ 

+++ KIA won more awards than any other brand at this year’s “Best Cars for the Money” awards in the U.S. The carmaker that it received 4 out of 11 awards at the Washington Auto Show, which wrapped last week. The annual awards are presented by the U.S. News and World Report. Cars were evaluated based on “transaction prices” and “5 year total ownership costs”. The Forte sedan won the award in the cars category and the Sorento, the Soul and the Sedona in the SUVs and minivans category. +++ 

+++ LEXUS posted a double-digit sales gain last year, taking its 30th anniversary in stride as strength in China and Europe offset stalled demand in North America. Sales at the brand, which debuted in 1989, grew 10 % to 765.330 worldwide last year, powered by strong sales of its UX and RX. China sales soared 25 % to 202.000 vehicles in 2019 and deliveries in the brand’s European markets including Russia climbed 14 % to 87.000 vehicles. In North America, the brand’s largest market, sales came to 325.000 vehicles, which was “level with prior year”. In the EU and EFTA markets, Lexus sales rose 20 % in 2019 to 56.055 with market share rising to 0.4 % from 0.3 %. Lexus’ shift toward smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrid gasoline-electric motors has proved popular in China and Europe, but an aging product lineup in the U.S. (where larger vehicles rule the road) has cost it market share and momentum. Toyota has long sought to make Lexus a global brand and its rapid growth in China and Europe after years of sluggishness is helping realize that goal. Company officials say they haven’t forgotten about the U.S. market (which it once dominated) and have a series of newer vehicles in the offing. Sales in the U.S. fell 0.1 % last year to 298.114 vehicles. That marked a 4th straight year of declines and the lowest level since 2013. Lexus sold its 10 millionth vehicle last year, a testament to its success over other Japanese luxury brands such as Nissan’s Infiniti and Honda’s Acura, whose cumulative worldwide sales total 2.6 million and 5.4 million, respectively. But the Toyota premium brand still trails behind German rivals. Mercedes-Benz saw 2019 sales rise 1.3 % to 2.34 million vehicles, besting BMW’s 2 % gain to 2.17 million vehicles. +++


+++ MCLAREN has revealed that development of the new Speedtail hypercar has concluded, with the firm’s spiritual successor to the original McLaren F1 achieving a targeted top speed of 404 kph in testing. The new Bugatti Chiron rival has been in the hands of McLaren engineers at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and the firm claims that the new car is capable of consistent high-speed runs. The Woking-based supercar maker has revealed that the 404 kph vmax was achieved over 30 times on the facility’s space shuttle runway. With development now concluded, McLaren says that the first Speedtails are being built in Woking right now, with a production run of 106 examples planned; the same number as the F1. Sitting in McLaren’s ‘Ultimate Series’ stable, the Speedtail joins the Senna and before 2025, a new car acting as a replacement for the P1. The Speedtail is being billed by McLaren as a ‘hyper-GT’ and its standout feature lives up to that billing (and brings lineage from the F1) because the car is a 3-seater. The driver is positioned centrally, with 2 passengers behind and at either side, although unlike the F1, the Speedtail’s driver seat can be accessed from either side, due to the lack of a gearlever. The car certainly won’t want for road presence, thanks to its 5.2 meter long body; the Speedtail is basically same the length as a long-wheelbase Mercedes S-Class. The front end takes established McLaren design cues but stretches them to the extreme, particularly the ultra-slim front headlights and the slats at either side of the front bumper that allow fast-moving air to pass along the car’s flanks. The side profile is dominated by the Speedtail’s extraordinary rear overhang (surely one of the longest on any production car) and the front wheel, which uses a fixed cover to keep the air fed through the front-bumper slats as clean as possible as it goes along the side of the vehicle. It looks an unusual effect, with the ‘solid’-looking front wheel and a conventional alloy at the rear, although McLaren says the fixed cover can be removed if required. The side panels themselves look remarkably clean, because the Speedtail lacks conventional side mirrors. Instead it has a pair of cameras which slide out from the doors themselves to capture wide-angle imagery of each side of the car; this footage is then displayed, real-time, on a pair of screens mounted on top of the dashboard. The ‘speed tail’ itself contains some cutting-edge technology that’s designed to help keep the Speedtail on the road at speed. A pair of flaps has been cut into the rear bodywork, and they move up to different angles to create extra downforce when required, such as in a corner or under heavy braking. The ailerons do this without the use hinges, however; in a bid to smooth out the Speedtail’s bodywork as much as possible, McLaren’s engineers have used the flexible properties of key pieces of the carbonfibre panel to build in enough bend in the flaps for hydraulics to push them up and pull them down. They play their part in the car’s low drag coefficient – yet to be confirmed but said by McLaren to be the lowest of any of its road cars to date. McLaren is still finalising elements of the car’s performance figures and it doesn’t expect to release a full technical specification until next spring. But we already know some of the Speedtail’s startling raw numbers. Its petrol-electric hybrid powertrain is based around the firm’s 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, and like the set-up in the Ferrari LaFerrari, it’s designed to boost performance; there’s no scope for electric-only running. The system’s batteries can be replenished using induction charging. The total system power is 1.050 hp and the car weighs a modest 1.430 kg; a combination that delivers a top speed of 404 kph and a 0-300 kph dash in just 12.8 seconds. That’s almost 4 seconds faster than the acceleration figure posted by McLaren’s own track-focused P1 supercar. The Speedtail is designed to be the ultimate road car, though, so part of the reason for its extraordinary rear end is luggage space. There’s a central compartment at the back, as well as space below the front bonnet – and a set of bespoke Speedtail luggage means that overnight luggage for the three occupants can be carried. Just 106 examples of the Speedtail will be built and all have already been sold. Buyer’s invoices are likely to extend way beyond the Speedtail’s list price of £1.75 million plus taxes (because an extensive options list allows huge scope for personalisation) everything from different fabric materials and patterns to bespoke paint jobs and even an 18-carat gold McLaren badge and Speedtail lettering. Speedtail customers are said to have been assured that there will be no convertible version of the car, and no subsequent hardcore GTR variant, in a bid to maintain exclusivity. McLaren says it had just over 300 serious enquires from established customers, and that those who weren’t able to get an order slot for the Speedtail were given priority for the Senna and Senna GTR track cars. +++

+++ The next MERCEDES C-Class has been spied in the hands of Mercedes engineers testing in the Arctic Circle. The car hints strongly at the final exterior design of the German brand’s answer to the G20 generation BMW 3 Series. The surfacing and overall shape of the next C-Class doesn’t alter significantly from that of the current car. As expected, the redesign heading the way of the Mk5 C-Class will be an evolutionary step. It’ll be influenced heavily by the brand’s latest design language rather than introducing a new one, and based on recent official shots of the facelifted E-Class, the nose and tail of the car will be similar to those of its larger sibling. Our exclusive images preview how the C-Class could look, when it emerges in full late this year. Alongside Mercedes’ focus on bringing 10 new pure-electric vehicles to market in the next 3 years, the C-Class plays an equally significant role in the German firm’s future; this model alone accounts for 20 % of Mercedes’ global sales. It’ll hit showrooms early in 2021. The new model will continue to use the rear-wheel-drive MRA platform, which first arrived as the basis of the current C-Class, yet several updates to the architecture are being developed. The wheelbase will grow in length, but more importantly the underpinnings are being prepared for a new powertrain line-up that will be totally electrified across the board, be it 4 or 6 cylinder, petrol or diesel. Mercedes introduced 48 volt technology to the C-Class range with the existing model. Beneath the skin of the latest C 200, a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine links up with an electrically driven belt starter generator fed by a tiny battery. The belt generator enables the engine to deactivate at cruising speed on the motorway for fuel-free coasting, while it can also assist the petrol engine with an additional 14 hp. This technology is limited to just one model for now, but it will be applied to even the most basic versions of the next C-Class. It will be used in a performance capacity, too, with the addition of a 6-cylinder AMG C 53 model to the line-up. Mercedes will also introduce new plug-in hybrid variants to take on the latest BMW 330e. The new 3 Series PHEV has a maximum range of 70 kilometres on battery power alone, plus a 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. Naturally, the next plug-in versions of the C-Class (both petrol and diesel versions could appear) will major on new battery technology to unlock the potential of up to 80 kilometres’ range on electric power and significantly reduced CO2 emissions when running in hybrid mode. Mercedes is also expected to produce a separate all-electric rival for Tesla’s Model 3 at a later stage, using a unique platform developed for the firm’s EQ sub-brand. One area where the next C-Class won’t chase the 3 Series too hard is in driving dynamics; it will remain a car that’s focused far more on passenger comfort and refinement. Key to this will be the decision to continue offering the C-Class with optional air suspension, something that isn’t available on its BMW, Audi A4 or Jaguar XE rivals. Semi-autonomous driving technology will also take a big step forward in the new Mercedes, with the deployment of a ‘Level 3’ driver assistance feature, which is due also on the next S-Class. Such a set-up will permit conditional autonomy, and in the case of the next C-Class this will mean that the car is capable of looking after hands-off motorway driving at speeds of up to 130 kph. However, the driver must remain ready to take back control. Changes inside the new car will be profound, with a totally fresh interior architecture. A large display will dominate the cabin, stretching from the bottom of the centre console, and combining the central display and fully digital instruments. The same set-up is also due to appear in the next S-Class. +++

+++ Electric cars accounted for a 44.3 % share of NORWAY ’s new car sales in January, rising year on year but falling short of the 50 % – 60 % range the industry forecast for 2020, data from the Norwegian Road Federation showed. In January 2019, electric cars made up 37.8 % of sales in the Nordic country and climbed in subsequent months to an overall 42.4 % market share for the full year. As it seeks to phase out the sale of combustion-engine cars by the middle of this decade, oil-producer Norway has exempted battery-powered vehicles from taxes imposed on those running on petrol and diesel. As a result of the policy, Norway has the world’s highest rate of electric vehicle use, making it a valuable testing ground as car makers seek to promote new models. In January, Audi’s e-Tron was Norway’s top-selling car for the second time in 4 months, hitting a market share of 9.4 %. Audi delivered 902 electric SUVs, ahead of Renault’s Zoe with 533 cars and Volkswagen’s Golf with 511. In 2019, Tesla’s Model 3 was by far the most popular car in Norway with some 15.700 vehicles sold for the full year, racking up an 11 % share of the market. The California-based firm last week announced it would start early deliveries of its Model Y, a crossover, amid rising competition from the likes of Volkswagen, Ford, Audi, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. +++

+++ Around 2.2 million passenger PLUG-IN car sales globally in 2019 translates into an average of 2.5 % market share (1 in 40 new cars). The global plug-in electric car sales slightly declined in December, although the past month was the third-best ever, which makes us cautiously optimistic. Over 279.000 plug-in cars were sold in December; 4 % less than a year ago. While the last couple of months were challenging due to significant drops in China, the overall result for 2019 is positive: almost 2.210.000 (up 10 % year-over-year). Moreover, the average plug-in market share improved from 2.1 % to 2.5 %. Most of the volume comes from all-electric cars (74 %), which also improved its position by 5 % year-over-year, while plug-in hybrids (26 %) declined. The Tesla Model 3 set new all-time sales records: 53.742 for a single month and 300.885 for the year. The second-best (111.047), with also a personal monthly record of 21.963, last year is the BAIC EU-Series: the first non-Tesla model to exceed 20.000 in a single month. Interestingly, the Nissan Leaf (5.414 in December and 69.873 for the year) managed to secure the third step of the podium, ahead of the weak BYD Yuan (1.434 in December and 67,839). The Leaf sales shrunk by 20 % though in 2019, however. Tesla comfortably won the manufacturer rank with 2 records: 63.148 for the month and 367.820 for the year. The overall result is close to 140.000 better than the second best. BYD does not cope well in recent months (11.099 in December), but its year results were still higher (229.506) than BAIC, SAIC and BMW (36,323 and 160,251; 18,457 and 137,666; 15,646 and 128,883 respectively). +++

+++ RENAULT is introducing a plug-in hybrid version of the Mégane with estimated CO2 emissions of less than 40 grams per kilometer and an electric-only range of up to 65 km. The Mégane uses a 160 hp version of Renault’s E-Tech hybrid system, which will be rolled out first on the Clio as a conventional hybrid and Captur as a plug-in. The system has 2 electric motors, an alternator/starter with 23 kW and a primary propulsion motor with 49 kW, attached to a clutchless automatic gearbox. The Mégane plug-in versions have not received final certification under WLTP, Renault said. The automaker said the Estate would go on sale this summer, followed by the hatchback. The Mégane has a 9.8 kWh 400 volt battery, which Renault says allows an electric range of 50 km in mixed-cycle use and 65 km in city driving, with a top speed of 135 kph. Recharge time is expected to be around 2,5 hours for a 3 kW wall outlet. There are three driving modes: Pure, an electric-only setting available when the battery is charged; MySense, a hybrid setting that reserves up to 40 % of the battery power for full-electric driving; and Sport, which provides maximum power by using both electric motors and the internal-combustion engine. The E-Tech system starts the car in electric mode. The introduction of the E-Tech version is part of a mid-cycle facelift for the current generation of the Mégane, the fourth, which was introduced in 2016. Other changes included a revamped cockpit with an available 9.3 inch vertically oriented central touchscreen and a 10 inch digital dashboard. In addition to the plug-in hybrid, powertrains include a 1.3 liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine developed with Daimler with 100, 115, 140 or 160 hp and a 1.5 liter diesel engine with 95 or 115 hp. Later this year a 1.0 liter 3-cylinder gasoline engine with 120 hp will be available. There will be 2 high-performance versions: The RS has a 1.8 liter turbocharged engine with an increased output of 300 hp (up from 280 hp) and 420 Nm of torque, and the R.S. Trophy, which uses the same engine but has a chassis designed for racing. The Mégane is Renault’s second-best selling model after the Clio. A total of 203.994 units were sold in Europe in 2019; a 15 % decrease from 2018. Globally, Renault sold 248.132 Méganes; a drop of 13 %. The Mégane was in 7th place in the C segment in the first half of 2019; a category that is dominated by the Volkswagen Golf with 411.000 sales for the full year. It sits behind the Opel Astra in 6th place and ahead of the Toyota Corolla. Other plug-in models in the segment now on the market or coming soon include the Toyota Prius, Volkswagen Golf GTE, the Seat Leon, the Skoda Octavia, the Kia Ceed and the Hyundai i30. The Mégane is built in Renault’s factory in Palencia, central Spain. +++

+++ SKODA has outlined a plan to launch 30 new models in the next 2 years to help achieve its goal of selling 2 million cars per year by 2030, the company’s boss has confirmed. One of the first cars as part of that plan will be a production version of the Vision In concept. Due to go on sale next year, the model reignites the VW Group’s attempt, led by Skoda, to capitalise on the growing new car market in India. It will also be exported to Mexico, but not to any European countries, at least initially. The company’s boss Bernhard Maier said: “We will launch 30 new models in the years between now and 2022. They will be a mix of new models and derivatives, and 10 of them will be partially or fully electrified. And after 2022 we will not stop, we will ramp up”. The near future will see the company launch a new plug-in hybrid version of the Skoda Octavia RS, plus 2 derivatives of a fully electric Vision iV crossover based on the Group’s MEB platform. Asked about a small dedicated electric car that stays true to Skoda’s value for money ethos, Maier said: “First of all you have to have technology that is accessible for our customers and you have to have scale effects and have the markets prepared. There is still a huge difference in infrastructure. In the Netherlands, for instance, there is a charger every 3 kilometers, but in Germany it is every 20 kilometers”. New generations of some of Skoda’s core models, such as the Fabia and Superb, are also in the pipeline and will launch towards the end of the timeframe Maier outlined. A next generation version of the Citigo would be electric only, but the model remains unconfirmed for production as the threat to the future of affordable non-electrified city cars continues. Such cars are now an endangered species in Europe as the industry is widely unable to make them meet the strict EU average CO2 target of 95 g/km in their current form and cost. While city cars can be made electric (and indeed many are, including the Citigo in its current generation), doing so roughly doubles the list price. Skoda announced plans at its annual press conference in March last year to launch 30 models before 2023, at least 10 of which would be electric or electrified, but an all-new Citigo is not among them. Skoda technical boss Christian Strube said that he believed a future Citigo would be solely electric, and that the rise of mega-cities meant that small cars still “made sense”. Strube conceded, though, that the car “must be affordable, otherwise it doesn’t make sense”. On the subject of the affordability of small electric cars, Skoda boss Bernhard Maier said that government subsidies were needed to help bring the cost down. “The first EVs are more expensive as the material costs are much higher than internal combustion engined cars”, he said. “Without suitable government intervention, they will be hardly accessible as a mass product for people seeking a small family car”. The revised Citigo is Skoda’s first electric car and, as said, the firm will launch a dedicated electric cross-over based on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform by the end of 2020. Along with the new Superb plug-in hybrid, and an Octavia PHEV to follow this year, Maier said that Skoda was well placed to meet its CO2 fleet target by the end of the year and avoid paying fines. +++

+++ In SOUTH KOREA , the Hyundai Motor Group may have to halt production this week of several models because of shortages of supplies from China. Last week, Beijing extended the Lunar New Year holiday to February 9 to try to stem the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. Regional governments sent notices to factories in their areas to halt operations. This was the second time for an extension of the annual holiday, which was initially supposed to end on January 30. Hyundai’s management sat down with its labor union to discuss temporary disruptions. In a message to company staff, president Ha Eon-tae declared the situation a “global emergency”, hinting that a temporary shutdown was now inevitable. “With China implementing limits to working days and the extension of production halts on our suppliers’ end, temporary closings of several of our production lines seem inevitable”, said Ha. “We will need to immediately resume production once the parts are made available”. One specific auto part being discussed is the wiring harness, which refers to a bundle of electric wires inside a vehicle. Hyundai has 3 suppliers for wiring harnesses, all headquartered in Korea. But they all have production in China. A typical motor vehicle has up to 30.000 parts and even a single gap can shut down a line. The wiring harness has to be installed early in the manufacturing process unlike back lights or side-view mirrors, which can be attached to a car later. Each vehicle needs a wiring harness optimized to its size and design, so the inventory situation differs per model. Shortages for several Hyundai models has started, according to industry sources and the situation is expected to expand to other models in the next few days. Kia has started slowing down production in its Hwaseong, Gyeonggi and Gwangju factories. “This is not a component that we stock for the long term in the first place”, said a Hyundai spokesman. “Due to the degree of customization per model, we usually place orders according to the volume of customer orders received. If the situation in China doesn’t improve, we’ll have to find other sources of supply, whether it’s importing from Southeast Asia or sourcing products domestically. But that will take time. Even if we start now, it’ll take at least a month to set up facilities for additional production”. Among models that will be immediately affected are Hyundai’s popular Palisade and Genesis GV80. Last week, the company canceled plans for a weekend work shift for Palisade production at its Ulsan factory. According to an internal report, 20 of the company’s models will exhaust all of their wiring harness supplies by Thursday. Due to the same supply shortage of wiring harnesses, SsangYong made a decision earlier last week to close its factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi until Febrary 12. GM Korea and Renault Samsung Motors said their situations are not severe enough to stop any production but are said to be preparing for the worst. “At the moment, the wiring harness is the only component known to be causing problems, but it’s likely that other auto parts are already affected as well”, said Lee Hang-koo, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade. “Hyundai and Kia have a higher dependence on Chinese suppliers, so coping with China-related issues like this one is a bigger challenge for them compared to other global competitors”. +++

+++ Allegedly, a Ford engineer thought it was wise to criticise TESLA for shoddy build quality and other questionable safety concerns. First, let’s start with the introduction made by the engineer: “My short bio: I am one of the engineers on the upcoming Mustang Mach-E and an electric car aficionado. I’ve spent most of my career in the EV space and have an auto passion going back to when my grandfather ran a garage. Currently polishing up the vehicle for release in a few months, but have worked across all the vehicles of the past generation and the modules therein”. When asked about the direction Tesla took EV cars, he said: “One of the things I’ve seen online that I agree with, as a Tesla owner myself, is that Tesla shouldn’t be making cars. They should instead be making drive trains and frames, then let companies that are actually good at building cars build them”. The engineer is especially harsh when he says “Simultaneously, their engineering is some of the worst shit I have ever seen in any industry. It’s often horrifying. Their tech and engineering in battery and HV electronics and harnessing outpaces the industry by 5 years easy, but their logistics and quality is so poor I’m astonished that the things have as few problems as they do.​ I’ve torn down dozens of vehicles. When we opened our Model 3 when it first came out, it had loose screws dropped randomly in the chassis near sensitive components. The fit and finish of the alignment of panels is ridiculous. Their electronics frequently flaunt safety guidelines and do not meet UL regulations. So that being said, yes their engineering is top notch. They create custom solutions for vehicle programs that other OEMs could only dream due to the fact that they contract manufacture all of their parts rather than hire auto supplier companies to design it for them. A custom vehicle part for an OEM is 3x the cost of what it would be for Tesla, and the quality of the electronics when you build it in-house is far better than what you can get by adapting an industry design.​ I think what you’ll see going forward, and what we are doing, is more work on commonized platforms. The Volkswagen MEB platform, the Rivian Skateboard platform, the LG chem battery platform, our GE1/2 platform. The auto industry knows that these are the ways of the future, rather than shopping together a bunch of parts into whatever random model year marketing wanted to serve up. These platforms are major advancements and take billions of dollars, and frankly they raise the barrier to entry to compete to such a level that even established OEMs are getting squeezed out. Partnerships are becoming more and more common, because if you spend 6yrs developing a platform that is noncompetitive for long enough to recoup your losses or isn’t as technologically advanced as your competitors even once, then you’re done.​ I think that’s why you see Ford’s recent investments in Rivian and the Lincoln BEV coming out by them in the next few years. Platforms are the new gold. Tesla builds amazing custom electronics and motors. We’re doing the same thing but everyone has some catching up to do, but I think we pulled off something pretty amazing and the powertrain isn’t the only reason people buy a car: they want souls. In my personal opinion, I don’t think Tesla is as good at building cars, both from a design/user experience perspective and from a manufacturing/logistics/process perspective, as almost all other OEMs. Does that mean they shouldn’t make cars? Hell no. That platform is something that you can ride to the bank, but at the same time I think you can see in how the Mach-E stacks up the to Model Y that it’s not that hard to make a car that has a soulful identity that resonates with customers that has a great powertrain as well. Cars are emotional creatures and that’s something that Tesla could do better IMO”.​ +++

+++ TOYOTA has confirmed that the next-generation Aygo will be designed, developed and built in Europe. No date has been confirmed for the new model’s launch, which bucks the trend of firms pulling out of the city car segment due to falling profitability. However, Toyota Europe boss Johan van Zyl said the Aygo will continue to be built in Kolín, the Czech Republic, after being designed and engineered in Brussels, Belgium; safeguarding jobs in the region. The current-generation Aygo is a sibling of the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108, but no successors are planned for the PSA pair. Toyota will take control of Kolín in 2021 by buying its partner out of the joint venture, but production of the existing trio is likely to continue for some time after. The Japanese maker is hoping to capitalise on other manufacturers giving up on the city car segment with the new Aygo and it could adopt SUV-inspired styling cues. Executive vice-president of Toyota Europe, Matt Harrison, said the current Aygo is a “profitable business equation for us”; a statement that cannot be applied to rivals from the Volkswagen Group and the PSA Group. “We have an awful lot of equity in Aygo”, Harrison said. “We’re selling 100,000 a year. It’s got a personality all of its own so it gives to the brand rather than takes away. It’s the most relevant car for a young audience so it’s the access point of the brand. I understand other manufacturers have not been able to make a successful business out of the A-segment and, with increased technologies, they only see it getting worse. But we see it as an opportunity to go further, not pull back”. Harrison’s comments are an anomaly among mainstream car manufacturers, whose own A-segment city cars have been put under increasing pressure by a number of factors; notably, extremely tight margins and the need to introduce electrification, in an unprofitable way, to ensure the models aren’t problematic in the upcoming fleet average CO2 regulations for 2021. “Our hybrid mix will carry us through the 2021 commitments. Many manufacturers are rushing because they don’t have hybrids and are facing some pretty eye-watering penalties”, said Harrison. However, he acknowledged that the “business equation isn’t quite there yet” for fully electric vehicles to enter the mainstream small car segment. “We can take a little bit more time to wait for the maturity of the tech and the business equation and see where consumer demand is shifting”, he said. This suggests Toyota is developing the next-generation Aygo so it can be adapted quickly to use an electrified powertrain if a more pronounced market shift occurs. However, the next Aygo is still expected to be launched with a small, light and low-cost combustion engine first. Harrison has also previously hinted that “less traditional bodystyles” could be brought in to the model to capitalise on the latest consumer trends. A crossover-style focus is likely, with a raised ride height and seating position becoming increasingly desirable in towns and cities. Don’t expect to see anything until at least 2021 or 2022, though, given the long lifespan of the last-generation Aygo. An acknowledgement of the costs of electrification means that, despite Toyota planning to sell one million EVs globally by 2025, a small low-cost electric Toyota is some way off. “The small car segment is all about affordability”, said Harrison. “We don’t see that as being optimal for full electric. When you look at the price of a Peugeot e-208, it’s way outside the B-segment and that doesn’t fit our customers’ requirement of affordability”. However, Harrison did confirm that there will be 3 electric Toyotas on sale in Europe by 2021 and “more than 3” by 2025. Despite the changing market, Harrison is upbeat about the future of more niche Toyotas, such as the Land Cruiser, Supra and GT86; the last of which will receive a new generation in a joint development with Subaru and, Harrison confirmed, will be coming to Europe. He said: “If we look at our total portfolio hybrid mix, it is very strong and that allows us to make CO2 heavy cars. The Land Cruiser is a key part of our line-up and heritage. It’s an icon of our range, so it’s something we can accommodate in our line-up”. +++

+++ An accelerated plan to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel-engined cars (including hybrids and plug-in hybrids) in the UNITED KINGDOM by 2035 been branded “extremely concerning” by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The move, which is 5 years earlier than previous plans, was announced by prime minister Boris Johnson at the launch of the COP26 climate summit as part of measures to help the UK achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, SMMT boss Mike Hawes claims the government has “seemingly moved the goalposts” without a clear plan in place to achieve the goal. “Manufacturers are fully invested in a zero-emissions future, with some 60 plug-in models now on the market and 34 more coming in 2020”, Hawes said. “However, with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment. This is about market transformation, yet we still don’t have clarity on the future of the plug-in car grant (the most significant driver of EV uptake) which ends in just 60 days’ time, while the UK’s charging network is still woefully inadequate. If the UK is to lead the global zero emissions agenda, we need a competitive marketplace and a competitive business environment to encourage manufacturers to sell and build here. A date without a plan will merely destroy value today. So we therefore need to hear how the government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today’s low emission technologies, including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now”. In confirming the plans, the government said it “will continue to work with all sectors of industry to accelerate the rollout of zero-emissions vehicles – helping to deliver new green jobs in the UK. The prime minister will use the speech at the COP26 summit to call for international efforts to reach net zero as early as possible through investment in cleaner, greener technology, preservation of our natural habitat and measures to improve resilience to climate change impact”. In 2018, the government announced plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 onwards as part of the Road to Zero Strategy, but it said that ultra-low-emissions vehicles (including hybrids and plug-in hybrids) emitting less than 75 g/km of CO2 would still be allowed. However, the new plan will ban the sale of any vehicle that is not zero emissions. Based on current technology, that would allow only electric or hydrogen vehicles to be sold. The plan is subject to consultation, with the government suggesting that it could be brought forward from 2035 “if a faster transition was possible”. Some government advisers have called for the ban to be introduced by 2030 at the latest. A total of 37.850 battery-electric vehicles were sold in the UK last year. While that number was a 144 % increase on 2018, it still represented just 1.6 % of the total UK car market. By comparison: 1.498.640 petrol-engined cars were sold (64.8 % of the total market) and 583.488 diesels (25.2 %). The number of electric vehicles sold is poised to expand massively in coming years, as a flood of new mainstream vehicles reaches the market, the technology reduces in cost and charging infrastructure is massively improved – and it is likely that the bulk of vehicles sold will be fully electric long before 2035. Despite that, the move to ban hybrid and plug-in hybrid sales will be a blow to car firms that have invested heavily in the technology. Electrified vehicles have been considered an important stepping stone to reducing fleet emissions in line with ever-tougher European Union CO2 targets (which call for cars sold in 2035 to emit 37.5% less CO2 than those in 2021) while EV technology is developing. The government has launched a series of policies to promote the uptake of EVs, and sales of plug-in hybrids fell sharply last year after the removal of grants for buyers of them. Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “This government’s £1.5 billion strategy to make owning an electric vehicle as easy as possible is working; last year a fully electric car was sold every 15 minutes. We want to go further than ever before. That’s why we are bringing forward our already ambitious target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to tackle climate change and reduce emissions”. +++ 

+++ Skoda is hoping government moves to drag regulations for cars sold in India up to developed market standards will help turn around its fortunes in a market where it has stalled. The VOLKSWAGEN owned Czech carmaker has been tasked with helping its German parent achieve a 2025 target of a 5 % market share in India, which is dominated by home-grown automakers including Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors and Mahindra. Among the new rules are tighter emissions standards, pushing up the costs for domestic carmakers and forcing many to increase prices in India, which is expected to become the world’s third-largest car market by 2026. This could make it harder for the Indian incumbents, which have to invest heavily to retain their cost advantage, and prove a potential opening for firms like Skoda, which is launching a new strategy for India to coincide with the changes. “The strategy was approved keeping in mind future regulations that would help us get competitive”, Gurpratap Boparai, managing director of new entity Skoda Auto Volkswagen India, told ahead of India’s biennial auto show that begins in New Delhi this week. Although Skoda and Volkswagen have invested in technologies in developed markets and their cars have typically been designed to meet stricter standards than were needed in India, that meant their cars were over-engineered and more expensive. Boparai said that much will depend on the kind of technologies rivals bring in and their price points. Under the new India strategy, Skoda and Volkswagen will use a modular platform to build cars, increase local sourcing of components to 95 % to curb costs and design cars to local tastes, while also exporting them. Skoda this week previewed its first vehicle under the new strategy, a SUV which it expects to launch in India next year. The company is targeting sales of 100.000 cars a year for its brand in India by 2025, from about 15.000 in 2019 and to grow its sales outlets to 200 by 2023, from 85. Safety features like driver’s side airbags and anti-lock braking systems were until recently optional in India and emissions standards were less robust. Several global brands were unable to strip back their cars, struggling to generate volumes and make money in the country where Maruti, majority owned by Suzuki, and Hyundai dominate. But stricter rules will cut the cost differential between firms like Maruti, with low-priced, compact cars and Skoda, said Gaurav Vangaal, associate director at consultancy IHS Markit. “To maintain that cost advantage, Skoda and VW will need to increase volumes so as to benefit from the economies of scale. This can only be achieved by ramping up exports and having a new and attractive line-up of cars locally”, he said. Together Skoda and Volkswagen have less than 2 % share of India’s car market and dealers and analysts say they also need to improve after sales service and reduce the cost of ownership, both important factors for Indian car buyers. Volkswagen, meanwhile, this week showcased a compact SUV called Taigun and said it will focus its India strategy on SUVs, mainly in the premium category. It plans to launch 4 new SUV models in India over the next 2 years and increase the number of sales outlets to 150 by the end of 2020. +++

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