Newsflash: stekker hybride Bentley Flying Spur wordt 680 pk sterk

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+++ BENTLEY took to the Nurburgring not long ago to test a prototype of the new generation Flying Spur. The car wore plastic cladding on the boot lid and had what looked like a charging port on the left rear fender, suggesting that the plug-in hybrid version is finally on its way. It was not the first time the Flying Spur PHEV was spied testing and it won’t be last either. As for the powertrain, it could be the same assembly sourced from the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid; after all, the 2 cars share the same platform. In the German model, the 4.0 liter twin-turbo V8 and electric motor produce a combined output of 680 hp and 850 Nm. The electrified variant of the flagship sedan will join the regular Flying Spur, probably in a few months. The latter is very agile for a car that weighs almost 2.500 kilos, as it brags about being able to shoot from rest to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. It will run out of breath at 333 km/h, which is more than double the legal speed limit on highways worldwide. Power for the Bentley Flying Spur comes from a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12. The engine produces 635 hp and 900 Nm, and works in conjunction with a 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission plus an all-wheel drive system. Depending on the road conditions, the power can be channeled between the 2 axles, improving the grip and allowing it to tackle corners at high speeds. +++

+++ CHINA ’s light vehicle production will drop 11.5 % this year to around 21.6 million vehicles and will rebound by 7.5 % next year, research firm IHS Markit predicted. Production and demand for vehicles have been hammered across the world by lockdowns aimed at curtailing the coronavirus outbreak, which has spread from China to Europe, the United States and elsewhere. “The latest forecast takes the extended shutdown of auto plants in March and the supply chain disruption caused by the extended shutdown of the plants in Hubei province into consideration”. IHS Markit said. “For Chinese automakers which purchase auto parts from Europe, the disruption of production in Europe may be a risk factor. But at this stage, we have not seen the European coronavirus epidemic directly affect Chinese auto production”, IHS Markit added. Last week, IHS Markit estimated China’s light vehicle sales this year would drop 9.9 % from last year to around 22.4 million vehicles, if China’s central government does not roll out measures to boost auto demand. China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), which expects China’s overall auto sales to drop 5 % this year, is calling on the government to help after industry-wide sales plunged a record 79 % in February from a year earlier, with demand pummelled by the coronavirus pandemic. +++

+++ DACIA will launch “Europe’s most affordable electric car” next year, bosses have confirmed. Based on the Spring Electric concept, which was revealed in March, the firm’s first production electric vehicle has been described as “another revolution” in the new car market. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but in order to become Europe’s cheapest EV it will have to undercut the €23.290 Dutch price tag after incentives of the entry-level Skoda Citigo e-iV. The electric hatch is a rebadged version of the Renault K-ZE that’s currently available in China. Measuring up at 3.73 metres in length, it sits between the Volkswagen Up and the 3-door Mini Hatch in terms of size. Where it differs is with its raised ride height and SUV-like design elements, like the front and rear skid plates. “It has the Dacia ingredients. This is something that will satisfy the customers but also be economically viable”, Mihai Bordeanu, Dacia’s global marketing boss told.”Our aim is to be the best value for money brand and we will do with every model we launch”. It’s clear that the design of the Spring Electric will change much compared to its Renault sibling. The exterior surfacing is completely unaltered from the Renault EV, with the Dacia differentiated by the use of a new grille, and new headlight and taillight signatures in line with the budget brand’s other models. While the benchmark figures produced for the K-ZE conform to Chinese regulations, Dacia has said that the upcoming Spring Electric will be homologated to have a maximum range of over 200 kilometres on a single charge, according to the WLTP standard used in Europe. The brand has not revealed any battery or performance figures, but the City K-ZE uses a 26.8 kWh battery linked to a 45 hp electric motor driving the front axle. Renault could choose to alter the drivetrain to prioritise more performance in the Dacia Spring Electric, in order to keep the car more competitive with more powerful rivals fitted with larger batteries, such as the Skoda Citigo e-iV. “The priority needs to be around the essentials, so there is nothing necessary in the car and nothing which is not proven technology. Dacia looks at proven technology at Groupe Renault, and we have many things to choose, but dacia is a tech follower and takes what is proven and works perfectly”, Bordeanu added. Changes to the Dacia version are more likely to focus on improving quality and adding more equipment to better suit the needs of European customers. The current Renault K-ZE features electric windows, an 8 inch touch screen and airconditioning as standard, but ESP and side airbags don’t feature. +++

+++ HYUNDAI could reduce its production for export as the coronavirus outbreak has lowered the demand for its cars overseas. The largest automaker in Korea said that its management is in discussion with its union to cut back production on its models for export. The company is much more focused on assembling cars for domestic sales, which actually was up last month. Hyundai’s overseas sale last month dipped 26 % from the same month a year earlier to around 236.323 units. All of Hyundai’s overseas auto assembly plants have been closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, except its 4 in China. The overseas plants are expected to stay closed at least through April 14, but it is uncertain at this point whether those factories could resume operations considering the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is growing on all continents. Last month, Hyundai’s domestic sales rose 3 % on-year to 72.180 units. The company said the domestic sale hike was largely due to the popularity of already high-selling models, including the Palisade SUV, the Genesis GV80 SUV and the Grandeur executive sedan. Hyundai is around 70 % reliant on exports for its total sales, but in today’s environment, where overseas factories are closed and consumers stay home, Hyundai is making a bet on its domestic sales to stay strong. Sales could remain strong for April as well, as the new Avante compact sedan recorded more than 10.000 orders in the first day. While Hyundai did not elaborate on how it would reposition workers if it reached a deal with its workers on cutting back on car production for exports, it is likely that the automaker will increase operating rate for auto assembly lines for domestic volume and position more workers there with shift schedules. Hyundai’s domestic production could falter on shortages of auto parts from Europe. Hyundai said that at the moment there is no immediate concern as to acquiring auto parts from Europe in manufacturing some vehicles. SsangYong said it started partial closure of its factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, for this month on shortages of transmissions and engine parts from European manufacturers, including Continental and Bosch Auto Parts. Hyundai and Kia said their March sales in China were better than expected thanks to aggressive marketing. The corporations suffered a combined 82 % on-year sales drop in February, but their sales decline in March narrowed from a month earlier. Hyundai sold a total of 34.890 units in China last month; down 22 % from a year earlier. Kia’s sales reached 13.537 units; down 38 % over that period. In February, global carmakers suffered a sharp drop in their sales in China due to the extended shutdown of some factories and a prolonged holiday period. +++

+++ Indian carmaker MAHINDRA has rejected a call for fresh funding for its cash-strapped Korean unit SsangYong, leaving its future uncertain after 12 consecutive quarters of losses. According to the board of directors of Mahindra, which has a 74.65 % stake in Ssangyong, they held a special meeting in Mumbai and decided to reject SsangYong’s request to invest 500 billion won ($404 million) over the next 3 years. Instead, it urged the Korean carmaker to “find alternative sources of funding”, considering the global economic downturn due to Covid-19. But the parent company agreed a one-time infusion of up to 40 billion won to ensure “continuity of business operations”. “Mahindra would make every effort to continue to support to all other non-fund initiatives that are currently in place to help SsangYong reduce capital expenditures, save costs and secure funds”, a spokesman said. Examples of such support include supporting technology programs and material cost reductions that would help SsangYong’s capital expenditure, as well as help SsangYong management to find new investors, the company added. “The Mahindra board hoped that the employees and management at SsangYong understand the magnitude of the unfortunate and unforeseen crisis created by the Covid-19 virus, which has compelled it to take the difficult decision”, the Indian carmaker said in a statement. Since Mahindra acquired SsangYong in 2011, the Korean carmaker was able to turn a profit with its compact SUV Tivoli launched in 2016, but the momentum did not last long. Last year, SsangYong Motor recorded operating losses of 281.9 billion won; up 339.3 % on-year, with its capital erosion rate soaring to 46.2 %. Despite SsangYong’s investment in developing the next flagship model, the new Korando has failed to pull up sales last year. The latest outbreak of Covid-19 shut down the manufacturing line earlier this year. Market experts said that the Indian carmaker is pressuring the Korean government to support the ailing automaker. In January, Mahindra managing director Pawan Goenka flew into Seoul to discuss how to put the loss-making company back on track with Lee Dong-gull, chairman of the state-run Korea Development Bank; SsangYong’s main creditor. He has also met with high-ranked officials from institutions directly run by Cheong Wa Dae, including Lee Mok-hee, who is in charge of the presidential job committee, to seek support from the Korean government for SsangYong’s turnaround. Goenka reportedly asked the government to fund the rest of the investment amount if Mahindra injected 230 billion won out of the total 500 billion won needed to keep SsangYong going. But the Korean government has reportedly refused to make an up-front investment in SsangYong, considering that Mahindra should head-start and commit additional investments as the largest shareholder. KDB has been also reiterating its position that it can only review support when the parent company conducts fresh funding. Other industry insiders said that following the economic downturn, Mahindra may be slowly moving to offload the cash-strapped Korean unit. In March, Mahindra reported domestic passenger vehicle sales of 3.384 units; a decline of 88 %. The automaker cited the deep impact from Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown as reasons for the decline in sales. Meanwhile, SsangYong said Sunday that despite Mahindra’s decision, it will continue to reengineer its business with a strengthened self-rescue plan. “Mahindra’s plan to consider injecting 40 billion won over the next 3 months has wiped out suspicion over the Indian carmaker’s withdrawal from Korea, and we have confirmed its position to strengthen investment in SsangYong by securing ties”, a spokesman said in a statement. “500 billion won of investment, which we considered to be needed for business normalization, is not needed immediately”, he said. “It’s just the amount we need over the next 3 years”. +++

+++ With their sales hammered by the coronavirus outbreak, car makers Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot’s owner PSA have postponed their shareholder meetings and are looking at ways to boost cash reserves ahead of their planned MERGER . The 2 car makers have turned to their banks to secure much needed cash and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is looking at debt guarantees that the Italian government approved to support local companies, a source with knowledge of the matter told. FCA, whose legal headquarters is in the Netherlands, runs several plants in Italy and may qualify for the government scheme which offers more than €400 billion worth of liquidity and bank loans to companies hit by the pandemic, the source said, cautioning no decision had been made. The crisis triggered by the virus has virtually erased demand for new vehicles, pushing automakers to temporarily halt most production. In late March, FCA secured a €3.5 billion credit line, with an initial 12-month term that can be extended 6 months. This added to existing credit facilities worth €7.7 billion. The Italo-American firm, chaired by John Elkann, scion of the Italian Agnelli family, would need to cut its ordinary dividend if it decides to pursue state aid from Italy. The emergency decree says companies looking to apply for Italy-backed loans must refrain from approving dividend payments for a year. FCA’s decision to postpone the shareholders’ meeting to late June has analysts speculating that its ordinary dividend worth €1.1 billion could be axed or postponed. “While the merger process is proceeding, the postponement of the AGM will raise markets’ concerns of a potential cancellation of the ordinary dividend”, said Intesa Sanpaolo analyst Monica Bosio. Equita analyst Martino De Ambroggi echoed that the most likely scenario was “the cancellation or at least the postponement of the ordinary dividend for both FCA and PSA”. PSA, which proposed a similar €1.1 billion dividend, also decided to postpone its annual shareholders’ meeting to June 25. But the company is not expected to tap state funding, another source close to the company said. The French firm, led by Carlos Tavares, said it had agreed new credit lines worth about €3 billion. It is sitting on undrawn credit facilities worth about €3 billion. FCA shares are down around 45 % since late February when the virus started spreading in northern Italy. PSA’s stock is down 32 %. In December, they clinched a binding agreement to create the world’s fourth-largest carmaker, with shareholders of each group holding 50 % in the new entity. As part of the deal, FCA is set to pay a €5.5 billion special dividend to its investors. Bankers and analysts have questioned FCA’s ability to pay such a windfall. “It’s no longer wise to get rid of so much cash”, said the first source with knowledge of the matter. A second source close to the deal said that while both parties were still committed to tying the knot, they needed to see how the crisis evolved before deciding whether to renegotiate merger terms. Analysts at Jefferies have said the merger is key to the 2 firms’ long term competitiveness but some adjustments are “inevitable”. They pointed to the special dividend which is expected to be paid in early 2021, just before consummation. Global carmakers may end up selling between 19 and 24 million fewer cars this year, representing a 22 % to 27 % fall in global sales, according to a study by Alix Partners. This means global auto firms would be below break-even, losing more than €100 billion in cash flow globally, the study said, adding that for every month of idled production in Europe, car makers would lose €7 billion of cash flow. +++

+++ In recent years, more and more cars have started to hit the market with tablet-like infotainment screens that oftentimes dominate the driving experience. Tesla arguably kick-started the trend with the introduction of huge portrait displays in the Model S and Model X before shifting things up a new gear with the Model 3 whose cabin is dominated by a horizontal display and not much else. NISSAN however says it is bucking this trend and is using the recent Ariya Concept as an example. Unveiled at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show, the study features a sleek horizontal infotainment screen sitting atop the dashboard, seamlessly joining an all-digital instrument cluster. It’s a philosophy adopted by many other automakers and it not only looks good but, according to Nissan, is also more intuitive than tablet-like screens. “The human eye naturally looks from side to side when driving”, said Tomomichi Uekuri, senior manager of Nissan’s HMI (Human Machine Interface) engineering team. “People can see and absorb more information if it’s laid out horizontally. Peripheral vision works this way as well”. Nissan also says such a setup means the screen is in the line of sight to the driver and closer to the road. In designing the screen used by the Ariya Concept, Nissan developed software that allows information to be moved or swiped between the infotainment screen and instrument cluster in an easy and seamless fashion. +++

+++ POLESTAR has released new images of its Precept saloon concept, which hints at a future Tesla Model S rival expected to arrive in the next few years. The concept, which was first unveiled in February, is described by Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath as a model which has real relevance to its forthcoming products. He said: “Precept shows you where we will be heading: our design direction, our ambitions about sustainability and the great digital user experience we will bring with those future cars. Precept showcases our future, not as a fancy dream or something out of a sci-fi movie. This is our reality, to come”. The Precept is an electric, 5-door grand tourer, previewing future design direction as well as highlighting the Swedish company’s plans for sustainable materials and advanced digital technology. The Polestar 1, a limited-run plug-in hybrid coupé, and the Polestar 2, an electric fastback for the mass market, will shortly be followed by an electric SUV, the Polestar 3. The Precept, however, gives a broader hint at Polestar’s future design direction. The 1 and 2 were heavily guided by Volvo design, while the Precept is intended to demonstrate a move away from its parent firm’s styling influence. The low, sleek silhouette has a lengthy wheelbase of 3.1 metres (some 150 mm longer than that of the Model S) to allow for a large battery and “an emphasis” on rear head and leg room, Polestar claims. In place of a front grille, the Precept has a so-called Smartzone that houses sensors, cameras and driver assistance functions behind a transparent panel. A lidar pod is placed on the glass roof for best visibility and is intended to be “a next step towards increased driving assistance”. Following in the footsteps of the Audi e-Tron and Honda E, the Precept has video cameras in place of conventional side mirrors. Also, the glass roof extends backward, so there’s no conventional rear window and the tailgate has a larger opening and higher-mounted hinges for better access. Inside, the Precept uses flax-based composites for its panels and seatbacks, achieving a saving in weight of up to 50 % and a reduction in plastic weight of up to 80 % over conventional materials. The seat upholstery is 3D-knitted from recycled PET bottles; bolsters and headrests are made from recycled cork vinyl; and carpets are made from reclaimed fishing nets. The next-generation infotainment system, powered by Android and building on Polestar’s partnership with Google, uses a 15 inch portrait-orientated central touchscreen and a 12.5 inch digital instrument display. The two are linked by an illuminated blade that surrounds the cabin, while a holographic Polestar logo floats inside Swedish crystal between the rear headrests. The instrument display uses smart sensors, including eye tracking, to monitor the driver’s gaze and adjust what the screens show accordingly. Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath said: “The Precept is a declaration, a vision of what Polestar stands for and what makes the brand relevant. The car is a response to the clear challenges our society and industry face”. +++

+++ SSANGYONG ‘s fate again remains in the balance nine years after India’s Mahindra Group acquired it. The Indian carmaker has decided to scrap plans announced early this year to invest yet more money into the SUV maker, raising fears of an impending liquidity crunch. Mahindra scrapped an investment of W230 billion into Ssangyong. Instead, it will inject only up to W40 billion over a three-month period to keep it operational. Ssangyong promised management reforms to overcome the current crisis. The carmaker has to repay W70 billion in debt to state-run Korea Development Bank in July. “We should be able to redeem the maturing corporate debt and commercial paper if we use the W40 billion in funding and money we raise on our own”, a Ssangyong executive said. But without an infusion of additional capital, Ssangyong could face another liquidity crisis and difficulty rolling out new models. It achieved a profit in 2016 thanks to the huge popularity of the Tivoli but suffered 12 straight quarters of losses until the 4th quarter of 2019. Last year, Ssangyong suffered a W281.9 billion operating loss, resulting in the worst earnings since 2009, and the future looks gloomy. A lack of new models in Korea has led to a sharp decline in sales, while customers are staying away from showrooms overseas due to the coronavirus panic. So SsangYong’s ambition to turn to profit in the next 3 years has hit a wall. “Despite a setback in Mahindra’s plan to inject new funds, SsangYong will continue stabilizing employment and securing future competitiveness”, the Korean automaker said. “To secure liquidity, SsangYong will consider selling non-core assets such as the Busan logistics center”. It is has been a bumpy road for SsangYong over the past decade. After it went into court receivership in 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial meltdown, Mahindra acquired 72.9 % of the beleaguered automaker in 2011 for 550 billion won. The Indian company injected 130 billion won into SsangYong to get its business back on track. In 2016, SsangYong managed to turn to a profit thanks to the popularity of its Tivoli, but quickly returned to losses the next year. The company has posted net loss for 12 consecutive quarters. Last year, it sold 135.235 units; a 5.6 % year-on-year drop. It recorded a 281.9 billion won operating loss, a whopping 339.3 % year-on-year hike. Mahindra last year agreed to a 500 billion won support plan for the next 3 years to make the Korean automaker profitable again. It was said that 230 billion won would be directly invested while the remaining would be obtained from other stakeholders such as the Korea Development Bank, SsangYong’s main creditor. Mahindra’s board said it would help SsangYong find new investors. The Korean automaker said it is able to operate normally without any layoffs, at least for now. And SsangYong may yet be saved, with creditors swooping in and rescuing the struggling auto company despite the parent’s decision not to bail it out. Word of the possible lifeline for the Mahindra subsidiary came from financial services commission chairman Eun Sung-soo. “I understand that Mahindra has announced plans on 40 billion won ($32.6 million) of new capital support and seeking new investors, while expressing strong will in pushing ahead with management reform in effort to normalize SsangYong”, Eun said. “Amid SsangYong’s normalization efforts, I expect the creditors will discuss any supportive actions”. In the first quarter of this year, SsangYong sold 30.7 % fewer vehicles compared to the same period a year ago. It is the sharpest drop in the sector, with Hyundai sales falling 11.4 %, Kia down 0.9 %, General Motors Korea down 24.4 % and Renault Samsung off 27.6 %. The automaker has a 90 billion won loan from KDB that matures in July. As of the end of last year, SsangYong had 250 billion won short-term and 160 billion won in long term debt. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has lost the first major ruling in a landmark High Court lawsuit by owners in England and Wales affected by the Dieselgate emissions scandal. The class action lawsuit, which could be the largest consumer action in English legal history, involves almost 90.000 owners of Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen models. They are claiming for compensation over the installation of illegal ‘defeat devices’ to cheat European emissions standards. Lawyers for the owners say Volkswagen knowingly “cheated” these rules put in place to “save lives”  by installing an unlawful device designed to detect a rolling road test and alter the combustion process to reduce nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions by up to 40 times. The judge in the case, Justice Waksman, ruled that “the software function in issue in this case is indeed a defeat device” under the classification defined by the European Union. The judge claimed he was “far from alone in this conclusion”, noting various courts and industry bodies that agree with the verdict. He called Volkswagen’s defence “highly flawed” and “absurd”, adding: “A software function which enables a vehicle to pass the test because it operates the vehicle in a way which is bound to past the test and in which it does not operate own the road is a fundamental subversion of the test and the objective behind it”. After the ruling, the head of group litigation at Slater and Gordon, which represents around 70.000 of the claimants, said in a statement: “This damning judgement confirms what our clients have known for a long time, but which Volkswagen has refused to accept: namely that Volkswagen fitted defeat devices into millions of vehicles in the UK in order to cheat emissions tests”. Volkswagen responded that it is “disappointed” in today’s ruling but that the “judgement relates only to preliminary issues”. The company intends to appeal. “To be clear, today’s decision does not determine liability or any issues of causation or loss for any of the causes of action claimed”, it said in a statement. “Volkswagen remains confident in our case that we are not liable to the claimants as alleged and the claimants did not suffer any loss”. The first hearing began in December 2019, looking at whether the company’s EA189 diesel engine (sold in 1.2-litre, 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre capacities) featured such a device. Despite today’s ruling, there are still further phases of the case, including determining ‘causation’ – i.e. whether or not the defeat device caused damage. These are due to play out at the end of this year or early 2021. If the verdict goes against Volkswagen, it could be ordered to pay hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation. Volkswagen hasn’t paid compensation to any UK owners, claiming the cars weren’t fitted with a ‘defeat device’ under UK law. Previous rulings to the contrary in other countries, such as the US, carry no weight in the UK, hence the need for the class action proceedings. +++

+++ Hyundai has announced it will extend the WARRANTY for more than 1.21 million vehicles worldwide to support owners who may encounter difficulties in having their vehicles serviced and repaired during the Covid-19 pandemic. Hyundai will contact all eligible customers in the coming days. “This is another great example of how we have our customer’s back and continue to reinforce our service” Hyundai chief customer officer Barry Ratzlaff said. “While most Hyundai dealers are open to provide service, we want our customers to feel comfortable visiting their dealerships for warranty work and any vehicle service”. Hyundai has also confirmed that while many of its showrooms have been closed, most service departments remain open. The carmaker also has a new policy that allows for electronic signature authorization to be given by customers for vehicle repairs as opposed to being required to physically sign documents. Worldwide, Hyundai will also extend warranties set to expire between March and June 2020 by up to 3 months, with more than 1.2 million Hyundai vehicles in 175 countries being made eligible. “We appreciate that many of our customers may have limited or no access to vehicle servicing during these extraordinary times”, executive vice president and head of Customer Experience Division at Hyundai, Wonhong Cho said. “With these warranty extensions, we wish to set their minds at ease regarding eligibility for warranty repairs and related services in the coming months. Not only do we care about our customers’ health and safety, we care about the ‘health’ and safety of their vehicles as well”. +++

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