Newsflash: nieuwe Mercedes C-klasse wordt ook leverbaar als All-Terrain

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+++ A 5G covered road for testing self-driving cars was formally opened in Baohe district of the Hefei city, welcoming the first batch of passengers. The 4.4-km-long ring road will be open to both self-driving vehicles and ordinary vehicles. Construction on the road started in August 2019 and since has achieved 5G network coverage, installed road conditions monitoring devices and built a cloud platform control center. Self-driving cars could realize intelligent driving on this road and 5G technology has significantly improved the safety of vehicles’ operation, according to the construction unit. Over a dozen Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, have been approved to conduct road tests for self-driving vehicles. +++

+++ China’s leading new energy vehicle (NEV) manufacturer BYD recorded 1.66 billion yuan ($242 million) of net profit in the first half of 2020; up 14.29 % year-on-year. During the January-June period, the company generated revenue of 60.5 billion yuan; down 2.7 % year-on-year, BYD said in its financial report filed with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. With the recovery of the automobile business and growth in other businesses, BYD said it expected to make 2.8 billion yuan to 3 billion yuan of net profit in the first 3 quarters of this year, growing between 77.86 % and 90.56 % year-on-year. +++

+++ Right now, Mercedes has its attention focused on the new S-Class. It’s the flagship saloon, and it’s packed with new features. But the German automaker isn’t letting its other products whither. Next up for a refresh is the C-CLASS , and it appears as if there’ll be a new, highriding variant, too. It seems to be the long-rumoured Mercedes C-Class All-Terrain, a rugged version of the C-Class estate. A test vehicle that was cought on camera was covered in camouflage but it failed to hide the estate’s chunkier proportions and raised ride height. There appeared to be cladding around the wheel arches; a styling element we see on the Audi A4 Allroad and Volvo V60 Cross Country; the All-Terrain’s main competitors. The bumpers also look chunkier than what we’ve seen in the spy photos of the regular estate and the side sills are wider. The C-Class All-Terrain’s appearance should mimic that of the larger E-Class All-Terrain. The C-Class All-Terrain should arrive with a list of powertrains it’ll share with the rest of the model’s lineup. There’ll likely be hybrid power, too, thanks to the model’s updated MRA platform, and it’ll feature the company’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system as standard equipment. Inside, it should look like the C-Class Estate with the MBUX infotainment system mounted within the centre console, similar to that of the new S-Class. I don’t expect the C-Class saloon to debut until early 2021, with the C-Class Estate following in the summer. We should see the C-Class All-Terrain arrive a couple of months later. +++ 

+++ In CHINA , electric cars, plug-in hybrids, fuel cells attracting huge investments as fast-growing renewables sector gains traction. Automakers worldwide are racing to partner with Chinese companies in the new energy vehicle sector as they push deeper to explore the potential of the latest wave of changes in the industry. In China, combined sales of electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles exceeded 5 % of total vehicle deliveries for the first time in the first half of 2019 and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology expects the figure to reach 25 percent by 2025. The government’s ambition and prospects in the world’s largest vehicle market are attracting foreign carmakers to boost investment in China. Toyota established a Beijing research facility dedicated to fuel cell vehicles on August 20 in partnership with State-owned carmakers FAW, Dongfeng, GAC and BAIC as well as Beijing SinoHytec, a Chinese fuel cell engine maker. Toyota holds 65 % of the joint venture (United Fuel Cell System R&D) with a registered capital of 1.67 billion yen ($15.81 million).The facility’s total investment is expected to grow to $50 million, according to their plan. The Japanese carmaker is one of the biggest backers of fuel cell vehicles, betting they will become the ultimate solution in future transportation modalities and China’s ambition in the sector has attracted Toyota’s interest. In a plan announced in 2016, China hopes to have 1 million fuel cell vehicles on its roads by 2025. In a statement, Toyota’s operating officer Shigeki Terashi said: “There is no other automobile market with such a sense of speed. By working with companies that have considerable influence in China’s commercial vehicle market as well as SinoHytec, which has reliable technological capabilities, I believe that we will be able to establish the foundation for the widespread use of fuel cell vehicles in China”. General Motors is speeding up its electrification efforts in the country as well. The United States’ largest automaker said over 40 % of its new models in China over the next 5 years will be electrified and will be manufactured locally. “As GM’s largest market and a global center of innovation, China will play a crucial role in making our vision a reality”, said Mary Barra, GM chairwoman and CEO, at an online event on August 19. “With our joint venture partner SAIC, we are blending global insights and scale with local market expertise to redefine what is possible for our customers and for society”, Barra said. German companies are partnering with Chinese battery makers to gain a better foothold in China and other markets. Mercedes-Benz has chosen CATL as its major battery supplier, which is a global leader in the development and production of lithiumion batteries. In 2019, its battery production capacity reached 40.25 gigawatt-hours. “Working with CATL will see us accelerate our transformation toward carbon-neutrality”, said Markus Schäfer, a board member of Daimler and its subsidiary Mercedes-Benz. The 2 companies have started working on battery products that will be used in vehicles within the next few years. Daimler announced in July that it is acquiring a stake of around 3 % in Chinese battery cell maker Farasis Energy. The carmaker did not give an exact investment figure for the equity, but said it is investing “multimillions” of euros in Farasis’ initial public offering on China’s Nasdaq-like STAR board. A stake in a Chinese battery cell maker will enable the company to further leverage the potential of advanced technology partners to pursue its global electrification strategy, said Hubertus Troska, a board member of Daimler responsible for its China business. “China is the world’s largest electric car market with tremendous potential for further development. We are working with strong and trusted partners in China, not only to enhance our local footprint but also to strengthen our competitiveness worldwide”, Troska said. China overtook the United States in 2015 as the largest market for electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles, and has since held the lead. Last year, sales of such vehicles in China totaled 1.2 million, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Affected by Covid-19, these sales could fall to 1.1 million this year, said the association’s chief engineer Xu Haidong. Volkswagen is confident in the sector’s long-term potential. “China is determined to make new energy vehicles a success and Volkswagen is determined to make it a success, and I am confident it will happen”, said Volkswagen Group China CEO Stephan Wöllenstein. Despite the estimated fall in such vehicle sales this year, the carmaker said it will not alter its sales goal of delivering 1.5 million vehicles in China by 2025. The German carmaker is in the process of acquiring a 26 % share in China’s No 3 battery maker Gotion. The €1 billion deal, expected to be completed later this year, will make the German car giant Gotion’s largest shareholder. Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen, said the partnership is an opportunity for Volkswagen to achieve deeper know-how in the field of batteries. Gotion has a number of projects over the entire battery value chain from sourcing, development and production to recycling. Volkswagen said Gotion will supply batteries to its 3 joint ventures in the country, 2 of which are making vehicles on Volkswagen’s electric platform. 2 models built on the platform will launch before Spring Festival, said the company. With the impact of Covid-19 on new energy vehicles in China gradually diminishing, the country’s charging pile sector is slowly recovering and is expected to surge in the second half, insiders said. As many as 7.834 new public chargers were added in July in China as the country (the world’s largest auto market) saw strong performance in the new energy vehicle sector during the month, with production and sales surging 15.6 % and 19.3 %, respectively, year-on-year, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The number of electric vehicle chargers for public use in China stood at around 566.000 at the end of July, said the China Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance. New charger additions this year were interrupted by Covid-19. The level dropped from 15.000 new units in January to less than 200 in February. It bounced back to 10.000 units in March but halved to 5.000 units again in April. However, the general trend has been stable since the second quarter, with the 3-month moving average staying at around 6.000 new units per month. “The charging volume quickly recovered from 172 gigawatt-hours in February to 604 GWh by June, which was already higher than the pre-Covid-19 level of 596 GWh in December. The growth momentum is very strong and the trend is likely to continue”, an analist said. He added that he is optimistic about the future charging market. “From the demand side, the EV fleet is growing rapidly. Early adopters to EVs were usually affluent people with private parking garages and private chargers installed. As the EV market expands, more customers do not own their own parking spaces, which creates more demand for public chargers. The rising charger utilization rate will generate better cash flow, which will help investors build more chargers”, he said. “With government support, we think new charger additions in the second half will rise faster. In the medium-to-long term future, we believe the market will pick up speed. This is because faster charging speeds will improve the charging experience by greatly reducing charging times, which makes EVs as convenient as traditional internal combustion engine vehicles”. Automakers are accelerating their EV launch plans, partly to comply with increasingly stringent regulations in China. While Covid-19 will delay some of these, by 2022 there will be over 500 different EV models available globally. The acceleration of charging piles in recent years is also due to favorable policies including more allowances for charging facility construction from the previous subsidy to new energy vehicle purchases by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Ministry of Finance. China released its new infrastructure construction plan in March, including EV charging piles, making it a key sector for national infrastructure construction, which is believed to further drive the market and create an investment and construction scale of 18.76 billion yuan ($2.74 billion) by 2025, said iResearch. The Beijing government also vows to further optimize the capital’s charging pile construction and have available no less than 50.000 electric vehicle charging facilities during the 2020-22 period. Insiders believe further subsidy policies and increasing profitability of charging pile companies will lead to more financing for related firms. State Grid Corp of China, the largest power utility company in China, offers services to over 1.1 billion people across 26 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. It plans to invest up to 2.7 billion yuan this year to add 78.000 charging piles, while China Southern Power Grid also plans to invest 25.1 billion yuan in the upcoming 4 years to create 150 large-scale centralized charging stations and 38.000 charging piles. Many carmakers and other companies are also partnering with the country’s utility companies to lay out a charging pile blueprint for the country, with BMW inking a deal with State Grid Corp of China, through its subsidiary State Grid EV Service, to expand its elective vehicle charging infrastructure and promote electric versions of its popular models in the world’s largest NEV market. China’s 5G leader Huawei also plans to develop its Huawei HiCharger DC fast charging module, partnering with State Grid Corp, China Southern Power Grid and Star Charge. As of July, there were 24 large-scale charging operators, with 8 operating more than 10.000 charging piles, including Qingdao TGood Electric, Star Charge and State Grid Corp; the 3 of which respectively see 163.000, 133.000 and 88.000 charging piles. The top 3 charging operators, with a total of 501.000 charging piles, account for 88.5 % of the country’s charging services. The ratio was 3.4 EVs to 1 charging pile by the end of 2019. Analists expect this number to slightly drop to 3.3:1 by the end of 2020. +++ 

+++ DACIA is ramping up preparations for the unveiling of the new Sandero later this month. Compared with the current model, the next-generation sports an evolutionary rather than revolutionary appearance, with a curvier front end and a wider stance. It also appears to gain a clamshell bonnet and a higher beltline. Dacia has yet to confirm details of the new car’s powertrain, although given the Sandero will arrive after the EU introduces strict new CO2 regulations in 2021, there is the potential for some kind of hybrid system. Dacia’s first fully electric car will arrive in 2021 as a production version of the recent Spring Electric concept, complementing the new Sandero. The 2021 Sandero is expected to be based on Renault’s new modular CMF platform. The Renault Group, which owns Dacia, plans to have 80 % of its models using this by 2022. The current Sandero sits on a Renault platform that has been around since 2002. Given Dacia’s reputation for affordability, it’s likely that the new Sandero will retain the brand’s utilitarian focus and affordable pricing structure. Entry-level variants are expected to be basic affairs, but higher-end models should receive some of the new technology shown on the latest Duster. +++ 

+++ The brand-new Mercedes S-Class will be joined by an all-electric equivalent in 2021 called EQS , described by Mercedes research and development boss Markus Schäfer as something “completely different” to the brand’s latest flagship limousine. Spied several times already, Schäfer has confirmed that the car will enter production at the brand’s new Factory 56 production facility in Stuttgart in around 9 months, with a market introduction planned for the second half of 2021. “It is the electric S-Class. So we carry over features completely from the S-Class. So you will see all the features plus something new, which we have prepared especially”, he explained, while also confirming that the brand will develop several variants of the new EQS. A range of 700 km under WLTP rules has been targeted, while rear wheeldrive and all wheel drive versions will also appear. There will be a strong design differentiation between the 2 models: “We are departing from our old approach. We started with existing architectures and we adapted them to make them electric. Now we are changing gears and moving towards a purpose made platform. The number one reason is the electric efficiency of designing a purely electric car. So you can expect something completely different compared with the changes from GLA to EQA or GLB to EQB. It’s going to be completely different looking, and probably addressing a different customer base”, he teased. The cabin will be toned down slightly from the concept to a similar layout seen in the new S-Class. Mercedes promises an environment that can be considered a “third place” alongside the home and the workplace. Should the roadgoing EQS match the stats of the EQS Vision Concept revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2019, the electric saloon should be able to pair its 700 km on a single charge range with a 20-minute top up from a 350 kW source. That would see 550 km of range added in under 20 minutes. The twin-motor, 4-wheeldrive powertrain will enable 0-100 kph in 4.5 seconds. +++ 

+++ GEELY Automobile Holdings aims to raise over 20 billion yuan on Shanghai’s Nasdaq-like STAR market, with most of it to be spent on new models and technologies, according to its prospectus released. Geely, which is already listed in Hong Kong, has filed an application for a public share sale on the bourse for high-tech and innovative companies. Its debut would represent the first for any carmaker on the STAR market. Geely said it would also use some of proceeds to finance mergers and acquisitions and replenish working capital. Geely has hired China International Capital Corp and Huatai United Securities as underwriters for the listing. As China’s largest private carmaker, Geely reported revenue of 36.82 billion yuan ($5.3 billion) and net profit of 2.32 billion yuan for the first half of 2020; down 23 % and 43 % respectively year-on-year, because of the impact of the novel coronavirus. In the first 6 months, Geely sold 530.446 vehicles; down 19 % year-on-year. However, its sales ranked first among Chinese brands. Its market share has increased from 6.51 % at the beginning of this year to 6.74 % currently. Geely is targeting full-year sales of about 1.32 million vehicles; down 3 % from 2019, helped by a second-half recovery in demand after the easing of corona virus lockdowns. The carmaker said it will speed up the introduction of new vehicles, especially new energy vehicles, to consolidate its leading position in the Chinese auto market. “Our new product launches will be at a high level in coming years and offer enough power to maintain our long-term growth”, Geely said. According to its plan, Geely will launch 6 models in the second half of this year. It launched 3 new models in the first half of 2020. +++ 

+++ JEEP is reviving the storied Wagoneer nameplate for a new family of premium SUVs and has previewed the range-topping Grand Wagoneer with a bold new concept that blends modern styling cues with nods to the iconic original car. The first Wagoneer (launched in 1962) is widely recognised as an early pioneer of the premium SUV segment and Jeep said “its return allows us to expand to a much more premium arena with new levels of design detail and advanced safety and technology features”. The firm claims the Grand Wagoneer concept was designed with a dual focus on modernity and authenticity and “encapsulates the future of the ultimate premium SUV”. When it is launched in 2021, the Grand Wagoneer will supersede the Grand Cherokee as Jeep’s flagship model and compete with more upmarket models, including the Range Rover and BMW X5. It’s not currently destined for Europe, however. The production car will be available with a choice of 3 four-wheeldrive systems, independent front and rear suspension and Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension, hinting that off-road capability remains a priority despite the luxury shift. Technical details remain unconfirmed, but the Grand Wagoneer concept features a plug-in hybrid powertrain, likely closely matched to that of the new Wrangler 4xe. Although the production design is tipped to be toned down slightly, the concept gives a good idea of what to expect from the Grand Wagoneer. Elements such as the modernised interpretation of Jeep’s trademark 7-vent front grille, for example, will probably be carried over wholesale. Although familiar from models such as the Wrangler, Renegade and Gladiator, the intake has been updated with black trim accents and latticework inserts and is framed by a new LED signature light design, which is said to emphasise the car’s width. The concept also features LED projector headlights surrounded by genuine teak wood (a detail unlikely to make its way to production) in reference to the original Wagoneer’s wooden side panelling. Prevalent front tow hooks and a chunky black aluminium skid plate hint at its off-road capability. The Grand Wagoneer concept features trapezoidal wheel arches like Jeep’s production cars but has 24 inch aluminium wheels, which (as is often the way with concept cars) will be downsized for showrooms. The copper-finished badges on the doors, bearing a new font designed specifically for the concept, will likely make production, though. Also likely to feature on the production car are the concept’s wraparound LED rear light clusters, subtle rear diffuser, roof rails and panoramic sunroof. The Grand Wagoneer’s interior will offer a 7-seat layout for the first time in the model’s history and marks a radical shift away from the firm’s customarily utilitarian cabin design language. Large windows, together with the full-length glass roof, offer comprehensive all-round visibility. Glass has also been used throughout the cabin itself as it’s a “sustainable, fully recyclable material that provides environmental benefits and is made of an abundant natural raw material”, according to Jeep. A black glass trim element runs the width of the concept’s dashboard and aluminium has been used for the dashboard support, speaker surrounds and gearstick. In a further nod to the model’s heritage, wood inlays feature on the instrument display and door panels. Additional sustainable materials used on the concept include Dinamica microfibre suede for the headliner, recycled Thrive carpets and Pur synthetic upholstery on the seats, doors, console and instrument panel. The instrument panel itself is dominated by four large digital displays spanning a total of 45 inch: a 12.3 inch digital instrument display, a 12.1 inch central infotainment touchscreen, a 10.25 inch climate control touchscreen panel and a 10.25 inch touchscreen mounted directly in front of the passenger seat. The second-row passengers also each get their own 10.1 inch infotainment touchscreen, with access to another 10.25 inch climate control touchscreen. The car’s infotainment system runs on Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ latest-generation, Android-based Uconnect 5 software, which is claimed to run 5 times faster than that used by current production cars. The concept’s 23-speaker, 24-channel audio system was developed by audio brand McIntosh (making its automotive debut here) and is finished in the same aluminium and gloss black design as its existing products. Christian Meunier, global president of the Jeep brand, said: “With the electrification of each Jeep nameplate coming in the next few years and the reintroduction of Wagoneer, we are quickly expanding into new segments and more premium space. “Wagoneer is unquestionably rooted in the legendary Jeep brand and its unmatched heritage of leading capability, authenticity and freedom, and its return allows us to expand to a much more premium arena with new levels of design detail, and advanced safety and technology features”. He added: “The new Grand Wagoneer Concept is our vision of what a modern expression of this timeless icon can be, and hints at how we will redefine and recreate the benchmark premium SUV”. +++ 

+++ Chinese electric vehicle maker LI AUTO set a monthly record by delivering 2.711 Li One models in August, company data showed. The company started production of its first extended-range electric hybrid SUV in November 2019 and had delivered 14.656 of them in the first 8 months of 2020. As of August, Li Auto had 31 retail stores in 26 cities across China. The company will further expand its direct sales in more Chinese cities in the coming months. +++ 

+++ LOTUS has terminated its technical partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), which had seen the 2 firms work together on the all-electric Evija hypercar. In an official statement, Lotus said: “Williams Advanced Engineering has been a technical partner, bringing specific high voltage and battery development expertise to the Evija hypercar project. As the programme entered its latter stages pre the Covid lockdown, Lotus elected to bring the project in house due to delivery problems from Williams Advanced Engineering. Lotus will complete and enhance the programme in house as referred to in previous statements about our new Advanced Technical Centre in Warwickshire and the revised Evija production timetable. The end result will be a better product as we introduce not only the most powerful production car in the world, but also the world’s best electric car for the drivers”. However, WAE claims Lotus’ decision is “wrongful and without any legal basis, made for Lotus/Geely’s unrelated commercial reasons”. The engineering firm also claims that any allegations from Lotus that it breached the terms of the agreement, signed in January 2019, are “false and contrived”. WAE is now taking legal action against Lotus on grounds of wrongful termination and will pursue compensation for invoices that are claimed to have gone unpaid since April 2020. According to WAE, the decision puts a number of jobs at risk and jeopardises the launch of the Evija, which was recently delayed because testing could not take place during the pandemic. WAE claimed the project is “now in its latter stages” and that it had “continued to perform outstanding work and progress the project despite the global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. WAE wishes to make clear that this issue has no impact on its existing projects, customers and partners”. +++ 

+++ It would be a huge understatement to say a new MASERATI has been a long time coming. Originally set to debut in May, the world premiere of the mid-engined supercar has been rescheduled for September due to the coronavirus pandemic disrupting the whole automotive industry. The Italian brand has been extensively teasing the MC20 in the last few months. It’s certainly not the most revealing teaser, but enough to show a bit of the curvaceous body with wide hips and a vented engine cover in the back. While not as hardcore as the MC12 before it, the new MC20 is billed as being a spiritual successor and a proper Maserati rather than relying on Ferrari underpinnings as the MC12 did with its Enzo-derived platform. Some will recall the initial spy shots (both from Maserati and third-party photographers) showed the MC20 as a test mule wearing an ungainly Alfa Romeo 4C body with some changes. The performance machine from Modena has since graduated to its full production body, lights, and everything. Underneath that lovely engine cover is a newly developed twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 Nettuno engine with 630 hp and 730 Nm. It’s the first all-Maserati engine in 20 years and has been developed with electrification in mind as the MC20 will be hybridised further down the line. September 9 is not long away, so the wait is nearly over. It will follow other recent reveals made by Maserati, including the facelifted Ghibli lineup with Hybrid and Trofeo models as well as the Quattroporte Trofeo sharing the same V8 Ferrari engine with the smaller saloon and Levante. +++ 

+++ The new MERCEDES-BENZ S-Class dropped earlier today, with the first 2 models in the new lineup (the S 500 and S 580) both sporting mild-hybrid powertrains with EQ Boost technology. But already Mercedes-Benz has revealed the third option in the new S-Class range: the plug-in hybrid. Dubbed the S 580e, the plug-in hybrid S-Class uses the same turbocharged 3.0-litre inline 6-cylinder petrol engine from the base S 500 model. But here it adds a gearbox-mounted electric motor and a 28 kWh battery pack for a combined total output of 518 hp. That’s an improvement of 82 hp over the S500 and 42 hp more than the standard S 580. But of course, the S 580e is all about electric range and on the European WLTP test cycle, the plug-in S-Class can reportedly drive up to 100 km on battery power alone. That’s more than double the range of the previous S 560e on the same WLTP scale. Considering the battery pack in the new S 580e is more than twice the size of the one found in the outgoing S 560e (28.0 kWh versus 13.5 kWh), that newfound range is expected. As mentioned, the base S 500 gets a turbocharged inline-6 engine good for 435 hp and 521 Nm, while the more powerful S 580 model uses a twin-turbocharged V8 to produce 477 hp and 700 Nm. The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class will be on sale in September and arrive at dealers in December. The S 350d; S400d 4Matic, S450 4Matic and S500 4Matic will be available from launch. +++ 

+++ Nasdaq-listed Chinese electric carmaker NIO said it is offering 88.5 million American depositary shares to raise around $1.7 billion. It marks the largest additional offering in China’s premium electric vehicle industry. Morgan Stanley, China International Capital Corporation Hong Kong Securities Limited and BofA Securities are underwriters for the ADS Offering. Nio said a big chunk of the expected proceeds, around $750 million, will be used for research and development in autonomous driving, global expansion and general corporate purposes. In an interview in July, Nio founder and CEO William Li said the company is to sell cars in overseas markets and is preparing in terms of products and personnel. Nio will also spend $600 million of the proceeds to increase the share capital of its ownership in Nio China, a joint venture between Nio and local investors in Hefei. The startup said the rest will be used to repurchase equity interests held by some minority shareholders of Nio China. Nio sold 17.702 vehicles in the first 7 months this year, bringing its cumulative deliveries to 49.615 vehicles. It is offering 2 models in the market, the ES6 and the ES8 SUVs. The third model, a 5-seat electric coupe SUV called EC6, is to hit the market soon. Nio’s gross margin reached 8.4 % in the second quarter this year and the gross profit stood at $44.3 million. The company expects revenues in the third quarter to reach $572.9 million to $596.2 million; up around 8.8 % to 13.3 % from the second quarter. +++ 

+++ NISSAN says it has developed a new way to produce high-tech auto parts that highlights the Japanese automaker’s engineering finesse, even as it faces a criminal trial in an ongoing scandal involving former chairman Carlos Ghosn. Nissan said it has achieved a “breakthrough” in molding carbon fiber reinforced plastic, or CFRP, components, now used in racing cars and jets because of their light weight and strength. All of the world’s top automakers are working to boost CFRP use. The hurdles have been cost, which is often about 10 times that of steel, and the long time it takes to mold the parts. Executive vice president Hideyuki Sakamoto said the CFRP parts will be used in mass-produced SUVs in 4 or 5 years, thanks to a new casting procedure for the poured resin. The cost savings come from shortening the production time from about 3 or 4 hours to just 2 minutes, Sakamoto said. A vehicle rolls off a Nissan assembly line every 2 minutes. Vehicle weight is crucial in making models ecological when emissions standards are growing tighter around the world, he said. Nissan’s efforts are important because much of the cost of a car comes from its production, not raw materials, said Junya Inoue, associate professor at the Institute of Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo. But automakers have struggled with the cost and shaping of CFRP parts, as well as with creating a recycling system for them, which is more challenging than with metals, Inoue said. “Production innovation tends to remain hidden”, he said. “But Nissan boasts great engineering technology”. Nissan’s troubles aren’t over, as its bottom line has been slammed by the coronavirus pandemic. Global credit rating agency DBRS Morning Star said this week that Nissan’s lineup is aging, its new models tend to be in passenger cars where profit margins are low, and sales are suffering in the key North American market. It downgraded Nissan to “negative”, following downgrades last year and earlier this year. Nissan also faces financial misconduct charges related to under-reporting Ghosn’s compensation, in a Tokyo trial that opens September 15. Greg Kelly, an American former senior executive, is also on trial. Nissan has acknowledged guilt, while Kelly says he is innocent. In brighter news, Nissan is planning to unveil a new version of its flagship Z sports car at about the same time. +++ 

+++ With just a few days after the reveal of the extensively refreshed Porsche PANAMERA and the introduction of a new Turbo S model to replace the older Turbo, there’s still much to be seen from Porsche and their 5-door flagship. At least, that’s what none other than Thomas Friemuth, the Porsche vicepresident for the Panamera product line told. How can you top the Panamera Turbo S and its already amazing “executive car” lap record of the Nürburgring in both the 20.6-km and 20.83-km track layouts? Right now, the Panamera Turbo S is the top-spec 5-door from Porsche you can buy with 630 hp and 820 Nm. The previous Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid boasted 680 hp. Rumours are pointing towards a hybrid version of the already epic 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo found in the Turbo S. And Porsche is no stranger to making their cars go even faster with nifty electric power. “There will be more to come. Just wait some weeks or some months”, says Friemuth. “The product line will, as you know from the past, have 3 hybrids. So, the base hybrid and the Turbo S E-Hybrid will come in the next month”. He also said that the electrified version will be more powerful than the Turbo S, but not necessarily faster in terms of lap times. “The Turbo S E-Hybrid, on a track like the Nurburgring, will not be faster. It has more horsepower but in terms of the weight of the car, at the Nürburgring, the conventional Turbo S is faster”. It has also been confirmed by Friemuth that electric motors in each Panamera model will add around 136 hp. So, in theory, if added to the Turbo S and its 4.0-litre V8, you’re looking at a new Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid with 750 hp, topping even the 911.2 GT2 RS. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE has announced that it wants to “drive forward the development of synthetic fuels (e-fuels)” and is seeking partners to build pilot factories to prove e-fuels’ viability. Although Porsche is investing in electrification, as evidenced by the introduction of the Taycan, it believes the technology is not reducing its carbon footprint quickly enough. Porsche’s R&D boss, Michael Steiner, said: “Electric mobility is an exciting and convincing technology but, taken on its own, it is taking us towards our sustainability targets at a slower pace than we would like. That’s why we are also committing to e-fuels and not ignoring possible applications in motorsports, either”. Another reason Porsche is investing in e-fuels, he said, is because they are a “fundamental component” of improving the sustainability of existing fleets. A further advantage is that, unlike electrification, they do not require significant mechanical changes to existing cars. E-Fuels have long been of interest to the car industry. They function similarly to kerosene, diesel or petrol processed from crude oil but are produced from CO2 and hydrogen using renewable energy. Porsche’s VW Group sibling brands, Volkswagen and Bentley, are researching the technology, as is McLaren. However, not all firms are as enthusiastic. Mercedes has recently snubbed e-fuels, questioning their viability. Although Porsche aims for half of its vehicles sold to be electric by 2025, the marque is committed to pure-combustion engines in the medium term. Steiner stressed that Porsche’s existing fleet is large, and although its hybrid vehicles are powered electrically for short drives, they frequently undertake longer trips, which require combustion engines. Porsche’s focus on synthetic fuels reflects wider trends. +++ 

+++ The SKODA Citigo is officially no more, as the Czech maker focuses its efforts on larger models and electrification. The future of the city car, which is a sibling of the Volkswagen Up and Seat Mii, has long been in question, but Skoda sales and marketing boss Alain Favey has now confirmed it will not return. He said: “Citigo is gone. As far as Europe is concerned we are sold out. There will not be a replacement of the Citigo and we have no intention to have a car of this size in the future”. Customer deliveries will be complete by the end of this year, said a Skoda spokesman. A new, small electric car, which could potentially succeed the Citigo, is not currently on the table, said Favey. “If one day there is a version of the Volkswagen Group’s electric MEB platform which allows smaller cars to be produced than now, we would have a Skoda version, but I don’t know about such plans. But as far as the Citigo is concerned, the game is over”. Skoda this week revealed its first stand-alone EV, the Enyaq, built on VW’s MEB platform. Favey said that this model, alongside the existing Superb plug-in hybrid and upcoming Octavia plug-in hybrid, would allow the brand to capitalise on the growing demand for electrified models. However, smaller Skoda models will not receive electrified versions for the foreseeable future, as the costly technology would make such cars unattainable for customers, Favey said. Talking about the possibility of plug-in hybrid options, he commented: “It’s disputable if it’s a good idea to have a Scala PHEV. It’s a technology which is still extremely expensive. You need to find a customer base which has the buying power to afford that technology or we have to lose money which is not an option for us”. Favey also said that there were no solid plans for Skoda’s next EV following the Enyaq and that Skoda was closely watching EV demand. He added that the flexibility of VW’s MEB platform meant that development times of future EVs could be much quicker than traditional combustion-engined cars. +++ 

+++ In SOUTH KOREA , sales of Japanese cars increased for the first time since a nationwide boycott of Japanese products began here last year. According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, the number of Japanese automobiles newly registered in August was 1.413; up 1.1 % from the same time last year, when it stood at 1.398. The increase comes 13 months after a trade conflict broke out between the 2 countries in July 2019 and triggered the boycott. According to the association, accumulated sales of Japanese cars totaled 13.070 vehicles so far this year, half of last year’s figure. Lexus sold 703 cars in August; a 16.6 % increase on-year, while Honda’s sales jumped 74.6 % on-year to 241 vehicles in the same month. For Toyota, which sold 433 vehicles, on-year sales decreased by 20.1 %, but the rate of decrease slowed. In August, the number of newly registered imported cars was 21.894; a 20.8 % rise from the same period last year, according to Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association. BMW topped the list in sales performance, selling 7.252 vehicles in the month; up 69 %. It is the first time the automaker has held the No. 1 position since December 2017. Mercedes-Benz was next, but its sales decreased 10.5 % to 6.030 vehicles in the month. Audi saw its sales jump 9-fold in August to 2.022 vehicles, landing third on the list. Next came Mini with 1.107 vehicles and Volkswagen with 881. As said, this was the first time BMW took the top spot since December 2017. “Demand for our 5 and X series have constantly increased, but during the Covid-19 pandemic our production couldn’t meet the orders. As the situation improved, we were able to deliver more orders to our customers last month”, explained a BMW Korea spokesperson. BMW’s 520 was the most registered model of the month, with 1.097 vehicles. The Mercedes-Benz A 220 sedan was the second most registered vehicle last month. +++

+++ The Japanese automotive giant announced a new STARLET , targeted at Toyota’s ambitious African expansion plans. Although the Toyota badge takes pride of place in the middle of its grille, this Starlet is a true example of badge engineering. There is virtually no trace of Toyota in its components or mechanical engineering. This new Starlet is the result of Toyota’s agreement with Suzuki and is, in fact, a Baleno underneath. As more automotive companies seek economies of scale and cost benefits from cooperation, badge engineering is a reality that will become commonplace. For Toyota to develop a new compact hatchback for African markets and their robust conditions, it would not be cost-effective. Suzuki’s Baleno is a proven vehicle, with its design strongly influenced by Indian road conditions, which are broadly similar to most African markets. The cooperation between Toyota and Suzuki is, therefore, a logical conclusion and gives African consumers, a tidy new hatchback choice with a legendary name. Although Toyota South Africa has not commented on any local possibility of the new Starlet, it does look quite neat. The Suzuki’s Baleno’s 1.4-litre engine, good for 93 hp is also carried over to the Starlet, both producing a similar peak torque value of 130 Nm. Starlet buyers will have the option on both a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. In terms of overall size, this new Starlet measures nearly 4 meter bumper-to-bumper and is 1.74 meter across and stands 1.47 meter tall. With its own grille and wheel design, the Starlet is slightly differentiated from Toyota’s Glanza, which is its exact twin-vehicle in India, also based on the Baleno. +++ 

+++ General Motors and Honda announced they were establishing a STRATEGIC ALLIANCE in North America to share vehicle platforms and development costs. The venture builds on existing partnerships on electric cars and fuel cell systems and comes as automakers face pressure to develop autonomous driving and other envelope-pushing technologies amid uncertain vehicle demand in the wake of the economic downturn due to the coronavirus. A joint press release said the venture would save money from shared vehicle platforms and propulsion systems, joint purchasing and shared research and development spending. GM’s rival Ford has teamed up with Volkswagen to jointly develop electric and self-driving vehicles, and a pending merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA also aims to hold costs down. Morningstar analyst David Whiston said there few details offered on the extent of the financial savings to either firm, but that “the alliance can make sense” if Honda makes headway in some of the truck segments where it lags and GM benefits from Honda’s expertise with smaller cars. “We see the agreement as a low-risk and potentially high-reward move for both firms, and their prior history lowers the risk of tension and poor cooperation”, Whiston said. +++ 

+++ A new Z CAR has been a long time coming, but the wait is nearly over. Originally announced at the end of May, the 370Z successor was previewed once again earlier this week in a bittersweet teaser foreshadowing a September 16 debut of what will likely be a prototype given the use of “Proto” in the announcement. Separately from Nissan’s ongoing teaser campaign, the company’s senior vice president for Global Design, Alfonso Albaisa, published on his personal Instagram account an interesting sketch. While you might be tempted to say it’s a drawing of a second-generation 300ZX because of the stacked horizontal taillights, the car’s silhouette is in line with the original teaser from a few months ago. Another dead giveaway we’re dealing with the next-gen car is the updated Z logo on the side. The design sketch is in line with a report from early May indicating the next Z car would get rectangular taillights. The same report suggested round LED headlights derived from the 1960s Fairlady Z, which the teasers have revealed to be accurate. While the exterior will play the retro card, the interior is said to be brought up to date with the latest technologies and fancier materials. All will be revealed in 2 weeks as the Z Proto is set to premiere on September 16. It’ll likely be a near-production prototype, with the real thing hopefully not far behind. Chances are this is not going to be the final name as we’re inclined to believe it will adopt the 400Z moniker, but nothing is official at this point. It is widely believed the revamped sports car will feature a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine with somewhere in the region of 400 hp. Chances are a manual gearbox is planned for enthusiasts, alongside an automatic transmission to please both worlds. Much like the engine, the platform could be borrowed from the Infiniti Q60 since now is not a good time to invest in a new architecture for a sports car. That’s especially true given Nissan’s current financial shape. The road-going Nissan 400Z could arrive at some point in 2021. +++

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