Newsflash: Alfa Romeo heeft geen plannen voor een Stelvio GTA


+++ ALFA ROMEO has no plans to use its famous GTA nameplate on the Stelvio, following the reveal of the Giulia GTA last month. The Italian maker hopes the renaissance of the GTA badge will help create a halo effect for the brand (especially in the absence of the GTV and 8C rebirths, for which plans were ditched last year) but product marketing boss Fabio Migliavacca said the ethos of GTA doesn’t fit with other cars in Alfa Romeo’s line-up. “The GTA is an important name for Alfa Romeo”, he said. “Frankly speaking, we had a meeting on a Stelvio GTA but it’s just not in line with customer expectations. It has to be the best possible on track. On the Stelvio, we have a higher centre of gravity than a Giulia so it won’t achieve the same goals”. The Giulia GTA was launched to celebrate Alfa Romeo’s 110th anniversary this year. Migliavacca said: “The idea for our anniversary was to renew GTA as an important pinnacle for Alfa Romeo. The original Giulia GTA car from 1965 was really important. If you think about the brand’s icons in history, there is GTA. We decided to bring back the old values. The car had to be special compared to the Quadrifoglio. It had to be lighter. We worked a lot to reduce weight and have better performance in terms of lap time over the Quadrifoglio”. Migliavacca added that reaction to the Giulia GTA has been “amazing”. Referencing the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Italy and, in turn, Alfa Romeo hard, he said: “In this particular moment, people (not only customers) are willing to see something positive in a really difficult reality. A lot of people are raising their hands and saying, ‘I want to have one’, ‘I want to have four’. It’s truly an amazing reaction considering the timing”. Only 500 examples of the GTA and more track-focused GTAm will be made and Migliavacca said that although orders were not yet open, it already had more than 500 expressions of interest. Currently, the split is biased towards requests for the hardcore 2-seat GTAm. Performance figures for the range-topping Giulia are yet to be confirmed, but it will eclipse the Quadrifoglio’s 3.9sec 0-100 kph time and 310 kph top speed. However, Migliavacca said the main focus was not to make the car faster in those terms but to achieve more speed around corners. “We are talking about particular tracks where the car can be faster than the Quadrifoglio”, he said. “It is easy to drive, unbelievably quick and effective in corners. For aerodynamics, the front and rear fascias and side skirts have been redesigned to achieve downforce not achievable on the Quadrifoglio”. +++ 

+++ ASTON MARTIN is granting temporary leave to some employees following the closure of its factories in Gaydon and St. Athan, forced by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The British carmaker has temporarily suspended production at its 2 factories in the UK until the end of April. In Britain during the pandemic the government is offering up to 80 % of a business’ wage costs for those that have been furloughed to ease the strain on companies during the enforced downtime. The move comes after it confirmed it has raised further funds to ease its financial troubles thanks to a new consortium led by Canadian fashion and Formula 1 magnate Lawrence Stroll. The Canadian bought a 16.7 % stake in the company for £182 million, and will re-brand his Silverstone-based F1 team as Aston Martin next year as part of the deal. The company is also looking to raise further funds, while slashing operating costs. Aston martin has also confirmed it has enough capital to see it through for the next 12 months, regardless. Key to Aston Martin’s turnaround plan is the introduction of the DBX, bringing the company into the luxury off roader segment already populated by Porsche, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, and Alfa Romeo. Deliveries of the new car are still set for the summer, but that is “dependent on production and supply chain returning as currently anticipated,” according to an Aston Martin spokesperson. +++ 

+++ AUDI is embarking on an ambitious plan to have 30 electrified models on sale by 2025, with 20 of them set to be fully electric. Launching so many EVs in such a short period of time is no small task and will be achieved through 4 distinct platforms underpinning a variety of models. The first platform being used by the German marque’s new wave of electrified vehicles is the MLB evo architecture, underpinning the current e-Tron and the forthcoming e-Tron Sportback. Interestingly, it’s not just EVs that use this platform as a plethora of VW Group products are also underpinned by the MLB evo platform, ranging from the current Q7, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, Q5, and Q8, to the likes of the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne. The second platform set to underpin a host of new-age vehicles from Audi is the J1 architecture. This platform has been co-developed with Porsche and debuted beneath the skin of the all-electric Taycan. It will next be used by the production-spec e-tron GT performance sedan, which in concept form featured two electric motors producing a combined 600 hp and 830 Nm. Making the J1 platform special is the fact that it supports an 800 volt system, allowing for ultra-fast charging. In fact, the e-tron GT will be able to charge to 80 % in just 20 minutes. Next up is the MEB platform. As with the MLB evo, the MEB platform will be used by a plethora of models from the VW Group. Mind you, unlike the MLB evo that supports ICE-powered vehicles, MEB is dedicated to electric powertrains. Audi will use it for the forthcoming Q4 e-tron, with other models from the VW Group to use MEB including the ID.3 and the future ID.4, ID.Buzz and ID.Vizzion. The fourth and final platform to underpin Audi models of the future is the PPE (Premium Platform Electric). Like the J1 platform, PPE has been developed by Audi and Porsche and allows for both low- and high-floor SUVs, Sportbacks, Avants, and crossovers that are mid-size or larger. This platform supports an 800-volt electrical architecture but it remains unclear which future VW Group models will use it. +++ 

+++ BMW ’s Efficient Dynamics philosophy was introduced back in 2007 as a concept centered on reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, while steadily increasing driving pleasure. Today, Efficient Dynamics is a fundamental link in the DNA of all BMW models, and is also a key reason why the German brand will be able to meet the EU’s strict CO2 targets in full going forward. As a result of these measures, fleet consumption and CO2 emissions have been cut by over 40 % in the last 13 years, while emissions in 2020 are on track to be 20 % lower than in 2019 – also thanks to electrification. The Efficient Dynamics approach is meant to optimize every aspect of a BMW vehicle; take the active air flap control feature, now in its third generation. Meanwhile, the new BMW iX3 (scheduled for an end of the year launch), will be fitted with BMW’s latest-gen aerodynamic wheels, featuring a 5 % reduction in drag coefficient compared to conventional BMW X3 wheels. Speaking of aero, BMW’s least air-resistant model is currently the new 3-Series sedan, with a Cd of just 0.23. Other advancements in efficiency include intelligent lightweight design, as well as combustion engines with 48V mild-hybrid tech. The latter made its debut in four variants of the BMW 520d last year, and will be extended to the 3-Series, X3 and X4 ranges this spring. BMW is also looking at its i Hydrogen NEXT concept as a potential fourth pillar in its powertrain portfolio. However, it will still take some time before the BMW Group is able to put a production vehicle on the street with this type of technology on board. +++ 

+++ CHINA is considering temporarily easing quotas designed to boost production of electric cars to help automakers badly bruised by the coronavirus pandemic to revive slumping sales, people familiar with the matter said. Policymakers in the world’s biggest auto market may also delay the implementation of a new emission particle restriction by 6 months to help the car industry, which has suffered a 79 % drop in sales in February and expects a fall of around 10 % in the first half of this year. The United States had already planned to relax vehicle emissions rules. President Donald Trump’s administration completed a rollback of vehicle emissions standards adopted under predecessor Barack Obama. This will require 1.5 % annual increases in efficiency through 2026; much weaker than the 5 % increases under the previous regime. “Policymakers acknowledged that automakers are strained to promote electric models when overall demand is slowing. They want the auto industry to recover steadily this year”, 1 of the 4 people familiar with the matter said. Authorities are still reviewing the details of the plan, which has yet to be finalised, sources said, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. The review is being discussed with officials at industry and environment ministries as well as automakers and industry bodies. The policy shift comes as Xin Guobin, vice industry minister, said on Monday that China would “make adjustments on new energy vehicles and related policies to further promote the coordinated and healthy development of the automotive industry”. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment could not immediately be reached for comment. China requires automakers doing business in the country to follow strict rules covering the production of so-called new energy vehicles (NEVs) as part of a quota system. China hopes NEVs, such as battery-powered electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell cars, will account for around a quarter of all cars sold in the country in 2025, up sharply from 5 % in 2019. As a result carmakers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors, Toyota and Geely, have increased EV production. But the system has also been criticised for offering few incentives for automakers to improve gasoline cars’ efficiency. The change in policy is largely aimed at helping automakers focus on selling more profitable gasoline cars to improve their cash flow. But a small group of companies, mostly Chinese automakers such as BYD, are already making money from electric vehicle sales. The temporary easing of NEV quotas is likely to allow companies to delay new model launches, which have more costly technology than conventional vehicles, and also discourage them from aggressive marketing. China’s vice industry minister Xin said the auto industry still faced great difficulties and challenges. “Even though production has resumed to a relatively high level, it is possible that some enterprises would cut production in the subsequent period due to insufficient market demand and increased inventories”, he said. To spur demand, China said that it will extend subsidies for NEV purchases and extend their purchase tax exemption for 2 years. +++

+++ The PSA Group has named Gregoire Olivier as head of its struggling operations in China, a role he held from 2010 until 2016. Olivier will replace Carlos Gomes, who is leaving at the end of June to work on a personal entrepreneurial project, PSA said. Gomes joined PSA in 2010 from Fiat, and had previously held posts at Renault. Gomes was named head of China in December 2017, replacing Denis Martin, who succeeded Olivier in that post in 2016. Olivier has a “strong knowledge of this area and the Chinese culture that represents a competitive advantage regarding the current context”, PSA said. China was PSA’s largest market in the mid-2010s, with sales topping out at 734.000 units in 2014. Since then, sales have fallen sharply to just 117.000 units in 2019, and a joint venture with Changan Automobile set up to build and distribute premium DS vehicles is in the process of being dissolved. PSA continues to have a joint venture with Dongfeng Motor, with production facilities in the Wuhan area. Factories in Wuhan were closed for about 2 months due to the coronavirus outbreak, and PSA-Dongfeng operations resumed in March, as the Chinese government lifted restrictions. PSA boss Carlos Tavares has struggled to revive sales and restore profits in China. Last autumn PSA launched a 3-phase turnaround plan, starting with efforts to reduce the breakeven point to 180.000 vehicles and introduce new electrified models. The plan envisions profitability starting in 2021 and has a target of 400.000 sales by 2025. Tavares has also said the PSA’s pending merger with Fiat Chrysler could offer new opportunities in China. Olivier, 59, is a French national who holds an MBA from the University of Chicago. He joined PSA in 2006 from French technology company Sagem in 2006 as CEO of the automaker’s parts subsidiary, Faurecia. Olivier joined PSA’s managing board in 2007. In 2010 he was named head of China and India operations. Olivier, a member of PSA’s executive committee, will retain his role as general secretary and responsibility for Services and Parts, Legal Affairs and Public Affairs. His other responsibilities will be reallocated among other committee members, PSA said. Southeast Asia region operations will be assigned to PSA’s India and Asia Pacific region, reporting to Emmanuel Delay. Business Lab is joining Free2Move mobility services, reporting to Brigitte Courtehoux. Protection audit and risks and compliance are joining Human Resources, reporting to Xavier Chereau. +++

+++ EUROPE ’s car industry is in need of immediate support from the European Union and its member states, as production losses could leave carmakers in need of money in just a few weeks time. Industry association ACEA has asked for “strong and coordinate action” to help manufacturers, suppliers and dealers, all of which are facing “severe” financial difficulties. “The effect of the coronavirus on the automobile industry is unprecedented”, stated ACEA exec Eric-Mark Huitema in an official statement. “It is becoming increasingly clear that Covid-19 has led to the worst crisis ever to impact the automotive sector”. The numbers are in and it appears that production losses due to factory shutdown across the EU amount to no fewer than 1.23 million vehicles so far, with roughly 1.11 million workers affected, and that’s not including the supply chain. The car industry currently provides jobs for 13.8 million people within the European Union. Huitema also mentioned “grave consequences” for the industry going forward, more severe than what is currently being forecast. “Firstly, to take concrete measures to avoid irreversible and fundamental damage to the sector with a permanent loss of jobs, capacity, innovation and research capability”, he said. “Secondly, we believe that Europe should prepare to stimulate the recovery of our sector, which will be a key contributor to the accelerated recovery of the European economy at large”. ACEA also believes that “several companies could face (cash) shortages within a matter of weeks”, calling on the EU to delay compliance of important regulatory targets. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES did not mention any possible delay in the merger process with France’s PSA during a call with unions, metal workers’ union FIOM said. “No delay on the merger with PSA was mentioned to us”, FIOM representative Michele De Palma told, correcting an earlier FIOM statement which said a delay was “certain” given the current situation. Union representatives held a conference call with FCA’s chief operating officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Pietro Gorlier, to discuss the coronavirus emergency. De Palma confirmed however that FCA said during the meeting that its industrial plan would suffer a delay. Last week FCA’s controlling shareholder Exor said it expected the merger with PSA would be completed early next year, as initially planned. +++

+++ Volkswagen is facing an uphill battle to launch its ID.3 electric hatchback this summer as the struggle to resolve its substantial software problems continues. Examples of the crucial EV had been rolling out of the factory in Zwickau before production was halted due to the coronavirus, but that these cars are effectively ‘dead’, meaning they don’t have the necessary software to run or be used. Volkswagen is hoping to introduce a basic version of the ID.3’s operating system (OS) into these cars once it has been finished. However, the software project is described internally as an “absolute disaster”, with the company failing to employ the software experts needed to fix the wide-ranging issues. Volkswagen has a desire to sell 100.000 EVs globally (with the ID 3 making up a substantial portion of that number) by the end of this year. This is also vital to ensure the reduction in fines from the European Union due to fleet average CO2 emissions. CEO Herbert Diess has been defiant, stating at last week’s annual press conference his intent to deliver the ID.3 over the summer as his core project, but the likelihood of that target being hit is up for debate. One source is a Volkswagen Group insider, who claims the cars that are being prepped for the summer aren’t actually series-production models. The increasing difficulty in developing software has lead Volkswagen to discuss with the board of directors of Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler the idea of merging resources to create a OS for both firms’ electric models. However, when the news emerged, it seemed BMW was also in discussions with Daimler on the same issue. Despite the three brands jointly owning the Here mapping and location data consortium, it’s claimed that a joint OS deal could break competition laws. +++

+++ JEEP is currently testing the new Grand Wagoneer. When it eventually goes on sale, it’ll act as a premium rival for the likes of the Range Rover, BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. However, Jeep remains unsure whether the SUV will be sold on the European market. The Grand Wagoneer draww inspiration from Jeep’s current largest vehicle, the Grand Cherokee. It’ll share the same bluff front end, with a pair of slim LED headlamps and the brand trademark slatted radiator grille. At the rear, it’ll feature the Grand Cherokee’s rear lamps and tailgate design. There’s easily enough space over the rear axle for a third seating row which, unlike in rivals like the Mercedes GLE and Land Rover Discovery, could be a full-sized bench seat rather than a pair of cramped jumper seats. The Grand Wagoneer’s cabin design should also be lifted wholesale from the Grand Cherokee and, given its position as the brand’s flagship model, it’ll come with plenty of kit. Standard equipment should include an 8.4 inch infotainment screen, a digital instrument cluster, a Harman Kardon sound system and leather upholstery. To compensate for the added bulk, I expect the Grand Wagoneer will only be available with Jeep’s most powerful engines. I’m expecting 2 choices: a 250 hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel for the entry-level variant and a 700 hp supercharged 6.2-litre Hemi V8 in the range-topping model. Both engines will be offered with an automatic gearbox and 4-wheeldrive. As such, the Grand Wagoneer could be the first Jeep to cost more than €300.000 in The Netherlands, if it makes it to this market. Speaking at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, Jeep boss Mike Manley told: “I don’t think there’s a maximum price ceiling per se for Jeep. If you look at the upper end of the market in the US, for me, the Grand Wagoneer done well can compete all the way through the segment. Pushing the car up to €300.000 may be possible, but we need to establish Grand Wagoneer in its own right first. That’s why I wouldn’t say there’s a price ceiling”. +++

+++ KARMA Automotive is giving us a look into the future as they’ve unveiled their E-Flex platform. Described as a “highly versatile” architecture, the E-Flex platform can be used to underpin an assortment of electric vehicles including autonomous delivery vans, high-performance supercars and more traditional models. The platform is used on the Revero GT, but Karma noted additional extended range-extended offerings will be “showcased in coming weeks”. They’ll be joined by a platform for battery electric vehicles as well as undisclosed “proof-of-concept” models. Karma didn’t go into too many specifics, but the company’s chief operating officer, Kevin Pavlov, said “We created a physical product that can be formatted into 5 different products, what others have called a one-dimensional skateboard, but what we call our E-Flex Platform, a multi-use solution”. That sounds like gibberish, but he noted the platform is highly flexible as “There are up to 22 different possible configurations available, covering various battery-packaging variants and different drive motor drive systems”. While the company is staying tight-lipped, Karma noted the E-Flex platform will enable them to develop vehicles faster and at a lower cost. Karma also said platform will embrace autonomy, artificial intelligence and advanced transportation solutions. Of course, the mention of supercars is interesting as it suggests the SC2 concept could eventually go into production. The model was unveiled at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show and featured 2 electric motors that produced a combined output of 1.115 hp. This enabled the car to rocket from 0-100 kph in 2.0 seconds and travel up to 560 km on a single charge. +++

+++ KIA will re-open its plant in Slovakia on April 6, as planned, after it halted production on March 23 because of the coronavirus outbreak, the automaker said. Kia builds the Ceed range and Sportage at the plant in Zilina. Among the other automakers active in Slovakia, Volkswagen suspended production on March 17 for an initial period of 2 weeks but extended the stoppage until April 9. +++

+++ The PLUG-IN ELECTRIC car sales stats for the first 2 months of 2020 in Western Europe reveals a quite interesting pattern between BEVs, PHEVs and particular segments. Overall sales of the passenger plug-in electric cars amounted some 138.000, out of which 55.3 % were BEVs (about 76,300) and 44.7 % were PHEVs (about 61,700). On the other hand, half of all PHEVs were SUV/crossovers. However it this category the share of all-electric cars is also quite significant. We assume that smaller cars simply don’t need anything else than pure electric drive and manufacturers are rarely even offering such vehicles as PHEVs. On the other hand, adding a plug-in hybrid version of SUV models is kind of a necessary tool to lower average emissions to the required level. +++

+++ The PSA Group has been compliant to the new European Union 95 gram/km limit on fleet average CO2 emissions in the first 2 months of 2020 and as such will not pay a penny in fines if it maintains this. PSA Europe boss Maxime Picat said that it had actually been the case since the very first working day of the year on January 2. If car makers average 95 g/km or lower as a fleet average for CO2 emissions, they will pay no fines. If they go over it, the fine is €95 for each g/km of CO2 over the limit for each car sold, which could run into the billions for some car makers. PSA’s own limit is 93 g/km, as the 95 g/km figure is weight adjusted according to the types of car a car maker sells. It is trying to hit the target on a monthly basis to more accurately track progress towards the target; the EU only takes a yearly figure. “We want CO2 compliance to be natural”, said Picat. “We are working normally and won’t do stupid things at the end of the year”. Picat said that decisions taken 6 or 7 years ago with the 2020 deadline in mind were now bearing fruit. That included launching all-electric versions of many of its car lines, which were planned to launch at the end of 2019 to allow PSA to get a perfectly-timed benefit from their sale in bringing down its overall CO2 level. It also cut several higher-emitting models last year, chiefly at Opel / Vauxhall which it acquired 3 years ago so initially would not have been part of this long-term planning towards overall compliance. PSA boss Carlos Tavares said that the firm had modelled out a whole host of different scenarios to ensure that it remained compliant even in the worst case, such as diesel dropping to a 10 % market share. At present, it has stabilised at around 30 %. Picat said the any impact on the coronavirus would not be felt on its CO2 average, as any potential drop in sales would be proportional across all model lines. However, to date he said the virus had had no impact on its operations outside of China, and even there it had not been hit as hard as rivals as China isn’t as important to PSA’s overall business as other car makers. “We are working on the supply chain and finding solutions and issues”, he said. “So far, so good”. +++

+++ SUBARU said it will halt all global auto production for approximately 3 weeks due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, resulting in a loss in output of 70.000 units. Subaru will halt manufacturing at its only domestic manufacturing base in Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo, from April 11 to May 1 as the coronavirus has hit demand and disrupted parts supply. It will maintain the jobs of 10.000 workers at the plants. The Gunma plants manufactures the Impreza and Forester for the domestic market and for North America; home to some 70 % of the automaker’s total global sales. The automaker also said that it will push back the restart date of its vehicle plant in Indiana in the United States, which has been suspended since March 23, to April 20. It previously planned to resume operations there on April 7. Subaru joins other major Japanese carmakers including Toyota, Nissan and Honda in halting domestic production due to the coronavirus outbreak. +++

+++ SUZUKI might launch a second body style of the new generation Jimny, one with better legroom for rear-seat occupants and improved boot space. A Suzuki insider claims a 5-door Jimny is in development and will launch in India and other surrounding markets from December this year. It probably won’t make it to Europe, though. The vehicle will be put together at the Maruti Suzuki Hansalpur factory in Gujarat, approximately 6 months after the 3 door model enters production there in June. The key features will be the 2 added doors and longer wheelbase, with everything else expected to carry over with no changes whatsoever. The 5-door Jimny will benefit from the same ladder-frame chassis, suspension setup, four-wheel drive system and low-range transfer case as the 3-door model. This will will help it retain the tiny SUV’s very good off-road credentials. No changes will be performed in the engine compartment either, as the model is expected to employ the same 1.5-liter 4-cylinder petrol unit. Producing 102 hp and 138 Nm, the engine can be paired to a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission in the 3-door Jimny. Both gearboxes should soldier on in the 5-door variant. This is the engine of choice worldwide for the new Jimny, except for Japan, where it’s offered also as a kei car with a 64 hp 0.66-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder power unit. +++

+++ TESLA ’s lone U.S. assembly plant posed a risk to public health by staying open for days in spite of San Francisco Bay area shelter-in-place orders, according to documents obtained through a California public records request. Officials with the city of Fremont, California, told Tesla in a series of conversations over several days that its factory was not considered an essential business, and that it therefore needed to comply with an Alameda County order issued March 16. The electric-car maker announced March 19 that it would suspend production 4 days later. The documents provide a more detailed glimpse of what was a contentious days-long debate between local authorities and Tesla, which sought to stay open based on how the federal government defines critical infrastructure sectors. Fremont’s police chief, the deputy city manager, the county’s health officer and its assistant counsel were among the officials who got involved in the dispute before Tesla backed down. Representatives for Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment on the documents. The Bay area was the first region in the U.S. to enact shelter-in-place orders, a massive effort impacting more than 7 million people. Since then, the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on communities across the country and put immense strain on the global economy. Alameda County had 294 confirmed cases of Covid-19. 7 have died. Hours before Tesla announced plans to suspend production, Kimberly Petersen, Fremont’s police chief and other city officials held a virtual meeting March 19 to follow up on a determination reached the day before: The company had to cease all activities except for minimum basic operations. In a March 21 letter to Tesla, she recounted the city’s efforts to seek clarification as to whether the carmaker was an essential business by consulting with Scott Dickey, the assistant counsel for the county. Dickey relayed a determination from Erica Pan, Alameda County’s health officer. “Mr. Dickey informed city staff that Dr. Pan does not consider Tesla to be an essential business, but rather, considers Tesla’s manufacturing plant to be a public health risk”, Petersen wrote in the letter. Tesla’s plant employs roughly 10.000 people and many workers commute from elsewhere, including California’s Central Valley. The company told employees last week that 2 staffers at unspecified offices were confirmed to have Covid-19. A Nevada television station reported that a Tesla worker at its battery factory near Reno had tested positive, citing an email that cell supplier Panasonic sent to employees. Tesla had more than 48.000 employees worldwide at the end of 2019. When Tesla representatives including Rohan Patel, a senior director of policy and business development who used to work in the Obama administration, met Fremont officials on March 19, they said the company intended to comply with the order, though it needed to conduct a “staged shutdown” of the plant. The 2 sides agreed that all vehicle manufacturing would cease on March 23. Employees who remained on site would complete work at the end of assembly lines to protect the value of vehicles and batteries, while others would perform basic operations such as security, maintenance and cleaning, all while following social-distancing requirements. “You explicitly agreed to that understanding”, the police chief later wrote. “If you were to transition to manufacturing ventilators, or other equipment intended to aid in the fight against Covid-19, these activities would be permitted”. Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk tweeted March 18, the day before the meeting with Fremont officials, that the company would make ventilators “if there is a shortage”. The carmaker has since held discussions with Medtronic PLC, a leading ventilator-maker based in Dublin, but there’s no indication yet that Tesla will play a role in manufacturing the medical devices. During another virtual meeting on Sunday, March 22, Tesla briefly reversed its decision to close its plant. Alan Prescott, Tesla’s acting general counsel, argued the county’s health order had been superseded by a new statewide order issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom. The order included an exception for “critical infrastructure sectors”, a category Tesla claimed included its plant and thus meant the company could continue conducting full operations. After Petersen, the police chief, told Tesla during the meeting that the city was rejecting that argument, Prescott said the company would wind down operations because it was “the right thing to do”. A tweet Musk sent 2 days earlier suggested Tesla didn’t have a choice: the factory couldn’t stay open because Tesla’s parts suppliers weren’t going to keep running their plants, he wrote. Petersen told Tesla she would like to schedule an inspection of the company’s facilities on March 24 to ensure compliance. “In closing, I would like to reiterate that the city of Fremont highly values Tesla as a partner and appreciates what you do for our economy and community”, Petersen wrote in one of her emails to the company. “We are extremely grateful for your willingness to collaborate in our fight against the spread of Covid-19 by placing public health ahead of all other priorities”. +++

+++ TOYOTA has registered a trademark for the ‘C-HR GR Sport’ nameplate, suggesting the firm’s compact crossover will soon receive a sports-inspired trimlevel. The styling package will act as the flagship model for the standard-issue C-HR range, offering competition for the Nissan Juke Tekna+ and Volkswagen T-Roc R-Line. Like Toyota’s existing Yaris GR Sport and Corolla GR Sport models, the C-HR GR Sport will use the same mechanicals as the standard C-HR, but it’ll feature a sporty exterior styling package inspired by the upcoming performance-focused 250 hp C-HR GR. I expect that the jazzed-up GR Sport will launch later this year. The model should be fairly easy for Toyota to create, as it requires only minimal changes to the crossover’s body and interior. It should also prove to be as profitable as the firm’s existing GR Sport models. Revisions over the standard-issue C-HR should include wider front and rear bumpers, deeper side skirts, larger alloy wheels, privacy glass and a pair of LED headlamps. Like the Corolla GR Sport, buyers should also get a pair of sports seats and a reupholstered interior. As the C-HR GR Sport is a purely cosmetic trim package, it’ll be offered with the crossover’s standard range of engines. Buyers will be offered a choice of 2 hybrid powertrains: either a 122 hp 1.8-litre or a 184 hp 2.0-litre unit. +++

+++ Car dealerships across the UNITED STATES have started to lay off thousands of employees as states enact stay-at-home mandates to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Last year, U.S. automotive dealerships employed more than 1.1 million people and according to one hiring expert, retailers may have to cut a third of their work forces by May, totaling approximately 360,000 workers. As of March 27, no less than 33 states in the U.S. issued executive orders that limited non-essential business activity and impacted dealerships. In some states, pushback from dealer associations saw car dealerships declared as essential businesses but even still, the cuts are far-reaching and impacting thousands. According to chief executive of technology recruitment firm Hireology, Adam Robinson, many dealerships in states such as California, Washington, and New York started cutting staff in early March. On March 23, Robinson says “the dam burst” as dealership job cuts started to happen en masse. Greg Rairdon who owns the Rairdon Automotive Group in Kirkland, Washington that operates 10 dealerships has been forced to close all of its sites and put a number of employees on ‘standby unemployment.’ In some states, exemptions have been made that allow dealerships to sell vehicles online and conduct remote deliveries. Many of the nation’s largest publicly-owned retailers have also been impacted. Group 1 Automotive confirmed last week it was furloughing 3.000 employees across the country for at least 30 days as its sales dropped by 50 % to 70 %. Similarly, CarMax has closed 91 stores in 21 states but says it has yet to lay off or furlough any employees. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN said it is extending the production shutdown at its German factories because of the decline in demand for vehicles and continuing challenges in the supply chain. The automaker’s car and components plants in its home market will remain closed until April 19, Volkswagen said in a statement. It said it is continuing to “make intensive preparations for the resumption of production”. The protection of employees will be significantly strengthened, the automaker said. “We are making good progress with our work on a very comprehensive package for a gradual ramp-up of production, which also includes a large number of additional measures relating to hygiene or distances between employees on the production line”, VW brand’s production and logistics chief, Andreas Tostmann, said in the statement. The vehicle plants affected are in Dresden, Emden, Osnabrück, Wolfsburg, Zwickau and Hanover. The component plants are in Brunswick, Kassel, Salzgitter, Chemnitz, Hanover component and the German plants of VW’s car seat subsidiary Sitech. Volkswagen had planned to reopen the factories on April 9. About 80.000 employees are affected by the production stop. +++

+++ VOLVO confirmed it is in talks with California to reach a voluntary emissions agreement. Mary Nichols, who heads the California Air Resources Board, disclosed earlier Volvo planned to join Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen. In July, the 4 struck an agreement with California to adopt emissions requirements that were more stringent than the Trump administration rewrite but looser than the Obama-era rules. Volvo said a deal with California “will serve as a national path forward”. +++

Reageren is niet mogelijk.