Newsflash: Volkswagen ID.4 ook als GTX Coupé

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+++ In response to the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic, AUDI , Porsche and Volkswagen are offering an extension to new car warranties and extended warranties to many markets around the world to customers that are currently unable to visit a dealership and report a claim. The warranty extension applies worldwide to all Audi cars built in Europe, Brazil, Mexico, and India whose warranties expire or have expired between March 1 and May 31. The duration of the extension is three months after the expiration of the original warranty, at the latest on August 31, 2020. “Many of our dealer partners worldwide are still closed or just in the process of opening their doors again”, said Horst Hanschur, Audi’s vice president of Retail Business Development and Customer Services. “We are therefore making adjustments in a number of areas in order to ensure our customers still have a premium experience with the Audi brand, as well as to ensure the future of our dealerships”. VW will extend the warranty on all cars produced in Europe or for the European Union while Porsche will do the same for all of its models worldwide. “We are pleased to be able to offer our customers an immediate, unbureaucratic solution with this 3-month warranty prolongation”, said Jürgen Stackmann, Volkswagen’s Member of the Board of Management, responsible for Sales. Mileage restrictions remain unchanged for models covered by both warranties (basic and extended) while in the case of an overlap between the extension of the new car warranty and the start of an extended warranty, the 3 brands will postpone the start of the latter for 3 months free of charge. +++

+++ Global automakers seeking emergency financing for their plants in BRAZIL have reached an impasse with several state and private banks, after the lenders demanded collateral from the parent companies. The sources said the automakers have balked at the request, delaying any decision on the billions of Brazilian reais sought by automakers. Brazil is South America’s largest auto producer and a major base of operations for General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Volkswagen Group and Ford, which are requesting a bailout for their local units to weather the crisis stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. An auto industry source familiar with the negotiations said the companies still hope a deal can be made before May 8, when Brazil’s auto industry association will hold a regular news conference to discuss production figures. The Brazilian government has been trying to coordinate bailout talks with industries including airlines and autos through its National Development Bank and other state-controlled banks like Banco do Brasil, but also including several listed banks with no government ownership. The auto sector started the talks with banks and government demanding a 100 billion reais ($19.10 billion) bailout. Sources doubted the package will reach that amount. The automakers, which also include Toyota, Honda and Hyundai, in addition to Renault and PSA Group, have stated they require urgent loans to make payroll and to keep alive what they describe as a crucial supply chain that contributes a significant chunk of Brazil’s GDP. The government and the banks, on the other hand, want to compel the carmakers to share any loans with their suppliers and dealers, who also employ many people, one of the sources said. Also included among the banks are Banco Bradesco, Itau Unibanco and Banco Santander Brasil. The development bank also is in talks to help airlines with 10 billion reais in aid, but discussions have stalled because of the Brazilian government’s request that the loans be convertible into equity. The auto industry source said the carmakers are seeking loans with low interest rates and long maturity dates, and with some form of local collateral. The other source said banks do not consider auto plants in Brazil particularly appealing as collateral, saying they would be hard to sell if necessary. Ford recently tried but failed to sell its oldest plant in Brazil, in the state of Sao Paulo. It has since shut down and employees have been laid off. +++

+++ In CHINA , authorities unveiled a slew of measures to stabilize and expand car consumption, amid efforts to ensure the stable and normal operation of the economy, said an official circular. The circular was jointly issued by 11 departments including the National Development and Reform Commission and China Banking Regulatory Commission. Financial institutions will be encouraged to conduct financial businesses including auto consumption credit, said the circular, stressing good use of auto consumption finance. More efforts will be made to increase support for personal auto consumption credit and further release the auto consumption potential by appropriately lowering the down payment ratio and loan interest rate as well as extending the repayment period, the circular noted. Steps will also be taken to smooth the circulation and trading of used cars, so as to drive the consumption of new automobiles. Other measures included adjustments made to the implementation of “China VI” vehicle emission standards, and favorable tax policies for purchases of new energy vehicles. Tesla said it has cut the starting price for the China-made Model 3 by 10 % to qualify for subsidies in the world’s biggest auto market. It started delivering cars from its $2 billion Shanghai car plant in December and has cut the starting price for its Standard Range Plus Model 3 to 271.550 yuan ($38.463.17), after receiving 20.250 yuan per car as EV subsidies. China had announced plans in 2015 to end subsidies for electric vehicles this year, but said in March it would extend them. However, it said the subsidies will apply only to passenger cars costing less than 300.000 yuan. Tesla said its Shanghai factory continued to achieve record levels of production in the first quarter, with output expected to hit 4.000 sedans per week by mid-2020, according to the company’s Q1 earning report. Despite significant setbacks in the automobile industry due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Tesla’s revenue in Q1 still surged 32 % year-on-year to $5.95 billion, with gross margin at 25.5 %; the highest in 18 months. Besides, the gross margin of China-produced Model 3 is nearly close to the model made in the United States. The improved profitability is partly driven by the company’s new gigafactory in Shanghai. Tesla acknowledged the challenges brought by Covid-19 to the company, “It is difficult to predict how quickly vehicle manufacturing and its global supply chain will return to prior levels”, said Tesla in the Q1 earning call. Elon Musk, the CEO, noted the company would announce the next gigafactory possibly within 1 to 3 months, based in the United States. As of today, Tesla has established 4 gigafactories around the world, with 2 in the US, 1 in Shanghai and another 1 in Berlin, which is under construction and expected to begin production by 2021. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES is backing off a planned May 4 restart at its North American factories because some U.S. states still will have stay-home orders in place. The move likely means that factories of all 3 Detroit automakers will be idled for at least another 2 weeks as they negotiate reopening terms with the United Auto Workers union. “In light of the updated state stay in place orders, the company is re-evaluating its plans to resume its North American operations and will communicate new restart dates in due course”, FCA said in a statement. Ford, General Motors and FCA factories have been idled for over a month due to fears of spreading the coronavirus. In Michigan, where FCA has multiple factories, governor Gretchen Whitmer is taking a “hard look” at whether to let industrial sectors like manufacturing reopen in the next phase of loosening restrictions. The Democratic politician also said she will ask the Republican-led Legislature to lengthen her emergency declaration by 28 days before it expires. Brian Rothenberg, a UAW spokesman, said the union hasn’t heard of any restart dates from the automakers. GM said it hasn’t announced a start date, while Ford said a date hasn’t been determined. The companies have pledged to monitor workers’ temperatures, redesign work stations and stagger shifts to minimize contact with others, require masks, gloves and other protection equipment, and frequently sanitize factories in an effort to keep workers safe. But the union wants companies to consider testing workers before they enter factories. Detroit auto companies employ about 150.000 factory workers mainly in the industrial Midwest, but there are factories from New York to Tennessee and Texas. +++

+++ By now, it is public knowledge that FORD is coming out with an affordable compact, front-wheel-drive, unibody pickup in the next year or so. The trucklet will sit beneath the mid-size Ranger in Ford’s lineup. Its name is a mystery, however. We’ve taken to calling the truck Courier, because Ford has used that name on compact pickups globally for decades. But an image of a Ford truck tailgate with Maverick lettering throws some intrigue into the compact pickup’s name game. If the CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawing proves legit, it holds other clues beyond the trucklet’s name. In the image, we can see a rather narrow, tall tailgate clearly adorned with an oval indentation in the middle (where a Ford blue oval badge would likely sit) and that Maverick lettering in Ford style font. Ford’s taillight design might extend from the bedsides onto the tailgate itself. What will the rest of the small truck look like? I hear it’ll appear tough and it will play down its car-based attributes with blocky, Ranger-like styling. Internet rumormills have speculated for some time now that Maverick could be one of the names Ford is considering for its new truck, and, admittedly, it’s a cooler moniker than Courier. Ford last used the Maverick name on a rebadged Nissan SUV in the ’90s. Its new sub-Ranger pickup won’t come to market until 2021 at the earliest. +++

+++ Hedge fund Greenlight Capital said it sold its position in GENERAL MOTORS , saying the company’s forecast for 2020 was worse than the hedge fund had expected. “General Motors was a disappointment”, the firm wrote to investors in a letter. “We sold our stock”. During the 5 years that Greenlight owned shares in the carmaker, the hedge fund earned an internal rate of return of 9.6 %, the letter said. +++

+++ Global rental-car giant HERTZ has been hit hard by the coronavirus and is reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy. It is reported that Hertz hasn’t made certain payments related to leasing vehicles for its fleets and is in talks with lenders to reduce obligations. Hertz has furloughed many employees and is trying to further reduce monthly expenses to lease vehicles from its special-purpose vehicle-finance subsidiary. In a regulatory filing, the company said that it’s reached an agreement with holders of the subsidiary’s notes and is engaging in talks with lenders. If Hertz doesn’t make payments by the end of the grace period on May 4 and certain lenders and noteholders don’t agree to waive a resulting default, the company could be materially and negatively affected. Hertz chief executive officer Kathryn Marinello says the company is doing all it can to preserve cash and get leniency to avoid a bankruptcy filing. It is also pushing the U.S. Treasury Department to help rental-car companies which Marinello says have been hit just as hard as the airline sector by the coronavirus pandemic. The rental car giant says it has $17 billion worth of debt that includes $3.7 billion of corporate bonds and loans and $13.4 billion of vehicle-backed notes. It recently laid off roughly 10.000 employees in North America alone. Its stock has plummeted 73 per cent over the past 3 months. +++

+++ The forthcoming all-electric replacement for the JAGUAR XJ is drawing closer to production. The all-new model is due to be revealed at the end of 2020, where it will act as a pure electric alternative to Mercedes S-Class, which will soon gain an electric sibling in the form of the upcoming EQ S. Jaguar design director Julian Thomson has revealed the focus behind the new luxury car as development reaches its latter stages. “It’s going to be a very, very luxurious, very, very calm, tranquil piece of transportation”, he says. “But it’s not overtly flashy, it’s not overtly expensive. It’s a car, which you make an emotional connection with. We don’t want all our people who get our cars to just sit in the back of them and just be driven around in them. They can be used like that, but at the end of the day, we know that these cars are there to be experienced and driven and enjoyed; enjoyable to sit in, relaxing to sit in, and beautiful to look at”. The new XJ is also set to be a very different car to Jaguar’s first electric model, the I-Pace. Thomson suggests that the XJ would have a traditional saloon look with the classic long bonnet. “If a cab-forward looking car doesn’t suit a certain type of vehicle, I don’t think you should do it”, he said. “We’re there to make the best looking cars we possibly can, so the new XJ, it does have a bonnet on it and it’s a very, very elegant shape. It’s probably a little bit more traditional than the I-Pace”. This indication from the design department would certainly seem to be supported by the latest spy shots of the car which show the traditional saloon style that Jaguar is aiming for. The styling looks to be an evolution of the outgoing car’s looks, retaining the same long and wide stance, narrow headlamps units, as well as the brand’s trademark grille and shark-fin antenna. Jaguar’s most recent teaser image suggested that the new XJ would receive a sharper XF-inspired rump, with a full-width light-bar. While the rear of the test mule is masked under heavy camouflage, a subtle crease running across the width of the bootlid suggests this feature will appear on the production model. The new XJ will be made at JLR’s Castle Bromwich production site, safeguarding thousands of jobs over the next few years. It’ll also be the second all-electric model offered by the British brand, following in the footsteps of the award-winning I-Pace. The car will be based on a new platform called MLA. This brand new toolkit for large Jaguars enables battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and mild-hybrid drivetrains to be mounted on the same production line. So far, Jaguar has only discussed the next-generation XJ in an all-electric context, but it’s technically possible to produce combustion-assisted versions too. At last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, JLR boss Sir Ralf Speth said: “Based on our rich knowledge and experience gained from the I-Pace, Formula-E and I-Pace eTrophy, our engineering team is in full swing to deliver the world’s first, full-electric luxury sports saloon. The flagship of Jaguar: the all-new XJ. “The new all-electric XJ, extraordinarily remastered for the 21st century, will offer spiritual freedom for our customers”, he said. “Gliding in elegance, new tranquillity and new functionality and in full consciousness taking care of the environment”. The British manufacturer has pledged to offer electrified options for all its new models from 2020. +++

+++ KIA plans to offer insurance in Europe which protects clients from having to make monthly payments on a new vehicle if they lose their job, a scheme designed to entice reticent customers back into showrooms after the coronavirus shutdown. The insurance scheme, which costs €15 to €20 a month, allows new car buyers to delay monthly payments until they are rehired, Emilio Herrera, chief operating officer for Kia Motors Europe, said. “We are in discussions over how to implement it in the majority of markets in Europe. We want it in place as soon as markets reopen in May”, Herrera said. Santander Consumer Finance provides the insurance for Kia customers in several European markets, Kia said. Government stimulus measures will also be needed to revive the economy, Herrera said. “We need to put in place scrappage plans like in 2009”. Combined with measures like unemployment insurance these steps may become confident enough to purchase a car”, Herrera added. Potential stimulus plans should help cut carbon pollution, but also incentivise customers to buy all categories of car, not just electric and hybrid vehicles, he said. “Electrified cars are much more expensive than combustion-engined vehicles”, Herrera noted, adding that in times of a crisis, consumers tend to make conservative buying choices. The crisis has already hit demand badly, with sales down more than 25 % in the first quarter. April will be the worse, showing declines of around 70 %, with demand expected to improve thereafter, Herrera said. In Germany, where smaller car showrooms have been allowed to open for the past week, traffic is 50 % below pre-crisis levels. Herrera anticipates that new car sales in Europe could return to “more or less” normal levels in July, as governments begin to relax Covid-19 restrictions. Still, before that can happen, registrations will drop steeply, with volumes for April reaching “catastrophic” levels, he said. The Kia executive stated that registrations in the EU will be down 75 % to 80 % in April, although this sales decline is likely to be less severe (around 50 %) in May, as dealerships in major markets begin to resume business. By June, Herrera expects the year-on-year decline to be at 25 %, although that number could be reduced further if governments would introduce incentives programs to encourage buyers to ditch their old car in favor of a brand new one. “We need to put in place scrappage plans like in 2009”, he said. “Electrified cars are much more expensive than combustion-engined vehicles. If we want to stimulate demand now, we need to help the low income people who are first going to lose their job”. These types of stimulus packages could incentivize customers to buy all kinds of vehicles, not just EVs and hybrids, thinks the Kia executive. The Korean brand has resumed production for its Ceed and Sportage at its only European plant in Zilina, Slovakia. +++

+++ LAMBORGHINI has set out plans to recommence production next week in time for a new model unveiling on Thursday 7 May. The firm says it’s “currently completing all preparatory measures to ensure its people return to work in conditions of maximum safety”, following newly issued guidance from the Italian government that will allow factories to begin to reopen. The Sant’Agata factory has been producing masks and other items of PPE during the coronavirus pandemic, having suspended normal operations on 13 March, but will now start to transition back to car production. Lamborghini remains tight-lipped about next week’s unveiling, but it’s likely to be a variant of an existing model, rather than an all-new car, given the company’s previous assertion that it won’t introduce a 4th model line until 2025. CEO Stefano Domenicali said: “We continue to nurture the dreams of our fans and customers, and on 7 May, through a virtual launch, we will present a new car in order to complete our model range”. Lamborghini’s Squadra Corse motorsport division is working on a track-only version of the Aventador, but that car isn’t scheduled to make its debut until the summer. Strict safety procedures will be in place at Sant’Agata as Lamborghini restarts operations, led by a “comprehensive educational campaign” directed at workers. Domenicali said that although the firm “is ready to restart with great energy”, it will prioritise staff safety and continue to monitor the progress of Italy’s recovery from the pandemic. +++

+++ MITSUBISHI has asked domestic and foreign banks for about ¥300 billion in loans in total amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, sources said. The banks approached by the firm include Japan’s 3 megabanks and the government-affiliated Development Bank of Japan, the informed sources said. Mitsubishi aims to keep ample funds at hand in preparation for the possibility of global automobile demand slumping for a long period of time amid the epidemic, the sources said. For fiscal 2019, which ended in March, the automaker expects to report a group net loss of ¥26 billion, the first red ink since fiscal 2016, when the company struggled due to its fuel efficiency manipulation scandal. In March, Mitsubishi’s global vehicle sales by volume dived about 50 % year on year, hit by a slump in demand mainly in the United States and China. As of the end of 2019, the company had about ¥370 billion of cash and deposits. “We have asked for funds from major banks to ensure stable management of our business, in anticipation of prolonged impacts of the coronavirus crisis”, a Mitsubishi official said, while noting, “We are not concerned over our financial strength at the moment”. Among other Japanese automakers, Toyota and Nissan have also asked banks for loans. +++

+++ Chinese electric vehicle maker NIO said it plans to establish its China headquarters in Hefei, capital of eastern China’s Anhui province. Its China headquarters will be an integrated base for headquarters management, R&D, sales services and supply chain manufacturing, Nio said. It will inject its core businesses in China including vehicle R&D, supply chain and manufacturing, sales and service and energy services, as well as related assets into Nio Anhui Holdings. Nio will also invest 4.26 billion yuan ($602 million) and own 75.9 % of the shares in the new company, Nio China, while its strategic investor will hold the remaining shares, according to an investment agreement. Founded in November 2014, Nio completed its initial public offering in September 2018. Its global headquarters is in Shanghai. Qin Lihong, co-founder and president of Nio, said the investment from strategic investors will not affect Nio’s commitment to becoming a user-centered company, adding that its excellent user community is one of the reasons why it attracted investors. Qin said in an interview: “The partnership will not change our commitment, but make it better guaranteed”. He added the investment will be made in installments, and the first will be finished soon. The company said that the closing will be in the second quarter of this year, and Nio’s core businesses and assets will be injected into the joint venture within one year of closing. Its current manufacturing hub built with JAC Motors is in the Hefei area as well, which has a production capacity of 100.000 vehicles per year. The plant is producing the ES8 and ES6 (photo). It also will manufacture Nio’s third model, the EC6, which will rival Tesla’s Model X and hit the market in the second half of the year. Qin said Nio will build a second manufacturing base in Hefei as well. “It is reasonable to further our cooperation with JAC now that we have signed this deal”, he said. Nio delivered 1.533 vehicles in March, more than double the figure in February. As of March 31, Nio’s cumulative deliveries had reached 35.751 vehicles. The carmaker said gross margin improvement is one of its top objectives in 2020. Last year, its gross margin was negative 15.3 %, with net loss standing at $1.62 billion. In an earnings call in March, Li said the gross margin will turn positive in the second quarter and reach a 2-digit level by the end of the year, as the carmaker has been optimizing the supply chain, winning a better deal with battery producer CATL, and reducing manufacturing costs by ramping up production. +++

+++ PLUG-IN ELECTRIC CAR sales in March 2020 decreased (no surprise here) but a decline of 15 % year-over-year to 192.380 does not seem much, considering what is actually happening with the coronavirus lockdown. The truth is that the significant collapse in the plug-in sales is probably ahead of us yet (April is going to be tough). Anyway, in March, the average market share of plug-ins amounted to 2.5 %. All-electric cars were responsible for 74 % of plug-in sales in March and 67% YTD. After the first 3 months of 2020, the total sales are over 460.000 (down 6% year-over-year) at 2.0 % market share. The sales data for particular models looks quite surrealistic, as a single car, the Tesla Model 3, was in March selling at a rate of about 10 times higher than the second-best. With 48.788 sales last month and 71.513 in the first quarter (51.000 above the second-best), the Model 3 seems to be out of range of any other EV. At least 6 other plug-in models (4 BEVs and 2 PHEVs) noted more than 10.000 sales in Q1, but the first Chinese car is only tenth (the BYD Qin). So far this year, the Tesla brand is way ahead of other (88.400 YTD), followed by 2 European brands: BMW (31,889) and Volkswagen (27.287). As the Chinese market recovers, BYD (22.200) moved up to 4th place ahead of Renault (21.331). +++

+++ Well, it was fun while it lasted. Patent images of a sleek PORSCHE hypercar emerged onto the Internet a couple of weeks ago to show what many believed at that point was an early look at the 918 Spyder successor. As it turns out, it’s not. The mid-engined, low-slung machine is actually something we’ve seen already. The patent images are depicting a slightly modified version of the 917 Living Legend, a concept unveiled by Porsche a little over a year ago to celebrate the race car’s 50th anniversary. I saw the connection between the 2 cars when the images surfaced online, but I was hoping these would be a window into the future of a 918 Spyder replacement. A Porsche representative said: “There is no connection with a potential future sports car”. As far as the differences between the car in the patent images and the actual concept, the former has headlights and wheels that aren’t borrowed from the 918 Spyder. Overall, they’re both pretty similar, but one is more track-focused with aggressive aero and the other is a more road-friendly derivative. As far as an actual 918 Spyder replacement, it’s expected to come around the middle of the decade in a best-case scenario with some form of electrification. Whether it will still have a combustion engine remains to be seen, but regardless of the powertrain, Porsche is already targeting a lap time of 6 minutes and 30 seconds at the Nürburgring. As a side note, the 918 Spyder is a former record holder for the fastest street-legal production car at the Green Hell, a title obtained in 2013 when the hybrid hypercar lapped the track in 6:57. In terms of styling, Porsche’s chief designer Michael Mauer told a year ago the company could either go with a retro look or start from scratch and opt for a futuristic appearance. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing the 917 Living Legend on the road, but at the same time, I’m wondering what the design team can do to top the 918 Spyder. The Carrera GT’s spiritual successor hasn’t aged at all, even though the concept was unveiled a decade ago to preview a strikingly similar production version that followed in 2013. +++

+++ Ford has confirmed the hot PUMA ST will arrive later this year. A preview image (the first official acknowledgement of the model’s existence) suggests the Hyundai Kona N rival’s performance-inspired bodywork will bear a strong resemblance to recently spotted prototypes of the model. The image gives little away as to how the Puma ST will be told apart from the standard car, but the wheels are of a similar design to those of the Fiesta ST, with which it will likely share its powertrain. This 1.5-cylinder 3-cylinder engine puts out 200 hp; enough to send the hot supermini from 0-100 kph in 6.7 seconds. The larger, higher-riding Puma will likely make some slight performance sacrifices. Prototypes seen lapping the Nürburgring sported a prominent lower bodykit that extended around the car from a splitter-style front bumper to a new rear bumper that houses twin tailpipes. Additional upgrades look to include lower, stiffer suspension and bigger brake discs, while an optional limited-slip differential, selectable driving modes and a launch control function will likely be available. The Puma is the third model in Ford’s European line-up to receive an ST version and the brand’s first hot SUV to launch here. It will take on the similarly conceived Hyundai Kona N, Mini Countryman JCW and Volkswagen T-Roc R in the developing performance compact SUV segment. +++

+++ RENAULT ’s slow selling Kadjar will enter its second generation next year, gaining the quality and technology boosts found on the company’s latest cars as well as a greater-than-ever choice of powertrains. Having been on sale since 2015 and receiving the mildest of facelifts last year, Renault isn’t expected to venture too far from the current visual approach, with gently evolved styling. However, the brand’s “interior revolution” under design boss Laurens van den Acker will continue in earnest. Set to be dominated by a touchscreen (large and portrait-oriented in top-end models) no longer sitting flush with the centre stack, the new Kadjar’s interior will strive for class-leading material quality and clean design; traits that were key in pushing the Clio to the top of the supermini tree. Expect classy features such as ambient lighting and posher trim options to help create an upmarket air. The Kadjar will again bear the fruits of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. It will make use of the same modular CMF-C platform as the next Qashqai and Outlander, which are both due in 2021. Given that both of these cars are older than the Kadjar in their current form, expect them to appear first. The underpinnings will be adapted from today’s Kadjar to allow the use of all forms of hybrid powertrain, as with the Qashqai. This means there will be mild-hybrid options for the regular engine range alongside plug-in hybrid powertrains. It remains to be seen whether Renault will follow Nissan, which is reported to be ditching diesel altogether in the next Qashqai. Given there is no diesel option in the new Captur in The Netherlands, this is not unlikely. Renault’s hybrid direction will be different to that taken by rival Peugeot with its 3008, which is now available with a 4-wheeldrive plug-in hybrid powertrain producing 300 hp. Instead, it will tackle the more cost-conscious end of the market, first with a variant of the Captur E-Tech’s system, which mates a 1.6-litre petrol engine to an electric motor and 9.8 kWh battery for around 160 hp. The new Qashqai will use both a hybrid and a more powerful, Mitsubishi-sourced plug-in hybrid system, either of which could also come to the Kadjar. +++

+++ Ford said executive chairman Bill Ford Jr’s daughter would immediately join electric vehicle startup RIVIAN ’s board of directors. Alexandra Ford English, who joined the No. 2 U.S. automaker in 2017, currently serves as the director of corporate strategy at Ford. Last year, the company invested $500 million in Rivian and said it planned to develop a new vehicle using it’s skateboard platform. “With Alexandra’s experience in mobility and self-driving services, she will bring a unique perspective to Rivian’s board”, Ford chief executive Jim Hackett said in a statement. +++

+++ TESLA could take a surprise top spot in the United Kingdom car sales chart for April in what is set to be an extraordinary month for registration numbers when they’re announced on Tuesday 5 May. Sales figures for April have been said to be “not pretty” by one industry insider. Deliveries from dealers have been restricted due to the coronavirus outbreak, although contactless deliveries have still been allowed. Tesla has delivered a large number of its vehicles directly to customers for some years now, but with its retailers shutting on 24 March, following government guidelines, the company has switched to contactless handovers at the customer’s homes or at its delivery centres. All ‘paperwork’ is pre-organised via a customer’s Tesla Account online, while on the day of delivery, the vehicle is left in a safe location with access arranged via the Tesla app. Buyers are encouraged to inspect their car and log any issues on the app, while video tutorials on screen show customers the features of their new car. Even when Tesla retail outlets were open, all transactions were processed online, but orders have still been coming in from customers at home during the lockdown. Tesla has also been operating contactless servicing during the crisis, while in China, Tesla has been trialling contactless test drives, which could also roll out in the UK. Officially, Tesla doesn’t report sales figures as it is not a member of MVRIS, The Motor Vehicle Registration Information System run by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. However, in the official monthly SMMT new car registration data, Tesla registrations are included under the heading ‘Other’ and are expected to account for the vast majority of ‘Other’ registrations. In March, ‘Other’ registrations took 9th place in the list of UK best sellers ahead of the new Range Rover Evoque and just behind the Kia Sportage. Teslas, and in particular the new Model 3, are likely to have accounted for all of the 4.718 recorded registrations. However, while other car makers have been struggling to deliver cars during lockdown in April, Tesla has continued with its contactless handovers. New Model 3 owner Denis Chick said: “It was the most seamless, no drama purchase I’ve ever made. From order to virtual delivery in 6 weeks. I didn’t think I would see the car for months. Everything was done online and an email included a confirmation of delivery document for my signature on the day. This was followed up by a phone call asking if I had any queries about the handover and wishing me a happy future in my Model 3, from an employee calling from home, in Amsterdam! Denis’ transaction also included a part-exchange, which was also dealt with via his online Tesla account. “It was totally painless, friendly, professional and quick; it’s definitely the future!”, he said. +++

+++ TOYOTA ‘s global output and sales both fell over 20 % from a year earlier in March as stay-at-home requests across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic hit manufacturing activity and demand. Toyota said its global output dropped 20.6 % to 640.973 vehicles and sales fell 23.8 % to 681.510 units, including those sold by subsidiaries Daihatsu and truck maker Hino. While Toyota’s factories in China resumed operations last month, its plants in many parts of Europe, the United States and Asia remain closed as employees stay at home in line with government requests aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. Sales and production in Japan were also sluggish due to fewer visitors to dealers and showrooms, according to Toyota. By region, sales in Asia, excluding Japan, fell 30.4 % from a year earlier to 171.028 vehicles, while Toyota sold 155.552 units in North America; down 37 %. The figures are expected to fall further in April after Toyota expanded factory suspensions due to the rapid spread of the virus, with consumer spending also weak at home and abroad. Toyota has temporarily halted production lines at 6 of its domestic factories in April, leading to a decrease of some 47.000 units. It will again temporarily stop manufacturing in May, resulting in a cutback of at least around 79.000 units. Overseas demand heavily affects Toyota’s domestic production, as it exported around 60 % of 3.41 million vehicles manufactured domestically in 2019. +++

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , car manufacturing suffered as the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, with output down by almost 40 %. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the UK’s car makers and dealers, show the Covid-19 pandemic decimated the number of vehicles built. In March, the SMMT data shows 78.767 cars were built in UK factories, which is a 37.6 % reduction compared with the 126.195 cars produced on these shores in the same month of 2019. The news follows figures released last month that showed UK new car registrations almost halved in March, as the coronavirus pandemic saw showrooms close their doors. Both the domestic and export markets were hit, with similar decreases in the number of vehicles heading abroad and to buyers in the UK. Just under 17.000 cars were built for UK customers; down 36.8 % on last March’s total, while exports fell 37.8 % to around 61.800. As a result, the manufacturing figures for the first quarter of 2020 make fairly bleak reading. At the end of March, overall production was down 13.8 % on the levels seen at the same point last year, with exports down 12.6 % and the number of cars built for the UK market down 18.2 %. Assuming factories stay closed until the middle of this month, the SMMT says independent analysis suggests the Covid-19 crisis could cut total UK car production by more than a quarter of a million units this year. This, the SMMT says, could cost the industry £8.2 billion, which is the equivalent to around a fifth of UK car makers’ combined annual turnover. If the lockdown goes on beyond the middle of May, the costs could rise further still. “The UK is fundamentally strong but, as these figures show, it is being tested like never before, with each week of shutdown costing the sector and economy billions”, said the SMMT’s chief executive Mike Hawes. “Government’s emergency measures are helping keep many companies afloat and thousands of people in jobs, but liquidity remains a major concern and will become even more stretched as the industry begins to restart. To get production lines rolling, we need a package of measures that supports the entire industry. We need coordination and collaboration with the government, the workforce and wider stakeholders to unlock the sector in a safe and sustainable way. This will include new workplace guidance, additional measures to ease cash-flow and help furloughed colleagues back to work, as well as demand-side measures to help encourage customers back into the market. This should be seen as long-term investment into the underlying competitiveness of an industry critical to the health of the economy and the livelihoods of thousands of households right across the UK”. +++

+++ New spy shots of the VOLKSWAGEN ID.4 coupe have emerged, giving us a better look at the electric SUV’s sportier variant. The model’s exact designation is unknown at the moment, with names like ID.4 Coupe, ID.4 GTX and ID.5 reportedly under consideration. The overall design closely echoes the ID Crozz concepts. There are a number of changes including a more rakish rear window and a new tailgate with a prominent spoiler. We can also see a fake dual exhaust system which could indicate this prototype is a performance-oriented GTX variant. While nothing is official, previous reports have suggested the ID.4 will spawn a crossover coupe. This prototype could be that model. It is slated to share powertrains with the standard ID.4 so we can expect a rear-wheel drive variant with 204 hp and 310 Nm. There should also be an all-wheel drive model boasting 2 electric motors and a combined output of 306 hp and 450 Nm. Volkswagen has been coy on specifics, but has previously said the ID.4 will have a range of up to 500 km (according to WLTP). Later on, we can expect high-performance variants which are expected to wear the GTX moniker. There’s no word on specifics at this point, but GTX models are slated to have all-wheel drive and an output of 408 hp. +++

 

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