Newsflash: vernieuwde Maserati Ghibli krijgt 330 pk sterke 4 cilinder motor

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+++ While battery supply issues have slowed or stopped the production of full-electric models such as the Audi e-Tron and Jaguar I-Pace, BMW says its supply is steady and reliable. This is largely because the German automaker has been offering battery-powered cars since 2013, sales boss Pieter Nota told. “Our long experience working with batteries, which dates back to the launch of the i3 in 2013, means we have a steady and reliable supply from our cell suppliers. We are not seeing any constraint so we still aim to have electrified models (battery electric and plug-in hybrid) account for 20 % of our 2021 sales”. When asked if he has decided which level of autonomous driving works best for BMW, Nota told: “We are looking at customer experience and customer benefit rather than focusing on the level. We remain committed to offering highly automated driving in the iNext that arrives next year. The car will be able to take control on highways for a longer period of time. It will be eyes off, hands off, but the driver remains responsible and could be called to regain control in certain number of seconds”. When asked if BMW will need to race to register cars that emit a high amount of CO2 before the end of this year to avoid EU emissions fines in 2021, Nota answered: “This won’t happen at the BMW Group. We will reduce our emissions in Europe by about 20 % this year and be fully compliant with the new EU standards, both for 2020 and 2021. Missing targets is not an option at BMW”. When asked about what features that appeared on the Concept i4 can be expected on the final product when it arrives next year, Nota said: “The production model will be very close to the Concept i4 that was shown in March, including the vertical kidney grille used first on the Concept 4 unveiled at the 2019 Frankfurt auto show. Another feature that will make it into production is the curved instrument panel that extends to include the central display. This a driver-oriented cockpit puts the driver at the center of the action.The production i4 will use the fifth generation of BMW’s electric drivetrain, including a new generation of batteries. Dimensions wise, the production i4 will be similar to the 4-series Gran Coupe, which is 4.638 mm long, 1.825 mm wide and 1.389 mm tall. The current Gran Coupe, launched in 2016, is offered in 4 and 5 seat configurations. We are still open on the number of seats for the production i4”. When asked if BMW will join Volvo who is now offering subscriptions to car as an alternative to leasing or owning, Nota said: “Subscription models don’t appear to be gaining much traction in Europe. That could be because there is a very fluid line between what is a subscription and what is a lease to a private customer. However, there are countries where a growing number of customers do not want to own a car, such as in the Netherlands”. The BMW GROUP has appointed Frank Weber, a German engineer who oversaw the development of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, to its management board, where he will be responsible for research and development. Weber, 53, will start in his new post on July 1, replacing Klaus Fröhlich, who is due to retire as he will reach the age of 60, the cut-off limit for top executives at the company, BMW said. The move to appoint Weber highlights BMW’s push into electromobility. By 2023, the company wants to have 25 electrified vehicles in its range, more than half of which will be fully electric. Weber, a native of Wiesbaden who received his university diploma in mechanical engineering, is the third new board member at BMW Group since Oliver Zipse became CEO in August. Weber joined BMW as head of total vehicle development, before being named In 2018 as head of product line for Rolls-Royce and luxury class vehicles. Weber came from Opel, where he was vice president for business and product planning. Previously, he had been responsible for developing GM’s first major electrified vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, as well as its Opel Ampera sibling and the Voltec Propulsion Architecture. “We are delighted to have found a very competent successor for Klaus Fröhlich in Frank Weber”, BMW Group chairman Norbert Reithofer said in a statement. “As head of Product Lines, he played a decisive role in the success of the extremely popular grand series: the 7 series, 8 series, X5 and X7”. BMW’s i8 hybrid sports car, which first went into production in May of 2014 at the carmaker’s Leipzig plant, is now scheduled to end its product life cycle next month. According to the Bavarian brand, the i8 will go down in history as the world’s most successful sports car with an electrified drivetrain, which it very well might thanks to more than 20.000 units sold. The i8 made its world premiere at the IAA motor show in 2013, where it was joined by the urban-friendly i3 model. The 2 helped BMW pave the way for all the plug-in hybrid variants currently being sold by them, from compact and mid-size models, through X models, sports cars and luxury sedans. The BMW Group wants to expand its range to 25 electrified models by the year 2023, where more than half will run on battery power alone, sans an internal combustion unit. Among the i8’s accolades, we count its role as the Safety Car in the FIA Formula E Championship, as well as the fact that its plug-in hybrid drive won at least one award five times in a row (2015-2019). Along the way, the i8 won several other awards. BMW’s Leipzig plant is currently producing the 200 units of the i8’s limited Ultimate Sophisto Edition. The i8 has held a global market share of more than 50 % in its segment. +++ 

+++ Shortly after a series of images leaked showcasing the all-new Ford BRONCO , it appears as though the SUV will be unveiled to the world on March 18. Ford recently sent out a bulletin regarding the Bronco to its dealerships across the U.S. In this bulletin, Ford writes that “March 18th will be a big day for Bronco! We will have more exciting news to share with you then”. While Ford doesn’t mention in the dealership bulletin where the unveiling of the new Bronco will be, it could take place at the Sun Valley Film Festival in Idaho running from March 18-22. The event is sponsored by Ford and a look at the event calendar reveals that Main St. in Ketchum, Idaho will be closed off to celebrate the return of the Bronco on the evening of the 20th. Just a couple of days ago, a handful of photos surfaced online showing the new Bronco in both 4 and 2 door configurations. As I had long expected, the rugged SUV adopts a boxy shape and is more than fitting of the Bronco name. Some of the most striking elements of the new Bronco’s design are flared wheel arches, LED headlights and daytime running lights, and a roof that can be completely removed, just like the Jeep Wrangler. Details regarding the available powertrains of the Bronco remain unconfirmed but the base model is tipped to receive a 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder with roughly 270 hp and 420 Nm. A larger 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 with 325 hp and 542 Nm may also be available. +++

 

+++ CHINA announced that key companies can resume work in coronavirus-hit Wuhan, in another sign authorities are confident the quarantined city is winning its battle against the epidemic. The decision came a day after President Xi Jinping paid his first visit to the capital of Hubei province since it was placed under lockdown in late January after the outbreak became a national emergency. The number of daily new cases has fallen steadily in Wuhan in recent weeks, while all other cities in Hubei have reported zero fresh infections for several days in a row, prompting Xi to declare that the spread of the virus has been “basically curbed” in the province. The Hubei provincial government said that Wuhan businesses involved in providing daily necessities, prevention and control of the epidemic, or in the operations of public utilities, are among those that can resume work and production immediately. Wuhan firms that are key to “global industrial chains” may do so as well, after getting approval, the government added. Other companies are expected to resume production only after March 20. Japanese carmarker Honda said on Wednesday that some of its staff have started going to work in its Wuhan plant. Honda has also begun production of a “small number of vehicles” while checking on its production equipment. Similar rules apply to areas outside Wuhan that are considered high-risk, where companies involved in epidemic prevention, public utilities and providing necessities are among those that may resume work. In areas considered medium or low risk, there is a broader range of companies allowed to return to work. Passenger flights, trains, cars, ships and city buses in middle and low-risk areas (moving within the province and excluding Wuhan) will “gradually resume operations” as well, although no time frame was given. But authorities said they will continue strict control measures on channels out of Wuhan and Hubei. The announcement came a day after Hubei authorities loosened travel restrictions, allowing people from medium and low risk areas to move within the province if their health code is labelled “green”. A mobile app will be used to give residents a colored health code. Green indicates holders have no contact with virus cases, while those with yellow codes are close contacts. Confirmed or suspected cases will get a red code, and must be quarantined. Authorities added in the latest statement that outside of Wuhan, a “point-to-point” system will be adopted to send employees back to work, and help those stranded in Hubei to return home. Schools will continue to be suspended in Hubei. Wuhan city has been on lockdown since January 23 as China scrambled to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which has now killed over 3.100 and infected nearly 81.000 in the country. Other cities in Hubei soon followed suit, placing a total of around 56 million people under quarantine. Most of China’s cases and deaths came from Hubei, with the majority in Wuhan. But with cases falling dramatically in the province, residents have been clamoring for restrictions to be eased. +++

+++ You’ll be forgiven if you already forgot that the current-generation FIAT Tipo has been on sale for the past 5 years. Since its inception, the Tipo has been manufactured in sedan, hatchback and station wagon form, at the carmaker’s Bursa plant in Turkey. The Tipo is of course a C-segment offering, which means that it competes with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, even though it hasn’t posed much of a threat. Overall however, it has managed to outsell the Hyundai i30, Honda Civic and Mazda3 in Europe last year, while trailing the Kia Ceed, Renault Megane, Toyota Corolla, Seat Leon, Opel / Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308 and Skoda Octavia. Fiat is currently in the process of updating the Tipo. I expect the new car to feature new light graphics, to go with a redesigned front grille and a new bumper. Inside, I might get a new infotainment system (perhaps with a larger display) and new materials. The updated Fiat Tipo will hit showrooms either later on this year, or sometime in early 2021. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES said it will start implementing temporary closures at some of its Italian plants, and Italy’s largest dealer group said it will shut its doors until April 3 to help combat Europe’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus. A FCA spokesman said affected plants were in Pomigliano d’Arco, Melfi, Atessa and Cassino. Each factory will be halted for 2 or 3 days. FCA’s move affects plants that account for 600.000 units a year and 4 % of European vehicle production, Evercore ISI estimates. FCA said in a statement it was taking additional steps to minimize the risk of spreading the virus among employees, including intensive sanitization of all work and rest areas, to support the government’s directives to curb the spread of the infectious disease.”As a result of taking these actions the company will, where necessary, make temporary closures of its plants across Italy”, the release said. FCA said that to allow greater spacing of employees at their workstations, “daily production rates will be lowered to accommodate the adapted manufacturing processes”. However, a source close to the matter said FCA did not expect an impact on overall production rates. Italian megadealer Autotorino, which sold 29.100 new cars and 22.400 used ones last year, will shut down for the first time in its 55-year history, chairman Plinio Vanini said. “We are confident that strict limitations to mobility can help bring the situation back to normal”. Autotorino has 1.700 employees and a reported revenue of €1.22 billion in 2019. The company’s dealerships in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia sell cars for the Fiat, Jeep, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi and Subaru brands. +++

+++ FORD ‘s plan to shrink its European retail network to help the unit return to profit in the region will result in deep cuts to its dealers, particularly in the UK. Ford of Europe President Stuart Rowley declined to say how many dealers will be slashed. “It will be appropriate for the market”, he told. Up to 180 of the 400 dealers in the UK, Ford’s biggest market in Europe, are at risk of closure. Cutting the number of dealers will improve profitability at Ford, Rowley said. “There is obviously a lot of cost wrapped up in the distribution network and that ends up in the price of the vehicle or coming out of profit”, he said. “We want to make the network more efficient”. He also believes the reduction will help Ford’s retailers. “Our dealers are private investors who expect a return on that capital”, Rowley said. The overhaul of Ford’s European distribution network will include an accelerated shift toward online sales in reaction to changes in consumer demand. “The retail world is changing”, Rowley said. “We think over time we will have fewer dealer owners and fewer physical sites”. The roll out of Ford’s online sales system in Europe will coincide with the launch of the Mustang Mach E, which arrives later this year. “All of us now expect to transact much more online”, Rowley said. “Customers want to be able to order their vehicle online. They want to pay for it online. They want a single interface”. Automakers need to find savings elsewhere to pay for this new digital investment, said Steve Young, managing director of dealer analyst firm ICDP. “Those digital channels need to be paid for and there is no magic money tree, so you have to take cost out somewhere”, he said. Automakers such as Ford, which is also in the process of slashing 12.500 jobs in Europe, are right to downsize their dealer network as customer needs change, Young said. “Networks are still planned around outdated 30 minute drive times, but customers’ willingness to drive has increased”, Young said. Ford said that 90 % of the UK population would still be able to reach one of its dealerships by car in 30 minutes after the reduction. Ford is looking to switch some dealerships to service-only centers as part of the European network overhaul, Rowley said. The automaker is also looking to focus more on dealers that specialize in selling the brand’s successful family of Transit commercial vehicles with an emphasis on servicing. “This is effectively somebody’s business and livelihood. So our objective is to have them on the road faster”, Rowley said. The new Transit centers wouldn’t have to follow the location strategy as car dealers. “They don’t necessarily need to be a nice glass box in that certain part of town”, Rowley said. “They may need more space because they might want to have a much more complex product offer”. +++

+++ ITALY ‘s new car sales fell 8.8 % to 162.793 in February, according to data from the ministry of infrastructure and transport, as the market reeled from the country’s coronavirus outbreak. It was Italy’s second consecutive decline this year after a 5.9 % drop in January. Sales to private customers fell 19 %, following a 14 % decline in January, according to market researcher Dataforce, while sales to companies fell 23 %. Those declines were partially offset by a 17 % rise in registrations by long-term rental companies and a 19 % increase in sales to short-term rental companies. The coronavirus outbreak, which forced Italian authorities to limit movements in many regions of northern Italy starting in late February, had an impact. Demand in the provinces of Lodi and Cremona, where the majority of coronavirus cases have been reported, dropped 35 % and 23 %, respectively. Sales in the province of Milan, which at that time was not included in the lockdown area but was subject to some precautionary measures, declined by 17 %. Although the outbreak’s impact was marginal in February, Michele Crisci, chairman of importer association UNRAE, said he fears registrations could fall significantly in the coming months. There is a high risk that full-year sales will be closer to 1.5 million, down from a forecast of 1.9 million prior to the outbreak. In 2019, about 1.91 million vehicles were sold in Italy. Italian development minister Stefano Patuanelli said that “the automotive industry has to be supported, possibly with scrappage programs also for buyers of non-electrified cars”. Demand for electrified vehicles more than doubled in February, according to UNRAE. Registrations of hybrid-electric and battery-electric vehicles rose 112 % to 20.556, reaching an all-time high market share of 12.6 %. Full- and mild-hybrid sales were up 83 % to 16.807 for a 10.3 % market share, while plug-in hybrid sales increased 353 % to 1.219 for a 0.7 % market share. Sales of full-electric vehicles increased 900 % to 2,530 and their market share rose to 1.5 % from 0.1 % in February 2019. Renault’s Zoe was Italy’s the most popular EV, followed by the Volkswagen e-Up. Diesel demand fell 29 % in February to a market share of 34.8 %. Gasoline’s share rose to 44.9 % from 42.5 % in February 2019. The market share for cars powered by LPG declined to 5.6 % from 5.8 %, while sales of vehicles powered by CNG rose 80 % and their market share doubled to 2.2 % from 1.1 %. Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s registrations declined 6.9 % in February. Fiat brand increased volume by 4.4 % and Lancia posted a 2.2 % gain. Meanwhile Alfa Romeo dropped 20 % and Maserati was down 41 %. Jeep suffered a 40 % decline triggered by a 60 % drop in sales of the Compass. The decline was partly due to a change in sourcing of the model, which was made for the Italian market in Mexico until last year. Domestic output of the model began in February. Sales at PSA Group’s Opel brand dropped 28 %, while Peugeot declined 4.3 % and Citroen’s registrations fell 12 %. DS was the bright spot for PSA with a 182 % increase in monthly registrations. Within the Volkswagen Group, VW sales rose 1.2 %, while Audi increased 2.8 % and Skoda gained 23 %. Seat’s sales increased by 11 % and Porsche’s registrations jumped 84 %. Dacia brand suffered a 30 % drop, while Renault brand sales were flat. Ford’s registrations were down 6.1 %. Toyota’s sales dipped 11 %, while Nissan fell 18 %. Hyundai suffered a 14 % decline, while sister brand Kia gained 11 %. BMW brand sales declined 9.6 %, while Mercedes-Benz dropped 21 %. Smart’s volume fell 77 % following its transformation into an electric-only brand. Through February Italian sales were down 7.3 % to 318,545. More trouble looms for the market because prime minister Giuseppe Conte said that the nation of more than 60 million people should avoid all non-essential travel as he extended quarantine measures to the whole country to stop the spread of the virus. +++

+++ The LAND ROVER Defender lineup could grow in the years to come because there are once again rumours of the automaker offering a smaller entry under this famous moniker. The company’s thinking goes that it is currently missing a competitor against little crossovers like the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class or BMW X1, a smaller Defender would fill that niche. The tinier Defender would reportedly ride on a shortened version of Land Rover’s modular aluminium platform. The styling would look like the other members of the Defender family, just in a smaller footprint. Expect it to have a 5-door body. An earlier report indicated that the vehicle might go by the name Land Rover 80 without any specific reference to the Defender sub-brand. It would have an estimated price of roughly €37.500 in The Netherlands; significantly less than the other Land Rover models. Powertrain options allegedly include a hybrid-assisted 3-cylinder, and all-wheel drive would be an option. At the other end of the spectrum, Land Rover is also considering a Defender with three rows of seating that would wear the 130 moniker. It shares a wheelbase with the 110 but with extended space at the rear to accommodate the additional passengers. Land Rover dropped plans to build a new Defender with a pickup body because the company didn’t believe a cargo bed offered a significant upgrade in storage space. Adapting the aluminium platform to underpin a truck also prevented the company from creating the pickup. +++

+++ LEXUS has upgraded the UX 250h, which has been fitted with a raft of additional safety and interior design options. Wireless smartphone connectivity in the form of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is now standard across the range, while a new Premium Pro Pack can be specced on all trims. This adds safety tech such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert with automatic braking. Also added are LED headlights with adaptive high beam functionality, a head-up display, a 13-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround audio system, a power-adjustable steering wheel and 8-way, powered front seats. 2-way lumbar adjustment is also available on the driver’s seat only. Meanwhile, a new Cobalt interior colour option that incorporates black and blue trim pieces with contrasting white and blue seat upholstery has been added to the options list. Low-spec cars get fabric seats, while Takumi-trimmed cars and those with the Premium Pro Plus option gain a smooth leather finish. A new F White interior is exclusive to F Sport models, or to those fitted with the Premium Plus or Takumi packs. These get black leather on the instrument panel, as well as white leather seats. Elsewhere, there’s a new Lexus Driver Assist Pack, which is a no-cost option on Premium Plus Pack cars, or an option on the lesser Premium Pack. It adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert technology and Lexus’s Intelligent Clearance Sonar System. The engine remains the same. +++

+++ The current MASERATI Ghibli has been in production since 2013 and, while it was facelifted in 2017, it’s clearly showing its age, and we’re not talking solely about its exterior appearance, which stills holds up today. Fittingly, the Italian marque is working on a second facelift for the sedan. It is reasonable to assume that Maserati will stick to the tried-and-tested formula of tweaking the sedan’s front and rear fascias. The hood will also be changed. As with the recently spotted facelifted Levante prototype, more substantial modifications seem certain for the Ghibli’s interior. I understand key changes being prepared include an enlarged infotainment system and a fully digital gauge cluster. Maserati will also update the software used by the Ghibli to make it feel fresh and modern. It will be powered by a 2.0-liter engine with 330 hp. To achieve such a figure, the 4-cylinder obviously features a turbocharger but may also form part of a plug-in hybrid system that’s long been rumored for the Ghibli. Maserati had intended on unveiling the plug-in hybrid Ghibli at the Beijing Auto Show but the event was recently postponed. It’s difficult to say when the facelifted Ghibli range will premiere but it could arrive at the same time as the PHEV. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ ‘ electrification rollout will continue with the launch of an electric executive saloon called the EQ E in 2022. The Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S rival will feature a similar flowing, aerodynamically optimised design as its larger saloon sibling, the EQ S. The electric alternative to the E-Class will also adopt the smoothed-off face seen on the EQ C. A long bonnet falls steeply towards the front of the car, while the roofline is almost coupé-like and the windscreen is steeply raked. As with the EQ S, the wheels are pushed to each corner of the car, shortening the usual overhangs associated with a saloon. The intent behind this is most likely to provide the maximum space for the large, floor-mounted battery under the passenger cell, but it should also benefit occupant space. One source told: “The EQE will be shorter in length than today’s E-Class but offer space comparable to the existing S-Class”. With the EQ S set to arrive next year, the EQ E will be the second model based on Mercedes’ new MEA electric car platform. Making extensive use of aluminium, it’s designed to give EQ models a flat floor structure for added packaging flexibility and what Mercedes insiders have described as “class-leading interior space”. Other EQ models, such as the EQ C and forthcoming EQ A, EQ B and EQ V, use existing platform structures shared with combustion-engined siblings. Like the EQ S, the EQ E will be sold from the outset with 4-wheeldrive, with power coming from 2 electric motors: 1 for the front axle and 1 for the rear axle. Power figures are expected to eclipse the 408 hp of the EQC. To broaden the EQE’s appeal, Mercedes is also considering a rear-wheel-drive version, although it’s unlikely this would be made available before 2022, according to sources familiar with Mercedes’ electric car strategy. Among the features being touted for the EQ E are active air suspension and four-wheel steering, as well as safety features incorporated into Mercedes’ latest ESF experimental research vehicle, including level three autonomous driving functions. Developments in battery cell technology are expected to provide the EQ E with a range of close to 600 km. Production of the EQ E is scheduled to take place at Mercedes’ new Factory 56 in Sindelfingen; the same site earmarked to produce the EQ S. The EQ E will also be produced at a new €1.5 billion site being constructed by Mercedes in partnership with its Chinese joint-venture partner BAIC in Beijing, at a rate of up to 70.000 units per year, from 2022. For the time being, the scooped prototype of the EQ E sports heavy camo and plastic cladding, arranged to make it look like the bigger EQ S. However, there are several changes that set the 2 models apart, such as the headlights that sit lower, the shape of the boot lid with the third brake light positioned right above it and different side mirrors. Inside, I expect a familiar layout, with the latest MBUX infotainment system and digital instrument cluster taking center stage in the dashboard. The build quality should be top notch, with customers given the choice of many upholstery and trim options, while the ambient lighting will create a more pleasant atmosphere at night. The EQ E will likely debut in production guise at the Munich Motor Show in September 2021. +++

+++ PORSCHE is applying the finishing touches to an all-new, all-electric version of its best-selling Macan. Since its introduction in 2014, the SUV has been a huge success for the German firm, with just shy of 100.000 examples being sold around the world last year. But after only one generation Porsche will radically overhaul the model, which is due to be replaced within the next 18 months; it’s set to go fully electric, with no new petrol edition planned. “We already started the development of an electric Macan”, Michael Steiner, Porsche’s executive board member for R&D, told. “It is an obligation for us at Porsche to think about and work on sporty answers to electric cars”. Key to the development of the all-new Macan is a new electrical architecture called Premium Platform Electric (PPE) that will underpin larger, higher-riding vehicles from the Volkswagen Group. The move to radically overhaul the firm’s most popular new car is considered to be a risky decision, given the relatively small, but growing, market share EVs currently have around the world. So to counter any resistance from buyers who may not want an electric Macan, Porsche will continue to sell the existing SUV alongside the all-new version. “The electric Macan will be based on a new electric platform, not a derivative”, Steiner explained to us. “It was developed jointly with Audi, and is called the PPE. Knowing that there is not a lot of speed in the transition from ICE to electric, we are preparing to have both paths running in parallel. “For a few years, the internal-combustion-engined Macan of today will be sold in parallel with the new fully electric car. And it depends on the market demand all around the world how long we will have both”. The Macan will be the first vehicle to use the new PPE platform, but Steiner told it opens up the possibility of many more electric variants.“PPE is totally different from the Taycan’s J1 platform. That was designed for cars sitting low, the PPE for the Macan is designed for high-floor cars, so there could be electric derivatives in the range of SUVs. But this platform is totally new”. The electric Macan will adopt an evolutionary approach to its new design, given that the vehicle will be sold alongside today’s model. Design elements from the Taycan will be adopted, such as the blanked-off front end and hollowed-out LED headlights, meaning the SUV is identifiable as an electric model. However, the electric Macan’s overall shape and silhouette are unlikely to change much from that of the petrol car. The electric platform will allow Porsche to totally rethink the cabin design, and the flat floor should free up considerably more space inside for passengers. +++

+++ SEAT is considering temporary layoffs at its Martorell plant, near Barcelona, as the coronavirus spreads globally, a company spokesman told. The company is facing potential supply chain issues due to the outbreak, said the spokesman, who declined to comment on the duration of the possible temporary layoffs. “The Martorell plant is currently working normally. However, there are several risks derived from COVID-19, which has affected the supply chain”, the spokesman said. Seat would make temporary layoffs if it had to cut production due to supply issues, he said. Seat union representative Matias Carnero said the company’s supply chain was being affected by the worsening coronavirus outbreak, which has hit China and Italy particularly hard. “It all looks like it is going to be requested”, said Carnero, a representative for UGT, the main labor union at Seat, referring to the potential temporary layoffs. The temporary layoffs would last between 2 and 5 weeks, Carnero said. About 7.000 people work at the plant. Under temporary layoffs, Spanish workers are normally paid part of their salary. Seat builds the Ibiza, Leon and Arona alongside the Audi A1 in Martorell. Italian brake maker Brembo warned that its northern Italian production was under threat from the country’s restrictions to tackle the spread of the coronavirus. +++

+++ TOYOTA is introducing 2 hybrid Prius models in South Korea as it works to recover from disappointing sales last year and reach consumers looking for eco-friendly vehicle options. The Korean unit of the Japanese automakers said that it has started sales of the Prius C hatchback and facelifted Prius liftback. Both models are hybrid electric vehicles that are eligible for taxes and parking discounts. The Prius C, priced at 25.9 million won ($21,700), comes with a newly designed radiator grille along with front and rear bumpers. The subcompact hatchback is equipped with a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and compact hybrid transaxle, rated at 101 hp. The hybrid technology increases the fuel economy of the Prius C. It goes 18.6 kilometers on a liter of petrol. Toyota Korea said it is also offering allwheel-drive options and frontwheel-drive versions of the Prius liftback. The allwheel-drive option has a fuel economy of 20.9 kilometers per liter, while the frontwheel-drive version can travel 22.4 kilometers per liter. They are rated at 122 hp. The launch of new Prius models could help Toyota recover from disappointing sales last year. According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, Toyota in 2019 sold a total of 10.611 vehicles in Korea, down 36.7 % from 16.774 units a year earlier. Sales for its luxury brand Lexus dipped 8.2 % to 12.241 units. As the coronavirus outbreak threatens production and sales schedules for its Korean competitors, Toyota could experience a sales rebound this year. +++

+++ In the UNITED STATES , fears of a U.S. sales slowdown in auto showrooms due to the coronavirus outbreak that has spread globally are appearing in analysts’ forecasts, but industry executives said the pandemic has yet to affect demand or factory production. Officials with Detroit automakers General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said there has been no disruption to U.S. production. Automakers and their suppliers have avoided shutdowns in the United States so far due to parts already en route, as well as suppliers resorting to air shipments or resourcing the supply of parts to different plants, supplier executives and industry consultants said. GM chief executive Mary Barra said last week the automaker’s vehicle production was secure from parts shortages “quite far into this month”. Kalitta Air, an international air cargo carrier in Michigan that counts auto companies among its clients, is operating its planes 25 % more than usual due to heavier demand from customers and the near-term schedule is filled, said chief operating officer Pete Sanderlin. “We’re booking business towards the end of April”. Suppliers echo that sentiment. “Dana hasn’t had any significant interruptions up to this point and we have 149 facilities globally”, Dana CEO James Kamsickas said. However, that situation could change quickly for suppliers and their customers, said Dan Hearsch, managing director in the auto practice for consultancy AlixPartners. “You need all 9,000 parts that go into a car. If you only have 8.998 of them, you’ve got a problem. You can’t make the car”, he said. Meanwhile, analysts are reducing their 2020 sales forecasts for the U.S. market due to the outbreak. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said in a research note he expects the outbreak to send U.S. auto sales down 9 % this year as “demand shock” causes consumers to delay large purchases. Before the outbreak, he had expected a decline of 1 %- 2 %. Automakers are due to report first-quarter sales in early April.

 

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