Newsflash: Lucid Air wordt 1.800 pk sterk

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+++ Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD reported a 42 % drop in 2019 profit, saying cuts in government subsidies and emissions rules changes had hit demand in the sector. BYD, which is backed by U.S. investor Warren Buffett, said its net profit for 2019 totalled 1.61 billion yuan ($227 million), while its revenue dropped 1.78 % to 127.74 billion yuan last year. China cut subsidies for new energy vehicles (NEV), which include battery electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, last year, making the final product more costly for carmakers. After that NEV sales fell for 9 straight months. However, last month China said it would extend subsidies for new energy vehicles and extend NEV’s purchase tax exemption for 2 years. The Shenzhen-based car company, which has partnerships with Toyota and Daimler in China, sold 461.399 vehicles in 2019; down 11.4 % from the previous year. In 2019, China’s overall auto market dropped 8.2 %, while sales for NEVs fell 4 %. +++ 

+++ The Nissan Leaf may be Britain’s bestselling ELECTRIC car but, perhaps unsurprisingly, it has also been revealed to be the nation’s best known EV as well according to a new survey by DrivingElectric.com. The survey of over 700 people revealed that more than 94 % of participants knew of the British-built car, which has been around for a decade. The Tesla Model S and Jaguar I-Pace were the second and third best known EVs with 93 % and 89 % respectively. Meanwhile the brandnew Honda E, the Mercedes EQ C and the Smart EQ ForTwo fared worst being known by less than 68 % of the survey’s respondents. Elsewhere in the survey, Tesla was determined to be not only the biggest factor in EV adoption, but was also perceived to have the most innovative EV range, ahead of fellow premium brands Jaguar and BMW. Jaguar beat both Tesla and BMW in the looks department, with the British brand deemed to have the best looking EV range, despite its I-Pace being the only all-electric car that it offers at the moment. “The survey shows that brands that have been selling electric cars for the longest are the ones that buyers are most aware of”, said Richard Ingram, editor of DrivingElectric. “But with the market now offering such a great array of fantastic plug-in models, it’s more important than ever that consumers do their research on the website and consider those models that might not be household names”. When it cimes to electric car model awareness, the Nissan Leaf tops as said with (94 %). Next came the Tesla Model S (93 %), the Jaguar I-Pace (89 %), the Tesla Model X (88 %), the BMW i3 (86 %), the Mini Electric (85 %), the Volkswagen e-Golf (85 %), the Hyundai Kona Electric (81 %), the Renault Zoe (81 %), the Audi e-tron (80 %), the Vauxhall Corsa-e (79%), the Volkswagen e-Up (77 %), the Peugeot e-208 (71 %), the Honda E (68 %), the Mercedes EQ C (55 %) and the Smart EQ ForTwo (45 %). The brands leading electric-car adoption in the UK are considered 1. Tesla, 2. Nissan, 3. Jaguar, 4. BMW, 5. Renault, 6. Hyundai, 7. Kia, 8. Volkswagen, 9. Audi and 10. Volvo. The brands producing the most innovative electric cars are 1. Tesla, 2. Jaguar, 3. BMW, 4. Nissan, 5. Hyundai, 6. Kia, 7. Volkswagen, 8. Renault, 9. Audi and 10. Honda. The brands producing the most visually appealing electric cars are: 1. Jaguar, 2. Tesla, 3. BMW, 4. Audi, 5. Mercedes, 6. Volvo, 7. Volkswagen, 8. Peugeot, 9. Hyundai and 10. Kia. +++

+++ Ever since FORD revealed the 4th generation Focus 2 years ago, we’ve been waiting on word about the high-performance RS version. Late last year rumours began circulating that it’d feature a hybrid system to pass Europe’s tightening emissions regulations. Though by early this year, there were doubts there’d be a Focus RS at all, which culminated in a report from last week that confirmed the model was dead in the development waters. But a Ford spokesperson says otherwise. While rumours of the model’s demise relied on anonymous sources within Ford, a spokesperson on record said it’s “too early to speculate” about the Focus RS’s future. The new Focus rides on the company’s C2 platform, which the spokesperson said features a “highly-advanced technology-laden architecture”, adding that the platform is capable of fitting “a range of efficient powertrains”. Reports of its possible hybridization popped up in August of last year. By December, there was a rumour that Ford would electrify the RS’s rear axle, giving the hot hatch 400 hp. It’d retain the 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine, but it’d only power the front wheels. That output would put it within the same class as the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S that makes 421 hp. The Ford spokesperson also told that the RS model often arrived later in the Focus’s lifecycle, rarely launching alongside the regular version. Early rumours again suggested that a 4th generation would arrive for the 2021 model year, though later rumours suggested that could be pushed back to 2022 or 2023. Either way, Ford doesn’t comment on future products and we won’t know for sure whether there’ll be a new Focus RS until Ford says so. Until then, it’s all speculation … and it’s still a bit early for that. +++ 

+++ GLOBAL vehicle production is now expected to fall more than 20 % to around 71 million in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing recession, a top automotive forecaster said. That steep decline, far greater than anticipated earlier this year, likely will cost global automakers 19 million units in lost production in 2020, according to LMC Automotive, which warned those projections could slip further, depending on how quickly major regions recover. In North America, where most vehicle production remains shut down in April, automakers have been forced to delay introductions or planned ramp-ups of several new vehicles, including the Tesla Model Y, the Ford Mustang Mach E and redesigned versions of Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee and General Motors’ fullsize SUVs, LMC said. The analyst said it expects vehicle sales will bottom out in April in North America and Europe, with post-pandemic recovery “unlikely to be rapid” in the coming months. China, which was among the first countries hit by the novel coronavirus, already has restarted most of its auto plants and now expects to see a sales decline of just 12 % this year, LMC said. Expectations for a swift economic recovery have plummeted as the virus has swept most of the globe, plunging all major regions into recession, according to researcher IHS Markit. While the company expects to see the beginnings of an upturn by the end of the year, current projections “are likely to be revised down” as the pandemic plays out. +++ 

+++ Around 1,200 executives at HYUNDAI ‘s 50 affiliates have agreed to an indefinite 20 % pay cut starting this month. The automotive conglomerate has been hit hard by dwindling sales due to the coronavirus epidemic. A senior Hyundai executive said: “Managers decided to take the initiative and set an example as business gets worse. There was consensus that we cannot sit idly by in this unprecedented crisis”. Hyundai chief Chung Eui-sun will also take a pay cut. He earned W5.2 billion last year. The last time management at Hyundai accepted a pay cut was in 2016 amid China’s unofficial boycott of South Korea. Most of Hyundai and Kia’s overseas factories have stopped running due to the epidemic and sales have been declining since February. Hyundai Steel, which supplies the 2 carmakers, started a voluntary retirement scheme last year, and plans to sell its headquarters in southern Seoul. Hyundai Construction has also seen plant construction projects grind to a halt. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER has furloughed around half of its staff due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with executives also set to defer salary payments. The British car maker employs 40.000 people globally, with the majority based at facilities in the UK’s West Midlands, including the Castle Bromwich and Halewood production lines. About 20.000 staff with “roles that are not critical during this temporary period of disruption” have been furloughed, although their wages are protected in full in April. Alongside the mass furloughing, JLR’s executive leadership team will defer their salary payments for the next 3 months. Chief executive Ralf Speth takes a 30 % cut, the board of management 20 % and the executive leadership 10 %. A JLR spokesman said: “With production temporarily suspended at our plants in the UK, we are utilising the government’s Job Retention Scheme”. JLR has also released its retail sales figures for the 2019/2020 financial year, covering the 12 months from the start of last April. The figures show a significant impact across the globe, with China the only region recovering in the near-term. The company sold 508.659 cars in the last 12 months; down 12.1 % on the same period last year. A more significant dent was made in the last quarter between January and March, with total sales down 30.9 % year-on-year to 108.869. The figures vary between the brands. Jaguar took a particular hammering, down 22 % overall in the year and 42.6 % year-on year in the last quarter at 28.288. Land Rover, by comparison, was down by 7.7 % and 25.6 % respectively, selling 81.581 in the last quarter. JLR is quick to point out its relative successes despite the doom and gloom, however. Range Rover Evoque sales were up by a quarter year-on-year, while Jaguar I-Pace sales increased by 40 %. It also claims to have ended the financial year with £3.6 billion of cash and unaudited short-term investments and an undrawn credit facility of £1.9 billion. There’s no word on a restart date for any JLR facility. The company says it’s “rigorously following the guidance of all the relevant authorities in the countries in which it operates and will work towards a phased return to production as soon as conditions permit”. +++ 

+++ Peter Rawlinson did stints as principal engineer at Jaguar and chief engineer of Advanced Engineering at Lotus, earning a reputation that led to a phone call from Elon Musk asking if Rawlinson would take over as chief engineer of Tesla’s WhiteStar project. He agreed and what began as the WhiteStar turned into the Model S and we see how that’s turned out. In 2013, he absconded to a small EV startup then called Atieva, very soon to become LUCID , to oversee the same task: Create a world-defining electric car. An American journalist spent an hour on the phone with Lucid’s CEO and CTO to find out how the company got where it is, and the status of the Air sedan. As challenging as things were at Tesla, the first 4 years at Lucid were harder, partly because of what Rawlinson had achieved at Tesla. The CEO said “10 years ago, Tesla was the underdog. The hot money was on Fisker”. Then the Model S took off, Musk became the figurehead for the EV industry, and “suddenly everyone was doing an electric car, but they hadn’t a clue how to do it”. As Fisker and other EV makers imploded and new startups emerged with dubious claims, no one wanted to believe anything that didn’t have “Tesla” on it. Rawlinson said startups felt “All you need to do is put a big screen in there. It really hurt us because we were genuine, with genuine technology”. Lucid gutted it out as venture capital turned to autonomous technology. The gutsiness included bidding for the contract to develop batteries for Formula E when Lucid was strapped just trying to get its prototypes ready, and winning the contract. The 54 kWh battery Lucid designed and manufactured in-house enabled FE cars to run the entire race and the units have “a 100 % reliability record with all 24 cars on the grid”. That success helped encourage the enormous and timely $1 billion investment in 2017 from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to pay for production necessities like the Arizona factory. Rawlinson said today’s Air is vastly different and better under the skin than the prototypes from 2016: “The powertrain is 2 generations different” and “In the[2016 Alpha fleet, we ran induction motors with 400 volt architecture. Now we are using permanent magnets motors at over 900 volts”. And while we’ve read about a 2-motor, 1.000 hp Air hitting the market, he said plans have always been for a 3-motor version producing 1.800 hp. In his quest to “Surpass my last one, the Model S”, he talks about the missed opportunities with the Tesla that he’s fixing on the Air, such as giving the Air a trunk instead of a hatch. Rawlinson understands the skepticism Lucid faces thanks to “less credible EV startups in California who gave us a bad name” and there’s the matter of “Lucid being put down by Tesla fans. Those old petrol fan boys are the current Tesla fan boys. Very similar rhetoric”. Yet, as the father of the Model S, he obviously also understands how to build an electric car. +++

 

+++ The MERCEDES-AMG One has begun testing ahead of its launch later this year, with a new video giving a glimpse of the F1-engined hypercar in action in the presence of 6-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. The €4 million, plug-in hybrid One will develop 1.000 hp, acting as a technological flagship for Mercedes’ road car line-up. The car will act as a rival to the Ferrari LaFerrari and the forthcoming Aston Martin Valkyrie. When it arrives, the Mercedes-AMG One should be the closest thing we’ll ever see to a Formula 1 car for the road. It uses a version of the 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 hybrid engine that has powered Mercedes to 6 consecutive drivers and constructors F1 titles since 2014, and is assembled in the same Mercedes High Performance Powertrains plant in Brixworth. The V6’s 11.000 rpm rev limit is lower than the race cars’ (which are capped at 15.000 rpm, but rarely pass 13.000 rpm in reality), but the One’s plug-in hybrid system (which features 4 electric motors in total) compensates by delivering more electrical output. One of the electric motors forms part of an electronic turbocharger in a bid to reduce turbo lag, while another is linked to the crankcase to augment the 1.6-litre engine’s output with an additional 163 hp, feeding off excess energy from the turbo system. 2 more 163 hp motors drive the front wheels to give the AMG One 4-wheeldrive. Mercedes says that the AMG One’s 1.000 hp translates into a top speed in excess of 350 kph, while 0-200 kph takes less than 6 seconds. No 0-100 kph figure has been given at this stage, although it’s likely to be less than 3 seconds. The electric motors are fed by an array of lithium-ion cells, mounted on the chassis behind the front axle, identical in type and arrangement to those used in the Mercedes F1 car. However, the AMG One’s battery has far more cells; enough to unlock an all-electric driving range of around 25 kilometres. With the front axle motors, the Mercedes-AMG One can recuperate up to 80 % of the braking energy produced under normal driving conditions to be stored for later use, while independent acceleration and braking on each wheel means they can act as a torque vectoring system. The rear wheels receive drive from a brand new 8-speed gearbox, which can be operated via shift paddles on the steering wheel. As well as offering an all-electric driving mode, the AMG One will feature a “highly dynamic” mode, which Mercedes says uses comparable settings to those used by its Formula 1 racer during qualifying laps. The driving mode automatically switches between combustion and electric drive for the best performance. In addition, the AMG One’s combustion engine will be able to cover the equivalent of over a quarter of an F1 season before it needs servicing. Like a previously sighted test vehicle, the mule seen on the photo isn’t a production model; items like the exposed bonnet intake and rudimentary quad-exit exhaust setup are expected to change between now and the car’s launch. However, most of the hypercar’s bodywork (including the scissor doors and enormous rear fin) should be transferred onto the production model untouched. The interior is equally rudimentary and will be trimmed with more user-friendly seats, cladding and controls, in place of this prototype’s racing-derived steering wheel and bucket seats. Mercedes describes the cabin as “Formula 1 for 2”. Inside, there’ll be a pair of heavily bolstered bucket seats with adjustable backrests and an F1-inspired square steering wheel. The skinny, uncluttered carbon-fibre dashboard will house two 10-inch displays: one behind the steering wheel and the other mounted in the centre console. A third screen is linked to a camera on the car’s rear bumper and acts as a rear-view mirror. The AMG One’s front end is dominated by a collection of huge vents on the front apron and beneath the windscreen, while a pair of flat LED headlights are sunk into the bonnet. Naked carbon aerodynamic flaps are pinned to the car’s sculpted sides, while an air intake perched on the roof feeds the combustion engine. Around the back, an F1-style shark fin sits above the engine compartment and divides the rear end, while a huge rear diffuser and retractable rear spoiler are also present to provide plenty of downforce. Active aero is found at the front too, with an extending front splitter and movable flaps positioned over the front wheels. The body itself is a carbon-fibre monocoque, but Mercedes has not revealed how much the AMG One concept weighs. The car makes use of adjustable coil-over suspension with push-rod spring struts, carbon ceramic brakes, and the traction control system is adjustable in 3 ways: at start-up, the system is switched on completely, but a ‘Sport Handling Mode’ raises the threshold before computer assistance steps it. The traction control system can be switched off entirely, too. +++ 

+++ Launched in 2012, the Tesla Model S is the EV that sparked the industry-wide renewed interest in making electric cars. It’s a remarkable car that has plenty of qualities, although what really made it stand out (and successful) was its mix of high performance and long range; it was so good in these categories that even now, some 8 years after it was launched, it is still unmatched. Sure, it’s been updated to be even faster and have even longer range, but the updates have not been major and it really didn’t need much to remain relevant. The current top of the range model, the P100D has a 100 kWh battery pack (that provides an WLTP range of up to 610 km) and can sprint from naught to 100 kph in 3 seconds. And while early examples were plagued by quality issues in many areas, these have slowly been ironed out over the years and a current new Model S is a much more convincing luxury car than it was initially. Tesla isn’t stopping here with the Model S, since it’s preparing a dedicated sporty version known as Plaid. It is Tesla’s direct answer to the extremely quick and remarkably well handling Porsche Taycan; the plan is for it to not only beat the Porsche in terms of performance, but also significantly undercut the most potent Turbo S variant on price. The Taycan is a bit too expensive and it lacks the range to be a real match for the Model S. It’s certainly not bad in terms of range, but Tesla still has the upper hand. But I think the electric car that could really challenge the Model S is the upcoming MERCEDES-BENZ EQ E, the smaller of the 2 EV saloons planned by the Three Pointed Star. So far, the manufacturer has only launched the EQ C, which is quite good in many areas, although it doesn’t have the range or performance to challenge the likes of the Tesla Model X. Mercedes will undoubtedly try harder with the EQ E, though, and this model will undeniably achieve a higher one-charge range than the EQ C, and be faster. This while retaining the impeccable interior quality and functionality that Tesla just can’t match: the EQ C feels more luxurious than the Model X, even with the latter’s fancy rear doors and and its big infotainment screen. Sure, it feels more like updated old world luxury, but what Mercedes is proposing will certainly have a lot of appeal. Even just the highly desirable badge will give it an extra boost of credibility. I truly have high hopes for the EQ E, because I expect the larger and more luxurious EQ S to be considerably more expensive, probably cost similar money to a high-end Taycan. The EQ E will be quite a bit cheaper, but still be big enough to preserve the feeling of being in a big and luxurious car; in fact the EQ E has a longer greenhouse area that takes up more of the car, so even though its wheelbase will be similar to an E-Class, it will actually offer S-Class levels or room inside. Regarding its specs, well, it probably won’t match the Model S on range or match the fastest variants for performance. There will probably be more than one variant of EQ E, though, but the EQ E 400 model will have allwheel drive, 408 hp and 765 Nm, and a range as high as 600 km, so it will be right up there with the current Model S (at least in terms of range). The only problem with it is that it’s still some two years away from hitting the market, as a 2023 model year car. By that time, Tesla will have updated the Model S again, improving its range; the Model S Plaid will probably debut by then too, so the automaker will maintain its lead in the segment in terms of range and performance. Tesla has not announced any plans to replace the Model S with an all-new generation. However, if Elon Musk will feel competitors starting to breathe down its neck, he will probably set in motion the plan to launch a replacement which will draw from the experience the manufacturer has acquired since the Model S was designed; it could move the goalposts out of the reach of other automakers. But I’m still confident the EQ E will be a good, solid electric saloon. It will feel more luxurious, be better built and probably more comfortable and fun to drive than the current Model S. I just wish it would arrive sooner than 2022 because the larger and more luxurious EQ S that will debut this year or early next year will be too expensive to be attainable for most car buyers. Until then, though, I’ve tried to imagine what the EQ E might look like. I studied the sets of spy photos that we have of it, as well as the production EQ C and the EQ S concept and tried to bring it all together into a production-esque looking car. What I especially tried to emphasise is its greenhouse that looks bigger in comparison to the rest of the car, if you put it side by side with a comparable E-Class model. +++ 

+++ NISSAN said it will shut its global headquarters in Japan for 16 days through early May to contain the spread of the coronavirus, even though the government has permitted keeping workplaces open to get the economy running. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has allowed manufacturing plants to keep operating under a state of emergency that was declared this month and broadened last week, but Nissan and its rivals had already suspended output at many of their factories due to plummeting global demand. Nissan is the latest Japanese company to shutter its global headquarters to reduce the number of staff commuting, as the Covid-19 infections in the country increased to around 11.000 this week. Nissan said that 15.000 employees at its headquarters in Yokohama and main R&D centre in nearby Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, would be required to take leave for 16 days from next Monday through Japan’s “Golden Week” holiday that starts on May 4. Its headquarters would be closed to all but essential workers, a Nissan spokeswoman said, adding that those affected would receive “the majority” of their full salaries during the period. She said the measures were aimed at keeping more than 90 % of its employees away from its offices, up from 80 % at the moment. Like many of its global rivals, Nissan has also shuttered most of its global production facilities in compliance with “shelter at home” directives to contain the spread of the virus. Nissan stopped production at its Tochigi vehicle plant, which produces the Skyline sedan and Infiniti models, for much of this month, and plans to keep it closed for most of May. Its plant in Kyushu, southern Japan, will operate only the day shift during April and May and shut down completely for 4 days during that period. Nissan’s bigger rival Toyota has said it expects to cut its domestic production by around 40 % as it significantly reduced output at its Japanese plants starting earlier month. Honda also said it would stop production at some of its domestic plants next week, citing disruptions in its global supply chain. Most automakers are bracing for a big financial hit from the virus, as lockdowns in the United States and Europe have kept buyers out of dealerships. But Nissan’s sales and profits had been slumping even before the outbreak, forcing it to roll back on an aggressive expansion plan pursued by ousted leader Carlos Ghosn. The pandemic has only piled on urgency and pressure to renew efforts to downsize. Nissan is due to announce a new recovery plan next month. +++ 

+++ The preliminary sales data for Western Europe indicates that the PLUG-IN ELECTRIC CAR sales were in the first quarter higher than ever before. The all-electric car registrations improved some 56 % year-over-year to a record of 126.000 (4.6 % market share). In March alone, it was a near-record at 50.000 and 6.5 % market share. The total number of plug-in car registrations (including PHEVs) in Q1 exceeds 200.000. According to an industry analyst, the top automotive groups by all-electric car sales in Q1 in Western Europe were: Renault -Nissan – Mitsubishi alliance (close to 30.000), Volkswagen Group, Tesla, PSA Group, Hyundai – Kia, BMW Group, Daimler, SAIC / GM, Jaguar Land Rover and Honda. Tesla no longer was the dominant force in Europe’s electric car market during this year’s first-quarter; showing progress is being made as European CO2 emissions legislation slowly sets the BEV market’s fuse alight. +++ 

+++ The PORSCHE Taycan 4S just started arriving at U.S. dealerships and it will soon be joined by a more affordable variant. In interview, Porsche’s research and development boss said “There will be a rear-wheel drive model with a smaller battery to make it more accessible price-wise”. Michael Steiner went on to say it will appeal to people who live in areas where “weather conditions mean you don’t need” all-wheel drive. Steiner specifically mentioned China and the publication reports the country will likely be the first to receive the entry-level Taycan. While the board member declined to mention pricing or specifications, Car says the model should arrive within the next 12 months. While a number of questions remain, the upcoming model will slot beneath the Taycan 4S which comes standard with a 79.2 kWh battery pack and 2 electric motors that produce a combined output of up to 530 hp. This enables the model to travel up to 405 km on a single charge in the WLTP cycle. The Taycan 4S can also be equipped with a 93.4 kWh Performance Battery Plus which increases the WLTP range to 462 km. This variant also receives a performance boost as it’s rated at 571 hp. Despite having 2 different powertrains, both Taycan 4S variants accelerate from 0-100 kph in 3.9 seconds and have a top speed of 250 km/h. While entry-level model will likely be significantly less powerful than its all-wheel drive counterparts, the car will be more affordable than the Taycan 4S. +++ 

+++ PSA has enough funds to cope with a halving in auto industry sales this year, the French carmaker said as it warned of a plunge in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic and said it would try to avoid tapping state aid if possible. Like rivals across Europe and elsewhere, the Peugeot owner has shuttered plants as governments enforce lockdowns to fight the pandemic, while dealerships are also closed, grinding car sales to a halt. PSA, which also makes Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall vehicles, has not yet set a date to resume production in Europe, and executives said there was no point in adding to stock levels until vendors opened again. PSA said 90 % of its staff were on furlough or partial unemployment schemes, which in France for instance are government-funded, but has so far not resorted to other forms of state aid. “We want the company to be as free as possible of public dependence”, financial chief Philippe de Rovira told analysts, adding PSA had not asked for any government-guaranteed loans. The company posted a 15.6 % drop in first-quarter sales to €15.2 billion, with European lockdowns only affecting the final few weeks. Analysts at Jefferies said PSA’s revenues had been more resilient than expected. The group said it now expected auto sector sales to fall by 25 % in Europe and Latin America this year, by 20 % in Russia and by 10 % in China. But it added it had enough liquidity to deal with market decreases of over 50 %. The French government has urged companies looking to tap state support to scrap or moderate dividend payments. For PSA, any changes to planned payouts could also complicate a merger agreement with Fiat Chrysler, which entailed dividend arrangements that would have to be re-approved by both firms. PSA made no comment on progress with the merger and said the decision on its dividend was still up in the air. Its next shareholder meeting has been postponed to the end of June. The company maintained its target for an average adjusted operating margin of over 4.5 % for its automotive division over the 2019 to 2021 period, and said margins were unlikely to turn negative this year. PSA is slashing costs in areas like marketing and trying to find purchasing savings to counter the crisis. The firm sold a total of 627.024 cars worldwide across all its brands during the first 3 months of the year; a fall of 29.2 % compared to 2019. That included a 78.2 % drop in sales in China and South East Asia, the first region to introduce major lockdown restrictions due to Covid-19. Sales in Europe, where restrictions were largely introduced in March, fell by 30.0 %. PSA’s various brands were all hit by differing amounts in Europe. Opel / Vauxhall sold 175.338 cars; a fall of 37.3 %, Citroën sales dropped by 28.3 % (146.288) and Peugeot by 25.7 % (216.090). DS actually posted a 16.8 % rise, with the far smaller brand selling 10.915 cars. +++ 

+++ SOUTH KOREA ‘s exports of automobiles plunged a whopping 45.8 % in the first 14 days of April from a year earlier, data showed, apparently as the new coronavirus pandemic disturbed the global supply chain and weighed down demand. Outbound shipments of cars reached 48.800 units over the first 14 days of the month, falling sharply from 90.009 units posted last year, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The automobile output also slipped 19.2 % over the cited period to 171.535 units, they showed. The decrease came as car dealers in major markets, including the United States and European nations, suspended their operations this month amid the Covid-19 pandemic, dealing a harsh blow to sales of South Korean cars. Some of the production lines have been also shut down, leading to the decrease in the overall domestic production, the ministry said. “South Korea will continue to closely monitor the automobile industry and come up with necessary measures to support related companies”, Industry minister Sung Yun-mo said during a meeting with local carmakers and auto parts producers. Automobiles are one of the major export items for Asia’s No. 4 economy, accounting for around 8 % of its overall outbound shipments in 2019. South Korea’s car exports are expected to drop by up to half this month as the world economy is being ravaged by the coronavirus epidemic. The Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association questioned 5 domestic carmakers and found that they expect to export only 126.589 cars in April; down 43 % from 222.337 cars a year ago. Hyundai has shut down all its dealerships in 5 major European markets including Germany and Italy, in India and in Mexico. Over 9.000 car parts businesses are in even deeper trouble as demands from both domestic and overseas clients has fallen. Their sales declined sharply as car factories shut down since February. According to KAMA, many are slashing salaries to avert a liquidity crisis. “Without government support such as postponing loan payment deadlines or tax relief, it will be only a matter of time until car parts businesses go bankrupt”, a KAMA staffer said. The 5 major Korean carmakers and auto parts makers asked the government for liquidity support for the automobile industry, which has been hit hard by low sales amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and measures to boost domestic demand. According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, minister Sung Yun-mo met with representatives of the country’s automakers, including Hyundai Motor Group president Gong Young-woon, Kia Motors president Song Ho-sung, SsangYong Motors president Ye Byung-tae, GM Korea CEO Kaher Kazem and Renault Samsung CEO Dominique Signora, to hear about difficulties they are facing due to Covid-19. The chiefs of 8 local auto parts makers also took part in the meeting, the ministry said. The heads of the auto companies said the industry needed liquidity support so the companies could pay fixed costs such as salaries, amid significantly diminished sales as a result of Covid-19. They also asked the government to exempt them temporarily from the acquisition tax, on top of the earlier exemption from the consumption tax. They said the government should extend the payment deadlines by as much as 9 months for consumption tax, value-added tax and tariffs for automobiles. Automakers also asked the government to apply 2019 standards for greenhouse gas emissions for passenger vehicles until year-end. The limit for 2019 was 110 grams per kilometer. Minister Sung said the government would closely monitor the situation in the automotive sector and would review support measures with related ministries as necessary. As of last week, 14 global automakers, including Volkswagen and BMW, had shut down 242 of 313 automotive manufacturing factories to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Companies such as GM, Ford and Toyota have activated emergency business management systems to secure capital. Korean automakers have been hit hard by the outbreak, as dealerships in European and North American markets have suspended operations due to Covid-19. These 2 markets account for 63.1 % of overseas sales of the 5 major carmakers. Due to diminished demand, carmakers have cut production in April. Hyundai Motor Group’s Ulsan plant closed its production line No. 2 for 4 days, while SsangYong closed its Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, factory for 8 days. 6 of Hyundai’s 18 overseas factories in 9 countries are currently closed, according to the company. +++ 

+++ SSANGYONG is the first of 5 automakers in South Korea to finalize a wage agreement with its workers. The Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-based automaker said that the deal was reached, making 2020 the 11th year in a row in which the company was able to conclude wage negotiations without a dispute. Under the terms of the agreement, base wages will remain unchanged and some bonuses will be cut. The 2 sides agreed in the past to cut bonuses and return to performance-based extra pay, while holiday presents and bonuses for long-term employees will be ended and medical and tuition support will be reduced. SsangYong said the agreement was reached by consensus and that the 2 sides collaborated closely given the lack of profits for 3 years and the coronavirus outbreak. The automaker reported a net loss of 341.4 billion won ($280 million) and an operating loss of 281.9 billion won last year, with revenue falling 12.7 % to 3.6 trillion won. The company has lost money for 12 consecutive quarters and accumulated around 411.4 billion won in net losses over that time. In 2019, SsangYong sold a total of 135.235 vehicles; down 5.6 % from 143.309 in 2018. In the first quarter this year, it sold 30.7 % fewer vehicles compared to the same period a year earlier. The Korean company, which is 74.65 % owned by Indian automaker Mahindra, has been emphasizing friendly labor relations as it seeks support from the parent company and creditors. Mahindra provided a loan of 40 billion won to SsangYong earlier this month, which will later be converted into equity in the Kospi-listed company. SsangYong was initially expected to receive 230 billion won for rescue from Mahindra based on the fact that the Korean unit will need at least 500 billion won over the next 3 years. But the Indian company’s board voted to abandon the original plan as the parent is facing business difficulties of its own as the pandemic reduces demand. In January, Mahindra managing director Pawan Goenka visited Korea and had discussions with the state-run Korea Development Bank, SsangYong’s main creditor, and mentioned the possible need for help in rehabilitating SsangYong. As the company received much less funding than expected from the Indian parent, it has become important for SsangYong to reduce losses on its own to avoid a looming liquidity crisis. +++

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