Newsflash: Volkswagen GTX label debuteert op ID.4

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+++ The DBX may be the first SUV from ASTON MARTIN , but it definitely won’t be the company’s last. Even though it hasn’t even gone on sale yet, already Aston is considering expanding its crossover lineup with 2 additional DBX variants: a 4-door ‘coupe’ and a 7-seater. Aston Martin Lagonda executive vice-president and chief creative officer, Marek Reichman hints at more DBX body styles in the near future. Don’t expect an SUV under the DBX, but rather, the company is considering at least 2 riffs on the current platform. “We’ll never go down in size”, Reichman told. “Not necessarily up, but maybe it’s less capacity. So, the wheelbase may remain the same, but maybe the box shrinks a little bit. Because in terms of downsizing, we are never going to be a Macan versus a Cayenne. Cayenne / DBX (sizing) is core, so downsizing then comes silhouette, upsizing is relatively simple, and that’s a potential: you could do both off that platform”. Assuming an Aston Martin DBX 4-door coupe comes to fruition, it would square up against competitors like the Porsche Cayenne Coupe, BMW X6, Lamborghini Urus and a few others. A larger 3-row DBX, meanwhile, would take the fight to alternatives like the BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS. Based on the success of both of those segments, Aston’s entrants could boost company sales significantly; the already Aston Martin expects the standard DBX to increase sales by about 4.000 units per year. Until then, buyers will have to make do with the traditional Aston Martin DBX. +++ 

+++ AUDI has secured a new moniker with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the R8 Green Hell. Named after the Nurburgring, it was filed on March 10 and is still under examination. The nameplate can be used on “vehicles, parts and fittings of vehicles; apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water”, according to the trademark information. Truth be told, it could mean nothing, as it is quite common for automakers to register different monikers before the competition. Nevertheless, we could also be looking at a more track-focused version of the R8 that will perhaps serve as the swan song of the outgoing iteration, which is already 5 years old. A more hardcore model would probably drop some weight and add more grunt to the already potent 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V10 that currently makes up to 620 hp and 580 Nm in the Performance variant. Nought to 100 km/h takes only 3.1 seconds in this model and top speed is 331 km/h. Another scenario might see the alleged R8 Green Hell special edition try to steal the crown from the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ as the fastest production car at the Nurburgring. To do so, it would need to complete the course in under 6 minutes and 44.95 seconds. The Italian automaker has held on to the record for almost two years now, after it beat the Porsche 911 GT2 RS by more than 2 seconds, so it seems plausible. Audi has not secured the new moniker with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), so if they are indeed prepping a special edition supercar, it probably won’t be launch on the other side of the pond. +++ 

+++ Investigators who looked into a 2019 crash that killed the driver of a Tesla Model 3 that slammed broadside into a semi trailer on a Florida freeway determined that the crash was caused by the truck driver’s failure to yield to the car’s right of way; combined with the Model 3 driver’s inattentiveness while relying on AUTOPILOT ; the partially autonomous driver-assist system. National Transportation Safety Board investigators also chastised Tesla for failing to limit the use of Autopilot to conditions for which it designed and it cited the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to develop a way to verify automakers’ system safeguards for partially automated driving technologies. It also released images pulled from the Model 3 that show the semi truck obscuring the roadway in the final seconds before the car struck the trailer and passed underneath it, shearing off its roof. This is what the inattentive driver apparently never saw, and Autopilot never reacted to: “The Delray Beach investigation marks the third fatal vehicle crash we have investigated where a driver’s over-reliance on Tesla’s Autopilot and the operational design of Tesla’s Autopilot have led to tragic consequences”, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said. The fatal crash occurred just before sunrise March 1, 2019, when Jeremy Banner, 50, was driving his Model 3 to work on U.S. Highway 441 in Delray Beach, Florida. The semi trailer was traveling east and had pulled out into the southbound lanes of the freeway when Banner’s car slammed into the trailer, shearing off the roof of the Model 3, which coasted to a stop nearly a third of a mile later. Banner died at the scene. Investigators say Banner was driving 110 kph at the time, did not apply the brakes or take other evasive action and was operating with Autopilot, which he switched on just under 10 seconds before impact. The system detected no steering wheel torque for the final 7.7 seconds before the crash, and neither the forward collision warning nor the automatic emergency braking systems activated. Investigators said the highway where it occurred was not compatible with Autopilot because it had 34 intersection roadways and private driveways in the immediate 5-mile vicinity. Tesla Autopilot is supposed to be used on highways with limited access and no intersecting roadways. Tesla told NTSB investigators that forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking on the Model 3 were not designed to activate for crossing traffic or to prevent crashes at high speeds, so Autopilot did not consistently detect and track the truck as it pulled out into oncoming southbound traffic. It also said the system did not warn the driver to put his hands back on the steering wheel because the roughly 8 seconds was too short to trigger such a warning. Tesla advertises Autopilot as a tool that “enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane”, but it adds that the system features “require driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous”. It also says drivers must stay alert and “keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times and maintain control of your car”, with a visual reminder whenever the system is engaged. The truck driver, who was uninjured, told investigators he was on anti-seizure medication and had undergone refractive surgery on both eyes in 2012. He reportedly said he was able to “read with my right eye” and “see my distance in my left eye”, a condition commonly referred to as monovision or blended vision. Banner’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla, trucking company FirstFleet and the truck driver. +++

 

+++ BENTLEY will stop car production at its British factory for 4 weeks over the corona virus outbreak, one of the final automakers in Britain to announce such plans. Parent company Volkswagen said on Tuesday it would be ceasing output at plants across Europe as the pandemic hits sales and disrupts supply chains, but Bentley’s northern English site in Crewe has continued operations so far. The luxury brand, which makes around 11.000 vehicles each year and employs roughly 4.500 people, said the move was to protect the health of its workforce and due to accelerating constraints on activity and declining demand in some markets. The factory should reopen on April 20, the firm’s boss Adrian Hallmark told, just as the firm had returned to profitability last year after a difficult 2018. “We were all set up for a gangbusters 2020, the first 2 months of the year have been very strong and then the corona virus hits us”, he said. “Any ideas of glory and big profits that we had have been tempered significantly but having said that, we really don’t know how it’s going to play out”. The brand said it expected to see a reduction in sales in every market where the coronavirus is taking hold, and in China demand was down 50 % against expectations last month but in March was returning to the expected level. The British government has asked manufacturers if they could help with the design and production of ventilators. “It’s been a very high level question and the question was: we’ve got 1.000 engineers, could we dedicate a number of them with requisite skills and experience to be able to help to do some of the development work and industrial engineering?” said Hallmark. He likened the effort to the use of Bentley’s factory to Britain’s World War Two effort by building engines for its fighter planes. “I like to remember that in just 2 years, the Spitfire engine went from 1.500 hp to 2.700 hp”, he said. “When needs must, we can perform and I’m sure the same would be true for ventilators if we were given the right brief and opportunity to do so”. +++ 

+++ CHINA is exploring relaxing some emissions standards to provide relief for automakers battling an unprecedented slump in the world’s largest market, according to people familiar with the matter. The discussions involve a key aspect of the China VI rules that are scheduled to go into effect nationwide on July 1, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are not public. Specifically, Chinese authorities are debating whether to ease restrictions on the amount of harmful particles that vehicles emit from their tailpipes (a measure known as particle number, or PN) the people said. The move shows how pressure is rising for countries to sacrifice longer-term environmental goals to salvage  economies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. China’s growth was already slowing before the outbreak paralyzed various industries, with automakers being particularly hard hit, and now economists at Goldman Sachs Group estimate the world’s second-largest economy will shrink 9 % in the first quarter. “With automakers and dealers being under unprecedented pressure, it is necessary for policy makers to relax the emission rules and save the industry”, said Cui Dongshu, secretary general of China Passenger Car Association, a trade body. “It is especially crucial for dealers, as they would face bankruptcy if they can’t lower their inventories”. A delay would give automakers more time to sell older models that do not qualify for the new rules from their inventories, which have ballooned amid a prolonged downturn that’s been exacerbated by the spread of the virus. The industry has been calling for a delay because without it, automakers risk having to scrap or refit millions of vehicles that could not be sold in China under the new rules. China VI, which has been adopted in parts of the country already but not nationwide, is similar to the Euro 6 standard that’s currently in place in Europe. One of the key changes in the new rules is reducing the maximum permissible PN count, which measures pollutants such as dust, to a 10th of current levels. As things stand now, China would move from a standard known as PN12 to PN11 in July. But government branches are now discussing postponing the switch to PN11 to a date that is yet to be determined, the people said. No decision has been made, they said. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which has been promoting stricter emissions rules to curb pollution, was not available for comment and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which would need to agree to any changes in the China VI policy, did not have an immediate comment. China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the nation’s main economic planner, did not respond to a query. A delay would also give automakers more time to reconfigure their production lines and testing processes. Besides emptying dealerships, the coronavirus pandemic has forced automakers across China to shut down operations, leaving them behind schedule in preparations for PN11 and other expected rule changes. Emissions rules were most recently tightened in much of China last year, a move that was seen as contributing to waning car demand because it prompted consumers to wait for vehicles that met the new criteria. Automakers’ profitability also took a hit as they sold older vehicles that did not meet the new standards at heavy discounts to clear inventory before the rule changes took effect. The industry has pleaded for help from the government as it attempts to reverse a sales decline that is in its third year and showing no signs of ending. The state-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers sent a proposal to regulators last month, urging them to postpone the move to PN11. The government is looking into the request and there is no further information to share on the matter, the industry group said. +++ 

+++ In EUROPE , new-car sales have plunged as the coronavirus wreaks havoc with demand and governments likely will have to offer big incentives to boost demand when normality resumes. The pandemic is also causing supply chain disruption that will likely affect European automaker’s plans to roll out electrified models that they need to hit tough CO2 reduction targets. Michele Crisci, chairman of UNRAE, the association of foreign automakers operating in Italy, said: “A significant part of the components needed for electrified cars come from China. It is not clear yet how long this supply chain will take to resume its normal production flow. Automakers made plans to be compliant with these new, stricter CO2 targets, effective this year. But what about if we miss crucial components from China that are needed to build electrified cars? A possible solution is moving the CO2 targets to 2021. Due to the coronavirus, 2020 is going to be a very delicate and complicated year for automakers. Adding huge fines on an industry already under enormous pressure on the cost and margin sides would not help. Demand needs a boost and incentives could help, as they did after the global financial crisis. Looking at Italy, we said to the government that we understand that boosting car demand is not a top priority these days, but we are at their disposal to offer ideas when they have time listen to us. Current incentives are offered for vehicles below 60 g/km. I think that everything below the 2020 European threshold of 95 g/km should receive some form of help. Since March 10, the entire country is in total lockdown as far as car sales are concerned. March could close with 30.000 registrations, down from 194.000 a year ago. We do not know when this lockdown will be lifted (current restrictions are set to end April 3). If we also lose April, a month that posted 175.000 sales last year, losses alone in March and April this year could account for about 340.000 units. Even imagining a rebound after the summer, if we lose 365.000 units in the first 4 months; a 1.5-million-unit annual total looks increasingly at risk”. +++ 

+++ The new FORD Bronco Sport leaked out earlier this month when undisguised pictures surfaced online. Now, I’m learning more about the model as the baby Bronco has been added to Ford’s ordering system. Starting under the hood, the listing shows the Bronco Sport will be offered with 1.5- and 2.0-liter EcoBoost engines that are connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Of course, this isn’t too surprising since the Bronco Sport is based on the Kuga. In that model, the 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine produces 182 hp and 240 Nm. Likewise, the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder develops 253 hp and 372 Nm. While the Kuga is offered with front and allwheel drive, it appears the Bronco Sport will be AWD only. It’s also interesting to note the model has a 2.670 mm wheelbase which is 41 mm shorter than the Kuga. That effectively splits the difference between the Jeep Renegade and Cherokee. Since we already know what the model will look like, we’ll focus on equipment. The Bronco Sport is slated to be offered with 10 different exterior colors. Customers will also have the option of selecting between a black or gray roof. Ford will also offer a number of different variants. These are slated to include a base model and First Edition as well as Badlands, Big Bend, Outer Banks trims. In particular, the Badlands variant will have bodycolor bumpers and bodycolor exterior door handles. Inside, we can expect a leatherwrapped steering wheel and heated front seats with power adjustment. Other niceties include a dualzone automatic climate control system, a wireless smartphone charger and a 6-speaker audio system. It also appears that Bronco Sport will have 17 inch wheels and at least 3 different upholstery options. Leather will be available on higher end variants, while lesser models will apparently get fabric seats with orange accents. The Bronco Sport will be unveiled later this year, but the exact timing remains a mystery. +++ 

+++ With the coronavirus crisis raging in Europe and the United States, a number of people are looking at China to see how the pandemic played out. Ipsos looked at the virus’ impact on cars in China and it could provide some INSIGHTS WHAT TO EXPECT in other markets. The quick survey was conducted at the end of last month and it examined how the corona virus impacted consumer habits. Unsurprisingly, people used public transport less after the outbreak. The number of people taking the bus fell by more than 50 %, while there were also declines in the number of people using taxis and rail-hailing services. At the same time, private car usage nearly doubled as many consumers were afraid of catching Covid-19 from others. This fear was even seen in people who don’t own a car. Among non-car owners, 66 % said they would like to purchase a car within 6 months. 77 % of “1st time buying intenders” also said a reason for wanting a new car was driving can reduce the chance of infection, compared to public transport. The coronavirus also pushed car shoppers online as they turned to apps, websites and social media. Consumers also began placing an emphasis on “healthy features” such as interiors made with antibacterial materials and climate control systems with a germ filter. The desire to stay away from crowds also saw car shoppers interested in buying online and test driving vehicles from the comfort of their home. Given the findings, carmakers should probably highlight online sales programs such as the one GM touted earlier this week. When the automaker announced their 0 % financing event, they noted customers who are concerned about leaving their home can buy vehicles online (from participating dealerships) and have them delivered. +++

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER will temporarily suspend production at their UK manufacturing plants amid the coronavirus pandemic. JLR’s production operations in Castle Bromwich, Halewood and Solihull will all be halted “over the course of next week”. The 3 plants assemble around half a million cars per year; about a third of the UK’s total passenger car output. The pair are some of the last major, mass-production car makers in the UK to temporarily suspend production as the pandemic’s disruption affects all areas of business. Bentley, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Rolls-Royce, Toyota and Vauxhall have also suspended production at their British sites. However, neither Aston Martin nor McLaren have closed their facilities or declared publicly that they intend to do so. Aston Martin sold just over 5.800 cars in 2019, while McLaren sold 4.700. Smaller car factories, such as those of Caterham and Morgan, appear to remain open at this stage. +++ 

+++ Chinese carmaker JIANGHUAI Automobile Group swung back to profit last year, according to the annual report of the company. Data showed that its net profits attributable to shareholders totaled 106 million yuan ($15 million) last year, compared to losses of 786 million yuan a year earlier. Revenue saw a year-on-year decline of 5.6 % to stand at 47.3 billion yuan. A total of 421.200 vehicles were sold last year. The most 2 popular models were light trucks and SUVs, which reported sales of 192.800 units and 86.800 units, respectively. The automaker expects its sales to reach 450.000 to 500.000 units this year, and revenue to range between 50 billion yuan and 55 billion yuan. +++ 

+++ LAMBORGHINI recorded its best ever year for sales in 2019, spurred on by demand for its Urus. Last year, the Italian marque achieved a record 8.205 worldwide sales, 43 % more than in 2018 and turnover rose 28 % from €1.42 billion to €1.81 billion for the year. This result included record sales in all of Lamborghini’s major regions: North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. The Urus, launched in 2018 as Lamborghini’s first high-riding model since the LM002, was the brand’s bestselling car last year, with 4.962 examples finding homes. This was complemented by sales of the Aventador (1.104 units) and the Huracán (2.139 units). Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali said: “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 characterise 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”. Since it arrived in 2018, the Urus has transformed Lamborghini, with the firm’s Bolognese headquarters doubling in size to accommodate demand for the car. Domenicali has called the Urus “a true Lamborghini in terms of design, performance, driving dynamics and emotion, and a perfect fit within the Lamborghini family”. The Italian SUV is powered by a 4.0-litre V8 engine, which generates 650 hp. This allows it to achieve 0-100 kph in 3.7 seconds. +++ 

+++ NIO , a Chinese leading electric vehicle manufacturer said in a financial report that its full-year deliveries of vehicles reached 20.565 in 2019, compared with 11.348 units delivered in 2018. The company’s total revenues were 7.82 billion yuan ($1.1 billion) last year, representing an increase of 58 % from the previous year. Net loss attributable to Nio’s ordinary shareholders decreased by 51.1 % year on year to 11.4 billion yuan for the full year of 2019. William Li, founder, chairman and CEO of Nio, said the company served over 34.218 users across 296 cities in China as of the end of February 2020, with its ES6 ranking first in electric SUV sales in China for the fifth consecutive month since last October. “We are pleased to see our growing user community becoming an essential part of our brand and business growth”, Li said, noting that NIO is striving to resume productions, expand traffic channels and integrate its online and offline sales efforts in a challenging environment due to the Covid-19 outbreak. For the first quarter of 2020, the company expects its deliveries of the vehicles to be between 3.400 and 3.600 units, representing a decrease of approximately 9.8 % to 14.8 % from the same period of 2019. Founded in November 2014, the Shanghai-headquartered company completed its initial public offering in September 2018. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE set a new sales record in the 2019 financial year with sales tallying 280.800 cars worldwide, the company confirmed. The figure is an increase of 10 % over the previous year. Sales revenue rose by 11 % to €28.5 billion, with the firm reporting an operating profit of €4.4 billion. It means Porsche remains one of the world’s most profitable car companies with a return on sales of 15.4 %. However, Porsche was hit with a fresh €535 million fine in 2019 due to its involvement in the 2016 dieselgate scandal. The fine reduced the firm’s total profits for the year to €3.9 billion. Porsche posted increased sales in every worldwide region in 2019, with Europe being its fastest growing market: up 15 % year-on-year. China remains the company’s largest single market as sales rose by 8 % to 86.752 units. Once again, the Cayenne and Macan were by far the firm’s most popular new models, accounting for over 68 % of total sales. Porsche sold 92.055 of the Cayenne; an increase of 29 % year-on-year, and 99.944 Macans; an increase of 16 %, in 2019. Although no sales for the Taycan have been officially registered, the company did confirm that over 15.000 customers had now signed purchase contracts for the car. +++ 

+++ The board of RENAULT will meet on Friday to discuss the coronavirus outbreak and its effect on operations, 3 sources close to the company said. The health crisis has hit auto firms and their suppliers hard, and Renault has now suspended industrial activity in France and Spain and shut factories in Morocco and Romania too. The French government, which has a 15 % stake in Renault, has said it would stand behind its big companies by whatever means necessary and even evoked nationalisations, though it has yet to take any concrete steps and has not named any firms. “It’s a meeting to take stock of the situation, to discuss operations, the financial aspects of stoppages at plants”, said one of the sources, adding that no firm decisions were expected to emerge from the exchange, which will take place by phone. France has ordered schools, restaurants and many non-essential businesses including retailers to close to try and contain the outbreak, and is encouraging people to work from home when they can. Renault will have to decide whether to press ahead with its annual general meeting scheduled for April 24, the same source said. Renault, which was trying to patch up its alliance with Nissan when the coronavirus outbreak hit, was also already struggling like some peers with falling demand, and it posted its first loss in a decade in 2019. Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard held a call with France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire earlier this week, along with the boss of PSA, to discuss the outlook for the sector. +++ 

+++ SHARP has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the Japanese unit of Tesla, seeking an injunction to halt imports of some electric vehicles (EV) to Japan, a source familiar with the matter said on. The lawsuit, filed in Tokyo, alleges that mobile communications equipment installed in some Tesla models violate patents owned by Sharp, said the source, who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the issue. Sharp, a unit of Taiwan’s Foxconn, has been actively filing patent infringement cases in recent months, accusing U.S. TV brand Vizio Inc and Chinese smartphone maker OPPO. +++ 

+++ After the coronavirus outbreak caused a nationwide shortage of face masks in January, Chinese officials were quick to ensure that TESLA would not be left without. China’s government helped the U.S. automaker secure the sought-after supplies that allowed it to reopen at a time when many of its competitors were still shut down. Tesla received 10.000 masks, cases of disinfectant that require a government permit, thermometers and other materials that allowed the company to restart a new factory near Shanghai the first working day after the extended Lunar New Year break, according to state-run media. The support for Tesla (which also included providing accommodation for some employees as the outbreak snowballed) is emblematic of China’s wider embrace of CEO Elon Musk’s car venture. The tycoon has waged a charm offensive since deciding to build the company’s first plant outside the U.S. in China, home to the world’s biggest EV market, and has been rewarded with the support of officials even as a trade war strains relations with the U.S. That backing is crucial for Musk’s vision to make China a centerpiece of his automotive ambitions, but also serves a purpose for Beijing, with Tesla’s new factory south of Shanghai a symbol of the government’s efforts to open the economy to global competition and be a world pioneer in EVs. “Given Tesla’s image of having advanced electric-vehicle technology and expected strong demand for made-in-China Tesla Model 3s this year, no local government anywhere in the world would neglect such a new project”, said Yale Zhang, founder of AutoForesight, a Shanghai-based consultancy. As Beijing pushed local authorities to get the country back to work last month, officials in Lingang singled out Tesla as an example of their success in helping the area’s industry to recover. The management committee of Lingang “will make all efforts to help key companies including Tesla return to normal production”, Xu Wei, a spokesperson for the Shanghai municipal government, said at a briefing in February. Tesla representatives in China declined to comment on the help it received from authorities. Tesla has been impacted along with the China’s broader auto industry as the virus prompts customers to stay home, causing a historical plunge in new-vehicle sales. But the support it has received allowed the automaker to recover from a shutdown aimed at slowing the virus’ spread that virtually paralyzed industry in China. A gauge of Chinese manufacturing plunged to a record low in February, according to government data. Besides the protective materials, Chinese authorities helped arrange dormitories for hundreds of Tesla employees, as well as transport to and from the plant amid the turmoil caused by the outbreak. Shanghai Lingang Human Resources, a government-backed agency that coordinates hiring in the area, said it’s helped Tesla add more than 100 new workers since the outbreak, assisting with virus screening and online interviews. Authorities are also trying to ensure that Tesla’s parts suppliers in China resume production as soon as possible by providing epidemic-prevention materials, Sun Xiaohe, a local official in charge of assisting Tesla, told state media. Catering was also arranged, they reported. While other automakers such as Geely also received masks and other support, the actions to help Tesla have been trumpeted in state media and by local government-backed outlets. Footage of locally-built Model 3 sedans being assembled amid the epidemic have proliferated on TV and online. Even before the virus, a swift regulatory-approval process enabled Tesla to start deliveries to customers in China in January, a year after it first broke ground on the factory. “The Gigafactory project illustrated the cooperation between Tesla and the Shanghai government, and that the city has improved its business environment”, Wu Qing, deputy mayor of Shanghai, said at a ceremony that saw Tesla hand over its first China-made car. Local banks provided financing for Tesla’s China push, including a $1.6 billion injection announced at the end of last year. The acquisition of land for the plant and a slew of local permits were cleared swiftly, and the plant was hooked to the nation’s power grid quicker than the average for other firms. As the factory was being planned and local permits pending, Musk visited China often for meetings with everyone from Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma to government officials including Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng. He met with Premier Li Keqiang in Zhongnanhai, the leadership compound next to the Forbidden City in central Beijing where the country hosts its most high-profile foreign visitors. Musk was also photographed eating steamed buns, a local delicacy, during a visit to the capital last year. Soon afterward, Tesla obtained an exemption from China’s 10 percent sales tax on cars. Typically, only EVs made by Chinese companies have been exempt. “The fact that Tesla received significant government support to overcome the current crisis shows China is delivering its promises to treat foreign firms on equal footing with local ones”, said Ivan Su, an analyst at Morningstar in Hong Kong. Tesla’s China car registrations fell 35 % in February, month on month, data from auto consultancy LMC Automotive showed. Overall auto sales in China plunged 79.1 % in February, marking their biggest ever monthly decline, as a coronavirus pandemic hit demand. However, data from China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) showed Tesla sold around 3.900 vehicles in February; up from 2.620 vehicles in January. CPCA uses a different counting method. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED STATES , president Donald Trump says the government will help out the auto industry due to the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus. While speaking on a recent call with state governors, Trump said the administration will take care of car manufacturers. “We’re watching the auto industry very much”, he said. “We’re going to be helping them out at least a little bit and they’ve sort of requested some help, and it wasn’t their fault what happened. So we’ll be taking care of the auto industry”. Trump failed to specify what sort of aid the government could provide to the auto industry. His response comes shortly after the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) urged both Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to provide suppliers with relief in order to address a liquidity crisis. MEMA president Bill Long expressed his concerns in a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top lawmakers. “Such a decrease will impact the entire country and any comprehensive economic relief package must provide protection for our essential manufacturing operations”, he wrote. Long asked lawmakers to provide temporary relief from certain tariffs through the remainder of 2020 and also urged lawmakers to permit manufacturers to access emergency financial grants for distressed companies. Earlier this week, a number of automaker and dealer trade groups also urged Trump to issue national guidance deeming auto repair facilities as essential businesses that can remain open during the crisis. Automakers have stopped short of asking for specific financial relief. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN technology chief Matthias Rabe says the company has chosen to base its first electric performance model on the ID.4, a 4.6 meter long SUV, so it can take advantage of 4-wheeldrive. Volkswagen is set to introduce the GTX badge for a range of hot ID models. But while the Golf-size ID.3 seems a natural choice for a sporting model, Rabe confirmed that Volkswagen’s first hot EV will be a version of 1 of the 1 SUVs that are set to spawn from the ID Crozz concept. While he declined to comment on the use of the GTX badge (designed match the existing GTI, GTD and GTE brands for petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid machines) he did confirm that the first series performance electric model would be based on the ID.4 . Rabe noted that the initial electric performance cars would appeal to “different customers” from long-time GTI fans. He said using the ID.4 “makes sense” because it will be offered with a twin-motor set-up that offers 4-wheeldrive and extra power, while the ID.3 will only be available in single-motor, rear-wheeldrive form. “At the moment, we need 4-wheeldrive for the performance version”, said Rabe. “I drove a component test car (for the ID.4 GTX) recently; you get fantastic response and can make fantastic drifts. It’s easy to control and will do exactly what you say”. The ID.4 will initially launch with a rear-drive powertrain expected to offer up to 204 hp and 300 Nm from a rear-mounted electric motor. It will be followed by a 4-wheeldrive model that adds a front-mounted motor, taking its overall output to 306 hp and 450 Nm. The model will be offered with a rnge of battery sizes, the largest of which will offer a range of around 500 km. Rabe didn’t rule out an ID.3 GTX being produced at some point, saying that it would “make a fantastic sports car”. When asked whether the hot hatch had a future given the rise of electric cars, Rabe said: “With electrification, we will see some other possibilities for compact sporty cars. In the ID family for sure  we will see some sporty versions, but in a different way”. The ID.4 will be followed by a SUV coupe version badged ID.5, and that model will also gain a hot GTX version utilising the same powertrain. Volkswagen’s R division is currently working on high-performance electric models, and the first of those is set to be an ID.3 R. Due to be launched by 2024, the model will feature 4-wheeldrive along with extensively reworked motor and battery systems. The powertrain and batteries will be developed with help from Volkswagen Motorsport, using its learning with the record-breaking ID.R hillclimb machine. +++ 

+++ VOLVO is just the latest major carmaker to suffer at the hands of this novel coronavirus outbreak, being forced to shut down production in Sweden as well as the U.S. between March 26 and April 14. Their Belgium plant will remain closed until April 5. The company’s main focus is now the health and safety of its employees, which is why precautionary measures and travel restrictions have already been taken. In order to help reduce the spread of the virus, Volvo office workers will do their jobs from home as of March 26, and working hours will be reduced. “Our primary concerns are the health of our employees and the future of our business”, said the brand’s chief executive, Håkan Samuelsson. “With the help of valuable supporting programs put in place by governments and authorities, we have been able to act quickly”. Facilities being put on hold include the Torslanda, Skovde and Olofstrom plants (Sweden), Ghent (Belgium) and South Carolina (United States). Volvo builds the XC90, XC60 and V90 at Torslanda, 4-cylinder gasoline units in Skovde and body components in Olofstrom. The Ghent plant meanwhile produces the XC40 and V60, while the facility in Ridgeville, near Charleston, South Carolina, produces the all-new S60. What’s interesting though is that earlier this month, Volvo actually reopened its four manufacturing plants in China, where showroom traffic is said to be back to normal, which is good news as far as global production is concerned. +++

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