Newsflash: Mercedes presenteert 3 nieuwe AMG modellen in Genève


+++ General Motors (GM) has launched the CHEVROLET Menlo sedan in China, the brand’s first fully electric vehicle in the world’s largest EV market. The sporty-looking hatchback was also the third EV that GM rolled out in China, following the Buick Velite 6 EV and Baojun E-series, all produced by joint-venture partnerships in China. According to GM, the Chevrolet Menlo will be initially offered in Beijing, available in 4 variants priced from 159,900 yuan to 179,900 yuan (about $22,800 to $25,700) after national subsidies for new energy vehicles. “Along with being a new energy vehicle, the Chevrolet Menlo inherits Chevrolet’s sporty DNA that dates back to its founding by race car drivers”, said Scott Lawson, general director of Chevrolet for SAIC-GM, a Shanghai-based joint venture. “It will meet the performance and styling demands of our customers and at the same time provide the efficiency that new energy vehicle owners expect”, he added. Based on the concept vehicle of Chevrolet FNR-X, the Menlo has a constant-speed range of up to 410 km under NEDC conditions on a single charge. GM outlined its “All-Electric Path to Zero Emissions” in October 2017, and announced a new electric offensive with 20 new all-electric vehicles to launch by 2023. In the rapidly expanding Chinese EV market, which saw half of the world’s total sales, GM now faces fierce competition not only from local brands and European automakers, but also the American EV giant Tesla. Tesla started delivering Model 3s made in its Shanghai Gigafactory at the end of last year. +++


+++ Retail sales of passenger cars in CHINA crumbled 92 % on an annual basis in the first 16 days of February, according to China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), as the corona virus outbreak slammed the brakes on businesses across the country. China’s passenger vehicle sales recorded 4.909 units in the first 16 days; down from 59.930 vehicles in the same period a year earlier, data from CPCA showed, the first major figures to demonstrate just how hard the epidemic is hitting the world’s biggest auto market. “Very few dealerships opened in the first weeks of February and they have had very little customer traffic”, it said. Mainland China recorded 889 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection. The death toll also rose by 118 to 2.236, mostly in the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan where the outbreak began and which remains under virtual lockdown. China’s auto market is likely to see sales slide more than 10 % in the first half of the year due to the coronavirus epidemic, and around 5 % for the whole year, provided the epidemic is effectively contained before April, the country’s top auto industry body, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), told. To stabilize the market, where more than 25 million vehicles were sold last year, China’s commerce ministry said it will introduce more measures to boost auto consumption. +++


+++ During the unveiling of the sporty Leon, CUPRA has also announced a few details about the production version of the Formentor crossover, which will premiere on March 3 at the Geneva Motor Show. Designed as Cupra’s first standalone model, it was previewed by a plug-in hybrid concept last year and will slot in the lineup above the Ateca. The Formentor will be based on the same platform, albeit with a bigger footprint compared to its compact sibling. In addition to being longer, wider and sitting closer to the ground, the midsize model will set itself apart even more thanks to the unique styling. The production Formentor is expected to very much echo the design of the show car, sporting similar (if not almost identical) front and rear ends, as well as broad fenders, aggressive air intakes, muscular lines on the bonnet and a sloping roofline. The design cues should carry over inside, with a 2-layer dashboard dominated by a big infotainment screen sitting at the top, 3-spoke steering wheel, front sports seats, tiny gear selector and lots of storage spaces. Model-specific trim and upholstery, alongside copper accents and probably carbon fiber inserts, will complete the looks. Powering the concept car was a plug-in hybrid system with a 1.4-liter turbo petrol engine and an electric motor developing a combined output of 245 hp. Cupra is expected to start taking orders for the Formentor in the second half of the year. +++


+++ New US company CZINGER has fully revealed its “rule-breaking, record-hunting” 21C hypercar and detailed the extraordinary powertrain that lurks within it. Limited to just 80 units, the Aston Martin Valkyrie rival will make its public debut at next month’s Geneva motor show. But the firm has now revealed the 21C is powered by an in-house-developed twin-turbo 2.88-litre flat-crank V8 that revs to 11.000 rpm and sends its power to the rear wheels. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also supplemented by 2 electric motors that power the front wheels, resulting in a total output of 1.250 hp. With the road-going version’s kerb weight of 1.250 kg (the lightweight track configuration is just 1.218 kg), Czinger claims a true 1:1 power-to-weight ratio. Unsurprisingly, the quoted acceleration figures are mind-boggling: 0-100 kph in 1.9 seconds and a 400 kph top speed. Power is put though a 7-speed sequential gearbox with a hydraulic multi-plate clutch. Designed and manufacturered from scratch using innovative 3D printing and automation techniques, the 21C features an alloy and carbonfibre chassis. The design is highly aero focused and Czinger claims at 250 kph, the road-going version produces 250 kg of downforce and the track version makes 790 kg. The car also features an in-line seating arrangement in a fighter jet-style driver-passenger compartment, with a single seat behind the driver. Promising to showcase a “paradigm shift in the way vehicles are designed, developed, engineered and manufactured”, the year-old company is named after founder and CEO Kevin Czinger, the man behind the Divergent Blade supercar of 2015. The Blade was claimed to be the first car of its type to use 3D-printing to form body and chassis components. The 21C and its propulsion system are designed, developed, engineered and manufactured from scratch at the company’s base in Los Angeles, California. A full-width LED light strip stretches across the rear, which is dominated by a honeycomb grille design. Czinger claims boldly that the 21C will be “one of the 21st century’s most advanced performance vehicles”. understands that, given the amount of bespoke engineering and innovation included, a 7-figure price is likely. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER warned of risks for the economy and its own business from the outbreak of corona virus that is spreading in China and around the world. “Risks for the Daimler Group may not only affect the development of unit sales, but may also lead to significant adverse effects on production, the procurement market and the supply chain”, the Stuttgart-based company said. It also noted that the epidemic posed a risk for economic growth in China, other Asian countries and worldwide. Daimler CEO Ola Källenius announced last week that its key Mercedes-Benz brand had re-started production of luxury passenger cars in Beijing, adding it was still too early to gauge the impact of the coronavirus on Daimler’s business. Daimler also said stricter anti-pollution tests have made it harder to comply with new rules and increased provisions for regulatory proceedings, liability and litigation risks to €4.9 billion; up from 2.1 billion euros in 2018. The increase relates to ongoing governmental and legal proceedings and measures taken with regard to Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles in several regions and markets, as well as an updated risk assessment for an extended recall of Takata airbags, the carmaker said. Due to the replacement of the NEDC with the new measuring method WLTP, the average emissions of carbon dioxide have risen, the car and truck maker said. “In the light of today’s knowledge, this makes it more difficult to achieve the CO2 targets as of 2020”, Daimler said. The current public focus on vehicle emissions as well as possible certifications stops and recalls could result in damage to Daimler’s reputation, the company said.

Daimler’s appointment of Max Warburton as head of special projects and an advisor to the management board will likely benefit the company and its investors but it’s a loss for the media. Warburton’s move to Daimler from Bernstein, a U.S.-based asset management and research firm, comes during a crucial transition at the automaker as Källenius reshapes the company after falling profits forced it to cut its 2019 dividend to the lowest level since the financial crisis. He has to find a way of improving profitability while also making huge investments in electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving. He is slimming down Daimler’s Byzantine top management structure to remove duplicate layers between Daimler and the group’s flagship Mercedes-Benz luxury-car unit. Warburton’s “out of the box” views could help Källenius to get more bang from its investment buck. His appointment, effective March 2, is not the first case of a financial analyst moving to an automaker. It also will not be the last. In 2009 Steve Girsky joined General Motors as vice chairman from Morgan Stanley. Girsky was the key driving force in GM slimming down its global footprint to focus on its profitable markets. In 2015, John Casesa went from Merrill Lynch to become head of strategy at Ford. While I wish Warburton a bright future as an advisor to Källenius, the media will miss him. As an auto analyst, his views were always useful, offering a perfect quote for a story or even giving me a good hint for another story, a news analysis or a blog. In more than 15 years in this job, I never met a financial analyst so news-oriented as Max. In our frequent jokes. I called him a journalist disguised as a financial analyst. Or possibly even a mechanic disguised as an analyst, because when he was 20, he rebuilt a V6 engine with his hands. Max’s in-depth digging into the Chinese auto industry and market was pivotal. He opened Bernstein’s office in Singapore in 2012 and helped us to better understand the good and the bad things that were really happening in China. One of his most debated reports was on the models that created the largest losses for their makers. Published in December 2013, it put the Bugatti Veyron at the top. In Warburton’s estimates lost a €4.6 million per unit sold, with a total bill for parent Volkswagen Group of €1.7 billion. However, the biggest hole create by a model in a car company’s balance sheet was the first-generation Smart ForTwo. Max estimated that Smart racked to losses of €3.35 billion for Daimler. What I appreciate most about Max is his honesty. At the end of each year, he issued a recap report, called “Don’t Look Back In Anger: what we got right and what we got wrong”. It was an easy task for Max to say what he got right. But explaining what he got wrong and why he was wrong, sometimes very wrong, was brave. It took me a while to digest “Growth vs. value; disruption vs. legacy; strategy vs. tactics”; a 27-page report released in November that questioned the perceived success of many industry disruptors and suggested a possible comeback of status quo automakers. +++


+++ DS has released a teaser for an eagerly awaited all-new saloon car that may take the 9 name and will go head-to-head with both Audi and Volvo. It’ll be revealed next week on 24 February, and will be the brand’s Geneva show star, appearing alongside a new concept car too. DS released a single obscure image online of a textured finish with the brand’s DS logo and a second clip posted on the car-maker’s Twitter account has revealed that the ‘9’ is set to take the shape of a stylish large saloon. As such, it’ll be a brand flagship intended to take on the likes of the A6 and the S90. The DS 9 is set to get a more radical look to help it fight against rivals in a struggling sector of the market. From my first glimpse, the saloon looks heavily inspired by the DS E-Tense that was unveiled back at the 2016 Geneva motor show, with the short video clip indicating that the car will feature bold frontal styling and have a sharply-raked rear that incorporates the car-maker’s trademark Matrix LED tail lamps. Inside, a quick glimpse of the new saloon cabin reveals that it will bag a gear selector lifted from the current Peugeot 508; and that’s telling because beneath the new DS saloon it’s primed to be based on same PSA Group’s EMP2 platform as the mid-size Peugeot saloon. A quick flash of the DS 9’s rear, meanwhile, reveals that the car will come with the latest ‘E-Tense’ plug-in hybrid powertrain. That means it will combine a 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 2 electric motors, a lithium-ion battery and an 8-speed automatic. I expect total power to be pegged at around 300 hp which should easily be enough for a 0-100 kph sprint of less than 6.0 seconds, thanks to allwheel drive. With its batteries fully topped up, the new French Audi rival should be capable of covering up to 37 km on electric power alone, before petrol power kicks in. When the production car arrives on sale towards the end of 2020, the line-up will be mostly front-wheel drive and come with an engine line-up shared with the Peugeot 508. The popularity of traditional saloons is in decline (Ford recently decided to stop development of such vehicles in North America) but bosses from the luxury French brand feel it is imperative that the company has such a flagship model in its range. “Since the beginning it was extremely important to have this car in our range”, DS product boss Eric Apode told way back at the 2018 Beijing Motor Show. “But we will never do a copy; DS is something different, something spectacular. With our flagship we will do that”. +++ 

+++ Chinese automaker GEELY has launched a service for customers to buy cars online and get them delivered directly to their homes, in a bid to drum up sales as the corona virus outbreak prompts buyers to stay away from showrooms. Other carmakers like Tesla, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have also started to promote products heavily online in recent weeks as the health crisis escalated and authorities warned people to stay away from public places. Consumers can order and customize their cars on Geely’s website, it said in a statement. It will also offer test drives where potential consumers will be able to arrange a drive starting from their home address in coordination with local dealerships. The corona virus has killed 2.236 people and stricken more than 75.400 in mainland China, and strict public health measures to contain its spread have severely disrupted business and consumer activity. Sales of passenger cars in China, the world’s largest auto market, plunged 92 % in the first 16 days of February compared with the same period a year earlier, data from one industry group showed. Victor Yang, a senior official at Geely, told promoting online sales will allow automakers to directly reach customers through sales and marketing and help them build experience should they want to continue to do so in future. Geely, which is China’s most globally-known automaker thanks to its investment in Volvo and Daimler, said that car production in February is around one-third of its usual monthly output, but around 90 % of workers will return to work by the end of this month, Yang said, adding the automaker has bought facial masks for workers and dealers. Geely has partnered with third-party online sales platforms including Tmall, and in the past, but it is the first time the Zhejiang-based automaker is selling cars through its website. Tesla, which is building cars from its $2 billion factory in Shanghai, has been promoting online sales for years. Nationwide car sales are likely slide more than 10 % in the first half of the year due to the outbreak and around 5 % for the whole year, provided the epidemic is effectively contained before April, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) told last week. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS will be granted a generous tax break to construct its electric vehicle battery cell factory in Lordstown, Ohio. The town has approved a 75 % tax abatement set to extend over 15 years. The battery plant is to be located next to the large Lordstown assembly site that GM recently closed down and sold to electric vehicle startup ‘Lordstown’. GM’s new battery plant was first announced last fall during contract talks with the United Auto Workers union. The facility will be manufactured thanks to a joint venture established between GM and LG Chem in December last year and the site is set to be one of the largest battery factories in the world. Despite this, the new battery plant won’t fully make up for the loss of GM’s former factory in Lordstown that produced vehicles for more than 50 years. That site employed 4.500 workers at its peak 3 years ago when it was running 3 shifts. By comparison, the battery plant is expected to create roughly 1.100 jobs. The majority of workers from the former factory have either retired or transferred to other GM factories. It remains to be seen which electric vehicles from General Motors will use batteries made at the Lordstown site but there are a number of potential candidates. For example, GMC’s forthcoming Hummer EV pickup is scheduled to hit the production line in the fall of 2021 and could prove to be one of the marque’s best-selling EVs. Numerous other EVs are being developed by the car manufacturer, including an all-electric Cadillac crossover that’s just around the corner and set to premiere with an all-new electric vehicle architecture. +++ 

+++ The ‘Type R’ name has only ever been used on a handful of vehicles from HONDA and during a recent interview, the car manufacturer said it’s very protective of the name and won’t use it for any old model. As it stands, there is only one model produced by Honda that uses the Type R name and that’s of course the Civic. Speaking to Honda technical consultant Ko Yamamoto and Civic Type R project leader Hideki Kakinuma, it was discovered the marque only uses its Type R badge for vehicles with a racing connection. As a result of this, Honda wouldn’t apply the Type R badge to theoretical go-fast variants of other models, such as the CR-V or even the Jazz. Not even the flagship NSX supercar will get a Type R variant, Kakinuma and Yamamoto added. According to them, the NSX is very much an Acura product in the United States and the carmaker doesn’t want to use its Type R nameplate on Acura models. This comes despite the fact that there was an Acura Integra Type R model sold stateside back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Neither of the 2 Honda employees were able to definitely rule out an even faster version of the NSX but it seems unlikely such a vehicle is in the works, particularly for the U.S. market. If Honda does ever decide to make a hardcore version of the NSX, it could be made exclusively for the Japanese market, as was the case with the previous-generation model. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER has shelved plans to issue a U.S dollar bond after investors demanded too high an interest rate to compensate for the risk the coronavirus poses to the automaker, according to people familiar with the matter. Jaguar hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) to meet investors in the U.S. last week ahead of a potential sale of new bonds, and days after warning the deadly virus outbreak was impacting its supply chain. The company gained enough interest to prepare an 8 year bond in the high 7 % yield range, according to the people who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly. But news this week that the company could start to run out of Chinese parts for its UK factories in about 2 weeks and that it may never recoup the sales lost to the virus, has ended its chances of issuing debt at acceptable levels. Jaguar, a unit of India’s Tata Motors, gets about 20 % of its sales from China. A spokeswoman for Jaguar told that no launch of a transaction was announced at the time of the discussions. “The meetings with U.S. investors were planned as a non-deal roadshow”, she said. The company “routinely monitors the debt capital markets so could decide to issue a new bond anytime it thinks conditions are favorable”, she said. Officials at BAML declined to comment on the potential deal. The company is scheduled to repay the equivalent of about $1.2 billion of maturing bonds over the next 2 years, including a $500 million note due in March 2020. JLR is not facing any near-term pressures to raise new funding and has around $6 billion of liquidity to help tackle any near-term maturities. Jaguar returned to the bond market for the first time in almost a year in November, selling €800 million of debt following a positive set of results. It took advantage of investor optimism around the company at the time and raised an additional €200 million just a month later. +++ 

+++ MASERATI has confirmed that its new sports car, arriving in May, will be called the MC20. The firm said it will be a “natural evolution” of the limited-run MC12 supercar (the last model to wear the Maserati Corse badge) and has confirmed that it will “return to the world of racing”, with the MC20. In November, Maserati started testing the powertrain for the car on public roads in a test mule. The Italian firm released a series of shots of a camouflaged machine leaving its Modena factory at night. It says the machine was being used to house a “new powertrain entirely developed and built by Maserati”, that is the first in a new family of engines it is developing. The firm has yet to confirm any technical details of the car it will unveil in May, although it had been widely expected to be a production version of the 2014 Alfieri concept, which it committed to putting into production in 2018. The Alfieri concept was a front-engined 2+2 coupe, while the MC20 is a mid-engined 2-seater. While that does raise the prospect the sports car that will be launched in 2020 will be an entirely new concept, it appears that the car is based on the outgoing Alfa Romeo 4C produced by its sister firm rather than an all-new chassis. In a business plan, Maserati recently said it was upgrading the Modena production line to accommodate the machine’s “electric powertrain”. It is likely to be some form of hybrid unit, but we’re expecting to see a fully electric version as well. The new machine will be the first all-new Maserati released since 2015. +++ 

+++ The Geneva Motor Show is less than 2 weeks away and MERCEDES will use the event to introduce a handful of new products. The company didn’t go into too many specifics, but confirmed they will be unveiling the facelifted E-Class, new compact hybrids and 3 models from AMG. Speaking of the latter, Mercedes will introduce the “AMG variant of the E-Class” and 2 new SUVs. The company didn’t elaborate, but one of them is likely the GLE 63 Coupe which was unveiled earlier this month with a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine that produces up to 612 hp and 850 Nm. The second SUV from AMG is more mysterious, but it could be the GLA 45. The crossover is slated to have a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 387 hp and 480 Nm. Drivers looking for more performance will be able to get an S variant which has 421 hp and 500 Nm. On the hybrid side of the equation, we can expect to see plug-in hybrid versions of the CLA and GLA. Like the A 250e and B 250e, they’ll have a turbocharged 1.3-liter 4-cylinder petrol engine, an electric motor and a 15.6 kWh battery pack. This will give them a combined output of 218 hp and 450 Nm. More importantly, they’ll be able to travel approximately 68 km on electricity alone. Mercedes will also showcase an updated Marco Polo camper van. It will feature a new MBUX infotainment system and a newly developed MBAC (Mercedes-Benz Advanced Control) interface module that “allows central operation of a host of functions in the living area such as the lights or heating via the touch display in the cockpit or via smartphone app”. Mercedes says the system effectively turns the Marco Polo into a “smart home on wheels”. Last but not least, the automaker will stage the European debut of the Vision AVTR concept. The model was originally introduced at CES and was inspired by the movie Avatar. +++ 

+++ It’s been nearly 2 years since NISSAN and Italdesign introduced the GT-R50, but the companies are finally ready to show the first production model. The model will be introduced on March 3rd and deliveries will begin later this year. Production will limited to 50 units and, back in December, Nissan said a “limited number of reservations” were still available. It remains unclear if the GT-R50 has sold out since then, but the model starts at €990.000 before taxes and options. That’s a significant premium over the normal GT-R. Of course, the GT-R50 is a lot more special as it features unique styling inside and out. It’s also notable as model was created to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of the GT-R in 2019 and Italdesign in 2018. Given the bespoke nature of the car, customers can fine tune the model to match their tastes. Nissan hasn’t go into specifics, but has previously said “customers will be able to specify their preferred color combinations” as well as “choose interior colors and packages”. The unique touches don’t end with the styling as the GT-R50 has a Nismo tuned twin-turbo 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces 720 hp. That’s a significant improvement over the GT-R Nismo which is rated at 608 hp. The companies have previously said all deliveries should occur by the end of 2021. +++ 

+++ RENAULT said its Morphoz concept car previews the automaker’s new family of electric models. The full-electric car will be unveiled at the Geneva auto show on March 3. Renault released an image of the concept’s grille ahead of the Geneva unveil but offered few details ahead of the Geneva unveil. The Morphoz will offer “a personalized adaptation to the needs, desires and uses” of each passenger, Renault said in a news release. Along with alliance partner Nissan, Renault was a pioneer in electric cars with the launch of the Zoe battery-powered small hatchback in 2012. Last year the Zoe was Europe’s second best-selling car with 45.728 sales after the Tesla Model 3, which sold 94.492. Renault will debut a full-electric version of its Twingo at the Geneva show. The Twingo ZE will share its electric drivetrain with its platform sibling, the Smart ForFour. Renault’s budget brand, Dacia, will debut a battery-powered concept car in Geneva. The production version likely will be based on the the Renault City K-ZE electric car sold in China for about €8.000 but Renault has not confirmed this. Renault’s next generation of full-electric cars will appear in 2021-22, and will share a new platform, CMF-EV, with Nissan. Renault’s previous cycle of concept vehicles included electric and autonomous interpretations of a robotaxi (the EZ-GO), a delivery van system (the EZ-PRO) and a luxury car (the EZ-Ultimo). At Geneva, Renault will also show a plug-in hybrid version of its Megane. The automaker is adding hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains to its Clio, Captur and Megane models. Renault’s sports-car brand, Alpine, will show a concept version of the Alpine A110 sports car, called the SportsX, which it says is inspired by the rally-winning A110s of the early 1970s. +++ 

+++ SEAT broke a 66-year old tradition back in 2016, when they finally decided to present their first ever SUV, the Ateca. Based on the VW Group’s MQB platform and closely related to the Skoda Karoq and second-generation Tiguan, the Spaniard’s compact SUV is now getting ready to go through a mid-cycle refresh. Last time we saw the facelifted Ateca out in the open, in Cupra guise, the camouflage was thicker at the front, hiding larger portions of the bumper and grille, but since then, the wraps have become thinner, allowing us to catch a glimpse of the visual tweaks. The front bumper has been redesigned for the new model year, getting different cutouts. The grille seems to be more angular than before, but that could be the vinyl stickers doing their job, while the headlights have received an updated signature. At the back, the overall design of the tailgate has been maintained, but the bumper appears to be different and the taillights sport different graphics. As the prototype was camera-shy trying to hide behind a Tarraco, my spies couldn’t get close enough to capture the interior, but in all likelihood, it will receive some love from Seat’s engineers and (to a lesser degree, designers), with the emphasis placed on the infotainment system software, upholstery colors and trimmings. The current engine lineup is expected to largely carry over, with a few revisions meant to make it less polluting and more frugal, but we could see new additions in the form of the Volkswagen Group’s 48 volt plug-in hybrid powertrains. If the updated Ateca doesn’t make it to Geneva next month, then it will surely be at the Paris Motor Show in September, though in that case, we’ll probably see it before in late spring or early summer. +++ 

+++ A German court has granted TESLA permission to continue cutting down forest near Berlin for its first European car and battery factory, despite protests from environmental activists. The court rejected multiple applications by environmental groups that looked to stop the land being cleared of trees, saying that its ruling was final in a statement yesterday. The EV-maker announced plans for its Berlin factory back in November. The exact location is actually Grünheide in the eastern state of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin. Tesla’s plans were initially lauded and interpreted as a vote of confidence in Germany. However, lawmakers were then surprised by the strength of the opposition to the factory, with hundreds of demonstrators coming out against what they felt was a threat to local wildlife and water supplies. Yet, Germany’s pro-business Christian Democrat and Free Democrat parties warned that legal battles against the factory could seriously damage the country’s image as a place to do business. Tesla’s German factory will be tasked with building several models, starting with the Model 3 and Model Y, with more cars to follow. The factory will officially open in July of 2021 and will reportedly have the capacity to build 500.000 electric vehicles per year, while creating 10.000 new jobs. At first, the factory will focus on batteries, powertrains and vehicle assembly. The U.S. carmaker is also planning on establishing an engineering and design center in Berlin, near the city’s new airport. +++ 

+++ The TESLA MODEL Y Performance will go 500 kilometres on a full charge, according to final numbers posted to the EPA’s fuel economy site. Forbes spotted the posting first, and they match the numbers that were laid out in Tesla’s 4th quarter 2019 earnings report. Tesla initially promised a range of approximately 420 kilometres when the Model Y was revealed, but “due to continued engineering progress of the Model Y all-wheel drive”, the number was revised to 500 kilometres. The official rating was also revealed by this posting to the EPA’s site, too, showing that the Model Y received a 121 MPGe combined rating. That makes it the most efficient electric crossover out there, just beating the Hyundai Kona Electric by a sliver (rated at 120 MPGe). For some further perspective on that MPGe number, the Audi e-Tron is rated at a much lower 74 MPGe combined and a Jaguar I-Pace at 76 MPGe. Since the Kona’s battery pack is much smaller than the Model Y’s, it can only go 450 kilometres on a full charge, as opposed to the Tesla’s 500 kilometre rating. I’ll also note that this rating is only for the dual-motor Performance trim with allwheel drive. Tesla estimates the Long Range version at the same 500 kilometres on its website, but there’s no separate rating on the EPA’s site yet. Both the Model 3 Long Range and Model 3 Performance have the same 500 kilometre EPA rating for range, so this isn’t an anomaly within Tesla. If you opt for the Model Y Performance with the Performance Upgrade, you get a lowered suspension, performance brakes, larger 21-inch wheels and a higher top speed (250 kph instead of 235 kph). Larger wheels tend to sway EPA range ratings by a significant amount (see the Leaf 62 kWh) and the estimated range falls down to 450 kilometres on Tesla’s site with this package selected. Look out for Model Ys to start hitting the streets soon, as production is supposed to begin next month. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN and the German consumer protection organization have agreed to resume talks aimed at reaching a deal in a class action lawsuit over the carmaker’s rigging of diesel emissions tests. VW admitted using illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel engine tests in 2015, a scandal which has cost it more than $30 billion in vehicle refits, fines and provisions. Nearly all U.S. owners of affected cars agreed to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016 in the United States, but VW has said there was no legal basis for consumers in Germany to seek compensation due to differences in law. A court in the town of Brunswick, which has urged Volkswagen to settle the lawsuit, said the parties to the case had agreed on the advice of the court to resume discussions to try to reach a settlement. State-financed consumer protection organization Vzbv said it had accepted the court invitation and said talks should take place soon. A Volkswagen spokesman confirmed the new talks, but declined to comment further. Vzbv said it had not changed its demand that any settlement must be fair, transparent and verifiable. +++ 

+++ U.S. car owners suing the VOLKSWAGEN GROUP over its 2015 diesel-emissions scandal, want the federal judge overseeing the case to step aside. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer’s “words and actions display a deep-seated favoritism that would make fair judgment impossible”, Lauren Ungs, an attorney for the plaintiffs said in a court filing. The plaintiffs opted out of a $10 billion settlement between 600.000 car owners and the German automaker and are pursuing their own lawsuit for compensatory and punitive damages. Breyer has scheduled a jury trial for February 24. Breyer’s recent rulings included one that disqualified Louis Freeh, a former FBI director and the plaintiffs’ expert witness. They show he’s “predisposed” toward the prior settlement, Ungs said. Volkswagen objected to the removal of the judge in a separate filing, calling the request a “frivolous tactic” to try to delay the trial. “The opt-out plaintiffs and their lawyers are seeking an unjustified windfall”, Volkswagen spokesman Mark Clothier said. VW admitted in 2015 that about 11 million diesel cars worldwide were outfitted with so-called defeat devices that gave false readings during emissions tests. The scandal has grown into VW’s largest corporate crisis, costing the company over $30 billion to date. +++

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