Newsflash: Porsche werkt aan RS versie van Cayman GT4

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+++ Automotive parts supplier Continental has introduced its first 3D INSTRUMENT CLUSTER . The dials have been launched in the top-of-the-line variant of the Genesis GV80 and feature revolutionary tech that aims to improve safety behind the wheel. The parallax barriers, which divide the way in which the image reaches the left and right eye, create the three-dimensional picture, displaying scales, pointers and objects, including a stop sign in the driver’s line of sight. Furthermore, the users’ line of sight is detected using an interior camera, while the 3D views are adjusted to the precise head position. Drivers will be encouraged to keep their eyes on the road, and preventing this is the attention detection system implemented alongside the camera, which identifies distraction or fatigue and warns the driver. The system has been developed to be easy on the eye and not overload drivers with unnecessary information. “With our volume-production display featuring autostereoscopic 3D technology, we are raising human-machine interaction to a whole new level and laying the foundations for intuitive communication in the connected cockpit of tomorrow”, explained Continental’s chief of the Human Machine Interface, Frank Rabe. “To ensure that this gain in safety and comfort does not come at the expense of a lean electronics architecture, we integrated various displays in the center console or dashboard into our Cross Domain Hub”. The technology company is working on the digital dials and infotainment systems of the future, which will further integrate the human-machine interface into a single unit. Drivers will be able to use gesture controls and to drag maps from the front passenger’s display onto their screen, positioning them wherever they want. The system is designed for automated driving and merges across the entire width of the dashboard, revealing critical information, as well as different services and apps. Second-row passengers will also enjoy the 3D experience without needing glasses, as Continental is also developing a 3D display based on the natural 3D Lightfield Technology from Leia, a Silicon Valley company. Production of the system is planned to commence in 2022 and will be part of the connected car of tomorrow. Set to arrive at American dealers this summer, the Genesis GV80 will start at $48.900 with a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine making roughly 300 hp, paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. The AWD system will be a $5.750 option and customers will also get to choose from 3 trim levels. A 375 hp 3.5-liter V6 will also bed launched. +++ 

+++ AUDI has a refreshed Q5 on the way, expected to hit dealerships late this summer depending on how the industry recovers from the current turmoil. Ingolstadt carmaker’s best-selling SUV in the U.S. (moving nearly 70,000 units last year) will get another sales tool and segment competitor with a Q5 Sportback version. The point of a more coupe-like Q5 will be to square up a challenger to the likes of the BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe. And while the move could be considered overdue (the X4 debuted 6 years ago) it’s not the novelty it might seem. The U.S. market had just one Sportback model, the A5, until the e-Tron Sportback arrived this year. In Germany however, almost every odd-numbered Audi has a Sportback version and every A7 is called a Sportback. Camouflaged prototypes of the refreshed 2021 Q5 have prowled roads here since at least last summer, showing changes limited to the front and rear fascias that mimic the refreshed A4. The Q5’s more expressive face goes with a reworked hexagonal grille and sharp-cornered LED headlights, plus smaller intakes. In back, taillights show off a new pattern above a mildly revised bumper and diffuser treatment. Inside, a revised infotainment setup could yield a taller touchscreen and omit the touchpad. A Q5 Sportback would get all of that and will hit dealerships in the spring of 2021. There’ll be a €2.000 price difference, which would slot the model under the X4 and GLC prices. After the Q5 Sportback drops, the long awaited Q4 e-Tron should show “in the near future”. +++ 

+++ BMW said its pretax profit and vehicle deliveries will drop significantly this year as corona virus spreads, and combined with higher research and development spending this will lower the profit margin in its automotive segment. The Munich-based carmaker said it is preparing to suspend production at its plants in Rosslyn, South Africa and in Europe until April 19, responding to lower demand and as a way to help reduce risk of contagion. The plant shutdown will start at the end of the week. BMW said the current uncertainty regarding the global spread and effects of coronavirus makes it difficult to provide an accurate forecast for 2020 but it expected lower delivery volumes in all major markets in 2020. “Group profit before tax is expected to be significantly lower than in 2019”, BMW said in a statement. Based on the latest forecast, the profitmargin of the Automotive segment is therefore expected to lie within a range of between 2 % and 4 %. BMW said it will invest €30 billion on research and development until 2025 so it can bring next-generation electric and hybrid vehicles to market. The next 7-series will be available as a fully electric car. Earlier this month, BMW said higher research and development spending and manufacturing costs had caused earnings before interest and tax to drop 17 % to €7.4 billion in 2019. As a result, the operating margin in its automotive division fell to 4.9 % last year, from 7.2 % in 2018. As said, BMW has confirmed that the next-generation of its 7-series will feature 4 drivetrains: petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and, for the first time, a fully electric version. Revealed by chairman of the board Oliver Zipse, it means Mercedes will have another core battery-powered rival for its EQ S alongside the new Jaguar XJ. “All 7-series drivetrains will be based on a single architecture”, Zipse said. “And the top, most powerful 7-series will be fully electric”. This means it is likely BMW will ditch the twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 found in today’s flagship M760Li. That car puts out 608 hp and 800 Nm, resulting in a 0-100 kph time of 3.7 seconds. Given that model’s kerbweight is already nearly 2.2 tonnes, expect a high-powered electric 7 to be at least 2.5 tonnes once a large lithium ion battery pack is packaged into it. With the current generation car due to go out of production in 2022, we can expect to see a new 7-series in the same year, although it’s not clear which powertrains will go on sale first. BMW’s strategy, Zipse says, means that “different drive technologies will coexist alongside one another into the long-term”. Alongside the 7 Series, this year we will see the X3 available with 4 drivetrain veriants including the new, all-electric iX3 (set to be produced in China this year and exported) alongside the i4 and 4 Series Gran Coupe. BMW aims to have a quarter of its new vehicle fleet electrified by 2021, a third by 2025, and 50% by 2030. In January and February this year one in ten of its vehicles sold were electrified in some way, while the brand leads the electrified car market in Germany with a share of 21 %. +++ 

+++ In Central CHINA ‘s Wuhan, an industrial base and epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, has allowed car producers and automobile part companies to resume work, a Hubei provincial official said. Such enterprises in Hubei are of great significance to the global industry chain and could not afford further delays in the resumption of operation, said Cao Guangjing, deputy governor of Hubei where Wuhan is the capital, at a press conference. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER , which owns the Mercedes-Benz luxury car brand, said it will suspend most of its production in Europe for 2 weeks in an effort to contain the spread of the new corona virus. “The suspension applies to Daimler’s car, van and commercial vehicle plants in Europe and will start this week”, the Stuttgart-based carmaker said. Global supply chains currently cannot be maintained to their full extent, it said adding that due to the ongoing spread of Covid-19 the economic effects on Daimler cannot be adequately determined or reliably quantified at this time. “With these closures, Daimler is helping to protect its workforce, to interrupt chains of infection and to contain the spread of the pandemic”. the company said. +++ 

+++ The DS 9 saloon will be vital in establishing the PSA Group firm as a true premium brand, according to new boss Beatrice Foucher. The recently revealed car will take on the Audi A4 and Volvo S60 when it goes on sale in 2021, and Foucher said it was vital for the growing DS marque to offer a car in the executive saloon segment. DS was created as a spin-off company from fellow PSA firm Citroën, with the intention of creating a French brand to take on the upmarket premium market dominated by German firms such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The firm is steadily building a bespoke range of machines, such as the 3 Crossback and the 7 Crossback. The 9 saloon will be the next bespoke model to launch, and will be particularly vital in helping build the brand in China, where premium saloons are hugely popular. “The 9 is a big saloon, and exhibits all the technology and powertrains from the PSA Group, and some technology exclusive to DS”, said Foucher. “The segment share of this type of car remains high, representing around 25 % of cars sold in the large premium car market in Europe. It’s still a really important segment. Having this type of car that embraces technology and has power, control and elegance is the real sign of a premium brand, and it has been acknowledged as a very elegant car based on early feedback. To be recognised as a premium brand you absolutely have to have a premium saloon in your line-up. The best way to provide comfort is to encourage people to drive or be driven in a saloon. Our customers still want to drive, and they want to drive this type of car”.The DS range will eventually grow to 6 models and the 9 saloon is set to be followed by a 4 mid-size hatchback. +++ 

+++ FORD has become the latest major car manufacturer to announce it is suspending production at its European sites as a result of the Corona virus outbreak. In a statement, the company confirmed that it closed doors to all but maintenance and security employees at its Valencia body and engine manufacturing plant, after 3 employees based at the site tested positive for the Covid-19 disease. Ford of Europe will follow this up by “temporarily suspending” vehicle and engine production at the rest of its European plants, with the closures anticipated to last for a number of weeks. “While the impact of coronavirus at our facilities so far has been limited thankfully, its effects on our employees, dealers, suppliers and customers, as well as European society as a whole, is unprecedented”, said Stuart Rowley, president Ford of Europe. “Due to the dramatic impact this ongoing crisis is having on the European market and the supplier industry (together with the recent actions by countries to restrict all but essential travel and personal contact) we are temporarily halting production at our main continental Europe manufacturing sites”. Manufacturing at Ford of Europe headquarters in Cologne will be suspended, as will the company’s other German plant in Saarlouis and its Romanian plant. Ford has confirmed that supplies to these sites have become increasingly interrupted during the outbreak, while declining sales of vehicles means that some dealerships in Europe will need to temporarily close down. +++ 

+++ In FRANCE , Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said he will meet the heads of French carmakers Renault and PSA to discuss how to help the sector, as production ground to a standstill in Europe due to the coronavirus. Auto companies worldwide have been hit hard by the health crisis, first as production stalled in China, where the virus originated from, and now it spreads in Europe, where some governments are ordering unprecedented lockdowns to contain it. PSA said it would close it European factories until March 27, while Renault has suspended industrial activity in France and Spain until further notice. “Today I will talk to the heads of Renault and PSA as the car sector has come to a halt”, Le Maire told. He said that the meeting was aimed at “making sure second-rank subcontractors are treated fairly”. Tyre maker Michelin has closed its factories in Spain, Italy and France for at least a week, and the car firms work with many smaller suppliers too. Le Maire also evoked potentially major steps including state bailouts, saying the government had a range of tools at its disposal, including nationalization, to insure the survival of large companies. He did not say which firms he had in mind. “The situation is extremely clear. It is out of the question to see big French companies, industrial icons disappear”, he said. “If to protect our national industrial heritage, we have to resort to nationalization, we are prepared to go that far”, he added. The corona virus crisis has caught carmakers at a fragile time, as many were already grappling with a slump in demand in big markets like China and have invested massively in innovations like less polluting cars. Renault, in which the French government has a 15 % stake, had in February flagged an extra €2 billion in cost cuts over the next 3 years after posting its first loss in a decade. The company had at that stage stressed that it had no issues with cash availability. Its debt rating was also downgraded to “junk” status by Moody’s. PSA, which is in the middle of merging with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), fared better in its recent results, with profitability reaching a record high in 2019 as it focused on pricier models. France’s automotive industry federation said it has asked the government for a much broader support package than measures already announced to counter the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on car sales. This could include state incentives to purchase electric cars and massive investment in recharging infrastructure, it said. +++ 

+++ The European auto industry is in a dark place right now after the coronavirus forced the temporary closure of many factories. In China, however, life is returning to some sort of normality and the steps taken by GEELY to get back on its feet give us a look at how that might be achieved for European automakers. In line with Chinese government rules designed to stop the rapid spread of coronavirus, Geely extended the New Year holiday from January 26 to February 10. Those who could work, worked from home. But from February 10, some of the 6.000 employees who work at its headquarters in Hangzhou, south east of Shanghai, were allowed back. A week later that number was increased again and by February 25 the headquarters was fully staffed once more. All its vehicle factories are now running again, albeit working on a single shift while sales recover, a spokesman said. So how did Geely achieve this? As the company details in a fascinating blog post, by very careful monitoring of employee health and by obsessive sanitizing. To get on site, employees have to pass through a tent in which a special camera has been set up to scan temperature. A nearby screen shows a heat-map of your body. Too hot equals potential fever and “anyone with a fever must be sent to isolation and medical teams alerted”, the company says. Employees’ temperatures are also checked twice a day while at work, sometimes with hand-held monitors that are passed close to your face. They are meant to be smart enough to detect the difference between a fever and breaking sweat from running up the stairs. Some experts have questioned the reliability of temperature checks in rooting out the infected, but in case anyone with Covid 19 does get through, Geely goes to war on germs too. Cars have to drive over sanitized mats that “remove bacteria from the underside of the vehicle”, and when parked the door handles are sanitized by “security teams”. Inside the rules are similarly strict. Hand sanitizer bottles are placed at the entrance and throughout the building. An initial ban on widespread elevator use was lifted after restrictions were placed on the numbers allowed in. Tissues and hand sanitizer bottles are placed near the buttons for those doing the pressing. The precautions continue. “Once in the headquarters all employees are given new face masks every eight hours and are encouraged to keep their mouth and nose covered at all times”, the blog goes on. Large meetings are forbidden. A lunch, employees must stand a meter apart while queuing to use the office microwaves. Life is certainly more restrictive in China whether in or outside the workplace. A color-coded app developed by digital payment provider Alipay shows green if you are healthy enough to be allowed to travel freely, or yellow or red if not. “Subway guards ask for your Alipay green card to show you’re healthy”, Ash Sutcliffe, PR manager for Geely, wrote. But he says that life is back to “90 % normal”, at least in in Hangzhou. “Don’t worry, it gets better”, he told. +++ 

+++ Testing of the upcoming MERCEDES-AMG GT 73 Plug-In Hybrid continues in the snowy conditions of Northern Europe. Viewed from the front, key standouts are the large Panamericana grille and huge air intakes. Elsewhere, the bodywork of the GT 73 all looks the same as the GT 63, until you come to the rear bumper. While the bumper is shrouded in camouflage, there is one important thing it is hiding; the charging port. The port is well hidden in the rear bumper, just below the left taillight. This explains the lack of a charging port in either a front or rear quarter panel, like many other plug-in hybrids. Late last year, Mercedes-AMG dropped a teaser video showing a vehicle accelerating away from the camera and believed to be a GT 73 prototype. The vehicle will be positioned as a rival to the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo and offer performance beyond the current range-topping GT 63 S. While unconfirmed, all indications point towards the GT 73 combining the marque’s familiar 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine with a rear-mounted electric motor and all-wheel drive. All up, the sedan is expected to churn out 805 hp and should hit 100 km/h in less than 3 seconds. The car will also be capable of driving for a limited distance on electric power alone. Mercedes-AMG will likely unveil the GT 73 Plug-In Hybrid before the end of the year. +++ 

+++ Self-driving startup MOMENTA has announced a strategic cooperation with Toyota to provide automated high-definition mapping and updates through camera-based technologies. With this joint development, both companies aim to promote the commercialization of Toyota’s automated mapping platform in China to better serve local customers, Beijing-based Momenta said in a statement. Momenta said its solution can automatically generate HD maps with 10 centimeter-level relative accuracy by using cutting-edge technologies. The map can help autonomous vehicles identify physical objects like traffic signs and lane borders, and help them make decisions while running on the road, according to Momenta. The reliable map is available for large-scale cost-effective commercial application, it said. Momenta’s strategy is to pursue both mass-production passenger vehicles and full autonomy for mobility service vehicles. “We are confident cooperation with Toyota will play an important role in this strategy”, it said. In 2017, a year after its establishment, Momenta received investment from Daimler. It was Daimler’s first-ever investment in a Chinese startup. The autonomous driving startup has raised investment of $200 million by 2018. Its valuation exceeded $1 billion after several rounds of financing. +++ 

+++ Cash-strapped Chinese electric vehicle maker NIO said there was substantial doubt in its ability to continue as a going concern, sending its shares down 12 % in premarket trading. The carmaker, seen as a challenger to Tesla, has been hurt by dwindling demand and reduced government subsidies for electric vehicles in China, the world’s largest car market. The coronavirus outbreak has exacerbated the company’s woes this year, disrupting production and delivery of its cars. Its cash balance of $151.7 million as of December 31 is not adequate to provide the required working capital and liquidity for continuous operation in the next 12 months, the company said in a statement. Last month, it signed here framework agreements with Hefei’s city government to raise more than 10 billion yuan and set up new manufacturing facilities. “The parties are working on the legally binding definitive documents to be signed”, Nio founder and chief executive officer William Bin Li said. The company also made several private placements of convertible notes in February and March for an aggregate principal amount of $435 million to support its operations and business development. Vehicle sales in China fell 18 % in January while sales of battery electric and other so-called new energy vehicles plunged 54.4 %, preliminary data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) showed. +++ 

+++ NISSAN will pull out of local production in Indonesia due to falling vehicle sales in the country, a source close to the matter said. The third-largest carmaker in Japan already halted production in January in the Southeast Asian country, including the construction of vehicles for emerging markets under the Datsun brand. The decision to withdraw from vehicle production in Indonesia is part of restructuring measures the automaker is taking to cut costs amid a deterioration in earnings, the source said. Nissan is especially feeling the pinch because its current crisis has been exacerbated by the arrest of its former boss Carlos Ghosn and his escape to Lebanon. Nissan plans to continue vehicle sales in Indonesia while considering to use the Indonesian plant to produce engines for Mitsubishi. Carmakers worldwide are struggling to find new ways to do business as car sales decline amid changing lifestyles. The ongoing Covid-19 outbreak is also adding fuel to the fire, causing disruptions in global supply chains. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE is again testing what appears to be a hardcore ‘RS’ version of its latest 718 Cayman GT4, as a test mule has been seen undergoing winter testing. The testing prototype sports notable bodywork additions. At the front, there is a Naca bonnet air ducts similar to those on the 911 GT2 RS, while the rear quarter windows have been replaced by slatted cooling vents. It will get wheels with a motorsport-inspired centre-lock mechanism that hints at the car’s track potential. The man in charge of the 718 and 911, Frank-Steffen Walliser, told at the Frankfurt motor show last year that he would “definitely” like to see a faster and even more focused RS version of the new 718 Cayman GT4 but that the decision hinges on prioritising development resources within Porsche. “Everybody’s asking for the RS”, Walliser told. “Can I imagine a GT4 RS? Sure I can. That’s not to say we will make a decision on it yet, as it is a challenge. Would I like such a car? Yes, definitely! Would I like more horses? Yes. But we need to put the resources where the market is; it would be a lot more expensive than the normal one”. Porsche has never made a GT4 RS, previously suggesting such a model would be too close in price and performance to 911 GT models. But the new 4.0-litre flat-6 found in the latest GT4 forms part of an all-new engine family, and it’s expected that Porsche will spin off further variants of that unit to justify the investment. It’s understood that the brand is looking to reintroduce the flat-6 to more mainstream Cayman and Boxster variants as part of a facelift. Although Walliser would only confirm that Porsche has “started the thinking process” on this, he acknowledged that the US market has been less welcoming of the current 4-cylinder models than hoped. “American customers aren’t asking for 4-cylinders, they’re asking for 4-litres”, he said. Walliser also discussed the idea of electric 718 models. He claimed that if the official go-ahead was given, he “wouldn’t like to change the character of the car, and the price point; we need to have an entry-level car as 718 buyers often step up to a 911”. He continued: “Priority number one is to keep the character of the car: not making a big car, not making it heavy, but this is very tricky. And it’s a relatively small-volume car, so we maybe can’t do a separate platform”. Porsche definitely won’t be joining the glut of newly launched electric hypercars with its own take on the formula, however; for the time being, at least. Pouring water on the claims made by manufacturers such as Rimac and Lotus, Walliser said: “We’ve seen a lot of studies of electric hypercars. For me, the proof is when it’s on the street with a licence plate. Does an EV hypercar work? It’s like saying to me that a drag racer is a suitable sports car. For sure it’s perfect from 0-100, but to make it usable and do several laps of the Nürburgring wouldn’t work with the technology at its current state”. Walliser did welcome the idea of using hybrid technology to extend the life of Porsche’s widely celebrated naturally aspirated GT engines. “A hybrid for sure with a normally aspirated engine works well together”, he said. “The low-rev electric motor torque and high-revving normally aspirated engines fit perfectly. It could help to keep a normally aspirated engine to survive, and we’re very motivated to do so”. +++ 

+++ ROLLS-ROYCE said it would suspend production at its British plant for 2 weeks to ensure the health of its employees. “In order to further secure the health and welfare of the employees of the company this suspension will be followed by an already-planned two-week Easter maintenance shutdown”, a spokesman said. +++ 

+++ SELF DRIVING TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES , including Waymo, Cruise and Uber, have suspended autonomous car testing that involves backup drivers, joining corporate America to try and contain the spread of the coronavirus. Alphabet unit Waymo said it was temporarily suspending robotaxi services in Phoenix that require a backup driver, but added that fully automated services would continue. Waymo also said it was pausing self-driving tests in California, where 65 companies have active permits for autonomous tests with backup drivers. “The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has been in contact with AV testing permit holders and there is every indication that they are adhering to federal, state and local public health recommendations”, a spokesman for California’s DMV said. General Motors unit Cruise said it had suspended operations and closed all San Francisco facilities for 3 weeks. The test operators will be fully-paid for any days they would have worked during this period, said Arden Hoffman, chief people officer at Cruise. Argo, a unit of Ford, said it had paused its vehicle testing operations, but added it has not experienced any significant impact due to the coronavirus. “Removing the human driver holds great promise for not only making our roads safer, but for helping our riders stay healthy in these uncertain times”, Waymo said. Toyota-backed Pony.ai said it had paused its public robotaxi service in Fremont and Irvine for 3 weeks, but the company is testing cars in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Guangzhou. Ride hailing company Uber Technologies also said it would temporarily halt its test track and on-road track testing of self-driving vehicles for the time being. +++ 

+++ Carmakers in SOUTH KOREA are likely to post poor earnings results for the first quarter due to the escalating fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, analysts said. The country’s 5 carmakers (Hyundai, Kia, GM Korea, Renault Samsung and SsangYong) have already suffered several weeks of output disruptions after suppliers in China halted production amid the spread of Covid-19. The coronavirus pandemic prompted many countries to impose restrictions on public movement, which analysts said would hurt vehicle sales in global markets. “In particular, lower demand in the United States and Europe due to the spreading coronavirus outbreak will have a major impact on Korean carmakers in the first quarter”, Kwon Soon-woo, an analyst at SK Securities, said. Declining oil prices will also squeeze vehicle demand in oil-rich emerging markets such as Russia, Brazil and the Middle East, the analyst said. Confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 182.000 around the world, with the death toll exceeding 7.100. Some brokerages recently revised down Hyundai and Kia’s global sales outlooks and their target stock prices. Korea Investment & Securities said the country’s 2 biggest carmakers will not achieve their sales targets for this year. “The coronavirus is pouring cold water on Hyundai and Kia, which aim to boost sales in the U.S. and other major markets this year with a set of new vehicles”, Kim Jin-woo, an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities, said. The new models include the GV80 and G80 to be launched under Hyundai’s independent Genesis brand, Hyundai’s Tucson and Kia’s Sportage and Carnival to be released in the second half. Hyundai and Kia sold a combined 7.19 million autos in global markets last year, missing their annual sales target of 7.55 million units on lower demand in China, the world’s biggest automobile market. In 2020, they are aiming to sell 7.54 million autos by launching a series of fully revamped models in major markets. The brokerage expected Hyundai and Kia to sell a combined 7 million units this year, while revising down Hyundai’s 12-month target price to 150.000 won from 185.000 won and Kia’s to 42.000 from 50.000 won. In the past week, Hyundai shares plunged 21 % to 87.200 won and Kia stocks plummeted 22 % to 27.100 won, underperforming the broader 16 % loss. For the October-December quarter, Hyundai posted a net profit of 851.2 billion won ($730 million), shifting from a net loss of 203.3 billion won a year earlier on an improved product mix and a weak won. Kia’s net profit more than tripled to 346.4 billion won from 94.3 billion won during the same period. The 3 other carmakers are also expected to report earnings results that are worse than previously anticipated in the first quarter, as they are heavily reliant on overseas demand. SsangYong’s net losses deepened to 155.9 billion won in the 4th quarter from 4 billion won a year earlier due to weaker demand for its models. GM Korea and Renault Samsung are not listed on the stock exchange. Their sales in the 4th quarter continued to fall due to a lack of new models and lower demand for their existing vehicles. +++ 

+++ Alameda County in California has clarified that TESLA isn’t an “essential business”, ordering the EV maker to limit its Fremont factory down to the “minimum basic operations”. The news come one day after Tesla and Elon Musk told employees that Fremont would continue its operations as normal despite the shelter-in-place lockdown order issued by the county, asking workers who feel ill “or even uncomfortable” to not come to work. The clarification means that Tesla will now have to shut down manufacturing and deliveries from Fremont, which employs more than 10.000 workers, for the duration of the order. “Tesla is not an essential business as defined in the Alameda County Health Order. Tesla can maintain minimum basic operations per the Alameda County Health Order”, the Alameda County Sheriff said. Alameda is 1 of the at least 9 counties covered by the shelter-in-place lockdown order, which limits travel and business activities down to the most essential and advises the public to stay home in a bid to control and limit the coronavirus outbreak. Under the lockdown, Tesla’s Fremont factory would be limited down to the minimum basic operations, including maintaining the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits. The order hits Tesla’s only US factory in the middle of a production ramp-up of the new Model Y, which is expected to see higher demand than all of the other Tesla models combined. Tesla was forced to shut down its factory in Shanghai, China for 10 days earlier this year. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA said it planned to stop output at more vehicles plants in Europe and Asia as the spread of the coronavirus prompts countries to instruct non-essential businesses to suspend operations. In a statement, the Japanese automaker said it had stopped operations at plants in Britain and Poland from Wednesday, while its Czech site would be halted on Thursday. Operations at its Turkey site would be suspended from Saturday. Its plant in the Philippines has stopped operations through mid-April, while its plant in Malaysia will be closed from next Monday through the end of March. U.S. plant operations have not been affected so far, it said. In a statement, Toyota said the decisions were “based on the safety and security of our employees and stakeholders and in consideration of those currently dealing with this outbreak”. It added that the decisions were based on guidance from authorities in each affected country. The firm added: “With the acceleration of the coronavirus in various European countries or regions and the associated ‘lock-down’ measures taken by various national and regional authorities, an uncertain short-term sales outlook and difficulties in logistics and supply chains are being felt and will increase in the next weeks”. The Burnaston car plant in Derbyshire currently produces the new Corolla, while the Deeside, Flintshire facility produces engines. Toyota’s plant in Onnaing, France, has already halted production. The firm notes that processes deemed “important for society”, such as the continued provision of service parts, will continue. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED STATES , labor union UAW president Rory Gamble has called on Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors to shutter factories to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In an open letter, Gamble called on automakers to put the safety and well-being of their employees first. As he explained, “The UAW leadership, based on the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on how to protect ourselves and our communities, requested a 2-week shutdown of operations to safeguard our members, our families and our communities”. Gamble went on to say the union feels “very strongly” about this and considers a shutdown to be the “most responsible course of action”. However, the automakers were “not willing to implement this request” and instead asked for 48 hours to develop a plan to keep employees safe from the pandemic. The UAW granted them the 48 hour window and said they’ll review the proposals at a meeting this evening. However, Gamble stressed if the UAW is “not satisfied that our members will be protected, we will take this conversation to the next level”. That’s pretty threatening language and Gamble went on to say “These companies will be put on notice that the UAW will use any and all measures to protect our brothers and sisters who are working in their facilities”. The union went on to say they have “powerful allies” including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell. The threat is open-ended, but it’s not hard to imagine the union calling for a sickout or a work stoppage. The reference to Governor Whitmer is also interesting as the union could try to pressure her to sign an executive order that applies to automakers. Despite allegations from president Trump, Whitmer has been actively fighting the spread of the coronavirus. On March 10th, she declared a state of emergency and have been rolling out new initiatives since them. They include the closure of all K-12 schools, a temporary ban on large gatherings and the closure of restaurants, bars, movie theaters, fitness centers and other such facilities. In other news, the UAW confirmed one of its members from the GM Warren Tech Center tested positive for the coronavirus. The union said they’re working with GM to inform any other members who should be in quarantine from the potential expose. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN ’s key namesake brand warned of supply chain disruptions due to the spread of the coronavirus. “Given the increasingly challenging and dynamic situation for suppliers and in terms of logistics, it is no longer possible to continually provide factories with a stable supply”, the division said in a statement, adding that there are signs of declining sales in Europe. “Therefore, the Volkswagen brand will suspend production at European factories initially for an estimated ten business days”, it said. The Volkswagen Group warned underlying profit in the 3 months to March would likely decline steeply as the coronavirus spreads throughout the carmaker’s core European market. Volkswagen earlier had effectively withdrawn its guidance for 2020 that previously called for largely stable group retail volumes, a slight increase in revenue and an operating return on sales of 6.5 % to 7.5 %. Finance chief Frank Witter told that it was “almost impossible to make a reliable forecast”, as the duration or the severity of the outbreak remained unclear. “The forecast for first quarter profit is extremely difficult but if I may give you a indication: we had a very strong first quarter with a profit of roughly €4.8 billion and a corresponding margin of 8.1 %. I would expect that will at least halve roughly speaking”, he said. Volkswagen said sales were beginning to pick up in China, with demand slowly normalizing after volumes in its largest market plunged 74 % in February. VW however does account the proportional profits from its 2 main Chinese joint ventures in its EBIT line. Their results are only captured lower down the profit statement as part of the group’s equity income as VW does not have majority control. VW said it is suspending production at factories across Europe as the coronavirus pandemic hits sales and disrupts supply chains. Only last month Volkswagen had predicted that vehicle deliveries this year would be stable at 2019 levels and forecast an operating return on sales in the range of 6.5 % to 7.5 % in 2020, but said this depended on external factors. Only last month Volkswagen had issued its 2020 guidance, but in the meantime the Geneva auto show was canceled, equity markets took an unprecedented dive and Germany shut down all non-essential business activity and even barred church services. VW Group said its full-year operating profit rose 22 % to €16.9 billion thanks to strong sales of higher-margin cars and lower diesel charges, defying an industry downturn that has cut the earnings of rivals. Earnings were driven by higher profits at its VW, Porsche, Seat and Skoda brands, and a return to profitability for Bentley. Improvements in the mix and price positioning in particular compensated for lower sales of Volkswagen Passenger Cars models and for launch costs and negative exchange rate effects, the company said. Automakers are navigating “a landscape of plummeting worldwide demand” as workers quarantine in China, Europe and the U.S., Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Kevin Tynan and Michael Dean said. Volkswagen said it still wants to buy out U.S. truckmaker Navistar but added that the coronavirus crisis will require the carmaker to conserve cash as it shuts down plants and throttles back production. “The current liquidity outlook does not take into account a Navistar takeover”, Witter said. The outbreak of the coronavirus presented a “curveball” for the auto industry and although China has shown that the outbreak can be controlled eventually, there will be more bad news for the autos sector before a recovery in demand is possible, Witter said. “We have not pulled the deal, we still believe it is a good idea, but we will watch like hawks the liquidity situation and the prioritization of all activities we are contemplating”, Volkswagen Group chief executive Herbert Diess said. +++

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