Newsflash: Porsche werkt aan 650 pk sterke Cayenne Coupé GT

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+++ The Citroën AMI is a quirky, electric 2-seater that’s intended to propel the French brand into a new era of car-sharing and urban mobility. The French firm hopes that the Ami, which remains true to the Ami One concept shown a year ago, will appeal to a new generation of buyers as the appetite for more traditional entry-level cars, such as the C1 (which is unlikely to be replaced), wanes. It will be launched in Europe this summer. Crucially, the Ami is classed as a quadricyle, like the Renault Twizy, which means it can be driven across Europe without a driving licence by those aged 16 or older. The Ami is 90 mm longer than the Twizy, at 2.41 meter, and has a 40 mm wider turning circle of 7.2 meter. Under the floor of the Ami is a 5.5 kWh lithium ion battery that can deliver up to 70 km of range, while a sole motor allows it to hit a top speed of 45 kph. The battery can be recharged in just 3 hours from a domestic socket. Citroën is offering 3 usage models: long-term rental, car-sharing and cash purchase. Rental requires a deposit of €2.644 and monthly payments of €19.99. Through car-sharing scheme Free2Move, Citroën parent firm the PSA Group’s offering, subscribers can drive the Ami for 26 cents per minute. To buy, the Ami costs €7.000. Acquiring an Ami will be an entirely online process, in which the EV can be delivered to one’s home or collected from a pick-up point. It will also be available in traditional Citroën dealerships, as well as pop-up stands in shops, such as French department store chain Fnac. The Ami’s doors open in opposite directions, being rear-hinged on the driver’s side and front-hinged on the passenger side; a configuration intended to help access. There are 2 fixed, semi-opening windows, which Citroën flags as a nod to the iconic 2CV. A large glass surface, including a panoramic roof is claimed to give occupants a feeling of space as well as good visibility. The interior is closed and heated, while the 2 seats are positioned side by side so that taller people can fit. Citroën claimed a carry-on suitcase can fit in a recess at the passenger’s feet. Sat-nav and music are accessed via a smartphone placed in a dedicated area in the middle of the dashboard. Citroën describes the Ami as a “a practical response to new mobility expectations for short journeys providing easier access to city centres, micromobility for everyone and a real alternative to scooters, bicycles, mopeds and public transport, and at reasonable costs”. +++ 

+++ ASTON MARTIN ‘s chief finance officer, Mark Wilson, will leave the company following a tumultuous 2019 in which the automaker’s losses ballooned after sales dropped and it drafted in a new investor to help turn around the company. Aston Martin posted a $136 million pretax loss in 2019 after a 7 % decline in core wholesale demand. The company said Wilson will step down from his role no later than April 30 but that he had not been fired. Aston Martin said last month that Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll will buy up to 20 % of the company and existing shareholders would also inject more cash to stabilize the automaker. Stoll will become the company’s executive chairman. “The big difference between last year and this year is the strength of the balance year”, CEO Andy Palmer told. “We are in a very different place and have therefore an ability to properly destock and that means gets the balance right between supply and demand”. China was a bright spot in its performance last year with sales rising 28 % but the company, like the rest of the industry, has seen demand drop due to the corona virus outbreak. Aston Martin has seen disruption to the arrival of certain parts but said it had not had to stop production at its factories, with components secured until at least the end of March because it has no direct suppliers in China. “Since almost the first weeks of the New Year we have had issues with those Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers which have meant that our supply chain guys have had to be on it constantly”, Palmer said. “We are ironically benefiting from the fact that we built up a Brexit stock”, he said, in a reference to extra components the firm held in case Britain’s departure from the European Union led to additional delays in the movement of goods. The company said deliveries of its first SUV, the DBX, were scheduled for the summer but were subject to any impact from the corona virus outbreak on the supply chain. It predicted a decline in first-half revenue as it waits on the DBX, which is key to the automaker’s growth plans. Almost all earnings this year will be come in the second half, Aston Martin said. The DBX is selling well, Palmer said, having already secured orders in excess of the planned retail target for 2020. Excluding the SUV, wholesales are expected to be “materially lower” than last year as Aston Martin focuses on reducing inventories that have pushed down prices. It has delayed plans to electrify its lineup until “no earlier than 2025”, and Palmer said the company would focus on plug-in hybrid vehicles in the meantime, starting with the Valhalla model in 2022. “We have enhanced the deployment of our V6 plug-in hybrid so there is a lot of work going into that technology and it will go across a greater range of cars”, Palmer said. While the British firm’s retail sales rose 12 % in 2019, wholesale volume (sales of cars to dealers) dipped by 9 %. In total, it sold 5.862 cars to dealers, compared with 6.441 in 2018. Higher selling costs and lower profit margins on each car also hit the firm, leading to revenue declining by 9 %. The firm also sold fewer specials. Aston Martin sold 1.429 cars wholesale in the United Kingdom last year; down 21 %, with sales in the rest of Europe and the Middle East falling 28 % to 1.074. But there were some bright spots: sales in the United States rose 16 % to 2.050 and sales were als up in China. The firm is hoping to receive a boost when the DBX, the firm’s first SUV, goes on sale later this year. It says orders for the DBX have already exceeded the total goal for the whole of 2020. Aston Martin’s other key launch this year will be the long-awaited Valkyrie hypercar. Beyond that, the firm says growing its portfolio of mid-engined cars will be a key focus, with the Valhalla due in 2022. +++ 

+++ CITROEN will launch 6 electrified models this year, including a new electric compact hatchback that will be an indirect replacement to the C4 and C4 Cactus. Product boss Laurence Hansen said the zero-emissions hatch will have assertive styling and offer the ultimate Citro​ën Advanced Comfort. Alongside the electric model, petrol and diesel variants will also be offered. A fully electric Spacetourer will also arrive by the end of the year, but no more details have yet been revealed. The rest of the electrified range will be the quirky 2-seat Ami, revealed today, the already-announced C5 Aircross plug-in hybrid and 2 electric vans. Hansen said the vans will be the “perfect solution for last-mile delivery”. She continued: “In 2020, we launch a major product offensive in terms of electrified vehicles. Silence and comfort are today’s luxuries and these cars will be a great answer to that”. New Citro​ën CEO Vincent Cobee, who recently replaced Linda Jackson, added: “When you are Citro​ën and you are already a reference in comfort (riding, seating, sound insulation) electrification is much more than a regulatory obligation. It’s an opportunity to progress another level in terms of comfort in transport”. The French maker will offer an electrified version of every model by 2025. Citro​ën sold 830.000 vehicles in Europe last year; an increase of 1 % year on year. +++ 

+++ Given that CUPRA positions itself as a high performance brand, one would only assume that a small hot hatch like a fast Seat Ibiza would be a no-brainer, but apparently that’s not the case. Back in 2018, Cupra was officially launched as a standalone performance brand, showcasing the Cupra Ateca as its first model and the Cupra Ibiza as a “design study” based on the then freshly-revealed supermini model. Cupra’s engineering boss Axel Andorff, said when asked what happened with the small hot hatch: “You know, one of the jobs we have in development is to think about potential portfolio positions for the future. It’s helpful to create show cars to get a feeling of how the car will look. For this, for the time being, there’s no plan to position a Cupra Ibiza”. When pushed to clarify, Andorff didn’t hold back. “I do not spend a second of my day on this car”, he replied. Cupra has been so far an SUV-focused brand, with the exception of the Leon; the Cupra Ateca will be soon joined by the Formentor, which will also become the brand’s first standalone model, so maybe a Cupra version of the smaller Arona makes more sense for them instead of the Ibiza. “The freedom of Cupra we don’t demonstrate today”, says Andorff. “But later on this year, we’ll have the right freedom we need to create the brand. We have something in the pipeline that’ll really demonstrate what we’re all about. There are strict rules in the Volkwagen group. Whatever we do, we have the backing of the board”. +++ 

+++ LG Electronics was recognized at an awards ceremony hosted by DAIMLER for its in-vehicle touchscreen display technology. At the Daimler Supplier Award, the Daimler group gives awards to outstanding suppliers. Among hundreds of suppliers globally, a total of 10 awards were given in 4 categories: Quality, Innovation, Sustainability and Inspiration. “It was in the new Inspiration category that LG Electronics was recognized for its in-vehicle touchscreen displays featured in both Mercedes-Benz Cars and Daimler Trucks”, LG said in a statement. This marks a major achievement for the tech company since it launched a new division for automotive vehicle solutions in 2013. Despite reporting an operating loss, the automotive business clinched a number of contracts with major carmakers. +++ 

+++ A decade ago, FORD was fighting to remain solvent amid a financial crisis that bankrupted two of its crosstown rivals. Incoming Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley says Ford faces a similar sense of urgency today to fix a sputtering business plagued by high warranty costs and launch issues. Farley said his priorities in the new role he takes on March 1 include connectivity, Ford’s commercial-vehicles business and opportunities with electric and autonomous vehicles. With Ford’s stock trading at a 10-year low, Farley said the company has to “reawaken the purpose of our work” and “accelerate the sense of urgency” among its leaders. “The only way to change the sense of urgency is to change the way you work”. Farley said. “More agile, all-in, together”. Farley listed 4 key areas Ford needs to improve: warranty costs, which he said hit $5 billion last year; launch performance; material, logistics and labor costs; and sales and marketing. The automaker will have ample opportunity this year with the introduction of high-volume products including a redesigned F-150, the Bronco SUV, the Bronco Sport crossover and the Mustang Mach-E electric crossover. “We’re at the moment in time at Ford where delivery matters”, Farley said. “It is execution. I can’t handicap that right now because it’s something you have to just go do”. Aside from the new products, Farley said one of his priorities is continuing Ford’s quest to add connected modems in all of its vehicles. Connectivity, he said, could lead to new profit streams and business opportunities, especially with commercial vehicles. In Europe, Ford’s truck and van sales rose 21 % last year. Its U.S. fleet truck and van sales jumped 33 %. The automaker has implemented telematics services for fleet businesses that helps owners better maintain their vehicles, but Farley sees room for growth. “For me, this is the signature execution opportunity for Ford, and growth opportunity for Ford, in the coming years”, he said. Farley also stressed the need for Ford to hire new, tech-focused talent to think and work in new ways, similar to what its Team Edison did in quickly developing the Mach-E under a condensed time frame. “Software’s a different business”, he said. “We have some great people at Ford, but we need more dedicated teams like Team Edison. I think that will change the culture”. +++ 

+++ The organisers of the GENEVA motor show, one of Europe’s premier motoring events, have confirmed the event is still due to take place as scheduled despite the spread of the Covid-19 corona virus. Concerns over the spread of the Covid-19 virus, which originated in China, led to the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress technology event that had been due to take place in Barcelona earlier this month. That decision came after a large number of exhibitors withdrew, citing health concerns. After that event was cancelled, Geneva organisers insisted the motor show would go ahead starting on 2 March, but there have been fresh concerns due to a spate of Covid-19 cases in northern Italy and other countries outside of China. In a statement sent to exhibitors and seen by Autocar, event organisers confirmed they had met to “re-evaluate the current situation given the latest information from the national health authorities”, after Switzerland had yesterday confirmed its first case of the Covid-19 virus. A decision has been taken to go ahead with the show as planned, including the Car of the Year presentation on 2 March, the media day on 3 March, the VIP day on the 4 March, and then public days from the 5-15 March while remaining in regular contact with health authorities. Event organisers had earlier said they are “carefully observing the situation and its possible implications for exhibitors, visitors, partners and employees” and have encouraged visitors from at-risk areas to check staff have not shown any symptoms for 14 days prior to arriving in Switzerland. Organisers are also in contact with Swiss health and medical bodies to develop a “sanitary action plan”, which will involve a “programme of cleaning, disinfection and prevention”. This will include a cleaning and awareness campaign, along with new signage reminding visitors about personal hygiene. The Geneva motor show is arguably the most important of the year, and a number of major reveals are due to take place in Switerland. We’re expecting to see the hot GTI version of Volkswagen’s new Golf, its platform-sharing Audi A3 rival and the facelifted Mercedes-Benz E-Class, while there are certain to be a few surprises, too. Not every major manufacturer will have a presence at this year’s show, however. Lamborghini has confirmed it won’t be attending, instead choosing to focus on bespoke events for its new models, while the PSA Group (Peugeot, Citroën, DS and Opel/Vauxhall) and Jaguar Land Rover are also taking a rain check. +++ 

+++ POLESTAR boss Thomas Ingenlath dreads the thought of spending time at next week’s Geneva auto show defending Volvo’s decision to launch a stand-alone electrified brand. “How long will we have to explain that it’s not a crazy idea to create a new electric car company”, asked Ingenlath, who has led Polestar since its creation in mid-2017. “That type of discussion has me fed up. We shouldn’t still be questioning this”. Ingenlath believes the industry, government, consumers and even the media need to do more to accelerate the shift to emissions-free driving. That way the discussion about becoming carbon neutral can evolve. He explains why in an interview. Questio: Why do you feel the shift toward electrified cars is stuck in first gear? Answer: At the Geneva auto show I believe we will once again spend most of the time talking about the move toward electrification. It’s strange to think we are still talking about this topic almost like we did 3 years ago because not much has happened. The pace and the way electrification is being implemented is not satisfying and it’s certainly too slow. We really should be talking about the next step. Q: What needs to change? A: 3 parties have to get together for electrification to gain speed and become real: the automotive industry, politicians and consumers. This problem does not get solved if just one party is taking action. It requires that all 3 are convinced it is the right thing to do and they should work to make it happen. Q: Why should the automotive industry do more? A: The industry needs to be involved for 2 reasons. One is the broader picture of climate change. We have to stop it. We can stop it, but only if we act quickly. The other reason is economics. Some big companies worry about the risk they might expose themselves to by moving too fast into electrification. I think it’s the complete opposite. The risk comes from being too slow. Q: What do you want from politicians and consumers? A: For the politicians, the question is: What are you waiting for? Why haven’t you put the laws and regulations in place that really make it possible for the third party, the consumer, to do what they, in a way, know they have to do. Of course, not everybody can switch because electrification is still too much a question about whether you afford it. Politicians can change that. Norway provides an example of what regulations would need to be put into place to support this. Helped by generous tax incentives and exemptions from various fees, electric cars accounted for half of all new-car sales in Norway last year. Q: Audi has had to pause production of the e-tron full-electric car in Belgium because of a shortage of batteries. Does this problem concern you since you will soon be launching your first high-volume car, the Polestar 2? A: Isn’t the root cause of this battery shortage a question of where you put your money? Investments have to be made. We always talk about the big numbers needed to create battery production lines. And while these look like big numbers, they are small in comparison with the money that is still being spent to keep today’s technology on the road and what is being invested into next-generation gasoline or diesel drivetrains. It’s true that you cannot do everything and you have to invest wisely, however, building up battery capacities is clearly a question of putting the money, into the right technology. Q: That means you don’t believe battery shortages are to blame for slow sales of the Mercedes-Benz EQ C and the near collapse of sales of Smart since it became a full-electric only brand? A: We are not at a point where it’s impossible to buy an electric car. There are a number of models out there. Also, the current battery shortage is certainly not what will stop the move to electrification. For the Polestar 2 we already have the battery volumes sourced. Q: In 2019, the Tesla Model 3 became Europe’s No. 1 EV, outselling its closest competitor, the Renault Zoe, by more than a 2-to-1 margin. Is that encouraging news since the Polestar 2 will be a direct competitor to the Model 3? A: That is certainly encouraging for us. But going back to my first point, it should also be very alarming to the automakers that still, despite lots of talk, do not embrace electric mobility wholeheartedly and are not taking the required steps. The success of a company that is fully dedicated to electric mobility is something other automakers should take notice of because it is a very good example of the economic success that is possible from betting on the right technology. This underlines the point I’m making, which is, let’s stop just talking about electric mobility. Let’s admit that it is the future, so it’s time to act. Don’t hesitate. Go for it wholeheartedly. Q: Could you explain why you also believe the media could do more to accelerate the shift to emissions-free driving? A: The media often portrays something like Volkswagen Group’s shift toward electrification as a big gamble. Those are the headlines we see. What if it was the opposite? What if the question was: Is it enough? What if it was portrayed as a risk that the company isn’t doing more? That shift of perspective is what I am so desperately waiting for and now really asking for. It’s why I’m being a bit more aggressive about saying, “Come on, guys, how long will we have to explain that it’s not a crazy idea to create a new electric car company.” That type of discussion has me fed up. After all this time we shouldn’t still be questioning this. Q: How long have you been hearing that EVs will never succeed? Since the very first day that the Tesla Roadster was out at the VW r&d center when I was still working there (Ingenlath worked at VW Group brands including Audi, Skoda and VW from 1991 until March 2012 when he moved to Volvo as head of design). Engineers told me, “Oh no, that will never work”. Now, every week somebody tells me that Tesla will be dead soon. That has been going on for years. That is where my frustration comes from. Q: This year automakers in Europe need to reduce their average fleet CO2 to 95 grams per kilometer. The level drops to 59 g/km by 2030. Hasn’t this helped brands such as Polestar? A: Just reducing CO2 is the wrong focus. Let’s face it. The question is not about reducing CO2, it’s about removing it. The car that produces no CO2 is what we should be striving for. Therefore, at Geneva we shouldn’t be beyond talking about the merits of electro-mobility. That should be a given so we can start talking about how we tackle CO2 reduction during production. How do we remove it from the supply chain? Why don’t we have more green energy available? What are we doing about reducing plastic waste and using more recycled materials in cars? Those are the topics we should be talking about at Geneva. Q: What are the dream results you would like to see from speaking out about this topic? A: Everybody shifting the money they would have spent on developing next-generation combustion engines into, for example, building the necessary battery capacities. Politicians creating legislation that makes it possible for an adequate charging infrastructure to be up and running before the end of this year. Consumers deciding to trying an electric car because once they drive an EV they will not switch back. There’s no excuse anymore to delay this. Go for it: 2020 is the year. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE is working on a Cayenne Coupe GT. Virtually nothing is known yet about the SUV but, if it is a new derivative, we can expect the production model to sport more extensive changes. Besides a new rear bumper to accommodate the dual exhaust system, there could be a more aggressive front fascia and unique alloy wheels backed up by a high-performance braking system. While nothing is official at this point, rumors have suggested the Cayenne could be equipped with the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that resides in the Lamborghini Urus. It produces 650 hp and 850 Nm. This allows the model to rocket to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, before topping out at 305 km/h. While the Cayenne Coupe Turbo also has a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8, it’s rated at a more modest 550 hp and 770 Nm. Needless to say, the gap is big enough that Porsche could theoretically offer a high-performance Cayenne Coupe without stepping on the toes of the Urus. This model could appeal to customers who want more performance than the Turbo, but don’t want to opt for the Cayenne Turbo SE Hybrid Coupe. Of course, there have also been rumors about a monster crossover with over 800 hp.  We’ll just have to wait to see what Porsche has planned. +++ 

+++ SEAT and Cupra are set to debut 3 new models at this year’s Geneva motor show: the Cupra Formentor, and the new Seat and Cupra Leons. The Cupra Formentor is the first model exclusively developed for the performance brand as opposed to one based off an existing Seat model. The debut of the model will come days after the opening Cupra’s new headquarters in Martorell, Barcelona. The new Seat Leon will also make its public debut at the Show, with a new design and a range of efficient and electrified engines. In production since 1999, 2.2 million Leons have been sold across 3 generations so far, making the car a key component in the Spanish brand becoming a major player. Both a plug-in hybrid (eHybrid) and mild hybrid (eTSI) (mild hybrid) will be available. The eHybrid model comes with a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine mated to an electric motor and 13 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, with a 6-speed DSG transmission. It puts out 204 hp and has an electric-only range of 60 km. It can be recharged via a 3.6 kW AC inlet and can be fully charged from in less than 3.5 hours. The Leon eTSI mild hybrid model uses a 48 Volt starter-generator and lithium-ion battery to harvest energy under deceleration and provide electrical assistance during acceleration. The model is available with the 1.0 TSI 110 hp and the 1.5 litre TSI 150 hp petrol units. The hotter Cupra Leon comes with with a 245 hp petrol engine, 245 hp eHybrid setup and 300 hp and 310 hp (exclusively available in the ST estate 4Drive) 2.0-litre petrol engines, all with a 7-speed DSG transmission. +++ 

+++ SKODA has confirmed that the next-generation Octavia RS will star at next week’s Geneva Motor Show, using plug-in hybrid power. The Czech marque’s latest hot hatchback will go on sale in the UK in autumn this year, likely badged RS iV. Prices are expected to start from around €48.000. It’ll appear in Geneva alongside a further plug-in hybrid Octavia iV model, bringing the total number of plug-in Octavias to 3. The new Skoda Octavia RS iV plug-in hybrid will use the same turbocharged 1.4-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine as the recently launched Golf GTE. No performance figures have been confirmed for the hot hybrid, but Autointernationaal.nl understands that the new electrically-assisted model is being tuned to match the output of the petrol RS model. In all likelihood it will match the 245 hp figure of the hot plug-in Golf, too. Senior company sources have told that the PHEV-powered Octavia RS iV will join Skoda’s existing range of petrol- and diesel-powered RS models; giving it the Czech brand’s widest range of high-performance powertrains to date. Skoda has always employed a loose definition of what constitutes a hot hatch. The previous generation Octavia RS model was offered in a wide range of different forms: buyers could have either a hatchback or estate bodystyle, 2- or 4-wheeldrive and even a diesel engine, which acted as a more efficient alternative to the flagship turbo petrol variant. The petrol-powered Octavia RS will use the turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol motor from the Volkswagen Group’s ubiquitous EA888 family. It will match the new Mk8 Golf GTI in developing 245 hp and 370 Nm of torque. The total system torque is 400 Nm; enough to get the car (which will have a dual-clutch automatic gearbox and no manual option) from 0-100 kph in less than 7 seconds. Perhaps a bigger challenge for the Skoda team will be keeping the Octavia RS iV PHEV’s weight down and maintaining handling agility. The car will have a battery of at least 13 kWh and this, coupled with the extra motor, will add more than 250 kg to the kerbweight. As such, expect the RS iV to be slightly slower in a straight line than the petrol version. But equally, that battery will give it the ability to go for about 60 km on electricity alone, potentially giving the Octavia RS iV a key advantage over rivals like the Ford Focus ST. The Octavia RS diesel will continue to use the existing EA288 motor with up to 200 hp. Skoda is said to have ruled out fitting the twin-turbocharged version of this engine, which is currently used in the Kodiaq RS, where it makes 240 hp. +++ 

+++ In the auto business of SOUTH KOREA , the situation is going from bad to worse, just as the companies thought it would be a time of recovery for them. Because of the corona virus outbreak, test drives are being canceled and product introductions are being scrapped. Consumers are cutting back, both because of general concern caused by the epidemic and the hesitation to step into a car that might have been driven by others recently. Most of all, parts bottlenecks are developing as factories in China shut and stay shut and as lines grind to a halt domestically with every scare. The outlook is for at least a 20 % drop in car sales in Korea in 2020, with one local academic specializing in the industry saying that the auto business in Korea is in a state of war. Geography is working against the automakers. It turns out that Korea’s rust belt is also the country’s corona-belt. More than 50 suppliers for Hyundai and Kia are located in Daegu and North Gyeongsang, which are now at the center of Korea’s coronavirus storm. Home to 20.3 % of all auto parts manufacturers in Korea, the 2 areas are vital to the business. “Many auto parts suppliers are in Daegu and North Gyeongsang, and those 2 regions are often called the ‘industrial belt’ for the auto industry”, said Kim Pil-soo, an automobile engineering professor at Daelim University. “If they come to a stop from employees getting infected by the virus, all automobile manufacturers in Korea are going to have to adjust their operations”. This has already happened, in a most dramatic and macabre way. Hyundai said that it was the halting the operation for 1 day of an assembly line making Porter trucks at its No. 4 factory in Ulsan. The automaker closed the factory after Seojin Industrial, a maker of chassis, auto frames, truck beds and wheels, had to close a day earlier after one of its employees was found dead at his home and tested positive for the coronavirus. Even if cars can be made, it may not be so easy to sell them in the current environment. Marketing is following manufacturing as a victim of the virus. A test drive by Renault Samsung to be held on March 4 for the new XM3 was canceled, though the vehicle will still be available from March 9. The Korean unit of the Renault Group needs a boost. In 2019, Renault Samsung sold 90.591 vehicles; down 34 % from the 137.208 units in 2018, while a production contract with Nissan for the X-Trail came to an end late last year. The company, which has been dependent on the QM6, was looking for a boost from the XM3, which has already attracted 2.500 orders. While nothing has yet been decided, Hyundai said that it is discussing whether to delay the introduction of the new Sorento, which was to be rolled out next month. A company spokesperson said the automaker is keen to follow government guidelines on mass events and is debating whether to hold a media test drive for the new mid-size SUV. The company is also reviewing its original plan to introduce the new Genesis G80 and Avante mid-size sedan in the first half of the year. BMW said that it is canceling the launch event in Korea for the upgraded 1 Series and 2 Series. The Busan International Motor Show slated for late May was already under pressure even before the virus started taking hold as only 3 foreign brands (BMW, Mini and Cadillac) registered to exhibit at the event, while Hyundai, Kia, Renault Samsung and GM Korea are registered as local participants. This year’s iteration could mark the end of the Busan motor show, as the number of visitors to the biennial exhibition was already in decline, falling from more than 1.1 million in 2012 to 620.000 by 2018. The number of visitors this year is likely to be lower than in 2018. The sector landscape is equally challenging internationally, and the difficulties created by the cancellation of international events could disrupt sales plans globally. The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade announced last week that this year’s Beijing International Automotive Exhibition is being postponed from its original start date of April 21 until further notice due to the virus outbreak. Europe’s first major annual auto show of the year, the Geneva International Motor Show, set to begin March 5, could also be delayed or canceled as the virus outbreak is starting to take hold on the continent. Hyundai and Kia were planning to showcase the new Sorento and i20 at the European auto exhibition. Kim forecasts 2020 car sales in Korea to fall by at least 400.000 units. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, a total of 1.81 million vehicles were newly registered last year, down from 1.84 million in 2018. “Most of, if not all, auto industry events are canceled at this point, and it really is a hard time for everyone”, said professor Kim. “Consumers are less inclined to come out of their houses to look for new cars, and they are generally in fear of getting in contact with other people. Nobody is going to test drive a car that already was in contact with dozens of others”. +++ 

+++ India’s competition regulator is examining allegations that TATA MOTORS and 2 finance firms of its $100 billion parent group abused their market position while selling commercial vehicles, according to 3 sources and legal documents. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is reviewing a complaint which alleges the country’s biggest seller of trucks dictated terms around the quantity and type of vehicles its former dealer in northern India (Varanasi Auto Sales) should stock. More than a dozen lawyers representing the 3 Tata companies attended a private hearing at the CCI in January and argued there was no malpractice by the group’s firms, said the 3 sources, who have direct knowledge of the matter. The Tata Group has faced antitrust reviews in the past. A CCI investigation last year found units of Tata Steel and other firms colluded on prices of bearings. A final ruling on that case is pending. The latest complaint, filed last year by a family member of the dealer, alleged Tata Motors broke rules by working in concert with Tata Motors Finance and Tata Capital Financial Services while advancing dealer credit. The automaker would stop supplying vehicles to the dealer if repayment of loans advanced by the 2 finance firms was delayed, indicating they were colluding, said one of the sources privy to the complaint. “The model of business adopted by Tata Group helped in sustaining and retaining the market share”, the complaint document said. Tata Motors said it had made submissions to the CCI and would provide full support to the watchdog. It added the CCI was “conducting a preliminary enquiry to determine if there are any merits to the case”. Tata Capital Financial Services denied the allegations and said it would also support inquiries, adding it had separately taken legal action against the dealer, which it said had defaulted. Tata Motors ended relations with the dealership in 2017 due to poor performance, the documents showed. The watchdog would reach a decision within 6 weeks, which could see a wider probe into the allegations or a dismissal of the complaint. The CCI has powers to impose a penalty of up to 10 % of the relevant turnover of a company in the last 3 financial years if it is found to have abused a dominant position. With an over 40 % market share in India, Tata Motors is the biggest seller of commercial vehicles such as pickup trucks. It competes with firms such as Ashok Leyland and Mahindra, and has over 3.750 sales and service points across India. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA has secured a trademark for the name ‘GR HiLux’ in Australia with the nation’s intellectual property office. The Japanese automaker first filed to trademark the ‘GR HiLux’ name locally back in July 2019 but it has only now been approved. Toyota first fettled with a GR-badged HiLux model back in late 2018 with the introduction of the HiLux GR Sport exclusive to the Brazilian market. It is understood that this new model, likely to be sold in Australia and other countries, will be a full-blown model that could rival the Ford Ranger Raptor. In a statement issued to the media, however, Toyota Australia downplayed the possibility of a GR HiLux. “It is standard practice for our parent company to reserve vehicle names that could potentially be used in future, as a means of protecting that name for future use. This is done in all key markets as a matter of course”, Toyota said. “There are definitely no plans to introduce a GR Hilux at this stage, but as always, it is something that we would definitely not rule out for the future, especially with the high level of interest locally for high-performance utes”. The Toyota HiLux GR Sport available in select markets is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 with 235 hp and 375 Nm. If the carmaker does decide to make a true GR HiLux, it could tune this engine to over 250 hp with little fuss. Toyota may claim there are no immediate plans for such a model but we remain hopeful. +++ 

+++ A rise in new car exports failed to stop car production in the UNITED KINGDOM dropping 2.1 % year on year in January, making it the fifth successive month of decline for the industry. The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveal that 118.314 new cars were built in the UK last month, compared with 120.890 in the same period in 2019. Despite the drop in overall output, the number of cars built for export increased by 4.1 % to 97.870; accounting for 82.7 % of the UK’s total output. The SMMT attributes this uptick to rising demand in key Asian and European markets for new models from UK-based manufacturers. The rise in overseas demand was in contrast to a sharp drop in domestic production, which was down 23.9 % to 20.444 units in light of “continuing weak confidence”, according to the organisation. This was the driving factor behind last month being the worst January for UK car production in 9 years. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Exports are the bedrock for UK car manufacturing so a rise in January exports is welcome following recent declining demand in overseas markets. These figures, however, still give great cause for concern, with another month of falling car production driven by a lack of confidence and corresponding weak demand in the UK. The upcoming Budget is an opportunity for the government to provide supportive measures to stimulate the market, but the biggest boost would be the agreement of an ambitious free trade deal with Europe”. Britain’s car industry called on the government to help boost the market in its upcoming budget and secure a free-trade deal with Europe as output fell again in January, hit by a double-digit slump in domestic demand. The trade body called on the government for help in the March 11 budget. “The upcoming Budget is an opportunity for the government to provide supportive measures to stimulate the market, but the biggest boost would be the agreement of an ambitious free-trade deal with Europe”, said Hawes. “This would end the ongoing uncertainty and help the UK to recover its hard-won reputation as a great place for automotive investment”, Britain left the EU at the end of last month, guaranteeing a transition period until December 31, during which time little will change in its relationship with the bloc. Much of this year will be dominated by talks between London and Brussels on the future partnership to take effect from 2021, with automakers seeking the closest possible relationship to maintain their seamless production processes. +++ 

+++ As SUVs and crossovers continue to take over the American car market, it’s been revealed that ‘rugged’ WAGONS are also selling quite well across the country. A host of carmakers sell rugged and lifted versions of their wagons locally, typically adorning them with new body cladding, bumping up the ride height, and fitting all-wheel drive as standard. While the mechanical changes over traditional wagons are minor, these vehicles are proving to be a success, outselling normal wagons by more than 9 to 1. It shouldn’t surprise many that Subaru dominates this market in the U.S., selling no less than 180.000 examples of the Outback last year. Where things start to get really interesting is when you start looking at sales figures comparing conventional wagons to rugged variants sold by the same company. For example, Volvo sold over 2.800 of its V60 and V90 Cross Country models, compared to the fewer than 1.400 normal V60 and V90 wagons. Similarly, Volkswagen sold more than 6.200 Golf Alltracks compared to less than 5.000 Golf Sportwagens. Other popular rugged wagons on sale include the Buick Regal TourX (Opel Insignia Country Tourer) that shifted 5.000 examples and the 1.300 A4 Allroads that Audi sold. Tallied together, more than 196.500 examples of the 216.000 wagons sold across the United States last year were so-called “rugged” models. Admittedly, the Subaru Outback accounts for nearly 84 % of the market on its own, but you get the idea. While these results are intriguing, it’s worth remembering that even these beefy wagons are being easily outsold by SUVs. In fact, more than 12 million SUVs and pickups were sold stateside in 2019. +++

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