Newsflash: Maserati Levante Trofeo krijgt nieuwe 4,0 liter motor

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+++ AIWAYS will launch in Europe with a direct-to-customer sales model instead of the traditional method of selling or leasing vehicles through dealerships. The Chinese company will start selling its U5 electric SUV from August 2020 in Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, with other markets to follow. In all these markets, Aiways will operate a direct-to-customer sales and aftercare support model. The Shanghai-based startup had planned to announce its first business partners in Europe at the Geneva Motor Show next week, when the U5 SUV will be unveiled in European-specification. Aiways originally planned to start deliveries in the region in April but production in China was impacted by COVID-19 (Coronavirus). “Aiways’ sales model will improve access to the all-electric U5 and make it easy to buy a car online. We are considering different types of ownership models, ranging from subscription to outright purchase, but starting with leasing”, said Alexander Klose, executive vice president Overseas Operation at Aiways. According to the company, the new sales model will streamline the traditional car buying experience and ensure that using and maintaining a U5 is as simple as possible. Aiways says it is currently preparing a new dedicated European website that will allow prospective customers to “research models, book test drives, configure vehicles and sign up to usage periods that suits their needs”. This doesn’t mean Aiways will have an online-exclusive presence in Europe. The company will be establishing “showrooms” across the continent, with the first partnership being with Euronics, a leading electronics retail chain in Germany. The 2 companies have chosen key locations that will be staffed by EV experts and will allow consumers to interact with Aiways vehicles and conduct test drives. Customers will be able to begin the leasing process online, choosing from a number of short- and long-term deals. The program will be backed by a dedicated European leasing partner which will be announced in the coming months. As for aftersales, including technical support and servicing, Aiways will work with independent workshops in each country. Since the U5 will have scheduled maintenance every 100.000 km, it doesn’t make sense for Aiways to set up its own aftersales network. In Germany, for instance, Aiways will cooperate with A.T.U., a leading chain of independent workshops. +++

 

+++ Despite the cancellation of the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, life goes on with automakers still planning to reveal a boatload of new cars next week, and among them is ALFA ROMEO. Many of you have been asking us about the rumors on Alfa Romeo readying a heated-up Giulia GTA, and this is your lucky day, as we can confirm that they were true. Not only that, but we can also tell you that the Italians will introduce a track-special version called the Giulia GTAm, both drawing from the brand’s illustrious past. I haven’t confirmed the mechanical specifications yet, so take the following with a grain of salt. The word on the street is that the lighter GTA will have a massaged version of the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter turbocharged V6, pushing out as much as 620 hp, or 110 hp more, making it an absolute beast. Just to get an idea, the standard and much lauded by the press when not breaking down 510 hp Giulia Quadrifoglio does 0-100 km/h in 3.9 sec and tops out at 307 km/h. It’s not clear if the GTAm track-special will have more oomph under its hood, but it will certainly be lighter, dropping many comfort features, sound proofing and even the rear seats, with a roll cage taking their place. Both the Giulia GTA and GTAm will feature a host of aerodynamic and styling revisions, including wider fenders: the rear boasting extensions, additional vents throughout the body, carbon fiber spoilers and roof, twin central exhaust pipes and in the case of the track-model, a massive, Honda Civic Type-R-rivaling, rear wing. Alfa Romeo’s plan was/is (who knows anymore) to introduce a couple of special edition versions of the regular Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV called the “6C Villa d’Este”, though I don’t know anything else about them at this point. +++ 

+++ ASTON MARTIN said revenue will continue to slide as it braces for the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Chinese demand for the DBX. Aston Martin warned sales will slump in the first 6 months of 2020, with almost all earnings coming in the second half once the UK company starts deliveries of the DBX, a model on which its relying to double output. Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer said the DBX is selling well, with orders already ahead of the planned retail target for 2020. At the same time there are concerns about the impact of the China epidemic, since the country is regarded as prime sales territory for the automaker’s first SUV. “China is an important region for us”, Palmer said. “The release into China is quite late in the year, so we will hope and pray that the virus is done by then”. Aston Martin shares have spiraled downward since they debuted in 2018, with the company hurt by Brexit and sluggish sales of the entry-level Vantage model. It last month resorted to $645 million in fundraising to shore up the balance sheet, including a rights issue and an investment from Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, who will become executive chairman. China is Aston Martin’s fastest-growing market and the DBX is viewed as key to boosting sales since roads there can be poor and wealthy individuals often prefer to be chauffeur-driven, making an SUV a better match than a sports car. Excluding the DBX, wholesale deliveries are expected to be “materially lower” than last year as Aston Martin focuses on reducing inventories that have pushed down prices. Palmer said it’s vital that the company better match supply and demand, and that it must “take the medicine and get it done”. Aston Martin swung to an operating loss of $49 million last year as revenue slumped 9 %. It said CFO Mark Wilson will step down in April 30 by “mutual agreement”. +++ 

+++ BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA), a joint venture between the BMW Group and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings rolled its 3 millionth car off the production line in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China’s Liaoning province. Milan Nedeljkovic, a member of BMW’s board of management responsible for production, said BBA produced 530.000 cars in 2019 and the 3 millionth, a plug-in hybrid, demonstrated BMW’s determination to dig deeper into China’s new energy vehicle market. BBA resumed production of its Tiexi and Dadong plants in Shenyang on February 17, with nearly 20.000 employees, including those from its suppliers who worked in the plants, returning to work as scheduled. The local government has provided a set of supportive measures for logistics, shuttle bus service for staff and the construction of new projects to ensure work resumption went smoothly, said Franz Decker, senior vice president of technology and manufacturing of BBA. China has become the world’s largest sales market for BMW, which sold more than 720.000 cars in 2019. The German automaker has invested over 52 billion yuan ($7.4 billion) and built 2 vehicle plants and 1 powertrain plant in Shenyang. +++

 

+++ It’s the end of the road for the CHEVROLET Impala as the last model has rolled off the assembly line at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Michigan. While the final model was built at approximately 8:30 a.m. this morning, it’s been a long time coming. As we reported back in 2018, the Impala was one of 6 different cars killed in a cost cutting move. Among the other victims were the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac CT6 and Cadillac XTS. Like many of the other vehicles on the list, the Impala wasn’t a big seller. That wasn’t always the case as 311.128 Impalas were bought in the United States in 2007. However, sales have fallen significantly since then as 156.797 units were sold in 2013 and 75.877 units were moved in 2017. Last year, the company sold less than 45.000. The 10th generation Impala wasn’t as iconic as some of its predecessors, but it received favorable reviews and was a huge improvement over the previous 2 generations. That being said, the large sedan segment isn’t what it used to be. Of course, there are still a few options following the death of the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus. The Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger are still chugging along, and shoppers can also opt for alternatives like the Nissan Maxima, Kia Cadenza and Toyota Avalon. With Impala production wrapped up, GM will now focus on turning the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant into a purpose-built facility for electric vehicles. As part of this effort, they’re investing €2 billion into the plant and gearing it up to build the GMC Hummer EV. The electric pickup will be unveiled on May 20th and go into production in the fall of 2021. +++ 

+++ Automobile production by major Japanese makers in CHINA in January plunged from a year before, data from the companies showed. The gloomy results reflected fewer factory operating days because this year’s Lunar New Year holiday period started in late January, some 10 days earlier than in the previous year. With the spread of the corona virus originating in China affecting operations there, the Japanese automakers are expected to see sharper year-on-year drops in production in the country in February. Nissan’s vehicle production in China in January fell 24.7 % to 103.627 units. Output dropped by 20.2 % to 106.745 units at Honda and by 12.6 % to 107.284 units at Toyota. Automobile sales in China slumped at Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda and Mitsubishi. Meanwhile, Honda logged a 9.8 % rise thanks to brisk demand for the Civic. Combined domestic automobile production by 8 major Japanese makers in January sagged 3.2 % to 726.321 units, down for the 4th consecutive month, reflecting a fall in demand partly blamed on the consumption tax hike from 8 % to 10 % in October last year. +++ 

+++ CITROEN ‘s new Ami full-electric quadricycle, aimed at urban and suburban users, will sell for as low as €6,000, depending on emissions incentives, and can be leased for €19.99 a month. The 2-seat Ami can be driven by people as young as 14 years without an driver’s license, depending on local regulations. Production has started at PSA Group’s factory in Kenitra, Morocco and deliveries will begin in France in June. Citroen says the Ami is part of a “digital ecosystem” that enables affordable and accessible urban mobility. It will be available for short-term rentals, which Citroen describes as a sharing program, for 26 cents a minute, with a monthly subscription of €9.90. It is classified as an electric quadricycle under EU regulations, similar to the Renault Twizy. Vehicles in the category are limited to a top speed of 45 kph and a weight of 425 kg without batteries. Citroen says the Ami will have a range of 70 km and its 5.5 kWh battery can be fully charged using an ordinary outlet in 3 hours. It is 2.410 mm long, 1.390 mm wide and 1.530 mm high, and has a turning radius of 7.2 meters. Citroen says 2 Amis can fit in a standard parking space. The Ami is based on the Ami One concept that was shown to the public at the 2019 Geneva auto show. The Ami’s name recalls a 1960s and ’70s variant of the Citroen 2CV, probably the French brand’s best-known model. Citroen says the Ami is designed to be easy to produce, with symmetrical doors, bumpers and other interchangeable components. The driver’s door is hinged at the rear, the passenger’s at the front. Buyers can personalize the interior and exterior with accessory packages that they can install themselves. The Ami is 1 of 6 electrified models that Citroen will have in its lineup by the end of the year, but as a quadricycle it does not count toward the automaker’s fleet carbon dioxide emissions. In addition to the Ami, other low-emissions vehicles include the C5 Aircross plug-in hybrid compact SUV, launching this quarter; electric versions of the SpaceTourer and Jumper (Commercial) vans; and a replacement for the C4 Cactus that will be available with a full-electric drivetrain. Citroen did not release sales targets, but brand CEO Vincent Cobee said it was aimed at urban markets primarily in France, Italy and Spain. Citroen will partner with the French electronics and media retailing giant Darty/FNAC, which will have the Ami on display in many of its stores. The Renault Twizy was launched in 2012, and was the best-selling full-electric vehicle in Europe that year, with sales of more than 9.000. But since then, the novelty has worn off and Twizy sales have fallen to around 2.000 per year, well below forecasts and production has been moved to South Korea from Spain. Unlike the Twizy, the Ami has a closed cockpit, side-by-side seating and a heater. It is also less expensive; the Twizy starts at €7.540 in France. Citroen says it is keeping the Ami’s costs down by producing it in Morocco and by sharing parts, including the rear suspension and windshield, with existing PSA models. +++ 

+++ Carmakers are scrambling to reorganise press conferences and vehicle presentations after Swiss authorities forced the cancellation of the GENEVA CAR SHOW in an effort to contain the corona virus. More than 160 exhibitors were scheduled to show off their cars and services at the 90th Geneva Motor Show, which was due to start on Monday and last until March 15. BMW and Mercedes-Benz said they would use live-streaming to present the BMW Concept i4 and a revamped Mercedes E-Class respectively. Ferrari does not plan to arrange alternative events and Fiat Chrysler said it had no plan B, but that it was considering ways to show off a new electric Fiat 500. DS, part of the PSA Group, said it was seeking a venue near Paris to showcase a new concept car and was rescheduling interviews with executives by telephone. Audi said it would seek to use digital channels to launch its A3 sportback and e-Tron S. Switzerland banned large events expected to draw more than 1.000 people to try to curb a corona virus outbreak that has spread from China across the world. “We regret this situation, but the health of all participants is our and our exhibitors’ top priority. This is a case of force majeure and a tremendous loss for the manufacturers who have invested massively in their presence in Geneva”, said Maurice Turrettini, Chairman of the Geneva International Motor Show Foundation Board. Last year, 660.000 people attended the Geneva show and the exhibition generated an estimated 200-250 million Swiss francs ($205-$256 million) worth of business. Visitors who bought tickets will be refunded, although exhibitors will not, given it was the health authorities, rather than organisers Palexpo, who called off the event. +++ 

+++ Justice Minister Masako Mori said that Japan’s vice justice minister will travel to Lebanon, where he is expected to seek the handover of Carlos GHOSN , the former Nissan chairman who fled the nation late last year while on bail. Hiroyuki Yoshiie is expected to meet with Lebanon’s Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm to discuss the return of Ghosn, to face trial on allegations he misused Nissan funds and understated his remuneration by billions of yen for years. “We must consider various elements, including Lebanon’s domestic laws and Japan’s position”, Mori said. “We would like Lebanon to correctly understand Japan’s criminal justice system and strengthen cooperation in the judicial field”. Tokyo has been requesting Ghosn’s extradition through Interpol, but Beirut has indicated that it is unlikely to hand him over. Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon. The 65-year-old former auto tycoon, arrested in 2018, was released on bail in April last year on conditions that included a ban on foreign travel. On December 29, Ghosn is believed to have left from Kansai International Airport in Osaka on a private jet, traveling to Lebanon via Turkey. He holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationality. Japanese prosecutors have obtained a new arrest warrant for Ghosn on suspicion he left Japan illegally. Ghosn, who has denied all allegations, said he fled Japan to escape from what he described as a “rigged” justice system. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI shut down a factory in South Korea on Friday after a worker tested positive for the new corona virus, disrupting production of popular models such as Palisade SUV. Shares of the automaker ended down more than 5 % after the news. The closing dealt a fresh setback to Hyundai, which has gradually resumed production at local plants hit by a Chinese parts shortage in the wake of the virus outbreak. South Korea has the most infected people outside China, affecting companies like Samsung and Hyundai. South Korea reported 256 new cases, bringing the total number of infected to 2.022, as the world prepared for a global recession. “The company has also placed colleagues who came in close contact with the infected employee in self-quarantine and taken steps to have them tested for possible infection”, Hyundai said in a news release. The company added that it was disinfecting the factory. It did not say when production would resume. Ulsan is less than 1 hour from Daegu, the epicenter of outbreak in Korea. Hyundai operates 5 car factories in Ulsan, which has an annual production capacity of 1.4 million vehicles, or nearly 30 % of Hyundai’s global production. Hyundai employs 34.000 workers there in the world’s biggest car complex. The factory that was shut down produces SUVs such as the Palisade, Tucson, Santa Fe and Genesis GV80. A factory run by Hyundai supplier Seojin Industrial had been closed after the death of a virus-infected worker there. It reopened Wednesday. South Korea’s tech giant +++ 

+++ JAGUAR had high hopes for the E-Pace, but that model hasn’t exactly resonated with consumers across the globe. In the United States, the company only sold 4.782 units through 2019, a paltry increase over 4.479 sales in 2018. That’s disappointing, but the situation is better in Europe were 27.690 were delivered in 2019 versus 27.735 the previous year. Putting the numbers aside, Jaguar is working on a facelift that could address some early criticisms of the model. Snapped wearing heavy camouflage, the updated SUV has revised headlights and what appears to be a modified front bumper. The minor changes continue out back as there are new taillights with slimmer line accents. The bumper appears to carry over, but it’s hard to tell underneath all that camouflage. Speaking of disguise, spy photographers noticed some camouflage in the cabin. This suggests we can expect a handful of interior updates, though don’t expect as many changes as the XE as the E-Pace already has Jaguar’s newest gear selector and airconditioning controls. As a result, the newest version of the SUV will likely be limited to a new steering wheel, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. Other updates could include some additionally revised switchgear and higher quality materials. That’s all just speculation at this point, but Jaguar hasn’t been shy about their plans to improve interior quality. Engine offerings remain unconfirmed, but it’s possible the E-Pace could adopt a handful of new options including mild-hybrid powertrains with up to 290 hp. +++ 

+++ Earlier this month, MASERATI confirmed that the facelifted Levante and Quattroporte will debut this summer and now we can show you the brawny 2021 Levante Trofeo undergoing winter testing. Photographers spotted this 2021 Levante prototype in northern Sweden wearing no camouflage whatsoever, revealing no exterior changes (more on that later) and an engine upgrade. Seen here during a fuel stop, the Maserati Levante test vehicle is clearly a range-topping Trofeo model. A tag attached on the windshield revealed the Levante’s identity via powertrain details. So I learned that this is a 2021MY Levante model powered by a 4.0-liter V8 gasoline engine rated at 590 hp. Corroborating this piece of information with the body kit, quad exhausts and uprated brakes, this can only mean we’re looking at the 2021 Maserati Levante Trofeo. Surprisingly, the facelifted Levante Trofeo gets a larger displacement engine with the same output, ditching the Ferrari-built 590 hp 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 found in the current model. Most likely, that’s related to Maserati’s decision not to renew the current engine supply deal with Ferrari, which is said to expire as early as 2021. Styling-wise, the prototype looks exactly the same as the current model but that’s only because this particular test vehicle does not feature the exterior updates. Expect some changes to the bumpers, as well as updated taillights when the production version hits dealerships this summer. More important changes will happen inside, as the entire dashboard is covered with a cloth. Expect a fully-digital instrument cluster and an updated infotainment system, along with other minor enhancements such as new upholstery and trim options. The 2021MY update for the Maserati Quattroporte and Levante is aimed at keeping the vehicles fresh until the redesigned versions are introduced in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Both facelifted models will enter production in July. +++ 

+++ German prosecutors searched sports carmaker PORSCHE ’s offices as part of an ongoing probe into a diesel emissions scandal. 3 offices and 3 private apartments belonging to Porsche employees were searched as part of an investigation into their role in an emissions cheating scandal. Prosecutors have widened their probe and are now investigating 7 current and former Porsche employees, up from 4 employees. +++ 

+++ RENAULT plans to sell some of its company-owned dealerships in France, as the automaker embarks on a comprehensive cost-cutting program to reduce expenses by a total of €2 billion in the next 3 years. The automaker said in a news release this week that as part of a restructuring of retail operations to be concluded by 2024, 10 dealerships would be sold in France to ensure “sustainable and profitable growth” and to prepare for a future in which the car buying process moves to online sales. Renault Retail Group will also sell an operations building in the Paris area. Renault said a buyer had been identified for the dealerships and that jobs would be protected. The Renault Retail Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Renault Group that has a total of 275 dealerships and 12.000 employees in 14 European countries, markets the Renault, Dacia and Nissan brands. It has 94 outlets in France. Renault says it is the second-largest automotive distribution company in Europe, and is responsible for 35 % of group sales in France and 20 % throughout Europe. Even as Renault cuts back its involvement in retailing, its French competitor PSA Group announced last week that it was recruiting 1.300 employees for its own retail subsidiary. PSA Retail operates more than 270 sides in 10 European countries, and has more than 10.000 employees. +++ 

+++ Shares of TESLA fell as much as 14 % on concerns about the impact of the corona virus on the electric-car maker’s vehicle registrations in China. Data from LMC Automotive showed that 3.563 Tesla vehicles were registered in China in January, up from 853 vehicles a year earlier, but down from the 6.613 vehicles registered in December. Tesla registrations fluctuate significantly from month to month, LMC data showed. The automaker typically delivers many more vehicles in the final month of a quarter than in the first month. In October 2019, Tesla owners registered just 763 vehicles, LMC data showed. The selloff in Tesla shares highlights the growing concern about the health of the Chinese auto market as the government and companies contend with the disruption of the coronavirus outbreak. China Association of Automobile Manufacturers had earlier said here that overall vehicle sales fell by almost a fifth in January, hurt by Lunar New Year holidays that started earlier than last year and by the corona virus disruptions. The electric-car maker said here earlier this month that the outbreak would delay deliveries of its Model 3 cars in China. While the virus originated in China’s Wuhan province late last year, local governments began imposing travel curbs and warning residents to avoid public spaces in the last 2 weeks of January. Tesla shares were trading down at $685 and were set for their 4th consecutive session of losses. Tesla’s stock has, however, jumped about 60 % so far this year. +++

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