Newsflash: Audi komt met ruim 500 pk sterke e-Tron S

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+++ A new study by Consumer Reports found that existing ACTIVE SAFETY TECHNOLOGIES could lower road deaths by 50 % if they would be available as standard on all new vehicles. According to the study, up to 20.000 lives could be saved each year, but instead, carmakers are making customers pay extra for features that can ultimately prove vital. As a result, it can take a long time for certain systems to make their way into more mainstream models. “Instead of providing safety for all, automakers put the burden on people to research, understand, and often pay extra for lifesaving car features. It takes decades for safety technology to come standard on all new cars as a result. Policymakers should choose a different path, one that will save lives now”, said Consumer Reports safety policy manager, William Wallace. “We’re urging every member of Congress to put safety first by requiring lifesaving features to come standard on all new cars. The technologies are here to cut road deaths in half, and it would only compound the ongoing tragedy of lives lost on our roads if our leaders fail to ensure all drivers have them on their cars”. This study comes just as the U.S. house prepares to vote this week on the Moving Forward Act, a bill that includes several car safety provisions, such as requirements for every new car to feature certain crash avoidance systems as standard. As for what CR found while looking carefully at the numbers, it would appear that a total of 11.800 lives could be saved by 4 systems that are available on the market today. These are Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection and a pedestrian detection system. Furthermore, 1.300 lives could be saved through the adoption of vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology, while between 3.700 and 7.400 lives could be saved by equipping all vehicles with drunk driving prevention tech, although alternative approaches such as Driver Monitoring Systems may also prove effective. “There has been an enormous amount of debate over policies to promote self-driving cars. But Congress and NHTSA’s first priority should be the lifesaving technologies we have in hand today, and making sure they are in every new car as soon as possible”, added Wallace. +++ 

+++ AUDI is currently testing the e-Tron S. It doesn’t look much different from the current version that’s already on the market. But it will get larger intakes at the front, wider wheels plus tyres, larger brakes and a new rear diffuser. For those unaware, the e-Tron is not yet offered in a high-performance configuration. Audi tends to offer most of its vehicles in a performance-oriented trim, so it appears to be following suit with the upcoming e-Tron S. It is supposed to have 3 motors, which is more along the lines of the original concept that was revealed in 2015. This means it will crank out about 100 more hp than the existing e-Tron. It will also be capable of reaching 100 kph about 1 second quicker, at 4.5 seconds. In addition, the wider wheels and tyres, high-performance suspension and impressive torque-vectoring setup will work to make this SUV handle like a sports car. +++ 

+++ AUSTRIA will boost financial incentives for buying battery-powered cars and bicycles, and triple grants for charging points from July in its efforts to fight global warming, the economy minister said. Electric car buyers will get €5.000 in support, up from €3.000, Leonore Gewessler told a news conference. The increase is the result of a joint effort with the car industry, which will contribute €2.000 to the subsidy, she said. The minister also announced a tripling of support for charging points to €600 for home charging stations or intelligent charging cables and €1.800 for charging points in multi-occupancy buildings. Austria currently has around 5.500 charge points and wants to increase that number as quickly as possible, she said. Nearly 33.000 electric vehicles (EVs) were registered in Austria by the end of May, just 0.7% of the total number of cars, according to Statistik Austria. Around two thirds of the EVs are commercial vehicles. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY has further refined the Bentayga for its mid-cycle update and there’s a lot to talk about, especially in the styling department. While the front end looks more or less the same, there’s a big surprise at the rear where Bentley has added oval-shaped LED taillights that look very similar to those on the Continental GT. That’s because designers wanted the Bentayga to be more in line with the brand’s new styling language introduced by the third-generation Continental GT and all-new Flying Spur. You may not realize, but every panel at the front of the Bentayga has been redesigned for a cleaner, modern look. The assertive matrix grille is larger and more upright, while the new intelligent LED matrix headlamp technology includes the signature Bentley design inspired by cut crystal glassware. The front bumper is more aggressive as well, while heated windscreen wipers with 22 washer jets in each arm are introduced for the first time. Seen from the side, the new wheels featuring a design unique to Bentayga are the most noticeable update. The biggest transformation takes place at the back, where the facelifted luxury SUV brings a total redesign including a new full-width tailgate with new encapsulated lamps. The license plate has been moved down into the bumper for a cleaner appearance, while the oval, split tailpipes echo the shape of the taillights. Interestingly, the rear track has grown by 20 mm, allowing the repositioning of the wheels in the arches for improved stance and dynamics. There are significant changes inside too, with highlights including the new center console housing a 10.9 inch infotainment screen with edge-to-edge graphics, new steering wheel sourced from the Continental GT and Flying Spur, new door trims and all-new seats. About that, the rear seats are now available with ventilation in 5-seat configuration. Bentley says that rear passengers also enjoy significantly more space, with legroom increased by up to 100 mm depending on configuration. The automaker does not say how it achieved that, though. Arguably the most significant interior update is the next-generation infotainment system operated via an all-digital 10.9 inch touchscreen display with “super high resolution” and dynamic graphics. The system incorporates all-new navigation with satellite maps, online search and other features, as well as standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Rear seat passengers also get a new, larger touchscreen remote control tablet, similar to the one introduced in the all-new Flying Spur. USB-C data ports and a wireless phone charger are now standard too, as is an embedded SIM powering My Bentley in-car and remote services. As for the interior appearance, the cabin can be made even more luxurious with the application of dark tint diamond brushed aluminum trim for the first time in a Bentley, as well as two straight-grained veneers new to Bentayga: Koa and Crown Cut Walnut. The Mulliner Driving Specification adds a new quilting design, while micro piping detailing is a new option for the seats. The engine lineup will remain unchanged, with the 2021 model initially launching in Bentayga V8 guise. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine will continue to make 550 hp and 770 Nm, is hooked to an 8-speed automatic gearbox, and has standard AWD. Later on, Bentley will add the Bentayga Hybrid and the 6.0-liter W12-powered Bentayga Speed able to reach 305 km/h. +++ 

+++ BMW said its electric cars will use battery cells produced using renewable energy, a step which will compel the biggest suppliers to source more non-coal generated electricity. “We now have a contractual agreement with our cell manufacturers that they will use only green power to produce our fifth generation battery cells”, BMW chief executive Oliver Zipse said. Last year, BMW ordered more than €10 billion worth of battery cells from Chinese battery cell maker CATL and Samsung SDI. CATL is building a battery cell production plant in Erfurt (Germany) and has said it aims to produce 60 gigawatt hours (GWh) worth of cells a year from 2026 onwards. BMW is preparing to launch the electric iX3 this year and the iNext plus i4 next year. As production volumes of electric BMW cars increase, the use of green power will save around 10 million tonnes of CO2 over the next decade, BMW said, adding that this is equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions produced by a city of over a million inhabitants. +++ 

+++ China-based electric car startup BYTON said it will suspend production from July 1 to conduct a reorganization of the automaker after being hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The company, which is backed by state-owned automaker FAW Group and battery supplier CATL, said it was also actively raising funds to address issues relating to unpaid staff salaries and that it hoped to start paying employees from July. “The new coronavirus epidemic has brought great challenges to Byton’s financing and production operations”, it said in a statement. “After careful consideration and joint consultations with our shareholders and management, we have decided to, from July 1, kickstart a plan to lower employee costs and promote the company’s strategic reorganization”, it said. Byton produces all of its vehicles at a plant in Nanjing. From Wednesday it will suspend most operations in China, where its activities include research and development. In April, it was reported that Byton had put hundreds of employees from its Santa Clara facility in California on furlough. Byton was launched in September 2017 by Future Mobility Corp, a company co-founded by former BMW and Nissan executives, and also has software and design facilities in the United States and Germany. Byton earlier this year said it planned to launch sales of its first product, the M-Byte electric crossover, in Germany, Switzerland, Norway, France, the Netherlands and Sweden in the second half of 2021. The automaker said in November it received licenses to sell the vehicle in California in a move that Byton said paves the way for North American sales in 2021. Byton is among a series of Chinese electric vehicle manufacturing startups that have emerged in recent years to challenge foreign companies like Tesla. China, which has been eager to curb smog and spur its own auto industry, has said it wants so-called new energy vehicles (NEVs) to account for 25 % of auto sales by 2025, up from around 5 % currently. But appetite to fund such startups began falling last year and has been dealt a further, heavy blow by the coronavirus pandemic, leaving a number fighting to survive. In May, sales of NEVs fell for an 11th month to 82.000 units, China’s largest auto industry association said. NEVs include battery-powered electric, plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. +++ 

+++ CITROEN ’s latest C4 model will go on sale in the 4th quarter of this year, with the French carmaker aiming to expand in the compact car market, the head of the PSA-owned brand told. Vincent Cobee also said he believes Citroen will have a full role to play within the merged PSA-Fiat Chrysler group. The new C4 model is made in Spain. “Citroen is coming back in full force on the compact car segment in Europe which is the biggest segment if you count SUVs and sedans”, he said. “It is a major launch as it will support one of our key expansion axis in terms of volumes in coming years”, he added. After 10 generations of compact hatchback models, Citroen decided to do something entirely different with the latest C4 and its all-electric variant, the e-C4. From the original C4 of the 1920s to the Ami 6 and Ami 8 of the 60s, the GS and GSA of the 70s, the BX, ZX, Xsara, modern C4 and C4 Cactus, Citroen have always “done it” differently compared to other mainstream carmakers. Of course, we’ve know exactly what this latest-generation C4 would look like ever since the French carmaker decided to release a few official images a couple of weeks back. Now however, we can dive into more details regarding styling and tech. It’s easy to see that the all-new C4 is more of a crossover than a regular C-segment hatchback, evident from the short front and rear overhangs, combined with its large wheel arches and 156 mm of ground clearance. It all results in an elevated go-anywhere type of posture. The new C4 measures 4.360 mm in length, 1.800 mm in width, stands 1.525 mm tall and has a 2.670 mm long wheelbase. By comparison, here are its predecessor’s measurements: 4.329 mm in length, 1.789 mm in width, 1.491 mm in height and a 2.608 mm wheelbase. Visual cues meanwhile include the double stage headlights, with the chevrons extending to the daytime running lights at the top and bottom, highlighting the Citroen LED Vision tech. Moving on to the profile, we can see the 690 mm diameter wheels with 18 inch rims, matte black wheel arches, chrome window weather strips and a unique roofline that features a sloping rear window and a spoiler. As for the rear, Citroen designers actually drew some inspiration from the 2004 model C4 Coupe body shape with its original 2-piece rear window. Furthermore, there’s also a V-shaped LED rear signature lighting that was first showcased on the Ami One Concept and 19_19 Concept. The new C4 is available with 31 exterior color combinations, as customers will be able to choose between: Polar White, Obsidian Black, Steel Grey, Platinum Grey, Elixir Red, Caramel Brown and Iceland Blue, to go with the following 5 color packs: Glossy Black, Metallic Sand, Textured Grey, Anodised Deep Red and Anodised Blue. The new C4 comes with a wide horizontal dashboard, creating a wrap-around effect, while the high and wide center console gives off that crossover vibe that buyers tend to like nowadays. Other interior design traits include the dashboard’s chevron graphic grain pattern, new patterns on the Advanced Comfort seats, slush-moulded dashboard top, wrapped front door panel strips, soft armrest trim and either satin chrome or high-gloss black accents on the vents, steering wheel, instrument panel or center console. That frameless HD digital display comes with a Citroen brand identity graphic and is highlighted by white side mood lighting for a floating effect. Also available is a head-up display and a borderless 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The following interior ambiances are available to choose from: Standard, Urban Grey, Metropolitan Grey, Metropolitan Blue, Hype Black and Hype Red. In terms of practicality, the new C4 has a 380 liter trunk that can be maxed out at 1.250 liters if you fold the rear seat. You can buy the new C4 with a choice of 5 Euro6 gasoline engines or 2 diesels. The former are: PureTech 100 S&S 6-speed manual gearbox, PureTech 130 S&S 6-speed manual gearbox, PureTech 130 S&S EAT8, PureTech 155 S&S manual gearbox and PureTech 155 EAT8; while the diesels can be had either as a BlueHDI 110 6-speed manual or a BlueHDi 130 S&S EAT8 automatic. If you want the zero emission option, then direct your attention to the e-C4 variant with its 50 kWh electric motor and 400 Volt battery. It offers 136 hp, 260 Nm of instant torque and a WLTP range of 350 km. The Citroen e-C4 can accelerate to 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds, before maxing out at 150 km/h. As far as charge times are concerned, Citroen says that 80 % of the charge is completed in 30 minutes using a 100 kW fast charger, while a 32 A wall box will get the job done in 7.5 hours (or even 5 hours with the optional 11 kW charger). Unfortunately, it can take more than 24 hours to recharge the e-C4 at a standard domestic socket. The French carmaker will however offer customers a “one-stop shop” solution for installing a Wall Box at home. Regardless of which C4 version to buy, you get standard Progressive Hydraulic Cushions, like on the C4 Cactus and C5 Aircross, giving you that “magic carpet ride” effect. Last but not least, let’s run through some of the new C4’s on-board convenience and safety features. These include Active Safety Brake, Collision Risk Alert and Post Collision Safety Brake, Blind Spot Monitoring, Active Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Highway Driver Assist (Level 2 semi-autonomous tech), Coffee Break Alert (after a 2 hour drive at speeds above 70 km/h), Driver Attention Alert, Extended Traffic Sign Recognition and Recommendation, Intelligent Beam Headlights, Color Head-Up Display, Reversing Camera with Top Rear vision, Park Assist, Keyless entry and start, Trailer Stability Control, Wireless smartphone charging, ConnectedCAM Citroen, Connect Nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and many others. The new Citroen C4 and e-C4 will be available to order in Europe this autumn. +++ 

+++ FORD said on it would pause advertising on all social media platforms in the United States for the next 30 days, joining a growing list of companies that have stopped spending on Facebook in support of a campaign that called out the company for not doing enough to stop hate speech on its platform. The No. 2 U.S. automaker said it would re-evaluate its presence on all social media platforms and added that hate speech, violence and racial injustice in content on social media “needs to be eradicated”. A spokesman said Ford is evaluating such spending in other regions. +++ 

+++ Cars that suffer from chronic HEAD GASKET PROBLEMS are astonishingly expensive to keep running. Consumer Reports has put together a list of the worst offenders by analyzing data from its Annual Autos Survey. There are 4 Subaru models on the list, several luxury cars, and, surprisingly, everyone’s favorite Mazda roadster. In simple terms, a head gasket is a part that ensures an engine’s combustion happens internally. It’s between the cylinder head and the engine block. Basically, every car with an internal combustion engine has at least one, and changing it is a time-consuming process that can cost over $1,000 depending on what you drive, the extent of the damage, and who you ask to fix it. Consumer Reports found the BMW 3 Series from the 2006 and the 2007 model years experience head gasket trouble. Subaru’s Impreza (2006 to 2008 model year), Outback (2001 to 2009), and Forester (2001 to 2009) all develop head gasket issues too. These cars use the same basic flat-4 engine with 2 head gaskets and owners who responded to the Annual Autos Survey said replacing them costs between $2,000 and $4,000. As depreciation inevitably takes its toll, changing the head gaskets can cost more than the car is worth. Also on the list are the 2008 to 2010 Mini Cooper and Clubman, the Chevrolet Cruze, the BMW X5 and the Infiniti M. Finally, the publication also noted the second-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata is prone to head gasket failures. Use this list as a resource when car shopping, or when planning your current car’s maintenance needs for the year, but remember that where and how a car is driven can significantly affect the odds of blowing a head gasket. If you suspect something is wrong with your engine, or if you want to make sure you won’t spend more on repairs than on your next used car, there are several ways to tell if a head gasket is about ready to call it a day. Thick white smoke coming out of the exhaust is a sign of a head gasket problem; it means coolant is entering the combustion chamber and getting burned with the air-fuel mixture. An engine with a blown head gasket will often have a rough idle, and it will have a tendency to overheat even if it’s not particularly hot outside or if you’re not asking much of it. And, when in doubt, check the oil. Coolant seeping through a blown or leaking head gasket mixes with the oil and forms a mayonnaise-like substance that appears on the dipstick and under the oil cap. Its thickness and quantity largely depends on the extent of the damage. Condensation can cause that, too, so don’t immediately panic if you look under the oil cap and see something that looks like it belongs on a sandwich. +++ 

+++ The population of manual hot hatches is dwindling, and that’s not surprising at all since the demand for 3-pedal performance cars is shrinking as well. Volkswagen has dropped the stick-shift option for the hotter Golf variants (the diesel GTD and electrified GTE) with both only using DSGs. Thankfully, the German marque has kept the GTI with a 6-speed manual. Honda and Ford have also kept their manual hot hatches, with the Civic Type R, Focus ST, and Fiesta ST all using 6-speed manual gearboxes. HYUNDAI , on the other hand, vows to not abandon manual transmission for its N cars. “Where possible, we would continue to like to offer buyers the choice of a manual transmission for purists or the 8-speed dual-clutch transmission”, said Hyundai product planner Howard Lam. I’m not completely surprised by this, though. Hyundai refreshed the i30 N hot hatch this year and thankfully, its 6-speed manual tranny is still intact in its list of options along with a new 7-speed dual-clutch. The i20 N, on the other hand, is nearing its launch. Previous reports speculated that the pocket rocket will or will not get a stick shift, but now purist fans of the brand will be able to sleep knowing that the Korean marque isn’t dropping the MT option. However, Hyundai recognises that the demand for manual transmissions isn’t that high anymore. Lam said: “It’s hard to say what growth we will achieve, but we understand that our competitors who offer an automatic have achieved significant mix with those transmissions. We’ll just have to wait. I would say more people will buy the auto than the manual”. +++ 

+++ INDIA is drawing up an incentive scheme for the autos sector aimed at doubling exports of vehicles and components in the next 5 years, 4 sources with direct knowledge of the matter told. The Department of Heavy Industries (DHI) has sought feedback from auto industry groups on the initial proposal, which suggests giving incentives over 5 years to increase local production and procurement for export, the sources said. The incentives would be based on the sales value of vehicles or components and eligible companies would need to meet certain conditions, including a minimum revenue and profit threshold and presence in at least 10 countries, 2 of the sources said, adding the form the incentives would take had not been decided. The move is part of India’s effort to create ‘champion’ sectors to attract investment, generate jobs and boost manufacturing and comes amid calls by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be self-reliant as a nation. India wants to promote exports and has identified some sectors, including autos and textiles, for which incentive plans are being designed, said a senior government official. “For autos the government has engaged with various stakeholders. We have to see what needs to be done in the global context”, said the official, adding that even though talks are in early stages and details have not been finalised there is a plan to give a “big push” to the sector. India’s auto sector exports touched $27 billion in the fiscal year ending March 2019, led by companies including Hyundai, Maruti Suzuki and Volkswagen, which analysts say stand to gain the most. The push, however, comes at a time when auto sales globally have been battered because of the coronavirus pandemic and demand may take a while to recover. To make it a success in the present scenario, India needs to ensure the proposal is not complicated by too many conditions and is not based on sales targets, said Vinay Piparsania, consulting director, automotive, at Counterpoint Research. “Having a liberal trade policy will allow companies to bring in new and global technologies which will increase their scale and India’s competitiveness as an export hub”, he said. The initial scheme has been designed to incentivise large companies and in turn benefit smaller players in the supply chain, making the auto sector more competitive overall, one of the sources said. To be eligible, automakers must have revenues of at least 100 billion rupees ($1.3 billion) and an operating profit of at least 10 billion rupees ($131 million) in 3 of the last 5 years, 1 of the sources said, adding they must also have earnings from outside India and commit to spending on research. The terms for auto part makers are the same except that the revenue and profit thresholds are lower, at 20 billion rupees and 2 billion rupees, respectively, the person said.
1 proposal is to have a production-linked incentive under which companies will get benefits proportionate to the distance between the factory and point of sale to compensate for higher warehousing and logistics costs, said the source. Another proposal is to give incentives to increase production of specific car models but only if 80 % of them are exported, the person said. Inputs on this have been sought from trade bodies such as the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) and Auto Components Association of India (ACMA), the sources said. +++
 

+++ Global sales of automakers from JAPAN declined 38 % in May, in the third straight month of big falls as most automotive factories and dealerships remained closed due to coronavirus lockdowns. The country’s 7 major automakers sold a total of 1.47 million vehicles last month, down sharply from 2.38 million units a year ago. But the decrease was smaller than the 50 % tumble posted in April. Global production at these automakers fell 62 % to 918.974 units in May, compared to a production slump of 55 % in April. Car demand has plummeted globally since March as people were forced to stay indoors in most countries due to lockdowns to control the outbreak, leading to deep uncertainty about the longer-term economic impact. Many countries have been easing their lockdown measures, but industry experts anticipate that it would take up to 5 years for demand to recover to 2019 levels. Japan’s biggest automaker Toyota sold 609.460 vehicles in May; down 34 % from a year ago. Nissan’s sales fell 37.3 % on year to 272.873 units, while sales at Honda slipped 29 % to 327.000 units. Vehicle sales fell in nearly all regions, with North America and Europe being the worst hit. China was the only bright spot, where Toyota, Nissan and Mazda reported higher sales. Most automakers are preparing for a big financial hit from the pandemic due to the lockdowns in the United States and Europe. Toyota has said it expects an 80 % profit slump this year, its lowest in 9 years. The pandemic has piled more pressure on Nissan, which had been struggling with falling sales and profitability even before the outbreak, forcing it to roll back on an aggressive expansion plan by ousted leader Carlos Ghosn. +++ 

+++ Ford says it’s nudging performance specs upward on the MUSTANG MACH E after more testing and development work, as it opens order books for its highly anticipated all-electric crossover. The upgraded specs apply to both standard- and extended-range models in both rear- and all-wheel drive. They also follow recent news about hands-free driving capabilities and fast-charging range improvements. The biggest gain comes with the extended-range AWD versions, which get bumped up to 346 hp, from previous estimates of 332 hp, with a 0-100 kph time in the mid-5-second range. In rear-wheel drive, the extended-range models see output increase to 290 hp, which is an increase of 8 hp. Standard-range versions of the Mach-E will deliver an estimated 230 miles of driving range, Ford says (the EPA has yet to announce official ratings). In both AWD and RWD variants, output increases to 266 hp; up by 11 hp. Ford’s new Mustang Mach-E configurator is open to the Select, Premium and California Route 1 trim levels, while the range-topping GT is still reservation-only and won’t be available until late summer 2021. It will be available only in extended-range and all-wheel drive, with a target range of 250 miles and a 0-100 time in the mid-3 seconds. Ford’s online configurator appears to be limited for now in other ways as well. For example, there’s still no ability to order the CoPilot 360 Active 2.0 Prep Package that enables hands-free highway driving. +++ 

+++ NISSAN aims to launch 7 new models in Africa over the next 2 years, company executives said, as the Japanese automaker seeks to focus on high-growth markets to try to weather the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. The company announced a plan last month to cut the number of models it makes globally and improve efficiency after the pandemic triggered its first annual loss in 11 years. Nissan will expand its SUV and cross-over portfolio in Africa with 7 new models, of which 4 will be in the SUV category, Shinkichi Izumi, managing director at Nissan South Africa, said. It plans to make Africa a hub for light commercial vehicles (LCV), will increase production of its popular Navara pick-ups and open plants in Ghana and Kenya, Izumi said. He did not disclose details of the investment and levels of production for the region, although Nissan said last year it would spend 3 billion rand ($174.07 million) on its Navara model. “We are going to locally produce the new Navara model and we are also looking at export”, Guillaume Cartier, chairman for Nissan’s Africa, Middle East and India (AMI) region, told a media call. Nissan blasted suggestions in media reports of a conspiracy within the company to oust former chairman Carlos Ghosn. Ghosn’s 2018 arrest in Japan on financial misconduct charges has led to much speculation that the move was orchestrated by Nissan executives who opposed closer ties with partner Renault. “I know that in books and the media there has been talk about a conspiracy but there are no facts whatsoever to support this”, Motoo Nagai, chairman of Nissan’s auditing committee, told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting. Responding to demands from a shareholder to address the speculation, Nagai argued that the investigation into Ghosn was conducted both internally and by outside law firms. The meeting lasted almost 2 hours; twice as long as planned, as shareholders grilled chief executive Makoto Uchida on how he planned to restore trust in the company following the Ghosn scandal and revive sales in the United States and China. Uchida, who took the helm in December, told shareholders he would stick to his promise to step down as leader if he fails to deliver on a turnaround plan for the Japanese automaker, which last month reported its first annual loss in 11 years. Seeking to slash costs and downsize after years of excessive spending in the pursuit of market share, Nissan plans to cut its model range by about a fifth and reduce production capacity, shuttering plants in Spain and Indonesia and laying off workers in countries including Mexico. It now aims to sell 5 million vehicles a year, far fewer than past ambitions of 8 million. +++ 

+++ In the midst of a raging PANDEMIC , Belal Bilto, 26, a sales executive and a Manhattan resident bought a midsize pickup Jeep Gladiator this month for just over $48.000, lured by a discount of about $5.000 on the list price and a 7-year, no-interest loan. For Bilto, who was laid off in March, and his fiancé Sabrina Moller, 28, a private chef, a car seemed a safer option to travel around during the virus outbreak. Most importantly the truck’s purchase is a business expense for the couple to support their new boutique mobile catering venture, platedate. “We went specifically for the Gladiator because the model was being offered at employee pricing and we also got free service after 1.000 miles and a free repair offer for a serious accident”, Bilto told. Analysts are forecasting June sales will fall by 25 % from a year earlier. That’s an improvement from the declines in April and May, reflecting a slow recovery in retail demand hit by coronavirus shutdowns. The second-quarter numbers reflect a peak for the U.S. auto industry’s efforts to use consumer discounts, low interest loans and other incentives to prop up demand during the pandemic. Since March, U.S. automakers have rushed to prop up demand with rich incentives to keep sales moving. The deals have been good enough and over the next few months, industry officials and analysts say sales could be hurt because of tight inventory. “The speed at which the automakers stepped in to support the franchised dealer network as well as the retail consumer is historically significant”, auto retailer Lithia Motors’ chief executive officer Bryan DeBoer said. On a per vehicle basis, spending on discounts was at record levels for June at about $4.441 per unit; a significant 12 % increase from $3.966 per unit for June 2019, according to automotive consultancy firm J.D. Power. In April, a month after automakers halted production due to the coronavirus outbreak and a massive 40 % decline in sales, per vehicle spending peaked at about $5.000 for the year, jumping about 40 % from the same period last year. “The top 3 automakers have packed in aggressive incentives with extended financing at 0 % rate for 84 months in addition to payment deferrals for up to 6 months”, said Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics at J.D. Power. “Before Covid-19, only 7 % of all sales represented loan terms for 84 months. That metric shot up to 21 % during the peak”, Jominy said. “That’s unprecedented”. Lower sales volumes mean automakers can offer hefty discounts per vehicle, while still shrinking overall spending. Total incentives offered by automakers since March until June end are estimated to be down about 12 % to $18.6 billion, from a year earlier, as sales volume have fallen 28 %, according to J.D. Power. +++ 

+++ Hyundai has confirmed further details on the revised SANTA FE ’s powertrain line-up, which will feature a diesel, mild-hybrid and (for the first time) a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The refreshed Santa Fe will go on sale in September. First deliveries are expected to arrive towards the end of the year. The plug-in hybrid Santa Fe’s powertrain will comprise a turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, a 90 hp electric motor and a 13.9 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which offers a combined maximum output of 265 hp and 350 Nm. However, it’s not due to reach the market until early 2021. So, for the time being, the only electrified powertrain available is a 230 hp mild-hybrid petrol unit. It’ll be on sale from the SUV’s launch and uses the same 1.6-litre engine as the plug-in model, albeit with a slightly less powerful electric motor and smaller 1.49 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Hyundai also says that it’ll be available with either front- or four-wheel drive. Both hybrid powertrains are hitched to a newly developed 6-speed automatic transmission, which Hyundai says is both smoother and more fuel efficient than the previous model’s gearbox. The 2 engines also feature a new low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system and continuously variable valve timing, which Hyundai claims improves fuel efficiency by 5 % and decreases emissions by 12 %. Finally, buyers have the option of a turbocharged 2.2-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine, with an output of 200 hp and 440Nm. Unlike the Santa Fe’s outgoing diesel unit, this new engine is made mostly from aluminium, which has shaved 19.5 kg off the car’s kerb weight. The diesel also has a new fuel injection system and improved internal components, which help to reduce the engine’s friction and improve fuel economy. The powertrain is mated to a new 8-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and, like the hybrids, buyers can choose from either front- or four-wheel drive. For the first time, Hyundai’s four-wheel drive system is fitted with a terrain mode selector, which offers specific setups for snow, gravel and mud. The drivetrain also comes with 3 driving modes (Eco, Comfort and Sport) which can deactivate drive to the rear axle to improve fuel efficiency or distribute the engine’s torque across the SUV’s axles for extra stability, sending either 35 % or 50 % of the engine’s power to the rear wheels. Hyundai refers to this tweaked Santa Fe as a facelift, but it’s much more than a simple bumper and trim update. It’s actually based on a completely different platform to the outgoing model, with Hyundai adopting the same strategy that Land Rover did with the latest Discovery Sport. The Santa Fe now shares the same platform as the US- and China-only Sonata, which has added support for Hyundai’s latest chassis technology and interior equipment. Due to the platform switch, the Santa Fe has increased in size. It’s 15 mm longer, 10 mm wider and 5 mm taller than the model it replaces, with dimensions of 4.785 mm, 1.900 mm and 1.685 mm respectively. Hyundai says this has unlocked more space in the cabin for passengers, adding an extra 34 mm of legroom for rear-seat occupants. Hyundai has also given the Santa Fe a fairly substantial cosmetic update, with new T-shaped LED daytime running lights, a redesigned radiator grille, a pair of subtly tweaked bumpers, wider wheel arches and a new, full-width LED tail light. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models will come as standard with a set of aerodynamically efficient 19-inch alloy wheels, although buyers can have 20-inch alloys as an optional extra. There’s also a choice of 3 new paint finishes (Glacier White, Taiga Brown and Lagoon Blue) bringing the SUV’s number of colour options to 9. Inside, there’s a new floating centre console, a new gear selector and a host of extra storage bins. Hyundai has also fitted a new 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25 inch infotainment screen with wireless support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and (like the old model) a head-up display is available on the higher-specced Premium variant. Hyundai has given the Santa Fe’s safety technology a boost, too, with the company adding its Highway Drive Assist 1.5 semi-autonomous function, which can assume control of the car’s steering, throttle and brakes on the motorway. Buyers also get lane-keeping assist, blind-spot collision avoidance and an autonomous parking system. In addition, there’s a new reverse parking collision avoidance system, which uses the SUV’s rear camera and parking sensors to detect obstacles when reversing. Like most parking sensor systems, it’ll provide an audible warning for nearby objects, but if the driver gets too close, the system will automatically apply the brakes to prevent damage to the vehicle. There’s a new Remote Smart Parking Assist system, too, which allows the driver to remotely move the SUV into a tight parking space using the key, without being in the car. Hyundai says its upgraded underpinnings also give the new Santa Fe better handling and improved crash safety, thanks to its extensive use of high-tensile steel and its redesigned crumple zones. Refinement should also be improved, with Hyundai fitting additional sound dampening in vibration-sensitive areas such as the engine bay and suspension towers. +++

 

+++ TESLA chief Elon Musk in an internal email called on employees to work hard to allow the electric car maker to break even in the second quarter despite the coronavirus pandemic. The rallying cry has become a familiar theme in recent quarters at Tesla, with Musk calling on employees to quickly build and deliver vehicles at the end of the quarter to achieve specific targets. “Breaking even is looking super tight. Really makes a difference for every car you build and deliver. Please go all out to ensure victory!”, Musk wrote in the email. The automaker is expected to report second-quarter delivery numbers at the beginning of July. Analysts on average expect the company to deliver roughly 74.000 vehicles in the months from April to June. Much of the United States was under some form of lockdown orders during that time, which caused auto sales to plummet. Tesla in April surprised investors when it said production and delivery of its new crossover, the Model Y, was significantly ahead of schedule despite the virus outbreak. The company delivered 88.400 vehicles in the first quarter. Production at Tesla’s only U.S. vehicle factory in California was shut down for more than 6 weeks from the end of March to early May due to local lockdown orders aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. +++ 

+++ Collapsing demand from rental car companies, corporations and government agencies has sapped auto sales in the UNITED STATES during the coronavirus pandemic and a recovery will likely be slow, threatening auto workers whose jobs depend on fleet sales. Weak fleet orders are expected to hurt June sales. Cox Automotive forecasts fleet sales will fall nearly 56 % to 1.3 million vehicles after plunging 83 % in May and 77 % in April. In the short term, fleet sales are not a major concern for automakers focused on ramping up production to beef up anemic dealer inventories for higher-profit sales to consumers. They will become a challenge when inventories are replenished, however, since production must be maintained to keep automakers profitable. Any sustained production cuts could trigger job cuts in an industry that accounts for roughly one fifth of U.S. retail sales. “If we don’t see a rebound in 2021, this will be a problem for automakers”, said Zohaib Rahim, economic and industry insights manager at Cox Automotive. “But right now they’re using all their production to supply dealers”. Commercial sales are seen coming back in 2021, but government orders may take a hit next year once the pandemic’s impact on tax revenue becomes clear. The rental car industry (where Hertz filed for bankruptcy protection in May) faces a deeply uncertain future. Around 62 % of nearly 2.8 million vehicles sold to fleet buyers in 2019 went to rental car companies. Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, says the car models facing greater risk because of their reliance on lower-margin rental fleet sales include Nissan’s Altima and General Motors’ Chevrolet Malibu. U.S. fleet sales are dominated by GM, Ford, Nissan and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), and accounted for 16.4 % of new vehicle sales in 2019. In 2019, fleet sales accounted for nearly 22 % of GM’s sales, with about half going to rental fleets and the other half to corporations and government agencies. Fleet sales accounted for nearly 28 % of Nissan’s 2019 sales, with almost 93 % of those sales going to rental car companies. John Ruppert, Ford’s general manager of commercial and government fleet sales, said the impact on commercial sales has been mixed. Ford is the market leader for higher-margin commercial and government fleet sales. On the positive side, Ruppert said work-from-home policies have boosted orders from telecommunications companies and created new demand for delivery vehicles. However, after a historic decline in oil prices, Ruppert said it “could be some time in 2021” before industry-wide vehicle orders from oil and gas producers recover. Contract talks for commercial fleet orders usually begin March or April, but did not this year as the economy shut down. “We’re seeing those contract talks happening now in earnest”, Ruppert said. Some orders could be delayed a quarter or two, he said, meaning overall commercial fleet sales should recover some time in 2021. Ruppert said government orders are based on the previous year’s tax base, so 2021 orders will reflect this year’s pandemic. FCA is “bullish” on fleet sales in the second half of 2020 thanks to commercial and government purchases, U.S. head of sales Jeff Kommor said. “Despite vehicles sitting idle for a few months in 2020, most commercial and government fleet operators have a schedule they adhere to maximize their residual value”, he said. The Kansas City plant where GM makes the Malibu will be shut down for an extra week this summer, which a spokeswoman said reflected both consumer and fleet demand. GM does not intend to halt Malibu production, she said. “Rental companies have been an important customer of ours”, she added. “We expect that to continue in the future, when the rental market recovers”. The Malibu and Altima sedans have both seen a long decline in consumer demand. Nissan spokeswoman Lloryn Love-Carter said the Japanese automaker “continuously considers a number of opportunities to drive efficiencies within our manufacturing operations”. +++

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