Newsflash: stekker hybride Chevrolet Corvette wordt mogelijk 900 pk sterk


+++ AUDI steered a steady course through a challenging 2019 financial year. The car manufacturer systematically reduced its WLTP inventories and achieved slightly higher deliveries than in the previous year in a highly competitive environment. Revenue of €55.7 billion reflects the high demand for SUVs and top-end models. Operating profit and operating return on sales reached €4.5 billion and 8.1 %. The Audi Transformation Plan (ATP) contributed €2.5 billion in the 2019 financial year. Significantly strengthened spending and investment discipline are reflected by the improved return on investment (12.7 %). Audi is pushing ahead with its electrification initiative with numerous electric models this year. The company is intensifying the synergies with the Volkswagen Group now also in software development. Against the backdrop of the spread of the coronavirus and the unclear effects on the economy, the manufacturer sees major challenges in the year 2020 and is focusing on the health of employees worldwide and on the liquidity and stability of the business. In view of the spread of the coronavirus and in order to minimize the risk of infection for employees, contractors and guests, the Audi Group is not holding an annual press conference this year. “We are in an exceptional situation for which there are no tried-and-tested solutions or simple recipes. We are focusing on protecting our employees, contractors and guests and making the right business decisions in this volatile environment”, says CEO Bram Schot. The company is shutting down its plants in Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm, Belgium, Mexico and Hungary in a controlled manner by the end of this week. With regard to the 2019 financial year, Schot says: “We can be satisfied; Audi is competitive. In a very challenging environment, we focused on our strengths and stabilized our business. Our operating return on sales was above 7 % in each quarter of 2019 and was within our forecast corridor for the full year”. The company successively reduced its WLTP inventories from the previous year and successfully launched the next stage of its product initiative in the markets. Deliveries gained considerable momentum, especially in the 4th quarter. In a declining overall market, the Four Rings ended the year with an increase in deliveries of 1.8 % to 1.845.573 vehicles (2018: 1.812.485). Top-end models and SUVs such as the all-electric e-Tron and the new Q8 were very well received by customers. Against this backdrop, the Audi Group’s revenue adjusted for the effects of deconsolidating the multi-brand importers in 2018 was above the prior-year level at €55,680 million (2018: €53,617 million). Thanks to its strong product mix, the Audi core brand increased its revenue to €39,467 million (2018: €37,259 million). Operating profit amounted to €4,509 million (2018: €3,529 million), whereby the previous year’s figure was reduced by €1,176 million due to special items related to the diesel issue. Operating return on sales was 8.1 percent (2018: 6.6 percent*). This was driven by the improved Audi product mix, the increased operating profit of Lamborghini and successfully implemented ATP measures totaling €2.5 billion. The program for improved earnings that was implemented in 2018 is expected to free up a total of €15 billion for future investments by 2022. Since the start of the program, the ATP has already generated an accumulated €4.4 billion and measures have already been identified for 80 percent of the overall target. The ATP is thus making a decisive contribution to improving the quality of earnings. The financial result amounted to €713 million (2018: €831 million). The prior-year figure was boosted by a one-off effect from the sale of an equity interest in the context of our business in China. At €5.223 million, profit before tax increased by 19.8 % (2018: €4.361 million). In recognition of their commitment in the year 2019, Audi employees will participate in the company’s earnings. For a skilled worker at the German plants, the Audi profit-sharing bonus for 2019 amounts to €3.880 (2018: €3.630). Profit-sharing arrangements also exist at Audi’s subsidiaries. With a net cash flow of €3.160 million (2018: €2.080 million), which is actually slightly above the forecast corridor stated in the 2018 Annual Report, the Audi Group once again confirms its high self-financing capability. At the 2019 Annual General Meeting, the Board of Management had comprehensively presented Audi’s new strategic direction. At the heart of the “consistently Audi” strategy are the accelerated electrification course and the systematic reduction of CO2 emissions. Audi plans to offer approximately 30 electric models by 2025. The proportion of so-called new energy vehicles in production is to rise from 3.5 % today to about 40 % in 2025. Audi is planning upfront expenditure of approximately €12 billion by 2024 solely for the electrification of its portfolio, and the Audi Group is not compromising on its profitability targets. Audi confirms its target of a premium return on sales of between 9 % and 11 %, and a return on investment of more than 21 %. The company plans to achieve both return targets in the medium term. Audi has already improved its return on investment: Capital efficiency rose to 12.7 % (2018: 10.4 %) in 2019. In order to achieve efficient and competitive cost structures, the Volkswagen Group is successively bringing together all vehicle-related software development activities in the newly created unit Car.Software Organization. This means that the tried-and-tested modular and platform system will now be transferred to the digital world. In the future, Audi will benefit from decisive competitive Group synergies and optimized software costs per vehicle. Furthermore, Audi anticipates economies of scale from the planned cooperation on autonomous driving between the Volkswagen Group and Ford. In light of this and additional efficiency gains, the Audi Group is raising its strategic target corridors for the ratios of research and development expenditure and capex to between 5.0 % and 6.0 % in each case (previously 6.5 % to 7.0 % and 5.5 % to 6.0 % respectively). “We are the only premium manufacturer in the competitive arena that can utilize synergies to this extent for the benefit of its customers through cooperation within the Group”, said Arno Antlitz, member of the Audi board of management for Finance, China and Legal Affairs since March 1, 2020. “In order to achieve our ambitious goals, we must consistently utilize efficiency potential, further increase our cost and investment discipline, and create scope for future growth by continuing to invest in the electrification and digitalization of our vehicle fleet”. In the medium and long term, the ‘Audi.Future’ agreement will also have a positive impact on the company’s competitiveness. In addition to securing jobs at the German sites until 2029, the agreement is expected to generate savings of about €6 billion over its term. In 2020, Audi will again present around 20 models and systematically continue its electrification course. By the end of the year, the Audi core brand will launch 5 all-electric models on the markets and increase its PHEV offering to a total of 12 models. A PHEV variant will then be available in more than half of the model series. The Audi Group is thus preparing itself for intense competition and increasingly strict CO2 regulation. The global economic situation has changed very significantly in the context of the spread of the coronavirus, which is also having a massive impact on our supply chains, the production of our vehicles and their marketing. Antlitz: “The effects of the spread of the coronavirus on the economy and our business are uncertain. This makes a reliable forecast for the year 2020 almost impossible at present. Our focus is on our employees and their families worldwide. Audi will do its part to minimize the impact on the people in our country and at our Audi sites worldwide. We will continue to take all necessary measures to achieve this. In addition, it is our task to protect the liquidity and thus the stability of our company and, despite all the restrictions, to stabilize our core processes, for example in technical development or other areas of the company”. +++ 

+++ Thousands of BMW 8-Series models are sitting on dealership lots across the United States and according to select dealers, there are a few reasons for it. BMW revived the 8-Series name back in 2018 and currently sells it in Coupe, Convertible, and Gran Coupe guises in the United States. It’s positioned as the brand’s halo model, particularly in M8 guise, yet dealerships tell that it hasn’t received adequate marketing support from the car manufacturer. There were more than 2.000 brand new 8-Series models sitting on or heading to U.S. dealership lots as of early March and of these, roughly 700 are considered ‘Priority 5’ vehicles that dealers are looking to offload to other retailers. “It’s very concerning and alarming that on a halo brand-new vehicle roughly a third of the total available on-ground inventory is being put in a Priority 5 status”, an unnamed BMW dealer said. “Basically, dealers are saying, ‘I don’t want this, I can’t sell it, somebody please take it from me’ ”. It’s not just a lack of marketing that’s reportedly to blame for lackluster sales of the 8-Series. U.S. buyers have no less than 15 configurations to choose from when shopping for an 8-Series and according to one dealer, this is far too many. “If there’s 10 customers and you’re offering them 15 choices, there’s going to be a lot of cars sitting around. But if there’s 10 customers and you offer them 2 choices, you’re going to sell every one and make some money”. Speaking about BMW’s marketing campaign for the 8-Series, spokesman Phil Dilanni said the company takes a “targeted approach” when marketing to high net-worth customers. He added that BMW had been planning a national multimedia marketing campaign for the 8-Series (set to launch next month), but said it has been postponed due to the coronavirus. +++ 

+++ A camouflaged C8 Corvette development mule has been spotted in the wild, fuelling speculation that CHEVROLET is well under way with the creation of a hybrid version of the latest version of its iconic muscle car. Now mid-engined in its latest ‘C8’ iteration, the current Corvette was revealed last summer and is beginning to hit the roads in its native United States. It has long been speculated that General Motors (which plans to spend $20 billion on electrifying its various brands up until 2025) has written a plug-in hybrid version of the Corvette into that process. Rumours from American car news media suggest that Corvette is planning an expansive C8 Corvette line-up, with Gran Sport, Z06 and ZR1 variants of the car joining the basic coupe and convertible versions, all with different power outputs. The current car’s 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 lives an unstressed life at 507 hp and 637 Nm, and a supercharged version of this engine will almost certainly be developed for higher performance models like the Z06. It is strongly speculated that the ZR1 version of the C8 Corvette could feature a hybrid version of this powertrain, with an electrically driven front axle. That would make it not only the first hybrid Corvette, but also the first all-wheel-drive one. Those in the know in the US suggest that the hybrid ZR1 could develop up to 900 hp and make its debut in 2023. +++ 

+++ New-car dealerships in CHINA have a long way to go to shrug off the severe impact of the lingering coronavirus epidemic, with average revenue from sales operations still less than half of normal levels. While 93.5 % of franchised dealerships have reopened, the average daily revenue generated by new-vehicle sales was only 49.8 % of normal levels, according to a survey of the China Automobile Dealers Association. Showroom traffic and demand for parts and service also remained low, according to the survey of 8.509 franchised stores across China. Showroom traffic at dealerships surveyed was 57.2 % of normal levels, while average revenue generated by parts and service rose to 56.8 % of normal levels. +++


+++ Hyundai Motor Group executive vice chairman CHUNG EUISUN has been elected the new chairperson of the group’s board of directors, in an apparent move to give the heir apparent more managerial power as he seeks to strengthen the future mobility vision. According to the company, it was decided for Chung to succeed his father, Chung Mong-koo, in his chairmanship during a board of directors meeting. The senior Chung has held the position for 21 years. The change was predicted when the directors last month did not decide whether to reelect Chung Mong-koo as the executive director, hinting at his virtual retreat from the management front. Chung Euisun has been leading the group by representing the company at major events at home and abroad since he was promoted to the second-highest executive vice chairman role in 2018. Last year, he was named CEO of Hyundai Motor Group (along with president Lee Won-hee and Ha Eon-tae) and auto parts-making affiliate Hyundai Mobis. Chung was reelected as group affiliate Hyundai Mobis’ internal director. In less than a 2-year period, Chung has been highlighting the conglomerate’s transformation into a mobility solution provider. He has expedited investments in hydrogen cars, electric vehicles and air mobility to take the lead in the future mobility industry, amid growing protectionism in major automotive markets abroad. Chung has led partnerships with and investments in global mobility firms (mobility company Uber, ride-sharing company Grab, Indian car-hailing company Ola, Croatia’s electric car maker Rimac, self-driving startup Aurora and autonomous driving tech developer Aptiv) focusing on next-generation mobility such as autonomous and connected cars. Also, Chung has worked to revamp the corporate culture of the group, which has a reputation for the most disciplinary, and seniority-oriented working culture in Korea. Hyundai Motor Group’s job titles and pay grades have been simplified, while the conventional dress code for employees has been scrapped. The group said Chung reportedly stressed the need to restyle the automaker to become more flexible and agile so the group can survive fast-changing industrial trends and competition with rivals. Despite his active leadership, some market experts had viewed that Chung Euisun may not take the chairmanship of the group’s board of directors, mainly due to concerns that the automaker’s vision to enhance the board’s transparency and independency should be prioritized, separating the business and group ownership. But amid the deteriorating business environment over the rapid global spread of Covid-19, industry insiders said that Hyundai needed a timely breakthrough via Chung’s leadership. The Korean automaker has suffered dwindling sales and frozen market sentiment since the Covid-19 outbreak, temporarily shutting down a manufacturing factory in Ulsan. Operation at Hyundai’s Alabama plant in US also halted after an employee was confirmed to have developed Covid-19. The automaker’s US unit said the resumption of operation has not been decided yet. The Alabama plant is responsible for manufacturing some 370.000 units annually including popular models such as Sonata, Santa Fe and Elantra. The Georgia plant of Kia, which receives engine supplies from the Alabama plant has also been subsequently halted. Jose Munoz, chief executive of Hyundai’s North American division, said in a recent interview that he expects 15 % – 20 % drop in US sales this month compared to the previous year. Munoz also told that the automaker is expected to see 10 % – 20 % of its annual sales affected by the Covid-19. “It can be seen that the Hyundai Motor Group is pinning hopes on Chung Euisun for him to properly cope with the unexpected business situation as he holds chairmanship of the board of directors”, said an industry insider. Meanwhile, the Hyundai Motor Group said that Chung being appointed chairperson of the board of directors is “irrelevant” to holding the management right, stressing that succeeding in the executive management right from his father is not imminent. “What a chairman of the board of directors does is to call for a meeting and preside over a meeting”, said a Hyundai Motor official. “That’s it”. +++ 

+++ Unlike some carmakers, DAIMLER is currently not in need of additional funds, and therefore will not apply for state aid, despite having to halt production at its major plants in Europe recently. “Daimler currently has no need for state aid. Generally speaking, the industry had a very good order intake before the crisis,” said company CEO Ola Källenius in an interview. When asked whether his company would help suppliers that may be struggling, Källenius said: “We are in permanent discussions with our suppliers and consult them. Until now there has not been a case where liquidity was an issue”. Meanwhile, the German carmaker has already reopened its factory in China, where demand for new cars is said to be bouncing back. “The vast majority of our dealerships have reopened, the customers are returning”, added the CEO. “Every day more people come to the car dealerships. Demand is picking up, which makes us optimistic”. Despite the turnover in China, Daimler has halted most Mercedes-Benz production in Europe and the US, as supply chains cannot be maintained. Speaking of Mercedes, the carmaker’s R&D boss, Markus Schafer, recently said that his company might drastically reduce its model range, as well as platforms and powertrain options in a bid to optimize profits. However, that initiative comes as a result of the brand’s focus on electric vehicles, and not because of the ongoing pandemic and its global financial ramifications. +++ 

+++ FORD Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett was already under pressure before the coronavirus pandemic upended economies worldwide. But after suspending the company’s dividend payment that management had said was sacrosanct, he is now testing the faith of the founding family that has supported him. Executive chairman Bill Ford has not been shy about stressing the importance of the stock and dividend to his clan. “Most of our net worth is tied up in the company”, he said at Ford’s 2017 annual shareholders meeting. A year later, he joked about his family’s keen interest in the dividend when reading a question from an investor. “Why is the company so stingy with paying dividends?” Ford read during the webcast shareholder meeting. He quipped: “Was that sent in by a member of the Ford family?” But now, with the automaker halting factory production in North America and elsewhere, including Europe, Hackett said he has no choice but to conserve cash and offset a financial hit one analyst estimates will cost the company $1 billion in earnings before interest and taxes. “While we obviously didn’t foresee the coronavirus pandemic, we have maintained a strong balance sheet and ample liquidity so that we could weather economic uncertainty and continue to invest in our future”, Hackett said in a statement. To give the company financial breathing room and keep important new model launches rolling, the automaker also is fully drawing down $15.4 billion from two credit lines and retracting earnings guidance it had given investors on February 4. “They maxed out their credit line, so they have well over $30 billion in cash now and that is a massive hoard”, said David Whiston, an analyst with Morningstar in Chicago. “That, along with the dividend suspension, basically puts Ford in lockdown mode. They are going into their bunker”. The unprecedented circumstances should buy Hackett some time and patience from the Ford family, which derived annual income of tens of millions a year from the 15-cent quarterly payout. While all common shareholders receive the dividend, the progeny of Henry Ford hold a special class of stock that gives them 40 % voting control of the company. Ford last suspended its dividend in 2006 before reinstating it 5 years later. That included a period when U.S. auto sales plunged to 10.4 million in 2009. When Ford restored the payout, management pledged it had re-engineered the company so it could maintain the dividend through the next downturn. “Ford has said many times, even before Hackett became CEO, that the dividend would be safe if sales went back to ‘09 levels”, Whiston said. “And even the lowest projections as of mid-March are not for ’09 levels in 2020”. The dividend reversal puts even more pressure on Hackett, who has faced questions from Wall Street about his job security. Hackett, 64, took the steps to bulk up on cash hours before Ford planned to halt output at all North American factories through March 30 for deep cleaning. The shutdown will cost the company $1 billion in lost earnings before interest and taxes, Michael Ward, an analyst at Benchmark, estimated in a note to clients. Ford will lose the equivalent of 140.000 vehicles worth of production during the 11 day shutdown, or about $5.3 billion of revenue, he wrote. Ward lowered earnings estimates for the carmaker, which he rates a hold. Analysts have speculated in the wake of the virus that factory closings and the global slowdown of vehicle purchases probably would force Ford management’s hand. Then-CFO Bob Shanks said in August 2018 that reports the dividend was at risk were “baseless”. “The dividend’s been a legendary value creator at Ford”, Hackett said on February 4. “I want to continue that, because we said we could do it, and right now we can”. Joseph Spak, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, predicted a dividend cut last week, writing in a report that the $2.4 billion annual cost of the payments would be too much of a burden for a company that’s repeatedly come up short with its earnings and just issued a disappointing profit forecast for the year. In an effort to change that negative dynamic, Hackett recently shook up management by appointing Jim Farley chief operating officer and gave him a mandate to accelerate an $11 billion restructuring. But credit-ratings companies have raised concerns about the efficacy of those efforts, with Moody’s Investors Service downgrading Ford to junk and S&P Global Ratings cutting the company to the lowest rung of investment grade rating last year. Ford’s board of directors last week cemented Farley’s status as heir apparent to Hackett by disclosing it had arranged a $2.5 million stock award for the 57-year-old if he is not named the next CEO. Bill Ford and his family have stood by Hackett through setbacks and struggles. And now they are likely hoping this dividend suspension is short-lived. “I would not be shocked if the dividend comes back as soon as this year”, Morningstar’s Whiston said. “But that’s certainly not a base-case expectation because we just don’t have visibility on anything in U.S. autos”. +++

+++ HYUNDAI may extend the workday beyond legal limits for its domestic factory workers in an effort to ramp up production, which has fallen due to the coronavirus outbreak. The largest automaker by sales in South Korea is in discussions with its union to extend work hours to 56 a week for up to 3 months, which is beyond the legal limit of 52 hours, Hyundai said. At the moment, line employees at Hyundai’s domestic plants are working 40 hours per week, and depending on production schedules at individual assembly plants, the hours can be extended to 48 hours with Saturday shifts. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that all Hyundai factories in Korea are going to get extended hours”, spokesperson Kim Tae-sik said. “The extended work schedule could just apply to the Ulsan factory, where production has suffered the most from the coronavirus”. The discussion for possible extension is taking place as the fall in production at Hyundai has greatly affected its domestic auto parts suppliers. According to Hyundai, Ulsan-based auto suppliers requested Hyundai last week to increase vehicle production. Hyundai had production loss of around 80.000 cars last month from its factories shutting for days due to the coronavirus outbreak. The automaker’s production problem isn’t limited to its factories in Korea, as its auto assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama, had to close due to an employee being confirmed as having the coronavirus. The plant has 2.900 full-time workers and 500 part-time employees and manufactures 370.000 vehicles per year. Hyundai is also suspending production for 2 weeks in the Czech Republic, and Kia is shutting a plant in Slovakia for 2 weeks. There is a possibility that Hyundai’s union approves the management’s request to extend work hours. “If there are no customers, the company can’t survive”, the union said in a newsletter. “Management must bring out everything it has to ensure all parts can be supplied, while unionized workers should work on recovering production”. Even if the union agrees to Hyundai’s request, it doesn’t necessarily mean Hyundai workers will be on the job 56 hours a week. As the Hyundai union is under the Korea Metal Workers’ Union, one of the major umbrella labor union groups in Korea, the final approval must receive the group’s blessing. The Korea Metal Workers’ Union has so far made clear that it is against any measures that would have workers work more than 52 hours a week. Approval must come from the Ministry of Employment and Labor as well. Kim said if the union agrees to Hyundai’s request, the company will seek special approval from the ministry for extended work hours. Kia said it is monitoring the situation at Hyundai at this point and is planning to make a similar request to the union later. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER is set to turn the historic Castle Bromwich factory into the company’s new EV center as part of a £1 billion investment. The overhauled facility will be the home of not only the next all-electric Jaguar XJ, but for the upcoming J-Pace flagship electric SUV and Land Rover’s pure electric SUV as well. All 3 models will be based on JLR’s MLA platform, which is engineered to host ICE, hybrid and pure electric powertrains. Company insiders say that the current I-Pace, the company’s only available electric model at the moment, will continue its production in Austria using a unique platform. The new Jaguar XJ is expected to be unveiled towards the end of the year, with production to start at the revamped Castle Bromwich in spring 2021. Julian Thomson, Jaguar’s new director of design described it as a “a fabulous-looking thing”, adding that the electric XJ will be more of a car for driving than being driven in. There’s not much information about the Jaguar J-Pace and the new Land Rover, which is known internally as the ‘Road Rover’. Both models will be SUVs and will be offered with electric-power, but the J-Pace is said to also become available eventually with conventional powertrains, sharing most likely the same hybrid straight-6 units with the next Range Rover. The ICE variant of the J-Pace will also be produced along the Range Rover at Solihull. Jaguar is currently pondering the fate of the XE and XF models, as poor sales are forcing them to rethink whether to replace both of them with a new crossover model or not. The Jaguar F-Type’s replacement is also far from being decided but the model is said to be “quietly profitable” for the brand. +++ 

+++ In 2019, LAMBORGHINI achieved its best-ever results across the board, entering new dimensions in its year-long growth. The Italian super sports car producer outperformed all previous key business benchmarks: sales, turnover and profitability achieved levels unprecedented in the 56-year history of the brand. The celebration of this success from 2019 is clearly overshadowed by the significance and uncertainties of the worldwide spread of the Coronavirus, an exceptional situation giving arise to enormous challenges for the entire world in 2020. Stefano Domenicali, chairman and chief executive officer of Lamborghini, comments: “In 2019, we continued the sustained history of growth, setting new historic highs in all key business figures. While celebrating these figures we must underline the extraordinariness of the situation in which we find ourselves right now, from both a human and corporate perspective, due to the worldwide spread of Coronavirus. Our country is living through a situation that could never have been expected and on behalf of the company I would like to thank all the people, especially those in the services, medical and health sectors, institutions and the security forces that are contributing to manage this crisis in a remarkable way. In only a few days our habits and our interpersonal relationships have changed, with this scenario being reflected across the world. We need to be ready to react rapidly to these new circumstances, and in a rational and effective way. The excellent start to the year 2020, confirmed by sales numbers in the first 2 months, gives us the right motivation in order to be ready and proactive in facing this entirely new and unimaginable challenge. Our 2019 results reflect the talent and dedication of all Lamborghini staff around the world and we thank them and our shareholders for their trust and continuing support. We are sure of the strength, the energy, the enthusiasm, the passion and the deliberateness that characterize the women and men in Lamborghini, including during these difficult times. Building on our results so far, we continue to prepare for further sustainable growth and new opportunities in innovation and technology in order to reach new future milestones”. Turnover grew by 28 % from €1.42 billion to €1.81 billion in 2019. The global sales growth was even stronger, increasing by 43 % to 8.205 units delivered to customers with sales records in all major regions: America, EMEA and Asia Pacific. In its first year of full market availability, the Urus sold 4.962 units, continuing its high sales momentum. This success was complemented by a strong sales performance from the 2 super sports car model lines, Aventador (1.104 units) and Huracán (2.139 units). In addition, new hires brought the number of employees to 1.787 at the end of 2019. Lamborghini was again confirmed in 2019 as one of the most attractive employers, achieving the Top Employer Italia certification for the seventh consecutive year. Over the years, it has introduced innovative human capital management policies, based on the one hand on the enhancement of individual skills and on the other on the promotion of social values and corporate ethical responsibility. In this respect, projects in the areas of diversity and inclusion include the equal pay scheme for female and male employees with the same qualifications and roles, and initiatives promoting equal parenting. Lamborghini maintains an attractive product portfolio and a strong global sales presence with 165 dealers serving 51 countries. The year 2020 sees deliveries start of new Huracán Evo derivatives as well as the Sián: a limited edition hybrid super sports car, alongside other planned unveilings. With imponderables remaining due to the current Coronavirus situation, it is still too early to give a detailed forecast of impacts on business development in 2020. +++ 

+++ MAZDA has become the latest Japanese automaker to suspend operations in Japan and overseas as it reacts to worldwide interruptions of demand and supply triggered by Covid-19. The Hiroshima-based automaker said it would completely suspend operations at its 2 plants in Japan for 13 days and run them on day shifts only for 8 days, between March 28 and April 30. In announcing the move, Mazda said it hoped to make up the lost production in the July-September quarter. The company said it needed to dial back production to adjust to difficulties in sourcing parts, a sudden plunge in sales and uncertainty about the future. Mazda also said it would shut down its Mexico assembly plant for 10 days from March 25 and suspend work at its Thailand factory for about 10 days starting March 30. “Many countries have been quickly and extensively reinforcing their infection prevention measures including implementing curfews, retail business suspensions and restrictions on corporate activities”, the company said in a statement. “Mazda has decided to adjust production at our production facilities globally in consideration of difficulties in parts procurement, the plummeting sales in overseas markets, and the uncertainty of future markets”. Mazda’s announcement came just a day after Toyota said it would suspend operations at five assembly plants in Japan to match output to falling global demand. Mazda said it will continue sales operations in Japan and China but that it will decide sales activities in other countries based in part on local government guidance aimed at slowing the transmission of the new coronavirus that triggered the Covid-19 pandemic. +++ 

+++ MORGAN is famous for building roadsters that look like time capsules from the 1940s, but its stylists don’t feel constrained by its vast heritage. The company is open to the idea of moving its design language forward. “We have always believed that Morgan’s design library is incredibly flexible and in no way constrained by the nostalgic influences that we deploy in our cars”, head of design Jonathan Wells told. He cited the members of the Aero range, which put a more contemporary spin on Morgan’s design approach, and the stillborn electric EV3 as examples. Both stretched the boundaries of the company’s visual identity but neither looked out of place in its line-up, because they retained a high degree of purity. “Every part of a Morgan should communicate its function and be there for a reason”, Wells said. Morgan will follow these strict guidelines as it creates newer-looking cars, which is a process already under way as the British firm mulls designs for forthcoming models. “Instead of moving so drastically from the 1940s and the 1950s to the 2020s and the 2030s, we’re sort of migrating into the 1960s and the 1970s and maintaining that distance with the present”, Wells affirmed. “We’re trying to do so in a way that we don’t generate a pastiche but maintain that authenticity and function”. Although he stopped short of revealing precisely what the company has in the pipeline, or when it will expand its range, Wells did tell us that the process of designing a car like the recently revealed all-new Plus Four starts by carefully studying the era to which it’s a tribute. Simply copying and pasting an existing design wouldn’t cut it. “We try to imagine what these designers were inspired by”, said Wells. “For example, the understanding of aerodynamics in the 1950s was very different than the understanding of aerodynamics today and, as a result, that was influencing the shape of those cars. We also try to understand the manufacturing techniques at the time and the cultural influences, which could be anything from interior design to fashion, and try to replicate that. We find it really exciting”. +++ 

+++ The main priority right now for PORSCHE is to introduce a production version of the Mission E Cross Turismo. Unveiled as a concept 2 years ago at the Geneva Motor Show, the road-going model will be labelled Taycan Cross Turismo and is earmarked for a late 2020 official reveal. The timeframe is included in the Annual and Sustainability Report 2019 of Porsche, which also mentions the jacked-up rugged estate will be the first of other Taycan-based derivatives. The 200-page document also briefly mentions the fully electric variant planned for the next-generation Macan. Porsche specifies it will ride on the Premium Platform Electric platform and is earmarked for a market launch in 2022, according to Lutz Meschke, Deputy Chairman and member of the Executive Board. PPE is being developed by Porsche and Audi, with the former already teasing a sleek EV about the same size and shape as the A5 Sportback. PPE will accommodate both rear-wheel-drive models with an electric motor mounted at the back and AWD cars with an extra motor at the front. To have the Leipzig factory ready for the Macan EV’s arrival, Porsche is investing more than €600 million in the expansion of the facility, including a new body shop. The company will build electric cars alongside models equipped with conventional powertrains, and it will also assemble the axles for the zero-emissions crossover rather than outsourcing the chassis from an exterior supplier like it’s currently doing for the Macan and Panamera. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen will suspend its car production in RUSSIA over a supply shortage caused by the coronavirus outbreak in Europe. Production will be stopped from March 30 to April 10 at is car plant in Kaluga and assembly line in Nizhny Novgorod, the company said. Volkswagen last week said its plants in Europe would temporarily shut down for 2 weeks due to the spread of the coronavirus that has infected more than 330,000 people worldwide, as car manufacturers globally shut factories to both protect workers and in response to falling demand. “At the moment we can provide stable supplies of cars and spare pasts to our dealers and clients”, Volkswagen Group Rus said. +++ 

+++ Facing increasing difficulty from the sales slump and lack of new models, SSANGYONG is banking on its labor union to help the company overcome its growing financial struggles. Automakers in Korea are bracing for an especially difficult year as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down factories, disrupts global supply chains and keep consumers home. SsangYong (72.9 % owned by India-based Mahindra) has been asking its union officials to share the pain from falling revenue. Korea was the 7th largest auto producing country in the world last year, with 3.95 million units; down 1.9 % from 2018, according to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association. SsangYong is responsible for a relatively small piece of that pie; in 2019, the company sold a total of 135.235 vehicles; down 5.6 % from 143.309 in 2018. To improve its financial structure and better respond to changing market situations, SsangYong has been achieving deals with its unionized workers to cut costs. The automaker has been in the red for almost 3 years and its stock has fallen more than 70 % in 4 years. But the company has a close working relationship with its labor union. SsangYong has ended its annual wage negotiations with the union without disputes for nine consecutive years since 2010. The company also was the first among 5 domestic automakers to end wage negotiations with its workers last year. SK hynix saved around 950 billion won ($757 million) in 2001 during its liquidity crisis by having its employees work extra hours to release new products. Daehan Shipbuilding’s management and workers together overcame the slump of the global shipbuilding industry in 2016 by more severely cutting salaries and employment than creditors had requested. In its second self-rescue plan prepared in December, SsangYong said it will save around 10 million won in annual pay per worker after more than 90 % of SsangYong workers agreed to return 200 % of their bonuses, lower their salary increases and return performance-based extra pay. The second self-rescue plan is greater in scale than the first one, in which workers agreed to a number of cuts including stoppage of holiday presents, bonuses for long-time employees and reduced medical and tuition support. SsangYong said it is also in discussion with related parties and stakeholders to launch new business initiatives and reduce investment risks. Mahindra managing director Pawan Goenka said in a meeting with Korean unit employees earlier this year that the Indian carmaker will ensure stabilization for SsangYong as the largest stakeholder. In targeting more exports, SsangYong said it has been executing market-specialized initiatives by participating in major automobile exhibitions in European markets, starting with the ones in Brussels and Vienna in January. SsangYong said its Korando compressed natural gas model was well-received during the Brussels Motor Show. Its Rexton has had some recent success, selling more than 40.000 units annually for 2 years since 2018. +++ 

+++ While a very large portion of today’s vehicles are only available with automatic transmissions, Volkswagen is among the car brands that pledged to keep STICK SHIFTS around for as long as there is demand. The reassuring comment was made by the company’s tech chief Matthias Rabe, who said: “Some people enjoy going back to their roots and changing gear manually, and so as long as there is demand, we will continue to offer them”. Among the cars available with a clutch pedal is the new Golf GTI. The people’s compact hot hatchback was presented last month, alongside its diesel and PHEV siblings, the GTD and GTE, and is offered with a 6-speed manual as standard. Those who are not fond of manual gear shifting can opt for the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, which is found on the options list. The new Golf GTI stays true to the classic recipe that made it famous originally, and packs a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The lump will also be used by the rumored Golf TCR, which is expected with 295 hp. The Golf GTD and Golf GTE, on the other hand, are only available with 2 pedals. Other performance-oriented models from the Volkswagen stable that come with a good ol’ stick shift are the Up GTI and Polo GTI. The German automaker will soon expand the lineup with the R versions of the Arteon and Tiguan, although these are expected to be offered with automatic transmissions, like the Touareg R plug-in hybrid, which boasts a combined output of 462 hp and comes with an 8-speed auto and AWD. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA , moving to adjust output amid slumping demand undercut by the global coronavirus crisis, is suspending production at 5 plants in Japan beginning April 3, with plans to curb exports of the Prius and 4Runner in addition to a host of Lexus nameplates. Toyota said the cuts will trim about 36.000 units from production schedules, giving some indication of the downward hit it expects the pandemic to deliver to worldwide sales. The affected factories include the Takaoka, Tsutsumi, Tahara and Kyushu sites, in addition to a Hamura plant operated by truck affiliate Hino, Toyota said. The Takaoka factory, which makes the RAV4 and Corolla, among other nameplates, will idle 1 of 2 lines from April 3 to 7. The Tsutsumi plant, which makes the Prius, Corolla, Camry and Lexus ES Hybrid, will temporarily close 2 lines from April 3 to 7. Toyota said a line at the Tahara factory that builds the 4Runner, Land Cruiser Prado, Lexus GS and Lexus LC200 will go dark from April 3 to 10, while another line that produces the Lexus LS, NX, IS and RC will be down April 3 to 14. The Kyushu factory, which manufactures the Lexus CT, NX and UX, will be offline April 3-15. Hino’s Hamura plant will suspend work from April 3 to 6. The factory produces the Land Cruiser Prado and FJ Cruiser. Toyota did not indicate how many exports would be lost during the suspension or which export markets are being targeted by the cutback. +++ 

+++ Former Google and UBER autonomous vehicle engineer Anthony Levandowski has reached a plea deal with prosecutors and pled guilty to stealing trade secrets. According to court documents, Levandowski has admitted that he obtained and stored thousands of sensitive documents from Google’s self-driving car program, Project Chauffeur, “with the intent to use them for his personal benefit after his departure from the company. Specifically, on December 11, 2015, Levandowski downloaded approximately 14.000 files from an internal, password-protected Google server known as ‘SVN,’ which was hosted on Google’s network”, a statement from the U.S. Attorney reads. Levandowski was indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2019 with 33 counts of trade secret theft. He has pled guilty to just one of those counts in exchange for prosecutors dropping the other 32 charges. The plea agreement could see him face a prison term of 24-30 months and he has also agreed to pay Waymo US$756,499 in restitution. Shortly after stealing documents from Google, Levandowski left the technology giant and went on to form autonomous truck company Otto. That company was soon purchased by Uber and Levandowski was brought on by the ride-hailing company to lead its self-driving program. Uber and Google’s Waymo division ultimately reached a settlement that saw Uber pay more than $244 million. News of Levandowski pleading guilty to trade secret theft comes shortly after he was ordered to pay Google $179 million over a contract dispute after he helped poach engineers from Waymo. Levandowski has filed for bankruptcy protection. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , Aston Martin, McLaren and Morgan have all suspended production following the latest government instructions to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Aston Martin will “temporarily suspend all manufacturing operations” at its plants in Gayden, Newport Pagnell and St Athan. Production is provisionally scheduled to resume on Monday 20 April, but the firm says it will continue to review the situation and “will look to resume operations as soon as it is reasonable to do so”. CEO Andy Palmer said that “it is our responsibility to ensure we do all we can to support the government’s efforts in slowing the spread of Covid-19 over the coming weeks”. He added: “I hope and believe that our national fight against this dreadful virus will be successful, and as soon as we have the ability, we will, of course, return to normal operations”. McLaren, which has its main car production facility in Woking and a carbonfibre components production site near Sheffield, has suspended manufacturing until the end of April. In a statement, it said that it was “taking this action to ensure the safety of our workforce in light of the latest government advice and so that the company is well placed to resume operations as smoothly as possible in the future”. Morgan has also closed its factory in Malvern. A spokesperson said: “We have made the decision to close our factory for the next four weeks to minimise any movement of staff and partners”. The closure of the facilities effectively completes the shutdown of the UK car manufacturing industry. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN ’s car-to-x communication system, more specifically the ‘Local Hazard Warning’ is the first piece of tech to be rewarded by Euro NCAP in nearly 6 years. The system is fitted as standard to the all-new Golf, and will also find its way into future ID models, allowing cars to communicate not only with each other, but also with properly equipped road infrastructure and various emergency vehicles. Thanks to this ITS-G5 technology, cars like the Golf can transmit a signal to other vehicles if they have broken down, or have stopped in a manner that poses a safety risk. In time, drivers might even receive advance warning of motorcycles and tractors. “This is an exciting area of safety and one which offers the potential to help road users who have, so far, been difficult to protect, like motorcyclists”, said Euro NCAP secretary general, Michiel van Ratingen. “It is already on Euro NCAP’s roadmap but its full potential will not be realized until many vehicles are equipped with a compatible system, along with roadside hazards. Volkswagen are to be congratulated for making the technology standard on high-selling vehicles like the Golf”. Aside from transmitting warnings, cars equipped with this Local Hazard Warning system can also receive signals and use them to alert the driver if there’s any danger. Warnings that can be issued include: Safety System active in vehicle ahead (Emergency Electronic Brake Light, Automatic Emergency Brake or reversible occupant restraint system intervention), Stationary Vehicle alert, Broken-Down Vehicle, Accident, End of Traffic Jam, Roadworks, Stationary Emergency Vehicle, Dynamic Emergency Vehicle. If the situation is not deemed critical, signals to the driver start off as simple information. However, if the distance decreases and the situation becomes critical, the information is replaced by a warning in most cases; critical events will generate a warning even without any prior information. There are however small limitations to consider. For example, warnings are only issued when the speed of your car exceeds 80 km/h, which is where most serious accidents happen, on rural roads and motorways. I should note that this system is not switched on upon vehicle delivery, in accordance with the GDPR, meaning that the customer has to activate it by accepting the data protection agreement. If you do that, then the system will remain ‘ON’ by default, although it can still be disengaged if the driver so chooses. +++



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