Newsflash: Lotus zet vol in op elektrische sportwagens

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+++ The 6.5-liter naturally-aspirated V12 of the upcoming ASTON MARTIN Valkyrie is one hell of an engine and has quite an interesting history behind it. Now, the idea of having a naturally-aspirated V12 with 1.000 hp in a world governed by strict emissions regulations may seem impossible, but the experts at Cosworth have been able to make it happen. Development of the Valkyrie’s V12 first started with a compact inline-3 cylinder. This engine can be traced back to both the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo and the Jaguar C-X75. You see, Cosworth designed the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder of the C-X75, and when it was tasked with developing the engine for Nissan’s GT-R LM Nismo, it took the C-X75’s engine, removed 1 of the cylinders and then doubled it up to get a 3.0-liter straight-6. When Aston Martin came to Cosworth looking for a V12 for the Valkyrie, the engine manufacturer started off with one of these 3-cylinder mule engines before quadrupling it to get the V12. it goes without saying that in a world where hybrid and all-electric performance cars are becoming increasingly common, the Valkyrie’s V12 is a very special thing. The key reason why it is a reality is that by first developing it in 3-cylinder guise, Cosworth was able to verify it would put out the horsepower and torque figures necessary while still being emissions compliant when another 9 cylinders were added. The Aston Martin Formula 1 team’s new Silverstone base will now be operational in August 2022, a year later than planned. The team now known as Racing Point was planning to make the move during next year’s summer break, but the Covid-19 crisis has delayed work on the new facility, which is to be built on a site adjacent to the current building. Rather than attempt the move in the winter, the team has opted to wait a full year for the following August. “The factory is still happening”, team boss Otmar Szafnauer told. “We will build it as we need to, for competitiveness reasons, for the fact that we are going to be Aston Martin, for the fact that this place has been up since 1990, and we’ve outgrown it. “The only thing is that coronavirus has kind of shifted it sideways from a time perspective quite a bit. We weren’t able to do much. So we had a decision to make to shift the date when we were going to occupy the new factory, either by the 3 or 4 months we’ve been delayed since early March, or just delay it by an entire year. August is the right time to move in, because it’s traditionally the summer break. We were going to move in in August of 2021, and we’re just going to shift that by a year and move in August 2022”. Szafnauer says that the team will make good use of the delay. “We’ll probably have an extra 5 or 6 months because of it, and that will be used up in getting more competitive quotes to build it, and making sure that the plans are to a more detailed level. Usually when you’ve got more detailed plans then your cost estimate is more accurate, and then you can make better decisions. “Now with the virus upon us too, I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know whether we’re going to have social distancing forever, or have plexiglass cubes around every employee. “We’ve got to start looking at all that, just in case there’s never a vaccine. And this gives us time to look at those things and design some of those precautions in, just in case. The extra time just helps us do a more detailed job, which should help save costs”. Since the plans were first outlined, the team has added space for Aston Martin’s road car design group, which will move from its current home at Red Bull Technology. “The design team will be located here, and there will be a hub and marketing centre up from too”, said Szafnauer. “You may even be able to come here and look at the F1 team as well as configure your new road car. It will be a nice campus for Aston Martin”. +++

+++ CADILLAC has been keeping a pretty tight lid on the upcoming Celestiq, but new details are starting to emerge about the flagship electric vehicle. While the company still hasn’t released pictures, Cadillac design director Brian Smith dropped some hints about it. Smith said the model was originally conceived with an internal combustion engine. That makes sense as former Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen announced a new halo vehicle that would “stun the world” in 2018. While that vehicle was already under development, Smith said it would have caught the “tail end” of the internal combustion era. This caused the company to rethink the project and eventually decide an electric vehicle was the way go. Smith went on to say the Lyriq’s front end and lighting units echo those used on the Celestiq, but the flagship model was actually created first. That’s important to note as the Lyriq will arrive before the Celestiq. Smith also confirmed the model will have a hatchback-style rear glass treatment which provides a bold and unique looking silhouette. He said the look is “unusual” and “a little bit polarizing”, but also stunning and beautiful. He also said the company is “aiming for the moon” with the Celestiq and promised it will be “unlike anything else” in its segment. Hopefully, that pans out as Smith billed the car as a “high-technology, high-priced, hand-built” flagship. The Celestiq is expected to be launched by 2025 and ride on the company’s new electric vehicle platform. Given its positioning as a flagship vehicle, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Celestiq features a 200 kWh battery pack, 800 volt technology and a 350 kW fast-charging capability. It could also offer a range in excess of 644 km. +++ 

+++ Vehicle sales in May soared 14.5 % year-on-year in CHINA as customer confidence was boosted by the country’s ability to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic, according to the country’s leading automotive industry association. A total of 2.19 million vehicles were sold last month, following sales growth first spotted in April, according to statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Of them, 1.67 million were passenger vehicles; up 7 % from the same month last year. It marked the first rise in the sector almost in a year, evidence that the market is recovering from the pandemic that almost devastated the sector in the past several months and still rages in other parts of the world. Carmakers are revving up production as well. The 2.19 million vehicles made in May represented an increase of 18.2 % from the same month last year. The CAAM said that the 23 carmakers’ 204 plants across the country had resumed operations. Chen Shihua, deputy secretary-general of the association, said the rise in May sales is primarily the result of the pent-up demand in recent months. “Companies are resuming operations and the government is rolling out favorable measures, so customers’ confidence has been further boosted”, Chen said. The government’s stimuli on new car sales and generous discounts at dealerships were also contributing factors. Dozens of cities in the country are encouraging car sales with a stimuli of thousands of yuan on certain models, usually those made in those cities. Statistics from the association show that Japanese and German brands expanded their market share in the month, while companies from France, the United States and China lost ground. FAW-Volkswagen topped the list of carmakers in China in May. It sold 186.777 vehicles under its Volkswagen, Audi and Jetta brands; up 22 % year-on-year. GAC Toyota had its best-ever monthly sales in May, with 68.518 sold; up 32 % year-on-year. The Japanese carmaker’s other joint venture FAW-Toyota delivered over 72.000 vehicles in the same month; up 2 %. Mazda’s joint venture with Changan sold 14.326 units last month, soaring over 50 % year-on-year. Yet the new energy vehicle sector is yet to turn positive. A total of 84.000 units were sold in May; still a 25.8 % fall from the same month in 2019. Sales from January to May were 295.000; a 40 % nosedive year-on-year. BYD sold 11.325 vehicles in May; only half of the figure of the same month last year. But some carmakers are having more success. Tesla was the topselling electric car brand with 11.095 vehicles. The US company began deliveries from its massive new Shanghai factory around the start of the year. Monthly registrations of new Tesla vehicles in China have fluctuated this year amid the virus, from a low of 2.314 in February to a high of 12.710 in March, according to data from China Automotive Information Net. Chinese electric car startup Nio delivered 3.436 vehicles last month, representing a 216 % growth year-on-year. Its total deliveries this year totaled 10.429. After growing rapidly for several years, electric car sales have lost momentum since the government moved to limit subsidies in mid-2019. The pandemic also hurt demand and falling oil prices have made gasoline vehicles more competitive. The government still considers electric cars a priority and has added a slew of fresh stimulus measures to help the industry recover. UBS said the pandemic will produce little long-term impact on the sector. “It may have affected some carmakers’ financing”, said UBS auto analyst Paul Gong. “But long-term goals, like China’s goal of electric cars accounting for 25 % of the country’s total sales by 2025, are immune to the pandemic”. China’s vehicle exports remained at a lower level as well. Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed that merely 49.000 vehicles were sold in May; down 37.4 % year-on-year. From January to May, vehicle exports totaled 323.000; falling 17.5 % year-on-year. Chen said the fall in exports was primarily because of the waning demand overseas because of the pandemic. “The demand is yet to recover in overseas markets, and export-oriented companies are not safe now”, Chen said. He estimated that vehicle exports will drop by 200.000 units this year from about 1 million in 2019, as the coronavirus erodes global demand. The world’s automotive industry has endured a tough test during the coronavirus pandemic, but China has emerged from the sales decline in May, officials said. Wang Xia, chairman of the automotive industry committee of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said the pandemic has brought alarming damage to the auto industry across the globe. Some global automakers had to reduce production, cut wages and jobs, and even withdraw from Chinese market. Statistics show that China produced 7.79 million and sold 7.96 million vehicles in the first 5 months of 2020; down 24.1 % and 22.6 % year-on-year respectively. More than 1.000 dealers applied for bankruptcy and some small car companies might not be able to recover from the outbreak. Despite the heavy losses, China’s car market has started revving up again, Wang said. In May, sales increased 5.9 % compared from April and 14.5 % year-on-year. “The long-lost double-digit growth showed that vehicle purchase demand is steadily releasing and the impact of the pandemic is ending”, Wang said. Last month, vehicle exports declined 36 % and the import of automobile components decreased 24 % compared with same period last year. And among the world’s 4 largest auto markets-China, the United States, Germany and Japan, only China achieved a negative-to-positive reversal. Recovery in the overseas car markets will still take some time, Wang said. The central government released a series of strategic measures for economic revitalization and the local governments have taken measures to boost car consumption, both of which are expected to mitigate the adverse effect of the pandemic. Wang said that the deep impact of the pandemic on the auto industry should be understood. The pandemic affects customers’ requirements of the auto industry. In May, the premium vehicle sales increased more than 20 % year-on-year, while the demand of vehicles under 80,000 yuan ($11,299) remained low. “It shows people’s pursuit of health, safety and quality of life”, Wang said. “It can be argued that the pandemic pressed the conversion key of consumption upgrade and opened a new space of product quality and brand upgrade”. Chinese auto groups faced fiercer competition and sought opportunities to grow. Xu Heyi, chairman of BAIC Group, said Chinese auto brands have comprehensive strength to compete with foreign brands in technology application, product quality and other aspects. The restructuring of the global auto industry has increased significantly and more resources will shift to China in the future. He said that China is in the forefront of the global new energy transformation and equipped with the world’s most mature new energy vehicle industry chain. With unique policy support, consumer groups with good acceptance of technologies and complete internet industry ecology, the country creates the optimal foundation for the development of intelligent network and autonomous driving. Wu Song, deputy general manager of GAC Group, also believes that Chinese auto groups have opportunities to win in the intelligent new energy vehicle sector. Chinese auto companies should promote product quality, strengthen brand building and promote independent innovation, Wu said. +++

+++ More people in China are showing an interest in owning a car as the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control, according to a UBS survey. In a survey of 1.000 people in April by UBS Evidence Lab, 27 % of respondents said the pandemic has made them more willing to buy a car. That is 10 percentage points higher than a survey of 1.000 people UBS did in February, when the pandemic was at its peak in the country. “It’s probably because people are optimistic about the end of the pandemic and economic recovery so they’re willing to buy cars. We’ll see the results of the demand in the coming months”, said Paul Gong, a UBS automotive analyst, in a teleconference earlier this month. He said upcoming sales will see positive growth. China’s vehicle sales rose for the first time in April as 2.07 million vehicles were sold in the month; up 4.4 % year-over-year. Sales went up 14.5 % year-on-year to 2.19 million in May. Some carmakers have released their May sales. Sino-US joint venture SAIC-GM-Wuling sold 120.000 vehicles during the month; up 11 % year-on-year. Changan Ford, another Sino-US partnership, delivered 23.491 units in May; up 130 % from the same month in 2019 and up 31.4 % from April. Nissan sold 130.016 vehicles in China in May; up 6.7 % year-on-year. Chinese electric car startup Nio sold a record high of 3.436 vehicles in May; up 215.5 % year-on-year. “We expect to achieve our delivery goal for the second quarter of 2020, while continuously improving the gross margin and narrowing the operating loss”, said Nio Chief Financial Officer Steven Feng. Gong said UBS expects sales growth in June as well. “So we’ll likely have positive growth in the second quarter and the third quarter will see double-digit growth”, he added. He explained the growth in the third quarter also had to do with a lower base in 2019, which was primarily caused by a lack of available models in the market back then following the adoption of stricter emissions standards. Vehicle sales for 2020 are likely to see a slide in the single digits instead of double digits as many organizations had estimated, Gong said. In terms of China’s new energy vehicle initiative, UBS said the pandemic will have little effect. “It may have affected some carmakers’ financing”, he said. “But long-term goals, like China’s goal of electric cars accounting for 25 % of the country’s total sales by 2025, are immune to the pandemic”. New York-based consulting firm AlixPartners has a similar estimate about 2020’s sales. “In China, which has now experienced a rapid ‘v-shaped’ rebound during April and May of 2020, we expect to end the year with a 9 % decline in sales for 2020”, said Shiv Shivaraman, AlixPartners Local Market Leader for Greater China. But Shivaraman does not expect China’s auto sales to return to the peak seen in 2017 before 2025. The company’s global sales forecast for 2020 is what the firm calls a “mixed-speed recovery”, with China recovering the fastest, to 22.5 million units; followed by the US, at 13.6 million; and Europe, at just 14.1 million. Stephen Dyer, managing director in AlixPartners’ Shanghai office and head of the Greater China Automotive practice, said: “The impact of the Covid-19 crisis globally is as if a market the size of Europe had vanished for the year”. AlixPartners estimated that the global auto industry faces a cumulative volume drop of up to 36 million vehicles between 2020-22 following poor sales in 2019. Added to this is $72 billion in new debt added since early March, due to lockdowns, slow restarts and lingering blows to consumer confidence and employment. “Clearly, automakers, suppliers, mobility players and all others connected to this industry need to be microscopically selective with their capital-allocation decisions; closely and unsentimentally examining each and every program and spend for its cash and profitability implications”, said Dyer. “To weather the storm, companies need to be courageous, yet forward-looking in their decisions, all the while taking full advantage of any favorable governmental policies available to them”, he added. +++ 

+++ FORD sure has plenty of nameplates in the process of being secured, and as of recently, the have added another one to the list: the Everglades. Filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on June 5, it can be used for “motor vehicles, namely, automobiles, pickup trucks, electric vehicles, sport utility vehicles, off-road vehicles and their structural parts”. In other words: they can use the Everglades moniker on pretty much any model they desire and the EV reference sure is interesting. So, is there anything to look forward to when it comes to the Everglades label? Maybe, maybe not, as we’ve learned over the years that automakers tend to secure nameplates and never use them, a practice that’s mostly looking to discourage the competition from coming up with a similar name. Nonetheless, if I was to bet on it, I’d be tempted to stick to the ‘off-road vehicles’ part, and perhaps expand it to include pickups and SUVs, as the Dearborn brand sure has several of them coming in the near future. The all-new Bronco is on the list and so is the Bronco Sport, so the Everglades could perhaps suggest an off-road oriented trim for either of the two. Moreover, the 2021 F-150 will be revealed on June 25 and will get an all-electric variant by mid-2020, so there’s another candidate. +++ 

+++ Email correspondence of Nissan dating back to February 2018 paints a picture of a methodical campaign to remove a the powerful executive Carlos GHOSN . He always said he was set up. Now there’s some evidence to support his claim. According to people familiar with what happened and previously unreported internal correspondence, the campaign by top Nissan executives to dethrone one of the most celebrated leaders in the automotive industry started almost a year before Ghosn’s arrest in late 2018 for alleged financial misconduct. The effort was motivated in part by opposition to the former chairman’s push for greater integration between the Japanese carmaker and long-time alliance partner Renault, the new information reveals. While Nissan has long maintained that the decision to oust Ghosn turned on allegations of underreporting his income and other financial transgressions leveled by Tokyo prosecutors, the documents and recollections of people familiar with what transpired show that a powerful group of insiders viewed his detention and prosecution as an opportunity to revamp the global automaker’s relationship with top shareholder Renault on terms more favorable to Nissan. A chain of email correspondence dating back to February 2018, corroborated by people who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive information, paints a picture of a methodical campaign to remove a powerful executive. The information comes to light as another former Nissan executive and the company itself face a looming trial in Tokyo and as Japan seeks the extradition of Ghosn (66) who fled to Lebanon in a daring escape last year. Alarmed by Ghosn’s pledge in early 2018 to make the alliance between the companies irreversible, senior managers at Nissan discussed their concern at how the chairman of both Nissan and Renault was taking steps toward further convergence, according to people familiar with discussions at the time. At the center of those discussions was Hari Nada, who ran Nissan’s chief executive’s office and later struck a cooperation agreement with prosecutors to testify against Ghosn. Nissan should act to “neutralize his initiatives before it’s too late”, Nada wrote in mid-2018 to Hitoshi Kawaguchi, a senior manager at Nissan responsible for government relations, according to the correspondence. Ghosn has said he’s innocent of the 4 charges of financial misconduct and breach of trust. On Novemner 18, 2018, the day before Ghosn was seized on a private jet at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Nada circulated a memo to then-chief executive officer Hiroto Saikawa, according to people familiar with the document. Nada called for termination of the agreement governing the alliance and the restoration of the company’s right to buy shares in Renault, or even take it over. Nissan also would seek to abolish the French automaker’s right to nominate Nissan’s chief operating officer or other more senior positions, people familiar with the memo said. Ghosn’s removal would be a fundamental change to the world’s biggest car alliance, requiring new governance, Nada is said to have written in the document to Saikawa. Nada said Nissan should be quick to press its position after Ghosn’s arrest. Renault was kept in the dark about the criminal investigation, Bloomberg reported in January 2019. The discord between the Japanese and French partners ultimately thwarted Renault’s 2019 bid for greater scale by combining with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and stymied cooperation over strategy and new models. Nissan’s management was in turmoil and profitability was shrinking, hurt by an aging lineup and high costs. In May, Nissan reported a loss of ¥671 billion ($6.3 billion) for the fiscal year that ended in March, the first loss in a decade and the biggest in 20 years. With the coronavirus pandemic weighing on an already-sputtering business, the stock has erased more than half of its value since the arrest of Ghosn, who also led Renault and the alliance that includes Mitsubishi. Communication from Nada to Saikawa and other senior executives showed deep concern about Ghosn’s plans to further integrate the alliance, which gives the French automaker greater sway over Nissan via a 43 % stake. Renault had saved Nissan from bankruptcy with an emergency cash injection in 1999. That’s when the French automaker dispatched Ghosn to Nissan, who pulled off one of the most dramatic salvage jobs in auto industry history. Yet, after 2 decades, with Ghosn dividing his time between the companies as CEO of Renault and chairman of the alliance, Nissan began to stumble. Nada told Saikawa in April 2018 that Ghosn was becoming increasingly agitated about Nissan’s performance and comments by his handpicked successor, who said he saw “no merit” in a merger between Renault and Nissan. “He can create a major disruption and you may become a victim of it”, Nada wrote to Saikawa. The following month, Nissan issued a profit outlook well below analysts’ estimates. Ghosn was charged in Japan with underreporting about $80 million in income and funneling money from Nissan without the automaker’s knowledge into entities that he controlled. Calling the Japanese legal system a sham, Ghosn escaped late last year by sneaking aboard a private jet inside an audio-equipment box, making his way to Lebanon via Turkey. 2 Americans who allegedly helped smuggle Ghosn out of Kansai International Airport, ex-Green Beret Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, were arrested outside Boston last month at the request of Japanese authorities. Japan’s government is taking steps to request their extradition, while the two have denied that any crimes were committed. Former Nissan executive and board member Greg Kelly was arrested the same day as Ghosn and remains free on bail in Japan. He’s awaiting trial on charges that he helped the former chairman underreport his income. Prosecutors also charged Nissan in the first round of indictments. Nissan’s position since the arrests has remained steadfast, with the company saying “the cause of this chain of events is the misconduct led by Ghosn and Kelly”, for which it found “substantial and convincing evidence” after investigating a whistleblower’s report. Both Ghosn and Kelly repeatedly denied those allegations. Nada, a Malaysia-born lawyer who oversaw many of Ghosn’s affairs at Nissan and joined the automaker in the 1990s, led the internal probe and was implicated in some of the alleged conduct being investigated by the Tokyo prosecutor. At the same time, emails show how Nada worked to gather information, traveling to Brazil and Lebanon to investigate Ghosn’s use of company-provided homes. Days before Ghosn’s arrest, Nada sought to broaden the allegations against Ghosn, telling Saikawa that Nissan should push for more serious breach-of-trust charges, according to correspondence at the time and people familiar with the discussions. There was concern that the initial allegations of underreporting compensation would be harder to explain to the public, the people said. The effort should be “supported by media campaign for insurance of destroying Carlos Ghosn reputation hard enough”, Nada wrote. When asked to comment for this story, Saikawa referred to his prior public statements rejecting the existence of a plot to oust Ghosn. “There was no effort to remove Renault’s influence” by removing Ghosn, Saikawa told reporters in January after the former chairman accused Nissan executives of conspiring against him during a news conference in Beirut. “There’s a huge difference between that and his crimes”, Saikawa said then. Saikawa stepped down as CEO in September after a Nissan investigation found he had been paid excess compensation. Nada, as well as other executives, also were overpaid, an internal probe found last year, people with knowledge of the matter have said. As the date neared for the planned arrests of Ghosn and Kelly, preparations were made to assess how Renault’s board would react and how to respond if the French company were to assert its position. Nissan should make it clear to Renault that the French automaker had no right to involve itself in the operations of its alliance partner, and that Nissan wasn’t obliged to offer positions within the company to candidates selected by Renault, Nada said, according to people familiar with the memo. The contract binding the partnership, called RAMA, as well as a Netherlands-based entity called Renault-Nissan BV that was created to oversee its governance, should both be abolished as a result of Ghosn’s arrest, Nada asserted. That would give Nissan the right to acquire Renault shares in order to disenfranchise Renault or take it over, he is said to have written in the memo. The RAMA has long been a source of friction between Nissan and Renault. The French automaker can exercise full voting rights with its Nissan shareholding, while the Japanese carmaker holds only a 15 % stake in Renault and lacks the ability to vote its shares. The agreement also limited Renault’s power over Nissan, cementing Ghosn’s role in keeping the partnership together. Moreover, the French state owns 15 % of Renault with double voting rights, giving it indirect sway over the company. The correspondence also for the first time gives more detail into how Nissan may have orchestrated Kelly’s arrest by bringing him to Japan from the U.S. for a board meeting. “Greg wants to spend thanksgiving before coming to Japan”, Nada wrote to Saikawa. Nada told Kelly that his attendance was urgent and that he would be able to return soon. “If he does not come, he will never come back. I am scheduling a jet to pick him up”, Nada wrote. Kelly’s lawyer, James Wareham, said the case against him was never about criminal activity. “Greg Kelly has been caught up an effort to remove Ghosn and get Renault out of a controlling position”, Wareham said. “To consummate the scheme, they wanted a witness to be in their control under duress, and then they went so far as to break international extradition law to make that happen”. Months after the arrests, Nissan was able to secure changes to its partnership with Renault, but the new agreement (forged in March 2019) didn’t alter the alliance as much as Nada had proposed. While Nissan won more say over executive appointments and eliminated Ghosn’s former post of alliance chairman, the shareholding structure remained intact. But the damage was done; the relationship was left in tatters. Later that year, Nissan withheld its endorsement for Renault’s pursuit of a 50-50 merger with Fiat Chrysler, scuttling their bid to create an automaker potentially worth €35 billion. While there’s been a ceasefire of sorts since then, the lopsided shareholding structure remains unresolved. The companies announced measures aimed at closer operational integration last month, as they seek to weather the pandemic. After Saikawa left last September, a new triumvirate was put in place to run Nissan, only to see one member, co-COO Jun Seki, resign soon after he lost out on the top job. CEO Makoto Uchida and COO Ashwani Gupta are now left to face the monumental task of turning around the maker of the Qashqai and Leaf, even as the global economy sputters. A year and a half after Ghosn’s downfall, many of the key players remain in limbo. Nada is still at Nissan, but was reassigned to a smaller portfolio. Saikawa left the automaker’s board in February and no longer has any formal ties to the company. Kelly, who lives in an apartment in Tokyo, is still waiting for his trial to start. Then there’s Ghosn himself. The former CEO and chairman, who is living in Beirut at a house bought by Nissan, has vowed to restore his reputation and prove his innocence. Japan says it will keep seeking to bring Ghosn to justice, but it doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Lebanon and he is unlikely to ever face a Japanese courtroom. +++ 

+++ Senior representatives from HOLDEN have concluded 2 days of dispute resolution talks with dealer representatives in Australia regarding the compensation dealerships will be given following GM’s decision to kill the Holden brand. In a brief statement issued on the matter, it was confirmed that 3 senior Holden representatives attended the talks, facilitated by former Federal Court Judge Peter Jacobson. Holden says the discussions were constructive, but confirmed no agreement has been reached with dealerships. “Holden considered all matters raised during the discussions and remains of the view that its offer is fair and reasonable”, the automaker said. The compensation package being offered by the car manufacturer includes an offer of $1.500 per vehicle for the next 2.5 years while also including unamortized capital expenditure related to new Holden sales such as showroom upgrades, a “highly-profitable” 5-year parts and service agreement and also takes into account certain special circumstances. Holden says its offer remains open for dealerships to accept until the end of this month. Dealerships across the country have previously lamented the compensation offer from GM. A proposal for a lawsuit on behalf of Holden dealers claims they should be receiving the equivalent of $6,100 for each new car sold over the set period, instead of GM’s $1,500 offer. Holden hit back shortly after this claim, stating new analysis showed some dealerships may be owed as little as $350 per new car sold. Holden added in its most recent statement the dealerships have averaged a loss of $600 per car, implying that this makes its offer of $1,500 per vehicle more than fair. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI is developing a trio of next-generation electric vehicles, each with its own unique style, on the company’s new modular EV-specific platform. 2 of those new electric Hyundai models have already been previewed by concept cars, namely the 45 and the Prophecy. The third EV model will be reportedly shown in concept form next year, further demonstrating the flexibility of Hyundai’s new Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP). The upcoming Hyundai 45 will become the company’s first standalone electric model and will sit above the Kona Electric in the range. The model, which has already been spied testing in Europe, will closely follow the boxy retro lines of the 2019 concept car. The Prophecy takes a very different, more powerful design approach, with the company currently finalizing the styling of the production version. This model will eventually morph into Hyundai’s answer to the Tesla Model 3. Hyundai’s head of design SanYup Lee said: “The new EV architecture gives us a long wheelbase and a flat floor, and we’re experimenting with unique USPs and how we will stretch it for various vehicles. The 45 is more SUV-style and the Prophecy is the future saloon proposal. The third one is more of the space concept: the big one”. Hyundai is keen to avoid the “Russian-doll” effect with the design language of its future cars, aiming instead to offer a more diverse model lineup. “It’s about unexpectedness”, says Lee. “Our design philosophy begins with sensuous sportiness. Hyundai is known for value for money, but this isn’t enough. Sensuous sportiness adds a lot more emotional value to the vehicle. People have different lifestyles and we want to have design tailored to those different lifestyles. Looking at the 45 and Prophecy shows our design spectrum”. To achieve the necessary brand unity across its range, Hyundai will instead focus on the finer design details.
“The typical thing is to have the same grille or headlamp shape”, Lee adds. “This isn’t where we want to create brand consistency. We want to create it in the details, for example light details. When you look at the 45 and Prophecy, they both have pixel lamps, a series of tiny LEDs that can be animated”. +++
 

+++ KIA ’s business has been less negatively affected than its competitors by the pandemic, according to the firm. In fact, Kia believes it has actually benefited in terms of meeting the EU’s tough new fleet average CO2 emissions targets. “We think we will be less impacted than the industry in general”, Kia’s chief operating officer for Europe, Emilio Herrera, told. “We saw that in the first quarter: the market was down 26 % in Europe, but Kia was down 14.5 %. Consequently, we increased our market share. Usually when there’s a crisis, Kia behaves better than its major competitors”. Herrera cites the Korean brand’s positioning as “a more rational choice” (alongside its relative value and the peace of mind afforded by its 7-year warranty) to explain its relative success in this time of difficulty for most companies. What has still been a steep reduction in sales is beneficial to Kia’s corporate average fleet emissions, which must fall to around 95 g/km (before brand-specific adjustment) by the end of 2020 to avoid fines. Herrera said: “In the initial plan we had, we were supposed to reach the CO2 target by the end of November. Our revised plan includes less units, because of what we lost in March and April. “With the new revised volume we have, we will achieve the CO2 number at the end of August, because the number of ICE vehicles sold has reduced dramatically, but sales of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles haven’t”. Herrera acknowledged that it will be “very difficult” to recover lost sales as a result of lockdowns “without strong government plans to support the automotive industry”. However, he referred to a survey completed in China after restrictions were lifted that points to an increase in the use of private cars, suggesting “people will feel safer in their cars, so usage will increase”. Herrera continued: “Will that necessarily translate into more purchases of new cars? Maybe, but also of used cars. If there’s a good combination of that and government support, we might see a strong recovery”. Another factor benefiting Kia is increased supply of EVs. Waiting times for the e-Niro and e-Soul had been long, but the issue is now less acute. A spokesperson claimed that Kia sold more EVs during February and March than in the entirety of 2019 and intends to deliver all of those by the third quarter of this year. However, Herrera claimed that, in general, the volume of EV batteries supplied to Europe won’t increase this year. “It will improve in the next few years”, he said, “because we’re making the necessary agreements to ensure the supply”. The first EV based on a new, dedicated architecture shared with sister brand Hyundai will be a production version of last year’s Imagine concept. A performance-focused 4-door blending traditional saloon and crossover styling influences, it will arrive in 2021. Kia also expects the number of diesel cars it offers to be “really minimal” by 2025, with the fuel being reserved for the brand’s largest European models for which high torque and towing capability are necessities. “There is a shelf life to diesel engines”, said Herrera. “We see now by introducing the mild-hybrid petrol cars, the benefits of diesel in smaller cars disappears. The Sorento is a big car, it’s often used for towing and you can’t solve the problem with a petrol mild hybrid”. Herrera expects Kia to go 100 % electric in the second half of this decade, but he stressed that the anticipated growth of EV sales will only come where governments are actively involved in promoting them. “We clearly see the markets that have support from government, either by grants or reduced taxation, are the markets where EV demands are high”, he said. “So, there’s that, and we as a manufacturer are pushing because of the CO2 targets. If those 2 things are combined, we can be very successful in eliminating the ICE cars we have”. The new Sorento is set to arrive this autumn. Buyers will have the choice of a 204 hp 2.2-litre diesel, a 230 hp petrol hybrid and, shortly after launch, a 265 hp plug-in hybrid. +++ 

+++ LOTUS is undergoing the biggest shake-up in its 72-year history and it will shift its focus to developing a fleet of fully electric sports cars. Lotus has been under the ownership of Chinese car giant Geely since 2017 and it has already demonstrated its intent with the launch of the electric Evija hypercar. However, that is a car that will cost in excess of 3.6 million in The Netherlands and only 130 examples will ever be built. Now bosses have hinted that a new sports car due to arrive next year could be the firm’s last to use a petrol engine. The company’s CEO, Phil Popham, has suggested that the next generation of Lotus sports cars will skip hybrid technology and follow the path set out by the Evija, by becoming fully electric. Popham told: “One thing we do believe in is the future of battery electric vehicles and our intention is to offer BEV on our products in future. BEV is really well suited to sports cars: the torque characteristics, the weight distribution, design and flexibility of dynamics. For me it all leads to BEV as the ultimate technology for sports cars”. Lotus’s next-generation electric sports car is expected to arrive towards the end of 2022. It’s likely that Lotus will look to move beyond the firm’s current price range in order to increase profits and move the brand into a more desirable area of the market. By Popham’s own admission, “familiarity around Lotus is quite low today” and he added “the money that is going into product development is something we could never, ever afford to do on our own if we hadn’t got the ambitious owner that we have”. Hybrid technology is seen by most car manufacturers as a stepping stone to fully electric powertrains. However, Lotus’s outlook is different to many, because the firm believes the technology doesn’t suit what it’s trying to achieve with its new breed of sports cars. “One of the challenges of a hybrid”, Popham explained, “is you carry a small engine as well as batteries and electric motors, which goes against the philosophy of sports cars, which have a tight package. You want to minimise weight and maximise performance and spread weight in the right places to get the right dynamics. So hybrids do present a challenge”. A fully electric system, according to Popham, allows far greater freedom when it comes to the design and layout of the physical powertrain. “The other thing with EV sports cars”, Popham added, “is distribution of weight. Batteries are flexible, you aren’t trying to build a car around some big componentry such as gearboxes and engines, so that gives you some flexibility”. The new breed of EV sports car will also be underpinned by a new platform which, according to Popham, will allow Lotus to “leverage the asset” so that it can “support multiple cars”.  Ahead of that, Lotus is applying the finishing touches to a new sports car, which is due to be revealed in the middle of next year. Popham described the new model as a “significant engineering programme” that addresses “some of the negatives of our current cars” such as space, storage and on-board connectivity. “All of those will be modern technology”, Popham added, “but it will absolutely drive and handle like a Lotus”. The company has made a “significant” investment at its base in Hethel, Norfolk, including building a new assembly hall where the sports car replacement will be made. Once Lotus has an established its fleet of electric sports cars, the company will look to broaden its product range with the addition of saloons, GT cars and possibly even SUVs. “We’re not focusing on SUVs at the moment”, Popham revealed, “but we are not discounting any segment: crossovers, sporting sedans, GTs. But what we have to do is say what makes it distinctly a Lotus”. Being part of the Geely group gives the firm access to a multitude of platforms, powertrains and technology. However, Popham was clear that any future Lotus had to stay true to the brand’s core values. “How can we illustrate what we are focused on, what we are famous for: aerodynamics, performance, light weight”, he said. “How can it be a Lotus in the segment in which it competes? And not just crafting a car and sticking a badge on it to make money”. It’s also a possibility that future Lotus models could be built in China at one of parent firm Geely’s several facilities, as well as its base in Norfolk. +++ 

+++ The U.S. International Trade Commission has accepted Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ request for an order to block sales of the MAHINDRA Roxor off-road vehicle in the United States. In a notice posted on the agency’s website, the USITC said it upheld, with modifications, a judge’s finding that Mahindra’s off-road vehicle is a copy of the Jeep Wrangler. This means the Indian company will be forced to stop selling the Roxor to the United States, unless the Trump administration vetoes the ban on public policy grounds. The chances for that to happen are rather slim. FCA motivated the lawsuit with the claim that the Roxor is a “nearly identical copy” of the Jeep Wrangler, particularly the “boxy body shape with flat-appearing vertical sides and rear body ending at about the same height as the hood”. Back in November 2019, trade judge Cameron Elliot ruled that the Roxor infringed the trade dress of the Jeep as defined by six specific design elements. However, the ruling also said that Mahindra’s vehicle did not infringe the registered trademarks for the Jeep’s front grille. As a result, the judge recommended that the USITC block import of the Roxor kits and components. Both FCA and Mahindra then asked the commission to review the part of the decision they lost. In January, the Indian company unveiled the 2020 Roxor with “significant styling changes” and said it would make additional changes in cooperation with the ITC if so required. In a filing with the commission, the company argued that its new models aren’t in violation, and that FCA is trying to grab “a practical monopoly over the import and sale of components used in any boxy, open-topped, military-style vehicle”. FCA replied that Mahindra plans to “design right up to the line of infringement”, adding that the question of an U.S. import ban can be decided later. Mahindra builds the components for the Roxor in India and assembles the vehicle at a plant in Michigan. The import ban would hurt India’s largest SUV maker as the U.S. market is the world’s biggest for off-road vehicles, accounting for more than 60 % of global off-road vehicle sales in 2018. +++ 

+++ NISSAN will not extend the contracts of 248 temporary workers at its U.K. car factory, the Japanese automaker said, as the industry struggles with reduced demand amid the coronavirus outbreak. Output at the Sunderland plant in northern England was halted in mid-March and resumed at the start of the week but with only one line, which makes the Juke and Qashqai models, in operation. A second line, which builds the Leaf, will reopen on June 22, the firm said. “Given current business conditions in Europe, we are facing a period of reduced volumes in our Sunderland plant”, the firm said in a statement. “Unfortunately, therefore, we will not be extending the contracts of 248 temporary manufacturing staff at the plant”. +++ 

+++ Even though European carmakers are rolling out more electrified models than ever before, RENAULT Group chairman Jean-Dominique Senard is weary of the competition they’ll face from Chinese EVs soon to be imported in Europe. With countries such as France and Germany adding extra incentives for EV buyers, the markets will soon become flooded with these types of products. You can already look to buy a great number of fully-electric models in Europe, such as Teslas, the Porsche Taycan, Mercedes EQC, Audi e-Tron, the Nissan Leaf and the updated Renault Zoe plus upcoming ones like VW’s ID.3. So what do they need to worry about? For starters MG Motor, owned by Chinese giants SAIC Motor. They’ve already sold 600 of their ZS EVs in Norway, which is where many Chinese brands are converging. Also on their way are the BYD Tang EV600 and the Aiways U5. Meanwhile, Polestar is a joint venture between Volvo and Zhejiang Geely Holding, so that counts too. “We are going to face ferocious competition from within and outside Europe”, said Senard yesterday during a parliamentary hearing. “We have to turn around quickly to be able to counter these new entrants”. As for why everyone is so focused on Norway, it’s because that’s the 4th biggest market for EVs in Europe, having been used by automakers such as Tesla as a commercial testing ground. “There are a lot of Chinese startups making electric vehicles, including one testing SUVs in Corsica to see if they are adapted to the European market and then sell them all over Europe”, added Senard, while referring to Aiways. +++ 

+++ Mahindra plans to give up control of struggling South Korean unit SSANGYONG , the Indian automaker’s managing director said, as it looks to exit loss-making ventures amid the coronavirus pandemic. “SsangYong needs a new investor. We are working with the company to see if we can secure investment”, Pawan Goenka told. Mahindra earlier reported a consolidated net loss of 19.55 billion rupees ($258 million), compared with a net profit a year ago, as it booked a writedown on its investment in SsangYong and other international units. Mahindra, which owns a 75 % stake in SsangYong, rescued the SUV maker from near-insolvency in 2010 but has struggled to revive its fortunes. The company said in April it would not invest further in SsangYong. “If a new investor comes on board, that automatically takes our stake down, or they may even buy our stake”, Mahindra’s deputy managing director, Anish Shah said. As part of a wider restructuring effort by the company to cut costs and prioritise capital expenditure as it rides out the coronavirus pandemic, Mahindra would review all its loss-making businesses over the next 12 months, Shah said. Where there is no clear path to profitability it would look for a partnership or close down those businesses, but in those that can clearly generate equity returns of 18 % or those that are of strategic importance, Mahindra would continue to invest, Shah said. Mahindra, which entered into a joint venture with Ford last year, said the pandemic had delayed the completion of merger formalities between the two companies but they continued to work together under the new alliance. +++ 

+++ Top Wall Street brokerages Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley downgraded their ratings on TESLA , saying the electric carmaker’s shares were overpriced, 2 days after the high-flying stock crossed $1,000 per share. The brokerages, while reiterating that their long-term view on the stock remains positive, noted the current valuation underestimates risks including increased competition in the electric vehicle industry. Top automakers including General Motors and Ford have doubled down on their investments in the space by offering more electric vehicles, aiming to cash in on a sector that is touted as the most promising alternative to conventional cars. “We highlight risks to Sino-U.S. trade, near-term demand, capital needs and tech competition as the key bear vectors we think deserve more attention”, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said in a note. Morgan Stanley cut its rating to “under-weight”, joining 12 other brokerages who recommend selling the stock. Following Goldman Sachs’ downgrade to “neutral”, Tesla now has 12 analysts with a “hold” rating and 9 brokerages recommending “buy” or higher. The bar for the automaker’s fundamentals is higher, Goldman analyst Mark Delaney said, while increasing the price target to $950 from $925. Morgan Stanley cut its price target on Tesla’s stock to $650 from $680, in line with the median price target. +++ 

+++ A couple of days ago, Ford and VOLKSWAGEN announced the signing of an agreement that will see the car manufacturers develop different models for each other. Perhaps most significantly, Ford will build and engineer a new medium-sized pickup that will spawn the next-generation Ranger and the new Amarok. In the press release announcing the partnership, chairman of the board of management of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Thomas Sedran, admitted that had it not been for the partnership with Ford, the Amarok would not have survived to a second generation. “Ultimately it is our customers who will benefit, as without the cooperation we would not have developed a new Amarok”, he said. VW’s press release regarding the partnership with Ford added that the successor to the outgoing Amarok will be made at Ford’s Silverton plant in South Africa from 2022. “What is important for both partners is the utilization of the same platform. At the same time we will both be able to fully deploy our strengths. Through custom designs and interfaces we will clearly differentiate the 2 models”, said Sedran. “For us as Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, our sights with the Amarok successor are on our main markets, above all in the EMEA economic area (Europe, the Middle East and Africa)”. In addition to Ford developing the new Ranger and the VW Amarok, Ford will receive a new van model based on the Volkswagen Caddy. The American car manufacturer will also build its own electric vehicle on Volkswagen’s MEB platform. +++ 

+++ Guangzhou-based electric vehicle startup XPENG MOTORS unveiled its self-built plant in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province. The plant injects momentum into the carmaker’s determination to secure product quality, insiders said. The Zhaoqing plant was completed and put into trial production at the end of last September after a 15-month construction. On May 19, the plant was approved to have a production qualification, signaling that Xpeng has become one of the few startups with production qualification and a self-built plant. With its production qualification approved, Xpeng changed its mind and decided to produce a second model, the P7, at its own plant in Zhaoqing. The model was originally supposed to manufactured by Haima Automobile. In addition to the P7, the following generation of Xpeng vehicles will be produced at the Zhaoqing plant, according to He Xiaopeng, founder of Xpeng Motors. With an overall planned area of 2 square kilometers, the plant is established with 5 workshops, 264 intelligent industrial robots and a flexible production capacity. According to Xpeng, the plant has more than 600 staff members with high qualification and efficiency, 78 % of whom worked at mainstream carmakers and 74 % of whom have more than 5 years’ working experience. As scheduled, the Xpeng P7 has its mass production at its Zhaoqing plant starting in the second quarter of 2020 and vehicles will start delivery at the end of this month. As a benchmark product of Xpeng’s second-generation of intelligent cars, the P7 is regarded as a model that can compete with or even surpass the likes of Tesla, a world-leading electric carmaker, according to Xpeng. The key reason why Tesla can overturn global consumers’ perception of electric vehicles is that it has made unprecedented innovations in intelligent connectivity, an analyst said. It makes Tesla synonymous with intelligent electric vehicles in the minds of consumers and makes traditional carmakers unable to catch up in the short term. However, Tesla faces questions about its manufacturing. It is reported that Tesla’s Model 3 is facing a lawsuit in Canada over the car’s aging paint. In March, Tesla faced public pressure after some of its China-made Model 3 owners complained the autonomous driving hardware of their cars do not conform with the carmaker’s official files. In the automobile manufacturing industry, any weak link limits an automaker’s overall strength, according to He. “Safety, quality, sales and branding are equally important”. Self-production allows automakers not only to have more direct quality control over their products, but also to allocate capacity and resources more effectively, he added. Unlike Xpeng’s smooth running, Byton, another Chinese electric carmaker, is struggling with both mass production and financing. Founded in 2016, the Nanjing-based Byton has promoted its series C round of fundraising for 20 months, but has not been completed yet. In September 2019, Byton announced that a series C financing was on the verge of completion, with an estimated fund of $500 million. Byton M-Byte, the first SUV model of the automaker, was announced to be delivered in mid-2020 last year. The latest response from Byton cited that the launch of M-Byte is still under preparation. Its Nanjing plant has been put into trial production, with more than 200 prototypes of the M-Byte produced to test worldwide, according to Byton. +++

 

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