Newsflash: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS wordt 500 pk sterk

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+++ With Stroll’s Yew Tree consortium bringing with it some financial muscle, including an injection of £260 million of new capital, and shareholders approving a plan for ASTON MARTIN ‘s Formula 1 works team, this should have been a win-win for everybody involved. But in these unprecedented times of a global pandemic putting untold pressure on businesses, even those eye-watering cash figures were not enough to lift the gloom. Against the backdrop of the company warning that, even with Stroll’s input as its future executive chairman, it did not have the capital to survive the next 12 months unless it changed path and found even more cash, the stock market gave its verdict on what it all meant. With its share price having traded around £2.20 before the general meeting that approved the Stroll plan, news of the capital warning left investors worried. A day later it briefly crashed to 65 pence before rebounding above a pound the following day, although that could have been a dead-cat bounce effect. Since then, however, things appeared to have stabilised amid signs of much less turbulence on the wider stock markets. As of Wednesday morning, Aston Martin’s share price is bubbling around the 80 pence mark. It is clear that these are not easy times for any car manufacturer, but it is the luxury makers who may well come under the most stress when the economy eventually recovers. Aston Martin finds itself under the spotlight more than some others, however, because it is embarking on a new chapter right now. Plus it is putting the spotlight on itself because, at a time when some rivals may be questioning their F1 involvement, it is ramping up its presence. As part of Stroll’s original investment, Aston Martin will shift its title sponsorship deal of Red Bull (believed to be worth as much as £20 million) across to Racing Point from 2021, which will lead to the team being renamed Aston Martin Racing. Just a day after the share price tumbled, Lawrence Stoll put out a Q&A making clear that the F1 project was pushing on full steam ahead. “A brand with the pedigree and history of Aston Martin needs to be competing at the highest level of motorsport”, he said. “I think it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in recent memory in Formula 1 and it’s incredibly exciting for all stakeholders in the sport, especially the fans”. He added: “The global spotlight of Formula 1 is second to none and we will leverage this reach to showcase the Aston Martin brand in our key markets”. But even with an original proposal of a 10-year plan and 4 year’s of sponsorship commitment guaranteed, it is still likely that it will not fully escape any financial pressure that comes to bear on the parent road car company. For if the finances are put under extreme stress, then spending £20 million a year on an F1 project may not be viewed as a necessity. That is why the success of Aston’s road car business and its F1 ambitions cannot be viewed in isolation. Stroll had already dug into his pockets before the coronavirus pandemic erupted. As well as the wider investment plan, back in February this Yew Tree Consortium provided it with £55.5 million of short-term working capital support. Key then to what happens to the Aston Martin F1 project long term will be what Stroll is able to do to get on top of the road car’s finances. In the short term, Aston Martin has talked of loans and other financial instruments being enough to see if through the next 12 months. But it will need a better plan longer term. One rumour that has floated around for several months has been of Stroll slotting in Mercedes boss Toto Wolff to help make use of the management skills that have helped the Silver Arrows F1 team win six consecutive F1 title doubles. There was even wild talk of him become Aston Martin CEO. But Wolff has been clear in recent days that his priority is in sorting out a contract to remain at Mercedes. He has point black denied talk of him having a formal role at Aston Martin or of taking any ‘strategic’ investment in the team. Asked about the speculation over his Mercedes future last weekend, Wolff told: “In most stories that could be read about it, people added up 1 + 1 and turned it into 3. What is my current status? My participation in Mercedes is solid, my contract runs until the end of 2020, and we are still in good discussions about what we want to do together. We are discussing. But all of this has been pushed into the background by Corona. We all have bigger problems to solve now: human problems in our companies”. He added: “I’m not going to become CEO of Aston Martin and I’m not going to make a strategic investment there either”. But not taking a strategic investment or formal role does not preclude Wolff getting involved financially on a smaller scale. He and Stroll are good friends and sources have indicated that a personal investment could still be on the cards. But any deal like that will not be on the scale that would be a game-changer for Aston Martin. While any personal Wolff involvement with another car company would seem slightly unusual considering his focus on Mercedes, there would not actually be a conflict of interest, so it wouldn’t impact him staying on with the German car manufacturer. For Daimler is already a shareholder in Aston Martin, having struck a deal in 2013 to receive what was then 5 % of shares (non-voting) in exchange for supplying its next generation of cars with high-performance engines and electronic components. Daimler is now Aston Martin’s largest supplier and, as confirmed in Aston Martin’s latest prospectus last week, it has a veto over any future investment partners. “The various agreements governing the supplier relationship between Daimler and Aston Martin Lagonda impose certain restrictions that have the effect of limiting the Group’s ability to obtain investment from certain strategic Daimler competitors, or certain other restricted parties, without Daimler’s consent”, says the document. “If certain strategic Daimler competitors acquire any interest or certain other restricted parties acquire a specified interest in the company without Daimler’s consent, either Aston Martin Lagonda or Daimler may give notice of at least 3 years that the principal operational agreements governing the commercial and supply arrangements between Daimler and the Group will terminate”. That effectively means should there be any extra investment plan, whether it involves Wolff or not, it could only be with Daimler’s blessing. One other suggestion recently is that former Lotus CEO Dany Bahar has also put forward an investment plan to Stroll, which would help transform the Aston Martin company. There are rumours that one of Bahar’s ideas was to bring in Chinese backers and move Aston Martin away from a focus on production cars and towards more exotic machinery. How much of this plan is true is hard to ascertain, but Bahar has declined to comment on any potential involvement he may have, while Aston Martin too has been silent on the matter. In a fast-changing world that is facing unprecedented challenges, it is hard for any company to be sure about what the future holds in a few weeks from now, let alone months and years. Aston Martin’s road car or F1 operations will not be immune to that, which is why it still faces some considerable hurdles in the both the short and longer term. But for Stroll, who had business successes with a host of companies including Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors, the current short term headaches will not distract him from his long term ambition. “I am committed to Formula 1 with a long-term vision and this is just a temporary pause in the journey”, he said. +++ 

+++ Federal regulations, consumer tastes, artistic freedoms and more help design many of today’s automobiles. For over 100 years, designers have been playing with the same basic building blocks: an internal combustion engine, federal safety regulations, driver input controls, and enough comfort and style to entice buyers. That’s changing as new technologies upset traditional automotive design and automakers like BMW are faced with new challenges. In an interview BMW’s design boss Domagoj Dukec lays out the challenges AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES present to designers. Dukec told that autonomous driving technologies have a bigger influence on the design process than electric vehicles. Integrating the necessary hardware autonomous vehicles need, especially those that offer Level 4 autonomy and above, isn’t easy. The higher the level of autonomy, the more sensors are needed for the system to operate safely. Balancing packaging, design, and the cost is something BMW is working on as it moves to introduce more semi-autonomous driving technologies in future vehicles. Dukec questioned whether consumers would compromise on design for autonomous or near-autonomous systems. People have no trouble spending $100,000 on a well-designed car, but will they pay the same amount on a less attractive one that offers autonomous driving? “This is still something we don’t know”. he said, and it’ll be a balancing act for the automaker. The BMW iNext, the automaker’s innovative electric vehicle, will offer Level 3 semi-autonomous driving technology when it arrives. It’s easy for designers to hide the necessary hardware in the car’s grille and paint, but when the number of sensors increases for Level 4, things become much more difficult. Dukec and his team are working on viable, attractive solutions to the problem, too, “though it, of course, has an effect on the design”, he said. As the technology advances, costs should fall, and attractively packaging the tech should become more manageable. +++ 

+++ BMW , a brand perhaps best known for its world-beating sport sedans, is experiencing something of a culture shift in the modern marketplace. SUVs like the X3, X5 and X6 are quickly becoming nearly as popular as BMW’s bread-and-butter saloons. But that doesn’t mean the brand is abandoning the segment it helped define, according to BMW design chief Domagoj Dukec. Dukec, speaking about the brand’s future, likened BMW crossovers (which it calls “Sports Activity Vehicles”) to casual architecture, while its saloons are more like elegant architecture. The former prioritises undefined living spaces, with a loft-like openness of concept that has the kitchen, living room, and dining room blending together. Elegant architecture, on the other hand, values a distinct purpose for each space – think a formal dining room or sitting parlour, completely separate from each other and from the kitchen. Dukec says that customers in China and other parts of the world prefer elegant architecture, avoiding American-style kitchens. By the same token, many buyers in these regions prefer saloons, which provide separate spaces for the engine, passengers, and cargo. On the other hand, loft-idealising American and European customers appreciate the flexibility and versatility an “open-concept” SUV provides. That said, even though the company remains invested in producing 4-door saloons, Dukec acknowledged that the body style would need to innovate somewhat to remain relevant. In an interview, Dukec said BMW’s Chinese clientele is asking for more graceful styling, which could be one explanation for the brand’s flowing window openings and more steeply raked rear glass of late. The Concept i4, for example, features a third daylight opening behind the rear door, a design feature already seen in today’s 2 Series Gran Coupe (which features a conventional boot) and 4 Series Gran Coupe (which boasts a liftback). We’d expect similar styling elements from BMW’s future 4-door saloon models. +++ 

+++ China’s leading New Energy Vehicle (NEV) manufacturer BYD continued to report sluggish NEV sales in March amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The Shenzhen-based company said in a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange that it sold 12.256 NEVs last month; down about 59 % from the same month a year ago. Sales of gasoline-powered vehicles, however, increased 9.5 % year-on-year to 18.343 units in March, it said. In the first quarter of this year, its NEV sales plunged nearly 70 % year-on-year to 22.192 units while sales of gasoline-powered vehicles fell about 12 % to 39.081 units. Its NEV sales declined 7.39 % year-on-year to 229,506 units in 2019, the carmaker said in early January. This came amid the cut in government subsidies by the largest margin and a broader weak automobile demand in the world’s largest auto market last year. The falling sales and scaled-back subsidies drove BYD’s net profit to fall 42 % year-on-year to 1.61 billion yuan ($228 million) last year, BYD said in its preliminary earnings estimate. +++

+++ CHINA ‘s automobile industry is gradually recovering from the novel coronavirus outbreak and the number of cars on the country’s roads would overtake that of the United States by the end of this year, senior industry officials said. The Covid-19 outbreak has put downward pressure on the automobile sector in a short period of time, but the situation is “temporary” and won’t affect the long-term trend of the industry, said Cai Ronghua, a senior official of the National Development and Reform Commission. “China’s automobile market will gradually recover and remain stable for a relatively long period of time to come”, said Cai, deputy director-general of the NDRC’s industry coordination department. Wang Bin, head of the Ministry of Commerce’s market operations and consumption promotion department, said the number of vehicles on Chinese roads will surpass that in the US by the end of this year. For the past 11 years, China has been the largest automobile market globally. But due to many factors, car production and sales have been declining for 2 consecutive years, and the pandemic has posed greater challenges. Wang said the sales decline showed that the industry has, after years of rapid expansion, gradually entered “a stage of adjustment”. It does not mean that automobile sales have hit the “ceiling” or they will continue to decline, he said. To further ensure the automobile industry’s healthy development, officials said a series of supporting policies are underway. China has planned to introduce the State VI B emission standards starting July 1 nationwide. However, since the outbreak of the virus, relevant parties, like the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, have suggested postponing the nationwide adoption of State VI emission standards to 2021. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment is considering postponing the implementation of State VI emission standards in the provinces that are yet to adopt the standards, said Wu Xianfeng, deputy director-general of the ministry’s atmospheric environment department. The plan aims to appropriately extend the transition period for automobile manufacturers and they will have a longer time period to clear the stock of vehicles in line with State V emission standards, Wu said. Once this policy is introduced, the ministry will make it public as soon as possible, Wu said. In February, carmakers delivered 310.000 vehicles; down almost 80 % year-on-year, according to the CAAM. During the first 2 months of this year, vehicle sales totaled 2.24 million units in China; down 42 % year-on-year. Vehicle sales had fallen for 2 years in 2018 and 2019 before plummeting in the first 2 months of this year. But with the epidemic being gradually curbed in China, visitors are returning to car showrooms and sales are showing signs of recovery. In late March, sales at major dealerships climbed 8.9 % compared with late February, Wang said. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) reached a deal with unions over measures to adopt in its Italian plants once the government eases restrictions on business activity put in place to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Italy, the epicentre of the virus emergency in Europe, imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 9. 2 weeks later non-essential businesses including car, clothing and furniture manufacturing were ordered to close. That forced FCA to close its Italian plants even though it had already introduced extraordinary security measures to protect workers. “The main points of the accord deal both with a preparatory phase and a restarting one, which will be gradual and will not involve all of the FCA production sites straight away”, a statement by the FIM union said. The agreed measures include sanitising premises, taking workers’ temperatures, providing safety devices such as face masks and hand gel, rearranging assembly layouts, marking floors to ensure one-metre between workers and staggering shifts. The head of the UILM union Gianluca Ficco said that production at light commercial vehicle maker Sevel, assembly lines for Jeep’s Compass in Melfi in southern Italy and the new electric 500 in Turin’s Mirafiori, along with some processes in mechanics plants, would be among the first to re-start once Rome gives the green light. With plants closed and demand for cars almost non-existent, carmakers are burning cash and pushing to relaunch operations as soon as possible, starting with the most profitable and appealing models. “The health and security of workers are the main priorities for FCA. The functioning of our industrial system is fundamental for our group, but we do not admit any derogation to people’s security”, FCA said in a statement. The unions also agreed to adopt a rotating furlough system to reduce the financial impact on workers’ pay, FIM said. A third union, FIOM, said that the agreement would be valid until the end of July and that each factory would need to find “the best solution to protect workers”. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte suggested that some restrictions could be gradually lifted, provided the spread of the disease continued to slow, but an extension of a national lockdown due to expire on April 13 cannot be ruled out. +++

+++ The GAC GROUP , a leading automobile manufacturer in Guangdong province, saw a dramatic increase in sales in March amid the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The company sold 110.500 cars in March; an increase more than 4 times over the previous month, according to the company’s source. The increase was mainly driven by the company’s development in new energy and self-innovated cars, with sales of its new energy cars increasing 130 % year-on-year in March and its self-innovated brand Gac Motor growing 330.87 % in the last month, compared to February. “As the situation in China tends to be stable and the auto industry has resumed production, there will be an increased market demand in the months ahead”, said Peng Peng, deputy director of Guangdong Society of Reform. The Covid-19 outbreak has put downward pressure on the automobile sector in a short period of time, but the situation is “temporary” and would not affect the upward trend in the long view of the industry, according to Peng. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS (GM) plans to keep its Brazilian factories shut down for at least 60 more days due to the coronavirus crisis, the company said, as the final batch of unionized workers voted on the automaker’s proposal. GM’s plants in Brazil have been shuttered since March 30 when the company put its workers on furlough, but kept their pay intact as it made employees use up vacation days. But as the pandemic has worsened globally and holiday allotments have dried up, GM has had to look for more drastic measures in South America’s top auto producer. Now its factories in Brazil, where for several years Chevrolet has been the country’s best selling brand, will be shut down at least until mid June. The timeline puts Brazil behind the schedules set by automakers in Europe, where companies have said they might begin building vehicles by the end of this month. In The United States, automakers including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Toyota are hoping to restart production in early May. To be sure, GM has not set reopening start dates elsewhere in the world. Brazil has more coronavirus cases than any country in Latin America and its right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has been criticized for minimizing the severity of the disease. GM said all its Brazilian workers except for one have agreed to the shutdown and for a plan to cut salaries by up to 25 %. The remaining union, based in Sao Jose dos Campos in Sao Paulo state, will finish voting on the proposal tonight. If the crisis does not allow workers to resume auto production within 60 days, GM may extend the shutdown to 90 days. +++ 

+++ In GERMANY , both Mercedes and Audi are hoping to restart production at their European plants before the end of the month, even though it all depends on what the pandemic countermeasures will be like in a few weeks time. Mercedes will first reopen its powertrain plants, said parent company Daimler in a statement. The plan is to build up a supply of key parts for the actual vehicle assembly plants. With that in mind, the carmaker’s engine plants and its Kamenz EV battery facility will begin ramping up production on April 20, followed by production restarts at Mercedes’ car factories in Sindelfingen and Bremen. “During the staggered ramp-up, these plants will initially be operating in a one-shift operation”, said Daimler. Meanwhile, a Mercedes spokeswoman stated that production in Sindelfingen, where the E-Class and S-Class are built, and Bremen (C-Class, GLC, EQC), might not recommence until April 27. Audi’s plans are similar in the sense that its home plant in Ingolstadt (home of the Q2, A3, A4 and A5) will restart production on April 27 as well. Also, before that happens, the company will resume production at its Gyor factory in Hungary in order to build up supplies for its other manufacturing facilities. Gyor is one of the world’s largest powertrain factories, having produced no fewer than 1.97 million engines last year for Audi as well as other VW Group brands. Aside from electric motors, there were 5 gasoline and 3 diesel units being made there, with power outputs ranging from 86 hp to 640 hp. +++ 

+++ In JAPAN , around 20,000 workers at 3 of the nation’s biggest carmakers will be put on temporary leave because of the output suspensions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, company sources say. Nissan, Mitsubishi and Mazda have already made adjustments by encouraging some employees to take paid days off. But given the uncertainty over when production might resume, the three are stepping up efforts to further mitigate the impact of the disruptions. Nissan is in talks with its labor union over a plan that would allow about 4.000 workers to stay home while collecting reduced wages. Mitsubishi is moving to apply a similar system to around 6.500 workers. Mazda introduced a similar plan late last month for some of its 17.000 plant workers and administrative staff at its headquarters in Hiroshima Prefecture. Japan’s car industry will try to avoid suspending operations during the coronavirus pandemic, but worker safety takes priority, said its automakers’ association, adding the industry was considering financial support for struggling firms. Japanese carmakers have suspended some production operations at home, while most of their plants abroad have been shut as demand for cars has slumped and lockdowns and “shelter at home” orders have kept plant employees away from work. “So long as there is demand, and it is safe for workers to work, we would like to see the country’s plants remain in operation”, Akio Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Automotive Manufacturers’ Association, told a media conference. He added that the Japanese auto industry should preserve as many jobs as possible to ensure that automakers and their suppliers would be prepared to resume full operation for an eventual recovery from the virus outbreak. Toyoda, who also serves as president of Toyota, said that automakers along with vehicle components, autobody and machine tools makers were considering setting up a fund to offer financial support to struggling companies. Like their global rivals, Japanese automakers are struggling to contain the impact of the virus, preserving cash where they can and seeking additional funding. Toyota and Nissan have tapped their lenders for additional credit lines. +++ 

+++ Right now, American buyers of the Lamborghini Huracan Evo are paying an average of $248,000 to drive the brand-new supercar off the dealer lot. That’s a hefty chunk of change, but it represents $16,269 off the car’s average $264,969 retail price, according to data provided by Truecar. That’s the LARGEST DISCOUNT in America on a new vehicle for the month of April, 2020 when judged by the dollar amount in savings off the sticker. It’s not all that uncommon to see a lot of money taken off the sticker price of expensive luxury cars. This month, right behind the Lamborghini sits the BMW 8 Series with a few bucks shy of $11,000 in savings, which is hardly surprising. Though it’s a very sleek and entertaining car in some of its various incarnations, it hasn’t exactly proven to be a hot seller for the German automaker. The fact that there are a total of 15 (!) possible configurations probably doesn’t help. 2 other BMWs, the 7 Series ($10,164 in savings) and the i8 ($10,145) are also on the top 10 biggest discounts list. In between that BMW sandwich are the 2019 and 2020 editions of the Acura (Honda) NSX. It doesn’t really matter which one a buyer chooses to drive off the lot, either way lopping off more than $10,000 off the sticker price means the electrified supercar will cost just under $150k. +++

+++ In the unlikely event that the name Frank Stephenson doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the man behind some of the world’s most iconic car designs of the 21st century. His portfolio is an eclectic mix of automobiles that includes the modern-day Mini and Fiat 500 city cars, first-generation BMW X5, Maserati Coupé and Spyder (Tipo M138), Ferrari F430 and most of McLaren’s current lineup. He also created the Maserati MC12 homologation special and track-exclusive Ferrari FXX, among other vehicles. So which of these models do you think Frank Stephenson is most proud of? As it turns out, it’s the reinvented MINI that debuted at the 2000 Paris Motor Show. Why is that? Stephenson himself explains: “My most iconic design is the Mini Cooper, that hadn’t previously been altered for over 40 years! It was an incredible project to work on. +++ 

+++ MITSUBISHI said it will lay off around 6.500 workers at 3 Japanese factories that have been or will be temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. Subject to the cuts are employees and temporary workers at the Mizushima plant in Okayama Prefecture and the Okazaki plant in Aichi Prefecture. A Mitsubishi’s subsidiary, Pajero Manufacturing, located in Gifu Prefecture, will also suspend operations. Those laid off will be partially compensated while the factories will remain closed until April 23 at the latest. Mitsubishi said last week it will halt all 3 of its domestic plants to adjust output as global auto demand is plummeting amid the coronavirus pandemic. +++

+++ NISSAN ’s management has become convinced the struggling automaker needs to be much smaller and a restructuring plan due out next month would likely assume a cut of 1 million cars to its annual sales target, senior company sources said. Even before the spread of the coronavirus, Nissan’s sales and profits had been slumping and it was burning through cash, forcing it to row back on an aggressive expansion plan pursued by ousted leader Carlos Ghosn. The pandemic has only piled on urgency and pressure to renewed efforts to downsize. No new sales target has been finalised and it remains unclear whether one will be formally disclosed. But Nissan’s plans for restructuring through to March 2023 should be based on the assumption that it would only be able to return to annual sales of 5 million cars by then, 2 sources said, adding this would entail a large reduction to manufacturing capacity. That compares with a goal of 6 million cars for the same period outlined in July by then-CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who had already stepped back from around 8 million targeted under Ghosn. Nissan likely sold about 5 million cars in the past financial year but this year’s outlook is bleaker due to the pandemic. “For years, Nissan was looking for annual sales volumes around 7-8 million vehicles. The company has never managed to sell much more than 5 million or so”, one of the sources told. “The company can no longer consider this sort of wishful thinking. The resizing issue is really being taken into account, it has a lot of consequences on operations for 2020-2022”. A third senior company source said the figure could be even lower than 5 million given the impact of the virus, which has hammered car demand around the world. The sources declined to be identified as details of the turnaround plan have yet to finalised. In July, Nissan said it was aiming to cut annual global production capacity to around 6.5 million vehicles. Shrinking its sales target by 1 million vehicles would equate to closing 3 to 4 more assembly plants and shedding thousands more jobs on top of already announced plans to cut its workforce by 10 %. The cutbacks would also ripple through to its suppliers and dealers. Nissan declined to comment on its progress in devising a new mid-term plan. “The details will be shared in May”, a spokeswoman said. The people said that a key metric of the recovery plan will be its operating profit margin and new CEO Makoto Uchida is likely to keep Saikawa’s target for a margin of about 6 %, one of the people said. In the third quarter, the margin was just 0.9 %. “At the very least, a downsizing is a given”, the person said. By comparison, operating margins at Toyota and Volkswagen before the coronavirus pandemic hovered around 8 %. Another top priority will be the preservation of cash. As of December, Nissan’s automotive operations had negative free cash flow of 670.9 billion yen, a more than 6-fold increase from a year ago. “That’s no longer at an acceptable level”, said one of the people. Nissan has requested a $4.6 billion commitment line from major lenders to cushion the impact of the pandemic while it seeks to engineer the desperately needed turnaround, people with knowledge of the matter have said. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE is preparing to expand the 718 Cayman lineup beyond the already hot GT4. The German automaker is giving the GT4 the RS treatment, which should mean even more power will be on tap from the agile sports car. How much? The GT4 RS will arrive with 500 hp. That’s a sizeable increase over the 420 hp available in the regular GT4. The RS’s engine will have the same 4.0 litres of displacement as the GT4’s mill. Rumours suggested the GT4 RS would use a tuned version of the same 4.0-litre engine, which does make sense. I don’t have any indication which gearboxes will be available. Spy photographers have captured various GT4 RS test vehicles out and about, and it looks a lot like the GT4. Early spy photos showed the car with a massive rear wing, though recent test vehicles seem to be missing the part, instead, using the same piece found on the current vehicle. There should be more openings for increased airflow and other tuned exterior bits that aid in aerodynamics and cooling. One thing that shouldn’t change much is the car’s suspension bits. The GT4 already borrows heavily from the 911 GT3. If there are any changes, Porsche will make the suspension stiffer and lighter; 2 things that can help improve the car’s driving dynamics and handling. I have no idea when Porsche will reveal the hotter 718 Cayman GT4 RS, but it could arrive in late 2021 or early 2022; however, the coronavirus pandemic may alter that timeline. It could come with a price tag of around €170,000 in The Netherlands. +++ 

+++ Official data from 28 mainstream vehicle manufacturers shows that operating PROFIT fell by 11% across the sector in 2019. A report by Felipe Muñoz from industry analyst firm Jato Dynamics shows that, despite a slight increase in revenue to €1.87 trillion across the board, operational profits dipped to €86.38 billion last year, down from €96.71 billion in 2018. The report also reveals the massive differences in operating margins between brands. Ferrari recorded a 23.2% operating margin last year, with each of the 10,131 cars it sold making more than €86.000. For context, Muñoz calculates that Ferrari makes as much profit from 1 car as BMW does from 50, Renault 122 and Nissan 926. The overall profit drop is attributed primarily to legislative changes in China, which accounts for a significant 29 % of worldwide vehicle sales, including the roll-out of stringent new ‘China VI’ emissions regulations and removal of government-backed financial incentives for electric vehicles. Elsewhere, the US and European automotive markets began to show signs of stagnation after a long period of continued growth. Muñoz said, however: “Unlike China, the European and American car markets are mature ones, so this level of fluctuation can be considered within the normal range”. Each manufacturer’s situation varies, however, and Muñoz told that Nissan in particular was impacted by a variety of factors in 2019, including an 8 % drop in sales, heavy investment in electrification (which is less profitable than combustion) and internal issues stemming from its relationship with Renault. The report also calls attention to the long-running US-China trade war, which has seen tariffs imposed on Chinese-built cars in the US, and diminished demand for US-built cars in China. The 2 markets accounted for a combined 42 % of global vehicle sales in 2019. Uncertainty in key Asian and Middle Eastern markets, including India, Iran, Argentina and Turkey, was also a factor in the global slump. Some 5.1 million vehicles were sold in those 4 countries last year; down 21 % from 2018, with Tata Motors (India’s largest manufacturer) recording a 23 % decline in sales. In terms of volume, the Volkswagen Group topped the charts in 2019, selling 10.975.000 units compared to Toyota’s 10.742.000. Both brands increased their sales by 1% year-on-year. The next biggest manufacturer, General Motors, was some way behind with 7.718.000 sales, which was 8 % short of its 2018 figures. Tesla increased its sales 50 % in 2019, selling 368.000 units; a result of the global rollout of the Model 3, its most affordable car yet. Tesla was also one of only 2 brands (including Ferrari) to post double-digit profit growth. The report notes however, that although the US brand has ramped up production numbers, it’s still losing money because it’s in an expansion phase and investing heavily in its own growth. This means that it has actually lost €168 on every car that left the factory. +++ 

+++ According to PSA boss Carlos Tavares, working groups at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA are speeding things up, trying to close the pending merger as quickly as possible despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis. This information stems from an internal note from Tavares. The PSA boss also said that the working groups were speeding up work on synergies. 1 reason why the 2 companies might want to get this deal finalized sooner rather than later, is the fact that the crisis triggered by the Covid-19 virus has pretty much wiped out all demand for new vehicles in Europe and North America, forcing carmakers to temporarily stop production, leaving them strapped for cash. FCA recently secured a €3.5 billion credit line in addition to existing credit facilities worth €7.7 billion. Meanwhile, the PSA Group has agreed to new credit lines worth roughly €3 billion and is currently sitting on undrawn credit facilities that are worth about the same. FCA has also postponed its shareholders meeting to late June. “While the merger process is proceeding, the postponement of the AGM (Annual General Meeting) will raise markets’ concerns of a potential cancellation of the ordinary dividend”, signaled Intesa Sanpaolo analyst, Monica Bosio. Since late February, FCA shares have dropped by some 45 %, while PSA stock is down 32 %. So while the initial plan was to finalize the merger within the next 12 months, recent developments appear to be forcing the 2 automotive giants to put a rush on things. What that means in terms of an exact timetable is uncertain. +++ 

+++ RENAULT chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said that the carmaker could seek bank loans worth €4-€5 billion. “It could be in that sort of region”, Senard told, who also reiterated that Renault was not currently envisaging a scenario whereby the French state would nationalise the company. Renault has cancelled its dividend and said that Senard and interim chief executive officer Clotilde Delbos had agreed to pay cuts, to help finance a solidarity fund for staff affected by the coronavirus crisis. +++ 

+++ SOUTH AFRICA ’s auto industry might have to lay off up to 10 % of its workforce because of a 3-week lockdown, according to an industry-wide survey by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA). The survey estimates the 21-day national lockdown could lead to job losses of between 1 % and 10 %, which could rise to between 21 % and 30 % if it is extended until the end of May. It was submitted to the government, which issued the same questionnaire to a range of industries to gauge the impact of the lockdown or any extension as it grapples with close to 1.900 coronavirus cases and a shrinking economy. Almost one-third of the country is already unemployed. The government considers the automotive industry its most important manufacturing sector and that it is central to reviving South Africa’s flagging economy via industrialisation. Companies range from the local units of global automakers, such as Nissan, and component manufacturers to tiny panel beaters and informal workers. The survey, compiled by NAAMSA chief executive Mike Mabasa, covers the entire automotive industry which, it said, employs 468.000 people. The vast majority of those jobs are in the retail sector. Manufacturing accounts for around 110.000 of the jobs, the survey said. It also estimated that only 51 % to 60 % of the industry’s payroll will be paid at the end of April, and between 11 % and 20 % of small or medium-sized businesses could close. Estimated potential SME closures rose to between 21 % and 30 % in a lockdown ending May 8 or at the end of May, according to the survey, which only provides a rough estimate of the aggregate impact on the industry as a whole. “It is anticipated that new vehicle sales will decline by more than 50 % in April under the current 21-day lockdown”, a response to one question in the survey stated. Should the lockdown period be extended, new vehicle sales and exports could both decline by more than 80 %, with the industry’s major export markets also shut down and the movement of people and goods restricted, it said. +++ 

+++ The disruption caused by the fallout from coronavirus outbreak is the last thing SPAIN ‘s car industry needs. Already under pressure from the shift to electric vehicles, the pandemic risks raising uncomfortable questions for Europe’s second-largest auto producer. As auto bosses plot their course for the years ahead (with less money to spread around) Spain could come up short. The country is more precarious than its continental peers. Unlike other big European car producers, the country lacks a national champion. The closest thing is the Seat brand, owned by Volkswagen Group. Seat only recently showed profits after years of losses. Struggling with Europe’s most-extensive outbreak of the pandemic, Spain could be on the short end of structural changes spurred by the advent of electric cars, which require skills that the Mediterranean nation struggles to provide. “We can’t afford a shift like this to be disruptive for Spain”, said Jose Lopez-Tafall, general director of the country’s auto lobby ANFAC. “What we were seeing as a mid-term risk, even before this crisis, is that there’s a big technological shift taking place”, he said, adding that the industry needs a “shock plan” to recover once the coronavirus crisis is over. Among the major European countries suffering from the auto industry’s virus-inflicted standstill, none may have as much at stake as Spain. The sector is a staple of the country’s economy, accounting for about 9 % of all Spanish manufacturing. The Spanish factories of Volkswagen, Renault, PSA Group and Ford helped to pull the country out of a 3 year recession after the debt crisis a decade ago. The Spanish car industry was built largely on the back of cheaper labor than other European countries, an advantage that has eroded over time as wages rose and even cheaper locations opened up in Eastern Europe, where the Czech Republic and Slovakia won significant new factories. The skills required for the electric-car era are in short supply in Spain, and the country’s vast network of component makers offers little protection as the value shifts to batteries and electronics. To be sure, carmakers are unlikely to pull the plug on profitable factories and recent investments in Spanish factories to manufacture new models provide some protection, according to Ian Fletcher, an analyst with IHS Markit. “I don’t think there is a huge risk of closures at the moment, even if there are challenges expected in the post-coronavirus market place”, said Fletcher. The bigger issue is how Spain fits into plans for the car of the future. The risk is that automakers rely on Spanish factories to produce the reliable cash cows that slowly fade as the combustion era draws to a close. To counter the threat, ANFAC recently presented a development plan through 2040 that calls for promoting expansion in software and information management and developing components for electric-car batteries. But because of the high stakes involved in the transition, car manufacturers tend to focus such investments close to home. The bulk of Volkswagen’s ambitious push into battery-powered vehicles is located in Germany. “Having no parent based in Spain is a disadvantage”, said Rafael Guerrero, head of Comisiones Obreras union at Seat’s factory near Barcelona. +++ 

+++ TESLA has opened up order booking in China for its 2 versions of the Model 3. The longer range variant of the sedan made in China is meant to attract more consumers in the world’s largest electric vehicle market. The price is said to be very competitive for a 4-door vehicle, driven by rear wheels and designed to have a range of about 668 kilometers on 1 charge, compared with about 450 kilometers for the current basic version. The Tesla Model 3 Performance made-in-China version is also open for booking orders at the same time. This smart version, with 4-wheeldrive, is equipped with AutoPilot to assist in driving, making it safer and more convenient. Currently, the Model 3 Performance version is manufactured in the United States. The units made in China are expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2021. The salary of managers in China at the global vice-president level will be cut as much as 30 %, followed by a 20 % cut for managers at the director level. The salary of other Tesla employees in China remains the same and the company will try its best to guarantee that staff on the front line will not be influenced by Covid-19, Tesla China said. Thanks to aid from local authorities, the electric vehicle maker’s factory in China has recovered from the novel corona virus related shutdown since February 10, faster than many industry rivals. Tesla registered record-breaking March sales in China despite the coronavirus pandemic, by selling a total of 10.160 units; a big jump from the 3.900 vehicles sold in February and 3.563 units sold in January. +++ 

+++ The TOYOTA RAV4 is quickly cementing itself as one of the bestselling car models in the world. At the end of February, the SUV’s total sales since the introduction of the first generation in 1994 crossed over the 10 million mark. Specifically, Toyota had sold 10.080.834 examples. And since the crossover is still on sale, that number will continue to increase. In comparison to some of the most famous topselling cars, it’s closing rapidly on the Ford Model T, which sold over 15 million examples, and is about halfway to matching the original VW Beetle’s over 20 million sales. It still has a ways to go to catch the Corolla, which as of 2016, had sold over 44 million units over the model’s multi-generational history. With the way RAV4 sales are going, it could overtake the Model T in just a few years, provided that car sales and the economy bounce back quickly following the coronavirus crisis. In 2019, just over 965.000 RAV4s were sold, making up nearly a tenth of the nameplate’s total sales. It’s part of a trend showing almost constantly improving global sales for the SUV. In its first year of 1994, just over 53.000 RAV4s were sold. 10 years later, nearly 240.000 sold. In 2014, over 643.000 found homes. Those numbers also show just how popular SUVs have become over the years. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group is considering whether to pay out a record €3.3 billion dividend as planned or use at least part of it to shore up its finances for what is shaping up to be the biggest economic crisis since World War II. Investors are entitled to the dividend and would be disappointed if it was delayed, cut or suspended, chief financial officer Frank Witter said. But VW is fighting to protect liquidity and tweaking the payout plan “wouldn’t be something entirely unusual”, Witter said last week. The “situation is fluid”. Global companies have slashed or postponed payouts since the coronavirus pandemic began wreaking havoc across continents and economies. More than $56 billion of dividends have been scrapped by businesses in Western Europe and North America. In Western Europe another $40 billion has been temporarily postponed. A spokesman for VW said the company continues to monitor the situation. Porsche Automobil Holding SE, the investment vehicle of the Porsche and Piech family that controls a 53 % voting stake in the world’s largest automaker, declined to comment. VW’s profit and dividend are the only significant sources of income for the holding company. Payouts to shareholders have drawn elevated public scrutiny during a time when governments and central banks are mustering unprecedented financial aid packages to prevent economic collapse. The outbreak has ground industrial output to a trickle as automakers and other manufacturers halt production. The company has signaled it can endure production shutdowns in Europe and North America for several weeks without requiring German state-backed emergency funds, thanks to a robust cash pile and existing credit lines. Volkswagen “remains one of the more defensive names in automotive manufacturing, in our view, supported by the automaker’s ability to withstand major economic shocks with only minor damage to credit ratings, akin to peer BMW”, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Joel Levington said in a report. Still, with the global economy suffering, and smaller parts suppliers fighting for survival, the timeframe for a market recovery remains uncertain. Daimler’s first-quarter car sales worldwide declined by about 15 %, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Chinese market is now gradually recovering as the spread of the virus slows in the region and stay-at-home orders are loosened. Halting production in Europe and North America costs VW about €2 billion per week. Some 80,000 of its German workers are on state wage support for reduced working hours. Under the scheme, the state funds the payments from unemployment insurance contributions employees and companies made in the past. The dividend proposal for 2019, put forward on February 28, would see holders of VW’s widely traded preferred stock receive €6.56 for each share held. Common shares would draw €6.50 each. The plan would push the payout ratio to 24.5 % of net profit from the previous 20.4 %. VW generated €13.3 billion in after tax earnings attributable to shareholders last year, implying a payout of about €3.3 billion. Shareholder approval is still pending, and an annual general meeting scheduled for May 7 was postponed. BMW left its dividend proposal unchanged in documents filed Monday ahead of its own May 14 annual general meeting, set to be an online gathering without physical presence of investors. Like Volkswagen, BMW has not tapped state-backed emergency funds, but put about 20.000 German employees on short-term work. +++

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