Newsflash: de BX keert terug, maar dan als Lexus

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+++ The AUTONOMOUS CAR industry will have to consolidate because it is too difficult for separate companies to cooperate in developing self-driving vehicles, the head of Intel’s autonomous car unit said. Amnon Shashua, CEO of Intel’s Israel-based Mobileye, said the strategy of having individual companies each focusing on one component, like safety, sensors or maps, is not sustainable because it’s an “end-to-end system” that cannot be broken down. “It’s a formidable task, and there are going to be very very few actors who can go from silicon (chips) to self-driving systems”, Shashua said. “Therefore, what we see in the industry and what will continue in the industry is a great consolidation”. Chipmaker Intel bought Israeli public transit app maker Moovit earlier this month for about $900 million to help it develop self-driving robotaxis that could take to the streets in early 2022. The countries expected to first get driverless robotaxis include Israel, South Korea, France and China. Test fleets with safety drivers inside the vehicle will begin to deploy later this year, Shashua said. He believes commercial autonomous cars will be available in 2025. +++ 

+++ BMW will be displaying facelifted versions of 5 Series and 6 Series vehicles in South Korea on May 27 as the German car maker closes in on the No. 1 spot for imported cars in the local market. The event will be the first world premiere of new models in South Korea, though photos of one of the vehicles was leaked online in late April. BMW had originally planned to hold the event for the models at Busan International Motor Show, which was going to be held in the first week of June this year. The show got canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. BMW plans to start selling the vehicles in October. The company said that it will be holding the event in South Korea because the 5 Series and 6 Series are popular in the country. It is the biggest market for the 5 Series, having sold a total of 196.000 units there since 1995, followed by the United States. South Korea is also the second-biggest market for the 6 Series, also known as Gran Turismo, following China. BMW is recovering in the market from a series of car fires in 2018 and in 2019 and is fast gaining on its home country rival in terms of sales in the local market. In April, BMW Korea sold 5.123 units closely following Mercedes-Benz Korea’s 6.745 units. Last April, BMW Korea’s April sales were less than half of its rival.  In the January-April period, BMW Korea’s cars accounted for 21.2 % of the import car market; up by 5 percentage points from last year’s 16.04 % over the cited period. The 5 Series and 6 Series event will be held in Yeongjongdo, Incheon, where the carmaker’s driving center is located. The event will be live-streamed through various social network service channels. +++ 

+++ In CHINA , local carmakers lost market share to German and Japanese rivals in April amid the sales recovery from the pandemic, largely due to pent-up demand, and the situation is expected to reverse as the economy improves further, experts said. More than 2.07 million vehicles were sold in April; up 4.4 % on a yearly basis, ending a 21-month decline in the world’s largest automobile market, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. But the recovery also revealed the customers’ preference for international brands. Sales of Chinese-branded passenger cars fell by 9.4 % on a yearly basis to 532.000 units in April. The combined market share of Chinese brands fell by 2.6 percentage points to 34.6 % during the month. Though still the lion’s share, it was the lowest since July 2014. The share in the first 4 months fell by 1.2 percentage points from the same period last year to 38.1 %. German and Japanese vehicles became more popular during the period, accounting for 24.8 % and 22.8 % shares respectively, while those from the United States, South Korea and France saw their shares slide further. Xu Haidong, vice-chief engineer of the CAAM, said: “The overall rise in April was primarily the result of pent-up demand during the past several months. The demand was mainly for more expensive models, which are often from international brands”. Sino-German joint venture FAW-Volkswagen sold 165.734 vehicles in April under the Volkswagen, Audi and Jetta brands. That is a 9.9 % growth on a yearly basis, more than double the overall market’s rise. German premium carmaker BMW said its China sales in April rose 14 %, following an 88 % fall in February, when the pandemic was at its peak in the country. Japan’s Toyota’s Chinese joint venture GAC-Toyota sold 63.607 vehicles last month; up 47 % year-on-year. Experts said Chinese brands are expected to regain their market share as the economy recovers further and people’s life returns to normal. They said that it is also a reminder that Chinese companies should further improve their competitive edge because not all local carmakers are losing ground. For example, the country’s largest private carmaker Geely sold 105.468 vehicles last month, up 2 % from the same period last year. Its sales in the first 4 months of this year totaled 311.495 units, accounting for 22 % of the carmaker’s sales target of 1.41 million vehicles. Geely, which owns Volvo and has stakes in Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, said the sales recovery had improved its market share to 7.2 % by the end of the first quarter. “We are confident on the sales performance in May and in the second half of the year, as we launch new models and resume deliveries that were affected by the coronavirus”, said Geely president An Conghui. China’s largest SUV maker Great Wall Motors delivered 78.804 vehicles in April; up 2 % year-on-year. Globally, its deliveries for the month totaled 80.828 units; up 35 % from March. The carmaker said it has been exploring digital channels and making the most of its brick-and-mortar stores to boost sales during the pandemic. Chen Shihua, deputy secretary-general of the CAAM, said the pandemic in overseas markets was hurting Chinese carmakers’ sales as well. He estimated that vehicle exports will drop by 200.000 units this year, from about 1 million in 2019, as the coronavirus erodes global demand. +++ 

+++ Italy could look into FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES ‘ (FCA) planned €5.5 billion ($6 billion) payout as part of its merger with Peugeot after the Italian-American carmaker asked for a €6.3 billion state-backed loan, a senior government source said. The possible payment of such a large dividend at a time the coronavirus crisis has left cash-starved manufacturers pushing for government financial support has sparked criticism within the ruling coalition. “In the talks with the group, the special dividend is not an item being discussed at the moment. But, if you ask me whether the government will set no conditions in the near future, I’d reply that it’s too early to say”, the government source told. However, the dividend is a central element affecting the overall value of the complicated 50-50 merger deal and some analysts say it could still unravel if different conditions were imposed. FCA said last week its Italian division was working with the government and lender Intesa Sanpaolo to obtain 80 % state guarantees on a €6.3 billion 3-year loan facility to help weather the pandemic. The loan would be part of more than €400 billion Italy is making available to businesses. To qualify, companies must agree not to pay dividends this year. Taking the loan would not legally bar FCA from distributing the extraordinary dividend as the payment is not expected until 2021 and would be made by its parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV in the Netherlands. But the issue has aroused opposition among some members of the ruling coalition of the centre-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement. “Most of us oppose the payment of the maxi-dividend by FCA”, one prominent 5 Star source told, adding that some party members were also campaigning to extend the ban on dividend payments in the loan scheme until the end of 2021. Former industry minister Carlo Calenda, who is now in opposition, also said that FCA would not need the state-backed loan if the special dividend were not paid. Economy minister Roberto Gualtieri, who has said he backs the merger with PSA, said that FCA had to promise more investments in Italy and to avoid moving its factories outside the country if it wanted to apply for a state-backed loan. “The government aims to preserve and strengthen Fiat’s roots in Italy, as the automotive group is about to carry out its challenging merger with PSA”, he said. FCA and PSA last week scrapped ordinary dividend payouts on 2019 results, worth €1.1 billion for each company. As part of the binding merger agreement, FCA is also due to pay its shareholders the special dividend worth €5.5 billion just before it closes the deal with PSA, which is expected to happen in the first quarter next year. +++ 

+++ FORD has recently given 2 pieces of good news about the Mustang Mach-E. The first is that its charging will be 30 % faster than previously thought. The second is that its fast charging infrastructure will be expanded. But what if you don’t have a charger at home? A patent shows a unique solution for that: a solar charging inflatable cocoon. The patent shows that Ford thinks the roof is too small for solar charging. With that in mind, Ford engineers conceived this inflatable cocoon that expands the solar charging surface available. When it is deployed, flexible solar panels extend towards the ground in all directions: front, sides and rear. The storage compartment where the cocoon is kept also shows solar cells when it is opened. The patent informs us that, when the owner finally decides to drive, the structure automatically retracts back in the storage compartment, which looks like a roof cargo box. Patents don’t necessarily guarantee an idea will ever reach production. They also serve the purpose of intellectual property squatting to prevent competitors from using ideas that may be useful in the future. Ford alone registered an idea for a one-wheeled electric motorcycle and a sort of electric scooter that came out of a car. Although this solar charging cocoon may look brilliant for charging while also protecting your parked EV, I have concerns. Its deployment could damage the paint, for example. I also cannot help thinking it would turn the car into a solar oven, increasing the cabin temperature much more than if the vehicle didn’t have this solar cocoon. All the additional electricity generated may be lost with airconditioning use. Should Ford decide to sell it, it will probably have to develop some sort of Smart Summon. It would make the car lower its windows to cool down the interior before picking up the passengers. +++ 

+++ Think of it as the Gigafactory of the north: a whopping big one that compares with Tesla’s original battery plant in Nevada. GENERAL MOTORS (GM) and LG Chem have begun construction of a $2.3 billion battery cell plant in Lordstown, Ohio, to make the cells needed to power a raft of electric vehicles to come: from the Hummer electric pickup to a new variant of the Chevrolet Bolt (Opel Ampera-e). The plant is a joint venture between GM and LG Chem of South Korea, which is a leading supplier of lithium-ion battery cells. The new company is called Ultium Cells LLC. Ultium is also the name of the proprietary batteries the 2 companies have developed. The plant will be done in time to support GM’s next-generation battery electric vehicle portfolio (the automaker plans to roll out 20 new EVs by 2023). With the exception of an updated Bolt and the addition of a cross-over version, future GM electric vehicles will use the company’s new electrical architecture known as BEV3. The new factory will have the capacity to produce an annual battery cell output of at least 30 gigawatt-hours (GWh) initially, with the ability to expand further if needed. For context, Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada has an annual capacity of 35 GWh but has been producing closer to 20. Even still, Tesla and joint venture partner Panasonic are talking about further increasing the factory’s capacity. Tesla led the way for automakers with its Gigafactory. GM is not alone in going down that same path, and many other automakers are looking at future battery plants, as well. GM claims the pouch-style Ultium cells are unique because each can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack and thus be tailored to a specific vehicle’s layout. In terms of energy, the overall battery packs range from 50 to 200 kWh, the latter of which would provide a range of up to 640 kilometres for certain vehicles. The cells are designed for Level 2 and DC fast-charging. While most GM electric vehicles will have 400 volt battery packs and up to 250 kW fast-charging capability, the trucks will feature 800 volt packs and 350 kW fastcharging. To date, only Porsche’s Taycan is designed to use 800 volt packs. The goal is to reduce the cost of the cells to less than $100 per kWh early in the platform’s lifecycle, which ought to drastically reduce the overall cost of GM’s electric vehicles. In December, GM announced plans for the joint venture to mass-produce batteries for its ambitious electric vehicle plans. Manufacturing will be done on vacant land GM owns near the Lordstown car assembly plant that it closed in March 2019. The new plant will be about the size of 30 football fields. GM will need to further expand it or increase existing capacity to meet its mid-decade goal of  supplying 1 million electric vehicles a year in North America and China, which would require a quarter of a billion cells a year. Beside it, the shuttered Lordstown assembly plant, which used to make the Chevrolet Cruze, was a flashpoint in negotiations with the United Auto Workers last fall, and ultimately resulted in a lengthy strike before a new labor agreement was reached. The abandoned plant was later sold to Lordstown Motors, an EV startup with plans to make the Endurance electric pickup truck later this year. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Mary Barra, GM’s chief executive officer, said last week that product development of future electric and autonomous vehicles continues on at a rapid pace, adding that none of the company’s key programs are delayed. Executives have said work on future products is progressing so well that the launch of one of GM’s forthcoming EVs might even be pushed up. Production timing remains on track for the Hummer EV, which is due to arrive in late 2021. The GMC badged pickup will be followed by the Cadillac Lyriq electric midsize crossover. Likewise, look for the next-generation Bolt to arrive in the coming months. It will then be followed by a crossover. GM introduced the original Bolt in 2016 and has not introduced another BEV model since. The company has said it will make Cadillac the lead brand for EVs. In addition to the Lyriq, the brand has developed the Celestiq concept car, a fullsize flagship sedan with a hatch instead of a trunk, a limo-like back seat and a giant glass roof. On the autonomous vehicle front, the company revealed the Cruise Origin in San Francisco earlier this year. The battery-electric 6-passenger robo-taxi is set to be built at GM’s Detroit Hamtramck plant, which is now dedicated to EV production. At Ford, product development also continues at full pace and important key launches such as the next-generation Ford F-150 pickup will suffer a short delay of about 2 months. That’s about how long the Blue Oval’s plants were shut down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s head of product development and purchasing, said. +++ 

+++ Come next year, things may get interesting for the Lexus IS, a car that currently is not the first to jump to mind when one thinks of compact, rear-wheeldrive sports sedans. The IS is rumored to be getting a major makeover for 2021, the most notable element of which is said to be the arrival of a V8 powered version. Don’t call it an IS F, however; the model instead will be known as the IS 500 . None of the above is official: the source of the V8 rumor is an Instagram post. As has been previously reported, the IS is going in for a major makeover for 2021, one that this outlet characterizes as being less than a complete redesign. It will, however, bring revised sheetmetal mirroring the look of the Lexus LS as well as a new interior. While the current engine lineup is said to carry over, this report says it will be joined by the brand’s naturally aspirated 5.0 liter V8. That engine powered the IS F, which was dropped after the 2014 model year, but in the 2021 car it, strangely, will be sold as the IS 500. That’s the rumor, anyway. In the IS F, Toyota’s 5.0 liter V8 made 416 hp. Currently, in the RC F coupe, it’s putting out 472 hp. Today’s sportiest variant is the IS F-Sport Blackline Edition. If true, this could be a brief last hurrah for Toyota’s 5.0 liter V8. Previous reports have claimed that by 2022, Toyota and Lexus plan to eliminate V8s from any vehicle costing less than $90.000 and as part of that move, Toyota will drop its 5.7-liter truck engine as well. +++ 

+++ Not long after LEXUS debuted its UX in 2018, the automaker said it had no plans to offer a cheaper vehicle. One could interpret that to mean Lexus wouldn’t offer anything smaller than the UX, but a new rumour floating through the internet suggests otherwise. Could an entry-level Lexus BX slotting beneath the UX be in the works? If that’s indeed the case, a Lexus BX wouldn’t be an all-new creation. It would be based on the recently revealed Toyota Yaris Cross, a small crossover. There are no photos showing how this upscale mini-machine might look, but it would almost certainly adopt the Lexus spindle grille while adding a bit more chrome where the Yaris Cross has either black or body-coloured trim. It’s also possible the BX could trade off some ground clearance for a sportier on-road stance. The rumours further suggest the BX would use the hybrid powertrain pulled directly from the Yaris Cross. It features a 1.5-litre engine paired to an electric motor, generating a combined 116 hp. It’s possible an F Sport edition could be offered that would add all-wheel-drive to the mix, but there’s no mention of increased power. To maintain the F Sport image, one would assume something greater than 116 hp would be under the bonnet. This is certainly a curious rumour considering Lexus previously said it had no interest in offering something under the €30.000 mark. That statement was rooted in the automaker’s North American operations, however. The Yaris Cross will only be offered in Euro and Asian markets, and with the BX allegedly based on the tiny crossover, it would almost certainly remain in those areas. As for price, Toyota hasn’t released figures for the Yaris Cross but it should start around €25.000. If the rumours are true, we could see the Lexus BX in 2023. +++ 

+++ MITSUBISHI will focus on cutting fixed costs by 20 % or more in the next 2 years after reporting an 89 % drop in annual profit, its weakest performance in 3 years, and skipping its year-end dividend. The coronavirus crisis has exacerbated Mitsubishi’s struggles in a year where Japan’s 6th biggest carmaker was already battling falling sales in China and also southeast Asia, its largest market which accounts for 25 % of sales. Mitsubishi also said it would focus on growth in ASEAN countries to survive the aftermath of the pandemic. “Before the virus we had been mulling which underperforming regions and vehicle segments to cut our exposure to”, CEO Takao Kato told. “In the wake of the virus, we need to pick up the pace of making these changes. To stay competitive in a post-coronavirus market, we need to immediately shrink our area of focus to regions and segments in which we excel”. Global automakers are struggling to cope with the crisis, which has pummeled car sales due to lockdowns in many countries. Many automakers have begun to restart vehicle factories, but anemic demand, supply chain disruptions and social distancing measures at factories are expected to limit output. Mitsubishi’s operating profit came in at 12.8 billion yen ($119.21 million) for the year to end March, down from 111.8 billion yen a year ago, and its lowest since the year to end March 2017. Profits exceeded a consensus estimate of 9.4 billion yen profit drawn from 15 analysts. The automaker did not give an earnings forecast for the current business year, and did not issue a year-end dividend, compared with 10 yen per share a year ago. The junior member of the automaking partnership between Nissan and Renault sold 1.13 million vehicles globally in the year ended March; down 9 %. Mitsubishi will focus on growth in southeast Asia as part of the alliance’s plan for each company to expand in their regions of strength. Mitsubishi said it would give more details when it reports first-quarter results. The alliance is expected to announce a revamped strategy on May 27, when it will pledge to increase cooperation to improve joint operations to remain competitive. +++ 

+++ OIL COMPANIES may be facing uncertainty as the coronavirus pandemic triggers a collapse in demand for their products, but automakers are betting the crisis will help accelerate an electric future. With economies reeling from lockdowns to curb the virus, the sharpest plunge in oil prices in 2 decades has slashed the cost of filling up a tank of gas, eroding some of the incentive to make the switch to cleaner fuels. Looking ahead, cuts in capital spending forced upon energy companies as their revenues crumble could tighten supply enough to cause a spike in oil prices, making electric vehicles more attractive just as automakers ramp up production, analysts say. “We think this will lead to a tipping point, accelerating the switch to electric vehicles in many more countries around 2023-24”, Per Magnus Nysveen, senior partner at Rystad Energy, a consultancy in Oslo, told. “We will start to see that this starts to dig into global oil demand in a very significant way”, he said. According to an analysis of 27 automakers, most companies apart from Elon Musk’s Tesla and China’s BYD are still in the early stages of transitioning to EVs, which make up a fraction of global sales. With midsized to large petroleum-fueled SUVs and pickups driving much of the recent growth in the auto sector, many companies are banking on these high-emitting gas-guzzlers to drive their near-term performance. Nevertheless, with China’s BAIC and German rivals Volkswagen and Daimler pursuing some of the industry’s most ambitious decarbonization targets, investors are increasingly using a company’s EV prospects as a proxy for future success. “All the growth in transportation is being eaten by electricity”, said Harry Benham, chairman of Ember-Climate, a British energy transition think-tank. “Oil and gas companies have got no ability to defeat electricity as a transport fuel”. With fuel for road transport accounting for about half of all oil demand, the possibility of a faster-than-expected switch to EVs in the wake of the pandemic is one of the main reasons some forecasts for a peak have been brought forward. Global oil demand hit a record of just over 100 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019. Rystad now sees demand topping out at 106.5 million-107 million bpd in 2027-2028. The consultancy had previously forecast a marginally higher peak in 2030. Although the oil industry has defied numerous attempts to call “peak oil” in the past, the fact that the International Energy Agency projects that demand will plunge by a record 8.6 million bpd this year has reignited the debate. Though as yet a minority view, some believe the pandemic is reshaping patterns of work, aviation and commuting so profoundly that oil demand might never return to 2019 levels; a potential boost to hopes of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. “It’s inconceivable that all that demand for oil comes back in one go, so the real question is how much of that is lost permanently”, said Mark Lewis, head of sustainability research at BNP Paribas Asset Management. Underscoring the changing economics of transport, Tesla plans to introduce a new low-cost, long-life battery in its Model 3 sedan in China that it expects to bring the cost of EVs in line with gasoline models. Volkswagen has announced some of the most aggressive long term plans to decarbonize its fleet, but the company still has to prove it can build EVs at scale and has led the field in ramping up sales of mid- and large SUVs. Despite potential breakthroughs, automakers still have a long way to go to align themselves with climate goals enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, with Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles among the biggest laggards. Although the public decarbonization targets of Toyota are only a little bolder than the industry average, the company’s proven capacity to build hybrids may bode well for its EV ambitions. Subaru, which produces only a small number of hybrid vehicles, might have to rely on its partnership with Toyota if it wants to prosper as demand for EVs picks up. Although the oil industry hopes to offset demand lost to EVs with a growing appetite for crude to make petrochemicals and plastics, companies facing growing pressure from investors over climate change are increasingly open about the risks. In April, Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell, said the company did not expect oil demand to recover in the medium term, saying the industry was living in a “crisis of uncertainty”. Bernard Looney, chief executive of BP, was later quoted as saying he would not “write off” the possibility the world had reached peak oil. Much will depend on whether economies stage a V-shaped recovery, as some forecasters predict, and how far governments adopt new EV targets as part of “green stimulus” packages to spur a faster shift to a low-carbon future. With many European politicians calling for green recoveries, the French government signaled that the country wants to boost sales of low-emission cars. China has extended backing for EVs as part of its recovery package, and U.S. Democrats are exploring ways to boost demand for clean vehicles. With various European countries planning to ultimately ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars, some see increasingly ambitious EV commitments by automakers as another sign of the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. “One of the primary factors holding back the transition has been resistance by the fossil fuel incumbents”, said Kingsmill Bond, senior strategist at financial think-tank Carbon Tracker. “Now those incumbents are significantly weakened”. +++ 

+++ General Motors Co is “almost there” on developing an electric vehicle battery that will last ONE MILLION MILES , a top executive said. The automaker also is working on next-generation batteries even more advanced than the new Ultium battery that it unveiled in March, according to GM executive vice president Doug Parks. He did not specify a timeline for introduction of the million-mile battery, but said “multiple teams” at GM are working on such advances as zero-cobalt electrodes, solid state electrolytes and ultra-fast charging. Current electric vehicle batteries typically last 100.000 to 200.000 miles. Tesla, in partnership with Chinese battery maker CATL, plans to introduce its own million-mile battery later this year or early next. CATL provides battery cells to other vehicle manufacturers and has supply agreements in China with GM and its local partner SAIC Motor. GM unveiled its Ultium advanced battery system in March. It said its $2.3 billion battery production joint venture in Ohio with Korean partner LG Chem will be called Ultium Cells LLC. GM and LG Chem are pursuing a variety of ways to reduce battery costs, Adam Kwiatkowski, executive chief engineer of GM’s electric propulsion systems, told. The partners are investigating such initiatives as investing in mines, hedging metals prices and partnering with metals refiners, he said. GM chief executive Mary Barra reiterated earlier this year that the automaker intends to sell 1 million electric vehicles a year in 2025 in the United States and China. +++ 

+++ The European passenger PLUG-IN ELECTRIC car market had a really strong first quarter of 2020. Let’s check out the latest registration data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) for the European Union plus EFTA (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland) and the UK. First of all, the overall market significantly decreased: by 26.3 % year-over-year to 3.054.703 cars (highly influenced by the Covid-19 outbreak in March), so any increase on the plug-in side allows them to quickly gain market share. The plug-in electric car category (including a marginal number of hydrogen fuel cell cars) expanded by 81.7 % year-over-year to 228.210 and expanded its market share to almost 7.5 % (from barely over 3 % a year ago). The all-electric cars were up over 58 %, while the plug-in hybrids this year more than doubled (+127 %). Hopefully, we are just 1-2 years away from catching up to the conventional hybrid category, which is also growing fast (currently at 310.308; up 49 %). The top 6 markets by volume in the first quarter of 2020 accounted for some 172.762 plug-in cars or almost 76% of total sales: 1.Germany (52.449; up 125 %), 2. France (35.383; up 144 %), 3. United Kingdom (31.918; up 119 %), 4. Norway (22.568; down 3.6 %), 5. Sweden (18.473; up 87.8 %) and 6. The Netherlands (11.971; up 15.7 %). Germany has strengthened as the biggest plug-in car market (#1 in BEV, PHEV and total), although France had similar BEV sales. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE recently spent millions of dollars downsizing its range of engines, yet new regulations scheduled to come into effect across Europe in 2026 will force it to upsize once again. One of the company’s top engineers predicted the next round of engines developed for the 911 will be bigger than the units currently available. “In 2026, the next wave of regulations will come with Euro7. This will be the worldwide toughest regulations considering emissions, especially in the spread between real driving emissions and what we see on the test benches”, explained Frank-Steffen Walliser, Porsche’s head of sports cars, in an interview. These draconian regulations passed to coerce automakers into going electric will put a limit on relative power per liter of displacement, meaning an engine’s horsepower output will legally and directly depend on its displacement. Carmakers allocated a considerable amount of time, money, and energy into pursuing the exact opposite (making big power from a small engine) in the 2010s, hence why the base 911 gets a turbocharged, 3.0-liter flat-6. “I expect 20 % more displacement on average for these Euro7 capable engines. Many manufacturers will jump from 4 to 6, or from 6 to 8 cylinders”, Walliser predicted during the same interview. “The regulations are completely counterproductive to CO2 regulations, so this will go up”, he added. Upsizing will trap carmakers into an expensive pickle. Bigger engines inevitably burn more gas and emit more CO2, yet they’ll need to comply with ever-stricter emissions regulations. This leaves engineering departments with 2 options: compromise power, or invest in more advanced anti-pollution technology. Porsche is taking the second route. Walliser said making engines compliant will require catalytic converters that are 3 to 4 times bigger than today’s, resulting in a “small chemical industrial factory” on board to keep emissions in check. In turn, this will increase the cost of developing and manufacturing a car, and consumers will pay the difference. “This means all-new engines, and especially for the 911 this gets really, really difficult”, he said. “But, we will never give up. Whatever it takes, we will do it. We want to keep 6 cylinders, for sure, but we will have to overwork it. We will have to make a new engine. That’s the fact. Again”. He stated the days of high horsepower, naturally aspirated 911 variants (like the GT3) are also numbered, because making an emissions-compliant engine will become too complicated. “There will come a day, within the next 10 years, when we have to say ‘now this is the last of its kind’ “, he warned. Of course, Porsche hasn’t ruled out making different variants of the 911 (including naturally-aspirated high-end models) for markets where looser emissions regulations allow them, like the United States and Australia, if the numbers add up. With all of this in mind, it’s no surprise that the entry-level 911 Carrera will never again come with a naturally-aspirated engine. The 4.0-liter flat-6 developed recently for the smaller 718 GTS models won’t fit in the 911, Walliser told and developing another engine from scratch doesn’t make financial sense. On the bright side, Porsche pledged it will continue to offer the 911 with a manual transmission for as long as there is a genuine demand for it from buyers. Here again, though, the end of the stick is looming on the horizon. “We will offer a manual transmission for as long as possible, but one day it will not be possible to do so”, he told without going into further details. “I hope that day is a long way away”. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has sealed a deal with banks on a €5 billion ($5.47 billion) state-guaranteed loan to help the company to cope with the coronavirus outbreak, 2 sources close to the matter told. The state-guaranteed loan, which Renault had been working on for about a month, should be submitted shortly to the board of directors, the sources said, before being approved formally by the economy ministry. The firm, which posted a loss in 2019 and had been struggling with faltering demand before the pandemic, has already flagged it would seek state aid through this format, in a bit to shore up its liquidity. Other companies such as Air France KLM have also secured bailout deals through state-backed loans, which are funnelled through commercial banks. Renault plans to cut about 400 out of some 3.200 jobs at its Slovenian unit Revoz after the coronavirus epidemic hit demand for its products. Revoz produces the Clio, Twingo and electric Smart Forfour models. Its biggest markets include France, Germany and Italy. “Due to uncertain conditions on the global car market, which are a consequence of the Covid-19 epidemic and information on a fall of global orders, Revoz will continue its production in 2 shifts”, it said in a statement. “In cooperation with agencies and the Slovenian Employment Service Revoz will organise consulting meetings for all workers who will stop working in the company (a bit more than 400 persons according to present estimates)”, it said. Last month the company had said it expected to restart its third daily shift this month. Revoz suspended production in the middle of March for 6 weeks due to the coronavirus epidemic. Slovenia has so far reported 1.467 coronavirus cases and 104 deaths. The country last week became the first European state to call an end to its coronavirus epidemic but citizens are still obliged to wear face masks in indoor public spaces, disinfect hands upon entering such spaces and keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres from each other. The government expects GDP to fall by at least 8 % this year due to the epidemic and its consequences. Last year the export-oriented economy expanded by 2.4 %. +++ 

+++ In SOUTH KOREA , compact and other small SUVs are enjoying a boom in the auto market. Korea’s 5 carmakers sold a combined 72.416 smaller SUVs and 52.303 midsize SUVs during the first 4 months of this year, outpacing sales of traditionally-favored sedans which stood at 65.107. Compact SUVs now account for 15.5 % of the country’s total passenger car sales. SUVs have more loading and leg space than comparable sedans at a lower price and looks impressively big and important for the status-conscious. Smaller SUVs are particularly popular as a first car for women in their 20s and 30s or a second car for families who feel they may one day head outdoors. Kia sold 18.009 units of its Seltos, while Hyundai sold 12.588 Konas and Renault Samsung 11.914 XM3s. The SUV market was first opened in South Korea by Ssangyong’s Tivoli in 2015. Since then, it has grown rapidly as other carmakers have released a series of smaller SUVs. Last year 184.274 smaller SUVs were sold. +++ 

+++ SSANGYONG , one of South Korea’s 5 automakers, has been refused by its financial auditor to deliver an opinion on its ability to survive, after posting swelling losses for the 13th consecutive quarter last week. But an official from the carmaker told that it does not plan to appeal the decision, given that it was based on its latest quarterly report, not an annual report, and does not require appealing to prevent delisting. According to the automaker’s financial regulator KPMG Samjong Accounting, SsangYong’s current liabilities that are due to be repaid within a year have surpassed the current assets which can be cashed, by 589.8 billion won ($478 million). “Such a situation makes us question the company’s ability to survive”, KPMG said in the SsangYong’s first quarter earnings report. “If SsangYong cannot continue to survive, it may also fail to repay debt through its normal business operations. As a result of uncertainties, the automaker’s financial report does not include revisions for assets and debt amount”, KPMG Samjong said, refusing to deliver an opinion on SsangYong’s financial results. It is the first time for SsangYong to receive “no opinion” on its financial results from an auditor since 2009, when the automaker filed for court receivership over deteriorating fiscal health. Then, the company was owned by China’s SAIC. “We plan to focus on improving our fiscal health in the next quarter. Since KPMG Samjong’s opinion was not on the annual earnings, we are not required to appeal, in which case we will be given an extra year to improve financial health before delisting”, said a SsangYong Motors official. From January to March, the automaker’s net loss expanded to 193.5 billion won over economic impact due to Covid-19 outbreak. Its operating loss came at 98.6 billion won. Despite continued losses, SsangYong’s largest shareholder Indian automaker Mahindra scrapped a 230 billion won infusion plan last month, but decided to inject an emergency fund of 40 billion won. The company said Mahindra has funded 20 billion won earlier this month, while another 20 billion won will be given by the end of this month. SsangYong Motors has to pay back with annual interest of 3 %. The automaker’s short-term debt that should be repaid within a year stands at 390 billion won, as of end-March. +++ 

+++ General Motors (GM) has a “big team” working on an advanced version of its hands-free driving assistance system, SUPER CRUISE , that will expand its capability beyond highways and apply it to city streets, the automaker’s vice president of global product development Doug Parks said. GM is also continuing to improve its existing Super Cruise product, Parks said during an interview. “As we continue to ratchet up Super Cruise, we continue to add capability and not just highway roads”, Parks said, adding that a separate team is working on the hands-free city driving product known internally as “Ultra Cruise”. “We’re trying to take that same capability off the highway”, he said. “Ultra cruise would be all of the Super Cruise plus the neighborhoods, city streets and subdivisions. So Ultra Cruise’s domain would be  essentially all driving, all the time”. Parks was quick to add that this would not be autonomous driving. Advanced driving assistance systems have become more capable, but they still require a human driver to take control and to be paying attention. “What we’re not saying is that Ultra Cruise will be fully autonomous 100 % of the time, although that could be one of the end games”, Parks said. Parks didn’t provide a timeline for when Ultra Cruise might be available. A GM spokesperson said in a statement after his interview that the company continues to expand its hands-free driver assistance system technology across its vehicle portfolio and has “teams looking at how we can expand the capabilities to more scenarios”. GM said it “does not have a name or anything specific to announce today, but stay tuned”. This new Ultra Cruise feature would put it in competition with Tesla’s Autopilot advanced driving system, which is largely viewed as the most capable on the market today. Tesla’s “full self-driving” package, a more capable version of Autopilot, can now identify stop signs and traffic lights and automatically slows the car to a stop on approach. This feature is still considered to be in beta. GM’s Super Cruise uses a combination of lidar map data, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors, as well as a driver attention system, which monitors the person behind the wheel to ensure they’re paying attention. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, users of Super Cruise do not need to have their hands on the wheel. However, their eyes must remain directed straight ahead. GM has taken a slower approach to Super Cruise compared to Tesla’s method of rolling out software updates that gives early access to some owners to test the improved features. When GM launched Super Cruise in 2017, it was only available in one Cadillac model (the CT6) and restricted to divided highways. That began to change in 2019 when GM announced plans to expand where Super Cruise would be available. GM’s new digital vehicle platform, which provides more electrical bandwidth and data processing power, enabled engineers to add to Super Cruise’s capabilities. In January, GM added a feature to Super Cruise that automated lane changes for drivers of certain Cadillac models, including the upcoming new Escalade. This enhanced version of Super Cruise includes better steering and speed control. The improved version will be introduced starting with the 2021 modelyear Cadillac CT4 and CT5, followed by the new Escalade. The vehicles are expected to become available in the second half of 2020. +++ 

+++ China is offering a ray of hope for BMW as auto markets in Europe and the US are still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, said the carmaker’s chairman Oliver ZIPSE . “There is at least a glimmer of hope coming from China”, he said during a virtual annual general meeting held in Munich. BMW sales plunged 88 % in China in February when the pandemic was at its peak in the country, but as the economy gradually started revving up in March, people are visiting dealers to buy cars again. Zipse said the carmaker’s China sales in April were almost 14 % up year-on-year. “We know from our Chinese customers that consumption there will quickly bounce back, thanks to pent-up demand”, he said. The overall car market saw a 4.4 % rise in April as well, ending a 21-month decline, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The organization said the rise was lower than expected and estimated the pent-up demand would drive sales for at least another 2 months. Zipse said the rebound in China was only of limited use as a blueprint for other markets. “Economies in Europe have been affected to varying degrees by the pandemic, for instance. Demand for cars in countries like Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom will probably be very slow to recover. The same applies to the US”, he said. Earlier this month BMW lowered its profit expectations for its automotive and motorcycles divisions, citing worse-than-expected demand which would deteriorate in the second quarter. “A lot of people think things have already bottomed out and the worst is over. But, unfortunately, this does not reflect the actual situation”, Zipse said. Analysts said under such circumstances China, which has been BMW’s largest market for years, will appear even more important for the carmaker. Last year, it delivered 723.000 BMW and Mini branded vehicles in the country, topping the list of premium vehicle companies in China. It was the company’s best-ever sales result since it entered China in 1994 and accounted for around 28 % of its global sales in 2019. Zipse said the company will start producing the iX3 electric SUV (photo) this summer in China, which will become the first China-made BMW for global markets. “Preparations are going according to plan despite the uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic”, he said. The carmaker is ramping up investment in the country because of its confidence in the medium and long-term business outlook of the world’s largest auto market. “All of our investments we committed will continue and we are actually discussing investing more in China in the future”, said Jochen-Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China, in March. The carmaker is investing 4.4 billion yuan ($619.9 million) this year in its new factory in Shenyang. With a total investment of 28.3 billion yuan, the new factory is expected to be completed in 2022, making the city BMW’s global manufacturing center, it said. +++

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