Newsflash: McLaren komt met hybride opvolger van P1

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+++ BMW is ending production of the i8, 6 years after its introduction. The i8 was BMW’s first plug-in hybrid. The production version of the sportscar was unveiled at the 2013 Frankfurt auto show and it went on sale in 2014. BMW freshened the i8 coupe and introduced a roadster version in 2018. In Europe, sales of the i8 fell 32 % to 1.013 last year. As BMW closes the chapter on the i8, the automaker is preparing to release several battery-powered models as part of ambitious plans to market 25 electrified models by 2023. Production of the iNext crossover will begin in the middle of 2021. That will be followed by the start of i4 sedan output toward the end of 2021. The i4 and iNext have a range of 600 km based on the European test cycle. +++ 

+++ In EUROPE , carmakers including Fiat Chrysler, PSA, Volkswagen and its premium unit Audi throttled back production at their European plants as they grapple with the coronavirus crisis and plunging demand. Worker representatives in Italy, France, Belgium 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, Belgium, 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 virus sweeps through the continent. Measures in Italy were agreed after all-night talks with companies and trade union leaders to introduce tighter controls on workplace practices and cleaning protocols, as well as steps to encourage more home-working, Economy Ministry undersecretary Pier Paolo Baretta said. Last week, some Spanish plants of the Renault-Nissan alliance and Volkswagen’s Spanish division Seat announced temporary stoppages that could last for days or weeks. With non-essential services closed in several countries, including car dealers, and people forced to stay at home except for strict working needs, analysts are forecasting a heavy fall in car sales in March. FCA, which according to analyst estimates produces around 25 % of its vehicles in Europe, said its plant suspensions through March 27 would allow it respond to interrupted market demand by optimizing supply. Marco Opipari, an analyst at Fidentiis, said a few weeks of closures were not a big problem in a European auto industry struggling with over-capacity, and lost production could be recovered later on. “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”, he said. The coronavirus crisis is hitting a European automotive industry already struggling with weak global demand and tough new pollution regulations. The suspensions at FCA extend a temporary closure period already planned for some Italian facilities. “The group is working with its supply base and business partners to be ready to enable our manufacturing operations to deliver previously planned total levels of production despite the suspension when market demand returns”, it said. Italy is still allowing manufactures to operate provided they comply with strict safety measures. However, a growing number of companies are opting to suspend production. Unions at the Czech car factories of Volkswagen’s Skoda and Hyundai have called for a 14 day quarantine for employees, which would halt production for that time. +++ 

+++ FERRARI has suspended production at its Maranello and Modena facilities with immediate effect and until March 27 due to coronavirus fears. Italy has been hit particularly hard by Covid-19 and is in total lockdown with more than 17,000 cases of the virus confirmed there. In a statement, Ferrari confirmed that the virus has started to take a toll on its supply chain meaning it can no longer continue production. Ferrari employees with the ability to work remotely will do so. Scuderia Ferrari, the brand’s Formula 1 team, has also suspended its operational activities. “At a time like this my gratitude goes first and foremost to Ferrari’s women and men who, with their tremendous commitment over the past few days, have demonstrated the passion and dedication that defines our marque”, Ferrari chief executive Louis Camilleri said in a statement. “Together with our suppliers, they have ensured the Company’s production. And it is out of our respect for them, for their peace of mind and those of their families that we have decided on this course of action. Our clients and fans are also top of mind for us at this time, as we prepare for a strong restart”, the executive added. Ferrari’s decision to close its Italian factories came just a day after Lamborghini announced it would do the same, suspending work at its Sant’Agata headquarters until at least March 25. Analysts expect the coronavirus to not only impact car production but also car sales. According to Morgan Stanley, U.S. auto sales could fall by 9 % this year to 15.5 million units, down significantly from the 17.1 million autos sold across the country in 2019. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) is halting production at the majority of its European plants until 27 March, as the car maker reacts to the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak. FCA will close its 6 Italian plants, including Modena, as well as factories in Serbia and Poland. In a statement, it said: “It enables the group to effectively respond to the interruption in market demand by ensuring the optimisation of supply”. FCA continued: “The group is working with its supply base and business partners to be ready to enable our manufacturing operations to deliver previously planned total levels of production, despite the suspension, when market demand returns”. Ferrari, which only last week said business continued as usual, commented in its statement: “The company, which had ensured continued production so far whilst placing employees’ wellbeing as its main priority, is now experiencing the first serious supply chain issues, which no longer allow for continued production”. Italy has been the European country worst hut by the coronavirus, last week implementing a nationwide lockdown. To date, it has 24.747 reported cases of coronavirus; 3 times more than the second most affected European country, Spain. FCA confirmed that it will temporarily suspend production at the Melfi, Pomigliano) Cassino, Mirafiori, Grugliasco and Modena. At the same time, the Kragujevac and Tychy factories, in Serbia and Poland respectively, will adopt identical measures that will remain in effect through March 27. +++ 

+++ FORD has closed its Valencia plant in Spain for 1 week. The automaker made the decision after 3 employees there tested positive for coronavirus. “We have had 3 positive cases of Covid-19 in the Valencia plant in the past 24 hours”, the company said. The manufacturer added it isolated all employees that had contact with the infected workers, as protocol requires in these cases. “We are taking quick action to follow the established protocol, including the identification and self-isolation of all employees who had close contact with the affected workers”, a spokesman said. “We will take all other appropriate steps to ensure that risk from this situation is minimized”, the representative added. The factory was already scheduled to have 3 non-production days. However, with confirmation of the 3 Covid-19 cases, Ford decided to close the plant for the entire week. The company said it is closely monitoring the situation to determine next steps. The plant’s management will meet with unions to discuss details on the matter. The Valencia plant is one of Ford’s largest outside the United States. More than 7.000 workers are employed there, producing over 400.000 vehicles a year. Those include the Kuga, Mondeo, S-Max, Galaxy and Transit Connect. In a separate announcement, Ford said it is instructing much of its global workforce to work remotely until further notice, “except those in business-critical roles that cannot be done away from Ford facilities. The action will additionally help reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus while maximizing the health of our business”. +++ 

+++ Shortly after General Motors announced it will kill off the HOLDEN brand in both Australia and New Zealand, it’s been confirmed the network of dealerships are working with law firm JWL Ebsworth and forensic accountants KPMG to negotiate compensation offers. Holden dealers believe the compensation offers they are receiving are “grossly inadequate”. It is understood that representatives from General Motors are offering compensation packages to each and every dealership through face-to-face discussions. Most dealerships have already received their offers and those that haven’t have been able to calculate their likely compensation packages. Following GM’s announcement of abandoning right-hand drive markets, the automaker revealed it had set aside $1.1 billion to close operations. Despite this, it is claimed the compensation bill to Holden dealers in Australia alone will likely cost in excess of $2 billion. Many dealerships were encouraged by General Motors to invest in new showrooms as well as expensive renovations and new signage despite the car manufacturer already knowing that it was going to pull out of Australia. Some dealers reportedly coughed up between $3 million and $6.5 million for renovations while many others are locked into long term leases. General Motors is offering compensation packages based on dealership’s net profit from all Holdens sold over 3 years from 2017 to 2019 and the forecasted amount over the remaining term of franchise agreements due to expire at the end of 2022. “Holden is doing the right thing by its dealers during this difficult time. We believe the offer is fair”, the company said in a statement. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI said that it has decided to exempt franchise deposit of some 2.000 partner companies in charge of customer service across South Korea, which amounts to 2.2 billion won ($1.8 million). The automaker said 1.374 Blue Hands centers, a Hyundai and Genesis’ official service provider, and 800 Auto Q centers, Kia’s partner service and maintenance company, will have 50 % of their franchise fees exempted for 3 months from March to May. For service centers located in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, Hyundai said it has exempted 100 % of franchise deposits for March. “We deeply emphathize with service providers who are suffering from difficult business environment. The group will continue to put effort to cooperate with our partnering companies”, said a Hyundai official. Hyundai and Genesis have confirmed they will handle up to 6 months of car payments for American owners who lose their jobs due to the economic impact of the coronavirus. In a statement, Hyundai said it will make up to 6 months of payments for owners who lose their jobs and purchase or lease a vehicle between March 14 and April 30 through Hyundai Capital. The South Korean marque will also offer select shoppers through April 30 the ability to defer payments for 90 days at the customer’s request. Genesis added it too will make 6 months of payments for customers who purchase a new Genesis between March 14 and April 30, and defer payments for 90 days to those who buy a G70 by April 30. “We understand the extreme uncertainty created by the coronavirus and the anxiety experienced by our customers, and wanted to tap into Hyundai’s legacy of having people’s back”, president and chief executive of Hyundai North America José Muñoz said. “Bringing back the job loss protection program in this unprecedented time will allow our customers to have one less thing to worry about if something unexpected happens to their employment status”. Hyundai models available for the 90-day deferred payment program include the Santa Fe, Tucson and Kona. “At Genesis, we pride ourselves on consistently putting our customers’ needs first”, president and chief executive of Genesis Motor North America Mark Del Rosso added. “In these uncertain times created by the coronavirus and the general anxiety experienced in communities throughout America, we wanted to step forward for our customers and help alleviate at least some of the potential concerns they may have”. The Hyundai Assurance Job Loss Protection program was first conceived by the car manufacturer in January 2009 as a response to the financial crisis. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER said its plant in Nitra, Slovakia, continues to operate normally despite the country’s lockdown and Volkswagen’s suspension of production at its plant in the country’s capital of Bratislava. “Our plants are fully operational”, a JLR spokeswoman told. “We continue to monitor the situation closely and follow the guidance of all relevant authorities”, she said. JLR’s Slovakian plant is ramping up production of the new Defender as sales of the SUV begin globally. The plant also builds the Discovery. The facility opened in 2018. The Defender replaces the original Land Rover off-roader and is a key model for JLR as it attempts to return to profitability after sales dropped in China during 2018. The Nitra region has 5 reported cases of coronavirus, with 3 in the town itself. Slovakia has 61 confirmed coronavirus cases; up 17 from a day earlier. The country has reported no deaths. The country has declared a state of emergency and has shut borders to those without permanent residency in the country. The country has exempted those who live outside the country but live within 30km of the border and have temporary residency. +++ 

+++ The successor to the MCLAREN P1 is expected to arrive in 2024 and will, in all likelihood, feature a hybrid powertrain. The automaker’s chief executive Mike Flewitt said they will continue to build internal combustion engines for many years to come and appeared unconvinced the time is right for an all-electric McLaren hypercar. “We haven’t announced the powertrain for that. Obviously, looking forward, it will either be hybridized or EV”, he said. “I like EVs, I’ve driven them quite a lot lately, and for regular use they are responsive, refined, and have incredible performance but the charging times are really restrictive. Take the 765LT as an example: we know a lot of customers are going to take that to the track. If it was an EV, you’d be looking at maybe 30 minutes of running time and then plug it in until the next day. That’s not a persuasive position”. Interestingly, the British government recently announced it will move to ban the sale of all petrol, diesel, and hybrid vehicles by 2035, shifting the nation’s entire new car market to electric and hydrogen vehicles. Flewitt revealed McLaren will join with a number of other car manufacturers in lobbying for hybrids to be excluded from these new laws. Regardless of whether these lobbying efforts prove fruitful, Flewitt says other important global markets will continue to be offered hybrid models well into the future. “I’ve always thought that EV rollout would see different market segments responding at different speeds”, he said. “I also think there will be geographic differences, with some markets like China pushing aggressively and other markets having a more relaxed time frame. Add all that together, and you’ve got a mixed powertrain strategy for the next 20 or 30 years”. +++ 

+++ The PORSCHE Taycan is the automaker’s first all-electric vehicle, signaling a new direction for the company. It’s the first of several new fully electric vehicles to come from the German automaker, spearheading Porsche’s electrification efforts. The Taycan isn’t Porsche’s endgame, but its first salvo. The automaker has been cagey about what’s next for the Taycan model. Taycan product line director Stefan Weckbach says the company has “extremely good ideas” for the Taycan’s futures. “We do, of course, have a few more arrows in the quiver” to expand the Taycan story, Weckbach said. However, he was quick to add that it’s still too early to talk about what those plans could be. It’s been the same measured response from Porsche for the last few months. Back in February, Porsche manager production marketing BEV & Strategy, Andreas Becker, exhibited similar restraint. He wouldn’t discuss anything about future products beyond what we already know is coming down the development pipe. I’ve spied camouflaged Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo test vehicles out in the wild. Porsche currently offers the Taycan in 3 flavors: 4S, Turbo, and Turbo S. The 4S is the tamer variant, offering 530 hp from its 79.2 kWh lithium-ion battery. It’s capable of hitting 100 kph in under 4 seconds. The Turbo and Turbo S are the choices for those wanting even more power. Both the Turbo and Turbo S produce 625 hp, but an Overboost function increases that to 680 hp and 760 hp, respectively. Porsche will continue to keep quiet about its plans for future Taycan models. I’ve spotted one such variant already and if Porsche has “a few more arrows in the quiver”, then we’ll have to wait until it lets go of the bowstring and takes its next shot. +++ 

+++ The PSA Group will close its European factories until March 27 due to the coronavirus outbreak spread. The closures affect Opel’s factories in Germany and Poland, and Vauxhall plants in the UK. The automaker’s plants in Mulhouse, France and Madrid, Spain, will close on Monday, PSA said in a statement. Factories in Poissy, Rennes and Sochaux in France; Zaragoza, Spain; Eisenach and Rüsselsheim, Germany; Ellesmere Port, England; and Gliwice, Poland, will halt production on Tuesday. The automaker’s plants in Hordain, France; Vigo, Spain; and Mangualde Portugal, follow on Wednesday. Factories in Luton, England and, Trnava, Slovakia, will stop production on Thursday. PSA said the closures were being implemented because of the acceleration observed in recent days of serious Covid-19 cases close to certain production sites, supply disruptions from major suppliers, as well as the sudden decline in the automobile markets. +++ 

+++ Further information about the TESLA Model Y has been confirmed, including the car’s exterior and interior dimensions. Prior to the first deliveries of the all-electric SUV, which Tesla has previously claimed should begin for its North American customers by the end of this month, the owner’s manual has been surfaced online. The manual states that Model Y measures 4.750 mm long, 1.920 mm wide and 1.623 mm tall. That makes it 68 mm longer, 25 mm wider and 58 mm taller than the Jaguar I-Pace, but smaller than the Audi e-Tron, which is 151 mm longer and both wider and taller by a couple of millimetres. Weighing a claimed 2.003 kg in its Long Range Dual Motor configuration, the Model Y is significantly lighter than either the I-Pace or the e-Tron. It also means that the Model Y has grown in every dimension compared to the Model 3 on which it’s based. The upshot of this is greatly improved cabin space: Tesla says that the Y has 43 mm more headroom and an impressive 135 mm extra legroom for rear seat passengers compared to its entry-level saloon. European customers will have to wait a little longer for the Model Y, because Tesla’s current estimates place delivery dates for these regions at the end of summer. When it does eventually arrive in Europe, the Model Y will be priced from around €55,000. Currently, the Fremont facility is churning out Model 3s and Model Ys at a combined rate of 400.000 annual units, but once the company has finished upgrading its production lines, that number is expected to swell to 500.000. Tesla aims to start full construction of the Model Y at its plant in Shanghai later this year, at a capacity of 150.000 annual units. The company is also preparing its European production site in Berlin-Brandenburg, which is set to deliver its first customer vehicles in 2021. In addition, Tesla has tweaked the Model Y’s powertrain and battery pack, increasing the Dual Motor AWD variant’s maximum claimed WLTP range from 450 kilometres to 500 kilometres, giving it an extra 50 kilometres of range over the 62 kWh Hyundai Kona electric. The upgrade means the Model Y has one of the longest claimed ranges of any electric car on the market. Like the Model X, the Model Y offers seating for up to seven, thanks to a pair of stowable seats behind the second row. However, Musk confirmed the extra seating will only be available as an optional extra. Musk claims that the Model Y “will have the functionality of an SUV, but the capability of a sports car”, promising neat handling, thanks to its low-mounted battery pack. It also has a drag coefficient of 0.23, making it more streamlined than a Toyota Prius. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , the government has asked manufacturers including Ford, Honda and Rolls-Royce to help make health equipment including ventilators to cope with the coronavirus outbreak and will look at using hotels as hospitals. Britain, which has reported 35 coronavirus deaths and 1.372 cases, has taken a different approach to some European countries that have imposed stringent lockdowns to try to slow the spread of the disease. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will speak to manufacturers to seek support for the production of “essential medical equipment” for the National Health Service, a spokesman for his Downing Street office said. “He will stress the vital role of Britain’s manufacturers in preparing the country for a significant spread of coronavirus and call on them to step up and support the nationwide effort to fight the virus”, the spokesman said. Hotels will be used as emergency hospitals, retired doctors are being asked to come back to work and some elective surgery is being cancelled. Many countries are trying to buy ventilators, used to keep people with coronavirus alive if they struggle to breathe. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there had been an enthusiastic response to the call for ventilator production. It was, though, not immediately clear how a manufacturer of jet engines or cars could turn to producing specialist medical equipment, which international parts would be needed or what certification would be required. One option could be to adopt defence industry rules which can be used to order certain factories to follow a design to produce a required product quickly. British industry has the capability to do that but is unlikely to make the electronic components that would also be required. Johnson is due to give a news conference later and will also hold a call with major companies. Rolls-Royce, a British engineering company that makes the jet engines for the biggest Boeing and Airbus planes, said it was ready to help in any way it could. Honda, which built just under 110.000 cars at its facility in Swindon in England last year, said it had been asked by the government to explore the feasibility of making ventilators. Ford operates 2 engine factories in Britain, which made just under 1.1 million engines in 2019. A spokesman said it was assessing the situation. 1 of the 2 sites, in Bridgend in Wales, is due to close this year. Peugeot-owned Vauxhall has also been asked to help. With a steep increase in cases expected, Hancock said many hotels were empty and could provided ready-built facilities for looking after people, but an oxygen supply and ventilation equipment would be needed. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN ’s Autoeuropa car assembly plant near Lisbon has reduced its daily output by 16 % because of a shortage of workers after Portugal ordered all schools closed amid the coronavirus outbreak. The plant, which produced 254.600 cars last year, will make 744 units per day, down from its usual output of 890. The company also canceled visits to the plant and restricted meetings with external actors. Drivers bringing parts into the plant will have their temperatures taken at entry. Seven of Autoeuropa’s 5.536 workers have been placed in isolation because of exposure to the virus, but there were no confirmed cases so far, it said. Volkswagen is preparing to suspend operations at its manufacturing plant in Bratislava, the company said, after Slovakia declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak. Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrinim said earlier that there was a potential coronavirus case at the plant, which is the county’s largest private sector employer. VW did not comment on whether that was the case, but said it would begin a shut-down process. “We hoped that the situation regarding the coronavirus would calm down over the weekend, but that did not happen”, Volkswagen Slovakia chairman of the Board Oliver Grunberg said in a statement, commenting on the general spread of the outbreak. Earlier, Slovakia declared a state of emergency to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Slovakia has 61 confirmed coronavirus cases, up 17 from a day earlier. The country has reported no deaths. +++

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