Newsflash: Volvo komt met C40 en XC100


+++ As if the 510 hp Giulia Quadrifoglio wasn’t bonkers enough, ALFA ROMEO has a big surprise for fans of its sports sedans. As a matter of fact, it has 2 big surprises as the Giulia is getting not only 1 but 2 limited edition higher-performance variants of the Quadrifoglio series. They’re called GTA and GTAm. The iconic GTA (Gran Turismo Alleggerita) moniker returns in style on the Giulia GTA and Giulia GTAm sports sedans on steroids. Information is limited right now, but I hear that they’re powered by a 540 hp engine, with the GTAm that drops the rear seats among other things losing 100 kg. +++ 

+++ AUDI will take the lead on research and development within the Volkswagen Group, as the car giant aims to further pool the resources of its brands to speed investment in future technologies. The announcement was made as the Volkswagen Group released its 2019 financial results, with operating profits rising 22 % to €16.9 billion. The VW Group, which also includes Volkswagen, Porsche, Seat, Skoda and Bentley, is investing heavily in R&D to develop new technology for future cars, such as electrification, connectivity and autonomy.Audi has worked with Porsche to develop the PPE platform for premium and large electric cars, and when new CEO Markus Duesmann assumes his role on 1 April, the brand will take over the lead for research and development. Audi will also become the focus of the Volkswagen Group’s new Car.Software company, which is centralising development of in-car software. VW Group CEO Herbert Diess said: “Given the strong dynamic of change in our industry, we are pooling our strengths in the Volkswagen Group and positioning ourselves competitively for the future”. Audi’s outgoing CEO, Bram Schot, said: “It is exactly the right way not to stick to the organisational status quo, but to consistently exploit the advantages of the group’s network. With a greater job split at the group, we can manage future issues more agilely and flexibly”. The Volkswagen Group’s 22 % rise in profits was a result of strong sales of higher-margin cars, particularly SUVs. The group sold a total of 10.975.000 cars in 2019; up 1.3 % on the previous year, with its sales revenue increasing 7.1 % on 2018. The firm’s profit was also helped by a dip in payouts and costs related to Dieselgate. It spent €2.3 billion on such special items in 2019, compared with €3.2 billion in 2018. Volkswagen wants to acquire the remaining 0.36 % of shares currently held by minority shareholders. Right now, VW owns 99.64 % of Audi and wants the whole thing. Audi has long been an R&D pillar within the VW Group, setting standards in terms of aerodynamics, lightweight aluminum construction, dual clutch transmission tech and four wheel drive systems. +++ 

+++ BMW has told about 150 employees in Munich to stay at home for 14 days under self-quarantine after a colleague tested positive for the corona virus. The employee who tested positive was taken to hospital after he visited a doctor on Sunday. He is doing well under the circumstances, BMW said. The worker had not traveled abroad and was working in the automaker’s research and development center. He was in contact with about 150 other employees. The affected premises were closed off and disinfected and operations are continuing without restrictions, BMW said. +++ 

+++ Not long after a trio of mysterious BUGATTI Chiron prototypes arrived at the O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, an intriguing Chiron has been filmed testing on the roads of the country. It could be the rumored Chiron R model. The first thing to note about the Bugatti prototype in question is that it appears to feature slightly re-shaped headlights that look a little slimmer than those of the standard Chiron. Of more interest than the headlights is the fact that this Chiron has a front bumper clearly different than any other Chiron or Chiron-based model. It adopts enlarged air intakes and sharp intake surrounds that appear similar to what you’ll find on the Chiron Super Sport 300+, albeit slightly smaller. There are no obvious differences across the hypercar’s rear fascia. What does Bugatti have up its sleeve? Well, if I were to bet, I’d say that the prototype in question is for a rumored lightweight version of the vehicle, potentially dubbed the Chiron R. A darkened teaser image of this car was presented earlier and at least one other prototype snapped in South Africa recently appeared to be outfitted with a towering rear wing. At the start of this year, Bugatti chief executive Stephan Winkelmann confirmed the French automaker will launch more derivatives of the Chiron. The R will likely prove to be the most track-focused variant although it remains to be seen if it will out-perform the Bugatti Divo. +++ 

+++ In CHINA , 2 more cities that rely heavily on car manufacturing plan to offer incentives to bolster auto sales, which have been hit by the fallout from the spread of the corona virus. In the southern city of Guangzhou, where Japanese automakers Toyota, Honda and Nissan all have joint ventures with Chinese partners, the local government plans to reintroduce subsidies to encourage people to buy electric vehicles, it said last week. It did not provide more details. Previous local subsidies were scrapped last year. Xiangtan, a city of 3 million people in the southern province of Hunan, will offer people 3,000 yuan ($429) in cash if they buy a car made locally by Geely. Car sales in China, the world’s biggest car market, have been falling for the past 2 years. In January they dropped 18.7 % from a year earlier and the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) expects declines in car production and sales to be more significant in February due to the corona virus outbreak. According to China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), another industry body, China’s auto sales dropped 89 % in the first 23 days of February. The corona virus has killed more than 2.800 people in China and forced the temporary shutdown of many factories last month. Guangzhou’s neighboring city of Foshan, where Volkswagen has a plant with FAW Group, announced last month that it would offer cash of 2,000 yuan for purchases of new cars and 3,000 yuan for replacement of existing cars. Foshan’s government said it will also offer subsidies to help offset the marketing expenses of auto companies. CAAM expects China’s auto sales will fall by more than 10 % in the first half of the year due to the impact of the virus, a senior official. China’s commerce ministry said last month that it would study rolling out measures to boost auto sales. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES has announced it will eliminate the third shift at its Windsor, Ontario minivan plant from June 29. With minivan sales seeing a sharp decline and the Dodge Grand Caravan going out of production at the end of May 2020, the automaker’s decision is not that surprising. Obviously, this is bad news for the plant and its suppliers, but most of all for the approximately 1.500 employees who will be laid off as a result. FCA’s Canadian plant employs approximately 6.500 people, which means almost a quarter of the workforce will have to go. “This decision comes as the company works to align volumes with demand while phasing out production of the Dodge Grand Caravan at the end of May”, FCA Canada said in a statement. “The company will make every effort to place indefinitely laid off hourly employees in open full-time positions as they become available based on seniority and will offer retirement packages to eligible employees”, the company added. The Canadian plant is the only one that builds the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager and Dodge Grand Caravan. The facility began manufacturing minivans in 1983. Sales of FCA’s minivans fell significantly last year. In the U.S., the Pacifica lost 17 % of sales compared to 2018 with a total of 97.705 units, while Grand Caravan remained the country’s best-selling minivan despite sales losing 19 % to 122.648. In Canada, Chrysler Pacifica sales fell 38 % to 3.731 units in 2019, while Grand Caravan sales shrank by 15 % to 27.362. The ending of the third shift at the Windsor plant was a long time coming. FCA first announced it in the summer of 2018, but since then the automaker has extended the shift’s end date several times. The previous announcement made in November 2019 said the shift would remain operational until the end of the first quarter in 2020. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS has announced it is hiring more than 1.200 workers at its Lansing manufacturing operations to support increased demand for its midsize SUVs and premium sedans. More specifically, GM says the new jobs are necessary to meet customer demand for the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave, as well as support the launch of the all-new Cadillac CT4 and CT5 sedans. Approximately 800 employees will be added at Lansing Delta Township Assembly as part of a third shift that will support production of the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave midsize SUVs. Additionally, around 400 people will be hired at Lansing Grand River Assembly as a second shift will be added in General Assembly to support the launch of the Cadillac CT4 and CT5 premium sedans. Both shift additions will become operational in the second quarter of 2020. “We are excited to provide these opportunities in Lansing. Our team members have proven experience in building high-quality vehicles and are well-prepared to meet the needs of our customers. This is great news for our manufacturing sites as well as the Lansing community”, said Phil Kienle, vice president, GM North American Manufacturing and Labor Relations. GM has invested more than $1 billion into Lansing manufacturing since 2015. This includes the $36 million investment at Lansing Delta Township last year for future midsize SUV production and the $175 million investment at Lansing Grand River in 2018 to upgrade tooling and equipment for the all-new Cadillac CT4 and CT5. Opened in 2006, Lansing Delta Township Assembly is Gm’s newest plant in the U.S. and has produced over three million vehicles. Lansing Grand River Assembly is GM’s second-newest U.S. assembly plant. It builds the Chevrolet Camaro as well as the Cadillac CT4 and CT5, including their V-series performance versions, on a single production line. +++ 

+++ Last year was another hugely turbulent one for the GLOBAL car industry. China, the biggest market for new cars, suffered its second successive yearly drop, while the US, Japan, the UK and India all experienced declines. These markets accounted for nearly 3.2 million fewer new vehicles sold. But there was growth in Germany, France and Brazil. China’s decline looks likely to continue this year, especially with the growing business disruption from the coronavirus taken into account. Meanwhile, Volkswagen continued to defy the Dieselgate scandal to beat Toyota for the global number one spot, SUVs maintained their grip on global consumers’ wallets and GM continued to outsell Ford in the US. Porsche retained its crown as the sports car champion with the 911 beating all comers. The Ford Mustang was the top coupé, while the Tesla Model 3 bossed the global electric vehicle segment. The Tesla Model 3 has a strong lead as the world’s best-selling electric car, outselling its nearest rival nearly 3 to 1. Last year it was the best-seller in both the US and EU, and it should make inroads in the Chinese market in 2020 as local production starts in Shanghai. The second bestseller is the BAIC BJEV EU, a Volkswagen Golf-sized saloon with a 41 kWh battery and a €17,000 post-subsidy price tag. Nissan’s Leaf maintains a solid position as global number 3, but didn’t lift sales as much as might have been expected for a new model. China’s drop is the biggest recorded for more than 20 years, a seismic reduction of nearly 2 million new cars. Given the reliance of most Western OEMs on China for sales and profits, a turnaround is much needed to boost balance sheets in 2020. “China needs a return to consumer confidence and lower household debt to boost sales in 2020”, says Felipe Munoz, Jato Dynamics’ global analyst. The US decline was less concerning given overall sales remain near the historic high of above 17 million. “That’s a very good number historically”, adds Munoz. Of all the global markets, India suffered the biggest reverse, while the anticipation in 2018 of overtaking Germany subsided. “India suffered a lot from new regulations on safety and emissions, plus taxation, which forced many consumers to postpone or cancel purchases”, says Munoz. Europe’s slight recovery was linked to booming December registrations as higher-CO2 models were sold off ahead of 2020’s fleet average 95 g/km regulations. Superminis continue to be Europeans’ favourite bodystyle and they may get a boost in the next few years as city cars (A-segment) come under pressure owing to the incoming 95 g/km fleet average regulations. In the battle of the luxury nameplates, Mercedes saw off a strong surge from BMW to retain its global crown with 2.32 million sales in 2019. The top 5 brands all improved their sales or stayed static, with Lexus and Volvo recording the biggest percentage increases. Last year was good for Lincoln, too. BMW’s strength was its renewed range of SUVs, a new 3 Series and strong sales in China, where Mercedes suffered a decline. “But the negatives are further down the field”, says Munoz, “with Infiniti and Jaguar struggling”. Infiniti quit the European market, while Jaguar’s core saloon line-up struggled. Tesla might overtake Land Rover in 2020 to become the 7th biggest global luxury brand, which would be a significant achievement. The Volkswagen Group’s launch of multiple new SUV models from all brands helped it remain the top car maker in 2019. It faced strong competition from Toyota, whose 20-year investment in hybrid technology is paying off: it was the only top10 car maker to grow sales in 2019. “Toyota improved thanks to the latest-generation Corolla and RAV4 and its continuous hybrid car sales growth”, says Munoz. Tesla controlled 23 % of global electric vehicle sales in 2019. The US accounted for 52 % of its total sales volume, followed by Europe and China. “Looking forward, it will be interesting to see if the Model 3 maintains its strong position when more electric SUVs hit the markets”, says Munoz. “The Model 3 is a saloon, which are losing ground to SUVs”. Porsche’s evergreen 911, entering its eighth generation, maintained its position as the world’s best-selling sports car. While sales did drop slightly, that was largely because of the changeover from 991 to new 992. Its closest rival was the Chevrolet Corvette, which also stuttered due to a new model. BMW will be very pleased that its new flagship performance 2-door 8 Series (Gran Coupé 4-door sales are excluded from these figures) has made an immediate impact. Due to the arrival of the 8 Series, the Mercedes-AMG GT dropped to 4th place. Tesla was the biggest winner in Europe, outselling other key brands such as Porsche, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo and getting very close to Smart. The reason: the Model 3. Value brand Dacia also did well, despite a limited model range of two ageing small cars plus the new Duster. The Sandero is among the top sellers in Spain and France, while the Duster became Italy’s best-selling SUV. Nissan was the biggest market-share loser due to an ageing SUV line-up, which lost traction to more modern competitors. The Juke should have been replaced earlier and the Qashqai also faces tough new competition. The 7 top ultra-luxury brands combined for 35.454 sales. Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce benefited from their new SUVs, while 2 new Aston Martins (the Vantage and DBS Superleggera) helped lift sales above 5.000 a year. Bentley bucked the trend because its saloons fell back. The new Flying Spur might arrest that decline this year. An astonishing 28 million SUVs were sold globally last year, although their sales growth dipped to just 1%, compared with 6% in 2018. “SUVs are like a drug for car makers. They increase sales and profits but at the same time have a negative effect on average emissions”, says Munoz. Tesla’s Model X is just ahead of the new Audi e-Tron but, as the Audi ramps up and the Model X ages, there is a strong chance the German car could grab the market lead in 2020. Ford’s Mustang continues to dominate the performance car market. But the real story in the segment is the decline in Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman sales, which dropped 20 % last year. No wonder Porsche is bringing back flat-6 powerplants, 3 years after the 718 switched to turbocharged 4-cylinder units, to much unhappiness from Porsche aficionados. Mazda’s lovable MX-5 took a slight dip, but continues to sell well for a 4-year-old design in a fashion-led market. BMW’s new Z4 made a strong market entry and closed the gap on the well-established 718, a result that will please Munich. Alpine’s fabulous A110 hit just under 5.000 units, but there are concerns in some quarters that its sales do not reflect the quality of the product or its glowing road test reviews. Munoz notes that two-thirds of A110 sales were in France. General Motors has held the number one spot in the US since the 1920s. Its sales did drop by around 100,000 units, but rivals Ford, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles suffered the same small market-average reductions, too. The most significant move was the 10 % drop in sales at Nissan, sufficient to push it down behind Japanese rival Honda. In the segments, the big winners were full-size SUVs, like the Chevrolet Suburban, which posted a 22 % rise, plus compact pick-ups and full-size vans. Minivans and the 3 main car segments continue their decline as blue-collar workers and ‘soccer moms’ switch to SUVs. China’s sales fall will take a lot of stopping as consumer confidence and the wind-down of incentives on electric cars take their toll. “It seems we can expect a long correction unless the EV boom grows enough to offset the drop posted by gasoline cars”, says Munoz. +++ 

+++ In INDIA , automakers Mahindra and Tata said their supply of parts from China had been hit, as fallout from the corona virus outbreak mounts. “Going into March, we anticipate the challenge on parts-supply to continue for another few weeks, before we get back to normalcy”, Veejay Ram Nakra, Chief of Sales and Marketing at Mahindra’s automotive division said in a press release. Tata Motors said in a press release that it, too, had been hit by supply disruptions due to the corona virus outbreak in China, and was working to mitigate the situation. Along with Maruti Suzuki, India’s biggest carmaker, both companies reported a decline in sales in February, compared with a year ago. Mahindra said its domestic sales had fallen by 42 %, while Tata Motors reported a drop of 34 %. Maruti Suzuki said its total domestic sales were down by 1.6 % in February from a year ago. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ will be expanding its plug-in hybrid model lineup with the GLA, CLA and CLA Shooting Brake. Set to be unveiled soon, likely during an online presentation tomorrow originally planned for the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, they will join the A 250e and B 250e, which were revealed at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. Power will come from the same powertrain that combines the 1.3 liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and a small electric motor, likely developing a total system output of 218 hp and 450 Nm of torque. With the 15.6 kWh battery fully charged, they’re expected to have a zero-emission driving range of around 50-60 km. Mounted beneath the rear seats, the battery supports fast charging, taking roughly 25 minutes to charge from 10 % to 80 %, while 0-100 % is achieved in 1 hour and 45 minutes at a 7.4 kW wallbox. The GLA and CLA plug-in hybrids should be able to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in under 7 seconds, seeing as the A250e can do it in 6.6 seconds and the sedan is 0.1 seconds slower. Top speed should be around 240-250 km/h. Like their PHEV siblings, they will get a plug port on the right rear quarter panel and ‘250e’ badge on the tailgate. The MBUX infotainment system will also feature new functions. Look for the GLA 250e, CLA 250e and CLA 250e Shooting Brake in European dealerships later this year, with pricing and availability to be announced in due course. +++ 

+++ The PEUGEOT has won the European Car of the Year Award. The French supermini was named the winner of the prestigious award. The 208, which is offered with both combustion engines and electric powertrains, took a clear win when the votes from the jury were added up. Peugeot boss Jean-Philippe Imperato said winning the award was “a great honour”. He added: “We love cars, and we recoginise the Car of the Year jury is made up of experts, so we are honoured to win. It’s a big surprise and a big pleasure for us”. Peugeot has enjoyed plenty of success in the Car of the Year award in recent years, previously winning in 2014 with the 308 and 2017 with the 3008. In total, the French firm has now won the trophy 6 times, with the 504 (1969), 405 (1988) and 307 (2002) also taking top honours. The Car of the Year award is voted on by a jury comprising 60 journalists from 23 countries. The Car of the Year award was established in 1964, with the Rover 2000 taking honours. The Jaguar I-Pace won the prize last year. +++

+++ Autopilot, Super Cruise and Drive Pilot are different names given to technology that automates steering and braking in a growing number of vehicles, but none of it can safely ‘pilot’ cars without regular human intervention. These systems and the potential for consumers to misunderstand and misuse them are putting pressure on regulators everywhere to overhaul safety testing and consumer rating systems that have not kept up with the pace of deployment of new SEMI AUTOMATED DRIVING TECHNOLOGY . That may be especially true in the United States, where the National Transportation Safety Board chided regulators this week for lagging their European counterparts in efforts to ensure consumer and road safety. The acting head of the U.S. vehicle safety regulator said that his agency would make changes this year to a testing program that assigns safety grades to new and future vehicles. “We’re raising the bar for safety technologies in our new vehicles”, said acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief James Owens. NHTSA in December 2015 issued proposed rulemaking for testing procedures that would be similar to more comprehensive testing done by European regulators. No rules have been put forward since then, however, and Owens’ comments came a day after the NTSB sharply criticized NHTSA for its hands off approach to overseeing semi-automated driving technology. The NTSB, an independent U.S. government agency, also compared NHTSA’s testing and ratings unfavorably to consumer safety systems put in place by European agencies. Surveys have shown that consumers overestimate the capabilities of semi-automated systems, as automakers race to deliver on the promise of truly driverless cars. Safety advocates also criticize manufacturers for using misleading terms to market those systems, including Autopilot, Pro Pilot Assist and Traffic Jam Pilot. European regulators have been expanding their rules and ratings to evaluate new technology such as automatic braking and lane-keeping, while U.S. regulators have done little to change their traditional ‘5 star’ crash test grading system. European safety ratings assess all advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) currently available and regulators have passed some laws on the technology. In 2018, European Union regulators required the installation of acoustic and visual warning signals for lane-keeping systems every 15 seconds if drivers take their hands off the wheel. As a result, Tesla had to issue a software update to its Autopilot system in the European Union. A regulatory body is currently working on rules for more advanced hands-off systems that can control braking, acceleration and lane changes at speeds of up to 60 km/h. Under draft EU rules, carmakers among other things need to show how the system safely hands control back to the driver, how the car monitors the road and how it reacts in emergency situations. Pressure on automakers in Europe also comes from non-binding performance ratings by Europe’s New Car Assessment Program, known in the industry as Euro NCAP. Euro NCAP began rating automatic braking systems in 2014. It is testing the performance of advanced cruise control, lane-centering systems and blind spot detection since 2018 and beginning in May will also grade how well a car’s system is keeping the driver engaged. The group is a non-governmental body but funded by some EU countries and also receives money from national motor clubs and insurers. Matthew Avery, a Euro NCAP board member, said the group was sharing testing methods with NHTSA and the NTSB on a regular basis. As regulation moves slowly, Euro NCAP plays a crucial role in holding carmakers accountable, Avery said. “The manufacturers initially scream blue murder and say our targets are impossible to achieve, but then one of them does it and everyone follows”, he said. Carmakers in the United States are allowed to self-certify that their vehicles comply with existing rules, said University of South Carolina law professor Bryant Walker Smith, who focuses on automated driving. But there are currently no rules for ADAS. NHTSA also publishes an annual New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), which evaluates the crashworthiness of a vehicle and outlines what semi-automated features a car comes with. But the agency does not assess the safety of those systems despite nearly all modern cars being equipped with some features like automatic emergency braking. +++ 

+++ Worried by recent tales of sensibly priced SMALL CARS being killed off? No need. These are the only factory-fresh vehicles many consumers can afford; therefore they’re here to stay. True, such humble city cars are becoming pricier to build in this brave new world, where eco-mental regulations are increasingly demanding. But manufacturers know these are the products that allow motorists a foot on the new car-buying ladder. The small, 4 or 5 seat car is to brands what the one-bed or studio flat is to the house-building industry. No medium-large or large-colossal cars made it into that top 10 of the Netherlands. Models like the Kia Picanto did, however. This proves that when it comes to real-world buyers living in The Netherlandsand financially able to sign on the dotted line for new cars, small is beautiful and affordable, whereas big is ugly, at least in terms of price and attainability. In Europe as a whole, the appetite for small cars is even greater. Figures from JATO Dynamics reveal the overwhelming majority of the top-20 vehicles bought across 27 European countries in 2019 were those small models, which so obviously hit the spot. They are also mostly ordered in 100 % petrol guise, so if you’re looking for the most popular new car in our corner of the globe, look no further than the supermini that runs on unleaded. Some makers have hinted lately that some of their small, inexpensive models could be withdrawn due to the imposition of increasingly tough environmental regulations that make them costlier to build. But worry not: Volkswagen, for example, will not say you can’t have an Up anymore, and that you instead must go for the Golf. And when the now massive Peugeot empire hints that those environmental demands mean it may not replace its little 108, I reckon it’s more a case of the French giant lately acquiring so many brands packed with small cars (Opel and Fiat among them) that the 108 has, in effect, been superseded by more desirable incumbents. These include the new Corsa, hybrid versions of the 500 and Panda, never mind the brilliant, just-launched Peugeot 208, which is merely four-metres long but feels and drives like a far larger car. Undoubtedly there are big changes ahead in the city-car sector. But within the class, temptingly priced 100 % petrol versions will continue to prevail, sales of sensibly priced ‘halfway house’ petrol-electric hybrids will surge, and comparatively expensive pure-electrics will play an obvious and important role, too. But regardless of their power units, such small cars will remain the best-sellers on the market for years to come. In the near to mid-term future, at least, if you’re looking for the ultimate in automotive value for money, look no further than a state-of-the-art city car measuring four metres, or maybe just a tad longer. +++ 

+++ In SOUTH KOREA , 3 Korean companies captured a combined 30 % of the global market for electric vehicle (EV) batteries in January, according to a global engineering research firm; a first, although the gains resulted mainly from a slowdown among Chinese manufacturers. Global shipments of the batteries declined overall in January, dropping 6.2 % on year to 7.3 gigawatt hours, according to the report from SNE Research. LG Chem, Korea’s largest electric vehicle battery manufacturer, moved up the ranks to the No. 2 spot globally. The Korean company’s battery shipments grew 137.4 % from a year earlier. A year earlier, CATL topped the list while LG had come in 4th. The most recent report showed Japan-based Panasonic had become the world’s top battery manufacturer, after a 125.7 % on-year jump owing to the success of the Tesla Model 3. Most Chinese battery makers on the top 10 list experienced on-year declines. Since last year, the Chinese government has been gradually reducing subsidies for electric vehicles with the goal of completely abolishing them by 2021. China’s CATL, for example, was the largest electric vehicle battery manufacturer for the entire year of 2019 with a 27.9 % market share, according to the research firm. By January it had fallen to third, with a 21.8 % share. And BYD, based in Xi’an, China, dropped to 6th place from the No. 2 position in January 2019. Korean companies, on the other hand, experienced year-on-year shipment increases in January, with shipments by LG Chem and SK Innovation having both doubled. Samsung SDI’s January shipments rose 22.7 %. The company had the 4th highest number of shipments, although it remained well behind the top 3 battery makers. Each of those companies had more than 4 times the shipment volume of Samsung SDI. SK Innovation’s shipments jumped 110.7 % from the same period last year, making it the world’s 7th largest EV battery maker in January, up 5 ranks on year. Monthly market shares for all 3 Korean companies expanded significantly from last year. Combined, their global market share totaled 30.7 %, compared with just 14.2 % in January 2019. SNE Research anticipates Korean companies’ shipments will expand further this year. However, the research firm also forecasts a rebound in the Chinese market and consequently a rebound for the country’s electric vehicle battery makers. “Chinese companies will surely make a comeback, and Japan’s Panasonic will likely maintain strong performance; it’s hard to predict sustained favorable market conditions for Korean companies”, the report’s authors wrote. +++


+++ Deutsche Post will stop producing its STREETSCOOTER electric delivery vehicle, bringing to an end a much-hyped venture that was once seen as a possible disrupter to conventional van makers such as Volkswagen Group and Daimler. The company had suffered “years of losses” from developing and producing the vehicle, chief financial officer Melanie Kreis said on a call with journalists. Last year alone, the unit racked up a loss of about €100 million. Developed by a university project that Deutsche Post bought, StreetScooter became a surprise hit and beat Daimler and VW to market by offering a battery-powered, no-frills delivery vehicle, but failed to turn it into a sustainable business. Deutsche Post had first sought to sell the unit and later looked for potential partners to help turn the electric-van maker into a profitable business and finance its expansion. It also brought in Ford to help take the project global, with a larger variant based on the Ford Transit. Most recently it had hired a former Tesla director to expand its sales network and had planned to set up production in China through a joint venture with local automaker Chery Holding Group. The company is now looking at potential payments it may have to make to partners for ending the project. Booming online shopping and cities cracking down on exhaust emissions had initially increased the StreetScooter’s appeal amid growing interest in emissions-free urban delivery, and Deutsche Post also sold the vehicle to retailers, fleet operators and banks. Starting in 2021, the postal company will buy electric vans from other automakers. Production will cease later this year and result in writedowns of between €300 million and €400 million, Kreis said. The company’s fleet now comprises about 11.000 StreetScooters, with several thousand to still be delivered this year. +++ 

+++ European vehicle sales grew by just 1.4 % to 15.3 million last year, but volumes of SUV AND CROSSOVERS of every size and price grew by 13 % to 5.7 million, adding 650.000 annual sales to a sector that in 2018 grew by 18 % (or 800.000 units) to 5 million. The latest surge in demand meant that SUVs and crossovers grew to 37 % of total European sales; up from 33 % in 2018 and 29 % in 2017, figures from market researcher JATO Dynamics show. MPVs were the biggest losers again in 2019. Sales were down by a third for small MPVs and by 26 % for compact people movers. Demand for large MPVs, however, rose 4.5 % to 145.095 units fueled by strong demand for the Mercedes-Benz V class and Seat Alhambra. The segment that suffered the biggest decrease in volume was small cars, which declined by 152.806 units. A contributing factor was that many customers were probably waiting for the new generations of the No. 1 and No. 5 sellers, the Renault Clio and Peugeot 208, respectively, which were both replaced last year. The electric vehicle segment recorded a Europe-best 82 % increase in sales to 356.249 units. The segment has a new leader: the Tesla Model 3. Having progressively abandoned coupes and convertibles offered by volume brands, down a combined 16 % last year to 50.234 units, buyers in Europe are also starting to walk away from premium coupes, down 16 %. Premium convertibles, meanwhile, slid by 1.8 %. Not surprisingly, Mercedes is expected to discontinue the coupe and convertible variants of its flagship S-class sedan that launches later this year. A closer look at the 7 SUV and crossover segments shows that the small SUV sector, led by the Renault Captur, nearly overtook compact SUVs to become Europe’s biggest SUV segment. Last year, small SUV sales grew 20 % to 1.92 million units while the compact SUV sector was up 8 % to 2.09 million. With sales up by 1.1 % to 223.059 units, the Volkswagen Tiguan ended the Nissan Qashqai’s long reign as Europe’s best-selling compact crossover. Qashqai sales fell by 6.2 % to 219.331. Despite its growth, the Tiguan was beaten by 575 units by the smaller Renault Captur in the race to be Europe’s top-selling SUV overall. The Captur’s sales rose 4.5 % to 223.634, helped by the arrival of the SUV’s second-generation model last fall. The changeover to the 8th generation Volkswagen Golf did not have any negative effects as the model easily retained its title as Europe’s best-selling passenger vehicle overall. With almost 350.000 sales, the Golf’s closest rival was the Renault Clio, which finished the year 32.000 units behind. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA plans to build a new electric vehicle plant in the Chinese city of Tianjin with its local partner FAW Group, a document from the local authorities showed. The joint venture between Toyota and FAW plans to invest around 8.5 billion yuan ($1.22 billion) in the planned car plant in Tianjin, according to a document issued by authorities of the China-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city. The plant will have manufacturing capacity of 200.000 new energy vehicles a year, the document showed. In China, new energy vehicles include battery-only, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles. Toyota declined to comment on the project but said in a statement that the company regards China as one of its most important global markets and is constantly considering various measures to implement in China to meet the needs of growing the business in the country. Last year, despite China’s overall auto market dropping 8.2 %, Toyota sold 1.62 million Toyota and premium Lexus cars in China, the world’s biggest auto market; a 9 % sales jump compared with a year earlier. It is also expanding car manufacturing capacities in its Guangzhou-based venture with another partner GAC. +++ 

+++ TVR has moved a step closer to building its new Griffith supercar, as reports suggest a planning application to refurbish the existing factory has finally been submitted. An application has been submitted to Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council for refurbishing a factory in the Rassau Industrial Estate in Ebbw Vale. A Welsh building firm has been appointed to carry out the work, while the current factory unit remains derelict. There is currently no listed schedule for the refurbishment process, but it’s not expected to be completed this year. Around 80 people are planned to be employed there initially, expanding to 200 when production is fully ramped up. Late last year, the chairman of TVR released a newsletter to prospective owners confirming new developments in the project to build an all-new 500 hp Griffith. The newsletter, written by Les Edgar, was first sent to depositors and comes more than 2 years after the Griffith project was first revealed. Since then, bar promises that work will soon start at TVR’s Ebbw Vale factory, all has gone quiet, so the new details will be intended to reassure depositors of the project’s progress. Edgar’s newsletter reveals that TVR has now road-registered the original 2017 show car, which is believed to be the only Griffith built so far. The car will be used for testing and event participation. The company has also negotiated a deal with Ford to use the latest 5.0-litre ‘Coyote’ V8, updated to meet EU emissions regulations. It will still feature the Cosworth-developed dry sump and TVR-specific revisions. TVR has also appointed a new CEO, Jim Berriman, who is best known for his career at the Rover Group, where he worked on the first Land Rover Freelander and Mk3 Range Rover. He was also a key figure in the rebirth of Rolls-Royce, playing an integral part in the launch of the 2003 Phantom. Edgar said Berriman “brings valuable end-to-end experience of getting new cars off the drawing board, into production and out into market”. An as-yet-unnamed CFO has also been appointed. Significant problems remain, though. Progress on the Ebbw Vale factory has been “slower than hoped” and the building is said to need a new roof. Edgar said TVR is working with the Welsh government to resolve these issues and get the work under way, and the planning applicaion would suggest that process has been completed. Until further news is forthcoming, and given the time it takes to develop, build and tool a car factory from scratch, don’t expect to see more than the one new Griffith on the road for quite some time. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group said its full-year operating profit rose 22 % to €16.9 billion thanks to strong sales of higher-margin cars and lower diesel charges, defying an industry downturn that has cut the earnings of rivals. Volkswagen is in the midst of ramping up sales of SUVs, which command better profits than ordinary cars, to 40 % of passenger car sales from below 25 % in 2018, while diesel related fines and settlements fell to €2.3 billion, down from €3.2 billion a year earlier. Its strong performance led the car and truck making group to propose a dividend hike to €6.50 per ordinary share; up from €4.80 in 2018. Earlier this month rivals Ford and Daimler posted weaker earnings hit by trade wars and higher spending to build low emission cars. Volkswagen predicted vehicle deliveries this year would be stable at 2019 levels despite a declining market. “The paring back of diesel charges is positive but I am skeptical that they can keep their outlook given the dip in China sales thanks to corona”. Nord LB analyst Frank Schwope said. Group vehicle deliveries rose 1.3 % to 10.97 million last year, thanks to gains in Europe and south America as sales in Asia and the United States fell amid trade tensions. The Wolfsburg-based company said market share rose in almost all regions, resulting in the rise in operating profit to €16.9 billion, which was up from €13.9 billion in 2018. In terms of the operating profit for the group and the passenger cars division, Volkswagen forecast an operating return on sales in the range of 6.5 % to 7.5 % in 2020, but said this depended on external factors such as the geopolitical climate and the corona virus outbreak. +++ 

+++ 2 long-lived rumors about VOLVO products step closer to tangible reality. A new model product to slot in under the XC40 has been rumored for at least 14 years, when Volvo tuner Heico Sportive built an XC30 in 2006 using a C30 hatchback. Come 2011, reports laid out the XC30 as a priority for the Swedish automaker, to ride on the erstwhile C30 hatchback’s architecture and make a play for younger buyers. Every few years another bit of news hinted at a forthcoming small offering, intel from last summer predicting a subcompact electric crossover that could only be leased, not bought. Now, dealers familiar with Volvo’s product plans say that a “coupe-style” C40 crossover is planned for marketlaunch in late 2021 and an XC100 flagship crossover is planned for 2023. As has always been the case, the C40 will target young buyers as “a price-point leader” and “an affordability vehicle”. The offering is a diminutive and sporty-looking version of the XC40. As a battery-electric vehicle, it would pick up technology from the Recharge P8 version, but differ with a sloping roof and new taillights. The carmaker doesn’t expect to sell many units, but this C40 would give buyers another option in the EV segment from an established maker. Rumors of an XC100 have been around even longer, starting almost as soon as the first XC90 launched in 2002, expectation hitting its stride by 2007, yet 10 years later all we’d seen of it was an animated concept in a short film. Dealers, however, saw something with production intent that has them excited. One dealer told the model is an “absolute home run”. Another said: “It’s an XC90, Range Rover, Cullinan all in one”. At 20 cm longer and 12 cm wider than the XC90, the XC100 would stand about little shorter than a BMW X7 but a lot wider. The interior would offer 6-person seating with the second-row captain’s chairs now obligatory in the segment, and a 7-person arrangement as an option. Production is expected to begin in 2023 at the automaker’s South Carolina plant for the standard electrified version, an all-electric version due a year later. +++

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