Newsflash: Bentley geeft eerste elektrische model een radicaal design


+++ AUDI will halt output at its plant in Hungary, the factory said, after Volkswagen announced a suspension of production at plants in Italy, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain. “In light of the clearly worse sales prospects and the uncertainties emerging in component supply (due to the coronavirus pandemic), Volkswagen Group is suspending production at most of its sites”, Audi’s Hungarian unit said. “The measures affect our sites in Ingostadt, Neckarsulm, Brussels, Mexico and Gyor (Hungary)”. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY ’s design team is already experimenting with styling for an electric car, due to be launched by 2025. The Bentley EXP 100 GT concept unveiled last year was electric and now the company is considering how a production EV might look. Bentley design director Stefan Sielaff said: “We are experimenting at the moment with an EV. My instinct is to create an EV which is a very modern step forward. It always has to be a Bentley, but the proportions of an EV will look different. If we look at the Taycan, it’s still a Porsche. If you look at Tesla, they don’t look deliberately dramatic. I admire, as a designer, BMW for doing the i3, but if you speak to customers, they say it looks ugly”. He added: “We have to look at the bigger perspective and be brave. When it arrives at market, it has to be right. Bentley’s brand identity will be very helpful”. Bentley boss Adrian Hallmark has previously said his company is “in a rush” to build an electric car but that the technology to do so won’t credibly exist until at least 2025. +++ 

+++ In CHINA , annual retail sales of household passenger cars are expected to decrease by around 2 million units this year, hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak, data from an industrial association showed. The estimation was made given the epidemic under good control in April, with production and logistics resuming normal operation and consumers’ demands unleashed, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). Retail sales of passenger vehicles dropped by 20 % year-on-year to 1.72 million units in January, while that of February plunged 78.5 % to 252.000 units amid the epidemic outbreak, said the CPCA. Demands for passenger vehicles were weighed down as consumers’ concerns turned to epidemic control supplies and life necessities amid the epidemic while purchasing power of automobile replacement was not influenced by the disease, with the pent-up demands to be released after the second quarter. The association also noted China’s private car consumption still has potential to grow with the support of policy and market, despite the short-term impact of the epidemic. China has taken measures to boost automobile consumption, encouraging a reasonable increase in license plate quota in areas where car-purchasing is restricted. The country also stressed the promotion and application of new energy vehicles. +++ 

+++ DEALERSHIPS across Europe are closing their showrooms as governments move forcefully to restrict their citizens’ movement and close all nonessential businesses in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak. In most cases, maintenance and repair operations, as well as parts sales, will be allowed to continue. The services are seen as essential to keep public-safety vehicles on the road. Bernard Lycke, the director of the European dealers’ association CECRA, said his group had been receiving requests for clarity from dealers all over Europe in response to governments’ decrees. “Closures would have a big impact on the profitability of our members, but first they have to respect their governments’ actions and hygiene measures”, Lycke said. “It’s a big challenge for us, because we represent small, independent businesses. They are worried because they are all independent companies”. Demand for new vehicles has already begun to collapse in Italy, industry sources told. In the first 2 weeks of March, registrations fell by a third to less than 27.000 units compared with the same period in 2019 and the pace of decline is accelerating, with the first week down by almost 15 % and the second week close to 50 % decline, the sources said. If dealers do not resume sales activity, March registrations in Italy could be down by 85 %. By comparison, vehicle sales in China, where the coronavirus outbreak started, fell 79 % in the month of February compared with 2019. Dealerships in Italy, the epicenter of the viral outbreak in Europe, were the first to be affected, with the country’s largest dealer group, Autotorino, announcing last week that it would close showrooms for the first time in its 55 year history. The national dealers’ association, Federauto, advised its members to follow government guidelines that allow repair, maintenance and related activities, such as parts sales. It asked members to limit face-to-face contact with customers, follow hygiene guidelines and promote online sales where possible. The French automotive services association, CNPA, said that sales activities would be prohibited, except for deliveries. Repair services and parts sales will continue, the group said, adding that it was in “constant contact” with the government to clarify any points. Faconauto, the Spanish dealers’ group, recommended to its members that they close sales and repair activities for 15 days. The group asked dealers to set up task forces and help lines to handle urgent customer requests from critical sectors such as transport and logistics, health care, and agribusiness. Belgium’s dealer association, Traxio, said that according to its interpretation of government rules, dealers could not open their showrooms on weekends, but that repair and parts sales were allowed. No restrictions had yet been placed on businesses in the United Kingdom. Robert Forrester, the CEO of Vertu Motors, the UK’s fifth-largest dealer group, said last week that dealers would open normally. Automakers could suffer more from a lack of demand as foot traffic to dealerships dries up and consumers brace for economic shockwaves than from factory closings, said Marco Opipari, an analyst at Fidentiis. Manufacturers and dealers generally have at least two months’ worth of inventory so a few weeks of closures was not a big problem in an over-supplied European auto industry and lost production could be recovered later on, Opipari told. “The real problem is on the demand side, people are not buying cars now, and sales volumes are expected to be very bad in March, with a real impact on automakers’ earnings”, Opipari said. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen said its DIESEL CHEATING SCANDAL has cost it €31.3 billion in fines and settlements and the German carmaker expects costs to rise by another €4.1 billion, chief financial officer Frank Witter said. Volkswagen was caught hiding excessive levels of toxic diesel emissions in 2015, a scandal that led to a management rout and thousands of regulatory probes and lawsuits which are taking years to settle. “We expect special effects of €2.9 billion in 2020 and €1.2 billion in 2021”, Witter said. +++ 

+++ Carmakers including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, PSA and Volkswagen cut production at plants in EUROPE as they grappled with the coronavirus crisis and diving demand. Worker representatives in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain and Germany have demanded stricter controls on hygiene, disinfection and isolation for employees working heel-to-heel on Europe’s production lines. Audi said it was struggling to keep production running at its plant in Brussels because some workers had downed tools over concerns they were exposing themselves to the virus. The topic of how to protect employees was now the subject of discussions between management and unions, the carmaker said. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is halting production for two weeks at most of its European plants to help protect staff and adjust to a slump in demand, the Italian-American carmaker said. Italy has been the European country worst hit by the crisis and the first to enforce a nationwide lockdown, which has now been replicated by Spain and to a lesser extent France as the Covid-19 virus sweeps through the continent. PSA said it was closing its European factories until March 27. Renault said it would suspend industrial activities in France, closing 12 sites and sending home 18.000 employees until further notice. “The continuity of production activities at the group’s plants in other European countries depends on the situation in each country”, Renault said. The coronavirus crisis has hit the European automotive industry at a time when it is already struggling with weak global demand and tough new pollution regulations. With non-essential services closed in several countries, including car dealers, and many people staying at home, analysts are forecasting a heavy fall in March car sales and a 4 % drop globally this year. +++ 

+++ Have you ever found yourself on a dark, wet country road, dipping a wheel off the edge of the carriageway? If so, FORD says it has created the technology you need to prevent you suffering the same misfortune again. The American company’s Road Edge Detection system uses a camera positioned beneath the rear-view mirror to scan the road ahead. Covering an area 50 metres ahead of the car and 7 metres to either side, the system can spot the structural differences between the road and road edge. Using an advanced algorithm and Ford’s existing Lane-Keeping Aid, the system can gently steer the vehicle back on track when necessary. If the driver is still close to the edge after the initial steering input, the system will vibrate the steering wheel to prompt the driver to steer. According to Ford, the system can detect where a paved road becomes a soft verge, gravel hard shoulder or grass, and it can even “provide steering support” on marked roads where the lane markings are hidden by snow, leaves or rain. And the system is said to work in the dark, too, with the headlights providing enough light for the camera to operate “as effectively as during the day”. However, despite this, Ford admits the system is not foolproof. According to the firm, the algorithm may struggle with roadside features that have similar structures to the road. For example, the company says features including “paved ditches” and “concrete-covered drops” may not be detected. The Road Edge Detection system is a standard feature on new Focus, Kuga and Puma models, and Ford says it will be among the driver assistance features rolled out into new vehicles. Rüdiger Kieneke, Ford’s driver assistance and safety electronics engineer, said the new system was a much-needed feature to help drivers on rural roads. According to the EU Commission, such roads account for the lion’s share of road casualties in Europe, and unlike urban roads, car occupants make up the majority of those. “Rural roads can be every bit as challenging for drivers as urban streets, especially for those who may be unfamiliar with their route”, said Kieneke. “Road Edge Detection helps alleviate one concern to make journeys more comfortable and easier”. +++ 

+++ The GAC GROUP , a leading automobile manufacturer in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, reported a sharp sales decline in the first 2 months of 2020 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a company source. Sales dropped about 37 % year-on-year to 196.000 units of cars between January and February, according to Zeng Qinghong, chairman of the GAC Group. “The novel coronavirus has had huge impact on China’s auto industry”, Zeng said. China’s overall sales declined 42 % year-on-year in the first 2 months, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. As of last Friday, 9 subsidiaries under GAC Group have all resumed production, realizing 60 % of its production capacity, according to Zeng. To offset the business decline, Zeng said the company would make more efforts to ensure supplies of raw materials from home and abroad, as the company had already developed relations with 180 suppliers based in Hubei province, center of the disease outbreak, as well as a great number of overseas suppliers. “Moreover, we will issue preferential financial policies for customers in the market and boost exports of our products”, Zeng said at a press conference. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI ’s China domestic plant sales in February was 1.007 vehicles, company data showed; down 97 % from 38.017 vehicles a year ago. The automaker’s global auto sales fell to their lowest in a decade in February as coronavirus worries kept buyers away, in one of the first major indicators of damage to business in the broader auto sector due to the epidemic. +++ 

+++ By now, we’re all well aware of the dangers of driving while using a handheld mobile phone or while under the influence of alcohol, or at least we should be. But new research suggests IN CAR TECHNOLOGY could be every bit as dangerous. A study commissioned by IAM Roadsmart, formerly known as the Institute of Advanced Motorists, found that distractions caused by infotainment systems impair drivers’ reaction times more than alcohol and cannabis use. The research revealed that using touch control resulted in reaction times that were even worse than texting while driving. The research, which was undertaken by Transport Research Laboratory on behalf of IAM Roadsmart, the FIA and the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, showed that slower reaction times caused by drivers using infotainment screens at motorway speeds increased average stopping distances to between 4 and 5 car lengths. And the study also found that drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 16 seconds while driving; the equivalent to a distance of more than 500 metres at 110 kph. During the tests, drivers were asked to complete a series of 3 drives on the same simulated test route to assess the impact of the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration systems. On the first run, drivers did not use the system, while the second run saw drivers use the voice control functions alone. On the third run, the drivers used touch control. Both methods were found to significantly distract drivers, but TRL said touchscreen control proved to be more distracting than voice control. And although the organisation said many drivers realised the system was causing a distraction and modified their behaviour, their driving performance was still adversely affected. The drivers were found to be unable to maintain a constant distance to the vehicle in front, and less capable of staying in their lane. They also reacted more slowly to sudden occurrences. “Driver distraction is estimated to be a factor in around a third of all road collisions in Europe each year”, said Neil Greig, policy and research director at IAM RoadSmart. “While previous research indicates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto perform better than more traditional buttons and controls, the results from this latest study raise some serious concerns about the development and use of the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems. Anything that distracts a driver’s eyes or mind from the road is bad news for road safety. We’re now calling on industry and government to openly test and approve such systems and develop consistent standards that genuinely help minimise driver distraction. While we would like to see a review of these systems in the future, we’d encourage owners of vehicles fitted with these systems to use them in the safest possible way, including setting everything up before starting a journey”. +++ 

+++ In a bid to keep production lines moving on factories that are still open, auto suppliers in JAPAN are considering (or in one case have already) moving production parts outside China due to the coronavirus outbreak. One Japanese supplier has already shifted production of parts from Mazda from China’s Jiangsu to Mexico’s Guanajuato state in order to deal with shortages. The supplier, which produces an exterior component used in the exterior trim of the Mazda 3 and CX-30 models, basically increased the output of the part at its Mexico plant by 50 %. The Mexico-made parts are then airlifted back to Mazda’s assembly line in Japan, a move that has cost the Japanese automaker more than $5 million in total, according to an unnamed source. “Substitute production costs an arm and a leg”, said the source. “But Mazda doesn’t want to stop production and have asked us to keep our supply coming. They are taking on the expense”. A Mazda representative said that they are “assessing various countermeasures for swift recovery while minimising the impact on production at the same time”. Meanwhile, the world’s biggest maker of automotive lighting and a supplier to Toyota, Nissan and others, Koito Manufacturing stopped the production of LED headlights and taillights at its factory in China’s Hubei province, which is the epicenter of the virus outbreak, before partial operations resumed. Koito is now planning to move some production elsewhere in order to fulfill its export orders. “There are lamps that we make for vehicle models made in North America, Japan and China, which are fairly similar between those regions”, a company spokeswoman said. Kasai Kogyo, a Honda supplier of interior door trim and roof parts, is also looking to shift production from its plant in Wuhan, China to one of its many factories in North America, Europe and Asia, but the move alone would drive up costs and take months to implement. +++ 

+++ Mercedes-Benz and BMW are adding new PLUG-IN HYBRIDS as they step up their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions to meet tough EU targets. Mercedes is expanding its low-emission offerings in its compact range with plug-in hybrid versions of its CLA (Shooting Brake) and GLA. The cars have a 1.3-liter gasoline engine mated to a 102 hp electric motor fed by a 15.6 kWh battery pack. The drivetrain is already used in plug-in variants of the A class and B class. Mercedes will also add seven plug-in hybrid versions with its revised E-class sedan and Estate, including gasoline and diesel plug-ins. Mercedes’ parent Daimler aims to cut its CO2 emissions by 20 % to comply with the EU’s CO2 reduction goals that came into effect this year. “We are within striking distance of meeting the target”, Ola Källenius said. “By the end of 2020, we want to double our sales of mild hybrids and quadruple the share of xEVs (plug-in vehicles)”, the CEO told reporters. BMW will expand its plug-in hybrid range this year to include the 3-series Touring in both 2-wheeldrive and all-wheeldrive guises. An xDrive version of the existing 330e plug-in hybrid sedan will also join the line-up. Elsewhere in BMW’s range, it will add plug-in hybrid versions of the X1 and X2. BMW has seen sales of its battery electric and hybrid vehicles rise by 43 % so far this year, CEO Oliver Zipse said. BMW sales and marketing chief, Pieter Nota, said the automaker will reduce CO2 emissions in Europe by about 20 % this year and so will be fully compliant with the new EU standards, both for 2020 and 2021. BMW says it aims to have more than 1 million vehicles with electrified drive systems on the road by the end of 2021, in which time a quarter of its European sales will be electrified models. The EU has set automakers a target to cut CO2 emissions by 40 % between 2007 and 2021 to combat climate change and has demanded a further 37.5 % reduction by 2030. But pollution levels from cars have been rising as customers increasingly chose to buy gas-guzzling SUVs, meaning automakers need to ramp up sales of plug-in cars if they are to avoid hefty fines from 2021. Each automaker has an individual target to meet the EU’s overall goal to reduce CO2 emissions from the bloc’s new car fleet to 95 grams per km by the end of 2021. Daimler faces a €997 million fine because it will not meet its 2021 target of 103.1 g/km because its emissions will fall to 114.1 g/km from 130.4 g/km now, according to an analysis by PSA Consulting. BMW faces a €754 million fine because its emissions will decline to 110 g/km from 123.6 g/km today, missing its 102 g/km target. Average fleet emissions for cars in Europe rose for the third year in a row in 2019 to 121.8 g/km, analysts at JATO Dynamics said on March 3. Plug-in hybrids achieve very favorable CO2 emissions when paired to a big enough battery and, along with EVs, this year count double under the EU’s super-credit system to help automakers achieve their targets. Analyst firm LMC Automotive predict sales of plug-ins will increase to 717.000 in Europe this year from 198.853 in 2019, taking a 4 % share to outsell full-electric cars. Registrations of EVs will rise to 652.000 from 365.372 for a 3.6 % share, LMC forecasts. Electric cars are generally more expensive to build than gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles. But BMW said it was saving money, including by delaying the development of a next-generation Mini, to free up resources for the electric campaign. “If a vehicle architecture does not need to be renewed, then we do not do it”, Zipse said, adding the Mini was being renewed constantly by updating the powertrain and infotainment options. Around 7.000 electric Minis have been ordered so far, he said. “We believe that we can keep the impact on profits under control”, Zipse said, pledging that every car sold would be profitable. +++ 

+++ RENAULT said it would shut down its industrial sites in France “until further notice”. The automaker said it was suspending production to protect employees from the coronavirus outbreak and “in compliance with the measures taken by the French government”. Renault said 12 sites and 18.000 employees would be affected. The situation at other plants in Europe would depend on conditions in each country, the automaker said. The Renault Group, with 1.65 million sales in 2019, is the third-biggest automaker in Europe, following Volkswagen and PSA. Earlier, PSA Group said it was closing all factories in Europe, joining other automakers including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles that have announced full or partial shutdowns. Renault earlier closed factories at Palencia and Valladolid, Spain, for several days due to supply shortages. The plant at Flins, near Paris, which makes the Zoe, was also closed for what Renault said were unrelated supply reasons. Renault Group also has factories in Slovenia and in Romania where it builds Dacia cars. Factories in Turkey and Morocco also supply Europe. Renault’s announcement came ahead of an expected speech by president Emmanuel Macron of France, in which he is to announce stepped-up enforcement measures to limit movement, including a curfew. Over the weekend, Renault had said it was considering all options in response to the coronavirus threat, including hiring temporary workers, because some workers might need to stay home with children after France closed schools. +++ 

+++ TESLA has announced that deliveries of its Model Y have begun and that the Fremont factory where it is produced will continue to operate despite a global automotive shutdown. Early buyers of the all-electric crossover have started receiving their cars. It comes as car manufacturers worldwide enter a state of shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic; it had initially been reported that Tesla’s Fremont plant would close (as a result of the ‘shelter in place’ policy being implemented in California) but it has been deemed an ‘essential business’ and will remain open for the foreseeable. The company’s 4th mainstream model, which was unveiled at its Los Angeles design centre by CEO Elon Musk, was originally expected to start production towards the end of 2020; a date that was subsequently brought forward to summer 2020 late last year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk used the company’s 4th quarter financial results to reveal that the all-wheel drive, Long Range version of the electric crossover would have would have an extended range of 500 kilometres on the EPA test cycle, up from the 450 kilometres stated at the car’s reveal. The Model Y will be manufactured in the company’s Fremont factory in California, not its Gigafactory facility in Reno, Nevada as originally predicted. From 2021, Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory will also start production for the Chinese market. Production will be gradual, according to Musk, with capacity increased from mid-2020 and an eventual combined target of 500.000 Model 3 and Model Y built per year. The first versions to arrive will be the Long Range, Dual Motor and Performance models. The Model Y is compatible with Tesla’s third-generation Superchargers, which are capable of 250 kW charging. Cars will be able to recover 120 kilometrs of range in 5 minutes. Tesla now has more than 12.000 Superchargers globally across 36 countries. Inside, the Model Y has a similar interior layout to the Model 3, with a single 15.0 inch touchscreen interface containing all of the car’s controls, and no traditional instrument cluster. It also includes the same self-driving hardware, including Autopilot, which can be unlocked for a fee and upgraded wirelessly as new features get approval from regulatory bodies. Split-folding second-row seats and a front boot provide a maximum storage space of 1.869 litres. Its rear hatchback should prove more convenient when loading than the Model 3’s tailgate. The Model Y will likely prove pivotal to Tesla, because the worldwide demand for SUVs is significantly higher than it is for saloons. Musk predicted that Tesla would go on to sell more Model Ys than its other three models combined. The company opened pre-orders after revealing the car, with customers asked for a $2.500 deposit. Model Ys with 7 seats won’t be available until 2021. The company also faces new challenges from European car makers including Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which are gearing up to launch their own premium SUVs. Similarly priced rivals such as the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric offer a lower range. Tesla recently announced a move to online-only sales and plans to close all its physical stores but changed its decision following customer and employee backlash. The announcement of the Model Y came soon after the entry-level Model 3 went on sale in the US at $35,000 and the first left-hand-drive versions of the more expensive Model 3 Performance arrived in Europe. Tesla will be hoping to avoid the manufacturing issues that plagued the Model 3, which suffered production bottlenecks for months following the car’s North American launch. Tesla has since recovered from these early setbacks and is on course to achieve its factory target of 10.000 cars per week. It’s now the world’s top-selling electric car, having sold more than 120.000 examples in the last year. Tesla aims to produce 2.000 Model Ys per week by September 2020. With the Model Y now revealed, Tesla’s remaining projects include the Semi lorry, the Cybertruck pickup and the new Roadster, which is due to arrive on roads in 2020. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA Europe will halt production at its factory in Valenciennes, northern France, to comply with the country’s lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the company said. The plant would be shut for an “undetermined period”, Toyota said in an emailed statement. Other automakers with factories in France, including Renault and PSA, are started closing their factories in the country. The plant builds the Yaris, Toyota’s best-selling model in Europe. The company sold 211.714 last year in the region, according to data from market analyst JATO Dynamics. The plant is gearing up to launch a replacement model later this year and is also preparing to build a small SUV based on the Yaris platform. The factory opened in 2001 and employs about 4.500 people, including temporary workers. Toyota said it was also shutting operations at its Toyota Caetano plant in Ovar, Portugal, where it builds the Land Cruiser in low volumes for export outside of Europe. The plant would be shut for 2 weeks. Toyota’s other European plants (in Kolin, Czech Republic and Burnaston, England) will continue to operate, the company said. Toyota said that some administrative, payroll and engineering staff would be kept on at Valenciennes. The project teams directing the launch of the new Yaris at the plant will also remain at work. Toyota recently moved to 3 shifts at Valenciennes in preparation for the he new small SUV’s introduction, which is scheduled to take place early next year. It had expected to increase production close to the plant’s capacity of 300.000 with the new, as-yet unnamed car, the company has said. Toyota had planned to display the new car at the Geneva auto show but delayed the reveal after the show was canceled due to the threat of coronavirus. Toyota said it has asked employees at its Brussels headquarters to work from home. It said that about 95 % of the staff had done so. Toyota said it had closed dealer showrooms in countries that had mandated restrictions on commerce and movement in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Affected countries include Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Slovakia and Spain. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED STATES , the coronavirus epidemic has started affecting U.S. dealers as fewer and fewer customers visit their lots, with even the most successful ones bracing for a major sales decline. With the outbreak already causing plant shutdowns in Asia and Europe, and United States ordering closures for schools, pro sports leagues and other big events, dealers across the country are starting to feel the coronavirus impact. “Sales are definitely falling”, said John Luciano, managing partner with Street Volkswagen in Amarillo, Texas, and chairman of VW’s national dealer council. “We’re waking up in a different world a little bit more every day”. Customer visits at down 30 % so far this month at Russ Shelton’s Buick GMC dealership in Michigan, which is also faced with a 40 % drop in its service department. “When schools close, mothers get worried, and this stops economic activity”, consultant and former GM executive Warren Browne said. Even dealers with strong sales are acknowledging this week as a possible beginning of a big sales slide. “It’s going to happen”, Beau Böckmann, president of Galpin Ford in the Los Angeles area, said. “We’re kind of still in this odd wait-and-see moment”. Officially, both Ford and GM are enjoying strong sales at the moment but spokesmen from the 2 automakers acknowledge that this could change in the next few days. “We’ll have to see how long this crisis lasts”, GM spokesman Jim Cain said. “It stands to reason that sales would fall in some markets as people are putting basic needs first”. If you ask Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, the Trump administration could look into the past and president Obama’s $3 billion Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), colloquially known as ‘cash for clunkers’, which gave up to $4,500 to consumers to trade in their old, gas-guzzling vehicles to buy newer and more efficient models. However, some economic studies and reports of the time questioned its success claiming that it failed to dramatically increase sales. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN GROUP has said it is “almost impossible” to forecast its 2020 performance as the global coronavirus pandemic unfolds, with most of its European factories set to gradually close in the coming weeks. “The health and safety of our employees and their families is the most important priority in the situation and my primary objective is to slow down the spread of coronavirus as much as possible”, CEO Herbert Diess said. The measures include halting production at the group’s plants in Spain, Portugal, Slovakia and Italy “before the end of this week”. Most other German and European plants will shut “in the coming weeks”. Along with virus spreading fears, the Group cites “significant deterioration in sales” and “uncertainty over plants supplies” as core reasons for shuttering production. However, production has been resumed across a number of its Chinese factories, as the virus appears to be brought under control locally. As China’s largest foreign carmaker, Volkswagen’s financial exposure through the crisis was acute, with the sales slump likely to have a significant effect on its 2020 performance, although Diess claims consumers are now returning to dealers in the region. Diess admitted that the pandemic presents the VW Group with “unknown operational and financial challenges” but was upbeat about a recovery, stating “we will succeed in overcoming the corona crisis by pooling our strengths and with close cooperation and high morale in our group”. The uncertainty over 2020 contrasts starkly with the message of positivity Diess portrayed over 2019, which was a “very successful year” for the group. Overall operating profit rose 22 % to €6.9 billion. The VW passenger cars division posted revenues of €88.4 billion; 4.5 % higher than 2018, and an operating profit before special items increase from €3.2 billion to €3.8 billion. Skoda, Seat, and Porsche all posted sales revenue increases of between 10 % and 15 %, with Bentley returning to profit with a substantial 35.1 % boost in revenues and 3.1 % return on sales (up from -18.6 % the previous year). With the global economy increasingly impacted by the pandemic, most large car making groups have seen massive losses in the stock market. VW is not alone, with its share price down 38 % since January. However, Diess maintained that the Group’s significant investment in electrification would not be “reprioritised”. +++

Reageren is niet mogelijk.