Newsflash: elektrische Dacia komt in 2021


+++ British sports car manufacturer APEX will reveal a new ‘hyper-EV’ at the Geneva motor show next month. The firm, which launched the 620 kg, 400 hp AP-1 as its debut model in 2019, claims the all-electric AP-0 weighs 1.200 kg (significantly lower than the majority of electric sports cars) thanks to the use of a pure carbonfibre tub at its core. Performance figures are unconfirmed, but Apex claims the AP-0 will offer “rapid acceleration”, as well as “superior agility, outstanding handling and exceptional cornering ability”. The AP-1 can crack the 0-100 kph sprint in well under 3 seconds and has a top speed of 280 kph. Like the AP-1, the AP-0 is expected to be designed mainly for track use, in the same vein as combustion-fuelled rivals such as the Radical Rapture, KTM X-Bow and Ariel Atom. A preview sketch gives little away, but it appears the AP-0 will sport a heavily angled front end, bonnet-mounted mirrors and a centrally mounted, sharkfin-style carbonfibre wing. +++


+++ Ford’s European boss Stuart Rowley has moved to dampen concerns about a conflict between car makers and legislators, following government proposals to BAN SALE OF COMBUSTION CARS AND HYBRIDS from 2035. Rowley said he believed talk of bans was “not helpful” and that best progress would be made if participants in negotiations were “positive and not adversarial”. “We have already begun a lot of negotiations”, says Rowley, “both here and in the EU, where proposed new laws are also hugely ambitious. The authorities have seen that we’re making good progress this year (Ford plans 14 electrified models this year alone) and we’ll make much more progress by 2025. “What’s really important is the performance of the cars we build now. Between today and 2035 the industry will put 30 million cars on the road in the UK alone, and that fleet will be around until 2050. What matters right now is how effective those cars are at reducing CO2 now”. Rowley believes there are “smart people” in government prepared to “engage sincerely” in drawing up effective plans for our electrified future. They will be watching for unintended consequences, says Rowley, and will move to reduce them with tweaks and changes when necessary. “The challenge for us right now”, says Rowley, “is to make the right plans for our next portfolio of models. It’s likely that pure internal combustion engine models will struggle from 2025 when the next tranche of regulations arrives. We believe the battery electric vehicle will become a big part of the mix, and quite soon. But we have to make a bet on whether that demand arrives in, say, 2023 or 2027. And given the size of the investment needed, the stakes are very high”. Ford’s first vehicle designed purely for electric power, the Mach-e, went on sale last November. Buyers who have reserved cars will be asked to confirm their spec and pay a deposit this summer, and local deliveries of the Mexican-built cars will start late this year, at the same time as US deliveries begin. +++

+++ CADILLAC ’s twin-turbocharged 4.2-liter V8 Blackwing engine is orphaned following the marque’s decision to end production of the CT6 and it seems unlikely to find a home in any other model. Cadillac president Steve Carlisle said: “We have no specific plans for that engine, but never is a long time”. While it would have made sense for a tuned version of this engine to power the range-topping CT5-V model just around the corner, the Blackwing allegedly doesn’t fit under the hood of the CT5. Consequently, that model is expected to feature the American marque’s familiar 6.2-liter supercharged V8. The future of the Blackwing engine may be unclear but Carlisle said the car manufacturer won’t abandon the name entirely. “We learned a lot with Blackwing. It’s an idea that’s really resonated with people. So there’ll be a little bit of Blackwing in other cars going forward”. It is claimed that the most performance-oriented models of the Cadillac CT4-V and CT5-V will use the Blackwing badge but such reports remain unconfirmed. Carlisle was also asked about the future of luxurious sedans with the CT6’s untimely demise already confirmed. According to Cadillac’s president, the car manufacturer may eventually launch another big sedan, even though it won’t launch a successor to the CT6 in the near future. If a new Cadillac flagship sedan is made, it could be all-electric. “Body style preferences are not static, and nor are body style possibilities. So as we move into electrification, it’s a clean sheet”, Carlisle said. +++


+++ DACIA has confirmed that it will launch its first fully electric car in 2021 and the new model is expected to become Europe’s cheapest EV when it arrives in showrooms. The model was confirmed by executives at Renault’s 2019 annual results conference. A slide shown during the presentation labelled the upcoming vehicle as ‘Dacia Urban city car’ under the 100 % electric category. While there are no official details on exactly what the Dacia EV will be, I understand that the model will be a Dacia-badged version of the Renault K-ZE city car that is currently on sale in China. The model measures 3.73 metres long, which puts in between an Volkswagen Up and Polo in terms of size, and has seating for 4 adults. The Renault K-ZE sold in China makes use of a 26.8 kWh battery that gives an electric range of around 250 kilometres. One electric motor powers the front axle and delivers 45 hp and 125 Nm to give a top speed of 100 kph. It’s likely that Dacia will sacrifice some of the car’s electric range to boost performance. Changes to the Dacia K-ZE for Europe are likely to focus on improving quality and adding more equipment to better suit the needs of European customers. The current Renault K-ZE features electric windows, an 8 inch touch screen and airconditioning as standard, but ESP and side airbags don’t feature. +++

+++ The DS 3 CROSSBACK E-TENSE is the brand’s first full-electric vehicle and its launch is part of PSA Group’s electrification push that also includes the Peugeot e-208 and Opel Corsa-e battery-powered hatchbacks. All 3 vehicles are on PSA’s multi-energy CMP architecture. The small SUV is positioned in the premium segment, where it currently has no direct rivals, executives say. DS is marketing the 3 Crossback E-Tense as a premium vehicle, with electrification as a selling point, said CEO Yves Bonnefont. “For DS, electric is a high-end powertrain”, he said. “You don’t buy an electric car because you don’t have a choice. You buy it because you are excited by the fact that it’s electric”. Bonnefont described the E-Tense as a “future-proof” car, because many DS buyers live in urban areas that are increasingly being subject to restrictions on internal combustion engines, especially diesels. DS says that the total cost of ownership for the E-Tense version in France where there is a €6.000 purchase bonus, is lower than for a gasoline version with an automatic transmission. According to the brand’s calculations, monthly costs for the E-Tense are €469, with financing at €425 a month, while the gasoline version would cost €512 monthly, assuming financing at €395 a month. The E-Tense differs from combustion versions of the DS 3 Crossback only in its drivetrain. PSA says that one of the benefits of the CMP architecture is that there is no loss of interior space or trunk volume with the electric version, as the batteries are positioned under the seats. DS will support E-Tense customers with a suite of services intended to ease worries about range and charging station availability. A smartphone app, MyDS, allows owners to check information remotely, including charge level, range and time left to charge. Charging at home can be programmed to start when rates are lower, such as at night. And the vehicle’s cockpit can be pre-set to be cooled or heated. Owners can also find charging stations through the app, and a trip planner creates routes that include stations. DS will also help owners install wallboxes in their homes. All versions of the DS 3, including the E-Tense, will be built at PSA Group’s factory in Poissy, France, outside of Paris. IHS Markit forecasts 2020 production will be around 8.000 vehicles, out of around a total of 71.000 for all powertrain versions. Bonnefont confirmed that around 10 % of orders for the DS 3 were for the E-Tense. He says buyers in the premium small SUV segment drive an average of 40 km a day. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES said it had temporarily halted production at its Serbian plant over the “availability of certain components sourced in China”. Planned downtime at the Kragujevac plant in Serbia has been rescheduled, an FCA spokesman said. FCA said it planned to restart production later this month. The automaker builds the 500L in Kragujevac. The production stoppage is because of a lack of audio-system and other electronic parts sourced from China. Output at the Kragujevac plant was about 40.000 units last year, Serbian media reported, or a quarter of total capacity. The company had said on February 6 that it might have to temporarily close a European plant within 2 to 4 weeks if the impact of the coronavirus in China created supply line issues. The Kragujevac stoppage marks first time an automaker has had to idle a facility in Europe due to the virus. +++

+++ FORD has cut production of the Fiesta at its plant in Cologne, Germany, in reaction to factors including a drop in United Kingdom sales. The model is the best-selling car in the UK, Europe’s second largest market. Ford will reduce Fiesta production to 4 days a week, down from 5, at the plant in a move that will affect 2.200 workers. The reduced output is expected to last until year-end, with a review in May, a Ford spokesman told. “Southern Europe and the United Kingdom are seeing weaker demand for the Fiesta, leading to the need to adjust production”, the spokesman said. Overall sales of new cars in the UK fell 7.3 percent in January as consumers held back from big purchases due to factors including ongoing economic uncertainty following Brexit. The Cologne plant produces 1.150 Fiestas a day, with a third of that output going to the UK. +++


+++ KIA ’s next electric vehicle, due to arrive in 2021 based on the Imagine concept, will be a high-end, high-performance showcase for the firm’s future EV line-up. The zero-emission model, which will have a new nameplate, will sit above the existing e-Niro and e-Soul. Adding a third, larger model will help the maker reach its goal of a 6.6 % global EV market share by 2025. Pablo Matinez Masip, Kia’s product planning chief, describes it as being “as significant in showing our EV capability for the future as the Stinger was for showing how far Kia had progressed when it was launched”. The Korean car maker recently announced its plan to launch 11 electric models by 2025 as part of a €22 billion strategy to transform into a maker of electrified vehicles and mobility solutions within the next 5 years. Speaking about the 2021 electric vehicle, Kia marketing chief Carlos Lahoz said: “This car will have a significant effect on how consumers perceive Kia and its part in future electrification. We want it to demonstrate super-high performance levels but in a package that is different. Today there are lots of A and B-segment electric cars, and many high-end electric cars; we want something different. We are not a premium brand, we are a mainstream brand, and we have to be true to that heritage. This car will be a halo, and be priced as such, but it will demonstrate that you can get very high performance levels without having to pay the premium prices of, for instance, Tesla, BMW or Mercedes”. The new model will sit on a new bespoke platform, shared with sibling brand Hyundai, which is set to be the basis for a range of more powerful and larger SUVs and saloons in the future. It promises 500 kilometres of range, 45 kilometres more than the e-Niro currently offers. Ultimately, Kia is working towards a range of 800 kilometres for its EVs, but this is not expected as soon as 2021. Kia also says the machine will charge from 20 % to 80 % (around 320 kilometres of range) in around 20 minutes, employing 800 Volt technology when connected to a 350 kW charging system. Currently only the Porsche Taycan employs this technology. Emilio Herrera, Kia Europe’s chief operating officer, also raised the prospect of high-performance electric car brand Rimac, into which Kia has invested, working on all of its electric cars. “Performance became a bit of a dirty word in the late 1980s and ’90s, but we think electric cars can be fun without guilt”, he said. “Look at Tesla: performance is a key part of what it offers, and we believe our electric cars should do that too. The goal is apply Rimac’s know-how across our range and give great performance to our cars”. +++ 

+++ MASERATI has confirmed more details of the electrification of its line-up, set to begin later this year with the launch of a hybridised version of the Ghibli saloon. The BMW 530e rival is expected to be powered by a new plug-in petrol-electric system offering a useable all-electric range and ultra-low CO2 figures. It will also feature Level 2 autonomous driving capability, with Maserati intending to progress to ‘hands-off’ Level 3 features in the near future. The Ghibli will be followed in 2021 by the second-generation version of the GranTurismo and GranCabrio, which will feature the brand’s first fully electric powertrain. It was previewed last month in a brief video, and is expected to begin on-road testing in the coming months. A spokesperson confirmed to Autocar that these cars will also be available with petrol engines, but it remains unclear whether they will use an all-new motor or an evolution of the outgoing car’s 4.7-litre V8. As part of parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ €5 billion investment programme, Maserati will extensively upgrade its production facilities, but everything will continue to be built in Italy. The firm has invested €800 million in adapting its Mirafiori factory for electric vehicle production, and anticipates that the facility will “strengthen its position as a world hub dedicated to the electrification and mobility of the future, with a large proportion of its capacity allocated to the production of the brand’s new electrified cars”. The flagship Alfieri supercar however will be built at Maserati’s headquarters in Modena. It is expected to launch later this year in fully electric form, before becoming available with a high-output hybrid powertrain and potentially a pure-petrol option. In 2021, a new SUV will be launched to sit below the Levante. Said to play a “leading role for the brand thanks to its innovative technologies”, it requires an investment of around €800 million for the construction of a new production line that will open next spring. The first pre-series cars will emerge early in 2021. A convertible version of the Alfieri will arrive that year, too. Still unconfirmed but previewed in a leaked product plan last year will be an all-new Levante and Quattroporte saloon, due in 2023. Construction of a new paint shop, which is claimed to be “equipped with innovative, low enivironmental impact technologies”, has already begun in Modena. This will even allow Maserati customers to watch their car going through the paint process. A further development is a dedicated customisation workshop. +++ 

+++ NISSAN shares fell 9.6 % to a decade low after the company cut its full-year profit outlook and scrapped its year-end dividend payout, slipping to fifth place by market value among Japan’s automakers. Nissan shares fell to their lowest since 2009 in Tokyo, leaving the company with a market capitalization of 2.17 trillion yen ($19.8 billion), behind Subaru, Suzuki, Honda and Toyota. Nissan’s stock is down 19 % since the start of the year, after declining 28 % in 2019 and 22 % in 2018. Dogged by falling sales in the U.S., Japan and Europe, as well as instability in its most senior management ranks following the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, Nissan reduced its full-year operating profit forecast to 85 billion yen, down from an earlier estimate of 150 billion yen. The shares of Renault, which owns 43 % of Nissan and relies on dividends from the Japanese company, were mostly unchanged in Paris after the Renault posted a loss for 2019. By slashing its dividend payment to the lowest level since 2011 and pursuing a previously announced plan to cut 12.500 jobs globally, Nissan is trying to free up cash for investment in next-generation technology needed to stay competitive in areas such as electric vehicles and self-driving cars. “Unfortunately, our business performance has worsened more than we anticipated, and there’s no letting up on investing in the future”, CEO Makoto Uchida said at a press conference at the company’s Yokohama headquarters. “In order to invest in growth, we ended up with this dividend”. The results and outlook underscore the challenges facing Uchida, who took over as CEO in December and promised to unveil a revised midterm plan in May for Nissan and its 2 decade alliance with France’s Renault, which has itself recently appointed a new CEO. Nissan had initially projected an operating profit of 230 billion yen for the fiscal year through March, but trimmed that last quarter. A year ago, it earned 318 billion yen, which at the time marked its lowest annual income in a decade. The automaker’s total dividend for the current fiscal year is on track to be 10 yen a share, including the prior payout. In November, the Japanese company withdrew its dividend outlook after cutting it in May; the first reduction since it suspended dividends in 2009 amid an industrywide recession. Executives sought to downplay concern about its negative free cash flow, which ballooned to minus 256 billion last quarter compared with minus 70 billion a year ago. Rakesh Kochhar, a senior vice president in charge of global treasury and automotive sales finance operations, told reporters that liquidity isn’t an issue. “If we need to borrow more money we can do so and at the right time we will also issue financial bonds”, he said; a reference to an issuance originally anticipated last fall. For its latest 3 month period, Nissan posted an operating profit of 23 billion yen, short of analysts’ average estimate for 59 billion yen. Quarterly sales fell 18 % to 2.5 trillion-yen, missing analysts’ prediction for 2.7 trillion yen. “There’s no magic potion”, said analyst Tatsuo Yoshida. “They’re going to have to make bold cutbacks in production”. Revenue and income fell in all of Nissan’s core sales regions, including in China and its home market of Japan. In North America, its largest and most lucrative market, profits fell by more than 25 % compared to a year ago to 21.6 billion. “We know exactly what the problem is”, said Ashwani Gupta, Nissan’s chief operating officer. “We are confident that the U.S. will come back” once 8 new models are launched over the next 2 years, he said. Worldwide sales volumes at Nissan slid 8.4 % to 5.18 million vehicles last year, pulling down its combined performance with Renault to third place globally after top-ranked Volkswagen Group and (for the first time since 2016) Japanese rival Toyota. For the year through March, Nissan cut its automobile sales outlook by 3.6 % to 5.05 million units. The results are beginning to overshadow Nissan’s other big headache, the charges against Ghosn on alleged financial crimes. Sluggish profits, stuck near a decade low, also weaken the Japanese company’s position in its three-way automaking alliance. Ghosn, who has denied all charges, fled trial in Japan late last year, making his way to Lebanon in a private jet. The former executive and Nissan are now suing each other. After years of sales incentives that eroded margins and pushing businesses to buy cars, CEO Uchida said Nissan needs to rebuild its brand image and focus on appealing to retail customers. Uchida, Nissan’s third CEO since 2017, joined Nissan in 2003 from metals and machinery company Nissho Iwai. He was most recently in charge of the automaker’s operations in China. The CEO said that Nissan plans to reopen 3 of its Chinese factories shuttered by the corona virus outbreak from February 17 and 2 others from February 20. Those plants have been closed since late January as a planned break for the Lunar New Year was extended amid concerns about the spread of the contagion. “Considering that we won’t resume production until mid-February, that will have some impact” on income and revenue in the current quarter, Uchida said. +++


+++ Automobili PININFARINA has begun testing a number of Battista mules on track, ahead of the electric hypercar’s production launch later this year. The Pininfarina Battista is being developed with the help of former F1 driver Nick Heidfeld, who will also assist customers in familiarizing themselves with their new electric hypercar. Development is headed by Rene Wollmann, whose resume includes cars like the Mercedes SLS AMG Electric Drive and, more recently, the upcoming Mercedes AMG One hypercar, for which he was project leader. “The mule vehicles running the chassis and powertrain concepts for Battista have already achieved 80 % of their performance capability without issue. This means that our EV performance is already equal to the most powerful combustion engine-powered hypercar currently in the world”, said Wollmann of his new baby. “And in the simulation and wind tunnel testing phase, by fine tuning the aero packaging, we’ve already seen a significant increase in the potential range of Battista versus our original prediction”, Wollmann added. The upcoming Battista will feature a Rimac-sourced EV powertrain that includes 4 electric motors producing a combined 1.900 hp and 2.300 Nm, fed by a 120 kWh battery pack. When it was first announced, Pininfarina claimed a 0-100 km/h)time of less than 2 seconds and a top speed of over 350 km/h. The company will offer the chance of driving a Battista prototype to prospective customers in the first half of 2020, while the first customer cars will be delivered at the end of the year in Cambiano, Italy. Pininfarina is also celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and will do so by showcasing “the ultimate expression of Battista hypercar design” at the Geneva Motor Show next month, so stay tuned. +++

+++ RENAULT ’s first loss in a decade triggered a no-taboos commitment to cut costs by €2 billion over the next 3 years from the carmaker, as it tries to put the Carlos Ghosn affair behind it. As ex-Volkswagen brand manager Luca de Meo prepares to take over as chief executive of the French automaker, which has been rocked by the Ghosn scandal, it did not exclude job cuts in a promised review of its performance across all factories. Like many auto industry rivals, including its alliance partner Nissan, Renault is grappling with tumbling demand in key markets like China, and said it expects the sector to be hit further this year, including in Europe. In a reflection of this sobering assessment of the market outlook, Renault set a lower operating margin target of between 3 % and 4 % for 2020, down from 4.8 % in 2019, and cut its proposed dividend against 2019 by almost 70 % from a year earlier. While Renault faces high investment costs to produce cleaner car models and supply chain problems due to China’s coronavirus outbreak, a major challenge remains moving on from the scandal involving former boss-turned fugitive Ghosn, which strained its relations with Nissan and paralysed joint projects. “It has been a tough year for Groupe Renault and the alliance”, acting chief executive Clotilde Delbos said on a conference call, adding that the broader autos downturn had hit the company “right when we were facing internal difficulties”. Renault could not afford to wait for De Meo’s arrival in July to attack costs, Delbos said, adding that nothing would be “taboo” as it reviews its business. Meatier goals would be made public in May, she said, alongside joint plans with Nissan, as executives repeated assurances that the alliance was on track. Delbos also stressed that Renault’s automotive operational free cash flow, under scrutiny from analysts, would be positive in 2020 after stripping out restructuring costs. “We’re very confident that there is no topic on cash availability within the group”, Delbos said. Renault shares recovered from falls in early trading and were up 1.8 % despite it posting a loss of €141 million for the group share of net income. This followed charges linked to some of its Chinese joint ventures, where it said performance needed to improve, while the contribution from Nissan, in which Renault has a 4 3% stake, also fell and it was hit by a French deferred tax charge. Nissan this week had its first quarterly loss in nearly 10 years and cut its operating profit forecast. Ghosn, who ran Renault and oversaw its alliance with Nissan, was arrested in Japan in late 2018 on financial misconduct charges, but fled to Lebanon in December. He has denied wrongdoing and hit out at his past employers, saying the Renault-Nissan alliance was all but dead without him. De Meo, who used to run Seat, is taking over from Delbos, who is also Renault’s financial chief and who stepped temporarily into the CEO role after Thierry Bollore, a long-standing Ghosn ally, was ousted in October. Renault forecast that the global auto market would fall in 2020, with sales in Europe and Russia down around 3 %, after it was penalised by its performance in the likes of Argentina and Turkey in 2019 and its withdrawal from Iran continued to weigh. The group has a factory in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, which has been in lockdown, and the firm said other plants might come on and off in the coming weeks due to supply chain interruptions. Renault Group sales fell 3.3 % to €55.53 billion in 2019; down 2.7 % at constant exchange rates, and it forecast these would be flat in 2020. +++

+++ Outside of Japan, TOYOTA ’s GR lineup includes 2 models: the GR Yaris and GR Supra. The next-generation GT86 is tipped to be added to the range, perhaps renamed as the GR86, as well as the Corolla, and now a report has emerged about the C-HR joining the sporty family as well. It’s said that it could arrive before 2023 and it will probably be part of the second generation model that’s allegedly due before the end of next year. Set to be based on the TNGA platform, it should be complemented by multi-link suspension with new dampers, as well as big brakes to provide the stopping power. At the heart of the rumored GR C-HR is said to be the 1.6-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine found in the GR Yaris. A Gazoo exec told that it “can be used in other applications” and supports “more than one state of tune”. Additionally, it’s “not an engine that had to be built” in order for the sporty Yaris to come to life, which means that it was designed to be used in other models. In the top Yaris, it develops 262 hp and 360 Nm, and a tad more in the Japanese variant: 272 hp and 370 Nm. Paired to a 6-speed manual transmission and 4-wheel drive, and with available Torsen limited-slip differentials, it rockets the GR Yaris to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds, before reaching an electronically limited top speed of 230 km/h. If the GR C-HR will indeed be green-lit for production, then it will go after the likes of the Volkswagen T-Roc R, Hyundai Kona N and Ford Puma ST. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN said it will compensate owners of its heavily polluting diesel vehicles in Germany in a settlement that will cost the German carmaker €830 million. In 2015, Volkswagen was caught by regulators using manipulated engine management software to mask excessive pollution levels in its diesel cars, sparking a raft of prosecutions and lawsuits. The offer comes despite a breakdown in talks with German consumer association VZBV, which had been in negotiations with VW about reaching a settlement deal. “The failure of settlement talks with Consumer Association VZBV should not come at the expense of customers”, VW said in a statement, adding that all customers who had registered for compensation with VZBV would be eligible for the settlement. VW said it had declined to reach a settlement with VZBV, blaming excessive demands for €50 million in fees by lawyers representing the consumer organisations. VZBV said talks had failed because the carmaker had not guaranteed a system of redress which was adequate for consumers, adding it would continue to press for a settlement on VZBV terms through German courts. +++

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