Newsflash: nieuwe Mercedes-AMG C 53 wordt meer dan 500 pk sterk

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+++ Not only are traditional cars losing ground to crossovers and SUVs, but certain sports and super cars are not doing that well either, as customers are drawn to electrified models; and the trend is going nowhere but up. As a result, automakers have started reshuffling their lineup, and besides chasing after the high-riding vehicle segments with as many models as possible, they are also venturing deeper into the electric game. AUDI is a good example, as it has already announced its Transformation Plan, which aims to offer great savings, most of which will be redirected into other fields of activity. In total, the German brand is looking to save up to €15 billion before the end of 2022, out of which €12 billion will be injected into the development of electric vehicles. 3 years later, Audi will have invested €37 billion in research and development, in addition to plants and equipment. The plan was initiated by the former head honcho, Bram Schot, who retired in April and was replaced by the ex-BMW chief Markus Duesmann. While they are doing nothing more than following the trend and trying to either keep up or stay a step ahead of the rest of the industry, the plan comes with a catch, as 2 of Audi’s driver’s cars, the TT and the R8, could be axed. The future of the 2 models was previously under question and has come into focus again, as they could drop them altogether and reinvent them as fully electric cars. “Cars like the TT and R8 were reviewed as part of a general costcutting process in the past”, an undisclosed source told. “However, they have now come under increased focus”. Details surrounding the next-generation TT and R8 are unknown, but if they indeed decide to go ahead with this plan, then they will have the Volkswagen Group’s support, which will include a dedicated EV platform and several zero-emission powertrains and batteries. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds for them. +++ 

+++ CHINA ’s auto sales for July are expected to rise 14.9 % year-on-year to 2.08 million vehicles, the country’s top auto industry body said. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said its forecast was based on sales data it had collected from key companies, without giving further details. It expects January to July auto sales in China, the world’s biggest auto market, to fall 12.7% year-on-year to 12.34 million units. +++ 

+++ The Tesla CYBERTRUCK reveal was one of those events that broke the internet. It gained so much notoriety so quickly that it has to be acknowledged as being the star of one of the most memorable automotive unveiling venues of recent years. However, its success seems to have been a mere fluke, since we’ve now learned that Tesla didn’t actually do any market research before creating the Cybertruck. This was alluded to in a recent interview given by Elon Musk. Musk said: “Customer research? We just made a car we thought was awesome and looks super weird. I just wanted to make a futuristic battle tank; something that looks like it could come out of Blade Runner or Aliens or something like that but was also highly functional”. And while Elon isn’t worried that the Cybetruck won’t sell, if it proves to not be as big a success as the initial reaction it stirred might have led everyone to believe, the Tesla has a backup plan. The automaker will pull the plug on the Cybertruck if it’s a flop and it will sell a more conventional looking electric pickup instead. Musk also said that he “Wasn’t super worried about that because if it turns out nobody wants to buy a weird-looking truck, we’ll build a normal truck, no problem. There’s lots of normal trucks out there that look pretty much the same; you can hardly tell the difference. And sure, we could just do some copycat truck; that’s easy. So that’s our fallback strategy”. Judging by the 200.000 (refundable $100) deposits, though, Tesla shouldn’t have to worry having to scrap the Cybertruck and replace it with a more mainstream looking model. On top of this, Musk also points out that the Cybertruck isn’t really aimed at the traditional pickup buyer: it doesn’t target any specific buyer and it’s expected to be officially launched in 2021, although we’ll have to wait and see how close it is to the preview prototype. +++ 

+++ Chinese property developer EVERGRANDE unveiled 6 electric vehicle models under its Hengchi brand in Shanghai and Guangzhou, demonstrating its ambition to enter the new energy vehicle market. The models, named Hengchi 1 to 6, include sedans, SUVs and MPVs. The company said with the world debut of the 6 models, Evergrande hopes to rival Tesla as the new energy vehicle industry leader. According to the company’s plan, it will develop 14 new energy vehicle models and begin mass production between 2021 and 2022. Xu Jiayin, also known as Hui Ka-yan, said last November that the company will invest a total of 45 billion yuan ($6.4 billion) by 2021 in electric vehicles and become the world’s largest new energy carmaker in 3 to 5 years with annual sales reaching 1 million units in 5 to 10 years. The company is making efforts to raise the stakes in the automotive industry. Last year, Evergrande acquired a controlling stake in National Electric Vehicle Sweden for $930 million, investing more than $300 million in a new venture with supercar maker Koenigsegg, and paying $154.4 million for a 58 % stake in lithium-ion battery maker Shanghai Centa New Energy. Since entering the new energy vehicle market in 2018, the net losses of new energy vehicle businesses of Evergrande has risen to 3.31 billion yuan last year from 1.7 million yuan in 2018. Evergrande announced in July that it will change the name of Evergrande Health Industry Group to Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group, reflecting the focus of its new business. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES has provided a “Covid-19 Operational Update” which confirms a number of upcoming models have been delayed. Jeep is the hardest hit as they have 4 all-new models on the horizon. In particular, the 3-row version of the next-generation Grand Cherokee has been delayed until the first quarter of 2021. It will be followed by the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in the second quarter. Last but not least, the redesigned Grand Cherokee will go into production in the third quarter of 2021. Sticking with Jeep, FCA confirmed the Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid will be introduced in the fourth quarter of this year. It will go into production around the same time. Furthermore, FCA revealed the Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico is being retooled to build to an updated version of the Compass. The company didn’t elaborate, but described it as a “mid-cycle freshening”. The automaker also confirmed updated versions of the Maserati Quattroporte and Levante (including V8 powered Trofeo variants) will go into production in the third quarter of 2020. The Ram TRX will follow in the fourth quarter. +++ 

+++ Shares of the so-called blank-check company merging with electric carmaker FISKER fell 20 % after it disclosed it would not close a deal by the end of July to use Volkswagen’s electric-vehicle platform for its vehicles. Spartan Energy Acquisition, backed by alternative investment manager Apollo Global Management, announced a deal this month to take Fisker public through a merger that valued the EV startup at $2.9 billion. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. A blank-check company, or SPAC, is a shell company that raises money through an initial public offering to buy an operating company, typically within 2 years. Shares of Spartan were trading at $12.58, well below the highs of $23.86 when the deal was announced earlier this month. The stock is still above Spartan’s IPO price of $10. Fisker said at the time of the deal it was in talks with VW to use the German automaker’s MEB platform to speed vehicle development and cut costs, but it disclosed the delay in documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “We have not achieved our goal of signing a cornerstone agreement with Volkswagen by the end of July 2020 as we previously anticipated”, Fisker said in the filing. “We look forward to continuing discussions with VW again in September after the traditional European summer holidays”. “We remain in conversation with several other potential automakers and suppliers that would be able to fit within our unique business model and we believe will enable us to enter into definitive manufacturing and supply agreements before year-end”, the company added. The Spartan deal will provide Fisker with $1 billion in gross proceeds. Fisker said in the SEC filing that it will use those funds to launch its Ocean SUV by late 2022, followed by a supersports sedan, a sports crossover and a pickup by 2025. Fisker previously said it was in talks with other companies, including Magna International, about building the SUV. +++ 

+++ FORD ’s incoming chief executive Jim Farley said he wants to expand the automaker’s operations into related technology fields, including software, fleet management and electric vehicle charging. “These are new growth initiatives that could create a lot of value for the company”, Farley told after Ford announced that he will succeed Jim Hackett as the automaker’s fourth CEO since 2014. In addition to Ford’s work on self-driving vehicles, “these are concrete areas that will change Ford”, Farley said. “They’re going to impact the company’s future look and feel”. In the meantime, Farley, 58, must wrestle with a painful restructuring of Ford’s global operations amid the ravages of the coronavirus crisis that has saddled the No. 2 U.S. automaker with large amounts of debt. Executive chairman Bill Ford said the company had not considered outside candidates because “our board felt that we were on the right path” with Farley. “I wouldn’t expect any big surprises”, Ford said in terms of additional management changes. Farley, who joined the company in 2007, was named chief operating officer in March soon after his main internal rival for the top role at the automaker, Joe Hinrichs, announced his retirement. Farley has a reputation within Ford for being a skilled political operator with sharp elbows, which has garnered him some loyal fans but made him unpopular with others. Hackett and Farley will work together during a 2-month transition period, and Hackett, 65, will continue as a company advisor through March 2021. Ford shares were initially rising 3 % on news of Farley’s succession as CEO. The stock has lost nearly 40 % of its value since Hackett took the reins as chief executive in May 2017 and has been at lows not seen since the Great Recession in 2009. In the year to date, Ford shares have sunk 26 % and its market capitalization of $27 billion is one-tenth that of rival Tesla’s. Hackett was handpicked for the top job at Ford by chairman Bill Ford, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford. Hackett had no automotive experience, and his tenure at the automaker was rocky and accompanied by persistent rumors that he was about to be ousted, but Bill Ford stuck loyally by his chosen CEO for more than 3 years. Hackett’s relationship with Wall Street has, at times, been strained. Analysts have expressed frustration at his preference for often-impenetrable corporate language, instead of clear updates on where Ford was heading, and a perceived lack of urgency in restructuring the automaker. Last week, Ford reported a quarterly profit thanks to an investment by Volkswagen in its self-driving Argo AI unit, more than offsetting an operating loss caused by a coronavirus-induced production shutdown. Ford said it expects a full-year loss, but added it should have ample cash on hand through the rest of 2020, even if global demand falls further or the coronavirus pandemic forces further shutdowns of vehicle assembly plants. Executives insisted that although the company had dramatically scaled back the amount it will spend on a global restructuring of its business, that overhaul had not stalled. The No.2 U.S. automaker also faces slumping demand in China, its second-largest market. Ford lost $771 million in China last year, about half its 2018 loss, and its market share there has shrunk. The company has struggled to revive sales in China since its business began slumping in late 2017. In an SEC filing, Ford said Farley’s annualized base salary increased to $1.700.000 from $1.400.000, while Hackett’s remained unchanged at $1.8 million. Farley will receive stock options valued at $4.000.000. Hackett’s total compensation, including stock options, fell to $17.4 million in 2019 from $17.8 million in 2018. He will cease to have access to private aircraft for personal travel effective October 1. Farley previously led Lincoln, South America, Ford of Europe and all of Ford’s global markets in successive roles. In the last 2 months, Ford has unveiled a redesigned version of its highly profitable F-150 pickup and a family of off-road Bronco SUVs as part of efforts to revitalize its lineup and pay down money borrowed to ride out the economic shock of the pandemic. +++ 

+++ GERMANY ’s car industry has seen demand picking up after coronavirus-related restrictions were eased and auto industry exports are expected to rise, a survey published by the Ifo economic institute showed. Business expectations, demand and order books all improved last month, Ifo said, but it cautioned that the survey’s indicator for the current business situation was still negative in July. Volkswagen and Daimler have said customers have returned to showrooms after corona lockdowns eased, resulting in a gradual rebound in demand in Europe and China. +++ 

+++ The HYUNDAI Motor Group has kicked off its import car business in China, with the first model starting pre-sales in September. Unlike many other brands, the South Korean carmaker said the cardinal mission is not sales but rather to improve the brand’s image in the world’s largest car market. The world’s No 5 carmaker has been haunted by image problems for a while. In China, Hyundai is not seen as a similar quality producer to its rival Japanese brands, let alone German ones. Some Chinese carmakers claim they are doing a better job than Hyundai and its affiliate Kia. “For many, Hyundai now means value for money, it means cheap”, said Li Hongpeng, vice-president of commerce at Hyundai Motor Group China. “In terms of branding, Hyundai has gone astray, resulting in a distorted perception across the country”. He compared the difference between the brand’s perception in China and what it is globally to a veil covering Hyundai. The veil dampens Chinese people’s enthusiasm to learn about the carmaker’s competitive edge. Li said the import vehicle business can help unveil Hyundai in China and the first model will be the large-sized SUV Palisade. The model is popular in the United States and sales could reach 6.000 to 7.000 a month. Hyundai hopes the Palisade could change the Chinese people’s impression. “Our localized models cannot fully represent our pinnacle in terms of technology and lineup”, Li said. He added that imported models will offer current Hyundai customers’ options when they want to trade in their cars for a better one, and thus consolidate their loyalty to the brand. The company will introduce a one-price policy for imported vehicles. Bargains and discounts of China-made Hyundai and Kia models have been the culprit of the carmaker’s deteriorating image and falling sales over the years. Last year, sales of Hyundai and Kia models in China totaled around 1 million, accounting for less than 14 % of its global total, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Ryu Chang Sung, head of brand strategy group at Hyundai Motor Group China, said 1 reason was the joint ventures, Beijing Hyundai and Dongfeng Yueda Kia, were preoccupied with selling cars. They did little to advance branding and reputation. “Chinese customers may know the 2 joint ventures, but have little knowledge of Hyundai as a group”, Ryu said. “We have thought over the problem and made the decision to change”. Last year, Hyundai moved the departments in charge of its China business from Seoul to Beijing, and began recruiting Chinese executives including Li, who was a senior executive at Mercedes-Benz’s China business, for important positions in the company and its 2 joint ventures. “Our goal in China is to achieve the influence as in other parts of the world. We will reposition ourselves and improve our brand image in partnership with our 2 joint ventures”, Ryu said. Li said Hyundai has the ability at the product level to alter people’s bias and on that basis, it is essential to convince the public of the company’s high standing in the global auto industry. “It starts with Hyundai employees and dealers in China as their perception would influence how customers view the brand”, he said. +++ 

+++ Chinese automaker Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Corp ( JAC ) reported a net loss in the first half of the year as the Covid-19 epidemic dented sales. JAC suffered a net loss of 146 million yuan ($20.9 million) in H1, compared with a profit of 125 million yuan in the same period last year, the company announced in its preliminary earnings estimate, filed with the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Due to the Covid-19, JAC’s sales of cars and chassis in the January-June period fell 10.97 % year-on-year to 209.400 units, the Hefei-headquartered company said. +++ 

+++ Out of the electronic ether comes word that the new CEO of JAGUAR LAND ROVER , replacing Ralf Speth, will be ex-Renault boss Thierry Bolloré, fired from the position last October, evidently for being seen as too close to Carlos Ghosn and too keen to promote Renault’s interests at the expense of Nissan’s. Seems he’s also an electric car expert and a specialist in component supply who has worked for a long time in South-East Asia and China. Which rather shows the Tata management’s priorities for JLR in future. Minutes after this news lobbed, Jato Dynamics (the statistics people) issued a release that summarises one of Bolloré’s chief challenges: across Europe in June, just 1.7 diesel cars were sold for every one electrified model. Meanwhile, sales of SUVs rose 40 % year on year. So what’s the solution for diesel-heavy, SUV-only Land Rover? +++ 

+++ A prototype for the next-generation MERCEDES-AMG C-Class has been spied during testing in ’53’ guise in Southern Europe. The new C-Class will be differentiated from the outgoing model on a number of fronts and this will include all-new looks. While the camouflage makes it difficult to comment on the key styling alterations, it is safe to say that the C 53 model will be slightly more aggressive than non-AMG variants. The spied prototype has some obvious cladding across the front fascia but we can see the outline of large air intakes on either side of the bumper as well as a set of familiar Mercedes-Benz headlights. A recognizable Panamericana grille is also to be expected. At the rear, the vehicle has mock taillights and twin tailpipes while at the sides we can see sporty wheels and larger brakes. As different as the new C 53 may look from the outgoing C-Class range, it will be on the powertrain front where things are really different. Current ‘53’ series models like the E 53 and CLS 53 feature a turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine with an EQ Boost delivering 435 hp and 520 Nm, but the new C 53 may use the same 2.0-liter turbo-4 as the A 45 S. This engine produces 421 hp and should Mercedes want some extra power, it could add an EQ Boost system to give the C 53 in excess of the current 435 hp. Sitting above the Mercedes-AMG C53 in the family will be the new C 63 and C 63 S models. If rumors are to be believed, the new C 63 will have a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that operates alongside an electric motor to produce more than 500 hp. Mercedes-Benz will probably unveil the new C-Class early next year, meaning we may not see AMG variants until 2022. +++ 

+++ A recent report, that’s based on inside information from “sources familiar with the matter”, says Tesla has started MODEL Y Long Range Rear Wheel Drive production on a trial basis. This doesn’t necessarily mean official production will start soon, but if true, it’s a step in the right direction. When the Model Y first came to market, it was only available in 2 all-wheel-drive configurations: Long Range and Performance. This is still the case, though Tesla has already lowered the prices of both versions. When the Model Y was officially unveiled, CEO Elon Musk talked of 4 different trims, as expected. The 2 mentioned above, as well as a Long Range RWD and a Standard Range. Since then, he has tweeted that the Standard Range isn’t going to happen. Tesla is now more focused on longer range, so it won’t even make the Standard Range vehicle. So, it seems the Long Range RWD will be the base model. If the company can continue to reduce prices, this should mean people will get a better Model Y with more range for somewhere around the price they may have expected to pay for a Model Y Standard Range in the future. According to inside sources, trial production is underway. +++ 

+++ The PSA Group has announced its future infotainment systems will be powered by Android. In a statement, the PSA Group said that it will start to use Android-powered infotainment systems from 2023. Unfortunately, it has released very few other details. “Groupe PSA continues its digital transformation and its collaboration with Google. Android Automotive OS will enable Groupe PSA to improve agility and efficiency while providing personalized interfaces to customers in the car”, PSA Group chief digital officer Christophe Rauturier said. “This new collaboration is an important step in the relationship between PSA and Google”. Vehicles from the PSA Group will not be the first to use Android-powered infotainment systems. For example, the Volvo XC40 Recharge has an infotainment system running on Android, as does the Polestar 2. In addition, General Motors has teamed up with Google to use Android in future infotainment systems to be used in Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC models starting in 2021. This new infotainment system will be Android-based and include Google Assistant built-in. This system will also work with compatible smart home devices including lights and garage door openers, while also offering access to the Google Play Store, allowing owners to download a wide array of apps and services. At the start of this year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also unveiled its new Uconnect 5 infotainment system that is based on Android. It is said to be up to 5 times faster than its predecessor and will operate on a large 12.3-inch display. +++ 

+++ RUSSIA ’s Anti-Monopoly Service said it had approved Hyundai’s possible acquisition of a General Motors factory in St Petersburg. Hyundai’s Russian unit confirmed last month it was discussing the acquisition of the factory, but declined to provide further details. Russia’s auto market has come under strain from the coronavirus crisis, which caused new car sales to plunge earlier this year. The GM factory in Shushary in St Petersburg’s suburbs can produce up to 100,000 cars a year. It was built in 2008, but closed in 2015 as part of GM’s decision to reduce its international operations. Hyundai and partner Kia already have a factory in Russia with a manufacturing capacity of more than 200.000 vehicles per year. The 2 carmakers sold more than 400.000 vehicles in Russia last year, which is more than Russian auto giant Avtovaz. +++ 

+++ SEOUL plans to phase out diesel cars from public sector and mass transit fleets by 2025 as part of efforts to accelerate its transition to green mobility. The metropolitan government unveiled a “No Diesel” initiative this week aimed at eliminating the highly emitting automobiles from the roads and replacing them with electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Diesel cars, deemed as a key culprit of climate change and fine dust air pollution, account for 64.6 % of vehicles used by the municipal government, district offices and city-affiliated pubic organizations. Diesel also makes up 0.9 % of the capital’s public transportation system. “We hope the ‘No Diesel’ plan led by the Seoul Metropolitan Government will contribute to the creation of a proper ecosystem of consumption and production of environment-friendly cars”. said Hwang Bo-yeon, chief of urban transportation policy. The new policy focuses on replacing diesel cars and vans in the pubic fleets with environment-friendly alternatives over the next 5 years. Of a total of 5.153 diesel automobiles currently used in the public sector, 3.586 cars will be replaced with electric and hydrogen vehicles in stages by 2025, the City Hall said. City authorities will also cooperate with carmakers to speed up the development of green models for fire trucks, ambulances and cleaning vehicles, which mostly run on diesel. In early July, the city government banned the purchase of new diesel cars for public use, with a plan to procure only environment-friendly cars in the future. It will also remove diesel vehicles from public transportation, including taxis, airport buses and city tour buses. The city, which already replaced all diesel buses with compressed natural gas buses in 2015, plans to introduce some 4.000 electric and hydrogen buses by 2025, officials said. In addition, the city will enhance cooperation with private organizations in the green mobility drive. The government seeks to replace 30 % of community buses with electric vehicles by 2023 and encourage school bus operators and car rental services to adopt environment-friendly automobiles. According to the plan, the authorities will step up public awareness campaigns and consult with the central government to expand benefits for the use of green cars and early scrapping of old diesel vehicles. +++ 

+++ SOUTH KOREA ’s future car dream is under threat as foreign makers dominate the market that is supposed to make it all possible. In the first half of the year, sales of fully electric sedans from domestic carmakers dropped by 43.1 % on-year, while imported electric sedan sales jumped by 564.1 %. Tesla’s Model 3 has 43 % of the market, with 7.080 units moved in the first half. Hyundai sold 4.877 Kona Electric cars; a 40 % year-on drop, while 2.309 e-Niro units from Kia were delivered. Overall, sales of full electric cars in South Korea hit 16.359 in the first half; a 2.7 % year-on-year drop, according to Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association data. Foreign electric vehicle (EV) makers receive the same subsidies as domestic EVs. The calculation is based on the driving range of the vehicle. Tesla’s Model 3 base model is priced at 53.7 million won and qualified for nearly 8 million won from the central government as an incentive. When the municipal government subsidy is added, the price tag can go down to a 30 million won level, same as EV models from Hyundai and Kia. “When the price, the biggest hurdle to buying an imported car, is similar with models from domestic carmakers, Korean consumers will highly likely to go for an imported model, especially when it is a Tesla”, said Kim Pil-soo, automotive engineering professor, Daelim University. The subsidy is similar even for more luxurious models, such as the Tesla Model S or Mercedes-Benz’s EQ C, both of which cost more than 100 million won without the subsidy. Although they are still expensive, a favorable environment to sell expensive EVs in South Korea could continue to put a threat on value-for-money models made by domestic carmakers. “An undifferentiated and big subsidy plan for EV purchases makes South Korea a favorable market for EV manufacturers because a lot of big auto markets have already implemented subsidy scheme that gives a different amount of incentives depending on the model”, Kim added. In the United States, for example, some states put a cap on subsidies. Domestic car manufacturers are likely to be more challenged in the latter half of the year as their strongest selling point (a low price) will no longer be an advantage. Affordable imported EVs are slated to hit the Korean market. Peugeot recently brought 2 of its full EV models to Korea: the e-2008 and e-208. The e-208, which was selected Car of the Year in Europe, costs from 41 million won and is eligible for a 6.5 million won central government subsidy. When added to municipal government incentives, the imported model ends up in the 20-million-won range. Both e-208 and e-2008 can go 244 kilometers per charge. Renault Samsung Motors will bring the Zoe to Korea in the latter half as well. The car’s driving range is 309 kilometer per charge. Its price hasn’t been confirmed, but considering its European price starts at around 32.5 million won, it is highly likely for it to be sold in the 20-million-won range after subsidies. In luxury segment, Porsche is expected to bring the Taycan, its first full EV model, to Korea in the latter half. The Taycan 4S will have a 407 kilometer range and will be priced starting at 145.6 million won. Audi already brought the e-Tron to Korea last month. The car, which can go 307 kilometers per charge, starts at 117 million won. “This year, foreign carmakers will take more share in the EV market”, said Kim. “From next year, however, when the Hyundai Motor Group releases new models under its EV-dedicated E-GMP platform, it could be a completely different story”. +++ 

+++ SUZUKI saw its operating profit nearly wiped out during the first quarter because of plunging car demand in India, its biggest market which has one of the world’s highest novel coronavirus infection rates. Japan’s No. 4 automaker posted an operating profit of 1.3 billion yen ($12.29 million), its worst quarterly performance on record. Still, it was higher than a consensus forecast for a loss of 38 billion yen drawn from 6 analysts. Suzuki said it booked an extraordinary loss of 15.4 billion yen during the quarter from virus-related factory shutdowns. It had secured 400 billion yen in financing from its lenders to help it get through the pandemic, the company said. The company declined to offer forecasts for full-year profit and dividends, citing uncertainties about the impact of the coronavirus in coming months. “In India, infections continue to rise significantly by the day”, managing officer Masahiko Nagao told a briefing following the announcement. “It’s difficult to read how the virus situation will play out in India. We must monitor this carefully”. Global automakers are taking a big hit from the coronavirus outbreak, which has shuttered vehicle factories and kept customers out of car dealerships, leading to a drop in sales and production. The maker of the Swift suffered a 64 % drop in global vehicle sales in April-June to 263.000 units, led by a 82 % plunge in India, which is struggling to control the coronavirus after taking steps to reopen its economy. Sales in Japan, Europe and Indonesia also took a big hit, erasing profits for the company’s automobile operations. India accounts for just over half of Suzuki’s global car sales, and through its majority stake in Maruti Suzuki India, the company accounts for roughly 1 in every 2 cars sold there. +++ 

+++ TESLA chief executive Elon Musk said in a podcast that demand for the company’s electric vehicles remained strong throughout the coronavirus pandemic, with consumers preferring to shop online. Musk said having a traditional dealer network (something he considered in the past) appears increasingly unnecessary. “We saw strong orders through the whole pandemic, we still had a good order volume”, Musk said. “I guess people are less inclined to want to go to a dealership, do the test drive and hang out in the lobby and that kind of thing”. Asked about a 2020 meteoric stock rally that has pushed Tesla shares up more than 240 % from the start of the year and made the company the world’s most highly-valued carmaker, Musk said the market would eventually sort itself out. He added that as long as Tesla made great cars, investors would be happy. In a May 1 tweet, Musk said Tesla’s share price was “too high”, at a time when shares where trading at around $700; roughly half of where they are now. Shares on Friday were down 2.2 % at $1,454. In the podcast interview, Musk also praised the Chinese work ethic and criticized U.S. attitudes. “China rocks in my opinion”, Musk said. “There are a lot of smart, hard-working people and they’re not entitled, they’re not complacent, whereas I see in the United States increasingly much more complacency and entitlement”. Tesla has built a factory in Shanghai and seen a sharp increase in Chinese demand for its Model 3. The company recently has also launched a hiring spree in Shanghai as it ramps up production and prepares to manufacture its new Model Y at the plant. +++ 

+++ Watch out! A moose just walked into the road in front of your new TOYOTA Supra . Can you swerve around it? Based on a new test in Spain the answer is a strong “maybe”. The moose test challenges a vehicle’s ability to avoid an obstacle in a fairly short distance and while travelling at a rather high rate of speed. The cones limit the automobile into making this manoeuvre into a narrow area. The Supra successfully completes the moose test at 77 kph. However, the tester notes that the Toyota takes some practice to pass the challenge. The model’s variable-ratio power steering makes it difficult to dial in the right amount of input. A person needs to be familiar with how this tech affects the car’s handling to avoid hitting a moose. The Supra failed other runs at 77 kph. It also wasn’t able to complete the test at higher speeds. As the velocities increased, there was more tyre skidding, which prevented the Toyota from getting around the cones. The testers praise the vehicle’s nimbleness through the cones. However, they deride the steering feel as being numb, particularly for a performance coupe. This test concerns the Supra with the 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-6 engine. I would be curious to see how the coupe performs with the 4-cylinder. While the engine makes less power, this version weighs around 100 kilograms less than the 6-cylinder model. However, the 4-pot variant also lacks the active differential and adaptive suspension that help the heavier machine. +++

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