Newsflash: Peugeot overweegt budget versie van elektrische 208


+++ Production at AUDI ’s main plant in Ingolstadt has started up again today on a single assembly line. Due to the corona crisis, production was shut down in a controlled manner in mid-March. The picture shows a section of the assembly line including a separating plastic sheet for safety, where the employees are producing the Audi A3 and Q2 models, initially in single-shift operation. Upstream processes such as press shop, body shop and paint shop gradually started already at the beginning of the week. Approximately 1.500 employees are back at work this week to restart car production in Ingolstadt. Audi said it saw deliveries, revenue and operating profit “significantly below” last year as the coronavirus outbreak plays out. The grim outlook comes after deliveries of cars dropped 21.1 % in the first quarter. +++ 

+++ American electric vehicles start-up BOLLINGER has revealed an adaptable chassis-cab version of its B2 pick-up. Called the B2CC, the new variant is said to be “the world’s first and only Class 3 all-electric chassis-cab truck platform” and can be configured to suit a wide range of commercial applications. It will be built in the US, using the same 4-wheeldrive electric skateboard platform as Bollinger’s B1 and B2 off-roaders, which were revealed at last year’s Los Angeles motor show. Its squared-off front end is identical to those of the 2 existing models. The B2CC will be offered in 2-door and 4-door guises and with various wheelbase lengths to suit different commercial applications. Like Bollinger’s existing models, it features an innovative ‘passthrough’ tunnel in the main body for loading of extra-long items. A substantial 120 kWh battery pack powers 2 electric motors (1 on the front axle, 1 on the rear) to give 4-wheeldrive and enhanced off-road capabilities. Bollinger’s powertrain produces a combined 625 hp and 900 Nm; enough to propel the B1 and B2 from 0-100 kph in just 4.7 seconds. Also equipped as standard are a 10 kW on-board charger, an integrated thermal management system, hydraulic ABS and a hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension system. There’s no word yet on whether the B2CC will be offered in Europe, like the B1 and B2, but Bollinger says it will become available to order in late 2021. +++ 

+++ The CORONA VIRUS has shuttered plants and delayed the unveiling of countless models, but it will also have a longer lasting impact. A number of designers revealed car design while likely change as a result of the pandemic. As Daimler’s chief design officer Gorden Wagener explained: “The pandemic will change our perception of how we experience safety and luxury in the future”. His sentiments were echoed by Rolls-Royce’s Felix Kilbertus who said “The future, more than ever, will be about the freedom of going places safely and these cars will be more than ever about their interior”. This likely means automakers will focus on providing a healthier interior environment. While a number of companies already offer advanced air filtration systems, Jaguar Land Rover has been experimenting with using ultraviolet light to stop the spread of bacteria and viruses. Last year, the company noted ultraviolet light technology could be incorporated into the climate control system to neutralize harmful pathogens. That’s certainly an interesting idea now, given how the coronavirus spreads. Some automakers, like Mercedes, are even experimenting with improving the air outside the cabin. Wagener didn’t go into specifics, but hinted “We are working toward the idea that the car could actually take bad things out of the air and almost clean the air”. Of course, safety extends beyond air quality and in some cases that means privacy as well as more conventional security measures such as alarms and motion sensors. Speaking of the latter, Tesla’s Sentry Mode has proven popular as it uses cameras to record suspicious activity. This has caught a number of people behaving badly and the system feels like a natural extension of the doorbell cameras that populate many homes. There are also some more outlandish ideas including a so-called invisibility cloak. Rolls-Royce is exploring the idea and Kilbertus noted it could potentially allow cars to go unnoticed by would-be attackers. +++ 

+++ FERRARI said it would restart operations at its Maranello and Modena plants on May 4, when Italy is set to start lifting lockdown measures. The 2 facilities, both located in Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region, have been closed since mid-March when Rome imposed curbs on people’s movements and froze manufacturing activities deemed as non essential, to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The sites will resume operations “gradually” and return to full production on May 8. Ferrari said that before resuming operations it was organising training sessions for workers (focused on precautionary measures they must take) as part of its “Back on Track” programme, unveiled earlier this month and aimed at preparing for a safe working environment at the sites. Under this programme, Ferrari staff, families and suppliers will first take blood tests and will then be given an app which will alert them if they’ve been in close contact with any of the people taking part in the scheme who had contracted Covid-19. During the closure period Ferrari has produced parts to convert snorkel masks into respirators for treating patients with coronavirus and to protect medical workers, using its 3D printing technology at its Maranello plant. +++ 

+++ FORD has provided a bleak outlook for the first half of 2020, predicting an operating loss of more than $5 billion for the second quarter as the coronavirus crisis hits home. Speaking to investors after announcing a loss of $632 million before interest and taxes in the first quarter, chief financial officer Tim Stone claimed the company had been on track to post substantial earnings before the pandemic, but had since lost money in every region outside of North America in the first quarter. The predicted second-quarter loss is worse than analysts expected for the American manufacturer, which has suffered on the stock market lately, in line with most car makers. Ford shares are down around 47 % this year so far. While bosses focus on maintaining the balance sheet, a number of product launches have been delayed or postponed indefinitely. Ford chief executive officer Jim Hackett indicated that deliveries of the new Mustang Mach-E and F150 pick-up, and the unveiling of the new Bronco, are likely to be pushed back by several weeks, although such delays aren’t unexpected given the disruption to development and production lines. The firm has said that its immediate priorities are to “maximise cash and preserve financial flexibility through and beyond the pandemic”. It’s doing this by deferring executive salaries, suspending quarterly dividends, lowering operating costs and reducing capital expenditures. The firm has also borrowed more than $15 billion from its existing lines of credit. Ford is not only preparing to resurrect the Bronco, but recently also trademarked filings for a born-again Excursion. This off-roader could join it in the showrooms sooner or later. The nameplate was consigned to the attic in 2005. Ford might recycle the Excursion nameplate on a battery-powered SUV; electric car etiquette dictates it’d arrive as the E-Xcursion to needlessly emphasize the fact that it doesn’t burn gasoline or diesel. Ford plans to add several electric cars, pickups and SUVs to its lineup in the coming years, and it’s allocating billions to research and development. We also know General Motors is dusting off the Hummer nameplate to use it on an electric, adventure-ready pickup it will assign to its GMC brand. Rivian is gearing up to enter this blossoming segment, too. Viewed in this light, it’s not difficult to imagine a 2020s Excursion built on top of a massive lithium-ion battery pack, because Ford will ultimately need to find a way into this ring. The components it’s developing to underpin the upcoming electric F-150 are likely modular enough to put in an SUV. Of course, we can’t rule out the possibility that Ford wants to de-mummify the Excursion nameplate to use it on a burly truck that will pick up where the original model left off. The long-wheelbase Expedition partly filled the void created by the Super Duty based people-mover, so a modern version of it would need to somehow stand out. It could be bigger, or it could be more off-road-capable. The demand might be there, too. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen has been toying around with the idea of a spicy GOLF R for several years, having introduced the R400 concept back in 2015. Rumours insist a high-performance version is still on the agenda, but it’s likely not going to happen until at least 2023. The biggest mystery is if it will be called Golf R Plus or simply R+. Audi apparently said no to sharing its inline-5 powertrain, so VW might have to beef up its own 4-pot and squeeze as much as 408 hp. That output would represent a major increase compared to the forthcoming standard Golf R, which is set to have nearly 333 hp. We can’t rule the possibility of a hybrid Golf R+ by sending the combustion engine’s power to the front wheels and the electric motor’s punch to the rear axle. While that might sound outlandish, VW actually used this recipe in 2017 for the Golf GTI First Decade concept, which offered nearly 420 hp. Aside from the impressive output, that one-off was interesting for another reason: it allowed the hot hatch to be driven in front or rear wheeldrive depending on whether the ICE or the electric motor was active. It also worked in AWD with the power of the two combined. While that sounds interesting, making a Golf R hybrid by adding an electric motor and batteries would obviously add weight to the detriment of handling. On the flip side, using the configuration implemented in the 2017 concept would eliminate the need for a differential and driveshaft. The instant torque provided by the electric motor would also be an important benefit, so going down the electrification route would have both advantages and disadvantages. For a Plus version to make sense it would still have to undercut the Audi RS3 Sportback to avoid the risk of cannibalisation. The rumoured best-case scenario of a 2023 launch might imply the car won’t be unveiled before the Golf Mk8’s mid-cycle facelift, meaning it would be based on Wolfsburg’s revised compact hatchback. It wouldn’t be the first hybrid R model from VW as the recently launched Touareg R has 462 hp coming from a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine working together with an electric motor. +++ 

+++ Launched in 2017, the JAGUAR E-Pace will get a facelift later this year. Visual revisions should revolve around the bumper and headlights at the front, and could perhaps include a tweaked grille. The taillights will get a different pattern and the rear bumper will be updated too. The interior will also be revised. We can expect updated software for the infotainment system and digital instrument cluster, as well as a new steering wheel and probably the usual upholstery and trim changes that will further differentiate it from its predecessor. Mild-hybrid powertrains are on the menu for the facelifted E-Pace, as is a Plug-in model. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN has finally confirmed technical details of the high-output hybrid powertrain of its new Speedtail hypercar. The Woking-based firm has previously said its 400 kph flagship packed a 1050 hp petrol-electric system, but has given no further details in the 18 months since it was revealed. Now, though, it has been confirmed that underneath the Speedtail’s swooping rear deck is an evolution of the firm’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, mated to a high-capacity electric motor. The petrol engine is said to feature technology first applied to McLaren’s previous hybrid hypercar, the P1. With a lighter air intake, reconfigured cylinder head cooling system and redesigned pistons, it alone produces 760 hp and 780 Nm, up from the 740 hp and 700 Nm produced by the P1’s 3.8-litre unit. The electric motor, contributing more than 312 hp, uses similar technology to that found on Formula E racers. It takes its power from an “extremely compact” 1.6 kWh battery pack, which has a power density 4 times greater than that of the P1’s battery pack and is said to deliver “the best power-to-weight ratio of any high-voltage battery available today”. The Speedtail’s 400 kph top speed is short of the record achieved by the Koenigsegg Agera RS, but Andy Palmer, McLaren’s Ultimate Series vehicle line chief, said the car’s design as a hyper-GT meant the firm has no interest in chasing the record. “The 400 kph speed is due to a balance of comfort and tyre capabilities. It’s still got to be a usable GT car and there’s a trade-off. We could make something that would go faster, but you’d have to make the car and the tyre sidewalls much stiffer. We’re balancing a mature, stiff ride with comfort and speed. The vision was to produce a sleek grand tourer”. As well as the 400 kph top speed, McLaren said it is the quickest-accelerating car it has produced. The Speedtail is capable of 0-300 km/h in 12.8 seconds. By comparison, the P1 takes 16.5 seconds to reach that speed. The Speedtail is built around a bespoke carbonfibre monocoque that, in its lightest form, gives the car a dry weight of 1.430 kg. The top speed will be achieved through a special Velocity mode, which will optimise the powertrain to discharge maximum electric power and lower the car’s ride height by 35 mm. To achieve the speed and acceleration targets, the Speedtail is streamlined to minimise drag for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. Thanks to its eponymous elongated rear end, the Speedtail is 5.137 mm long; 549 mm longer than the P1. That is the only measure the firm has given, but the Speedtail has a longer wheelbase than other McLaren models and is narrower than a P1 (1.946 mm). Unlike the McLaren Senna, which was a high-downforce car intended for optimal lap times, the heavily sculpted bodywork of the Speedtail has been aerodynamically optimised to reduce drag, with a particular focus on airflow. All of the Speedtail’s body panels are made of carbonfibre and McLaren has minimised their number to limit the need for shutlines and gaps. This has included creating a one-piece rear clamshell that is the largest carbonfibre bodywork element the firm has made. The rear clamshell also features two active rear ailerons, formed of flexible carbonfibre, which are automatically raised and lowered to ensure high stability while minimising drag. There are also a number of vents that help direct air over, through and under the car, along with a lengthy rear diffuser and flat underfloor. A series of other notable aerodynamic features include fixed front wheel covers and retractable rear-view cameras in place of mirrors. McLaren has already trialled the central driving position and various aerodynamic elements in a series of test mules, including ‘Albert’ (named after the first F1 test mule) which features a 720S front end with a Speedtail-style rear. Having driven the mule, Palmer said the car will be “breathtaking”. He added: “There’s something quite special about sitting in the middle. It’s unique to McLaren. It’s a real driver’s car, like any McLaren should be: a very fast driver’s car”. The curved glass window is the largest to be used on a McLaren car and features electrochromic glass that can turn opaque, allowing the firm to forgo sun visors. A large glass rear panel is also used in order to maximise the amount of light inside the car. The interior of the Speedtail is accessed through McLaren’s traditional upward-opening doors, which will be mechanically powered for the first time. The two passenger seats are built into the carbonfibre monocoque for stability and to maximise space. On the design model, the Speedtail’s central carbonfibre driver’s seat is covered in lightweight aniline leather. There are 3 driver display screens, with climate controls on the left, driving info in the middle and infotainment on the right. There are also 2 screens for the rear-view cameras. To maximise use of space, many of the controls are located in a panel above the driver’s head. Because it is produced by McLaren’s Special Operations division, each Speedtail will be customised for its buyer, a process that will begin with each being invited to the McLaren Technology Centre in the coming months. Externally, the use of a new ‘titanium deposition carbonfibre’ weave technique means that a micron-thin layer of titanium (which can be anodised in any colour) can be fused into the bodywork, giving a chrome-effect shimmer. This technique also allows the bodywork to be customised in a way that allows, for example, buyers to write their name or provide an image, symbol or design for the flat floor. Unique stitch patterns and leather colours can be specified inside. Palmer said that, unlike with other McLaren models, there will be no further variants of the Speedtail, such as a GTR version. The Speedtail is the first of 18 new cars that will be part of McLaren’s ‘Track 25’ business plan, which runs until 2025. Palmer confirmed that a successor to the P1 hypercar will be one of the final models of that plan. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES is perfectly aware the glory days of the convertible are long gone, having axed the SLC and rumoured to do the same with the S-Class Cabriolet amid weak demand. That said, the 3-pointed star is not giving up on the once highly desirable body style altogether as the company is still planning a new SL while updating its current convertibles. After the C-Class Cabriolet received a nip and tuck in 2018, it’s now almost time to see its revised bigger brother. It will get a mildly reworked front bumper and updated LED graphics for the light clusters. The official reveal is right around the corner. It should be the same story with the coupe as the 2-door models could debut in the weeks to come. Having seen what the mid-cycle update has brought for the Limousine and Estate, it’s easy to figure out how the posh convertible will change with the model year switch. Long story short, expect the facelifted E-Class Cabriolet to feature the MBUX infotainment, better safety and driver assistance systems, and new or revised engines bringing improved efficiency. While we’re waiting for the 2021 modelyear E-Class Cabriolet to premiere, Mercedes has promised to unveil the AMG E 63 facelift by the end of the month, so the debut should occur any time now. +++ 

+++ Tesla chief executive Elon MUSK is on the cusp of a roughly $750 million payday as the electric carmaker’s stock recovers from a slump caused by the coronavirus, which led the company to close its factories and furlough workers. Shares of Tesla surged 10 % ahead of the company’s quarterly report and the company could open its Fremont plant next month after it was shuttered because of the pandemic. The rally puts Tesla’s market capitalization at $145 billion. Importantly for Musk, its stock market value reached a 6-month average of $96 billion. Hitting a 6-month average of $100 billion would trigger the vesting of the first of 12 tranches of options granted to the billionaire to buy Tesla stock as part of his 2-year-old pay package. Each tranche gives Musk the option to buy 1.69 million Tesla shares at $350.02 each. Taking Monday’s Tesla closing stock price of $798.75 as an example, Musk could sell those shares for a profit of $758 million. Musk receives no salary or cash bonus, only options that vest based on Tesla’s market cap and milestones for revenue and profit growth. Musk has already hit a growth target necessary for the first options to vest. A full payoff for Musk, who is also the majority owner and CEO of the SpaceX rocket maker, would surpass anything previously granted to U.S. executives. When Tesla unveiled Musk’s package in 2018, it said he could theoretically reap as much as $55.8 billion if no new shares were issued. However, Tesla has since issued shares to compensate employees, and last year it sold $2.7 billion in shares and convertible bonds. The potential payout for Musk comes after Tesla said this month it would furlough all non-essential workers and implement salary cuts during a shutdown of its U.S. production facilities because of the coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic has slashed U.S. demand for cars and forced several other automakers to also furlough U.S. workers. Tesla’s quarterly report after the bell on Wednesday will show the damage done to global demand by the pandemic and the extent to which a recovery from the coronavirus in China, and a return to production at its Shanghai plant, are helping the U.S. carmaker. Investors will also focus on Tesla’s cash burn related to its interrupted manufacturing and sales, and on Musk’s expectations for consumer demand in a potential long-term global recession, Baird analyst Ben Kallo wrote in a client note last week. The closure of the Fremont plant came just as Tesla was increasing production of its new Model. Analysts on average expect March quarter revenue to jump 30 % to $5.9 billion. That consensus revenue estimate is down from $6.7 billion at the start of February. When shareholders approved Musk’s pay package, Tesla was valued at about $53 billion and it faced a cash crunch, production delays and increasing competition from rivals. The pay deal was viewed as massively ambitious because it implied the company’s value could grow as much as ten-fold in 10 years and its potentially huge size led some shareholders to oppose it. Tesla’s market capitalization since then has expanded to nearly 3 times the combined values of General Motors and Ford. Musk’s subsequent options tranches would vest at $50 billion increments of Tesla market capitalization over the agreement’s 10-year period, with the billionaire earning the full package if Tesla’s market capitalization reaches $650 billion and the high tech vehicle maker achieves several revenue and profit targets. +++ 

+++ NISSAN is aiming to resume production at its Sunderland plant on a small-scale, stage-by-stage basis in early June, the company has announced. Vehicle production at the factory in Tyne and Wear has been suspended since 17 March. While the majority of staff at the plant will remain furloughed, Nissan previously announced a pilot scheme to get 50 people from the powertrain team back to work last week. This was done successfully and a further 100 employees have since joined them, working while obeying the latest Government health advice. Nissan also halted production at its Spanish plants on 13 March, where production is due to restart on 4 May. Meanwhile, other projects have already recommenced at Nissan’s Cantabria and Avila factories. The Japanese manufacturer says it is following all the regulations and advice from the relevant national governments. During the coronavirus crisis, its teams have been supporting the production and distribution of personal protective equipment to frontline workers in the United Kingdom. Since Nissan’s Sunderland plant opened in 1986, over 7 million cars have been produced there, with 2012 marking a record year of production as 510,572 cars were built. Before the suspension, the factory was gearing up to prepare for production of the next-generation Qashqai, which is due to launch next year. +++ 

+++ The PEUGEOT e-208 could soon gain a lower range variant with a smaller price tag, potentially dropping the electric supermini’s base-price below €30.000 in The Netherlands. The French brand is actively considering customer demand and could implement the update in time for the e-208’s mid-cycle facelift. Peugeot’s brand manager for electric vehicles, Anne-Lise Richards, told: “The more comfortable customers become with EVs, the less we will need to reassure them about range. Currently, customers are not saying that the e-208 is too expensive, but at one point maybe we will need a more affordable option and we could always achieve a smaller battery. The only thing is introducing diversity in the plants and we need to be sure there is a need from the customers”. From an engineering standpoint, offering a range of battery outputs for an electric vehicle is relatively easy. In Peugeot’s case, it would be a simple task of removing cells from the e-208’s existing 50 kWh unit until the desired output is achieved. The issue is one of economics. Adding a choice of battery outputs can complicate an electric car’s production process, as well as increase its production costs; both of which will derail the e-208’s expansion project if the business case isn’t sound. For now, the Peugeot e-208 is only available with a 50 kWh battery pack, which delivers a claimed maximum range of 340 kilometres. It’s likely that Peugeot’s lower-range model will lose around 25 % of its battery capacity, dropping the system’s output to around 37 kWh and offering a new maximum range of roughly 240 kilometres. This lower range, coupled with a potential starting price of €30.000, would make the e-208 a larger alternative for the likes of the Volkswagen e-Up and other premium electric city cars, while retaining the car’s position alongside premium, low-range EVs of a similar size such as the BMW i3 and Mini Electric. +++ 

+++ South Korea has rapidly become an attractive market for luxury sports car brands in recent years. Driving the trend is PORSCHE , with market watchers attributing the German carmaker as having opened the gateway for car enthusiasts here with its diverse models that coalesced its high-end image into individuality. “We are still a young brand here. Porsche Korea began business here only 7 years ago, we are still fairly new and there’s a lot about the brand that we can show and tell Koreans, like history of the brand”, said Porsche Korea CEO Holger Gerrmann during an interview. The automaker’s new retail platform opened in June last year. Porsche began selling its cars in Korea since 2005 via its official dealer SSCL. For Gerrmann, who was named Porsche Korea CEO in September last year, it is his first time to live and represent the office in Asia. He was in Stuttgart, Germany, where he led the Porsche Design Group as chief financial officer, and previously spent 9 years in the UK to lead the finance unit. “We are very happy and humbled by the positive reception from Koreans, the way they accepted the brand” said Gerrmann. “Korean’s enthusiasm for cars in general, great automotive history and companies that they are proud of. I think it is a good environment for a car company to work here”, he added. For 2 consecutive years, Porsche Korea sold over 4.200 units of cars annually in 2018 and 2019; setting a recording high figure at 4.285 units in 2018. With its third-generation Cayenne which, launched in January last year in Korea, the automaker was ranked No. 1 as an imported SUV model. As of February this year, an accumulated 2.359 Cayennes have been sold. Behind such popularity and sales growth, Gerrmann said there was the diversity that Porsche brings with its cars. “In terms of diversity, One is probably the lineup, we have a fairly complete lineup in the market, but also the possibility to choose. You have so many options to choose from, (meaning that) you can really make it your own car, own personal Porsche”, said Gerrmann. He said that close to 100 % of customers who purchase Porsche go with their individualized, customized options. To offer more options here from wide spectrum of lineups, Gerrmann said Porsche Korea will strengthen diversity in the lineup in 2020. “We just launched Cayenne and Cayenne Coupe, which I think really suit very well with the Korean market. It’s a very good looking sporty car. We will also bring in a plugin hybrid, and also have electric vehicle Taycan coming to the market”, said Gerrmann. He added that South Korea will be the second Asian market to introduce the model, after China where the unveiling event was held in September last year. For a successful landing of Taycan, as well as for the company’s future strategy toward electrification of lineups, Porsche Korea has been preparing to set up its own charging stations as well as introducing high performance chargers across the country. Via HPC, Taycan can be fully charged in 5 minutes for a 100 km long ride. “I see the EV infrastructure developing here. We will install 10 HPCs here, and actually started the first one at E-mart Seongsu. We try to pick convenience locations for customers to access quickly and frequently visit”, said Gerrmann. He said that Porsche’s HPC will be located at dealership stores across the country, and some 120 chargers at other convenient locations like hotels, restaurants and golf courses, contributing to the EV infra. With regard to Porsche Korea’s second car sales business, Porsche Approved, Gerrmann said it opens up the opportunity for customers to experience the brand, such as by coming into the showroom and test drive, through less-expensive but high-quality preowned cars. “For brand loyalty, I think it is the quality of the service and the delivery that we provide. Consistency in what we do for customers, reliability of the product, I think these are much appreciated by the customers”, said Gerrmann. He added that experiencing Porsche will give conservative customers a thought that there’s actually a great usability in daily life of driving Porsche. “You can drive a sports car that is very good on the race track, but also take it to pick your kids from school, go shopping in it”, he said. “Coming back to the history of Porsche, that’s actually what Ferdinand Porsche, who founded the company and gave his name to the car, was looking for: a car that is very efficient and lightweight, but also good for everyday usability”, Gerrmann added. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has put one of its historic buildings up for sale in Boulogne-Billancourt, the birthplace of the carmaker, to cut costs. The 5-story building, located in the old part of Boulogne-Billancourt, a suburb on the outskirts of Paris, houses trade unions, sports facilities and archives. The tenants have been told they can stay on after a new owner is found, the sources said. “The goal is to sell the building, if possible this year. Management of the property division is currently working on a few projects of that kind”, one of the sources said. The French carmaker’s plans to upgrade and expand its Technocentre in Guyancourt outside Paris, its largest research and development centre, could also be on put on hold, two of the sources said. Renault was already struggling before the coronavirus crisis hit sales and brought production to a halt. In February, the company reported its first loss in 10 years on faltering demand and lower income from its Japanese alliance partner Nissan. Renault is due to outline some €2 billion in cost cuts from mid-May, alongside a joint strategy update with Nissan on how to revitalise their alliance, as the company tries to tackle shrinking margins. Renault’s upgrade of its Technocentre includes the re-design of 12.000 workstations spread over 7 buildings for an estimated cost of several hundred million euros. To date, the group has started construction on one new building and expansion of parking lots. The company is now reviewing the rest of the project, initially projected to run until 2022. “The project has not been stopped but put on pause”, one of the sources said. +++ 

+++ RENAULT SAMSUNG said Monday it will suspend its sole plant for 11 days, as the coronavirus outbreak has affected production and sales. The South Korean unit of Renault will halt operations at its plant in Busan, 453 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from Thursday through May 8 “to give an extended holiday to its employees in the family month”, a company spokesman said. The carmaker stopped the Busan plant for 4 days in February due to lack of parts from its Chinese suppliers as the Covid-19 outbreak hit supply chains. This month, the company’s 1.700-member union voted to accept a wage freeze and cash bonuses of 8.88 million won ($7,320) per person for 2019. The company and the union agreed to make joint efforts to weather the impact of the virus outbreak on the automobile industry. From January to March, its sales fell 28 % to 28.390 vehicles from 39.210 units in the same period a year ago. The company’s current lineup includes the SM3 compact, the all-electric SM3 Z.E. sedan, the QM3 small SUV, and the SM5, SM6 and SM7 sedans. Renault has an 80 % stake in the car producer. +++ 

+++ Images of the all-electric ROEWE R-Aura Concept have surfaced out of China showing the electric vehicle in full. Previewed earlier in the month, the R-Aura Concept comes through the newly-established ‘R’ all-electric sub-brand of Roewe. The company intends on launching a host of mid-level and high-end electric cars in the coming years. Visually, the R-Aura is quite a looker. Found at the front are a pair of thin LED headlights that are connected by a light bar. There are also additional LED daytime running lights just above the front air intakes as well as glowing ‘R’ logo and ‘R-Aura Concept’ lettering at the base of the bumper. A look at the vehicle from the side shows that it is a 4-door sedan coupe with a tapered roofline that looks good but probably impacts on rear headroom. Some of the key features of the sides include a face recognition camera on the B-pillar. Also of interest are the large wheels that actually feature spokes with thin LED lights. The rear could very well be our favorite angle of the car thanks to thin LED lights as well as a series of additional lights on the bumper. The R-Aura also includes a solar roof. No images showcasing the interior of the concept have been released, but looking at one of the exterior images we can see there will be a large touch screen in the center of the dashboard. The Roewe R-Auro Concept will be unveiled in full on May 10. +++ 

+++ ROLLS-ROYCE will resume car making at its Goodwood factory on Monday 4 May, making it the first car manufacturer to restart production in Britain after the coronavirus shutdown. The BMW Group owned firm will resume work on its luxury vehicles with 1.000 employees on site, initially working a single daily shift instead of the usual 2-shift system. As with other plants that have reopened around the world, elaborate virus-protection measures will be put in place to protect production workers. The plant has been shut since mid-March. Staff will wear masks and other protective clothing, with social distancing rules also put in place. Goodwood’s build rate is expected to be about 50% of normal and although the firm has said annual production for 2020 will be “a long way below” recent levels, it added that it is continuing to receive a healthy flow of orders, particularly from regions like China, where the virus is either declining or running at a low level. The firm has made no predictions about a date for a full-scale resumption of production. That will depend on government advice and the company’s own experience over the next few weeks. Notably, the 4 May date means production will resume on Rolls-Royce’s 117th birthday. It was on that date when car builder Henry Royce and dealer Charles Rolls first met. That led to a partnership between the two, with Rolls-Royce Limited then officially founded in March 1906. Aston Martin is due to resume production at its St Athan plant on Tuesday 5 May, with Bentley starting up its Crewe factory on Monday 11 May. Jaguar Land Rover will also resume limited production at its Solihull and Wolverhampton plants on that date. +++ 

+++ Yet again, the all-electric TESLA SEMI will be delayed with production and deliveries now penciled in for 2021. When the truck was first presented to the world by Elon Musk at a ceremony in California back in November 2017, the electric automaker said the first customer deliveries would start in 2019. Last year, it revealed deliveries would be pushed back to “limited volumes” in 2020, but that will no longer happen either. Tesla confirmed the delay of the Semi in a statement regarding its first-quarter financial results. “We are shifting our first Tesla Semi deliveries to 2021”, it said without providing more details. The delay of the Tesla Semi is unfortunate for those who have already placed an order for it, including large companies such as Walmart, Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, FedEx, UPS, DHL and more. At the same time, this delay isn’t all that surprising considering Tesla’s history of launching vehicles later than initially promised, although, to Tesla’s credit, the Model Y arrived well ahead of schedule. Few additional technical specifications have been announced about the Semi since its 2017 unveiling. At the time, Tesla said it would be offered in 482 km and 804 km guises. However, Elon Musk has since stated that testing shows the production-ready Semi will actually have a range closer to 965 km when towing a load. Tesla recently completed its winter testing program for the Semi at its facility in Alaska. +++ 

+++ A Thai car spotter caught what is suspected to be a prototype for the coming TOYOTA COROLLA SPORT on roads around Bangkok. The angle and the camouflage make it difficult to be certain, but it seems to have certain details in common with the Corolla (like the side mirror, fuel filler cap, shark fin antenna and rear wiper line up). Even the character line from the lower rear fender into the bumper makes sense as a stylistic cue taken from the Corolla TS. The recent dealer presentation leak said the high-riding compact is on the way next year, apparently planned for production from next September in the new Alabama facility Toyota is building with Mazda, so it’s the right time for such a prototype to be out, too. The model’s name will be Corolla Cross. Said to sit on the TNGA-C platform, it will compete against vehicles like the Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-30. It will be slotted into the lineup between the C-HR and the RAV4; a positioning characterized as a more practical and traditional alternative to the C-HR, and also more affordable than the RAV4. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED STATES , Volkswagen and Toyota said they will delay restarting U.S. production amid the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about the automotive supply network. VW said it is indefinitely delaying the resumption of production at its Tennessee assembly plant that had been set to restart on May 3. Toyota said it will delay the resumption of North American manufacturing operations to the week of May 11 from the week of May 4 after an “extensive review with our supplier and logistics network”. The German automaker in a statement said that before it sets a new date it “will weigh the readiness of the supplier base, as well as market demand and the status of the Covid-19 outbreak”. Volkswagen’s U.S. production has been suspended since March 21. Automakers had hoped to begin restarting production in early May but face hurdles including orders in key states like Michigan that limit non-essential business operations. BMW said it plans to restart work at its Spartanburg plant on Monday at about half the factory’s capacity and then “carefully ramp up production”.
Detroit’s Big Three automakers have been in regular talks with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union on the conditions needed to resume production, but the companies not appear likely to resume U.S. production before May 18 at the earliest. UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said the union continues to “have discussions about key health and safety issues and science that need to be in place for a restart”. Ford said it still had no date to restart work at its North American plants, but scheduled a conference call to explain how it will protect its workers. Ohio on Monday outlined its plan, which included reopening the construction and manufacturing sectors on May 4. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer has not set a reopening date for manufacturing yet, and the UAW, which represents many hourly auto workers in Michigan and other states, has said early May is “too soon and too risky” to reopen. Whitmer said she is allowing the state’s construction sector to reopen on May 7, and emphasized worker safety was paramount. “Workplace safety cannot be an afterthought”, she said at a press conference. “It’s an essential part of how we achieve a strong, vibrant economy”. Kristin Dziczek, vice president, Industry, Labor & Economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan, said to restart production there needs to be a tremendous orchestration and “synchronization” across many different regions with different challenges like Covid-19 and different state orders on what is essential manufacturing. +++

+++ Technologies used by VOLKSWAGEN to rig vehicle emissions tests should be considered illegal, an adviser to the EU’s top court said, advocating a broad definition that lawyers said could open the group to more legal challenges. The Court of Justice of the European Union has been asked to rule in a French prosecution against the carmaker for allegedly deceiving purchasers of diesel vehicles, specifically on whether an “upstream” technology could be considered a defeat device. Volkswagen had argued in favour of a restrictive interpretation, limiting the scope of that concept to technologies and strategies operating only “downstream”, concerning the emissions after the gases’ production. Advocate general Eleanor Sharpston said that a defeat device should be interpreted as being any device which can influence both upstream and downstream vehicle emissions during tests. Use of defeat devices to help a vehicle pass approval tests is illegal under EU law. The opinion, if followed by Europe’s top court, could raise the possibility of more car owners taking legal action against Volkswagen and other firms, according to lawyers representing car owners. They said it broadened the interpretation of what constitutes an illegal “defeat device”. VW said it did not expect the opinion and potential ruling to affect legal proceedings. These centred on whether car owners had suffered financial damage rather than a legal assessment regarding technology. “This question no longer plays a role in ongoing proceedings”, the company said. The French case concerned an exhaust gas recirculation (ERG) valve, which can redirect some exhaust gases back into the air supply for the engine, to reduce final NOx emissions. The ERG was adjusted in tests using a device to allow emissions to remain below the official ceiling, but according to an expert’s report the device would in normal conditions lead to the partial deactivation of the ERG and higher NOx emissions. The court typically rules within 2 to 4 months of an adviser’s opinion. Judges follow them in the majority of cases, but are not bound to do so. Volkswagen announced recalls of almost 950.000 vehicles in France following the dieselgate scandal in which it admitted in 2015 to using illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel engine tests. The scandal has cost Volkswagen more than $30 billion in vehicle refits, fines and provisions. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN GROUP has suffered an 81.4% drop in operating profits as a result of the coronavirus crisis, but still expects to achieve a positive operating profit in 2020. The manufactuing group’s total of 2 million deliveries in the first quarter of 2020 was down 23 % from the same period last year, with sales revenue slipping 8.3 % to €55.1 billion from January to March. Overall, the Volkswagen Group sold 765.000 passenger cars from January to March; down from 910.000 in the first quarter of 2019. The decline (most profoundly felt in Europe and East Asia) is attributed to a “drop in customer demand” in the run-up to the universal industry shutdown brought about by the pandemic. On 17 March, the Volkswagen Group gradually wound down its European manufacturing operations in light of a “significant deterioration in sales” and “uncertainty over plants supplies”. As a result, the firm expects its deliveries to customers in 2020 to fall significantly short of its 2019 numbers, with additional challenges including intensified competition, volatile markets and new emissions legislation coming into effect as the pandemic recedes. It notes that sales of certain models (namely the Passat, T-Cross, Audi e-Tron and Skoda Scala) achieved consistently strong sales in the period, but this was unable to counterbalance the effects of weakening overall demand, emissions-related expenses and varying exchange rates. Chief financial officer Frank Witter said: “The global Covid-19 pandemic substantially impacted our business in the first quarter. We’ve taken numerous countermeasures to cut costs and ensure liquidity and we continue to be robustly positioned financially. The gradual restart, also of our factories outside of China, has begun. The health of our employees and suppliers remains the clear priority here. In Germany, the dealers have reopened since last week. We have thus taken initial steps together to get the business up and running again.The Volkswagen Group is steering through this unprecedented crisis with focus and determination”. +++ 

+++ VOLVO said it was giving notice of redundancy to 1.300 white-collar workers in Sweden as the impact from the pandemic raised the urgency of lowering structural costs. The carmaker, which has 24.000 staff in Sweden excluding some 2.000 consultants, said in a statement the measures also included a continued review and reduction of consultancy contracts but would not affect its manufacturing operations. CEO Håkan Samuelsson said the coronavirus crisis highlighted a need for Volvo to speed up its work to transform the company, reducing its scope in some areas in favour of expansion in fields such as online business, electrification and mobility. It also needed to simplify the organisation to enable quicker decision making, he told. “We want to come out of the corona-crisis stronger, and that is why we are doing this. It will be important that we have the right cars when we get through this period, lots of electric cars, and I also think that people will learn to shop more online”. Volvo said the exact number of jobs cut would be decided over the coming months in negotiations with unions. The carmaker has much like the rest of the auto industry been hit hard by the pandemic that has temporarily shuttered plants and strained supply chains due to draconian lockdowns in many key markets and transport hubs. Last week, Volvo reopened its Torslanda plant, its main factory in Sweden, following a 3-week shutdown caused by the pandemic, and Samuelsson said that the restart had so far gone “very well”. +++ 

+++ Tesla is continuing to pursue legal action against Chinese car manufacturer XPENG claiming that the company stole and is using its Autopilot source code in its vehicles. The Californian carmaker is ramping up its efforts in showing that former Autopilot engineer Guangzhi Cao downloaded the driver assistance system’s source code to his personal device through Apple Airdrop before he joined Xpeng. After Tesla filed its lawsuit against Cao, the engineer admitted that he had indeed downloaded some of Autopilot’s source code but asserts he deleted it before leaving the car manufacturer and joining Xpeng. On the back of receiving a subpoena, Xpeng provided Tesla with a forensic image of Cao’s laptop and more than 12.000 documents and maintained that it did not use Tesla’s Autopilot source code. In new filings, Tesla claims that around the same time Cao was recruited by Xpeng, the Chinese automaker also hired an ex-Apple engineer who has also been accused of taking trade secrets from his employer to Xpeng. Tesla asserts that Cao and the former Apple engineer may have both been recruited by the same person from Xpeng with the aim of obtaining trade secrets from Tesla and Apple. “The greater the similarity between the 2 cases, the less likely that those similarities can be dismissed as mere coincidences, and the more likely that they are the result of planning and coordination”, Tesla says. Tesla has also raised concerns about a text conversation Cao had with a friend shortly after the ex-Apple engineer was arrested in California before boarding a flight to China in July 2018. In the text chain, Tesla quotes Cao texting a friend about the arrest where he said the engineer must have “agreed on the price before to get the documents”. However, it was actually Cao’s friend who sent that message. Xpeng has hit back at Tesla’s claims, stating, “Tesla’s latest demands crossed the line, seeking to rummage through our IP on Tesla’s terms, and smearing us along the way with misrepresentations and innuendo. Tesla’s attempt to tie the two Chinese engineers together is ‘peddling speculation and stereotypes”. +++


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