Newsflash: Porsche broedt op pretentieloze sportwagen

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+++ A third-generation of the AUDI R8 appears to be in the planning stages and there will be major changes afoot like a switch to an electrified powertrain, Audi Sport Managing director Oliver Hoffman said. “There’s no decision yet regarding the technology and platform of the new R8. But with this next generation we have to fulfil all the regulations worldwide. That means it will be a car with an electrification part”, Hoffmann told. Electrification also lets Audi increase the third-gen R8’s horsepower output without a concern for higher combustion engine emissions. However, this comes with the challenge of keeping down the vehicle’s weight because of the extra mass from the battery pack and electric motors. One of the complaints about EVs among traditional sports car fans is the lack of a dramatic sound for them. Hoffman suggests the company is trying to address this. “We’re working very hard to design a special electric sound. So one way you can do this is to have the same noise as in combustion. So synthetic sound. But this is not the right answer. And I think in the future, in my opinion, you will have a special sound for electric cars and we will see a differentiation in the brands”, Hoffmann said. In an earlier discussion, Hoffmann indicated that Audi Sport has been pushing hard to retain a V10 engine for the third generation R8. It’s not clear whether opting for a hybrid would allow for low enough emissions to keep the big powerplant, especially for such a low-volume product. For example, R8 sales in the United States dipped 38 percent in 2019 to just 574 units. +++

+++ BEIJING will cut smog levels further this year by putting more New Energy Vehicles (NEV) on its roads, reducing diesel-fuelled truck numbers and tightening its supervision of vehicle emissions and refined oil products, the city said. The Beijing government also said it will aim to cut emissions in the petrochemical industry. The Chinese capital recorded an average concentration of tiny airborne smog particles known as PM2.5 at 42 micrograms per cubic metre last year, the lowest level since the country began an anti-air pollution campaign in 2016. Nevertheless, that PM2.5 level is still more than 4 times the WHO’s guideline of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air. “Beijing will make its best effort to improve air quality, with annual PM2.5 concentration and 3-year average concentrations continuing to fall”, the Beijing Municipality government said. The city said it aims to have 400.000 NEVs (plug-in hybrids, battery-only electric vehicles and those powered by hydrogen fuel cells) by the end of the year; up from the 225.000 on its roads at the end of 2018. It aims to speed up the elimination of high-emission cars and replace diesel-fuelled trucks with NEVs, which it will use for all its postal, intra-city delivery, environmental sanitation departments and for its airport and public bus systems. Meanwhile, Beijing said it will strengthen its supervision of in-use vehicles by carrying out checks on at least 1.5 million heavy-duty diesel vehicles. It will set stricter standards on gasoline and diesel, with lower olefin, aromatics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contents. Emission levels at petrochemical firms will have to be cut by more than 30% in 2020 from the 2017 level, while industrial coating and furniture companies will undergo emission assessments by local authorities, according to the statement. The city has seen PM2.5 concentrations of over 120 micrograms per cubic metre for 5 consecutive days since Sunday, despite the production and transportation disruptions due to the corona virus outbreak. “Pollutant emissions from heavy industry and residential heating, which account for two-thirds of the total in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, did not decline during the national holiday”, said the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) in a statement. While emissions from coal-fired power plants and steel mills fell by around 10 % from their pre-holiday levels, there was little change in pollution level from the coke, petrochemical, glass and non-ferrous metals industries, the MEE said. +++ 

+++ Speculation is growing that the BEIJING MOTOR SHOW in April will be postponed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. This would follow the postponed Formula 1 race in Shanghai and the cancelled Mobile World Congress technology show in Barcelona. There has been no official announcement on the Beijing show (officially known as Auto China 2020), which is scheduled to open on 21 April and close on 30 April. However, sources have reported that the organisers are telling exhibitors the show is “postponed until further notice”. “It’s unofficial, but we’re pretty certain the show won’t happen in April”, said one source, “and whether it will be rescheduled for the coming weeks depends on the virus”. With travel bans in place, international flights on hold and the streets of Beijing being regularly treated with chemicals in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus, the decision makes sense. Postponement of the show will be a blow to a Chinese car industry that’s struggling to recover from 2 successive market drops in 2018 and 2019. China remains the world’s biggest market for new cars, with 22.3 million registered last year. Until 2018, it had enjoyed 20 years of unparalled growth since the last decline in 1997. The Beijing and Shanghai motor shows have both expanded to become internationally significant and they alternate on the calendar. Beijing receives around 800.000 visitors each year (about 5.500 of them from overseas) and hosts some 1.200 exhibitors from 14 regions. The organisers of next month’s Geneva motor show say they are monitoring the situation but their show is going ahead as planned. “So far, there are no cancelations of an exhibitor or a partner”, said a spokesperson. “But of course we’re analysing the situation and discussing it with our medical advisors”. The Mobile World Congress (MWC), which attracts 100.000 visitors from 200 countries, was officially cancelled last week just ten days before it was due to open on 24 February. Even though the organisers announced a string of measures to reassure attendees, including a ban on visitors from Hubai province and passport checks for evidence of recent travel to China, major exhibitors started to pull out. “With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona, MWC is cancelled because of global concern over the coronavirus outbreak”, said a statement from MWC. +++ 

+++ The C SEGMENT SUV market in Europe is forecast to be flat this year at more than 2 million sales after years of growth as automakers replace key models and the segment pivots away from diesels toward electrified powertrains. After this year, however, LMC Automotive believes the segment will expand to 2.4 million units in 2021 and continue to rise annually to reach 2.8 million by the middle of the decade. Compact SUVs have been an economic lifeline for volume brands such as Nissan, Ford and Peugeot because of demand for models such as the Qashqai, Kuga and 3008, respectively. Booming sales pushed the segment to become Europe’s 4th largest with a 13 % share of the entire market last year with a full-year volume of more than 2 million. The segment’s share has almost doubled since 2014. The Volkswagen Tiguan, helped by a 4 % sales gain, passed Nissan’s Qashqai to take the segment lead. The Peugeot 3008 was third. The sales disruption forecast by LMC for 2020 is expected partly because the Qashqai will be replaced later this year and the Kuga is currently being succeeded by a new version. Therefore, LMC believes the 2020 sales of compact SUVs will be close to its estimate for the segment for 2019, which is 2.2 million (LMC’s full-year results for Europe were still being compiled at press time). LMC also points out that 2020 sales might continue to dip for the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage ahead of the arrival of their successors in 2021. The biggest task facing automakers selling compact SUVs is the transition away from a heavy reliance on diesel vehicles to electrified models to better align with tougher European emissions regulations and the wishes of consumers. Although the diesel share for compact SUVs has fallen from 73 % in 2015 to 44 % in 2018, the sheer number of compact SUVs bought meant that between January and October of last year no other segment registered more diesel models. The Tiguan was the No. 2-selling diesel overall in Europe through 10 months of last year, trailing only the Golf. The 3008 was 4th in diesel sales. Japanese automakers are leading the charge away from diesels by embracing hybrids. The Toyota C-HR was No. 6 in the segment with sales of 121.418 while the new Toyota RAV4 pushed past the Seat Ateca and Opel / Vauxhall Grandland X to round out the segment’s top 10. Hybrid versions accounted for 89 % of the C-HR’s sales and 67 % of the RAV4’s volume, according to 2019 figures from Toyota Europe. Honda also cut diesel versions in favor of hybrids for its new CR-V. The real impact, however, will be felt next year when Nissan is expected to drop diesel offerings from the Qashqai, replacing them with its e-Power serial hybrid system. “We have seen a significant drop in diesel and we are adapting ourselves to follow that trend”, Nissan Europe chairman Gianluca de Ficchy told in a recent interview, without confirming the diesel switch. Ford will offer 2 diesel variants of the new Kuga, one with a mild-hybrid setup, but will also launch a full-hybrid version of its top-selling compact SUV later this year. The other key automakers in the segment, however, are bypassing full hybrids to offer plug-in hybrid technology, which significantly cuts CO2 compared with standard hybrids but also pushes up the price due to the increased size of the battery. PSA Group brands Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Opel / Vauxhall have already launched plug-in hybrid versions of their compact SUVs, cutting average CO2 to as low as 29 g/km. Ford is also launching the Kuga with plug-in hybrid technology and Nissan is reportedly going to roll out a plug-in hybrid Qashqai using technology borrowed from alliance partner Mitsubishi. The most recent automaker to announce a plug-in hybrid in the sector is Toyota, which will launch a version of the RAV4 in the second half of this year with a claimed electric range of 65 km. Volkswagen so far has not announced a plug-in hybrid version of the Tiguan but is expected to launch one in the future. The brand already sells a plug-in hybrid version of the long-wheelbase Tiguan in China. LMC flagged one risk for the sector: tough future CO2 targets could force automakers to change strategy and shift their emphasis toward more conventional cars. Even if they are electrified, SUVs remain heavier and less fuel efficient than compact hatchbacks. Buyers could be nudged to return to those cars because tougher emissions standards may push electrified SUVs beyond their price range. For now, however, the popularity of the sector continues unabated. JATO global analyst Felipe Munoz pointed out that the only volume brand absent from the sector in Europe is Fiat, and that’s expected to change when it merges with PSA. Said Munoz: “This is a crucial segment for the mainstream players. It is an important source of sales volume and profits”. +++ 

+++ CHINA ’s vehicle sales likely fell by almost a fifth in January, marking a 19th consecutive month of decline, hurt by Lunar New Year holidays that started earlier than last year and by the coronavirus outbreak. The epidemic will hit auto sales and production hard in the short term, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said, predicting competition in the industry would get fiercer and some smaller parts suppliers could collapse. Preliminary data for January shows vehicle sales tumbled 18 % while sales of battery electric and other so-called new energy vehicles plunged 54.4 %, down for a seventh month in a row, the association said. It did not give absolute figures. Although the earlier start to the holidays, when consumers don’t do much shopping, was the main factor behind the dismal numbers, local governments began imposing travel curbs and warning residents to avoid public spaces in the last 2 weeks of January. An extension of the holidays to counter the virus also discouraged dealers from ordering cars at the end of the month as is their usual practice. “Due to the extension of the holidays, the shortage of workers and auto parts, we predict that the production of more than one million vehicles will be impacted by the coronavirus epidemic”, Chen Shihua, a senior association official said. The association said last month sales are likely to shrink 2 % in 2020; a third straight year of contraction. In Hubei province where the outbreak began and a major car manufacturing hub responsible for nearly 9 % of China’s output, Dongfeng Motor and its partners Honda, Renault and PSA have all said they are delaying the restart of production. Tesla, which started delivering cars built at its $2 billion plant in Shanghai last month, restarted production in Shanghai on Monday with local government help. Those operating plants outside Hubei province such as Volkswagen and General Motors have said they will keep some factories idled for an extra one or more weeks. Industry sales fell 8.2 % last year, pressured by new emission standards in a shrinking economy and by trade tension with the United States. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER , maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, saw profit slump in 2019 and turned in a loss for the 4th quarter, underlining the pressures on the auto industry from economic headwinds and the need to invest in electric cars to meet tougher European Union limits on greenhouse gases. The company also saw deductions to earnings from regulatory troubles regarding the emissions of its diesel cars. Net profit for the full year fell to €2.71 billion from €7.58 billion. In the 4th quarter of the year the Stuttgart-based company lost €11 million, compared with a profit of €1.64 billion in the year-earlier quarter. The company said it would cut its dividend to €0.90 for the year, from €3.25 in 2018. CEO Ola Källenius said “we cannot be satisfied” with the results but added that the company was on track to cut costs and improve its earnings performance. Earnings slipped despite an increase in unit sales and revenue at the Mercedes-Benz division, a main pillar of the company’s profits. Revenue increased by 1 % to €93.87 billion. But operating earnings at the division fell by more than half to €3.35 billion from €7.21 billion in 2018 as the company spent more on new models and technology and set aside more for diesel troubles. The company’s diesel emissions practices are under investigation in the United States and Germany and it faces civil lawsuits over cars that litigants claim emitted more pollutants than advertised. The company also faces uncertainty about the impact from the spread of the new coronavirus, which has sickened thousands of people in China and led to widespread business closures. Källenius said that the company was bringing its Chinese factories back online but that the virus’s impact remained uncertain. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER expects Latin America auto sales to grow 1.5 % this year to 4.2 million units as Brazil’s economic recovery offsets economic crises in other markets such as Argentina. Fiat Chrysler’s CEO for the region, Antonio Filosa, told journalists the automaker will increase its powertrain production and begin sales of a 100 % electric vehicle in Brazil. Filosa predicted a 6 % rise in Brazilian auto sales this year, with Fiat sales increasing by 7 % to 9 %. Auto sales in Argentina may drop as much as 15 %, below 400,000 units, as the country faces a difficult debt restructuring and economic crisis. Even so, Filosa said the automaker plans to keep its production in the country considering its long-term prospects. Fiat is currently the third largest automaker in Brazil behind General Motors and Volkswagen, after losing its top spot as sales of SUVs grew in the country. Fiat expects to launch new SUVs in 2021 and 2022. The company will increase powertrain production from 1.1 million to 1.3 million units a year, Filosa said. +++ 

+++ FORD admits that strict new emissions and fuel economy regulations around the world will impact performance cars but the carmaker will remain committed to them, even if that means they’re a little different. During a recent interview at the Chicago Auto Show, director enterprise product line management of Ford Icons (including the Bronco, GT and Mustang), Dave Pericak, said it is Ford’s responsibility to ensure its future performance models are as thrilling as they are currently. “A lot of countries are changing regulations so quickly and so much, they’re almost forcing the performance products out”, he said. “Our job is going to be two-fold. One is to figure out how to continue to make performance that will exist in some of these regulated countries, even our own, and how do you do it so it’s a global offering?” Pericak added that he doesn’t believe acceleration numbers will be the be-all and end-all for future performance cars and that Ford will be more concerned with delivering an overall performance experience. “How are they going to engage with the vehicle in a way they can feel the acceleration and power? It doesn’t mean we still won’t make the car go like a bat out of hell but maybe (0-to-100 kph times) aren’t the way we talk about it”, he said. Asked about the future of the Ford’s ‘icon’ models, Pericak said we should stay tuned with the GT ending its production run in 2 years. “We’ve been racing since the company was created and racing’s in our blood. We’re always looking at what’s out there and where it might apply. We’re always looking at it”, he said. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI has increasingly relied on China to supply auto parts to its manufacturing hub at home in recent years. As the corona virus spreads, its strategy could be backfiring. One of its main suppliers, Kyungshin, which has rapidly boosted capacity in China over the past 2 decades to capitalize on the country’s lower labor costs and proximity to South Korea, has seen its operations hit hard by the epidemic. Hundreds of workers failed to turn up for work last week at 2 of its 4 plants, in Jiangsu and Qingdao, following a Chinese New Year holiday that was extended due to the outbreak, according to a source familiar with the matter. In Jiangsu, only about 300 of the 600 employees who were due to return showed up, the source said. Now Kyungshin, which supplies almost half of the wiring harnesses for Hyundai’s auto electrical systems in the carmaker’s South Korean manufacturing hub, is scrambling to make up for production shortfalls. It has increased output at its factories in the United States, India, Cambodia and South Korea, according to 3 people with knowledge of the measures, who told Reuters the company was running its Korean plants around the clock. As it falls behind schedule, the company plans to use planes as well as ships to speed up the transport of its parts to South Korea, added the sources who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. Kyungshin said it was doing all it could to normalize parts supply. Hyundai told it was reviewing various measures to minimize the disruption to its operations and “ensure a stable and optimal production system”. The carmaker’s South Korean hub accounts for about 40 % of its global production, with vehicles exported to the United States, Europe and Middle East as well as other countries. The return to work by millions of people in China, where the corona virus has killed more than 1.100 and infected over 44.000, has been marked by public fears over safety and mistrust of authorities. Kyungshin’s travails in part reflect those of several global automakers, including Volkswagen, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Daimler, and their suppliers who have seen operations disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, highlighting their China exposure. However, Hyundai and South Korean automakers have been hardest hit in their home market. Kyungshin, founded by a friend of Hyundai’s former chairman 45 years ago, and a host of the carmaker’s other South Korean suppliers have rapidly increased their capacity in China over the past 2 decades. They have been able to swiftly supply not only Hyundai’s Chinese factories, but increasingly its assembly lines back home. “South Korean automakers are heavy on just-in-time delivery due to close geographic proximity to China. Other automakers have to carry more safety stock”, said Paul Stepanek, president at Complete Manufacturing and Distribution, which advises companies on sourcing supplies in Asia. “Therefore, when there is a crunch on supply chains, the South Korean automakers feel it faster”. In an illustration of South Korea’s increase in outsourcing, the country’s exports of auto parts to China have slumped by two-thirds over the past 5 years to $2.18 billion last year, while imports of parts made in China have risen by almost a fifth to $1.56 billion, according to South Korean trade data. About 170 South Korean first and second-tier parts suppliers run a total of around 300 factories in China, according to South Korean auto industry association data. South Korea sources more than 80 % of wiring harnesses from China, according to the government, as the parts require labor-intensive assembly and lower labor costs are crucial. “Suppliers have no choice but to go to China because of cost pressure”, said one of the sources of the supply disruption. Another of the sources, a senior industry figure, told the latest disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak had underscored how exposed Hyundai’s South Korean operations were to problems in China. “This is an opportunity to address that”, the source told. Analysts said that, while the disruption would put pressure on Hyundai to rethink its China strategy, diversifying supplies would take time, money and diplomacy. “Hyundai had close relationships with local suppliers. It was not easy to go beyond the relationships”, said Jo Hyung-je, an adviser to Hyundai and its union, referring to how many suppliers like Kyungshin have grown up with the automaker. +++ 

+++ The Porsche MACAN is going electric, but it appears petrol fans don’t have to worry. As I reported last year, Porsche confirmed the next-generation Macan would be an electric vehicle that rides on the PPE (Premium Platform Electric) architecture which underpins the Taycan. It is slated to be introduced early this decade and be built in Leipzig, Germany. While Porsche didn’t go into specifics, the all-electric model will be introduced in 2021. That’s not too surprising, but Porsche will reportedly continue selling the current Macan alongside the all-new model. While the 2 vehicles will be completely different, the petrol-powered Macan will be given a facelift so it resembles the electric version. This doesn’t appear to be temporary stop-gap either as the current Macan is slated to remain in production for at least 3 years following the launch of the electric model. One insider suggested the crossover could remain in production even longer as they noted the Macan is one of Porsche’s most important vehicles. Needless to say, this is an extremely cautious move by Porsche. It seems to indicate the company knows the future is electric, but they aren’t sure sales will be there to support to the move; at least initially. The company could have good reason to play it safe as the launch of the Mercedes EQ C hasn’t been a roaring success. The electric crossover was launched late last year and only managed to rack up 1.413 sales in Europe. However, the company has said they intend to produce approximately 50.000 EQCs this year. Mercedes also pushed the US launch back to 2021 as they made a “strategic decision to first support the growing customer demand for the EQC in Europe”. +++ 

+++ Tesla is seeking approval from Chinese regulators to offer a new China-made MODEL 3 variant, a government document shows. The variant would have a longer driving range, a source familiar with the matter said. Like the current China-made Model 3, which has a standard driving range of more than 400 kilometers, it would be a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the source said, who was not authorized to talk about the matter and declined to be identified. Tesla, which started delivering cars in December from its $2 billion Shanghai factory, also sells longer range imported Model 3s with all-wheel drive in China. The electric vehicle maker restarted production in Shanghai on Monday after the government ended an extended holiday that had been put in place due to the new coronavirus outbreak. +++ 

+++ Tesla’s latest recall involves roughly 15.000 MODEL X units that may experience a loss of power steering assist, which in turn would make it harder for the driver to steer, thus increasing the risk of a crash. As per the NHTSA and Transport Canada, the problem involves the aluminum bolts that attach the electric power steering gear assist motor to the gear housing, as they may corrode and break. Should this happen, it would cause a complete loss of power steering assist in some Model Xs. The NHTSA stated that there have been no known crashes or injuries associated with this potential defect. The recall includes 14.193 Model Xs in the U.S. and a further 843 in Canada, all built in 2016. Tesla owners need not worry though because the EV-maker will arrange for the replacement of the mounting bolts and will even replace the steering gear if deemed necessary. The Model X, just like its Model 3 and Model S siblings, was part of a petition filed with the NHTSA, urging the agency to investigate and recall no fewer than 500.000 Tesla vehicles over sudden unintended acceleration. The petition claimed that “Tesla vehicles experience unintended acceleration at rates far exceeding other cars on the roads”, and demanded that the NHTSA recalls “all Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles produced from 2013 to the present”. However, since then, Tesla revealed that the petition was filed by a Tesla short-seller of shares and stated that in every case where the driver alleges the vehicle accelerated contrary to input, the data showed that the car actually operated as designed. “In other words, the car accelerates if, and only if, the driver told it to do so, and slows or stops when the driver applies the brake”. While a loss of power steering may not sound as serious by comparison, it’s definitely not something you want to happen during tight maneuvering on a narrow road or if you’re in a hurry to overtake another car. +++

+++ The Ford MUSTANG MACH E debuts in Europe with special tuning. Ford says it has tweaked the electric crossover specifically for Euro roads. If you’re wondering why Ford couldn’t wait a couple of weeks to bring the Mustang Mach-E to the 2020 Geneva Motor Show for its Euro debut, there’s a good reason for that. The Blue Oval is skipping the 90th edition of GIMS, hence why the electric crossover’s official debut on the Old Continent is taking place this week in London. As you’re probably aware by now, European customers will be the first to take delivery of the Mustang-badged crossover once Ford will start shipping them towards the end of the year. To coincide with the European debut of its controversially named crossover, the company has issued a press release that contains some interesting details about the Mustang Mach-E. For example, engineers at Ford of Europe were involved in the development process of the vehicle from day one and were tasked to tweak the zero-emissions ‘Stang specifically for European roads and driving styles. The steering, suspension, electronic stability control, and the all-wheel-drive system have all been tuned to “support the needs of European customers”. Ford doesn’t say how many people have pre-ordered the Mustang Mach-E in Europe, but it does mention most of them are getting the extended-range battery pack. 85 % of all pre-orders so far are for the 98.8 kWh battery instead of the standard 75.7 kWh setup. Equipped with the larger battery and in rear wheeldrive guise, the electric crossover promises to cover 600 kilometres based WLTP, which is a more realistic test cycle replacing the old lab-based NEDC. Should you be in a hurry and with access to one of the Ionity stations supporting charging with up to 150 kW, the Mustang Mach-E will need only about 10 minutes to charge its battery enough for a driving range of 93 kilometres. A founding member (along with BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen) in Ionity, Ford is helping the consortium build 400 fast-charging stations by the end of the year in “key European locations”. At the same time, the company is investing in 1.000 charging stations at Ford’s own facilities throughout the continent. +++ 

+++ NISSAN cut its annual operating profit forecast by 43 %, hit by a slump in vehicle sales and heaping more pressure on new management to fix a company still reeling from the scandal surrounding former leader Carlos Ghosn. Nissan’s sharply waning earnings power has already prompted plans to slash jobs, close manufacturing sites and drop product offerings as the automaker steps back from an aggressive pursuit of market share championed by Ghosn. The dismal outlook comes after the automaker posted a net loss of ¥26.1 billion ($238 million) for the October-December third quarter and contrasts with upbeat forecasts from rivals Toyota and Honda. “We are making progress, but sales volumes have been weak so we need to do more restructuring than initially planned”, Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s new CEO and its third since September, told reporters. The automaker now expects operating income of ¥85 billion ($775 million) for the year to March, and far less than an average forecast for ¥134.5 billion from 20 analysts. Its brand image hurt badly by years of heavy discounting in the United States and other countries, Nissan’s global vehicle sales tumbled 11 % during the October-December period. Sales dropped 18 % in the United States, with once popular models like its X-Trail and its Sentra sedan falling out of favor. In China, sales slipped 0.6%. It now expects to sell 5.05 million vehicles for the entire year, which would be its weakest sales performance since 2013. Sources have said Nissan is set to eliminate at least 4.300 white-collar jobs and shut 2 manufacturing sites as part of broader plans to add at least ¥480 billion to its bottom line by 2023. The moves, an expansion of a plan unveiled in July, will also include fewer car models, options and trims on offer while marketing budgets as well as jobs at head offices in the United States and Europe will be slashed, the sources said. Nissan said it would not pay a dividend for the second half of the year, and that its full-year dividend would be ¥10 per share, a steep drop from the ¥57 paid a year earlier. Ghosn, who was also head of alliance partner Renault, was arrested in Japan in November 2018, accused of understating his salary and using company funds for personal purposes. He has denied any wrongdoing, and staged a dramatic escape to Lebanon in December while awaiting trial. Nissan said it had filed a civil lawsuit in Japan against Ghosn, seeking ¥10 billion in damages over his alleged misconduct. +++

 

+++ PORSCHE has talked openly about the possibility of bringing back the 914. The move has fuelled rumours that the German car maker is actively preparing the way for the launch of a new back-to-basics model aimed squarely at enthusiast drivers. In an official interview posted to its Newsroom website, Porsche has detailed the history and design of the 914, launched in 1969, recognising it as a successor to the iconic 550 Spyder and describing it as a “typical Porsche” in terms of engineering. It also asked if there is a future for the mid-engined 914 in an interview with head of design Michael Mauer. Mauer said that a “cheaper, entry-level Porsche would be the right thing to do”. He added: “We have this discussion all the time. A modern 550 in the broadest sense: a very simple, unpretentious car”. Mauer, who recently relinquished duties as head of design for the Volkswagen Group to focus on design operations concentrated at Porsche’s Weissach R&D centre, hinted that Porsche is considering 2 alternatives for a spiritual successor to the 914 in a move aimed at reaching out to young customers. The first is what he described as “a car with almost no electrics, everything mechanical, puristic”. The second, he said, is “a car for a target group of people who drive Audi TT RSs or Golf R32s”. Mauer, who is credited with the design of the original Mercedes-Benz SLK, indicated that internal discussions about a modern-day 914 at Porsche are split along 2 lines. He said: “Sales might see things differently. From this standpoint, a much cheaper entry-level Porsche would be the right thing to do, but that’s not my approach”. Instead, Mauer called for a “puristic, reduced, back-to-the-roots” type of car. “I think the time has come. That would be typically Porsche again”, he said. Mauer praised the styling of the original 914, saying: “To have the courage to design something like this, so big but without a swage line, without fashioning everything, that’s really fantastic”. His comments also reveal that work to revive the mid-engined model has already progressed beyond discussions into a design phase. He said: “Modern, reduced style: the more I work with the 914, that’s exactly what I’m fighting for now. This reduced, puristic approach. Integrating things. Not one line too many”. Whether a 914 successor would remain faithful to the original in terms of combustion-engine propulsion remains to be seen. In theory, Porsche has the perfect powertrain in the form of the compact, mid-mounted flat-4 turbo motor in the 718 Boxster and Cayman, perhaps with revisions to help it appeal more to purists. A fully electric powertrain (such as that set to be launched in the 718 models by 2022) is also a possibility, but Mauer’s description of a car with “almost no electrics” appears to counter that. +++ 

+++ In SOUTH KOREA , foreign carmakers see an opening as local auto companies are sidelined by supply chain disruptions. The timing couldn’t be better for import automakers to launch new cars in Korea, as their local competitors struggle to keep their factories operating with the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak disrupting their supply chains. Even though overall consumer sentiment might have weakened, foreign automakers are believing that having a strong start for the year will prove helpful, as they had a rather disappointing 2019 from the slow economy and lower overall car demand. The industry had originally been hoping to set a new record last year, with a goal of selling 300.000 units after selling a record 260.705 units in 2018. But sales of imported cars fell 6.1 % on year to 244.780 units in 2019. Consumer demand for new cars is expected to remain low, as people are avoiding going outdoors to shop, but Volkswagen Korea nevertheless pushed ahead with its original schedule to launch the third-generation Touareg last week. While acknowledging that holding a physical event to introduce the new car included risks as the coronavirus continues to spread, a spokesperson for Volkswagen Korea said it was well-prepared. In introducing the large-size SUV, the German automaker’s Korean unit had its employees wear masks and gloves while distributing masks and hand sanitizers to reporters at the launch event instead of canceling the event as a whole. The Genesis GV80, a direct competitor, was launched last month, but the production schedule has been delayed due to Hyundai’s difficulty securing enough supplies of wiring harnesses from China. The Korean carmaker resumed operations Tuesday at its Ulsan factory, which manufactures the GV80. It is expected that bringing the operating rate back to normal will take days and the time table is heavily dependent on how the virus continues to spread in China. At the same time, Jaguar Land Rover Korea launched the facelifted Discovery Sport, 5 years after its predecessor’s 2015 introduction. More launch events are planned ahead for import automakers as they grab the opportunity to capture more of the limelight while domestic manufacturers are sidelined. Mercedes-Benz Korea is scheduled to unveil the new A-Class sedan and the CLA during a media event in Seongsu-dong, eastern Seoul. BMW was the only import automaker that modified its timeline due to the virus, as its Korean unit postponed the launch of the upgraded 1 Series and 2 Series originally slated for next week. Meanwhile, local automakers are expected to undergo a rough first quarter, with some of them continuing their struggles from last year. As its supply of auto parts from China ran out, Renault Samsung shut down its plant in Busan from Tuesday to Friday. The production halt is endangering the company’s original plan to introduce six new cars to the local market this year, starting with the new XM3. +++ 

+++ In SPAIN , at least one part of the market is healthy: sales of used cars. Registrations fell 4.8 % last year with sales of new cars to private customers dropping by 12 %. However, there was a 17 % leap in demand for vehicles over 20 years old. Sales to private buyers started this year even worse than in 2019 with registrations down 14 % in January versus a 7.6 % drop in total registrations. Industry association ANFAC said it is a worrying sign for the industry if families “prefer to buy an old car rather than a new one”. Sales to private buyers have been squeezed for a while now because private customers are increasing getting a new car through a long-term rental contract but this explains only part of the drop in demand. The decline of the purchasing power of families and political uncertainty are explanations frequently quoted by experts. Another reason that has been touted is that customers buy an old car to cash in when there are programs offering incentives to swap old models for new ones. But since the last scrappage program was in 2016 and any future one would likely be for the purchase of an expensive electric car, this seems unlikely, an ANFAC spokeswoman said. Whatever the reason, Spain seems to be doing little to remedy the situation. The country’s tax on the resale of used cars is low at a maximum of 8 % of the car’s market value. Add to that the fact that new-car prices generally are about to rise and the reason for buying an old car gets stronger. European Union efforts to tackle climate change are forcing automakers to turn to electrification to reduce the CO2 emissions. Automakers are adding relatively inexpensive mild hybrids, but also more expensive plug-in hybrids and full-electric vehicles. This means that small cars that were once the go-to choice of those on a budget, such as the Opel Karl, Ford Ka+ and Fiat Punto, are no longer profitable and have been axed. What is happening in Spain could become a wider European trend, especially as sales of new internal combustion cars are likely banned across the region in the long term. The used-car trend is worrying industry executives. Thomas Schmid, Hyundai Europe’s former chief operating officer, said last year in an interview, announcements by several countries that they will ban the sale of combustion vehicles by 2030 or soon after would likely mean that people will keep their cars longer. +++ 

+++ TESLA said it plans to raise $2 billion by selling shares through a public offering. Chief executive officer Elon Musk will buy up to $10 million in shares, while board member and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison will purchase $1 million worth Tesla shares. The underwriters will get an option to buy up to $300 million in additional shares. The electric-car maker said it plans to use the proceeds from the offering to strengthen its balance sheet and for general corporate purposes. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are the lead joint book-running managers. Barclays, BofA Securities, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank Securities and Wells Fargo Securities are the additional book-running managers. Societe Generale is the acting co-manager. +++

 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN of American chief operating officer Johan de Nysschen has confirmed the company’s all-electric I.D. Buzz will be manufactured in Germany from 2022 and exported globally, including to North America. Volkswagen has yet to decide what it will call the production model but it is still referred to as the I.D. Buzz internally. Whatever the final name is, it will include ‘I.D.’ as VW is using that branding for all of its new-age electric vehicles. As the I.D. Buzz will be quite a niche vehicle and won’t sell in huge numbers, Volkswagen will be able to cope with all global supply from a single German factory. I imagine the I.D. Buzz Cargo van will be made in the same factory as the passenger variant. It remains to be seen what changes the production vehicle will undergo from the concept presented way back in 2017, but it seems inevitable Volkswagen will work extensively on its styling to get it ready for the street. Consequently, changes will include new headlights and taillights as well as a set of less-futuristic and more-practical wheels. I’d also be surprised if the rearview cameras of the concept made their way into the production model, though that’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Powering the I.D. Buzz concept from 3 years ago was a large 111 kWh battery complemented by one electric motor at the front axle and one at the rear for a total of 375 hp. The powertrain enabled the modern-day Bus to hit 100 km/h in just 5 seconds and achieve a range of 434 km on a single charge. +++

 

+++ VOLVO ’s Lex Kerssemakers is getting a crash course in the new world of car ownership, namely the move to subscriptions from leasing, while simultaneously trying to bring some of his sage automotive knowledge into the mix. “What I bring is the old world because 70 % of what my team is doing is what we have been doing for a 100 years. But it’s that 30 % that is brand new”, said Kerssemakers, who has been leading a new board-level unit at Volvo called Direct Consumer Business for about a year. That 30 % includes the online marketing and sales and the digitalization of the entire process. One key challenge has been reducing the steps it takes for a customer to complete a subscription to a car via the Care by Volvo scheme. Kerssemakers said that it can take less than one minute to finish the order for a car, or 5 to 6 clicks. He added, however, that even if Volvo brings down the level of commitment substantially via a subscription, it is still a car that a person is getting so certain steps must be there. The longtime Volvo executive is also finding that his tech-savvy experts do things very differently. “They adapt overnight”, he said. “You cannot approach this that same way as other parts of the business”. Kerssemakers initially thought he could handle the automaker’s online retail responsibilities in addition to his previous role as Volvo’s head of global commercial operations. “That’s a mistake I made in my previous job where I said I would do this (the online duties) and my wholesale business”, he said. “No way. It’s conflicting interests. It doesn’t work like that”. +++

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