Newsflash: Peugeot overweegt elektrische GTI versie van 208

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+++ BMW said its 2019 operating profit fell 17 % but record demand for high-margin SUVs helped the automaker offset higher research and development spending. Full-year earnings before interest and tax fell to €7.41 billion euros, resulting in an operating margin in its automotive division of 4.9 %, BMW said. Thanks to record sales of 2.5 million vehicles in 2019, BMW said it would propose a divided of €2.50 per common share. Since developing electric vehicles is expensive (research and development costs jumped nearly 12 % last year) BMW is embarking on a cost cutting program that aims to save the automaker more than €12 billion by the end of 2022. As part of this effort, BMW is slashing the development time for new models by as much as a third. More importantly, the automaker confirmed “up to 50 % of traditional drivetrain variants will be eliminated from 2021 onwards in the transition to creating enhanced, intelligent vehicle architectures”. BMW didn’t say which powertrains are on the chopping block, but they appear to be combustion engines as the company noted we can expect additional electrified drivetrains in the future. The transition won’t happen overnight and the company said the “full impact of these measures will come into effect, particularly in the years after 2022”. Besides cutting traditional powertrain options, BMW will continue to access their product portfolio to find potential ways of reducing complexity. That seems to suggest some slow selling models or variants could be eliminated. Despite that, the company is planning an assortment of new models. BMW didn’t go into specifics, but said we can expect vehicles in segments where the “rates of return are highest”. This seems to indicate there are more SUVs on the horizon, potentially the long-rumored X8. While BMW was coy on specifics, the company reiterated their plan to have 25 electrified models by 2023. More than half of them will be electric vehicles such as the iX3, iNext and i4. BMW has high hopes for these upcoming models as the automaker said demand for electrified vehicles is expected to double by 2021. The company then expects a “steep growth curve up to 2025, with sales of electrified vehicles growing on average by more than 30 %” annually. As for the financial results, net profit fell 28.9 % from 2018 to €5 billion last year. Despite that disappointing result, group deliveries were up almost across the board. Rolls-Royce posted its best year ever thanks to strong demand for the Cullinan, while BMW saw a modest increase in demand. Mini was the exception as deliveries fell 4.6 % to 347.474 units. The German automaker’s South Korean unit said it has been emphasizing contactless customer service and strengthening disinfection at its showrooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19. BMW Group Korea has donated 800 million won ($664,000) to the Community Chest of Korea to help fight the coronavirus. +++

 

+++ The conventional diesel and petrol car market in EUROPE is now between the hammer and the anvil, as consumers buy fewer passenger cars and their interest is now more towards electrified models. According to data provided by Jato Dynamics, January 2020 brought a 7.6 % year-over-year decline of new passenger car registrations in Europe, to 1.138,057. That’s the average, as diesel and petrol car demand decreased by 17 % and 12 %, respectively. On the other hand, electrified cars (including hybrids) took a double-digit market share in 19 markets and are growing. “In fact, electrified vehicles provided the only driver of growth for the market in January. They posted a record in volume and market share due to increasing incentives for consumers, greater awareness about the benefits of electrified vehicles, and the growing concern about diesel and petrol cars”. Sales of xEVs (BEVs, PHEVs, HEVs) in 27-markets increased by 72 % year-over-year to 150.100. The market share was 13.3 %, compared to 7.1 % year ago. Full (B)EVs sold 38.600 (up 91 % year-over-year). PHEVs sold 34.200 (up 173 % year-over-year). Normal hybrids sold 71.400 (up 36 % year-over-year). Total plug-ins (BEVs, PHEVs) sold 72,800 (up 36% year-over-year). This comes to a total of 144.200 xEVs (up 69% year-over-year). “All EV types contributed to growth as Hybrids (HEV) increased their volume by 36 %, pure electric (BEV) by 91 % and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) by 173 %. For the first time, the hybrids counted for less than half of total EV registrations. A Jato Dynamics spokesman commented: “Europe demonstrated that the widespread adoption of EVs is increasingly feasible, and will become a likely reality once the cars become more affordable. The penetration of EVs in each market highlights the outstanding performance of these vehicles. They made up 77 % of total car registrations in Norway, 38 % in Sweden and 28 % in Finland. Among the big markets, EVs (normal hybrids included) counted for almost 19 % in France, 14 % in the UK, 12 % in Spain, 10 % in Germany and 8 % in Italy. By brand, these cars represented an important part of the volume registered by Smart (96 %), Lexus and Toyota (95 % and 66 % respectively), DS (42 %), Suzuki (41 %) and Land Rover (37 %). In contrast to this, they made up a significantly smaller proportion of the volume by registered by Citroen (1.4 %), Seat (1.4 %), Ford (3.3 %), Opel (3.9 %), Skoda (4 %) and Volkswagen (5 %)”. +++

 

+++ Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communications technology has the potential to make driving safer and less stressful, so it’s alarming to hear that WiFi signals could interfere with them. FORD ’s executive director of Connected Vehicle and Services wrote the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to tell them their research has shown WiFi signals can cause interference which “prevents our vehicles from being able to instantly communicate with one another, or their surroundings”. Don Butler went on to say “This interference undercuts real-time signals meant to protect pedestrians, prevent crashes, and identify traffic patterns”. In documents submitted to the FFC, Ford noted “In the field tests we observed complete loss of Basic Safety Message reception when interference was turned on and the vehicles were more than 30 meter away from the intersection. This implies that any safety application that relies on V2V communication would fail to produce a timely warning to the driver at speeds greater than 40 km/h”. The issues are unsurprisingly technical, but can be chalked up to wireless spectrum. Back in December, the FFC proposed reallocating some spectrum set aside for V2X technology to expend WiFi.  However, this appears to result in some interfere between the 2. Consumer Reports had been skeptical about the proposed change and the latest development is bringing up serious concerns. As their vice president of advocacy, David Friedman, stated “If you’re going to eliminate more than half of the spectrum dedicated to saving lives, then you really need to have your data, and your ducks in a row”. They’re being supported by the Alliance for Automotive Innovation which released a lengthy paper condemning the FCC’s proposal. It says “The Commission’s proposed band plan fails to ensure that V2X communications are adequately protected from harmful interference, and in so doing, effectively forecloses use of the band for any V2X technology”. The group went on to say “Successful functioning of V2X requires the Basic Safety Message to be transmitted 10 times per second. This constant communication between and among vehicles and infrastructure plays a critical role in reducing motor vehicle crashes. It is essential that the Commission’s rules enable V2X transmissions absent harmful interference”. What happens next remains unclear, but a number of technology companies have been pushing the FCC to follow through with their proposal. However, the new findings could give them pause. +++

+++ The GENESIS G90, a luxury flagship sedan from Hyundai, has been picked as the safest sedan by the US institute that evaluates vehicle safety, the automaker said. According to the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the G90 was designated the Top Safety Pick+, the highest possible honor, becoming the third and last Genesis sedan to earn the designation. In February, the G70 and G80 were also named the Top Safety Pick+. Established in 1959, the US institute rates vehicles based on six criteria for crashworthiness. The Top Safety Pick+ label goes to vehicles that earn a rating of “good” in all 6 categories. Hyundai said the G90 received a “good” rating for its headlights for all trims. It was rated “superior” for its front crash prevention feature and “advanced” for its features to protect pedestrians. +++

+++ HYUNDAI has unveiled a teaser images of its fully revamped Avante compact sedan. The Avante, which is sold as the Elantra in North America, has been fully face-lifted for its release here slated for next month. The sedan is one of Hyundai’s bestselling models, having sold 13.8 million units globally since its launch in 1990. With some premium features like those seen in the latest Grandeur sedan, the Avante comes with integrated headlamps and grille. It boasts a dynamic and voluminous chassis with long horizontal tail lamps in the rear. Inside, a large 10.25 inch touchscreen display offers a more fun and convenient driving experience, providing drivers with safety assistance, navigation and other information. The 7th generation Avante will be unveiled in Los Angeles on March 18 and will start sales in the United States later this year. The Avante, launched in 1990, has sold more than 1.38 million units around the world and has become an important model for Hyundai. The Avante lineup was sometimes known as the Elantra in foreign markets in the past. Korea’s largest automaker said the new Avante follows its design philosophy of “sensuous sportiness” to contain futuristic and dynamic exterior and interior designs. The company applied the same design language to its 8th generation Sonata and the upgraded 6th generation Grandeur sedans, both of which launched last year. A parametric jewel pattern will be printed across the front to replace the grille and headlamps, along with a sharp taillight design. The driver’s seat and connected interior features for the new Avante resemble an airplane cockpit, with a single low, wide line starting at the door and continuing around the console. +++

 

+++ Elon MUSK is expected to defend a $2.2 billion deal in court next week criticized by shareholders as benefiting Musk at the expense of Tesla Inc, and the outcome may depend as much on the chief executive’s temperament as on the facts of the case. The electric vehicle maker’s unconventional CEO has shown two sides in recent court proceedings: one polite and respectful, the other evasive and taunting. It remains to be seen which Musk will show up at a Delaware court, the nation’s leader on corporate issues, when he squares off against union pension funds and asset managers who claim they were misled about the benefits of Tesla buying SolarCity in 2016 for $2.2 billion. Getting it wrong could cost Musk more than $1 billion. “If you seem arrogant in court, you may be signing your own economic death warrant”, said John Coffee, a securities professor at Columbia Law School. This may be particularly true in Delaware’s Court of Chancery, with roots in medieval England and known for its decorum. Smashing corporate norms has come to define Musk, who has a cult-like following for his ambitious vision, battles with short-sellers and disdain for “boring bonehead questions” from analysts. In the Delaware case, shareholders claim SolarCity, a rooftop solar energy company, was secretly on the brink of bankruptcy when Tesla purchased it. They argue the deal benefited Musk, SolarCity’s largest shareholder, his cousins who co-founded the firm, and Tesla directors who owned stakes in SolarCity. Investors want Musk to surrender the 2.2 million shares of Tesla he received in the deal, which are worth about $1.2 billion. Musk has countered that Tesla’s stock has tripled since the deal, demonstrating its value. SolarCity has withered because its staff were redirected toward launching the Model 3, a make-or-break product for Tesla, not because the solar business lacked value, according to Musk. The Tesla directors who approved the deal settled allegations against themselves in January for $60 million, which was paid from insurance. They denied wrongdoing. Musk has dug in his heels. During a June deposition, Musk clashed with shareholder lawyer Randy Baron, calling him “reprehensible”, doubting his emotional well-being and avoiding many questions. He went on tangents about Tesla’s solar potential, lamented both the decline of U.S. manufacturing and the large size of the legal industry and asked Baron if he was only motivated by money. Baron declined to comment. In contrast, at a defamation trial in December, Musk donned a dark suit, spoke softly on the witness stand, and apologized to the cave rescuer who sued Musk for calling him a “pedo guy” on Twitter. Musk portrayed himself as overworked, hounded by critics and earnest in his desire to help in the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. The strategy appeared to pay off when a jury ruled in Musk’s favor and rejected the $190 million claim against him. The SolarCity case will be decided by Vice Chancellor Joseph Slights. The court has its own cult-like following for its scholarly opinions that often run more than 100 pages and which have shaped Corporate America. “The big question is when you get an institution like him and an institution like the Court of Chancery, is it oil and water or is it mutual respect?” said Larry Hamermesh, a professor at Delaware Law School. Executives often struggle with testimony because they think of themselves as the smartest in the room, according to University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Jill Fisch. “That works against them in depositions and is even worse in court. It tends to piss off a judge”, said Fisch. David Murdock, the CEO of Dole Food, went to Delaware to defend his 2013 buyout of the fruit company, and sunk himself with bizarre, rambling and combative testimony. He was ordered to pay former shareholders $148 million. “By dint of his prodigious wealth and power, he has grown accustomed to deference”, wrote the judge, vice chancellor Travis Laster, of Murdock. “That habit serves a witness poorly when he faces a skilled cross-examiner”. +++

 

+++ PEUGEOT could bring back the GTi badge on a future high-performance version of the 208, with the firm’s boss scotching rumours that the sub-brand has been ditched entirely. CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato said that although the GTi badge will always be associated with internal-combustion-engined (ICE) cars, it “remained important” to Peugeot. The firm has recently introduced the Peugeot Sport Engineered (PSE) badge on a hot plug-in hybrid version of the 508, a nameplate that’s set to be used on further performance Peugeot models. The exception to that, though, would be the 208. “GTi has a real sense”, said Imparato. “We are working on what could be the GTi of the future. If one car has it a GTi badge, it would be the 208, even if it’s electric. For the rest, it would be PSE”. The reason to switch to PSE instead of GTi is because “it’s not the same feel as a user: it’s a new performance”, said Imparato. “It’s not ICE and it’s not the same sensations. “The only car that could claim GTi, even if electric, is the 208, if we decide to have such a line with a car like that”. This suggests the electric version of the 208 would be the basis for any GTi hot hatch, much as sibling brand Opel is doing with an all-electric OPC version of the Corsa, which shares its platform with the 208. A concept version may even appear as soon as the Paris motor show in October. The production version of the 508 PSE high-performance plug-in hybrid will definitely be launched in Paris. Imparato said the firm will not be pushing volume sales of that car and will consider sales of between 1.000 and 2.000 units a success. The project is as much about “transforming electric cars” and the perception of them, as Imparato sees “a big opportunity for a line-up of sporty cars” in this mould. Should the 508 PSE be a success, Imparato said the PSE formula could be applied “on the 3008 and other cars”. +++

+++ The labor dispute at RENAULT SAMSUNG could finally be nearing the end. A resolution to Renault Samsung Motors’ monthslong dispute with its labor union may be in sight, as its workers appear to be reaching a consensus to help the automaker gain an edge from selling already-well-received XM3. The management and labor union re-entered negotiations for wage levels and working conditions for last year. The Korean unit of Boulogne-Billancourt, France-based Renault Group has been in a conflict with its workers since last year. The continuing conflict has been focused on wage increases. For 2019, the union has been asking for an 8.01 % increase in base pay, a bonus of 4 million won ($3,400) and a promise for new hires. The unionized workers have been comparing their wage levels to those of 4 other domestic automakers in the country, saying Renault Samsung Motors has refused to pay higher wages despite making net profits in some years. The carmaker increased base pay by a little more than 240,000 won between 2013 and 2019. During the same period, Hyundai and Kia hiked wages by more than 450,000 won each. And despite years of continuing losses, GM Korea and SsangYong Motor both managed to raise their workers’ wages by more than 350.000 won. Still, Renault Samsung’s management is in a comparatively unique position, having to rely on its French parent for contract manufacturing orders and financial support. Workers are paid the most competitive wages among all Renault Group units, a spokesperson for the automaker said, including its French headquarters. Renault Samsung Motors has been refusing to raise its base wage level amid losses due to weak sales and the loss of contract production orders. In 2019, Renault Samsung Motors sold a total of 90.591 cars, down 34 % from 137.208 posted a year earlier. Following the end of its manufacturing contract with Nissan for the X-Trail last year, Renault Samsung has been asking Renault Group to assign some orders to be processed at the Busan factory. But the spokesperson said the French parent has been reluctant to give out any, as higher wages for Busan plant workers could threaten the cost competitiveness of units produced at the Korean plant. That gaping distance between the two sides’ perspectives has for months hampered any chances of finding a middle ground. But the situation recently took a drastic turn, as the company appears to be staging a significant comeback with the XM3 that was launched Monday. The automaker already logged 8.542 orders for the compact SUV during presales, and the model has already received positive reviews. As the SUV’s popularity and potential profitability have become apparent, Renault Samsung Motors workers have been coming to an agreement that they should be working together to ensure a smooth rollout of the XM3. Many within the union are indicating that by giving in on some of their demands for higher wages in 2019, the automaker may be able to attract contract production orders from the French parent company this year as well. Hard-line labor actions have also been losing popularity among the union-represented workers, with the participation rate for partial strikes falling as low as 33 percent in December. That waning enthusiasm for aggressive moves has also weakened the argument of some union members who have been pushing to register the labor union under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, one of the two major umbrella labor groups in Korea. The union announced that it will postpone its internal discussion on whether to join the umbrella group, after a number of union leaders objected to the move through a statement earlier in the day. +++

+++ TESLA has ordered about 30 U.S. employees back home because of rising fears about the spread of the coronavirus in Germany. The Americans have started their return from Berlin, where they have been working on the electric car maker’s first factory in Europe. Tesla said the move will not affect the start of construction of its plant in Grünheide, near Germany’s capitol. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. will significantly limit travel from Europe for 30 days. That is a blow to Tesla boss Elon Musk, who is racing to transform a remote wooded lot into the home of a state-of-the-art car factory in less than 2 years. The development is valued at an estimated €4 billion. When complete, the Tesla factory is expected to employ up to 12.000 people and churn out batteries, powertrains and vehicles, including the Model Y crossover, the Model 3 and future cars too, according to company filings. The output is forecast to reach up to 500.000 vehicles a year. +++

+++ At this point, it is extremely unlikely that the car industry in the UNITED STATES won’t feel the impact of this coronavirus outbreak, with Michigan officials recently announcing the state’s first 2 cases of what is now a global pandemic. It is now a matter of when, not if U.S. car operations will be affected, seen as how Michigan-based factories account for at least 17 % of America’s entire automotive output. “I don’t see anybody coming out unscathed”, stated Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research. “Everybody’s going to be impacted. It’s to what degree and how much they’ve been able to mitigate the risks since we’ve known about this over the last months”. This current crisis is ongoing and its effects were felt across the entire United States in past days, as the Dow dropped 1.400 points after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “global pandemic”. Meanwhile, GM, Ford and Tesla stock have dropped between 17 % and 18 % since the beginning of the month. “Right now, we’re in the very early stages, but there are certain pockets in the U.S. that are heavily impacted, and manufacturing will come to a halt if that spreads”, added Dziczek. “New vehicles are a large discretionary purchase that most people can put off if they’re feeling uncertain about the economy, their income and health”. Research firm LMC Automotive has dropped its 2020 global light-duty vehicle sales forecast by 4 %, or 3.7 million units due to market uncertainty caused by the outbreak. “The impact of COVID-19 on the auto industry has gone well beyond the initial focal point of China, resulting in downward forecast revisions across most major markets”, said LMC exec Jonathon Poskitt. “We are still in the early stages of understanding the full impact but expect it to get worse before it gets better”. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has started making comparisons between its upcoming ID.3 electric model and comparable ICE models like their own Golf, claiming that their EV is not only cheaper to run but it’s also more affordable too. According to the company, the base version of the ID.3 (the one with the 45 kWh battery pack and 330 km of WLTP range) will be priced from €23,430 in Germany after applying the local environmental subsidy, making it cheaper to buy than a Golf 1.5 TSI 130 hp or a Golf 2.0 TDI 115 hp in the country. Germany is currently offering an environmental grant (Umweltbonus), subsidizing EVs up to a list price of €47,600 with €6,570, while EVs with a base price of up to €77,600 receive the lower €5,570 bonus. That means that prices for the new ID.3 in its home market will start from a round €30,000, before subsidies. The ID.3 Pro, which offers a longer driving range of 420 km courtesy of a larger 58 kWh battery, will also be priced at under €35,000 before subsidies, making it even cheaper than its predecessor, the e-Golf. The ID.3 is arguable the most important new model for VW, with the German carmaker working hard to bring their first dedicated series-production model to the market. In addition to achieving a lower base price from the comparable Golf models, Volswagen calculates that the ID.3 will be cheaper to run by €70 euros on a monthly basis than a comparable combustion car in Germany, leading to savings of up to €840 per year. The new ID.3 will also be cheaper to insure in Germany and to maintain, as it will need to be inspected every two years regardless of mileage. Volkswagen will launch the new ID.3 in the European market in the late summer, which is later than originally announced. It will be focusing on delivering the 30,000 pre-booked First Edition models to customers. +++

 

+++ VOLVO decided to build its first full-electric car in Ghent, Belgium, for a good reason. It is the most flexible factory in the automaker’s global network. Longtime Ghent executives such as Geert Willems, who heads final assembly, helped the plant earn that distinction. How? By making 3 cars on 3 different platforms. That happened from 2018 until mid-2019 when the V40, underpinned by former owner Ford’s EUCD architecture, was built alongside XC40s and V60s using Volvo’s CMA and SPA platforms, respectively. This was quite a feat considering that every other Volvo plant in the world makes either CMA or SPA based models. Adding to the complexity: Since 2017 Ghent has been building plug-in hybrid versions of Volvo’s cars. That started with EUCD-based versions of the old-generation V60, which was discontinued in 2018, and restarted with the XC40 last December. Today, 1 out of every 9 cars assembled at Ghent is a plug-in hybrid. V40 production finished in the middle of last year, but when those 3 cars off 3 platforms were rolling through the plant it was Willems’ team that made sure the cars were customer-ready. He told his 4-person squads had 3 minutes to complete a combined 300 to 350 checks on each vehicle. About 90 % of the XC40s and V60s pass all the checks, he said. The next challenge for Willems, who has worked at Ghent for 24 years, comes in May when production of mild hybrid variants of both the XC40 and V60 start. That will be followed by an even tougher test: assembly of the full-electric XC40 Recharge starts in September. Willems said he welcomes the challenge because for more than 2 decades no 2 workdays have been alike, which is exactly how he likes it. +++

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