Newsflash: Honda gaat nieuwe Civic ook als Crosstar leveren.

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+++ Nissan has estimated the closure of its plants in BARCELONA could cost up to around €1.5 billion, a union source told. The cost of the closure is at the heart of a debate in Spain over the move, with the government saying it would be cheaper to keep the plants operating. The decision to leave Barcelona was announced by the Japanese carmaker last week as part of a turnaround plan, triggering protests by workers and a commitment by Madrid to do all it can to convince the company to stay. Nissan documents say the closures could cost €1.45 billion, mostly to make around 3.000 workers redundant. The union source said that a few weeks ago Nissan had told workers that shutting the 3 Barcelona facilities could cost around €1.5 billion. On May 28, the day the shutdown was announced, a Nissan executive told workers the cost could be much lower, at €700-€800 million, the source added. However, the source, along with another senior union official, said the second estimate was probably unrealistic as that would barely cover redundancy payments to workers, some of whom have been employed for more than 20 years. On top of that, Nissan would face other costs related to suppliers and dismantling factories, the first source said, adding: “€1.5 billion is more realistic. It’s not easy to dismantle a factory”. La Vanguardia said that among the costs Nissan had estimated were €600 million for firing workers, €310 million in fiscal costs and potentially repaying €100 million of public aid. Nissan believes it would take close to 7 years to recover in savings the cost of leaving Barcelona. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen chief technology officer Matthias Rabe will become BENTLEY ‘s new head of engineering as part of a major reshuffle of the Volkswagen Group’s technical chiefs. Rabe will join the British luxury car brand’s board at the start of August, replacing Werner Tietz, who will become Seat’s new executive vice-president for research and development. Rabe has worked in the Volkswagen Group since 1988. He was Seat’s technical chief from 2011 until switching to his current role at Volkswagen in March 2019, where his projects have included the Golf GTI and work on the forthcoming ID.3 electric hatchback. During his time at Seat, Rabe helped develop the current Ibiza and Leon, spearhead the expansion of the firm’s SUV range and developed the initial models for the Cupra performance brand. He also helped push development of Seat’s first bespoke EV, the e-Born. Bentley boss Adrian Hallmark said Rabe’s “previous range of experiences, including leading technology development will prove valuable to us as we look to our next generation of models, technologies and to lead sustainable luxury mobility in the future”. Bentley has introduced its first hybrid model this year and is currently developing its first electric production car, which is likely to be a ‘radical’ high-riding saloon due in 2025. Tietz joined the Volkswagen Group in 1994 and had stints at Audi and Porsche before his 2-year stint as head of development at Bentley. In his new role as Seat’s technical boss, he will replace Axel Andorff, who joined the brand in March 2019 after previously serving as Mercedes-Benz’s head of concept development for electric vehicle architecture. Andorff will in turn switch to Skoda as head of the Midsize and MEB product lines. He will replace Matthias Glodny, who shifts to Volkswagen as head of modular toolkits, drivetrains and modules product line. A direct replacement for Rabe as Volkswagen’s chief technology officer hasn’t been named. Bentley plans to shed up to 1.000 jobs, nearly a quarter of its workforce, adding to the gloom in the sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The 100-year old Bentley, which has a total workforce of 4.200, said it was offering voluntary redundancy terms but could not rule out compulsory redundancies. “This is a necessary step that we have to take to safeguard the jobs of the vast majority who will remain, and deliver a sustainable business model for the future”, said Hallmark. “Covid-19 has not been the cause of this measure but a hastener”. Bentley makes most of its cars in Crewe, northwest England. The site reopened on May 11; 7 weeks after it shut due to the coronavirus outbreak, making it one of the first automakers to resume production in Britain. The firm faces hundreds of millions of pounds of deferred or lost revenue from the plant closure and reduced output due to the pandemic. The job losses form part of Bentley’s “Beyond100” strategy that will see it accelerate the development of electrified models. It is targeting for every model it offers to have the option of a hybrid variant by 2023, and its first pure electric model to be launched in 2026. British new car sales tumbled by an annual 89 % in May, only slightly less negative than April’s record 97 % collapse, as car dealerships remained shuttered by the lockdown, industry data showed. +++

+++ It might not feel like it, but Bentley has been building an SUV for 4 years now. The BENTAYGA was introduced in 2015 and entered production at the beginning of 2016. Since then, the model’s lineup has expanded to a range of 5 variants and numerous powertrain options. In total, Bentley has built more than 20.000 examples of the Bentayga and demand does not appear to be dropping. Like Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Aston Martin, Bentley turned to the SUV market for a bump in sales and the Bentayga has been a strong seller ever since. Buyers have the choice between the Bentayga, Bentayga V8, Bentayga Speed, Bentayga Diesel and Bentayga Hybrid, as to ensure there’s something for every type of buyer. Bentley claims the Bentayga Speed is the fastest SUV in the world. +++ 

+++ General Motors (GM) will “work very closely” with Chinese electric vehicle battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd ( CATL ) as it ramps up electric production in the world’s biggest auto market, a senior executive said. The Detroit automaker said in March it would invest $20 billion by 2025 in electric and automated vehicles as it races to catch up with Tesla. “We have already established a good working relationship and supply agreement with CATL”, said Julian Blissett, GM’s China president. “We will work very closely with CATL in the future. We are not planning on importing any major components for new energy vehicles. The drive units, batteries, motors, etc. will be made locally in China”. Co-operation with GM would help cement Ningde-based CATL’s dominant position in the Chinese EV battery market, where it competes with smaller players like BYD and Guoxuan High-tech. China is the world’s biggest market for new energy vehicles, which include battery electric cars as well as plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. In China, GM and its partner SAIC Motor sell the electric Velite 6 model under the Buick marque (photo) as well as Chevrolet’s electric Menlo. Through another venture, SGMW, GM sells electric Wuling minivans and Baojun E-Series mini cars with SAIC and Guangxi Automobile Group. “We are heavily committed to China and we have basically not stopped investing even through Covid-19”, Blissett added. +++ 

+++ Back in 2010, the Renault-Nissan alliance decided to mix it up with DAIMLER in developing a platform for the Smart and Twingo. In turn, each entity took on a 3.1 % stake in the other, in order to showcase their commitment. However, aside from the ongoing work on the Renault Kangoo-based Mercedes Citan van, no new projects have been announced, despite the companies having collaborated on over a dozen joint projects in total. Now, Renault boss Jean-Dominique Senard told reporters that he and interim CEO Clothilde Delbos “decided at the end of last year to re-trigger that alliance, because it was well worth it”. “I can tell you that from the CEO of Daimler we got a very positive reaction and we are working very regularly with his teams to see how we can ensure that the future of that particular alliance can continue”, said Senard. After Ghosn’s “departure”, analysts felt that Daimler had lost interest in Renault-Nissan, especially with the German carmaker getting involved with BMW on Level 3 autonomous driving tech and mobility services, as well as selling half of Smart to Geely, its 10 % shareholder. “So far the dialogue has been extremely positive, and Clotilde and I really hope that very quickly we will be able to announce how this can be made concrete in an even more substantial manner”, added Senard. A spokesman for Daimler stated that the 2 companies have had a “functioning partnership for 10 years now and the atmosphere continues to be very positive”. +++ 

+++ British inventor James DYSON has published a diary-style postmortem on his company’s aborted electric vehicle project that gives us a glimpse at what could have been. It also comes as he granted an interview in which he dished on the main bugaboo that forced him to kill a project in which he had poured $610 million from his own pocket: the prohibitively high cost of battery technology. Specifically, Dyson says larger and more established automakers are losing money on every EV they build but are propping them up through sales of profitable “gas-guzzlers”, as he put it. Here’s how he responded when asked for the key to making EVs profitable: GM and Tesla are both aiming to develop more advanced and similarly flexible-configuration battery systems that aim to reduce costs and improve performance and driving range. Dyson was working on a battery that promised 1.000 kilometres of range, with designs on eventually developing solid-state batteries, but it just couldn’t get past the daunting numbers it was projecting. Dyson officially shut down the project last October, telling staff members in part “we simply can no longer see a way to make it commercially viable”, Reports have suggested that Dyson would have had to price each model at the equivalent of around €167.000 in order to merely break even. Meanwhile, Dyson in his post-mortem muses about the electric SUV’s large wheels, which he favored for their lower rolling resistance and greater comfort over potholes and other bumps. Other novelties included a nifty sliding panel on the front quarter panel to reveal the charging port, which illuminates once the panel is fully opened, and all controls for climate, audio, heads-up display and everything else mounted on the steering wheel. Shown was also the roomy interior, which is clean and open, thanks to the wheels being pushed to the corners and the space-saving EV platform, and features distinctive chairs with cushion panels that look like mid-century modern design. “I hate the 1930s armchair look that car seats typically have and I haven’t found a car seat that has proper lumbar support”, Dyson writes. “We wanted a more elegant, structural seat, with well-considered posture support. When you sit in this, it gives you that support in all the right areas”. Dyson told he tried to find a buyer for his EV project but was unsuccessful. In the meantime, the company continues to work on developing solid-state batteries and plans to eventually launch them in a new, unspecified (and presumably non-automotive) product. +++ 

+++ General Motors is developing an ELECTRIC VAN aimed at business users, joining a growing list of carmakers planning EVs for the same segment which includes customers such as Amazon.com and UPS, 5 people familiar with the plans told. That multibillion-dollar strategy could enable GM, Ford and at least 2 EV startups to build and deliver more electric vehicles at a time when consumer demand for battery-powered models is still a small fraction of overall industry sales, while targeting a potentially lucrative market segment that Tesla has yet to address. GM’s plan to develop an electric van has not previously been reported. The biggest U.S. automaker did not confirm the van, but has said it plans to introduce at least 20 new all-electric vehicles by 2023, in a variety of body styles including sedans, trucks and crossovers. Suppliers familiar with such plans at GM and Ford told the Detroit automakers, which count trucks and commercial vehicles among their most profitable businesses, “don’t want to leave the door open for Tesla” as they did in consumer passenger cars. Scott Phillippi, UPS senior director of fleet maintenance and engineering, said the package delivery firm believes electric vans have the potential to disrupt the commercial market. “It’s going to be similar to what the Model 3 has done for the consumer market”, Phillippi said, referring to Tesla’s small near-luxury electric sedan. “Now all of a sudden, we’re off to the races”. The GM van (code-named BV1) is due to start production in late 2021, the sources said. It is believed the BV1 van will share some components with GM’s future electric pickups and SUVs, including the automaker’s new Ultium advanced battery system. It is expected to be assembled alongside the electric trucks at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant. GM is considering whether to offer the electric van through its traditional truck brands (Chevrolet and GMC) or market it under a different brand such as Maven, the sources said. GM’s first electric pickup, due in late 2021, will be sold by GMC dealers under the Hummer brand. In a statement, GM said it is “committed to an all-electric future and is implementing a multi-segment, scalable EV strategy to get there. At this time, we do not have any announcements to make regarding electric commercial vehicles”. The GM electric van project is aimed at an important segment of the emerging EV market: commercial delivery vehicles. For established players, this is a hugely profitable business segment driven by cost of ownership, not fancy tech or star power. It is also a segment in which Tesla and its high-profile CEO, Elon Musk, lack an entry to compete for sales and CO2 credits, which allow automakers to offset the sale of non-electric vehicles including high-margin pickups and SUVs. “Buyers of commercial vans want reliability and not necessarily a flashy brand name”, said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions. “The reduced maintenance and fuel use of electric vehicles become very attractive to a business customer, where the current limitations of EVs make the price premium less attractive to individual consumers”. In February, Ford said it would introduce an electric version of its Transit for modelyear 2022. “The most critical bet we will be making over the next several years will be our commercial vehicles”, Ford’s chief operating officer, Jim Farley, told at the time. Ford also is an investor in startup Rivian, which is scheduled to begin building the first of 100.000 mid-size electric vans for Amazon next year. UPS has commissioned 10.000 mid-size electric vans from British startup Arrival, which is backed by Hyundai and its sister company Kia. The combined value of the Amazon and UPS contracts with Rivian and Arrival is estimated at $4 billion or more. And more players in the segments will likely follow, including Daimler, Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said Samit Ghosh, chief executive of the Americas for consulting and engineering firm umlaut. “The delivery vans is a volume not to be underestimated”, he said. “I would not just call it a niche segment”. +++ 

+++ Carbon dioxide emissions from new cars in Europe increased for a second consecutive year in 2018, according to data published by the EUROPEAN UNION ’s environment agency, putting carmakers on a collision course with the bloc’s climate goals. The EU’s executive Commission urged carmakers to do more to cut their fleets’ carbon footprint to meet tougher emissions targets coming into force this year, even as they grapple with a sales slump and disrupted supply chains due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Manufacturers will have to significantly reduce emissions of their fleet to meet the stricter targets that apply from this year on”, it said. Average CO2 emissions stood at 120.8 gram of CO2 per kilometre for new cars registered in the EU (including Great Britain and Iceland) in 2018; an increase of around 2 gram compared with 2017. Carmakers would need to slash their emissions by 27 % against 2018 levels, to meet stricter EU pollution targets and avoid fines. The 2020 targets cap average CO2 emissions from new cars at 95 gram CO2/km. Increased sales of petrol cars pushed up CO2 emissions in 2018, while fuel-guzzling SUVs grew their share of the market, accounting for 35 % of Europe’s new car sales in 2018 compared with 29 % in 2017. Electric and low-emissions car sales increased but still made up only 2 % of new car registrations in 2018. Average CO2 emissions from new vans increased in 2018 for the first time. The Commission has pledged more support for clean transport, as part of an EU coronavirus economic stimulus package it says will steer the bloc towards a goal to become “climate neutral” by 2050. Proposals unveiled by the Commission last week promise support to install 1 million electric vehicle charging points in Europe, plus scrappage schemes that prioritise ‘clean’ vehicles. +++ 

+++ FIAT is piloting a project in its historic Italian home of Turin to allow its hybrid plug-in cars to automatically switch to electric-only mode when entering congested city centers. The project, which aims to maximize the environmental benefits of hybrid cars, comes as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) rolls out its first alternative-engine models, trying to make up ground on rivals which already offer a range of full electric and hybrid vehicles in Europe. The project, named ‘Turin Geofencing Lab’ and involving the city authorities and public transport agency GTT, is based on a prototype system with fully integrated on-board sensors allowing a car to recognize when it is entering a restricted traffic zone, FCA said. The sensors will then automatically turn off the combustion engine and switch to electric mode. This would allow hybrid cars to enjoy dispensations for electric vehicles in the city center, including dedicated parking spaces. The system has been initially tested on the new Jeep Renegade 4xe plug-in hybrid model. The tests could be extended to the group’s other hybrid models from next year. The Covid-19 crisis has not significantly delayed FCA’s plans to launch its first full-electric and hybrid models. An electric version of the Fiat 500 plug-in hybrid versions of Jeep’s Renegade and Compass models are due to hit the market this summer. A similar project was launched last year by BMW in Rotterdam, with a smart-phone reminder to switch-off combustion engines when passing a virtual boundary into the Dutch city’s electric-only zone. But that did not entail such a direct link between the vehicle and the city’s access platform and gates to restricted traffic zones, as in Turin’s case. Roberto Di Stefano, FCA’s head of e-Mobility, said that once the Turin project was completed, it would be gradually offered to other cities, in Italy and abroad. +++ 

+++ A €6.3 billion tate-backed loan for FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA), financed by Intesa Sanpaolo, is crucial in terms of safeguarding Italy’s economy, the head of the country’s biggest retail bank said. The state-guaranteed loan has drawn criticism in Italy because FCA, which has moved its legal headquarters to the Netherlands, is working towards a merger with PSA. Italy is set to provide guarantees on 80 % of the loan through the credit export agency under an emergency liquidity package adopted to help companies weather the coronavirus crisis. Intesa boss Carlo Messina said the loan was essential to protect a sector which accounts for 6 % of Italy’s national output because, under the terms of the loan, FCA will use the money to pay employees and suppliers, as well as finance investments in the country. “With this transaction we’re supporting a key sector of the economy, its suppliers and employment”, Messina said. “It’s a key plank of efforts to safeguard the economy in the current phase, if we don’t support sectors which are crucial for GDP such as automotive and construction, instead of a 10 % GDP contraction we’ll have a 15 % drop”, he said. Messina said to ensure that conditions set for the loan were met the money would be disbursed through dedicated current accounts which would be used exclusively to pay staff, suppliers and to finance investments. +++ 

+++ FORD ’s China ventures have reported year-on-year sales growth for May in a sign of how the world’s biggest auto market is continuing its recovery from coronavirus-induced lows. The U.S. automaker’s Chongqing-based venture with Changan sold 23.491 vehicles in May; up 130 % from a year earlier, it said. Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC), in which Ford owns a stake, said in a filing that it sold 29.008 vehicles last month; up 32 % year on year. Ford also said that sales of its luxury Lincoln brand in China reached 5.000 units last month; up 22 %. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS (GM) should emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with a permanently reduced cost base after it scrambled to reduce its cash burn to withstand a 2-month shutdown in North American production as part of efforts to halt the spread of Covid-19, its top executive said. “We were quickly able to take out significant costs and we are being very conservative about what costs we turn back on”, chief executive officer Mary Barra said during an investor event with Credit Suisse. “I believe we will come out of this with a lower cost structure that is permanent”. Barra said those permanent cost reductions could included few different vehicle platforms offered by the No. 1 U.S automaker and reducing the complexity of those platforms to be more focused on producing the versions consumers want most. She said that the pandemic had given GM the opportunity to go through all of its line item expenses and eliminate redundant processes. “We’ve found things that we don’t need to do and things we can do more efficiently”, Barra said. The U.S. automotive industry has been ramping up after the coronavirus shutdown and major automakers have been keeping a close eye on suppliers in Mexico to see the pandemic disrupts the flow of parts. Barra said if there are problems in GM’s supply chain, the automaker will focus on diverting parts for its popular, highly-profitable pickups. +++ 

+++ GERMANY has become the second major European economy to use a multi-billion-euro recovery plan to spur clean driving, with incentives for electric cars that should boost BMW, Opel and Volkswagen, while polluting SUVs face higher taxes. Berlin’s €130 billion coronavirus stimulus plan follows French president Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to make France the top producer of clean vehicles in Europe. Germany doubled electric car subsidies, lowered value added tax (VAT) to 16 % from 19 % and rejected an auto industry request to incentivise vehicles with internal combustion engines in favour of a plan to increase charging infrastructure. German fuel stations will be required to provide electric vehicle charging, transforming opportunities to refuel zero-emission cars that consumers have shunned in part because of concerns over their range. Electric cars, which made up only 1.8 % of new passenger car registrations in Germany last year, will be boosted by a €6.000 incentive for electric cars that cost below €40,000. This brings consumer incentives for electric cars in Germany to €9,000 once a €3,000 manufacturer stipend is included. According to Germany’s Federal Office for Economy and Export, BAFA, the cars eligible for the full subsidy include the BMW i3, Hyundai’s Ioniq and Kona models, Kia’s e-Niro, Opel’s Corsa-e, Renault’s Zoe and Volkswagen’s ID3. Especially VW, which is readying a mass market push for its ID3 model, will be well-placed to flood the market with the help of the stimulus measures, analysts said. Audi’s e-Tron and the Mercedes EQ C are eligible for subsidies, but not for the full amount. German new car sales fell 49.5 % in May following a 61.1 % slump in April, leaving thousands of petrol and diesel engine cars unsold and analysts questioning whether demand will recover from a coronavirus-induced slump. “The lowering of VAT will hardly provide an impetus”, said Peter Fuss, a partner at EY, adding electric cars were still too niche to lift the overall market. Germany will overhaul its motor vehicle tax. From January 2021, cars with emissions higher than 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre will face increased levies. This benefits hybrid vehicles in the short term, but a staggered CO2 tax treats them as only an interim way to cut pollution. The average emissions of a new car last year in Germany was around 150.9 grams of CO2 per kilometre. The popularity of SUVs increased average emissions of new cars to 154.8 grams per kilometre in May. Berlin’s plans are a rebuff to the German auto industry’s lobbying efforts and are more radical than the French programme, which includes a scrappage scheme that boosts sales of petrol and diesel vehicles. “The VDA regrets that the stimulus plan only partially included the auto industry’s proposals for a broad and immediate economic impulse”, the German auto industry association said. Environment campaigners welcomed the investment in electric transport that chimes with European Union ambitions to cut net emissions to zero by 2050. “This is exactly what’s needed to support jobs and help us emerge stronger and greener from the Covid crisis”, Stef Cornelis, Germany director for campaign group Transport & Environment, said. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen said it had resumed deliveries of its newest GOLF model after voluntarily halting sales in mid-May. Volkswagen stopped sales after the carmaker discovered that data transfer problems in an online connectivity unit could interfere with an emergency assist functionality. “In order to remedy the situation, Volkswagen has developed a software update for the control unit of the online connectivity unit. This update will be installed on Golf VIII models produced in the future as standard”, VW said. The update will also be installed in the 15.000 vehicles affected by the recall, the carmaker said. +++ 

+++ GREECE has unveiled tax incentives to boost the use of electric cars, motorcycles and bicycles, as part of its 10-year climate plan for lower carbon emissions. Greece now has only about 1.000 electric cars (0.3% of its fleet) on its roads, a very low rate compared to other EU countries, such as Germany, where they account for about 10 % of the fleet. Presenting the country’s plan for moving to low-carbon mobility, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Athens will aim for 1 in 3 new vehicles to be electric by 2030. “We are subsidising the purchase of new types of cars with €100 million for 18 months at the first stage”, Mitsotakis said. “This is expected to cover 25% of the cost for about 14,000 new electric cars”. The plan also includes subsidies for the purchase of electric taxis and motorbikes and for setting up charging stations across the country. Drivers of the new vehicles will be also exempted from any parking fees for 2 years. A recent study showed that carbon emissions dropped by about 40 % in Athens amid a coronavirus-prompted lockdown from March to April as most Greeks stopped commuting by car. To meet EU-wide climate targets by 2030, Greece has also vowed to close down all but one of its coal-fired electricity plants by 2023. The plants use lignite, a highly pollutant brown coal. Most of them operate in northern Greece and the southern Peloponnese. Mitsotakis announced tax breaks for new factories that will produce electric cars in those regions. +++ 

+++ The new Jazz Crosstar will pave the way for other HONDA models to receive ruggedly styled derivatives as the Japanese maker hones in on the demand for SUVs. Jazz project boss Takeki Tanaka said: “The demand for compact, multi-purpose vehicles is a new trend, and in future we will have some derivatives in that direction. “Jazz customers are wide-ranging in age and we particularly wanted to appeal to customers interested in advanced technology and an active lifestyle. That was our motivation for developing the Crosstar”. European buyers of the Jazz are predominantly older, but the model is popular with twenty-something buyers in Asia. Outlining why Honda will launch more Crosstar models, Tanaka explained: “Some customers don’t see the need for an SUV, because of the size or drawbacks in fuel efficiency. These are the customers who don’t want a hatchback or saloon but want to differentiate in order to showcase their lifestyle, and it’s those customers for whom we believe Crosstar is a perfect match”. A number of manufacturers are launching rugged variants to play to SUV demand. Ford offers the Fiesta and Focus Active, while Audi revealed the A1 Citycarver last year. The Crosstar has increased ride height over the standard Jazz, a unique front grille, integrated roof rails and 2-tone paint schemes. +++ 

+++ Toyota said it would launch a new China joint venture with Chinese auto companies to develop HYDROGEN fuel cell systems. Toyota said it will launch the Beijing-based venture with FAW Group, Dongfeng Motor, Beijing Automotive, GAC and Beijing SinoHytec. The total investment amount will be about $46 million, Toyota said in a statement, adding it will hold a 65 % share of the venture. +++ 

+++ Nissan is struggling and the automaker unveiled a transformation plan that called cutting costs, eliminating models, and closing plants. Unfortunately, the cuts will hit INFINITI pretty hard as it appears the brand will transition to badge-engineered luxury cars. Infiniti will stop trying to chase Mercedes and instead adopt a ‘Nissan-plus’ strategy. This will effectively kill the Infiniti that we know today as future models will share platforms and powertrains with downmarket Nissan siblings. They’ll also be assembled alongside Nissans in an effort to maximize efficiency. This could eventually result in the death of rear-wheel drive models. In the case of the Q50, the sedan could replaced by a model based on the same platform that underpins the Nissan Altima. Of course, the transition wouldn’t happen overnight and a closer tie-up with Nissan won’t occur until 2022 or 2023. However, when it does, Infiniti is expected to launch a slew of new models. In the meantime, there are still new Infinitis on the horizon. The QX55 was teased last year and promises to be a “fusion of athleticism, elegance and utility”. The model will be a crossover coupe based on the Q50 and Infiniti hopes it can evoke memories of the popular FX. Of course, it’s not all good news as the Q70 was withdrawn. At the time, the company said the decision to drop the flagship sedan was due to consumer demand for crossovers and SUVs. However, Infiniti said they were “absolutely committed to the car market with our Q50 sports sedan, which continues to be one of the top sellers at our retailers and the Q60 sports coupe”. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR), owned by Tata Motors, has entered into agreements with lenders in China for a secured term loan facility of 5 billion yuan ($704.50 million), marking its first debt financing in China, it said. Arthur Yu, JLR’s vice president and China chief financial officer, said the Chinese banks that would provide it with the 3-year revolving loan include Bank of China, ICBC, China Construction Bank, Bank of Communications and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. The fundraising comes as the coronavirus pandemic has hit global automakers’ supply chains and sales. Sales from China used to account for 25 % to 30 % of JLR’s global sales, but over the past 2 months make up 50 %, Yu said. The loan facility “can help JLR China better manage cash flow amid the coronavirus epidemic”, Yu told. JLR, which imports cars and also has a manufacturing partnership in the Chinese eastern city of Changshu with Wuhu-based Chery Automobile, said its China sales in April were level with same period last year, and it saw sales growth in May. Yu said the company expects sales of China’s luxury car segment this year to be level with last year or see slight growth. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES is plotting a radical overhaul for one of its longest-running models: the SL roadster. Due in showrooms in the next 18 months, the new model is being developed by AMG, with a focus on injecting a new level of performance. Last year, sports cars contributed to slightly more than 1 % of the brand’s total sales worldwide: around 28.400 werde sold in 2019. That’s a rise of 48 % over 2018, but by the firm’s own admission, the AMG GT line-up accounts for most of that, with the compact SLC roadster and full-size SL dwindling in importance. While the SLC will not have a future beyond this generation, the brand will renew the SL with AMG. The performance division will reinvent the model as a 2+2 to line up next to the two-seat AMG GT, with both cars sharing a new lightweight, aluminium-intensive platform. Speaking before his switch to Aston Martin, AMG boss Tobias Moers explained how the project was developing: “This is a programme that’s really intense”, he said. “The new SL aligned with maybe the next generation of GT. I think it’s time to change the attitude of SL a little bit and bring back a bit of the history of this touring DNA of SL: make it sportier and other things”. AMG-badged high-performance variants will be offered alongside the core line-up, which is expected to start with a 3.0-litre straight-6 model and encompass V8 power, too. It’s also likely that the new SL will embrace hybrid technology, not only in the form of 48 volt mild-hybrid electrification, but also with the possibility of plug-in power. Moers told that AMG will look to offer a hybrid version of every model Mercedes sends its way from 2021 and the SL (as a heavier sports car focused on touring) could well be a natural fit for a weighty, electrified powertrain with a huge power output. It could potentially receive the SL 73 badge, and act as a flagship model with more than 800 hp. While AMG will ensure that the next SL comes with chassis and suspension tuning aimed at improving the model for drivers, it will remain more of a cruiser than a performance car like the AMG GT. Core to the next SL will be its styling. Gorden Wagener, the chief design officer for Daimler, told: “Each SL is a mirror of its decade. If you think of the fifties and you think of the beauty ideal during that time, it was opulence. Then you move into the sixties, models got skinny, skirts got shorter, and when you look at the Pagoda this is a super-light car, and again represents the taste of the time”. Spy shots have revealed that the newcomer will take on a more aggressive look than before, with bold AMG design themes, a 2+2 seating layout and a fabric convertible roof. Robert Lesnik, Mercedes director of exterior design added: “Gorden mentioned all those models through decades, but they keep something in common, that is a typical proportion: a front mid-engined car, with a long bonnet, small cabin, cab backward design. +++ 

+++ NISSAN wants to strengthen its position on the EV market with its first e-AWD system called e-4ORCE. The automaker describes it as a “revolutionary new all-wheel control technology” which assists drivers of all skill levels by providing instant torque to all 4 wheels and delivering “balanced, predictable power in any situation”. The ‘e’ in e-4ORCE makes it clear this is a 100 % electric motor drive system, courtesy of a twin motor setup. ‘4ORCE (pronounced force) alludes to the vehicle’s physical power and energy, while ‘4’ represents all-wheel control. The technology is in the final development stages and has benefitted from Nissan’s know-how gained from both the GT-R’s torque split system and the Patrol’s intelligent 4×4 system. Nissan has already built a test car featuring e-4ORCE using a Leaf e+ as a basis. Nissan privately demonstrated e-4ORCE during the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show and at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. The conclusions drawn after testing are very encouraging, according to the Japanese company. The automaker lists 4 ways in which e-4orce technology supports drivers. Firstly, the all-electric system which means e-4orce is built around dual electric motors. Until now, Nissan EVs have all used a single electric motor, typically for front-wheel drive. An AWD system is the next logical step, especially with the future EV crossover heralded by the Ariya Concept. The system is said to provide instant, smooth acceleration, as well as enhanced control in a wide range of scenarios, including when the driver is required to suddenly react to avoid something in the road, such as an animal or object. Handling is the second big advantage of e-4ORCE, with Nissan promising “balanced chassis control, line tracing, and steering precision at all times”. This ensures the vehicle’s behavior remains predictable even during sudden maneuvers. To do so, the system constantly modulates the output of each onboard twin electric motor as well as each wheel brake control. By default, the torque distribution is 50/50, but e-4ORCE can also transfer up to 100 % of power to either the front or rear axles, and a mix in between. Thirdly, Nissan says e-4ORCE brings reliable comfort for all, which means a smooth ride quality under multiple driving scenarios. The regenerative braking also works to reduce vehicle pitch and dive, helping keep the cabin more level and therefore preventing motion sickness. Finally, the 4th major advantage is enhanced on-road confidence, including on wet, icy or snowy roads. For example, if the driver applies too much power on slippery roads, the system will manage output to ensure control and traceability is maintained. Nissan did not say if the production Leaf will get the e-4ORCE system as an option. +++ 

+++ POLESTAR , the premium electric vehicle maker owned by Geely, plans to open 20 showrooms in the mainland, as it prepares for delivery of its Polestar 2 electric sedans to compete with Tesla Inc’s locally made Model 3. Polestar, which currently has only one showroom in Beijing, plans to have 20 in 17 Chinese cities, the automaker said in a statement. The Gothenburg, Sweden-based company is manufacturing cars in China’s eastern city of Taizhou. Showroom strength is becoming an important differentiator for electric vehicle (EV) makers in the world’s biggest auto and EV market, as they line up model launches. The automaker plans to export Polestar 2 sedans to Europe and the United States, and will open showrooms first in Shanghai and then expand to coastal Ningbo and southern Guangzhou. The showrooms will be mostly in shopping malls. +++ 

+++ Talks to surrounding the proposed move of RENAULT Kadjar and Captur production to Nissan’s Sunderland plant are on hold. Nissan and Renault have a strategic partnership with each, and were previously reported to be discussing shifting production of the 2 Renault SUV models from Spain to the United Kingdom. This move is now on hold due to the current political climate. One insider told discussions were set to continue “within weeks”, while another source said it was too soon to put any timeline on a restarting of negotiations. Renault recently announced a wide-ranging cost-cutting programme that will see 15.000 jobs lost worldwide (roughly 8 % of its workforce), while the future of the Alpine sports car marque also remains in doubt. Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which is set to resume production in early June, will remain the Japanese company’s European production base, despite previous warnings that Brexit could put its future in jeopardy. The factory has the capacity to produce 500.000 vehicles a year, but only built 350.000 in 2019. As well as the plant’s spare capacity, transferring production of the Kadjar and Captur from Spain to the UK would represent an even greater show of faith in post-Brexit Britain from Nissan, with the company recently having invested £400 million in the plant. The Kadjar and Captur sit on the same model platforms as the Nissan Qashqai and Juke, both of which are already built at Sunderland, so the move would make sense from a manufacturing perspective. But while the future of Sunderland (with or without Captur and Kadjar production) remains safe, the same is not true of other Nissan facilities. The firm’s Barcelona van plant faces potential closure be closed, with Navara pick-up production moving to South Africa and the e-NV200 van replacement possibly being built at the Renault plant in Maubeuge, France. +++ 

+++ SELF-DRIVING CARS , long touted by developers as a way to eliminate road deaths, could likely only prevent a third of all U.S. road crashes, according to a study. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a research group financed by U.S. insurers, found the remaining crashes were caused by mistakes that self-driving systems are not equipped to handle any better than human drivers. Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, a consortium of self-driving companies and researchers, said in a statement the study wrongly assumed that automated cars could only prevent crashes caused by perception errors and incapacitation. Some 72% of crashes were avoidable, based on the study’s calculations, if accidents caused by speeding and violation of traffic laws were included, the consortium said. Traffic experts say roughly nine in 10 crashes result from human error and more than 36.000 people are estimated to have died in U.S. car crashes last year. Self-driving vehicle developers, including traditional automakers and technology companies, have repeatedly positioned fully automated driving as a tool to drastically reduce road deaths. But not all human mistakes can be eliminated by camera, radar and other sensor-based technology, according to the IIHS analysis of more than 5.000 representative police-reported crashes nationwide. One-third of all crashes were the exclusive result of sensing and perception errors, or driver incapacitation, the study found. Most crashes were due to more complex errors, such as making wrong assumptions about other road users’ actions, driving too fast or too slow for road conditions, or making incorrect evasive maneuvers. Many crashes resulted from multiple mistakes. “Our goal was to show that if you don’t deal with those issues, self-driving cars won’t deliver massive safety benefits”, said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president for research and a coauthor of the study. +++ 

+++ Nissan’s car manufacturing plant in SUNDERLAND , northern England, which employs 7.000, is “unsustainable” if Britain leaves the European Union without a trade deal, the company said. Ashwani Gupta, the Japanese company’s global chief operating head, told its commitment to the car plant, the United Kingdom’s largest, could not be maintained if there was no tariff-free access to the bloc. The EU is the biggest market for the factory, which made just under 350.000 vehicles last year and builds the Qashqai, Juke and Leaf models. “You know we are the number-1 carmaker in the UK and we want to continue. We are committed. Having said that, if we are not getting the current tariffs, it’s not our intention but the business will not be sustainable. That’s what everybody has to understand”, Gupta told. The United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31 but the main terms of its membership remain in place during a transition period until the end of this year, allowing it time to negotiate a new free trade deal with the bloc. However, the talks are at an impasse. “We will continue to work hard to reach an agreement, for as long as there is a constructive process ongoing”, said a spokesman for prime minister Boris Johnson when asked about Gupta’s comments. “Our aim is zero tariffs and zero quotas. That is at least as much in the EU’s interest as ours and the EU has come close to reaching this aim in their other FTAs”. Last week, Nissan said it would close its plant in Barcelona from December as part of global cost cuts. The facility, its main car factory in Spain, employs 3.000. Gupta also told that any plans for its strategic partner and 43 % shareholder Renault to take up spare capacity at the Sunderland plant would be a matter for the French carmaker. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA ‘s new car sales in China surged in May, the manufacturer said, underscoring its business in the country is recovering with concern over the new coronavirus outbreak easing. Sales in the country for Toyota, Japan’s largest automaker, rose 20.1 % from a year earlier to 166.300 units last month, after edging up 0.2 % in April. They fell 15.9 % in March when the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus was stifling the Chinese economy. In May, Honda saw new car sales drop 1.7 % to 134,230 units in China. The pace of decrease was much slower than the 10 % decline in April and the 50.8 % plunge seen in March. Sales for Mazda meanwhile soared 31.6 % to 22.886 units in May, highlighting that the car market has become robust in China with business activity returning to normal. The virus epidemic began in China around January 24, the start of the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday, forcing Japanese manufacturers to suspend operations of their factories and showrooms for an extended period. In February, sales for Toyota and Honda plummeted 70.2 % and 85.1 %, respectively. As the increase in infections peaked in late February, Japanese carmakers have resumed production at their factories elsewhere in China, including Wuhan, a business and transportation hub with a population of some 11 million. On April 8, a lockdown on the capital city of Hubei Province was lifted; 76 days after it was imposed. The new virus, which causes respiratory disease Covid-19, has infected over 83.000 people in mainland China and killed more than 4.600, the nation’s health authorities said. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has completed an internal report into how it came to publish a racist advert, the German carmaker said, adding that its findings will be released once its management board has reviewed the matter. In the clip, a black man is depicted next to a new Golf, being pushed around by an oversized white hand, which then flicks him into a building adorned with the sign “Petit Colon”. Petit Colon is a real cafe in Buenos Aires, Argentina, located near the Teatro Colon. In French the term translates into “small settler”, which has colonial undertones. Criticism of the advert went viral last month and the company apologised and pulled the clip, prompting VW’s labour leaders to accuse Volkswagen’s management of damaging the company. “The clip is disgusting and inexcusable”, Volkswagen works council member Bernd Osterloh said at the time. Volkswagen itself admitted that the advert was racist and insulting. It said that agencies usually produce its advertising campaigns and it was investigating where the mistake happened and would make its findings public. Volkswagen said that it had added 2 members to the executive committee of its supervisory board. The new members are Hans Michel Piëch, who is indirectly the largest individual shareholder in the car maker, and Bertina Murkovic, chair of the works council at Volkswagen’s commercial vehicles business. The appointments expand the executive committee to 8. The body is responsible for appointing top management. Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess will promote Porsche CEO Oliver Blume to become head of the VW brand as part of a broader reshuffle of topmanagement. Blume will be moved to the VW brand to help the company get a grip on production issues with the ID.3 electric car and the Golf VIII. Bernhard Maier, currently head of Skoda, will become head of Porsche. Herbert Diess is currently head of the multi-brand VW Group as well as head of the Volkswagen brand. +++

+++ VOLVO said it sold 40 % more cars in May than in April, as restrictions to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic started to ease in several markets. While still down 25.5 % in May from a year earlier, the Swedish car maker sold 44.380 cars in the month compared to the 31.760 sold in April, helped by improving showroom traffic trends in Europe, a quicker than expected recovery in the United States and strong growth in China. Volvo said China sales grew 21.8 % in May, while U.S sales inched down 2.5 % year-on-year but bounced back strongly from April as states started to ease restrictions in place due to the pandemic. Its sales in Europe fell around 50 % in the month, still heavily impacted by restrictions in many countries, but Volvo said the region had shown signs of recovery compared with the previous month. +++

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