Newsflash: DS krijgt 6 modellen

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+++ China’s leading new-energy vehicle (NEV) manufacturer BYD reported that its NEV sales have tumbled in the first 7 months of this year. The company sold a total of 75.777 NEVs in the January-July period; down by 53.29 % from the same period last year, BYD said. In July alone, it sold 15.100 NEVs; down from 16.567 units in the same month a year ago. Despite the sales slump in the NEV sector, BYD reported a sales rebound for gasoline-powered vehicles. During the first 7 months, the carmaker sold 114.233 gasoline-powered vehicles; up by 17.96 % year-on–year. +++

+++ I’ll start by saying Tesla CEO Elon Musk is extremely optimistic. It seems he always has some new idea. Some people doubt his comments since some of his ideas fizzle out and are never mentioned again. However, many other plans eventually come to be, even if they are in modified form. The potential for a smaller CYBERTRUCK seems quite feasible. The Tesla Cybertruck took the world by storm when it was first unveiled. Since then, Musk has talked about downsizing the behemoth a bit, though those plans quickly changed. The beast will remain the beast it was at its reveal event, but that doesn’t mean Tesla won’t make plans to produce a smaller Cybertruck in the future. While a big, burly truck that can give current fuel-powered trucks a run for their money, or even outperform them, may be what’s needed or expected for the American market, that’s not necessarily the case across the globe. If Telsa does go in this direction in the future, we hope there will be a similar option on our shores. Pickups, regardless of size, are very popular in the United States. Many people own luxury-grade pickups with loads of passenger space and a tiny bed. It seems it’s more of a status symbol than something they plan to use for work. Rivian is bringing a smaller, luxury electric pickup to market in the US, so it makes sense for Tesla to aim to compete. The above could be especially true if Tesla decides to make a more “normal” pickup at a later date. Musk also said this is a possibility. In a recent interview he talked about the “what if” potential of the Cybertruck flopping: “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”. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER said it was deepening an alliance with Chinese battery maker CATL to deliver battery packs capable of giving Mercedes-Benz cars 700 kilometres of range at higher recharging speeds. Daimler already has battery cell supply deals with SK Innovation, LG Chem and Farasis, in addition to CATL, as it plans to ramp up production of electric and hybrid vehicles. The agreement with CATL said the partnership will include supplying cells and entire battery systems as well as combining research. “We intend to lead in battery technologies, so we are now combining our own research and development expertise with bold partners”, Daimler said in a statement. “The agreement covers the full range of battery technologies, from cells across modules for Mercedes-Benz Cars to entire battery systems for Mercedes-Benz Vans in promising innovative technology configurations. This also includes the CATL cell-to-pack (CTP) design, which eliminates conventional modules and integrates the cells directly into the battery”. The partnership aims to shorten development cycles, significantly increase the ranges of future batteries through advances in energy density and reduce charging times, Daimler said. CATL will use electricity from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydropower for its battery cell production, the joint release said. +++ 

+++ DS has already confirmed that a flagship 9 saloon will join the existing 3 Crossback and 7 Crossback early next year, but UK managing director Alain Descat has revealed that there would soon be 6 models in the showrooms. Descat said: “We are going for 6 car showrooms”. After the 9 saloon arrives in the first half of next year, 2 versions of a new 4 model are expected to follow in hatchback and Crossback forms. Descat said: “Clearly it’s something I’d like to complement the range we have”. It’s expected that the new DS 4 will be not yet be based on a new version of the PSA EMP2 platform that will allow for full electrification. This means there will be just plug-in hybrid tech, as on current EMP2 cars. Descat also revealed that nearly a quarter of all current DS models sold across Europe are electrified, meaning the brand has an average CO2 output of all cars sold of 79.9 gram/km; the lowest of any premium brand. As for the 6th new DS model set to arrive in showrooms, Descat told: “The range is not settled; which models we are about to launch is not fully decided. I do not know, but I would probably go for something in terms of a bigger car, a SUV. It makes sense when you’re launching a new car to make sure it’s global. That’s like with the DS 9, which is relevant in the Chinese market. There is definitely the potential for a bigger SUV, but we also have to have the right electrified cars across the range”. The DS 9 saloon, at 4.934 mm long, is just 5 mm shorter than an Audi A6. A DS 9 Crossback at a similar length would take it close to the Audi Q7 in size, meaning 7 seats would be a possibility, too. Descat also confirmed that there would be more fully-electric DS vehicles, saying that he expected a new DS model to be based on PSA’s recently announced all-electric architecture, codenamed eVMP. “The platform is launched from 2023 so I would expect very soon after that we would have a DS on it”, he said. +++ 

+++ GEELY reported a year-on-year sales increase for July. The company sold 105.218 units last month; up about 15 % year on year. Of the total, 6.401 units were new-energy vehicles. In the first 7 months of the year, Geely sold a total of 635.000 units; down 14 % from the same period last year. The figure accounted for around 45 % of its full-year sales target. Geely said that it is planning to build more vehicles on its Compact Modular Architecture, which has been reserved until recently for high-end models by Volvo, Polestar and Lynk & Co. The top private Chinese carmaker said the sharing of the architecture symbolizes the latest area of its cooperation with Volvo, which it acquired in 2010. Geely and Volvo started to develop the CMA in 2013, which is designed to be compatible with combustion engines, mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles. Production of vehicles with the architecture started in 2017. The first model was the XC40. The architecture has since become the foundation for Geely’s upscale brand Lynk & Co and Volvo’s electric car brand, Polestar. The Chinese carmaker said a number of Geely-branded models is to join them soon, including the Preface sedan, which is due to be launched in the fourth quarter. The Geely Xingyue Coupe SUV, which is expected to begin overseas sales later in the year, uses the platform as well. Cumulative sales of vehicles built on the architecture surpassed 600.000 units by the end of July. Feng Qingfeng, vice-president of Geely Auto, said: “The Compact Modular Architecture is the DNA behind our evolutionary automotive manufacturing and development ecosystem. CMA not only gives Geely a future-proof vehicle architecture, it also allows us to endow each new product with pedigree genes in terms of safety, sportiness, and intelligence”, said Feng. Over the years, Geely has been scaling up its investment in research and development to boost the competitiveness of its models in China. Geely’s sales, including those of Volvo, hit 2 million in 2018 and 2019. Those of Geely Auto rose threefold from 450.000 units in 2010 to 1.36 million in 2019. +++ 

+++ HONDA forecasts a 68 % decrease in annual operating profit to a 10-year low with global demand for cars expected to slide because of the coronavirus pandemic. Japan’s No. 3 automaker expects profit to sink to 200 billion yen ($1.89 billion) in the year to end-March 2021; its weakest since the 2010/11 year and undershooting analyst estimates. Honda is bracing for a 6 % decrease in annual vehicle sales after a 40 % plunge in the first fiscal quarter, which resulted in a 113.7 billion yen operating loss. Global automakers are taking a big hit from the coronavirus outbreak, which shuttered vehicle factories this year and has kept customers out of car dealerships. The maker of the CR-V expects to sell 4.5 million vehicles this year, versus 4.79 million last year. It predicts a 16 % sales slide in North America; a key market where the United States is struggling to control a surge in virus infections. “If the current situation continues as is, we think the situation will not get worse (than we saw earlier this year), but it will take time for demand to recover to pre-pandemic levels”, executive vice president Seiji Kuraishi told a livestreamed briefing. Despite weaker sales in North America, Honda expects annual sales in Asia to increase 8 %. China, one of Honda’s biggest markets, has become a rare bright spot for many global automakers, as demand in the world’s biggest car market has been recovering faster than in other countries. Honda sank into the red for the second straight quarter and posted its worst operating loss since the March 2009 quarter. Despite its dire outlook, Honda is weathering the coronavirus pandemic better than rivals Nissan, Mitsubishi and Mazda, which last week forecast record operating losses for the year. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI ’s sales in the US market rose slightly over a period of 5 months, after struggling from the pandemic. Hyundai America said it reported total sales of 57.677 units last month in the region; a 1 % increase from a year ago. Sales grew 4 %, marking the third consecutive month of increase. SUVs pulled up the performance, representing 67 % of the total retail mix and growing by 16 % on-year. Flagship Palisade sales were up 87 %. Others in the Hyundai lineup rose in sales: Santa Fe 9 %, Kona 12 %, Sonata 7 % and Accent 7 %. Randy Parker, vice president of Hyundai America, said: “Our inventory levels are stable and customers are able to find the Hyundai vehicle that best suits their needs. Hyundai dealers have been outstanding partners in responding to the pandemic and helping put customers at ease”. Its affiliate Kia sold 52.479 units in the US retail sector last month, the highest ever among July’s sales. Like Hyundai, strong SUV sales drove the performance. The automaker said sales of Telluride rose 68.3 % from a previous month to 4.822 units due to the restart of its Georgia plant. Sportage and Seltos sold 7.939 units and 4.504 units, respectively. In January, Hyundai recorded a 5.1 % year-on-year jump in sales followed by 15.8 % growth in February. In 2019, it recorded positive growth in sales for every month except September. In March, however, sales dropped 42.4 % due to the coronavirus. Sales continued to fall 39 % in April, 13.8 % in May and 22 % in June. As said, July’s rebound was largely due to sales of SUVs. The company sold 10.922 Tucsons, followed by 9.296 Santa Fes and 8.404 units of the Palisade. Sales of the company’s luxury brand Genesis dropped by 20.7 % in July year-on-year, but the carmaker is hoping for a recovery in the latter half of this year with the launch of new models including the G80 sedan and GV80 SUV. The GV80 was supposed to launch in the United States during the summer but got delayed due to the coronavirus. It has already racked up more than 10.000 orders since January. As said, Kia’ July sales in the United States were 52.479 units, which was a 1.7 % year-on-year drop. The Sorento sold the most with 8.008, followed by 7.945 units of the Sportage. Sales by Japanese carmaker Toyota fell by 22 % in the United States last month year-on-year. Honda’s sales fell by 13 %. Hyundai’s global sales dropped 12.5 % in July, with the domestic market seeing a 28.4 % jump thanks to a temporary cut in consumption taxes. Overseas sales experienced a 20.8 % year-on-year drop. +++ 

+++ Automakers from JAPAN saw China sales grow by more than 10 % from a year earlier in July as the world’s biggest auto market sustained its recovery. Nissan said its sales rose 11.6 % last month from a year earlier to 120.945 vehicles. China is a market that Nissan is focusing on as the embattled car maker struggles to fix problems from ousted leader Carlos Ghosn’s aggressive expansion drive. Toyota sold around 165.600 cars last month in China; up 19.1 % year-on-year. Of the total, 22.300 came from its premium Lexus brand, which showed a 38.6 % sales jump compared to a year earlier. Honda said it sold 136.646 vehicles in China in July; up 17.8 %. +++ 

+++ MAZDA hinted its first series-produced electric car, the MX-30 introduced in late 2019, might not be sold in the United States. But Americans could see it on their shores with another powertrain under its coupe-like sheetmetal, however. The company announced a mild-hybrid variant of the crossover during a press conference held in Japan. Technical details about the gasoline-electric MX-30 are hazy, but Mazda said it’s powered by the same basic mild-hybrid system available in the 3 and the CX-30. That means the drivetrain is built around a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a small electric motor that captures the kinetic energy generated while braking. It uses this electricity to power the car’s electronics, and it injects it into the driveline to deliver bursts of extra power. Fuel economy and performance figures haven’t been released yet. We expect the mild-hybrid model will be quicker than the heavier electric version, and its driving range will be appreciably greater. The electric model is equipped with a relatively small, 35.5 kWh lithium/ion battery pack that delivers a 200 km range. Mazda explained using a smaller pack yields total CO2 emissions on par with a turbodiesel-powered Mazda3. The biggest visual difference between the 2 variants is an e-Skyactiv-G emblem on the hatch. Both model wear the same sporty design characterized by a steeply-raked roof line and a set of rear-hinged half doors reminiscent of the rotary-powered RX-8. It’s the same story inside, where the hybrid and the EV are all but identical. Significantly, the hybrid MX-30 is expected to cost less than the electric model, which carries a base price of €33.990 in The Netherlands. All told, it’s better positioned than the EV to stick the landing if it’s sent to the United States. Mazda hasn’t yet published a list of the countries where it will sell the hybrid MX-30. +++ 

+++ MITSUBISHI chairman Osamu Masuko is stepping down after 15 years due to health reasons, just as the Japanese automaker’s alliance with Nissan and Renault is being shaken by deteriorating profits. Chief Executive Officer Takao Kato will temporarily assume the role of chairman, Mitsubishi said in a statement. Masuko will remain as a special adviser to the company, which didn’t elaborate on his condition. Masuko was the last top-level leader remaining from when Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of the three automakers in the alliance, was arrested in November 2018 on charges of underreporting income. Masuko had negotiated with Ghosn to sell a third of the company after its stock had declined following a car-inspection scandal. Although the alliance unveiled a new strategy in May, all 3 automakers are on track to lose billions this year as they struggle to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. That has raised concerns over the viability of their partnership. “Under new management, it’ll become clearer that Mitsubishi will prioritize its own revival”, said Seiji Sugiura, an analyst at Tokyo Tokai Research. The global car alliance, which was created to compete against other auto giants, is under increasing strain since Ghosn’s arrest. Apart from Ghosn, former Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and former Renault CEO Thierry Bollore left their positions last year. Last week, Mitsubishi forecasted an operating loss of ¥140 billion ($1.3 billion) for the fiscal year through March and said it would close a plant in Japan assembling the Pajero in a bid to cut costs. Masuko negotiated with Ghosn when Mitsubishi was embroiled in a car-inspection scandal in 2016 for falsifying fuel-economy data. Nissan bought about a third of Mitsubishi. Masuko stepped down as CEO in June 2019, and Kato took on the role. +++ 

+++ For most automotive designers, taking their CEO through a design review can be a fraught process. The auto industry is mostly run by accountants and engineers, number crunchers who rely on systems and processes to produce something that sells on emotion. POLESTAR design director Max Missoni (photo) has a slightly different challenge, however: His boss, Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath, is himself a designer. When Ingenlath left Volkswagen to become head of Volvo design in 2012, he brought with him to Sweden the Austrian-born Missoni, who’d worked for the German automaker since graduating from London’s Royal College of Art in 2002. Missoni was made vice president of exterior design for Volvo in 2014, and in 2018 he became Polestar’s design director after Ingenlath was made CEO of the premium electric vehicle brand. Missoni has been involved with Polestar since the beginning. The concept coupe he drew became Polestar 1, he’s overseen the design of the new Polestar 2 and the forthcoming Polestar 3 cross-over, and his sleek, clinically crisp Polestar Precept concept shows where he wants to take the brand in design terms over the next decade. Question: What’s it like doing a design review for a CEO who’s a designer himself? Answer: “I think the big difference between a design review with a CEO who comes from the engineering side and a CEO who used to be a designer himself is twofold. One is you know that he knows. You don’t have the advantage of experience where you can say, “What do you know? I know this better than you”. But you don’t have to explain so much. You can just say, “You know what I mean, right?” Thomas totally gets that and that’s the big advantage. There’s much less complication”. Q: In terms of its design language, the Polestar Precept is quite a step-change from what we’ve seen from Polestar so far. Why? A: “Polestar 1 and 2 were partially rooted in the Volvo design language that we all came up with 7 years ago. Those cars found a home in Polestar because they were quite extreme to start with and didn’t really fit into the Volvo lineup. But it is now time to say, “Look, this is our plan for the future. This is how pure and how progressive we want to look like”. And all the design features in the Precept come from aerodynamics and technology. They’re not just styling”. Q: You’re trying to communicate the Precept’s technology and capability through design rather than just making a pleasing shape for the hell of it? A: “Big innovation in design normally happens when there is technology innovation. In the periods in between it’s mostly for the hell of it. You try something else because “Hey, we have a successor, it’s pretty much the same spec as the predecessor, we just have to get people excited about that car again”. And the more you can stick to the system solutions of the predecessor, the better your margins might be. We had the chance to create a new design language for a brand here and said, “OK, let’s embrace those things”. In other, more legacy-driven companies, you don’t want to alienate anybody who has liked you the last 50 years”. Q: Is the world ready for a new aesthetic? How difficult is it to lead rather than to follow? A: “I personally don’t believe in doing a very new or different proportion just for the sake of it. If it’s not driven by any technology, we shouldn’t make it different. We also know that as a small challenger, we need to give people a reason to get excited about us, and apart from technology, design does that. We really believe in inspiring people and not necessarily following recommendations. The consumer electronics-inspired design language is what gives the Precept freshness”. Q: You’re also still working on Volvo exteriors with the Volvo team. That’s a very different mission … A: “At the moment I’m this split personality. I have the clean sheet business going on with Polestar and I have to evolve Volvo, to take what we have created into a next generation. It’s a hell of a ride, but it’s great. It’s exciting to do both things at the same time, to try to carefully move a 100-year-old, 90-year-old brand into the next generation while at the same time I have a clean sheet and can go, “OK, now if we could do what we wanted to, what would we do?” +++ 

+++ A new prototype for the 992 generation PORSCHE 911 GT3 Touring has been filmed testing on the streets near the Nürburgring and it could prove to be one of the very finest 911 variants to ever hit the market. Much like the ‘standard’ 911 GT3, the Touring model will be powered by a screaming naturally-aspirated 6-cylinder engine, likely displacing 4.0-liters. Porsche’s engineers should be able to boost the output beyond the 520 hp of the previous-generation 911 GT3 RS and perhaps nearer the 560 hp mark, inevitably making the new GT3 Touring an absolute firecracker. Mated to the high-revving engine will probably be a 6-speed manual transmission as standard but it is possible a PDK will be an option, as it will be on the “regular” 911 GT3. The key point of difference between the GT3 and the GT3 Touring is the latter’s lack of a fixed rear wing. Instead, the GT3 Touring has a retractable spoiler to give it a slightly more subdued and restrained look. Elsewhere, it sits on a set of newly-designed black wheels with very thin spokes and positioned over a set of red brake calipers. A sharp rear diffuser and a hood with air vents will also catch the eye. The previous-gen 911 GT3 Touring followed in the footsteps of the prized 911R but was not limited in production. It was also offered exclusively with a stick shift and had leather throughout the interior as opposed to Alcantara. We expect the new car to follow this philosophy and offer a slightly more luxurious interior than the regular GT3. Reports claim the new 911 GT3 will premiere next month; if that is true, we will probably see the GT3 Touring unveiled shortly thereafter. +++ 

+++ SAIC MOTOR reported growth in production and sales in July. The Shanghai-based company manufactured 474.581 cars last month; up 23 % year-on-year. Its sales in July climbed 4 % year-on-year to 457.558 units. In the January-July period, SAIC manufactured 2.47 million cars; down 23.92 % year-on-year. Its sales during the same period went down 25.77 % year-on-year to 2.51 million units. SAIC-GM-Wuling exported 2.658 vehicles and knock-down kits in July; up 66 % year-on-year, a sign of the Sino-US joint venture’s growing popularity in overseas markets. Despite the corona pandemic, the company’s total overseas sales exceeded 50.000 from January to July; up 37 % from the same period last year. Its overseas sales revenue in the first seven months this year totaled over 2 billion yuan ($288 million); up 35 % year-on-year. SAIC-GM-Wuling said it began exploring overseas markets in the early 2000s. Now its products are available in over 40 countries and regions, primarily in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. SAIC has a $700 million plant in Indonesia with an annual production capacity of 120.000 vehicles. The Baojun 530 (photo) is one of the most popular Chinese models in overseas markets. Its cumulative deliveries totaled 75.185. In India, it had a market share of 52 % in the mid-sized SUV segment in the first quarter of 2020. SAIC-GM-Wuling began exporting the smaller Baojun 510 in July, with the first 542 to South America. The company said the model will also be available in the Middle East and Africa. The company is also one of the best-selling carmakers in the Chinese market. Its sales exceeded 130.000 in July; up 20 % year-on-year. It has seen sales growth for 4 months in a row since April. +++ 

+++ Steve Saleen claims that China has stolen 40 years’ worth of intellectual property from him in launching the SALEEN brand in China. In 2016, Saleen entered a joint venture with the government of Rugao, a city in Jiangsu province with a population of roughly 1.4 million. The plan was for Saleen to use his experience, design, engineering and related technologies worth $800 million in the joint venture while maintaining a majority stake in the company with his American partners. Meanwhile, Rugao would bring $500 million in capital and $600 million in subsidized loans over 3 years to fund manufacturing sites and operations in exchange for a minority stake. Now, Saleen claims “the deal was a sham”. According to the racing legend, the joint venture applied for 510 Chinese patents based on his designs, technologies, trade secrets and engineering developments. He adds that most of these patent filings didn’t list him as an inventor. The company, known as Jiangsu Saleen Automotive Technologies (JSAT), unveiled a range of models 12 months ago. Saleen asserts that the government of Rugao is attempting to take over the joint venture now that it has his intellectual property and patents. He claims that the director of corporate affairs for JSAT, Grace Yin Xu, has been missing since June 22 when she entered a government building shortly after refusing to lie to local law enforcement who wanted her to state Saleen’s business partner had provided false information and embezzled money. In addition, the company’s vice president of manufacturing, Frank Sterzer, was allegedly detained for 6 hours by the authorities. Saleen states that “China can no longer go unchecked”, citing a 2019 survey that 20 % of North American corporations say the People’s Republic has stolen their intellectual property in the past year. He adds that the U.S.-China trade deal must include protections for American companies and consumers. “Such measures may not be enough to protect my 40 years of work and the brand I have built. But it isn’t too late for other American entrepreneurs whose livelihoods are at stake”, Saleen says. “Congress and the Trump administration should send a clear message to China: If you want to be in the race, play by the rules”. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , new car registrations rose 11.3 per cent year-on-year in July thanks to pent-up demand following months of dealerships being closed. A total of 174.887 new cars were registered, compared with 157.198 in July 2019, during the month, for which all dealerships across the UK had fully reopened. Despite the recovery, registrations for the year-to-date are still down 41.9 %, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), with 828.389 new cars registered so far in 2020, compared with 1.426.443 by the same point in 2019. The SMMT now predicts that the total new car registrations figure for the whole of 2020 will be 30 % down on that of 2019. Private registrations saw the biggest increase in July, rising 20.4 % year-on-year. Fleet was up 5.2 %, while new car registrations for business declined 11.8 %. Plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles made up a 9 % share of the new car market in July, representing stable demand. B and C segment family cars were the most popular segments, meanwhile, accounting for 59.1 % of registrations. Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “July’s figures are positive, with a boost from demand pent up from earlier in the year and some attractive offers meaning there are some very good deals to be had. We must be cautious, however, as showrooms have only just fully reopened nationwide and there is still much uncertainty about the future. By the end of September we should have a clearer picture of whether or not this is a long-term trend. Although this month’s figures provide hope, the market remains fragile in the face of possible future spikes and localised lockdowns as well as, sadly, probable job losses across the economy. The next few weeks will be crucial in showing whether or not we are on the road to recovery”. With superminis and small family cars remaining the 2 most popular vehicle categories, the Ford Fiesta and Focus continue to hold the first and second spot respectively in the best-selling models list, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. MG Motor and Kia have posted their best ever sales figures for July as demand resurfaces following the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the SMMT, both brands achieved record sales last month, registering 1.846 and 9.110 new cars respectively. For MG, this follows another best ever volume in June, when it sold 2.025 cars and achieved a record monthly market share of 1.4%, thanks to its ZS EV. In July, the brand sold 78 % more vehicles than in the same month last year. The company hopes its success can continue throughout 2020 with the new 5 electric estate and plug-in hybrid HS arriving in the second half of the year. MG also registered more cars than Lexus (1.309 cars) and registered almost as many sales as Fiat (1.949) and Suzuki (1.877) during the month. Kia’s July 2020 sales volume beat its previous best July figures (7.417 in 2016) by more than 2.000 units and is up 28 % on 2019’s. The Korean marque’s performance was driven by 2.539 sales of its hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full battery electric Niros and the 2.505 sales of its popular Sportage. Year-to-date, Kia is 37 % down on the same period in 2019. However, CEO Paul Philpott said that it was “good to see a strong return in July”. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED STATES , new vehicle sales in July continued to show signs of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, as Toyota posted its lowest sales decline since the virusoutbreak slammed the sector in mid-March. The Japanese automaker said its sales in July fell 19 % versus the same month in 2019, to 169.484 units. That was Toyota’s best month since before the pandemic shuttered North American production for 2 months and led to closed dealers across numerous U.S. states. The rebound in U.S. auto sales since hitting a bottom in April has seen major automakers scramble to ramp up production and boost weak inventories at dealerships, especially in states where they remained open throughout the shutdowns. The rebound in sales, though, could be threatened by surging Covid-19 cases in southern and southwestern U.S. states, which have increased uncertainty over the U.S. economic recovery. Hyundai reported a year-on-year gain of 0.6% in U.S. sales for July, selling 57.677 units. “Achieving an overall sales increase despite the ongoing pandemic is a tremendous accomplishment and speaks to the depth and quality of our product lineup and resiliency of our dealers”, Hyundai’s North American sales chief, Randy Parker, said in a statement. Kia reported overall sales down 1.7% year over year in July, with strong sales of its Telluride, Seltos and Sportage and partial-month sales of its new K5 (Optima) sedan. Honda’s U.S. sales were down 11.2 % in July and is down 21.8 % for the year so far. Volvo sales were way up by 10.3 % over July 2019; its best July in 14 years. Volvo’s year-to-date sales figure improved: it is now down 10.1 %. Sales of the XC40 set a record for the month. Mazda sales were up 3.4 % and its year-to-date figure improved to a decrease of 5.5 %. Genesis sales in July were down 20.7 % and down 24.1 % in the year to date. Subaru had limited inventory, which pushed its sales down 19.7 % for the month; 21.1 % down for the year so far. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate for light vehicles sold in July was estimated at 14.52 million units, according to Wards Intelligence, which was above analysts’ forecasts. General Motors last week said its ability to repay loans depended on a continued economic recovery and the assumption that U.S. new vehicle sales would finish the year at around 14 million units, compared to about 17.1 million vehicles last year. The average transaction price for light vehicles was $38,378. That’s up by $749 from July 2019 but down $473 from June. +++ 

+++ After taking reservations for months, VOLKSWAGEN began selling the electric ID.3 to the general public on July 20. It’s a crucial step that accelerates the company’s electrification offensive, but the hatchback is just the tip of the charging cord. The flexible MEB platform gives Volkswagen a tremendous amount of freedom to release mainstream and niche models, but it doesn’t exempt it from the need to put together a business case. “The smallest MEB-based car is the ID.3. If we bring smaller cars, which we’ll do in 2023-2024, they’ll be on an adapted version of this platform. It’ll be smaller. But, the smallest car from the actual platform is the ID.3”, Thomas Ulbrich, Volkswagen’s board member for electric mobility, during an interview. Volkswagen hasn’t publicly said much about what will sooner or later slot beneath the ID.3. As of this writing, its most compact electric model is a battery-powered variant of the pocket-sized Up. The sub-ID.3 car that Ulbrich alluded to could replace it, but as a slightly bigger car whose exterior dimensions are aligned with the Polo’s, a popular global-market hatchback that competes against the Ford Fiesta. At the other end of the spectrum, the MEB architecture’s flexibility allows Volkswagen to think big. “The biggest one we will produce is a D-segment sedan stretched for the Chinese market. It could be the ID Vizzion or something similar. That’s more or less the upper limit size-wise. In terms of weight, it’s the ID.Buzz. We’ve already decided it will be based on the MEB, even if this requires some adaptations”, Ulbrich said. Volkswagen previously confirmed that the production version of the heritage-laced ID.Buzz concept is scheduled to enter production in Germany in 2022. One of its first public outings will be at the FIFA World Cup taking place in Qatar. Engineers are working closely with Qatari officials to reliably deploy a fleet of autonomous, Buzz-based prototypes during the event. MEB was developed specifically for electric powertrains; it’s not compatible with hydrogen or hybrid technology let alone with a drivetrain that’s not electrified. Hydrogen is not the ideal solution for passenger cars, according to Ulbrich, but it’s well-suited to heavy-duty applications like trucks. However, he told that the Amarok (the only body-on-frame pickup in Volkswagen’s portfolio) would hypothetically slot on the electric side of the range. “It’s a difficult discussion, to have an Amarok or a similar car using BEV technology. We are looking at what Rivian is doing, because normally it is difficult to believe that a car like the Amarok, for example, could be electrified. But, nevertheless, step by step our investigation and research makes us think it becomes more possible. By making this technology more and more robust, an Amarok-type of car would be BEV”. That’s not a confirmation that VW is actively planning an electric pickup. The second-generation Amarok is around the corner, and it will be twinned with the Ford Ranger’s replacement thanks to the burgeoning partnership between the 2 companies. And, if Volkswagen does one take day the Amarok into EV territory, it will need to find a suitable platform to underpin it. MEB isn’t an option because it’s a unibody architecture. Several market segments separate the ID.3 from the ID.Vizzion, but don’t expect Volkswagen to fill them all. While the brand’s electric car range will grow to include many body styles, Ulbrich told us his team is in no rush to release another coupe like the Scirocco, which retired for the third time in 2017. “I don’t think so”, he replied with a tinge of regret when asked if a fourth-generation model (electric or gasoline-powered) is on its way. As a mainstream manufacturer, Volkswagen is putting a bigger emphasis on volume-oriented models than on niche cars as it develops its range of electric vehicles. The ID.3, a Golf-sized hatchback, recently went on sale in many European markets. The ID.4, a Tiguan-sized crossover, will break cover before the end of 2020. Quicker, handling-focused models aren’t a priority, but enthusiasts are asking for them and Volkswagen will deliver. “There is a market. Some customers are requesting that we show what is possible. It is a tradeoff between performance and range, because there is a very direct relationship between the two. There is definitely a market, an interest on the customer’s part. They’re buyers who prefer performance because maybe they don’t prioritize the range”, Ulbrich told. Developing a performance car generally requires removing as much weight as possible, but designing an electric car with an acceptable amount of driving range normally means using a bulky battery pack. Volkswagen isn’t the only carmaker stuck in this pickle. Although it competes in a completely different segment of the market, McLaren explained it ran into the exact same issues when testing electric technology on the road and on the track, and concluded it most likely will not be able to release a model without pistons until 2025 at the earliest. Volkswagen didn’t provide me with a timeline, but it’s confident it will solve the range-performance equation in a timely manner. It’s notably applying lessons learned from racing the record-breaking ID.R globally, including at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. And, it has already decided its sporty EVs will wear the GTX nameplate. “The idea is, as you know, that we’ll extend range again and again and again by improving our battery technology, and by making more efficient drivetrains. I think that, somewhere down the road, it will fit perfectly together, and we are convinced that there is a market for sporty, GTX-badged electric vehicles”, Ulbrich added. It’s still too early to tell which ID-badged models will receive the GTX treatment. However, picturing a hotter version of the ID.3 doesn’t require a superhuman stretch of the imagination. And, I’d bet on seeing a high-riding GTX model sooner or later; demand for hot-rodded crossovers is expected to continue growing globally. Regardless, the GTX badge will be inaugurated by a car built on the modular MEB platform, an architecture engineers made rear-engined and rear-wheel drive in its standard configuration in the name of driving enjoyment. “Looking at the weight distribution, this decision was made very early. With the battery adding weight, you have a super low center of gravity. In most front-wheel drive electric cars, you don’t have that much fun when you’re taking off because the front wheels spin, especially when it’s wet. With rear-wheel drive, that never happens. This is the reason we did that; fun. Otherwise, we would have had to restrict the torque, and I think torque is fun every day”, explained Silke Bagschik, Volkswagen’s head of electric car marketing and sales, in an interview. +++ 

+++ VOLVO recorded a 14.2 % global year-on-year sales increase in July, bucking the industry’s pandemic-induced downward trend. The Swedish firm sold 62.291 cars worldwide last month, with growth recorded in the European, US and Chinese markets. Its 28.700 European sales were up 12.5 % on July 2019. The growth is attributed to a number of factors, including the easing of lockdown restrictions allowing dealerships to reopen and continued strong demand for the brand’s SUV models. The XC40 was the brand’s topselling model last month, followed by the XC60 and XC90. Overall, the SUV trio accounted for 72.8 % of Volvo’s July sales. The growing popularity of Volvo’s electrified Recharge range (recently bolstered with the addition of the new XC40 plug-in hybrid) also contributed to the growth. Volvo says sales of electrified models more than doubled in the first 6 months of 2020 compared with the same period last year. The brand also cites recently published data from analytics body IHS Markit, which names it as the “leading electrified premium brand in Europe during the first half of 2020, with Recharge models making up nearly a quarter of sales in the segment”. Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson said recently that the firm’s focus on electrification and connectivity will help it to achieve long-term growth in the wake of the pandemic. “The downturn we saw in the first half is a temporary one,” he said. “We expect to see a strong recovery in the second half of the year, and our Recharge range of electrified cars puts us in a strong position to meet the emerging trends we’re seeing. This pandemic has strengthened our confidence that our strategic ambitions are the right ones and that an accelerated transformation of our business will lead to long-term growth. We will continue to focus on and invest in electrification, online sales and connectivity”. Volvo’s year-to-date sales figures show the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with its 332.253 global sales marking a 16 % drop compared with the first 6 months of 2019. +++

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