Newsflash: Peugeot werkt aan stekker hybride 308 R met 360 pk

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+++ Autonomous driving startup AUTO X has launched a pilot self-driving taxi service to Shanghai residents with China’s major map and navigation company AutoNavi, or Gaode in Chinese. People need to sign up for the pilot program on AutoNavi’s mobile app Amap before Wednesday, and those who received confirmation can experience the free self-driving service in Shanghai’s Jiading district from May 8 to 10. Hailing a self-driving taxi will be the same as hailing a regular taxi. Just put the destination in the app, select AutoX as service provider and the company’s self-driving car RoboTaxi will come pick up the passenger, said AutoNavi. The car will be autonomous, but a safety employee will sit in the car in case of an emergency in the current stage according to government regulation, said AutoX. Founded in Silicon Valley in 2016, AutoX has partnered with many Chinese companies, including automakers SAIC and BYD as well as logistics company ZTO Express to tap into the self-driving market in China. It also received $100 million in A round financing from Alibaba Group. The company has built a Shanghai RoboTaxi Operations Center in Jiading district and launched 100 RoboTaxis in the city in 2019. +++

+++ Could BMW ‘s latest hybrid supercar of sorts actually be cancelled? Last year, BMW introduced the Vision M Next; a platform that would supposedly combine the latest advancements in autonomous driving tech, exterior and interior design, connectivity, and electrification, combined with sports car potential. It was supposed to be our generation’s M1 and a worthy successor to the i8. It looked very cool and generated quite a bit of interest when it was announced, but, if rumours are true, the Vision M Next will stay a concept indefinitely. Sources at BMW have stated that the development of the car has been axed due for quite some time now due to a number of reasons and BMW has yet to say anything about it. It’s no secret that manufacturers from all over the world have been tightening their belts, focusing production and funding into vehicles that are sure to sell, sure to have a market that they can take a piece of, and venturing into something that’s experimental is too risky for some. Cost and volume are the main issues for the M Next. Despite the relative success of the i8, development and funding of the M Next would be costly, and sales probably might not be able to cover it. While it is a statement piece, a car that embodies the values of BMW (with average grille sizes, mind you), sales numbers were the deciding factor. It also doesn’t help that manufacturing and production industries have slowed down significantly due to the coronavirus, and investing big money into a low volume project doesn’t sit well for BMW who have been taking a big hit in sales and manufacturing for the past few months. Maybe BMW is better off putting that kind of money into fleshing out their range of hybrid and electric vehicles and the idea of a BMW halo car isn’t the best way to spend big money right now. If the rumour is true, then here’s to hoping that maybe we’ll get something similar in the future instead; an electrified or hybrid i8 successor with much more power and technology. Just without the huge grilles, please. +++

+++ CONNECTED CAR fraud is on the up, according to new research by Uswitch. The comparison site recently revealed new findings that showed that the average connected car collects as much as 25 GB of data every hour, on the driver and the passengers, as well as the vehicle itself. Currently, 67 % of new cars registered in the UK are connected, while every new car is expected to be connected by 2026. A typical connected car contains 150 million lines of code, more than 103.5 million more lines of a code than a Boeing 787 commercial jet. However, with that wealth of data available, car cyber attacks have multiplied 6 times over in the last 4 years. What’s more, a 2019 cybersecurity industry survey found that 62 % of respondents think that a malicious attack on their software or components will occur at some point in the next year. Examples of connected tech in modern cars include remote central locking, smartphone linking, and keyless technology which has proved to be a popular avenue to go down when it comes to criminals stealing cars. Criminals can also capitalise on the weaknesses of connected mobile apps and built-in apps. “Even if basic privacy measures were put in place, we feel anonymised data can be easily matched with other elements to break down any attempts to promote user privacy”, said Jonaton O’Mara, a cybersecurity expert form CompareMyVPN. “In addition, the car companies themselves can now collect huge swathes of rich personal data; mainly location-based and habitual movements.However, this also covers connected device activity such as calls made, messages and phone numbers, which for privacy-concerned individuals is quite alarming. What we need is pressure from regulators and the cybersecurity industry to ensure that connected car data is both encrypted end-to-end to reduce any threat from a third party as well as what data is actually stored and kept”. +++

+++ Driving with a DOG in the car helps reduces stress behind the wheel and encourages safer driving according to new research by Seat. The Spanish firm’s study revealed that more than half of the dog-owning drivers surveyed (54 %) said that they drive more carefully when travelling with their pet in the car with them, particularly with younger drivers with 69 % of motorists aged 18-24 said they drive more carefully with their dog in the car. Older drivers meanwhile were at the other end of the spectrum, with 42 % of over 55s saying that they were more cautious when their dogs were in the car. Drivers in London and the North East were most likely to behave differently with their dog was in the car, with 70 % and 66 % respectively saying it would make them more careful behind the wheel. What’s more, having a dog in the car also had the added benefit of reducing driver stress levels, with 35 % of those surveyed saying that they feel calmer when their dog is in the car. However, despite all of this, many dog owners are unaware of the laws around travelling with dogs in the car. More than a third said they were unsure if there are any rules at all, wile 90 % said that they didn’t know about the maximum 9 point penalty and £5,000 fine for driving without due care and attention when driving with a dog. A fifth of dog-owning drivers admitted that they don’t restrain their dogs in the car, so there could be millions out there flouting the law. “Everyone knows the British public is passionate about its dogs, however, this study confirms that having their best friend in the car can contribute to safer driving while also having a positive mental health benefit by reducing stress levels. It appears to be a win win”, said Nigel Griggs, head of aftersales at Seat in the United Kingdom. “Motorists still need to make sure they’re keeping their dogs safe while travelling too, and finding comfortable and secure in-car pet accessories to properly restrain pets is as important as using your own seat belt”. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) has been hit with a class-action lawsuit that accuses the carmaker of knowingly selling millions of vehicles with an engine issue. The lawsuit, filed on April 29 in the U.S. district court for the Eastern District of Michigan, comes from law firm Hagens Berman and claims that vehicles with FCA’s 2.4-liter TigerShark MultiAir II engines consume abnormally high amounts of oil and can shut down unexpectedly during operation. Vehicles said to be impacted include the 2014-2020 Jeep Cherokee, the 2017-2020 Compass and the 2015-2020 Renegade. “Owners of these vehicles are terrified of sudden, unexpected engine stalls, and left empty-handed by FCA dealerships and technicians who continue to ignore this serious safety hazard”, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for vehicle owners in the class action, Steve Berman said. “It’s only a matter of time before this defect leads to a fatality, with millions of affected vehicles sold by FCA on the road”. Owners of impacted vehicles have expressed concern about the excessive fuel consumption for many years. The issue has also been previously reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with the lawsuit listing some of the complaints: “My car completely stalled as I was going to enter the ramp to the I10. It could have been very bad if it happened once I entered the I10. I had my 1 year old with me in the scorching hot sun of Tucson Arizona waiting for a tow truck”. “Major flaw. My brand new Jeep shut off on me while driving several different times and I was told at the dealership that it was because I needed an oil change. My dash told me I had 30 % left before it needed an oil change. It apparently has a mechanism that will detect either low oil or an oil change needed and just kill the engine. The car never gave an indicator. Any one else experience this huge and very serious issue?” “Dealership said there’s been an issue with these using oil. 3 quarts in the first 3.000 miles? Never heard of such a thing on a brand new vehicle”. “I got an oil change and this morning while driving my car shut off again. I checked the oil dip stick and sure thing it had not one single drop of oil! How is that even possible? My car burns the oil completely! I just got an oil change 2 months ago!” The lawsuit claims the sudden engine shutoffs could be avoided if FCA’s oil indicator system alerted drivers that their engine oil was running low but it doesn’t. Consequently, owners may only discover they are running low on oil when the engine cuts out. “Rather than being honest about these problems, FCA has engaged in efforts to conceal them by describing the defects as normal in a technical service bulletin”, according to the complaint, allowing the automaker “to avoid the inevitable economic fallout that would ensue from recalling the millions of affected vehicles”. Hagens Berman is seeking monetary relief for owners of the affected vehicles as well as punitive damages against the automaker “for its fraud and gross negligence”. +++ 

+++ FORD hopes to see salaried employees return to work by late June or early July in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. During a recent conference call with reporters, Ford’s chief human resources officer Kiersten Robinson pointed towards that time frame saying the car manufacturer has protections that will allow for a staggered return. Among the measures to be implemented for employees will include daily online health self-certifications completed before work every day, no-touch temperature scans upon arrival, providing all employees a care kit with a face mask and hand sanitizer, safety glasses with side shields or face shields if needed, increased cleaning and disinfecting of facilities, and hand sanitation stations. Ford’s plans for formal coronavirus safety measures include: 1) Daily online health self-certifications completed before work every day. 2) No-touch temperature scans upon arrival. 3) Providing all employees a care kit including a face mask and hand -sanitizer. 4) Safety glasses with side shields or face shields, if needed. 5) Increased cleaning and disinfecting of facilities. 6) Hand sanitation stations. “The bottom line is, based on all the information we have access to, we will not have a reliable and scale-able testing solution for several weeks and it may even be months”, Robinson said. “Longer term, we do think it’s going to be critical. Unfortunately, that solution is not available to us. Hopefully in coming weeks, if not months, that will be part of our protocol”. Ford’s employees in China have already returned to the workplace and employees across Europe are seeing a return on a staggered schedule also. Chief operating officer at Ford, Jim Farley, says safety measures implemented in China have served as a prototype for the company around the globe. Ford’s chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer Gary Johnson added the company is making arrangements to set up rapid testing of employees as needed with local hospitals and when production does resume, it will do so in staggered shifts including times for safety “stand-downs” and cleaning. +++ 

+++ With lockdown restrictions in place near-worldwide for the whole of April, we’ve been expecting new car sales to plummet, even compared to the sharp fall seen in March. That fear has been confirmed by new sales data from the car industry body in FRANCE , the CCFA. They show that just 20.997 cars were sold in the country in April; an 88.8 % decline on the 188.195 sales in April 2019. The PSA Group sold 10.098 cars across its Citroën, DS, Opel and Peugeot brands; a fall of 84.4 %. Group Renault (which includes Dacia and Alpine) sold 7.148 new cars; a decline of 83.9 %. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS ’ sales in China saw double-digit year-on-year growth in April, its 2 local ventures said, as the world’s biggest auto market recovers from the coronavirus. GM’s joint venture with SAIC Motor, which manufactures Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac vehicles, said its sales in China grew 13.6 % compared to a year earlier. It said it had sold 111.155 units in April, including exported cars. Meanwhile, SGMW, a separate GM venture with SAIC and Guangxi Automobile Group which produces no-frills minivans and has started to make higher-end cars, said its sales jumped 13.5 % to over 127.000 units. General Motors, which is China’s second biggest foreign car company after Volkswagen, said its sales in China fell 43.3 % in the first 3 months of 2020 compared with the same period last year. To attract customers, GM and SAIC have hired social media celebrities to promote its new models and are offering free medical masks to customers. China’s biggest automaker SAIC, which sold more than 6 million cars last year, said its sales rose 0.5 % compared to the same period last year. As well as the GM venture, it also builds its own brand cars and operates a venture with Volkswagen. +++ 

+++ The business climate in GERMANY ’s auto sector suffered its biggest slump and hit its lowest level in April since 1991, when the Ifo economic institute began collecting data post-reunification, a survey showed. The news came ahead of a conference call that chancellor Angela Merkel will hold with representatives of the German auto industry to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on production and sales. Ifo said its survey of 75 auto firms showed a current business index for the sector fell to -85.4 points in April from -13.2 in March. The April reading fell below a reading of -82.9 points registered in April 2009, during the financial crisis. “We have never seen such bad figures for this key sector”, said Klaus Wohlrabe, head of forecasting at Ifo. Sub indices on orders and production expectations plus export prospects all fell, with capacity utilisation down to 45 %. Ahead of the meeting with Merkel, Volkswagen and Daimler have urged the government to help boost demand for cars. The pandemic hammered first-quarter profits and forced both carmakers to drop their outlooks for the year. Car sales across the world have slumped as measures to contain the pandemic forced production lines to shut and showrooms to close, starving manufacturers of much needed cash for investments. Volkswagen restarted production at its Wolfsburg factory in Germany last week, the latest of a fleet of European carmakers to take advantage of eased coronavirus lockdown rules to resume manufacturing. +++ 

+++ General Motors ’ South Korean unit plans to sharply cut output this month at a factory producing its new Trailblazer, as the coronavirus outbreak weighs on its U.S. exports and also disrupts parts supplies. GM KOREA is responsible for supplying some of GM’s small SUVs to the U.S. market to meet a consumer shift away from sedans. Like peers industry-wide, however, it is grappling with shrinking exports as demand suffers from governments globally restricting movement to slow the spread of the virus. GM Korea will run its BP1 plant in Incheon, near Seoul, for 7 business days this month and idle it for the remaining 11, showed its internal production plan. A spokeswoman said the automaker has suspended the line until May 5 due to the virus impact on parts procurement and U.S. sales, and that its production plan for the rest of May is subject to change. GM Korea started producing the Trailblazer in January and shipping it to the United States in February, but is yet to begin U.S. sales, she said. The model is currently sold only in South Korea. On parts, the government’s virus response in the Philippines since mid-March has disrupted supplies of wiring harnesses, company officials said. South Korea recorded some of the earliest infections after the virus spread from China, where it was first reported at the end of last year. The export-reliant economy has since managed to control the outbreak and allowed manufacturers to resume production, only to be met with slumping overseas demand. Total exports shrank 24.3 % in April versus the same month a year earlier, trade ministry data showed; the quickest contraction since May 2009. Shipments of vehicles fell 36 % and vehicle components dropped 50 %. GM Korea said that its Trax ranked No. 1 in the United States in the category for small SUVs in the first quarter. According to the automaker, an accumulated 28.242 units of the Chevrolet have been sold in the US from January to March, topping the list among 15 kinds of small SUVs sold there. Following Trax were the Honda HR-V and the Hyundai Kona at 19.414 units and 15.174 units, respectively. The Trax is only manufactured at the automaker’s Bupyeong plant in Incheon. It has been also named the most exported vehicle from South Korea from 2016 to 2018. The company said the Trax has contributed 30 % of US’ small SUV sales in the first quarter. The model has also topped the annual sales of small SUV in US last year, selling a total of 229.218 units. Market data showed that US’ small SUV market has been expanding rapidly. In 2018, a total of 603.369 units of small SUVs were sold, while the number swelled to 693.843 units last year; marking a 15 % increase. The Trax was named the Top Safety Pick by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2015. +++ 

+++ The new chief executive of HONDA Canada, Jean Marc Leclerc, says the Japanese automaker won’t be able to meet its Canadian greenhouse emissions targets purely by pursuing a zero-emissions vehicle policy. Leclerc said there isn’t enough demand for electric vehicles to turn the tide on greenhouse gas emissions for Canada to achieve its commitments to the Paris Accord. Leclerc believes there is a big disconnect between the political desire to quickly move to zero-emission vehicles and the actual demand for such vehicles. “Nobody wants to talk about how much this costs and what people are prepared to pay. They’re just forging forward thinking we have all the solutions and we don’t”, he said. “There’s a political agenda. It’s easy for people to understand zero-emission vehicles as a political statement. Any other technology or combination of strategies, you’re beyond the elevator pitch in terms of time to explain and people’s capacity to understand”, Lecler said. “I think that’s why there’s been a push back on what we see as a practical approach to reducing GHGs in Canada”. The Japanese carmaker’s local CEO says studies have shown Canadians are only willing to pay $700 more to purchase an electric vehicle over an ICE, adding that just 2 % of the 28 million vehicles on Canadian roads are EVs. “The heavy investments you need to invest to produce those (electric vehicles) and you’re questioning whether you’ll be able to sell those at a profit. That’s why we’re really concerned about governments putting out more zero emission mandates that will not really achieve a great deal of GHG reduction in the short term”, Lecler told.“The reality is we’re a long way from that ($700 difference) in a cost perspective”. The Canadian government aims to see 5 % to 10 % of all new vehicle sales be zero-emission vehicles by 2030 and 100 % of new car sales to be zero-emission vehicles by 2040. While Leclerc acknowledges that electrification is the future, he said EVs should not be imposed and politicians shouldn’t dictate technological solutions to car manufacturers. “In our discussions with the government we basically tell them just give the GHG reduction targets you’re looking for and let us figure out to how to achieve them”, he said. “Don’t impose a technology. Don’t impose EVs, that’s a big topic in imposing zero-emission vehicles. Even for us to meet the government’s general standards in Canada, we’re going to need to sell a lot of gasoline/hybrid vehicles”, Leclerc added. “Frankly for the government to achieve their GHG targets they’re going to need to get as many low-emitting vehicles in the market as quickly as possible. With EVs you’re basically getting a trickle right now. If you’re looking at saving the planet and having heavier reductions of GHG, the math doesn’t work”. The new Honda boss also pointed out that automakers are encouraging the Canadian government to participate in a wider North American plan to standardize fuel efficiency requirements. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI and its affiliate Kia said their plants in the United States will resume operations this week after taking thorough quarantine measures to guard against the new coronavirus. Hyundai and Kia said they plan to restart production at their plants in Alabama and Georgia, respectively, on Monday and flexibly operate the plants “depending on the Covid-19 developments and local market conditions”, a company spokesman said over the phone. Hyundai has suspended the Alabama plant since March 18 when one of its local employees was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. Kia has halted the Georgia plant since March 30 due to a lack of engine supplies from Hyundai’s Alabama plant. The carmaker has suspended most of its overseas plants to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and keep inventories at manageable levels. None of its domestic plants have been in operation since April 30. It has 7 domestic plants and 10 overseas plants: 4 in China and 1 each in the United States, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Russia, India and Brazil. Their combined capacity reaches 5.5 million vehicles. Hyundai’s India plant will also resume operations this week as the carmaker satisfied all the requirements presented by the local government to restart production, the company said. The Chennai plant has suspended operations since March 22 in line with the local government’s guidance to stem the spread of Covid-19 across the country. India announced a nationwide shutdown on March 25, affecting transportation, manufacturing plants and almost all e-commerce. Kia, which is 34 % owned by Hyundai, has 8 domestic passenger vehicle plants and 7 overseas ones: 3 in China and 1 each in the United States, Slovakia, Mexico and India. Their overall capacity is 3.84 million units. It plans to suspend 4 out of the 8 domestic factories for a certain period of time between April and May to manage inventory. Most of its overseas plants are not in operation, with the suspension of its Mexico plant recently extended. But the 2 carmakers’ plants in China are in operation, though they have yet to return to full production. From January to April, they sold a combined 339.254 vehicles in the United States; down 15 % from 396.793 units on year. “The Covid-19 global pandemic significantly disrupted the U.S. auto industry in April. We look forward to supporting our dealers and customers as cities, counties and states slowly reopen, and we begin returning to work after this tragic pandemic”, Randy Parker, the vice president in charge of national sales at Hyundai Motor America, said in a statement. +++ 

+++ JAPAN ’s monthly auto sales dropped to a 9 year low in April, industry data showed, after a state of emergency called by the government to contain the national outbreak of the new coronavirus left showrooms deserted. In the latest indicator of the widening impact of the virus on the world’s third-largest economy, vehicles sales fell 29 % in April from the same period a year ago to 270.393 units. The last time sales were worse was in April 2011, when Japan was struggling to cope with the impact of a massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster a month earlier. Most cars sold in Japan are produced domestically. Sales of minicars, which account for roughly 4 out of every 10 vehicles sold in Japan, tumbled 34 % last month, the Japan Minivehicle Association said in a statement. It cited a fall in production of the pint-sized vehicles as the further spread of the virus prompted closures at parts supplier plants overseas, leading to procurement issues. The association added that the government’s recommendations that people should stay at home barring essential outings, as well as uncertainties about the virus impact on household budgets, had led to a drop in visits to dealerships. Demand for cars has plummeted globally as people have been ordered to stay indoors in many countries to control the spread of the virus, leaving motorways empty and deep uncertainty about the longer-term impact on the global economy. Japanese automakers have taken a big hit to sales, with their global vehicle sales dropping 34 % in March, figures showed earlier this week. Sales are set to fall further in the months ahead as the crisis continues. +++ 

+++ The KIA Sportage has been updated for 2021, with a minor trim-level restructure, a few technology revisions and a new 1.6-litre mild-hybrid diesel engine. The first deliveries are expected to start towards the end of the year. Standard equipment for the updated Sportage now includes 17 inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, electrically folding door mirrors, automatic windscreen wipers and rear parking sensors. Inside, there’s heated front and rear seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. Every model also now comes equipped with an 8 inch touchscreen infotainment system, which offers navigation and support for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and voice control. Kia’s Uvo connected services are also offered as standard, giving drivers real-time information on traffic conditions, speed camera locations and the availability of nearby parking spaces. Kia has also added a new 48 volt mild-hybrid diesel powertrain, to replace the current Sportage’s conventionally driven 1.7-litre unit. The system comprises a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, a belt-driven starter-generator and a 0.44 kWh battery pack for a combined output of 136 hp and 320 Nm. The powertrain is hitched to a 6-speed manual transmission as standard, although buyers can spec a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic as an optional extra. With the former gearbox fitted, the 48 volt mild-hybrid system gives the Sportage a 0–100 kph time of 10.8 seconds. Emissions figures are a claimed 141 g/km of CO2. The revised Sportage is also offered with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, in 2 states of tune. The entry-level naturally aspirated model develops 132 hp and 161 Nm, while the more potent turbocharged variant has an output of 177 hp and 265 Nm. The former unit can only be specced with front wheeldrive, while the latter is available with four wheeldrive, although both can be had with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic gearbox. Safety and technology gets a boost too, with all models now coming as standard with a reversing camera, lane-keeping assist, high-beam assist and trailer stability assist as well as cruise control and a speed limiter. Like the outgoing model, there are also 6 airbags scattered throughout the cabin, as well as a pair of Isofix mounting points for the rear bench. +++ 

+++ NISSAN will pull back from Europe and elsewhere to focus on the United States, China and Japan under a plan that represents a new strategic direction for the embattled carmaker, people with direct knowledge of the plan told. The “operational performance plan” is due to be announced on May 28 and goes beyond fixing problems from ousted leader Carlos Ghosn’s aggressive expansion drive, the people said. Pursuit of market share, particularly in the United States, led to steep discounting and a cheapened brand. Under the new 3 year plan, Nissan aims to restore dealer ties and refresh lineups to regain pricing power and profitability, the people told. “This is not just a cost-cutting plan. We’re rationalising operations, reprioritising and refocusing our business to plant seeds for the future”, one of the people said. The plan also aims to cut competition and expand cooperation with alliance partners, the people said. Nissan will follow Mitsubishi in plug-in electric hybrid vehicle technology, with the smaller peer taking the lead in Asian markets outside China and Japan. Renault will likely focus on electrical vehicle technologies and Europe. The plan, led mainly by chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta rather than Nissan’s low-key chief executive, Makoto Uchida, is aimed at freeing resources to invest in products and technology for the United States, China and Japan, the people said. “The net effect is even though we reduce our R&D spend this year versus last year and make other savings, we pump those freed-up resources back into core markets and core products”, said one of the people, who declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak with media on the matter. The plan is likely to take up to 2 weeks to be finalised, with sales and earnings targets complicated by the anticipated long-term impact on auto sales of government measures worldwide taken to stop the coronavirus outbreak, the people said. In July, Nissan targeted an operating margin of 6 % on revenue of 14.5 trillion yen ($135.83 billion) by March 2023, versus 3 % and 13 trillion yen forecast at the time for the year ended March 2020; the results of which are scheduled for release later this month. Management has since changed, with Uchida and Gupata appointed in December. To be sure, focusing on its 3 core markets does not mean a total retreat from elsewhere for Japan’s second-largest automaker by volume after Toyota. Nissan will try to maintain a presence in Europe through stepped up efforts with its Qashqai and Juke crossovers. In Asia, it plans to further expand sales in Thailand and the Philippines which, with Australia, generate roughly 90 % of sales and profit in the region excluding China, Japan and India. Still, its new plan calls for tighter, targeted lineups in countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Russia, Brazil and Mexico, such as focusing on the beefy Patrol in Africa and the Middle East. That means Nissan might need to shutter more than the 14 assembly lines announced in July. In March, it also announced plans to stop production in Indonesia. Nissan previously put its annual global production capacity at over 7 million vehicles based on three daily shifts per plant. The new plan is based on 2 shifts which, with the 14 closures, puts capacity at about 5.5 million, the people said. Under the plan, the Yokohama-based automaker aims to remain in the U.S. market where it is tasked with eliminating the perception of being a bargain-basement brand. Though its North America sales have grown, its operating margin has narrowed. “For several years, everything was based on volume growth, then we shifted our emphasis to quality of sales and we did it overnight”, said one of the people. “We did it too fast, and that choked our business”. Nissan’s U.S. models have an average age of over 5 years. To lower that to 3.5 years, the automaker plans to launch new and significantly redesigned cars, including a next-generation X-Trail. It will also reduce sales to rental and other fleet operators, the people said. Nissan has been slow to launch models in Japan too. Under the new plan, the automaker will introduce 6 new or redesigned models over the next 3 years to bring the average lineup age to under 2.5 years from an undisclosed figure, the people said. Domestically, the average age of lineups from competitive auto brands is generally 2 to 3 years. In China, Nissan’s new plan involves designing vehicles more specifically for consumers in the world’s largest auto market, instead of offering cars designed for U.S. consumers. Its China-only Venucia brand will need to be re-positioned to better respond to competition from a multitude of indigenous brands, the people said. +++ 

+++ The next generation of PEUGEOT models will kick off with the all-new 308 in 2021 and the range is set to include a hybrid hot hatch under the brand’s new PSE performance arm. When it was launched in 2014, the current 308 kick-started the transformation of the entire Peugeot range with a more confident design approach. The successful, more daringly styled 3008 followed, along with the 5008, 208 and 2008. The next 308 is set to play that role again by laying the groundwork for a new era of Peugeots when it goes on sale in just under 18 months’ time, most likely after a public debut towards the end of 2021. It will be built on an updated version of the EMP2 platform that underpins more than a dozen PSA Group models and was originally introduced on today’s 308. This allows an electrified powertrain to be brought to the 308 for the first time. PSA’s strategy so far has been for EMP2 models to be offered with plug-in hybrid technology and for smaller CMP models to come with dedicated electric versions, both offered alongside existing petrol and diesel variants. The 308 will get a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, mixing 1.2 and 1.6 litre petrol engines with an electric motor to drive the front wheels in a mainstream variant. However, it’s a proposed second plug-in hybrid model that will interest enthusiasts. This model would gain an additional electric motor on the rear axle (a set-up already used on the 3008 HYbrid4) to give the 308 four wheeldrive and create a new 360 hp hot hatch version that would also receive a host of sporty chassis and styling upgrades to challenge the likes of the Volkswagen Golf R. +++ 

+++ Volvo’s POLESTAR brand is touting driving dynamics and connectivity as 2 ways that its first full-electric car can win converts from fans of Tesla. The China-built Polestar 2 will go on sale in June as a rival to Europe’s topselling electric car, the Tesla Model 3, joining the brand’s only vehicle currently on sale, the Polestar 1 plug-in hybrid coupe. Polestar says it focused on the all-wheeldrive sedan’s driving dynamics because cars driven by electric motors all have great acceleration and torque so there is less differentiation compared with cars powered by gasoline or diesel engines. The Polestar 2 was engineered to deliver agile driving characteristics as well as quick, responsive steering while also feeling comfortable and stable in keeping with Polestar parent Volvo’s safety philosophy. The Polestar 2’s 78 kWh lithium-ion battery pack sits below the car’s floor, which helps to improve chassis rigidity and reduces road noise. Its chassis was fine-tuned to deliver, “What we call the ‘golden ride’ “, said Joakim Rydholm, the brand’s lead chassis engineer. The Polestar 2 takes a big leap forward in connectivity with the first use in a production car of Google’s Android Automotive for its infotainment system. Unlike Android Auto and Apple Car Phone, which mirror a smartphone’s display onto the dashboard display, Android Automotive does not rely on an external device to operate. Because it is embedded into the car it offers advanced digital features. For example, if you use Google Maps for directions, it can tell you not just the route but also if you will need to charge the battery along the way. Its maps app has an offline mode to use for route-finding where there is no Internet connectivity. The dashboard’s big 11-inch display can also be customized for more than one user. Like Tesla, Polestar is shunning the traditional dealership retail model and is selling its cars only online. The brand is opening so-called Polestar Spaces, which are showrooms where brand employees can help customers with product information and test drives. The first has opened in Oslo and more are planned in Europe and the U.S. Owners can use Volvo’s dealer network for repairs and servicing. The sedan is being marketed as a practical car as well as a sporty model. Its 1.500 kg braked towing capacity is the highest in the compact electric segment, Polestar says. This is an important selling point in Scandinavian countries where some owners will want to tow boats. The car’s combined luggage capacity of 440 liters comprises a 405 liter rear luggage area and a 35 liter front storage compartment. The Polestar 2 will be a key model in the brand’s goal of achieving annual sales of 100.000 vehicles. Future models will include the Polestar 3 full-electric SUV and 2 more cars for which details have not been announced. +++ 

+++ PSA , one of many car companies around the world to have been hit hard by the corona virus, said that it would gradually restart production at sites over the course of this week. PSA said a first wave in the partial resumption in industrial activity would take place between May 4 and May 11, with French sites gradually re-starting from May 11 onwards. The company added it would have reinforced health and safety measures at sites, such as checking the temperatures of employees, and supplying masks, hydro-alcoholic gel and protective glasses, and social distancing between staff. +++ 

+++ Israel-based start-up REE has designed a new electric vehicle platform with modular corner and wheel assemblies that, it says, allows more freedom of design and the fitment of more body configurations than is possible on current EV architectures. Ree’s platform can incorporate a totally flat floor while the motor, suspension, steering and braking (all of which are by-wire systems) are all handled by individual wheel modules. There’s an ECU at each corner and one within the chassis itself. The system is scalable for anything from small delivery vans to large commercial vehicles. Ree co-founder and CEO Daniel Barel said: “A V6 internal combustion engine ICE platform and Volkswagen’s MEB electric architecture are more or less the same. It’s still a 3-box chassis configuration. They’ve taken the ICE and moved it into an electric motor, and the centre is a skateboard chassis, but it’s far from a skateboard. Tesla’s is the same and Jaguar Land Rover’s is the same, and that didn’t make any sense to us”. Ree’s corner modules have the motor and software attached to the chassis end of the suspension, so this isn’t a motor-in-wheel design, which would have a heavier unsprung mass and the ride and handling disadvantages that entails. Ree says a corner module can be removed and replaced in 18 minutes, which would give real gains in downtime and maintenance costs for commercial vehicles. The architecture, which can have raised wheel arches by using horizontally located springs and smaller wheels, has already been showcased by Hino Motors, Toyota’s commercial vehicle division, with which it has a partnership, in a six-wheel configuration. “Everything you can see there is what we do for them: the motor, the braking, the suspension, the drivetrain, everything. You can imagine the depth of due diligence we had to go through before they trusted us”, said Barel. “I can’t think of any other manufacturer that is so 100 % involved in the major future of any OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)”. Ree has partnered with other OEMs and tier-one suppliers (T1s), including Mitsubishi. With new market entrants, too (in the autonomous and last-mile delivery segments), Barel claims there’s interest from plenty of market segments. “One is new autonomous delivery vehicles”, Barel said, “which is small, slow vehicles. Some countries are more open to that than others. Those have been permitted to go on the road in the US already, and soon in Japan. Shuttles are an interesting business for us as well. And a robotaxi (an autonomous short-haul car) we’re building with a partner is 2.5 cm longer than a Smart and seats 5 comfortably”. That would put an autonomous taxi at just 2.7 meter long but gains in usable space exist if Ree’s platform can use the full length of the platform. Instead of having a large manufacturing base of its own, Ree says it has identified partner-company factories that have spare capacity, which saves it bigger capital expenditure costs. “We have unique partnerships with the world’s biggest T1s”, said Barel. “They’re our investors and shareholders. We do all the research and development and then, like any other OEM, we send it to production”. Ree says it can build components in more than 300 plants worldwide. Barel said the focus isn’t solely on autonomous or commercial vehicles: “There will be a steering wheel. There is a car today that is by-wire and you can drive it. We’re agnostic to whether it’s autonomous or not. You can put anything you want on top”. The company is also open-minded about which badging its platform gets. “We want to be the ‘Intel inside’ of it”, Barel said. “For the first time in a century, you don’t know how cars are going to look in 5 to 15 years from now”, Barel said. “It’s a moving target, so how do you hit one? You make something that is completely different to anything else”. +++ 

+++ ROMANIA carmaker Dacia, owned by Renault, and Ford’s Craiova plant resumed operations today after output was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic in March, they said. Dacia had sent around 14.000 employees home on technical unemployment and Ford also suspended activity for its 6.000 staff. During the shutdown, both plants implemented safety measures aimed at curbing the risk of Covid-19 infections and to ensure their employees are protected against the new coronavirus. Ford said it will gradually resume output in a single shift with about half of its workers. Dacia said that “production on the Mioveni industrial platform has been resumed, with the Mechanical and Chassis Plant working in 3 shifts”. The European Union member state, which has recorded 13.512 coronavirus infections and 803 deaths, declared a 30-day state of emergency on March 16 and later extended it to May 15. +++ 

+++ Major Chinese automaker SAIC Motor reported a sales recovery in April after steep sales declines in the first quarter of 2020 amid the Covid-19 epidemic. The Shanghai-based carmaker said Saturday it sold 433.000 vehicles in April; up 0.5 % year-on-year. Of all, 413.000 vehicles were sold in the domestic retail market; a year-on-year increase of 1.3 %. Its auto sales plunged 55.7 % year-on-year to 679.028 units during the January-March period, the carmaker said in mid-April. The positive sales growth in April was achieved with government support policies. The Chinese central government as well as many local governments have rolled out measures to boost car sales. Carmakers also have introduced new sales approaches including live streaming car sales to reach consumers who were staying at home. “The government support policies and carmakers’ promotional activities are set to stimulate the potential of automobile consumption”, said Cai Bin, assistant president of SAIC Motor. The company will seize the opportunity and introduce major sales promotion carnival to boost auto consumption in May and June, the traditional peak season for auto sales, Cai said. Cui Dongshu, secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association, said the government favorable policies will help promote the future sustainable development and upgrading of auto consumption in China and a V-shaped recovery is almost set for the country’s auto market. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED STATES , the coronavirus continues to hammer the automotive industry and that’s clearly evident in April sales figures. While many automakers have switched over to quarterly sales, the numbers from Mazda, Subaru and the Hyundai Motor Group paint a bleak picture. Last month, Mazda saw its sales drop 44.5 % from a year ago to just 10.940 units in the United States. The company also noted sales of certified pre-owned vehicles fell 53.8 % from April of 2019. Sales were down across the board and the biggest loser was the Mazda 6 which was off a staggering 68.1 %. That’s pretty bad, but the Mazda 3 and CX-3 were also down by more than 60 %. Subaru fared even worse as their April sales were off 47 % from a year ago. Every model was down for the month and the biggest drops were experienced by the BRZ (63.4 %), Impreza (61.5 %) and Legacy (54.6 %). Continuing the trend, Hyundai sales were down roughly 39 % from a year ago. The company only sold 33.968 vehicles in April, but Tucson sales remained surprisingly steady. The SUV also reached a milestone last month as the millionth unit was sold in America. Likewise, Kia sales were off by nearly 38 %. However, there were some bright spots as the company sold more than 1.800 Seltos crossovers. Demand for the Optima, Sorento and Telluride also remained relatively strong, but all 3 models saw sizable declines. Lastly, Genesis sales were down almost 50 %. The biggest loser was the G80 which was off nearly 75 % to just 161 units. However, there’s likely more to blame than just the coronavirus. An all-new G80 was unveiled in March and it’s possible that buyers are simply waiting for the redesigned sedan to arrive later this year. While the numbers aren’t good by any stretch of the imagination, Hyundai noted their monthly sales were “better than early industry predictions that forecasted an 80 % decline in April”. The company credited part of this to the “ingenuity of our dealers” and “robust customer assistance programs”. The automaker also noted more than 95 % of their dealers offer online sales and pick up / drop off services. Those sentiments were echoed by Subaru of America president and CEO Thomas Doll who said “While this pandemic has been difficult for the auto industry, April sales for Subaru were better than expected”. He added: “We are immensely proud of our retailers’ efforts and perseverance in this difficult market”. +++

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