Newsflash: Mini komt met stekker hybride 5-deurs Hatch

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+++ BMW is preparing a new M4 for 2021, coming in both coupe and cabriolet body styles, where it’ll offer fresh competition for the Mercedes-AMG C 63 and Audi RS 5. Cosmetically, the new M4 will receive the same makeover as the standard 4 Series, with a pair of enormous kidney grilles, sharp LED headlamps and a reshaped front bumper. BMW’s M-division will also fit their usual selection of design tweaks, adding flared wheel arches, wider side skirts and a more aggressive front splitter. There’ll be a deeper diffuser at the rear, too, which houses a new quad-exit exhaust system, and the whole car will sit lower to the ground on larger alloy wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres. Unlike the previous-generation model, the convertible variant will also ditch its folding metal hardtop in favour of a fabric roof, to help keep weight to a minimum. Inside, we expect to find a pair of sports seats, a new sports steering wheel and the same 10.2 inch iDrive infotainment system and 12.3 inch digital instrument binnacle found on the recently revised standard 4 Series (albeit with unique M-branded graphics). Like its chassis sibling, the upcoming 6th generation M3, the new M4 will feature a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-6 petrol engine. However, it won’t be the same S55 engine that was used by the previous-generation model, with BMW electing its all-new S58 unit, which already powers the X3 M and X4 M performance SUVs. European buyers will be offered a choice of 2 engine outputs but, like the rest of BMW’s M-badged line-up. The entry-level model will produce 480 hp and 600 Nm, and it’ll come with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard. The flagship M4 Competition will have an output of 510 hp and identical torque. It’ll be available with an 8-speed automatic gearbox which, somewhat unusually for a performance car, won’t use a dual-clutch mechanism. Instead, BMW has opted for a traditional torque convertor setup. I’m yet to receive specific details on the car’s chassis technology but, during my recent pre-production drive of the new M3 and M4, BMW’s M development manager Dirk Häcker hinted that it will receive a stiffer front axle, new electronically control dampers and a locking rear differential, along with a set of larger disc brakes. From launch, the M4 Competition will be rear-wheel drive only although an all-wheel drive variant is in the works. When pressed about the new drivetrain, Häcker said: “an M xDrive is coming, but only later”. When the all-wheel drive model does arrive, though, it’s architecture should be similar to the selectable system found in the new M5, giving drivers the option of sending up to 100 % of the engine’s power to the rear wheels if desired. Prices for the new M4 are yet to be confirmed, but its 4-door sibling, the M3, is expected to start from around €105.000 in The Netherlands. Given there’s roughly an €10.000 gulf between the standard 3 and 4 Series, that should put the new M4’s starting price at around €115.000. +++ 

+++ When James Dyson cancelled his project for an ELECTRIC CAR , that was quite a disappointment. On top of that, he recently said that EVs are “unrealistically cheap”. In other words, that he could not sell his electric SUV at a profit. But is that true for the whole industry? I asked that to specialists and the first one to answer was Lux Research. According to its senior analyst Christopher Robinson, EVs can be (and some are) lucrative. “I would argue quite a bit has changed with respect to electric vehicles since Sergio Marchionne made his comments about the 500e (being a compliance car). The next-generation Fiat will only be available with an electric powertrain. There are 2 reasons behind this shift: significant reductions in battery prices over the last decade and increasingly stringent environmental regulations around the world”. Price reductions regarding the battery pack are crucial. As Sandy Munro once said, the powertrain represents 51 % of the price of an electric car. But there are more aspects that make EV production become a business more than a commitment to clean transportation, according to Robinson. “Vertical integration and scale are key to profitability. Tesla hasn’t turned an annual profit as a company just yet, but does make the Model 3 profitably. It’s produced at a larger scale on a dedicated electric platform; something few others have yet achieved”. The Lux Research analyst said that another leap in EV profitability is the development of an all-electric vehicle platform. If that is a good strategy, as Robinson says, we can conclude Volkswagen is a step ahead compared to PSA, Mercedes-Benz or BMW, with its MEB platform. “Designing an electric vehicle platform is the cheapest way to make an electric vehicle, but smaller automakers might not have the production capacity to justify adopting an entirely new manufacturing process or designing a new all-electric platform yet”. In that sense, Volkswagen’s strategy of supplying the MEB to smaller players on the carmarket may pay off. I have already said the company wants to turn the MEB into the modern VW Beetle floor pan. That is another similarity between the ID.3 and the Beetle. With that in mind, legacy automakers with the right strategy may efficiently transition to electric mobility in a more natural way than any EV startup may establish itself. Apart from Dyson, the recent case of Byton, the difficulties of NIO and some other stories show Robinson has a good point. Batteries and platforms are the most critical aspects of EV profitability, but not the only ones, as the Lux Research analyst stresses: “A design trend on efficiency is emerging; customers don’t care about kWh, they care about how many kilometres of range a vehicle provides. To make vehicles profitably, automakers are now focused on minimizing the size of the battery pack to meet range targets. Technologies include more efficient silicon carbide-based power electronics, higher efficient motors, and battery management systems that enable a wider state-of-charge window to be used”. As I mentioned previously, the range is directly connected to efficiency. Squishing more miles out of the same battery pack requires less mass, aerodynamic drag and more efficient powertrains. Although electric motors are efficient by nature, they can always benefit from new technology, as Magnax and Infinitum have already shown us. That said, why has Dyson given up if other manufacturers have succeeded in selling EVs profitably? According to some sources familiar with the matter, it was probably because Dyson always charges much more than the competition for its products because of its engineering excellence. When you apply that to vacuum cleaners, people agree to pay €400 instead of €200, but that does not fit cars that well, especially if you do not have a well-established reputation for building them. Alfred P. Sloan has a famous story related to this in his book “My Years With General Motors”. The 3-decades CEO of GM was in a meeting for the presentation of a new project that would cost too much money to produce. He then asked his team what the purpose of the company was. Someone said it was to produce cars. Sloan corrected that person by saying GM existed to make money producing cars. Unlike what Dyson said, that is what many manufacturers, including Tesla, are currently doing. The fact that his company did not find a way to do the same does not imply EVs are “unrealistically cheap”. Actually, I hope they get even more affordable and still turn a profit for the companies that produce them. That’s the best way to push EV adoption and wave oil goodbye in transportation. +++ 

+++ Jia Yueting, founder of FARADAY FUTURE (FF) and LeEco, said in a public letter that his individual bankruptcy reorganization procedure in the United States completed on June 25 after nearly 1 year since it began. Jia said the creditor trust has been officially established and is currently operating. He no longer owns any FF equity, adding his personal transformation from a pure entrepreneur to a wage earner with entrepreneurship has also finished. Jia said he has held on to less than 10 % of the creditor trust assets mainly to compensate possible loss of LETV’s share holders, which will be initiated after legal procedures. +++ 

+++ The coronavirus lockdown persuaded retired speech therapist Anne-Marie Arnaud a better future could be had, one with emptier skies, fresher air and quieter streets rid of diesel-belching cars. And so the pensioner from Lyon switched her vote in the municipal election, among the first worldwide to be held after countries began emerging from lockdown, in favor of the Green Party. The results, which saw the Greens take control of or become an alliance partner in no fewer than 11 city halls in FRANCE , may point to a broader shift in voting patterns as governments, companies, and citizens adjust to the Covid-19 era. “I realized how clean the air was, how nice it was to walk in a city, and be awoken by birdsong rather than car horns”, Arnaud (64) said. “I told myself there was good in this crisis and that we had to rethink our city in a different way”. Certainly, support for the party officially known as European Ecology – The Greens (EELV) was already growing. With no lawmakers in France’s parliament and only 4 staff in its Paris headquarters, the Green Party performed better than expected in last year’s European Parliament elections, polling third with 13.5 % of the vote. Over the past couple of years, they have made strides elsewhere in Europe too. In Germany, the Greens are the second most popular political party, though have sunk into the background during the pandemic, while they are junior partners in Ireland’s new coalition government, as well as in Austria. But the pandemic is forcing a rethink of how we live our lives: from the future of global supply chains to how we work in offices, from how we plan our cities to the food we eat. “That played a part”, Julien Bayou, leader of the Greens in France, told of his party’s success in the elections. In Lyon, Green candidate Gregory Doucet won 52.4 % of the votes, wrestling control from Gerard Collomb, the veteran socialist mayor of France’s third biggest city who was representing president Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party. He did so on a campaign platform to create a 450 kilometer-long network of cycle highways, widen pavements for pedestrians, source 50 % of school food locally and build more social housing. From Bordeaux in the southwest to Strasbourg in the east, the green wave engulfed cities large and small across France. In Paris, too, they joined forces with the socialist incumbent re-elected on a promise to cut pollution. In Lyon, Doucet’s campaign chief Ninon Guinel said the coronavirus crisis had exposed the fragility of Western economies and the need to unwind the excesses of globalization. “People realized the system was at breaking point”, she said. +++ 

+++ GM Korea, the South Korean unit of GENERAL MOTORS , said it will invest 800 billion won ($667 million) as planned in the coming years, despite the new coronavirus outbreak. GM Korea president and CEO Kaher Kazem reaffirmed the company’s commitment during his visit to the company’s plant in the southern industrial city of Changwon. The Detroit carmaker has 3 Korean plants (2 in Bupyeong and 1 in Changwon) whose combined output capacity reaches 630.000 units a year. “The company plans to invest about 800 billion won in the paint shop and other facilities of the Changwon plant for 4 to 5 years (starting in 2019) to produce a new crossover there beginning in 2023”, a company spokesman said. GM Korea announced the investment plans in 2018. In May 2018, GM and the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB) signed a binding agreement that will permit a combined 7.7 trillion-won lifeline (6.9 trillion won from GM and 810 billion won from KDB) to keep the Korean unit stay afloat. GM owns a 77 % stake in GM Korea. Under the deal, GM is banned from selling any of its stake in GM Korea before 2023 and is required to keep its holding in the unit above 35 % until 2028. Kazem also shared the company’s current financial status and challenges ahead with employees in the Changwon plant in what appears to be efforts to seek support from the union ahead of negotiations for this year’s wage and collective agreement deal that begins soon. From January to June, GM Korea’s sales fell 28 % to 166.038 vehicles from 231.172 units in the year-ago period. To revive sales, the company plans to introduce 15 new vehicles in the local market for the 5 years through 2023. GM Korea’s Chevrolet lineup is composed of the Spark minicar, the Malibu sedan; the Trax, Trailblazer, Equinox and Traverse SUVs; the Colorado pickup; the Camaro sports car; and the Bolt all-electric vehicle. The Bolt EV, Equinox, Camaro, Colorado and Traverse are imported from the United States, while the Damas and Labo commercial vehicles, the Malibu, Trax, Trailblazer and Spark are made locally. +++ 

+++ Bankrupt HERTZ and its bondholders are squaring off over how to shrink its nearly half-a-million vehicle fleet. Market watchers say the outcome could upend the multi-billion dollar lease-backed ABS industry. The cars are housed in an entity linked to Hertz’s Asset-Backed Securities (ABS) and leased to the rental giant. Normally, when a company with ABS files for bankruptcy, it must choose to confirm or reject the entire master lease tied to the debt. If it keeps the lease, it has to continue making payments on the vehicles as it offloads them piecemeal. If it walks away, all of the collateral is liquidated to pay back bondholders. Hertz wants a judge to allow it to convert the master lease into 494.000 separate agreements so it can reject the terms on 144.000 vehicles. That would allow Hertz to save roughly $80 million a month while it hangs onto the remainder of the cars as it seeks to emerge from bankruptcy a viable company. If the motion fails, Hertz may press for a reduction in payments to creditors, according to people familiar with the matter. The standoff raises the stakes in what is already 2020’s largest corporate bankruptcy. Hertz is seeking to avoid liquidation and strengthen its balance sheet via the restructuring, while bondholders with billions of dollars at risk who’d grown confident of their chances of being paid back are now threatened with losses. Moreover, industry insiders worry that if Hertz is successful in court, it would re-define the rules that have long governed the ABS market. “It’s going to be a real showdown”, said Philip Brendel, analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “Hertz is taking an aggressive posture, but if it rejects the master lease, it doesn’t have a fleet and this bankruptcy looks more like a liquidation”. Hertz almost certainly doesn’t want that to happen. Yet neither do its ABS creditors. For them, the best bet for maximizing the recovery on roughly $11 billion of bonds would be to have Hertz make lease payments on all the vehicles while it sells them gradually, using its industry connections to command top dollar. With that kind of leverage, Hertz may try to extend a 60-day postponement on its lease payments due to expire later this month. The company may also press bondholders to accept less going forward, said 3 of the people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private negotiations. Still, bondholders may not be willing to give in so easily. A resurgent used-car market has strengthened their hand in recent months, making the threat of Hertz rejecting the master lease in its entirety less ominous. Used-vehicle prices in the first 15 days of June were up 6.6 % over May and 4.4 % above the same period in 2019, according to Manheim, the nation’s largest used-car auction. Both sides are now waiting to see what happens with Hertz’s court motion. A decision could come as soon as July 6. So are ABS industry experts, who say that if Hertz is allowed to reject some leases but not others, it could undermine the $25 billion market for rental-car related ABS, as well those for farm-equipment and construction-machinery financing, by making the bonds riskier. That could raise funding costs for borrowers and ultimately consumers, representatives for the Structured Finance Association argued in a proposed brief filed last week. “Granting Hertz’s motion would disrupt access to the capital markets for entire industries that depend on favorable financing terms provided via ABS structures, and thus the national economy”, the group wrote. When credit graders and investors assess the risks of an ABS, they typically do so under the assumption that leases tied to all of the cars backing their bonds would be accepted or rejected during a bankruptcy. If Hertz is allowed to selectively reject leases, it effectively leaves bondholders with a different pool of collateral than they were expecting when they bought the securities. That could hamper their ability to be made whole by selling the cars backing the bonds, the thinking goes. “They have manufactured an assault on the securitization structure from which they raised tens of billions of dollars effectively secured by the master lease, in an effort to shift to the ABS lenders the hundreds of millions of dollars, or more, of economic cost from the depreciation on the vehicles”, lawyers representing ABS participants said in court papers. Hertz has dismissed the arguments about upending the structured-finance market as speculative and irrelevant, as have first and second-lien creditor groups. Thanks to the recovery in used-vehicle prices, many Hertz ABS investors have grown more confident they’ll get a full recovery on their bonds. Slices of ABS have rallied since the company filed for bankruptcy in May, with the portions of the securities that are first in line for repayment now trading near par. Junk-rated C slices of many Hertz deals, which are further back in line for repayment, have rallied 10 points or more since May to trade around 90 cents on the dollar. “This is gamesmanship”, Bloomberg Intelligence’s Brendel said. “It will be a constant negotiation. If the judge rules against Hertz, the company will say, ‘you took away my sword, now I’ll take out my club’ ”. +++ 

+++ South Korea opened the world’s first HYDROGEN mobility show as it pushes to become a leader in hydrogen vehicles and other related industries. More than 100 companies and research institutions of 11 countries participated in the H2 Mobility+Energy Show at an exhibition center in Ilsan, just north of Seoul, to discuss ways to spread hydrogen energy and seek hydrogen-related business opportunities, according to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association, which hosted the hydrogen show. In the opening ceremony, prime minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government will provide subsidies to consumers to boost hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles and hydrogen-related businesses. No details were given. South Korea has been pushing to reduce its reliance on conventional energy sources such as fossil fuels and move toward sustainable resources like hydrogen, sunlight and wind. The government aims to produce hydrogen energy by utilizing more than 30 % of the extra electricity generated based on renewable energy sources from 2040, the prime minister said. A hydrogen fuel cell electric car only releases water vapor as it converts stored hydrogen into electricity to turn the motor. Hydrogen can be produced by processing liquefied natural gas or as a by-product of industrial facilities, including petrochemical plants. South Korea aims to more than double its share of the world’s all-electric and hydrogen-powered vehicle market to 10 % by 2030. To help spread zero-emission and autonomous cars across the country, the government plans to inject 2.2 trillion won ($1.9 billion) by 2030, with a plan to have the private sector separately invest 60 trillion won in future vehicles, related technologies and facilities. The Hyundai Motor Group will take up 41 trillion won, or 68 % of the 60 trillion won, under the government-led future mobility plan, the trade ministry said. In 2018, it announced that it will invest 7.6 trillion won in hydrogen car-producing facilities and related R&D activities by 2030. Under the plan, the Hyundai Motor Group plans to churn out 500.000 hydrogen vehicles in 2030. In the show, Hyundai displayed the Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell EV and the hydrogen-powered truck concept Neptune, which was unveiled at the 2019 North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta in November. Hyundai Motor Group executive vice chairman Chung Euisun said the company is planning to launch the next version of the Nexo in 3 to 4 years. He attended the government-led 1st hydrogen economy committee meeting held on the sidelines of the exhibition. Hyundai said it aims to develop a fuel-cell system for large EV trucks and launch the models in the markets within the next 3 to 4 years. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI MOBIS said it has injected 25 billion won ($20 million) in Silicon Valley tech funds ACVC Partners and Motus Ventures, as part of its move to secure future mobility technology and next-generation business opportunities. ACVC Partners and Motus Ventures have been actively discovering and supporting startups which focus on developing future mobility core technologies, including next-generation sensors, biometrics and robotics. Hyundai Motor Group’s auto parts making unit said through the investment in such venture capitalists that discover and fund promising startups, it will create an ecosystem which can collaborate with startups from the nascent stage, while seeking large-scale investment in shares if their technologies become advanced. Since 2018, Hyundai Mobis has been actively making direct investments in local and overseas companies that develop future mobility technologies. In 2018, it invested in a Korean startup StradVision which possesses deep learning-based camera image detection technology. Last year, it clinched a 60 billion won investment deal with Velodyne Lidar to mass-produce Level 3 autonomous driving Lidar systems. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI GLOVIS , the logistic unit of the Hyundai Motor Group, said that it has clinched an exclusive 5-year contract with Volkswagen Konzernlogistik, which deals in the logistics of European carmaker Volkswagen Group, for transporting their cars from Europe to China. Volkswagen Konzernlogistik is based in Wolfsburg, Germany and controls logistics, production and sales of vehicles from Volkswagen Group’s 12 finished car brands such as Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and Bentley. This is the largest deal in scale clinched since the Korean company entered the vehicle transportation business in 2008. According to Hyundai Glovis, it will transport Volkswagen cars produced in Europe 10 times a month from Germany’s Bremerhaven Port and UK’s Southampton Port to China’s major ports of Shanghai, Xingang and Huangpu. The specific number of vehicles that will be transported will not be disclosed under the contract term, the company said. Last year, Hyundai Glovis recorded 2.5 trillion won ($2.08 billion) in sales for transporting finished cars on the sea. “Despite hardships in the maritime shipping market due to the latest Covid-19 outbreak, we will continue to make active approach to global firms to step up as a world’s top logistics company that leads the car carrier market”, said a Hyundai Glovis official. +++ 

+++ The INEOS GRENADIER is an all-new car from an all-new company, but one with a distinctly familiar look. Just 3 years ago, in 2017, Ineos chairman and car fan Sir Jim Radcliffe decided to do something other car makers seemed to be shying away from: produce a vehicle with off-road ability at its heart, a utilitarian car where form followed function. This is the result, the first model from Ineos Automotive and a car that takes its name from the pub where the idea was first formed. At the helm of the new company is Dirk Heilmann, an Ineos employee for 20 years but, like head of design Toby Ecuyer, with no previous experience of the car industry, other than being a self-confessed petrolhead. So is that a problem or benefit for someone who’s CEO of a new car company? “A bit of both, really”, Heilmann told me. “We’ve got a very talented bunch of automotive designers and engineers we’re working very closely with, which is massively beneficial and helpful. But equally, I think, being from a different industry and thinking about things in a slightly different way, I think that’s also helped a lot as well”. Similarly, head of design Toby Ecuyer started his career as an architect, and more recently has been designing super yachts. “If you can design one thing, you can design another”, he said. “So, if you can design a toaster well, I think you can design a car really well, too. I think it’s more to do with your designing principles than anything else. But I think it does have benefits”. Ex-Bentley and Jaguar Land Rover man Mark Tennant is commercial director and revealed the guiding principles behind the project: leading with off-road mobility, durability and reliability, and design; it’s got to look cool. Ineos has chosen its partners well to help achieve that. Magna (with decades of experience of automotive design and engineering, as well as building the G-Class for Mercedes and the I-Pace for Jaguar) is working on the engineering. BMW will be supplying 6-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, and ZF will be supplying the transmission systems. The bulk of the assembly will take place in a new factory in Bridgend, South Wales, so the Grenadier will be British-built, although Heilmann says it’s “international”. It’s some way off (the first cars will be with customers in 2022) but Heilmann says that revealing the vehicle now means the company can get on with 1.2 million miles of testing the car in plain sight. The look the Ineos team settled on is very traditional, very similar to an old Land Rover Defender in shape and some of the detailing, but also with more than a hint of Mercedes G-Class about it; unsurprising given Magna’s involvement, perhaps. “We were looking at all sorts of different vehicles”, Ecuyer explained. “From Unimogs to military vehicles to aircraft to lorries and vans. To the Willys jeep, obviously, and Land Rover, the Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol, Bronco, literally everything. They are all very uncomplicated and very honest. We thought that was a good place to try to aim for”. Getting the maximum out of the platform (which uses a traditional, if not especially high-tech, ladder-frame chassis and beam axles) was important, as was making the most of interior space. Which is why Ineos settled on a familiar, upright shape. Simplicity of use and maintenance were also key, with features such as the ‘utility belt’ running around the middle of the car allowing owners to attach accessories, and tethering eyes lower down the doors. And while Ineos will offer a raft of accessories, it will encourage owners to use existing kit and allow other companies to develop their own accessories. “It’s a universal system”, Tennant told me. “We want to be really open-source about it”. Even the flat bonnet surfaces have been designed to be practical. “This is a really useful surface to sit on, put your tea on, laptop on: it’s very much a workbench in lots of ways”, said Ecuyer. There’s also a cubby box hidden behind a rear panel, external wiring points and vertically split rear doors that open wide to reveal a space that will take a Euro pallet. Overall, Ecuyer says the Grenadier is “roughly the same size as a G-Wagen. I think it’s the same height and length”. What we won’t see for a while is the interior, but Tennant promises that it’ll be bang up to date. “We’ve got to have a level of comfort that a 21st-century consumer is going to expect”, he says. “You’ve got to have room for your elbows in the vehicle. And you’ve got to have the levels of connectivity, the screens, all the things that people have the right to expect now”. Tennant also promised innovation in how Ineos will sell the car. “We’ll be as direct as possible”, he says, “We won’t be entirely online: we want to give people the chance to kick tyres and take a test drive”. On pricing, I understand that at today’s prices the Grenadier would start close to €70.000 in The Netherlands. This is only the starting point for Ineos, though. A double-cab pick-up version has been confirmed, while Dirk Heilmann has also promised that “we will have some electrification”. Instead of a full EV, that’s more likely to be a hydrogen fuel-cell set-up, which Heilmann says is well suited to the ladder-frame chassis. Work has already started on the second-generation Grenadier, he hinted. +++ 

+++ In JAPAN , the domestic production of 8 major automakers in May plunged a record 61.8 % from a year earlier to 287.502 vehicles due to factory closures and falling demand amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, data released by the companies showed. The decline, which followed a 46.7 % drop in April, was the sharpest since comparable data became available in 1967. The outcome was worse than the previous record fall of 60.1 % in April 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan triggered extensive supply chain disruptions. Domestic output is expected to see a milder decline in the coming months. Japanese automakers gradually restarted production in June, though volumes are unlikely to return to levels prior to the pandemic anytime soon, as infections continue to grow in some major markets. Mazda said its domestic production in May dived 83.6 % following an 86.5 % plunge in April. Nissan, Japan’s third-largest carmaker by volume, reported its biggest monthly decline of 78.7 % in May. Subaru also saw a record monthly fall in domestic output of 77.8 % in the reporting month. Toyota, Japan’s leading automaker, said its domestic output dived 57.0 % to 122.744 vehicles in the month. The combined overseas production of the 8 major automakers plummeted 61.7 % to 629.256 vehicles in May, slightly improving from a 67.9 % fall in April thanks to recovering demand in China. Subaru, which has just 1 overseas plant in the United States, saw an 87.7 % drop, while Suzuki said its overseas production plunged 92.7 % due largely to slowing demand in India, its biggest market, despite the partial resumption of output in the country. In China, Mazda’s output grew 58.1 %, while Toyota and Nissan posted increases of 13.5 % and 2.1 % respectively from a year earlier, as the coronavirus outbreak in the country has slowed, the companies said. The 8 automakers’ exports in May dropped 67.3 % to 110.996 vehicles from the same month last year due to falling production and weak demand in overseas markets. As for Toyota, the pandemic caused its global output in May to plunge 54.4 % from a year earlier to 365.909 vehicles; the sharpest fall since comparable data became available in 2004. Its global sales fell 31.8 % to 576.508 vehicles in the reporting month, though that was an improvement from a 46.3 % drop in April. The auto giant said its global production declined for the fifth consecutive month, with overseas production tumbling 53.0 % to 243.165 units due to stay-at-home requests and falling demand around the world. Toyota’s output fell 78.5 % in North America and 58.9 % in Europe due largely to weak demand amid the pandemic of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Honda, Japan’s second-largest automaker by volume, said its global production fell 51.8 % to 221.601 vehicles in May, marking the 10th straight month of decline. But output in China nearly recovered to the level in the same month last year, decreasing just 1.4 %. +++ 

+++ Fresh off the back of news that next year’s Geneva motor show won’t be going ahead, the LONDON MOTOR SHOW has confirmed that it will be returning in 2021. The event is set to return to the Evolution London venue in Battersea Park from July 16-18 next year, with a focus on technology, electric and hybrid vehicles and luxury brands as well as classics and city cars. New areas dedicated to motorsport and motorcycle will also be included. There will also be virtual reality racing and immersive driving simulators, plus the chance to meet motoring legends and influencers, while in the evenings there will be exclusive private previews and musical performances. “The last 4 years exceeded all our expectations”, said Alec Mumford, chairman of the London motor show. “The event has been a continuing success for both us as organisers and our exhibitors. We are very much looking forward to welcoming new and returning visitors and exhibitors alike to Battersea Park in 2021 where we already have some very special exhibits lined up. The current global situation has shown us what we need to do to prepare for any eventuality and we have factored scalable measures into our plans that enable us to incorporate any necessary guidelines into the show. We have the benefit of a big space in a greenfield site with plenty of room and designed the show so that everyone can get the best experience out of their visit”. Early bird adult day time tickets will go on sale from September, with children aged 11 or under going free (2 children per paying adult). +++ 

+++ MASERATI has released some technical information on the MC20’s engine, ahead of the car’s scheduled launch later this year. The new supercar will be unveiled on the 9 September, following a slew of setbacks brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The MC20 will be powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6, which produces 630 hp and 730 Nm. Peak power arrives at 7.500 rpm and the engine’s redline is set at 8.000 rpm. To prevent ignition breakdown at high rpm, Maserati has fitted the engine with Twin Spark ignition, which is similar to the system found on the old 2.0-litre Alfa Romeo 156. The engine also features double overhead cams, variable valve timing and a few motorsport inspired upgrades, such as a dry sump with an external oil tank. The engine’s compression ratio is 11:1 (which is quite high for a twin-turbocharged engine) and it was designed with 90-degree V-angle, much like the V6 engine fitted to the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrofoglio or the V8 found in the new Ferrari Roma. Set to be the first car since the MC12 supercar of 2004 to carry the Maserati Corse badge, the MC20 is claimed to be a “natural evolution” of the Enzo Ferrari-based V12 supercar. Following the launch of the V6-powered MC20, Maserati is also expected to unveil an all-electric version, which will go head-to-head with the Pininfarina Battista, Lotus Evija and the upcoming Tesla Roadster. However, Maserati is yet to make any official confirmation. Maserati did confirm however that the MC20 will be manufactured at its Viale Ciro Menotti plant in Modena, which has recently been modernised to prepare it for electrified vehicles. The supercar’s combustion engine will also be built in the same facility. +++ 

+++ Han Sung Motor, an official dealer of Mercedes-Benz in Korea, said it has launched the AMG Playground membership club for its customers, offering opportunities for activities and networking among MERCEDES-AMG owners. AMG Playground has invited new owners of Mercedes-AMG vehicles to join the club. Those who purchased more than 2 Mercedes-AMG vehicles at Han Sung Motor since 2017 or those who have purchased a vehicle in the Mercedes-AMG GT lineup will be categorized as AMG Mania members. Those who have purchased more than one Mercedes-AMG vehicle at Han Sung Motor since 2018 will be categorized as AMG Owner members. Membership eligibility will be renewed each year, the company said. On June 13 and 14, Han Sung Motor hosted the launch event for the AMG Playground club at AMG Speedway in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, offering various activities for club members including track experiences such as circuit driving, a Gymkhana challenge, a drag race and a pit stop challenge. “To offer exciting programs for customers who prefer Mercedes-AMG brand, we are going to fully support the operation of such membership clubs”, said Han Sung Motor CEO Ulf Ausprung, adding that the company will launch more clubs for its customers in the future. +++ 

+++ When spy photos of a new MINI come up, there’s really no way to miss that it’s a Mini. The brand’s design direction has evolved very slowly over the years. This time, the Hatch (3-door and 5-door) will get a minor nip and tuck. Expect a tweaked front fascia with a larger grille and vertical vents at the corners, possibly housing LED driving lamps. At the rear, the familiar centre-exit exhaust remains but the mesh insert moves higher on the fascia. Reflectors are relocated and that’s about it. But my spy sources believe something else is happening beneath the skin. Rather than boasting the 192 hp turbocharged 4-pot, the spotted prototype could have the same plug-in hybrid powertrain of the slightly larger Countryman SE. As such, 224 hp of petrol and electric power could be under the bonnet. Offering this electrified setup in a performance package could help Mini meet strict WLTP regulation, and the 5-door could offer a bit more practicality to efficiency-minded buyers. It’s also possible that the PHEV could retain a Cooper S designation as seen on the tailgate, or this could be a typical Cooper S. In any case, it’s possible Mini could go public with its updated lineup later this year. +++ 

+++ The final production version of the NISSAN Ariya will make its debut on July 15 this year. The announcement was made during the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting yesterday when it was also revealed the all-electric crossover will be a global player for the brand. First previewed by a concept in October last year, the Ariya will get Nissan’s ProPilot 2.0 autonomous driving system. It’ll be paired with the automaker’s latest purely electric powertrain, which is believed to be offered in single- and dual-motor forms with an estimated 480 kilometres of range. At first, the model will be launched in Japan but versions for the European and US markets are also in the cards. Production will take place at the firm’s Tochigi assembly plant, which is being converted to an EV factory. “The highlight of the new Ariya is the fusion of electrification and advanced driver-assist technologies that is expected to develop into self-driving cars in the future”, Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said. “We expect the all-new Ariya to play a key role as a brand driver and face of Nissan for the new era”. According to preliminary information, the crossover EV will arrive in the Europe at some point during the second half of 2021 wearing a starting price of approximately €45.000. It’ll compete directly against the Volkswagen ID.4 and will be part of Nissan’s strategy to launch no less than 8 EVs in the next 18 months. +++ 

+++ Amid light rain in Shanghai, a car automatically stopped at a designated point for pickup and waited for a passenger to get in. After the passenger fastened his or her seat belt, the SELF DRIVING CAR began its journey. It automatically avoided pedestrians, speeded up, slowed down, overtook other cars and navigated traffic lights till it reached its destination. This scene is becoming increasingly common in Shanghai after Didi Chuxing announced on Saturday the opening of its on-demand robo-taxi service to passengers in parts of the city, as the Chinese ride-hailing company steps up the commercialization of self-driving technologies. Didi said that, after signing up on its mobile app, passengers can request rides for free in autonomous vehicles within a designated area in Shanghai covering an automobile exhibition center, business districts, subway stations and hotels in the downtown area. To ensure safety, Didi said a backup driver will be present in each of the self-driving cars in case of emergency. The company has also set up a safety control center for autonomous driving, which can monitor vehicles and road conditions in real time, and give timely assistance and instructions to vehicles in need. Zhang Bo, chief technology officer of Didi and CEO of its autonomous driving business unit, said: “Autonomous driving needs to move beyond being a novel but limited experience to become a reliable and efficient daily mobility option for the general public in a highly complex real-world environment”. The move came shortly after Didi signed a strategic partnership deal with major Chinese carmaker BAIC Group to co-develop customized driverless cars featuring Level 4 autonomy. Level 4 autonomy means the car can drive itself in many conditions without a human driver. Since the start of this year, competition has intensified in China’s autonomous driving industry. A string of players are showcasing their technological prowess and ambitions by offering robo-taxi services. Baidu, which is known for its Apollo self-driving platform, opened in April its self-driving taxi service in Changsha, Hunan province. The service provides free rides to passengers across an area of 130 square kilometers, with its routes including residential areas, commercial zones and industrial parks. Autonomous driving startup WeRide also announced that its robo-taxi service became available on Alibaba’s navigation platform Amap in designated areas of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province. Li Zhenyu, corporate vice-president of Baidu and general manager of its intelligent driving group, said the smart transportation sector is expected to witness explosive growth as China speeds up the construction of new infrastructure, such as 5G networks and data centers. But it may take a long time to achieve large-scale commercialization of autonomous cars. Cheng Wei, CEO and founder of Didi, said it will take at least a decade of continued investment before self-driving technology passes critical technology, business and regulatory milestones. China’s smart transportation industry is forecast to reach a total value of 170 billion yuan ($24 billion) in 2020, according to research from Shenzhen-based market research company Askci Consulting. Xie Zhicai, chief automobile analyst at Huatai Securities, said China’s smart transportation industry is entering a strategic opportunity stage, thanks to favorable policies, strong financial support and technological advancements. +++ 

+++ In SOUTH KOREA , the Ministry of Transport recalled 10 models from Hyundai, SsangYong, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Honda and Hanbul Motors, demanding fixes to nearly 110.000 cars. SsangYong’s 2 recalled models, including its Tivoli, accounted for more than 80 % of the recalls. The ministry said some 88.664 Tivolis and Korandos are prone to catching fire due to weak fuel hoses. The ministry said the weak fuel hoses could also cause fuel leakages. The models in question will be fixed for free at SsangYong service centers. Some 15.997 units of Hyundai’s recently launched Genesis GV80 were also recalled. It was the first recall for the SUV, which started sales in January. The ministry said the model had fuel gauge display problems when parked on a hill. Hyundai will offer free fixes at service centers from July 6. Some 3.150 units from 4 trims in Mercedes-Benz’ S-Class (the S 560, S 560 4Matic, Maybach S 560 and Maybach S 560 4Matic) have been recalled for defect in the engine oil caps. Porsche was ordered to recall 737 units of its Cayenne model for weak transmission oil lines. Honda will recall 608 units of its Accord and Hanbul Motors, importer of French auto brands Peugeot and DS Automobile, will recall 56 units of the DS 3 Crossback. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA said the novel coronavirus pandemic caused its global output in May to plunge 54.4 % from a year earlier to 365.909 vehicles, the sharpest fall since comparable data became available in 2004. Japan’s biggest automaker also said its global sales fell 31.8 % to 576.508 vehicles in the reporting month, though that was an improvement from a 46.3 percent drop in April. Toyota’s global production declined for the fifth consecutive month, as domestic output dived 57.0 % to 122.744 vehicles and overseas production tumbled 53.0 % to 243.165 units due to stay-at-home requests and falling demand around the world. Output fell 78.5 % in North America and 58.9 % in Europe due largely to weak demand amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, production in China rose 13.5 % to 137.071 vehicles, as demand including for new models of the RAV4 and Corolla grew, while coronavirus infections in the country have declined, the company said. Despite the global output plunge in May, the company said last week that its domestic production volume in July is expected to recover to about a 10 % drop against an initial plan in reflection of the resumption of economic activities in Japan. The rate compares with an estimated 40 % decrease in June, according to the automaker. Toyota’s domestic production plans are influenced by global demand, as it exported around 60 % of some 3.41 million vehicles made in Japan last year. The carmaker has said it expects the sales drop due to the coronavirus to have bottomed out in April and that sales will gradually recover to levels seen a year earlier toward the end of this year. During its annual shareholders meeting held earlier this month, chief executive officer Akio Toyoda said the company will remain profitable during the coronavirus pandemic, using lessons it learned during the global financial crisis more than a decade ago. As part of efforts to assist cash-strapped customers, Toyota is relaxing auto-loan payment deadlines and offering used rental cars instead of new ones. “If we don’t win, we wouldn’t be able to support this industry and country”, Toyoda said at the meeting. “We are different today from what we were during the financial crisis”. Japan’s biggest automaker won’t change its plan to produce 3 million cars annually in the country, according to Mitsuru Kawai, Toyota’s chief human resources officer. The company has halted some domestic factories from April through June. Toyota has warned profit will tumble 80 % to a 9-year low and targeted operating profit of ¥500 billion for the year through March. The target is not a plan, but rather a minimum standard that it’ll have to meet, said Toyoda. +++

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