Newsflash: Porsche presenteert nieuwe Taycan instapper op 29 juni

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+++ ASTON MARTIN named Kenneth Gregor, who was the former financial chief at Jaguar Land Rover, as its new chief financial officer, looking to tap experienced management to help revive the 107-year-old firm’s fortunes. Gregor, 53, will be tasked with helping with the turnaround of the British luxury carmaker, which is cutting jobs and sports car production as it grapples with a deep first-quarter loss on a slump in sales due to the coronavirus outbreak. Gregor, who has over 20 years of automotive experience, takes over from interim CFO Viki Bhatia. His appointment comes nearly a month after the company confirmed that Tobias Moers, chief executive officer of Mercedes-AMG, would become its CEO on August 1. “He is a seasoned financial professional. He supported the successful execution of its (JLR’s) growth plans, through product expansion, with robust financial planning and capital allocation policies”, chairman Lawrence Stroll said. Aston Martin, famed for being fictional secret agent James Bond’s car of choice, has seen its share price plummet since floating in October 2018, from 19 pounds to around 70 pence. Bhatia had replaced Mark Wilson, who stepped down as CFO after five years in the role earlier this year. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen’s premium arm, AUDI , said that its chief executive officer Markus Duesmann will assume direct responsibility for its business in China, underlining the importance of the world’s largest market to the company. “The mobility of the future is developing rapidly in China”, said Duesmann, who has also been the carmaker’s chairman of the board of management since April. “I am looking forward to the task of further expanding our presence in our largest market and actively shaping the transformation process in the Chinese automotive industry together with Audi China and our Chinese partners”, he said. Until now, the board of management member for finance was responsible for Audi’s business in China. Duesmann will become the first top executive of any premium carmaker to take charge of the China business. Analysts said the move will improve Audi’s China-related strategies and enable voices from the Chinese market to reach Ingolstadt, where Audi is headquartered, faster. When Audi came to China in 1988, it was the first premium brand available in the country. Over the years it has accrued an understanding of local customers and had been the bestselling premium marque until recently. Earlier this year, Volkswagen veteran Werner Eichhorn was appointed president of Audi China. One of the most important reasons why he was picked for the job is widely believed to be his work experience in the 2000s as the first head of FAW-Volkswagen’s Audi sales division. The division sells Audi vehicles imported and locally produced by FAW-Volkswagen in China. Eichhorn led it to high levels of success. Duesmann’s assumption of responsibility for the China business further shows Audi’s ambition in the country. China accounted for 37.5 % of the automaker’s global deliveries of 1.85 million cars in 2019. Last week, Duesmann was also appointed to head Audi’s technical development, another aspect that has a lot to do with the German carmaker’s success during the auto industry’s transformation. He will be supported by a chief operating officer, who will coordinate the day-to-day business of the development engineers, and a chief transition architect who will organize the realignment of the technical development at Audi. His appointment came after Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler, who was responsible for technical development, decided to leave the company at his own request. Besides, Audi said that it will establish a separate division that will help improve the efficiency of its model series organization. Duessmann will head the division as well. The model series organization, which was introduced in 2016 and is structured by vehicle model series, has overall responsibility for all Audi models. “This realignment strengthens the vehicle-project business and the strategic importance of the model series. It will enable us to focus even more strongly on our products within the company”, said Duesmann. Duesmann began his career in 1992 as a design engineer for a V12 series-production engine at Mercedes-Benz. In 2007, he moved to BMW as head of Formula 1 powertrains and later the carmaker’s board member responsible for procurement. He joined Volkswagen in 2019 and became a board member responsible for the group’s research and development starting in April 2020. +++ 

+++ While many car companies have resumed manufacturing and business operations at factories and offices around the world, the past few months have been tough on the books for the entire industry. Luxury automobile manufacturers have been taking a ton of blows lately, and BMW is the latest to make some changes to keep help them afloat since the coronavirus changed the automotive landscape several months ago. The costs have piled up as production centres and dealerships around the world remained closed, with car sales plummeting to unprecedented numbers in global markets. A source at BMW has confirmed that the German manufacturer is looking at axing at least 10.000 contract workers, in an effort to reduce capacity and help mitigate growing costs. BMW has said that they have reached an agreement with the worker’s council on a satisfactory package that consists of “personnel measures for a sustainable future”. As with every company, having to let people go is the last resort, and while it may not be the most ideal setup, steps have been taken to make sure that there is sufficient compensation. Other European luxury automakers have instituted company-wide changes in early June, including Bentley and Aston Martin, and I’m pretty sure that BMW won’t be the last. Early May also saw reports of BMW Australia flooding their dealership floors with demo and fleet cars in order to inflate sales reports; a move that could work against them in the future. Related to the recent internal changes is the announcement that the development alliance between BMW and Daimler will be put on hold indefinitely, stating that after extensive reviews, both companies have agreed to concentrate on their separate and existing development paths. While there is a chance to resume the project, both companies are free to work with other partners. +++ 

+++ In CHINA , local auto brands are continuing to lose market share at home despite that their sales are beginning to rebound from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed that Chinese auto brands sold 571.000 passenger vehicles in May with a market share of 34.1 %; down 2.2 percentage points compared with same period in 2019. In the first 5 months of 2020, Chinese auto brands sold 2.26 million passenger vehicles. The market share accounts for 37.1 %; down 2.8 percentage points year-on-year. A report by the China Passenger Car Association shows that the market share of Chinese auto brands has declined for 20 months in a row since May 2018. In February, their market share soared to 52.3 %, the highest record in two years, but started to decline soon. Chen Shihua, deputy secretary-general of the CAAM, said the reason for the significant increase was that most factories of foreign joint venture brands are located in Hubei province, which was hardest hit during the pandemic. Therefore, their production capacity was affected. When Chinese auto brands resumed production, they saw an increase of market share. However, after the domestic outbreak was brought under control, consumer demand was mostly concentrated in joint venture brands, Chen said. In terms of brands, the top 3 best sellers among Chinese car companies (Geely, Great Wall Motors and Changan) saw sales increase in May. According to CPCA statistics, Geely sold 108.800 units in May; an increase of 20 % year-on-year. At the same time, Great Wall Motors sold 81.900 vehicles; up 31 % compared with same period of 2019. Sales at Changan surged 62.6 % to 72.000 units in that month. BYD and Chery showed a single-digit decline in May and the sales of some other Chinese car brands, including BAIC Yinxiang, Dongfeng Yulon and Hawtai Motor, saw a double-digit decline. Some Chinese carmakers are even facing difficulty in surviving. Haima Automobile plans to rescue its vehicle business by selling real estates in Haikou, Hainan province. Zotye Auto released an extended holiday notice, which said that staff at its Hunan base will have one-year holiday. It also encourages resignation because of the effects of the pandemic. Xu Haidong, vice-chief engineer of the CAAM, said that China’s automobile market is in a transformative period. Some leading Chinese brands seized the absolute majority of local carmakers’ combined market share. This trend will continue and the pandemic has helped accelerated this process. Tan Benhong, vice-president of Changan, once said it was estimated that 50 % of Chinese auto brands will disappear over time. Xu added that the trend is not bad and will spur companies to improve their production technology, product quality and fuel competitiveness among brands. This allows consumers to obtain better products and service guarantees. “Considering that some local governments have released policies to stimulate vehicle consumption, cheaper models will see a rise in their sales in the second half of 2020”, Xu said. Another important factor that needs to be considered is that Chinese auto brands caught the opportunity to develop SUVs and enjoyed their sharp rise in sales a few years ago. But in the past 2 years, the Japanese, German and other joint venture brands expanded their markets into the middle and low-end SUV field. They have nibbled away at Chinese auto brands to a certain extent, Xu said. Luo Lei, deputy secretary-general of the China Automobile Dealers Association, said that Chinese auto brands had launched a large number of SUVs without any obvious differentials in recent years. The SUV market is speeding up the elimination of backward products, he said. If they can’t find a new breakthrough, there will be smaller development space for Chinese auto brands. The companies have also realized this problem and are making efforts to change the situation. Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association said that many Chinese auto brands have upgraded their models and adopted consumer preferences, including trendy design, larger size and diversified configurations. Cui added that joint venture brands have made efforts to offer more layouts and lower prices. As a result, Chinese auto carmakers have had to launch more cost-effective models and upgrade their brand value. Statistics from the CAAM show that, in May, Japanese and German brands grew their market share and car companies from France and the United States lost ground. +++ 

+++ Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a broader economic slowdown, demand for light vehicles is expected to shrink by 36 million globally by the end of 2022, consultants AlixPartners found. For this year alone, this is equivalent to a market the size of Europe disappearing, AlixPartners said. The contraction increases an existing threat to jobs from electric cars, which are quicker and easier to build than those with combustion engines and which have German and French government backing as the countries strive for a green recovery. “Once the consensus between labour leaders and management has broken down, it is extremely difficult to implement restructuring in Europe”, Stefan Bratzel, a professor at the Centre of Automotive Management in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, said. He cited the conflict between German labour leaders and General Motors that meant it took 10 years to close its Opel factory in Bochum, Germany, which was announced in 2013. “The brand was weakened by this paralysis”, he said. A spat over the pace of restructuring has already led Volkswagen’s labor representatives to flex their muscles, leading to the ouster of chief executive Herbert Diess as head of the company’s core VW brand. Labour representatives have half the seats on VW’s board of directors, meaning they have sway over decisions on contracts and pay. Jörg Köhlinger, head of German union IG Metall’s central district, last week said the depth of the recession faced by the auto industry has heightened tensions. “I fear that this will soon lead to massive conflicts about employment, locations, wages and working conditions”, he said adding that IG Metall will defend its workers. The global pandemic has weakened demand for vehicles when carmakers were already struggling to retrain staff to make cleaner cars. Jean-Dominique Senard, chairman of France’s Renault said there had been a collective failure to prepare and retrain staff quickly enough. “I think we have made mistakes, collectively, in encouraging and keeping alive industrial structures that we knew did not have a great future”, Senard said. “We should have anticipated more, that is to say, taken into account the people who work on these sites”. At a plant in Rodez, France, where auto supplier Bosch makes spark plugs for diesel engines, local management is accelerating restructuring efforts. “We are more motivated than ever to work on diversification and have decided to further intensify the process”, Patrick Meillaud, the plant’s economic director, told. Bosch is trying to lower the retirement age and to diversify beyond manufacturing engine components into industrial services and fuel cells. Bosch said it would stop making steering components at a plant in Bietigheim-Bissingen. The risks of failure to adapt are high. In Germany Flabeg, a maker of high-tech digital rear-view mirrors, filed for insolvency, France’s Novares, a specialist in automotive plastics, has filed for temporary receivership, and in Britain, Arlington Industries, which specialises in auto component sub-assembly, has called in the receivers. Spain’s foreign minister said the country will “do everything” to try to reverse Nissan’s decision to close its Barcelona plant. France’s PSA, the maker of Peugeot cars, was forced to modify a decision to import workers from a plant in Gliwice, Poland, to help a French plant in Hordain, restart production after lockdowns eased. The number of Polish workers has been cut to 124, from the 500 originally expected to arrive in France. French union CFDT in principle disagrees with pitting nationalities against each other, but said work had to be offered to French part-time staff first given the sensitive economic context. “I think there should have been someone at PSA who understood it was a little bomb”, Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT union, told French TV. +++ 

+++ There’s a surprising story going around about the Ford EDGE and Edge-based Lincoln Nautilus, claiming Ford has canceled the program to replace the Edge. The allegation comes from Sam Fiorani, vice president of forecasting and consulting firm AutoForecast Solutions (AFS). The kernel is this: Fiorani heard from “multiple sources” that when the Edge’s current generation is kaput in 2023, production of the Edge and Nautilus will cease at the Oakville, Ontario, plant that builds them for North America. The Edge is also built in China and assembly could continue there with Lincoln Nautilus production shifting to China, too. Asked for a response, Ford has switched between robust denial and no comment. The automaker declined to say anything. When it was asked for comment again later the same day, a Ford spokesperson e-mailed the statement, “We have no plans to exit the segment, particularly as Edge sales were up 3 % to nearly units in the U.S. last year. Since its launch in 2006, we have sold more than 1.6 million Edges in America. Customers are loving the all-new Edge ST, with retail sales up 41 % in 2019. We also are building on that success with launch of the Edge ST-Line, which is now available for order, plus an upgraded features for the 2021 Edge”. So it seems it’s surprising we’re discussing the Edge’s possible demise. The practically recession-proof midsize 5-seat SUV has sold less than 108.000 units just twice since going on sale in 2006: that first year, when it moved 2.201 units, and during the dark industry days of 2009, when it sold 88.548. However, the Fusion (Mondeo) has always outsold the Edge, up to and including last year, and yet the numbers didn’t prevent Ford from terminating the popular sedan. Added to that, despite the confident rebuttals sent to media outlets, Ford was less gung-ho when Unifor, the Canadian autoworkers union, asked Ford about the program. Unifor chief Jerry Dias “did not get definitive answers” and all Dias could offer about the exchange with Ford afterward was, “There is no question, they are going through a major evaluation of their portfolio, based on a whole host of things”. Theories back 3 potential causes for the Edge’s potential death. The most benign is that Ford has too many similarly-sized SUV models in the pipeline and with the Edge substantially underperforming in Europe sales-wise, it drew the short straw (the Nautilus was up 11% to 31,711 units in the U.S. last year, taking the crown as Lincoln’s bestseller, but was down 33% at the end of Q1 this year). The Ford Escape (Kuga), which is about 17 centimeters shorter than the Edge and also seats 5, is more than $6,000 less expensive. The Explorer, which is 24 centimeters longer than the Edge and seats 7, costs only $1,665 more than the Edge. And coming soon are the Escape-based Bronco Sport and its derivatives. And Ford has more expansive plans for the Bronco and Mustang (Mach E!) than we’ve imagined so far. Then there’s the European Mondeo-based soft-roader that calls the Subaru Outback its spirit animal and is expected to be about the length of the current Edge. Fiorani said Ford might think the segment’s a touch crowded at home and could have a better chance of gaining market share with new nameplates instead of the venerable Edge. Another take sees Ford threatening to kill the midsize SUV as a negotiating tactic with Unifor; the automaker and the labor union are scheduled to begin negotiating a new contract to succeed the current agreement that expires in September. The most destructive possibility is that the end of the Edge and Nautilus means the beginning of a Ford retreat from Canada. The plant lost the Flex and Lincoln MKZ last year. Without anything new to build after 2023, “there’s no future for Oakville” and its 4.200 workers. Shuttering the 67-year-old Oakville assembly complex would leave 2 Ford engine plants in Canada (the Mustang’s Coyote 5.0-liter V8 and the PV-8 family serving the F-Series pickups), but no vehicle assembly facility for the first time in about 100 years. +++ 

+++ China’s industry ministry said it might temporarily ease quotas designed to boost production of ELECTRIC cars in an attempt to help automakers in the world’s biggest market revive sales badly bruised by the coronavirus pandemic. China has some of the world’s strictest rules regarding the production of fossil-fuel vehicles, as it battles unhealthy levels of air pollution in its crowded cities. Automakers in China are obliged to manufacture new energy vehicles (NEVs), including all-electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, to win “points” to make up for a portion of the negative points they incur when they produce internal combustion engine vehicles. Depending on the present situation, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a policy that it might temporarily adjust the quotas and allow automakers to use the green points they generate next year to offset their negative points this year. Industry officials consider it a supportive move as automakers can manage vehicle production better with less policy impact. Sources told that China would delay implementation of some emission rules by 6 months, which China’s state planner later confirmed. The temporary easing of NEV quotas is likely to allow companies to delay model launches, which have more costly technology than conventional vehicles, and also discourage them from aggressive marketing. China had re-classified petrol-electric hybrid vehicles so they get more favourable treatment than all-petrol or diesel counterparts under new clean car rules, making it easier for automakers to meet environment quotas and offer more choice. Those rules have pushed both domestic and international automakers including Tesla and Volkswagen to spend billions of dollars on the development and production of new energy vehicles (NEVs), such as all-electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Plug-in hybrid technology differs from that of petrol-electric hybrid vehicles. Automakers in China are obliged to manufacture NEVs to win points to make up for a portion of the negative points they incur when they produce internal combustion engine vehicles. However, the system has been criticised for offering few incentives for automakers to improve petrol cars’ efficiency. The new policy allows automakers to gradually make more petrol-electric hybrids and less of the more costly all-electric vehicles from 2021 through 2023. Such hybrids would still be considered fossil-fuelled but re-classified as “low fuel consumption passenger vehicles”. Significantly, the number of negative points incurred for making petrol-electric hybrids will be less than for petrol-only vehicles. That could see more of those traditionally powered vehicles replaced with petrol-electric hybrids, experts and industry officials said, because when automakers produce those hybrids, they would not have as many negative points to make up for. Experts have said the beneficiaries of such change would include global petrol-electric hybrid leaders Toyota and Honda, as well as Chinese makers Geely, GAC and supplier Hunan Corun New Energy. China hopes NEVs will account for around a quarter of all vehicles sold in the country by 2025. +++ 

+++ It’s safe to say the all-new FORD Bronco and Bronco Sport are not the best kept secrets in the automotive world and now I have another reason to say that. A new photo has surfaced that exposes both new Broncos in all their all-terrain glory. The drone image shows a Bronco 2-door completely uncovered. The photo is significant because it marks the first time a pre-production 2-door Bronco has been spotted wearing no disguise whatsoever. A Ford employee offered some insight by posting this commentary: “They must be filming something for the reveal. Non-camouflaged vehicles would never be used for development testing before the reveal. Someone must have snuck a drone over the filming site. This Broncos is definitely the real deal”. You may ask why the image quality is so poor and it may be because the drone was shooting a video at the time with a wide angle lens and the photo is a still image from that footage. Anyway, the 2-door Bronco looks really promising thanks to the rugged proportions, massive off-road wheels and tires filling the arches nicely, and a dual-tone body featuring what looks like Cyber Orange and black. The upright windscreen, tailgate-mounted spare wheel and the generous ground clearance add to the Bronco’s charm. Ford will officially unveil the Bronco on July 13. +++ 

+++ Global automakers have been striving to make progress in developing their own platforms and battery systems for electric vehicles that can be applied to all brands for efficiency and cost reasons. Detroit-based automaker GENERAL MOTORS has a presence in 60 markets with 11 plants. The US automaker is betting big on its latest battery system called Ultium which was unveiled in March, to be applied in different markets while also “future-proofing” the energy storage system, according to the company’s top executives. The in-house EV propulsion system is built to support all of its EV lineups. “It can be tailored to vehicle and customer needs by stacking common components, like toy bricks, allowing us to increase scale while giving us flexibility”, said Adam Kwiatkowski, GM’s executive chief engineer, during a global conference call interview. GM international president Steven Kiefer, vice president of Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs Ken Morris and GM’s Architectural Chief Engineer for Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs Jesse Ortega were also present at the call. According to Kwiatkowski, the key building blocks of GM’s new EV architecture are large-scale high energy cells, which will become a common denominator of GM’s entire vehicle lineup. “We have deep experience in this space from EV1 to EREV to Bolt, given the 25 years of EV experience. Our battery options can vary from 50 to 200 kWh, enabling GM’s estimated range of over 640 kilometers on a full charge”, he said. The Ultium system starts with a highly integrated front drive unit and the efficient design has reduced the number of high voltage connections by 57 %, Kwiatkowski explained. He said GM has worked on the development of the battery system for roughly 3 years. “This gives us the ability to serve the needs of different markets and customers while also future-proofing the energy storage system. When new technology and chemistry become available we can grow or change the module while preserving the overall battery architecture”. According to GM Vice President of Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs Ken Morris, Ultium cells will be manufactured at its new plant in Ohio through a joint venture with South Korean battery provider LG Chem. “GM is always looking to improve the battery technology that will provide a greater balance of mileage and charging time and expects to get close to the million-mile range in the next few years”, said Morris. In recent months, the automotive firms have started a race to develop their own million-mile battery as the current EV batteries typically last 100.000 to 200.000 miles. Last month, Tesla has revealed a partnership with Chinese battery maker CATL, planning to introduce its own million-mile battery later this year at earliest. When asked whether LG Chem will be also involved in the development of the million-mile battery, Morris said there is no news about future plans yet, but the US firm wants to rather now focus on producing Ultium battery cells in partnership with the Korean company. With regard to making EVs in South Korea, the top executive said GM will leverage GM global EV properly to expand its presence in the domestic market. “One-fourth of engineers from the big engineering function at the GM Technical Center of Korea can work to develop EV technology. And it is anticipated that they will have an important role to realize GM’s technological vision for the future”, said Morris. GM’s architectural chief engineer for Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs Jesse Ortega pointed to Korea’s market strength. “The fact that the Korean market is very urban and technologically advanced with tech-savvy customers gives us an opportunity to do that. You’ve got a strong infrastructure from IT. They’re very well versed in EV and then the team that we have complied there over the last 6 years is really, really committed to making EV development a reality”. While the Chevrolet Bolt, was launched in 2017 with high hopes as one of the first EV models here that can travel a long distance, it initially got a lukewarm reception. GM said changes are being seen with the expansion of the vehicle’s marketing coupled with growth of relevant infrastructure and government incentives. “Our facelifted Bolt, which will offer 414 kilometers per charge, will again get us a lot of coverage hopefully. And will also provide an incentive. We have strong confidence in the Bolt’s technical advantage”, said Ortega. The favelifted Bolt can travel 31 kilometers longer than the previous model, the longest distance compared to other models in the same segment. According to GM, it plans to launch new EV models for each of its brands including Chevrolet and Cadillac, expanding its EV portfolio to comprise 22 models by 2023. “Our future products are going to continue to lead innovation in the market. We believe the team has expanded our position in South Korea with more EVs in the future and will continue to leverage our global portfolio. So I’m optimistic”, said Ortega. “We believe in a future of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion and we’re building toward this all-electric future because we really believe that climate change is real. We have the expertise to deliver exceptional EVs and drive ownership experiences for our customers”, Kiefer added. +++ 

+++ MITSUBISHI boss Takao Kato laid out his company’s new strategy during its annual shareholders meeting recently, saying that the carmaker will move forward by focusing less on huge global markets where the brand isn’t particularly strong. While Kato didn’t mention North America or the U.S. by name, the company did later confirm that it does indeed consider the United States a mega-market, just like Europe or China. Under its previous plan dubbed Drive for Growth, Mitsubishi had specifically flagged North America and China as 2 of its main regions. The new plan is called Selection and Concentration. “Even though we increased sales volume in the megamarkets, we have not yet achieved the level of profit we expected”, stated Kato. “We aim to increase sales in the regions where we can offer our core products. We will gradually reduce our commitment to megamarkets”. The Japanese carmaker will double down its efforts in regions such as Southeast Asia and Oceania, while diverting more R&D resources into the types of vehicles that are popular there, like pickups, crossovers and vans. In terms of its group dynamic, while Mitsubishi will focus its efforts on the aforementioned regions, Nissan will take the lead in the U.S. and China, while Renault will do the same but for Europe. In the fiscal year that ended in March, Mitsubishi’s volume in North America dropped 8 % to 160.000 units, while in Europe it declined 9 % to 215.000. Even though numbers also went down in Southeast Asia by 9 %, the carmaker still topped the regional ranking with 290.000 cars. As for the United States, Mitsubishi’s sales climbed 2.5% last year to 121,046 units. +++ 

+++ Great Wall Motors is readying the launch of an all-electric subcompact crossover through its ORA division that builds electric vehicles. Recently, patent images of the new vehicle currently known as the ‘ES11’, were leaked. If I had to sum up the exterior design of the EV in 1 word, I would say it’s “cute”. The front end shares some resemblance to Porsche 911 and VW Beetle models thanks to the round headlights and muscular front haunches. The charging port is located on the front quarter panel while the car depicted in these patents sits on a set of simple five-spoke wheels. As for the rear, it isn’t all that inspiring, but rather than sporting a set of traditional headlights, looks to have a light bar embedded in the rear window. Details regarding the vehicle’s powertrain remain unconfirmed and likely won’t be known until the car is unveiled later this year. ORA currently builds the iQ, R1, and R2 models, so has a handful of different electric powertrains to choose from with the ES11. Great Wall Motors established ORA in 2018 and it is understood that production of the ES11 will kick off in October at the company’s plant in Taizhou. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE ’s second fully-electric car, the Taycan Cross Turismo, is nearing the end of development, and has been spied almost completely undisguised ahead of an anticipated reveal towards the end of 2020. New spy shots reveal that the Taycan Cross Turismo won’t deviate too far from the design ethos established by the regular Taycan when it goes on sale in 2021. While the concept Taycan Cross Turismo pointed to rugged, almost SUV like elements, the production version will be angled as a sleek shooting brake compatriot to the Taycan, turning Porsche’s EV line-up into a direct mirror of the Panamera range, now supported by the estate bodied Panamera Sport Turismo. Performance estates have been around for decades, with regular fixtures including the Audi RS 6 Avant and Mercedes-AMG E63. But Porsche will be the first brand to enter the segment with a fully electric alternative. Michael Steiner, Porsche’s executive board member for R&D, told: “It’s an obligation for us, at Porsche, to think about and work on sporty answers to electric cars”. At the front end and up to the B-pillars, the Cross Turismo is identical to the regular Taycan; slender LED headlamps sit within hollowed-out ‘sockets’, with the charging port located behind the wheel on the left side of the vehicle. From the B-pillars, the roofline extends the full length of the car, like that on the Panamera Sport Turismo. The obvious benefit of that will be an increase in practicality, with the head space for rear passengers growing slightly. Boot capacity should also rise from the Taycan’s 447 litres to around 500 litres in total, while the Cross Turismo is likely to carry a price premium of around €6.000 over the standard Taycan. Under the skin of the estate, the regular Taycan’s powertrain will be carried over, while the range of variants is also expected to mirror that of the saloon. Entry-level versions, badged 4S, will make use of a 79 kWh battery that is mated to a pair of electric motors (one on each axle). Turbo and Turbo S editions will pack a larger 93k Wh battery beneath the floor of the car. The Cross Turismo is the next step in an ambitious assault on the electric vehicle market from Porsche. Following in this car’s footsteps will be a fully electric version of the company’s biggest seller: the Macan. Due in 2022, the SUV will go electric only, with the current petrol model being sold alongside it until customer demand falls enough for Porsche to remove it from sale. Bosses have discussed taking a similar approach with the next-generation Cayenne, too. +++ 

+++ RENAULT ‘s incoming CEO Luca de Meo said he was conscious that the automaker faced many problems, but he is confident the group could end up becoming a positive turnaround story. De Meo, addressing investors at the firm’s annual shareholder meeting before taking up his new job on July 1, said he shared a “sense of urgency” with teams at Renault to deliver on the automaker’s new strategy and restructuring. “I’m very conscious of the company’s difficulties”, said de Meo, a former Volkswagen Group executive who started his automotive career at Renault nearly 30 years ago, adding that he had been keen to join the company to help tackle the challenge. De Meo was subject to a 6-month noncompete agreement after leaving his post as head of VW Group’s Seat brand in January, but the German automaker reportedly agreed to waive part of the requirement to allow him to make contact with Renault executives starting in early June. He is scheduled to present a new strategic plan for Renault by year-end. The plan will be separate from a €2 billion cost-cutting program announced last month. Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said de Meo would have “as much room to maneuver as he needs” in making decisions about future models and strategy. +++ 

+++ Indian carmaker Mahindra is in the process of selling its South Korean unit SSANGYONG by picking a lead manager for a potential exit from the loss-making affiliate, industry sources said. In 2011, Mahindra acquired a 70 % stake in SsangYong for 523 billion won ($438 million). Mahindra currently owns a 74.65 % stake in the SUV-focused carmaker. Mahindra and SsangYong didn’t confirm whether they have named an unidentified adviser for the stake sale. The SsangYong stake held by Mahindra is valued at about 330 billion won. Mahindra hinted at the possibility of giving up control of SsangYong last week, as its managing director Pawan Goenka said that SsangYong needs a new investor and that Mahindra is working with the company for that purpose. Mahindra’s deputy managing director Anish Shah reportedly said the Indian company will not remain the biggest shareholder if an investor purchases a controlling stake in SsangYong. SsangYong has struggled with declining sales due to a lack of new models and Mahindra’s recent decision not to inject fresh capital into the Korean unit. Its lineup consists of the flagship Rexton, as well as the Tivoli and Korando SUVs. Mahindra said early this year it will inject 230 billion won into SsangYong for the next 3 years after obtaining approval from its board. But its board voted against the investment plan in April, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect vehicle sales in global markets. Instead of the proposed 230 billion won, Mahindra said it would consider a “special one-time infusion” of up to 40 billion won over the next 3 months to help SsangYong continue operations. The one-time cash injection falls far short of the 500 billion won Goenka had said is needed to turn SsangYong around by 2022. SsangYong continued to report net losses in the past 13 quarters through the first quarter of this year. In the first quarter, its net losses deepened to 193.54 billion won from 26 billion won a year earlier. Its sales from January to May fell 32 % to 39.206 vehicles from 58.030 a year ago. +++

+++ It’s no secret that Porsche plans to expand the TAYCAN family with a 4th member that will act as the ‘entry-level’ model. I now learn the base Taycan will debut later this month, with reports from China signaling that Porsche will present it on June 29. Porsche refers to the new car as the ‘base Taycan’, which could suggest it’s the same vehicle as the less expensive Taycan variant mentioned in several reports earlier this year. Unlike the Taycan 4S, Taycan Turbo and Taycan Turbo S which are all-wheel drive and feature dual motors, the base Taycan is widely expected to be rear-wheel drive and feature a single electric motor. This would be consistent with Porsche R&D boss Dr Michael Steiner’s disclosure that the automaker has plans for a single-motor Taycan with a smaller battery. Back in April, the executive specifically mentioned Europe as the main market for the base Taycan; that doesn’t mean other markets won’t get it. Expect the entry-level Porsche Taycan to focus on driving range rather than blistering performance; chances are it will offer the longest range of the entire Taycan lineup while still being a quick car. The base Porsche Taycan will slot below the Taycan 4S. It should be significantly less expensive than the 4S, which uses a 79.2 kWh battery pack and a dual-motor setup for a total of 530 and 640 Nm of torque. As for the driving range, it is anyone’s guess for now and it all depends on the battery capacity. The Taycan 4S can cover 405 km on the WLTP cycle. +++

+++ TESLA chief executive officer Elon Musk said that September 15 is the tentative date for the company’s shareholder meeting and its ‘Battery Day’ at which it is expected to reveal significant advances in battery technology. The battery event, which Musk has touted as being “one of the most of exciting days in Tesla’s history”, had previously been scheduled in May while the shareholder meeting was due to take place on July 7. Both were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Battery Day event will include a tour of the company’s cell production system, Musk tweeted, without elaborating. Tesla and CATL are jointly developing batteries designed to last a million miles of use and enable electric Teslas to sell profitably for the same price or less than a gasoline vehicle, people familiar with the plans have said. With a global fleet of more than 1 million electric vehicles that are capable of connecting to and sharing power with the grid, Tesla’s goal is to achieve the status of a power company, competing with such traditional energy providers as Pacific Gas & Electric and Tokyo Electric Power, those sources said. A few weeks ago, fleetingly, Tesla was the most valuable car maker in the world, based on its stock price. In these tumultuous times, investors have been backing it like never before, pushing it beyond Toyota and the Volkswagen Group (it had long since eclipsed Ford, General Motors et al). It’s a remarkable tale that I can validate only through talking with my 12-year-old nephew. Where I see sales figures over 17 years that have only recently topped 1 million, full-year financial results that have never seen a profit, an endless (but admittedly reducing) stream of quality complaints and aftersales issues, plus a borderline relationship with common sense as far as Autopilot is concerned, he sees the future. Emboldened by Top Trumps, he and his mates are genuinely more excited if I bring home a Model 3 than a Ferrari 488 Pista, such is Tesla’s playground cachet. And there’s the rub. So-called experts have spent recent days trying to justify Tesla’s dizzying valuation, citing everything from it having more advanced battery technology than its rivals (hard to believe) through to it now producing a credible, decent-selling four-car line-up globally (hardly impressive against the opposition). But my suspicion, in the absence of any genuinely hard facts, is that the stockbrokers have caught playground fever. And that’s not a criticism. There’s no rational reason why ‘legacy’ marques can’t make EVs just as capable as Tesla’s (or better, if you want to argue the toss over the likes of the Jaguar I-Pace and Porsche Taycan). But while the perils of listing on the stock market are all too obvious (just ask Aston Martin), the latest evidence suggests that, by moving first and fast, Tesla has seized the initiative for a generation or more. There isn’t a car maker on Earth that wouldn’t like a sprinkle of its stardust right now. Where will it end? The straight-talking ex-BMW, Chrysler, Ford and GM boss Bob Lutz recently labelled it “psychosis”, suggesting that the constant ramping of hype just keeps pushing the price higher, generating more hype and so on. To heavily summarise Lutz’s views, bubbles always burst. However, just 18 months ago, Lutz claimed Tesla was “heading for the graveyard”. I wouldn’t have bet against him then. But now? I’m not prone to committing the thoughts of stockbrokers or children to print, but even if that market valuation is grounded in turning fiction into reality, and even if reality ends up biting hard, you have to acknowledge that Tesla is probably both too big to fail yet small and well-funded enough to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape better than most. +++

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