Newsflash: Volvo XC100 gaat circa 105.000 euro kosten

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+++ AUDI is in the middle of its first purely digital worldwide market launch for the new A3 family. One of the powertrain options will be a plug-in hybrid. The German manufacturer already offered a plug-in hybrid version: the A3 Sportback e-Tron, originally introduced in 2014 and then withdrawn in 2018. With the next-generation A3 Sportback and Limousine, the plug-in hybrid will return. Expect 2 versions: the 35 TFSI e (204 hp) and the 40 TFSI e (245 hp). +++ 

+++ With many of us spending more time than ever at home due to the coronavirus, it also means our cars are parked more than usual, too. That makes them prime targets for bird bombings that could spell disaster for your car’s paint. But what we think of BIRD POOP (the milky white substance) isn’t just poop. The white is uric acid, the avian equivalent of urine, and it’s that acid that can ruin the paint. Thankfully, automakers do their best to protect their paint with Ford going as far as to create artificial bird poop for its intensive paint tests. Ford sprays the synthetic droppings on test panels that Ford then ages in extreme heat, between 40-60 degrees Celsius, to replicate the ownership experience. It pushes Ford’s paint corrosion protection to its limits. Ford’s fake poop is so realistic that the automaker can accurately reflect the diets of most of the birds in Europe. That means the automaker can recreate droppings with different acidities. It’s just one of several intense paint tests Ford uses. The company also sprays phosphoric acid mixed with soap detergent, and synthetic pollen on panels before also aging them in extreme heat. The automaker also tests against other airborne particulates such as tree sap. The spring and summer months present unique challenges to paint protection, too. Intense sunlight can cause the paint to soften and expand, and when it cools, any grime, like bird droppings, can attach itself to the paint surface, potentially leaving a permanent impression. The litany of tests allows Ford to best protect the paint of its vehicles from a wide variety of pollutants. Ford simulates direct non-stop ultraviolet light exposure on paint samples for up to 6.000 hours, or 250 days, though other automakers test weather extremes, too. The test simulates 5 years of the brightest place on Earth. To keep bird poop and other grime from damaging your paint, Ford recommends regularly washing your car with lukewarm water containing neutral pH shampoo. +++ 

+++ BMW plans to invest 4.4 billion yuan (about $620 million) this year in the construction of its new factory in Shenyang, capital city of Northeast China’s Liaoning province. The investment will be used to complete the main building of the new factory of BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA), a joint venture between BMW and Brilliance. With a total investment of 28.3 billion yuan, the new factory is expected to be completed in 2022, making Shenyang BMW’s global manufacturing center. BBA rolled its 3 millionth car, a plug-in hybrid, off the production line in Shenyang on February 27, after it resumed production in the city’s Tiexi and Dadong plants on February 17. China has become the world’s largest sales market for BMW, which sold more than 720,000 cars in 2019. Since the launch of BBA in 2003, BMW has invested over 52 billion yuan in Shenyang and completed the building of 2 vehicle factories: 1 powertrain plant and 1 research and development hub. +++ 

+++ China’s leading new energy vehicle manufacturer BYD saw its New Energy Vehicles (NEV) sales tumble in the first 4 months of 2020, company data showed. The firm sold 35.187 NEVs in the January-April period; down 63.79 % from the same period last year. In April alone, the number of NEVs sold by the firm stood at 12.995; up from 12.256 in March. From January to April, BYD sold 93.082 vehicles in total; down 40.11 % year on year. +++ 

+++ Chinese automaker CHERY saw its sales rebound in April compared with March as demand warms up. Last month, Chery sold 40.079 vehicles, a month-on-month growth of 15.4 %. Sales of new energy vehicles surged by 112.5 % month on month, according to a sales report by the company. Chery also saw bullish export markets in countries including Russia and Brazil, delivering 31.845 vehicles in the 4 four months of this year; up 67.5 % year on year. +++ 

+++ CHINA ‘s monthly auto sales rose for the first time in almost 2 years as the country eased virus-related curbs and reopened for business, but the annual number will likely be slashed by up to 25 % if the pandemic continues, an industry body cautioned. The sales data for April and the gloomy outlook underline the challenges being faced by the world’s biggest auto market as it struggles to emerge from a prolonged slump in demand, which was first exacerbated by the trade war with the United States and now by the global health crisis. Even if China contains the outbreak effectively, its auto sales is expected to drop 15 % this year, from over 25 million units in 2019, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said, the country’s largest auto industry association. In April, China’s auto sales reached 2.07 million units, up 4.4 % from a year earlier, even as sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs) fell for a 10th month to 72.000 units, CAAM data shows. NEVs include battery-powered electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. China’s auto sales sank 79 % in February and 43 % in March, pummeled by the virus as strict stay-at-home orders kept buyers away. Monthly sales last rose in June 2018. “The sales rebound in April fell short of expectations but will increase in the next 2 months” due to the release of pent-up demand as lockdown measures are further eased, CAAM official Xu Haidong said. Mainland China has reported 82.918 coronavirus cases and 4.633 deaths, but new infections since April have been fewer versus the thousands confirmed daily in February, allowing authorities to restart businesses and aiding auto sales. Volkswagen and Nissan reported positive China sales in April, while General Motors’ China ventures saw double-digit year-on-year growth. The data support a growing optimism that China’s auto business is improving, but experts caution the sector is not out of the woods yet and sales could take a bigger hit if the global health crisis deepens and chips away at its exports. China’s auto exports are expected to drop by 200.000 units this year, from about a million in 2019, as virus erodes global demand, said Chen Shihua, a CAAM official, adding shutdown in overseas plants could disrupt China’s production supply chain. +++ 

+++ FORD ’s 2 ventures in China have reported year-on-year sales growth for April, indicating the world’s biggest auto market has started its recovery from coronavirus-induced lows. Ford’s main joint venture with Chongqing Changan Automobile sold 20.465 vehicles in April; up 38.3 % from the same period a year earlier, Changan said. Jiangling Motors Corp., in which Ford owns a stake, said that it sold 28.028 vehicles in April; up 7.8 %. JMC sells Ford branded SUVs and vans as well as JMC branded commercial vehicles. Ford’s China sales fell 34.9 % to 88.770 vehicles in January-March. The 2 Chinese ventures of Ford rival General Motors also reported double-digit growth in April, when many of the government’s movement restrictions were relaxed. +++ 

+++ Chances remain slim for a strong recovery within the automotive industry this month, as assembly plants continue to operate with limited output. However, while the coronavirus pandemic has affected every single carmaker, some are hurting more than others according to LMC Automotive, who is forecasting that GLOBAL auto production will fall by 20 % to about 71 million vehicles. “This is a far deeper shutdown process in Europe compared to China”, said LMC analyst Justin Cox, noting that European production was down by 90 % in April. It’s carmakers with more capacity in China, where the lockdowns were shorter than in the rest of the world (and mostly focused on the Hubei province), that fared better than those heavily invested in North America, Europe and India. Because of the shutdowns, global plant utilization rates will reportedly fall by 14 % in 2020, from just over 60 % to roughly 46 %. Major carmakers such as FCA, Renault-Nissan and the PSA Group could register major production hits moving forward. FCA for one may lose 29 % of its annual production because of its heavy presence in Italy and North America. Meanwhile, Renault-Nissan is expected to lose 25 % of annual production, with PSA (heavily tilted towards southern Europe) facing a possible decline of 24 %. Other carmakers likely to do worse than the industry average are Ford at 23 % and Honda at 22 %, although none will lose as much as Suzuki, which can expect a 33 % drop in terms of its annual production. As for brands expected to fare better than the industry average, LMC counts China’s SAIC (a 15 % drop), General Motors (15 %), Hyundai (16 %), BMW (18 %), Volkswagen Group (18%), Daimler (19 %) and Toyota (20 %). +++ 

+++ HONDA said its group net profit fell 25.3 % to ¥455.75 billion ($4.24 billion) in the business year ended in March as the coronavirus pandemic dented global demand and forced a partial halt in production. The second-largest automaker in Japan by volume withheld its earnings forecast for this year, citing uncertainties caused by the global Covid-19 crisis. Its operating profit dropped 12.8 % to ¥633.64 billion on sales of ¥14.93 trillion; down 6 %. In the 3 months through March, Honda posted a group net loss of ¥29.54 billion. It blamed falling demand for its products on the pandemic. For the 2019 business year, the automaker sold 4.79 million four-wheel vehicles worldwide; down 10 % from the previous year. It said sales slowed in Japan due partly to the consumption tax hike in October, while the impact of the coronavirus outbreak hit demand in China and the United States. +++

+++ +++ HYUNDAI is readying the 4th generation Tucson. It will feature a big grille with sharp and angular details, as well as the slender daylights and new headlights positioned beneath them. At this point it’s fairly obvious that the new Tucson will adopt a more mature version of the Kona’s front end and that is okay. Compared to its predecessor, the new Tucson will get more pronounced lines on the sides and the roofline appears to be more arched behind the B pillars. Expected before the end of the year, the 2021 Tucson is understood to benefit from hybrid and PHEV drivetrains. European customers will also get the 1.6-liter T-GDI and 1.6-liter GDI power units, and perhaps a 1.6 CRDi diesel with mild hybrid assistence. As usual, base models will have to make do with front-wheel drive, while going for an upper spec will unlock the all-wheel-drive option. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI MOBIS , an auto parts making unit of the Hyundai Motor Group, said that it has developed the world’s first virtual engine sound system called Acoustic Vehicle Alert Sound with a vehicle’s grille cover. The system was created by making use of the grille cover of the electric car, which has a completely blocked front grille unlike a combustion engine car that has an open-type grille in the front, as part of the speaker. The sound system makes a beeping sound when the traffic indication lamp is activated, alerting passersby nearby for safety. As electric vehicles don’t use combustion engines, which normally make loud sounds when turned on, there have been concerns that the quietness of driving them threatens the safety of people on the road. The company said the virtual engine sound system can be used as a speaker for music as well, a useful feature for outdoor activities like camping. The company said the related technology has been in development since 2018, while 2 related patents have also been registered. “As cars become developed in the future, customers have expectations toward improved convenience and safety functions of a car. We also expected that there will be more demand and interest among car manufacturers about enabling active communication from inside to outside the car”, said Kim Tae-woo, Hyundai Mobis vice president of in-vehicle infotainment engineering group. +++

+++ KIA has confirmed it will launch an all-new electric crossover next year, based on the Imagine concept first seen at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. Internally known as the CV, it will act as the brand’s halo model and introduce next-generation charging technology and an all-new platform made specifically for electric vehicles. It will be the first production vehicle built on the Hyundai Group’s brand-new E-GMP dedicated electric underpinnings. The crossover will also take advantage of Kia’s recent tie-up with electric expert Rimac to offer “incredible” performance, which will later trickle down to more mainstream models in Kia’s line-up. Kia bosses have confirmed that the upcoming EV  will have “around 480 kilometres” of range and offer a “sub-20 minute recharge time”. The crossover’s E-GMP platform will also feature the same 800 volt technology as the Porsche Taycan and will work with Ionity’s 350 kW fast-charging network. The Kia is also plotting a hot version of the EV, which is set to rival the Taycan on a performance level. Kia Europe chief operating officer Emilio Herrera told: “We will have in the new EV a high performance vehicle like an e-GT”. This model will deliver Taycan-rivaling pace with a 0-100 kph time of under 3 seconds targeted; a level of performance that’s completely new for the Korean brand. Kia is keeping the rest of the E-GMP platform’s technical details and performance specifications a secret for the time being. However, we do know that the platform is scalable and has been designed to cover several segment and body styles. The car’s styling will take inspiration from the Imagine by Kia concept. The production model should take the form of an unconventional C-segment SUV with a stylised interpretation of the company’s trademark “Tiger Nose” grille and a sharp, fastback-style rear end. +++ 

+++ Auto production in Mexico and Brazil, LATIN AMERICA ’s top producers, plunged by an unprecedented 99 % in April as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with the 2 countries building a total of just 5.569 vehicles. In normal times, Mexico and Brazil produce over half a million cars a month combined. The industry accounts for hundreds of thousands of jobs and several percentage points of their respective countries’ gross domestic products. “The situation is difficult and dramatic”, Luiz Carlos Moraes, president of Brazil’s automakers association, told. The statements on production, made by Mexico’s Inegi statistics association and Brazil’s Anfavea automakers association, are the first available window into the sheer extent of the crisis for automakers in Latin America. The coronavirus pandemic is putting jobs in peril and raising questions about the sustainability of the industry’s international supply chains, much of which go back to China. The poor results may also be used by auto executives to obtain government aid. Both countries have so far avoided layoffs but much hinges on when production can restart and whether there will be any demand for cars once that happens. Mexico could tentatively restart production on May 18, while Brazil’s top automakers are eyeing a June restart. Industry sources say the restart date in Mexico will ultimately depend on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador giving the green light. Mexico and Brazil are key bases for global automakers, including General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler. April shipments from Mexico, which is more dependent on exports to the United States, fell by 90 % compared with March to just 27.889 vehicles. Brazil is more focused on its domestic market but is a significant exporter to Argentina. Exports fell by 77 % to 7.200 units. Sales overall plummeted by two-thirds in Brazil to 55.700 units. Mexico did not disclose sales numbers. In Brazil, the coronavirus pandemic is deepening a years-long crisis from which the industry was already struggling to recover. Brazil has the capacity to produce more than 400.000 cars per month, due to expensive bets made just before the country underwent its worst economic crisis on record in 2016. The coronavirus crisis may well exceed the damages caused then, from which the auto industry never fully recovered. Automakers there are negotiating a government aid package that was initially expected to have been resolved by now. One pending issue is what will be used as collateral for any loans. Moraes told reporters that automakers are proposing to use as collateral some 25 billion reais’ ($4.34 billion) worth of tax credits the automakers have not been able to take advantage of. The loans would be issued by private banks, Moraes said, but secured by the Brazilian state bank, which would itself be secured by those tax credits. “The federal government would have as collateral a sum from the federal government”, Moraes said, noting such a structure has never been used. The proposal was presented on Wednesday, he said, and the automakers are still awaiting a reply from the government. +++ 

+++ On sale since 2013, the third-generation LEXUS IS received a major facelift in 2016, so you’d expect the soon-to-arrive 2021 model to be an all-new car. With shrinking market share for sedans, though, Lexus is taking a more conservative approach. The 2021 IS will not be an all-new model, and as such it will not be built on Toyota’s TNGA-L luxury rear-drive architecture. Instead, it will soldier on with the existing New N platform introduced back in 2013. This doesn’t mean it’ll drive the same, though. I’m told the chassis has been upgraded, and the suspension has had a thorough rework, with the new IS being the first Lexus product developed at Toyota’s new Shimoyama facility, a Nürburgring-like R&D center in the mountains outside Toyota City, Japan. The exterior styling will pull influence from the latest Lexus models. Taking cues from the LS, I believe Lexus will slightly tone down the controversial “spindle” grille by blending it into the front end with fewer protrusions. The headlights will also be updated to the new style, with the swoosh DRLs moved inside the headlight lenses. A new rear end will be enhanced by more pronounced hips over a wider rear track to give the car a sportier stance. Although the bones of the car have had work done, I expect very few changes under the hood. My understanding is the current engines will carry over. If you were hoping the death of the larger GS sedan might mean the return of the IS F sport sedan, keep hoping. As of right now, there’s no IS F in the cards, though with the IS having to cover for the GS now, Lexus is considering a new range-topping IS 500. Rather than the GS F’s 5.0-liter V-8, the IS 500 would borrow the LS 500’s 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 good for 417 hp and 600 Nm. Lexus product planners are still deciding if this model makes sense, so you definitely won’t see it at launch. Start rattling cages if you want to see it come to market. Plugging the hole left by the GS will require a more luxurious interior, and Lexus has that front covered. The dashboard will get a rework to bring it up to date with the latest styling language, so expect influence from the LS. Likewise, the infotainment will be upgraded to Lexus’ latest hardware and software, a marginal improvement from one of the least intuitive user interfaces in the industry. Lexus had planned to reveal the new IS at the since-postponed New York auto show and is now targeting an independent reveal sometime this summer. Because it’s a major overhaul rather than an all-new product, I expect prices to remain the same when it goes on sale late this year (barring any further delay). +++ 

+++ Like other automakers and a few startups hoping to launch their first electric vehicle models, LUCID MOTORS has seen its plans to unveil the Air sedan delayed by the corona virus. That’s left the fledgling automaker with dozens of prototypes lying around, temporarily unable to perform the test runs they were designed for, but needing to keep up the marketing hype effort after the New York Auto Show was postponed. So the company chose to show off the prototypes (it has 40 of them, in fact, with more planned to be built). Each prototype car is also numbered on the hood, including No. 400. That’s the same number of the prototype shown in a recent video of an Air prototype that underwent range testing in its home state. It showed highlights from the drive from its Bay Area home down to Los Angeles and back, hitting the company’s goal of doing each 640 kilometre leg on a single charge. The trips were done in February and March, before the state of California went on stay-at-home quarantine. Meanwhile, Lucid CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson recently spoke about the Air’s efficiency. In the discussion, he mentioned the rationale behind going with a 900 volt current, which is higher than even the Porsche Taycan’s 800 volt architecture. “Our real reason for having a high voltage system is the greater efficiency of the inverter and the electronics that control the motor”, Rawlinson said. “The inverter is a high-frequency switch that converts direct current to alternating current; the frequency of that AC determines the frequency of spin of the motor”. Rawlinson said the company’s inverter was built completely in-house and uses a silicon carbide chip, which he said is optimal for high voltages. That also means smaller radiators and higher aerodynamics than either the Taycan or the Tesla Model S, a direct competitor that Rawlinson famously helped develop when he worked at Tesla. Meanwhile, the company has been promising that it will soon announce details about a global reveal of the production Air, when we’ll learn more about its specs. +++ 

+++ MAZDA is seeking to loan 300 billion yen (€2.5 billion) in total from Japan’s 3 giant banks and other loan providers. Just like other automakers in the past months, Mazda has halted the production of its cars because of the pandemic. To begin with, the Japanese marque’s car sales have been weak even before the coronavirus hit. The 3 megabanks mentioned in the report are Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, and Mizuho Financial Group. The other loan providers are Development Bank of Japan, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings, and other unnamed institutions. Some of the loans have already been extended. With some countries already easing out on regulations against the spread of the disease, we might see some improvement in car sales in the months to come. But then again, only time can tell. It’s still important to take note that the demand for vehicles even after the pandemic could go either way. +++

+++ The finishing touches are being applied to the new fully electric MERCEDES-BENZ EQ B crossover. It will follow the all-new Mercedes EQ A into the showrooms in early 2021, increasing the brand’s electric offerings to 4 models. It will adopt a prescribed range of styling cues, destined to feature on all the models in Mercedes’ expanding EQ line-up. Like the EQ A and EQ C, it’ll sport a pair of slim headlamps, a redesigned radiator grille and an aerodynamically efficient front bumper. Robert Lesnik, Mercedes’s director of exterior design, told: “We believe that every Mercedes needs a face. This is something that we introduced on EQ C and will show on other cars. There will be different variations of this (the front and the rear) throughout the EQ family, but they will all share a similar form language”. The new EQ B will share its platform with the combustion-engined GLB. As such, it’ll be based on a modified version of Mercedes’ existing MFA2 underpinnings, which is also used by the latest A-Class, B-Class and CLA. I expect it will adopt a similar electric powertrain to the new EQ A, with an electric motor at each axle and a battery pack mounted on its spine. However, while the regular GLB is available as a 7-seater, with 2 folding seats located beneath the boot floor, it’s unlikely that the EQ B will be offered in this configuration due to the extra space required for the electric motors and battery. Exact details on the EQ B’s powertrain are yet to be confirmed but, like its EQ A sibling, power and torque figures should be in the region of 272 hp and 500 Nm respectively. Also, to remain competitive with its electric crossover competition, such as the Kia e-Niro, I expect it will have a maximum range of around 480 kilometres. Lesnik added: “2 years from now there will be 10 cars; that’s what I want”. Thus far, Mercedes has confirmed 5 of the 10 models that will make up the EQ portfolio; 4 of which are either in production or close to market release. The upcoming EQ S saloon, which was previewed by a concept car at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, is the model yet to be finalised. When it eventually goes on sale in 2022, it will be the company’s halo model, acting a rival for the Tesla Model S. Mercedes executives have also previously confirmed that, among the 10 new models, there will be “several sedans,” while we expect a small commercial vehicle and various SUVs to complete the rest of the line-up. +++

+++ European Union antitrust regulators will decide by June 17 whether to clear Fiat Chrysler and PSA ’s $50 billion MERGER , according to a European Commission filing. The companies announced the deal to create the world’s 4th biggest carmaker in December, putting under one roof the Italian company’s brands such as Fiat, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Maserati and the French company’s Peugeot, Opel and DS. EU competition enforcers can approve the deal with or without conditions or open a full-scale investigation of about 4 months following the end of the preliminary review should they have deep concerns. The deal comes amidst falling car sales across the world as companies shut down production lines and showrooms to contain the coronavirus outbreak, although some companies are reopening plants as countries ease lockdowns. +++ 

+++ After Mercedes-Benz was slapped with the largest-ever fine of 77.6 billion won ($63.4 million) by the Environment Ministry of SOUTH KOREA for rigging emissions data on diesel cars, the market paid attention to whether it would alter the imported car market there. The ministry on Wednesday said some 4.400 diesel cars of 14 models sold by Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Porsche between 2012 and 2018 passed pollution standards by illicitly manipulating software to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide exhausted during the qualification test. Authorities said the certification for the models will be revoked this month while the vehicles will be recalled. This is the 7th time in South Korea to file a criminal complaint against foreign carmakers for rigging emissions data using an illicit program, after Audi Volkswagen was first caught in 2015. It marks the first case where Mercedes-Benz was found to have cheated on the emissions test. The automaker, in response, has denied using any such illicit programs, and said it will take due legal measures to counter the ministry’s decision. “Mercedes-Benz deems the Korean market as extremely crucial. We regret having caused concerns to customers”, the automaker said in a statement. It went on to say that it was difficult to concede to the ministry’s decision as they had “fair technical and legal grounds” to have used the system in question. Describing the program as part of an integrated emissions control system in which hundreds of functions work in conjunction, the company said it is impossible to individually analyze each function. Since 2016, Mercedes-Benz has sat atop the imported car market here and had record-high sales last year since its entry into the domestic market in the mid-1980s. In 2019, it sold 78.133 vehicles; up by 10.4 % from the previous year. It also set a record for selling over 100.000 units of the E-Class priced at at least 70 million won, 3 years after its launch. “It is not an exaggeration that many Korean customers have related the luxury, sophisticated image of Mercedes-Benz Korea to its quality products. But following the government’s latest announcement, customers may shift their interest to other imported car brands that can substitute for Mercedes-Benz”, an industry insider told. Others also compared the latest emissions-rigging scandal to Audi Volkswagen’s Dieselgate, which rocked the industry in 2015. In 2015, Audi Volkswagen was found to have used software to cheat on diesel emissions tests on some 11 million cars of 15 diesel models. Along with the fine, this led to a sales suspension of 2 years; significantly harming the automaker’s sales and standing here. According to Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association data, in 2015, Audi Volkswagen sold the third most foreign cars with flagship models A4, A6, Tiguan and Golf, accounting for 28 % of market share. BMW and Mercedes-Benz had held 19.6 % and 19.3 % of market share, respectively. But in 2017, the sales figure halved. Zero Volkswagen cars were sold in 2017, and only 962 Audi cars. Market experts viewed that the latest scandal may influence the industry to face a market contraction. “It is undeniable that Mercedes-Benz has significantly attributed to expanding the country’s imported car sector in terms of size as well as volume. It is an imported car brand but also one that leads Korea’s car market, which is why it may face more responsibility”, said Daelim University automotive engineering professor Kim Pil-soo. But he went on that in the long term, Mercedes-Benz’s overall sales won’t be shaken, given the characteristic of the Korean consumers. “Even during the latest outbreak of Covid-19, the sales of imported carmakers like Mercedes-Benz, in fact, inched up. Korean consumers find environmental issues not closely related to which cars they drive”, he said. “Consumers will still buy Mercedes-Benz cars if they are sold at cheaper prices via promotions, by which Mercedes-Benz can maintain its current brand image. That is why the role of civic groups like consumer associations are important, although such groups still tend to lack professionalism”. +++ 

+++ TESLA sold 3.635 Shanghai-made Model 3 vehicles in China in April; down 64 % from March, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). Tesla’s sales in the first month of each quarter are usually lower than the remaining 2 months. The industry body said during an online briefing that Tesla produced over 10.000 units in Shanghai last month. Tesla sold 10.160 vehicles in March; up from around 3.900 units in February, CPCA data showed. CPCA uses a different counting method than Tesla’s deliveries. Tesla China said that its Shanghai gigafactory was adjusting the production arrangement, as a response to recent media coverage about its production after the Labor Day holiday. The 5-day Labor Day holiday in China just ended. But Tesla’s Shanghai gigafactory did not resume work as scheduled on Wednesday, prompting speculation that the production may be halted due to a shortage of overseas parts. Tesla said in a statement that its Shanghai gigafactory was conducting normal maintenance work and that the company is adjusting and debugging production lines through the holiday time. All aspects of the work are proceeding as planned. The Tesla Shanghai gigafactory resumed operation on Feb 10 amid the Covid-19 outbreak, one of the earliest automakers to go back to work in China. Tesla stores in China have also gradually resumed operations since February 17. According to Tesla’s first-quarter financial results published at the end of April, the production rate of Model 3 sedans in its Shanghai gigafactory will top 4.000 units per week by mid-2020. +++

+++ TOYOTA reported a sharp plunge in fiscal 4th quarter profit as the global pandemic slammed vehicle sales and halted production at its auto plants. Japan’s top automaker logged a net profit of 63.1 billion yen ($590 million) for the quarter ended in March, nose-diving 86 % from 459.5 billion yen for the same period the year before. Quarterly sales slipped 8 % to 7.1 trillion yen ($66 billion) from 7.8 trillion yen a year ago. President Akio Toyoda said the company is facing its biggest crisis since the global financial crisis, stressing how hard it had been just to report financial results. But he said Toyota was learning to grow leaner and make a fresh start. Toyota is striving to be reliable and needed by the world, he said. Toyoda promised to protect jobs and what he called “Toyota people”, the workers around the world, not just in Japan, with their skills and shared sense of mission. “We feel no doubt, and we are not shaken in this belief”, he said. Damage from Covid-19 cost Toyota 145 billion yen ($1.4 billion) in operating profit for the latest quarter, offsetting cost cuts, the company said. Toyota officials said it was difficult to project the future, given the varying degrees of lockdowns around the world and uncertainties on how the coronavirus outbreak may develop. The company did not give a net profit forecast for the fiscal year through March 2021, but acknowledged operating profit was expected to fall by a whopping 80 %. Sales are expected to recover as the pandemic is brought under control, it said. U.S. production is resuming gradually, and sales are expected to recover to normal levels by early 2021, chief financial officer Kenta Kon told reporters. Unfavorable currency fluctuations and trade friction between the U.S. and China also hurt results. Toyota recorded a fiscal annual profit of nearly 2.1 trillion yen ($19 billion) for the fiscal year that ended in March. That was an improvement from 1.8 trillion yen racked up in the previous fiscal year, when its earnings were hurt by the absence of a U.S. tax break and by investment losses. Toyota said global vehicles sales for the fiscal year that ended in March dropped by 18.372 vehicles from the previous fiscal year to 8.9 million vehicles. They are expected to slip to 7 million vehicles for the fiscal year through March 2021, Toyota said. Toyota plans to slash production in North America by nearly a third through October due to the coronavirus crisis and expects it will take some time for output to return to normal, a person familiar with the matter said. Toyota will build about 800.000 vehicles, including its RAV4 and Camry, at plants in the United States, Canada and Mexico from April through to the end of October, the person told. That’s down 29 % from the Japanese automaker’s output in the same 7 months of 2019 and 32% lower than its forecast in January for production during the period. The source declined to be identified because the information is not public. A Toyota spokeswoman declined to comment on production plans.
The drop in Toyota’s production highlights the pain for carmakers around the world due to the fallout from the virus. Besides weak demand, problems with procurement and social distancing measures at plants are also expected to hit output. Analysts expect a slow and patchy recovery from the pandemic to curtail spending while social distancing may also curb the need for some to commute, dampening the need for new cars. Toyota is gradually resuming output at its 7 North American sites from Monday. Its production in many countries ground to a halt in mid-March as governments locked down economies, forcing factories to close as workers were unable to commute. The source said Toyota plans to keep May production at less than 10 % of last year’s levels (after zero output in April) before ramping up to normal levels in July. By September, monthly vehicle production will be outpacing levels the previous year, as Toyota catches up with lost output. North America is a major production centre for Toyota with the United States alone accounting for about 14 % of its global output in 2019, making it the carmaker’s third-largest factory hub after Japan and China. +++
 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will extend through June 1st a suspension of operations at its plants in Mexico’s Puebla and Guanajuato states due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the firm said in a statement. +++ 

+++ VOLVO has been pondering the expansion of its high-riding vehicle portfolio with a new range-topping model for a few years now, and it seems that they have settled for the XC100 moniker. Reportedly due in 2023, one or two years after the new-generation XC90 breaks cover, it won’t be a Mercedes-Benz GLS and BMW X7 competitor as it was initially believed, but instead, it will take on the GLE Coupe and X6, as well as the Audi Q8, albeit with an electric twist. The XC100 will be based on the second generation of Volvo’s SPA architecture, which can accommodate fully electric vehicles. Unlike the upcoming XC90, which is understood to pack gasoline and hybrid powertrains, as well as a battery-electric derivative, the XC100 should be electric only. Also, in an attempt to tie it to the smaller XC40 Recharge, it will add the same suffix. The battery pack is thought to be placed under the floor, between the 2 axles and should power 2 electric motors: 1 at the front and the other 1 at the back, which will form an all-wheeldrive system. While the XC100 Recharge will feature a dual-motor setup, other Recharge models are expected with one motor, powering either the front or the rear wheels, in standard form. With a sloping roofline, room for 4, comfort-oriented suspension tune and semi-autonomous driving tech, the XC100 Recharge should launch with an estimated starting price of €105.000 in the Netherlands, or around €22.000 more than the entry-level current XC90. +++

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