Newsflash: Porsche sluit Panamera Coupé niet uit

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+++ BENTLEY is celebrating a new production milestone for the Flying Spur, as the 40.000th example recently rolled off the assembly line in Crewe. Designed, engineered and put together by hand in the United Kingdom, the Flying Spur is being sold officially in 68 countries all over the world where the automaker operates. The model’s largest markets are China and the Americas, followed by Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific, not necessarily in that order. Revived in 2005 as the sedan version of the Continental, the Continental Flying Spur came with a W12 engine and all-wheeldrive, sharing the platform with the Audi A8 and Volkswagen Phaeton. It had a top speed of 312 km/h and quickly won the hearts of fans of the British brand by providing an unparalleled mix between performance and luxury. With the second generation launched in 2013, the model has lost the ‘Continental’ moniker, thus becoming known simply as the Flying Spur, in an attempt to further separate it from the GT, despite sharing its construction. Over the next 6 years it was constantly refined and the upgrades included the introduction of a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8. The third generation of the car came out last year, built on the MSB platform shared again with the Continental GT, but also with the Porsche Panamera. The new model represents the Bentley pinnacle, after the bigger and more expensive Mulsanne was retired earlier this year, along with the iconic 6.75-liter V8. Despite coming out 15 years ago, the Flying Spur traces its roots back to 1952, when chief designer J.P. Blatchley and engineer Ivan Evernden collaborated on an unofficial project that would restore the luxury car, with a 4.9-liter straight-6 with 180 hp, which was replaced by a 6.3-liter V8 in 1959. The R-Type Continental was well received and eventually replaced by the S1 Coupe and S1 Sedan, with 3.000 units of the latter built. A coach-built example came out half a year later. 1959 marked the introduction of the S2, and at the same time, Bentley Motors purchased HJ Mulliner, turning it into its in-house bespoke division. The S2 Continental was the fastest sedan in the world at the time, and was available, optionally, with a coach-built body, or as a coupe or convertible. The tradition continued between 1962 and 1965, with the S3 Continental Flying Spur, which had a body designed by Mulliner, followed by a 40-year hiatus. +++ 

+++ The EUROPEAN COMMISSION will be able to recall vehicles and potentially revoke their roadworthiness certifications if they breach EU emissions limits, under new rules that apply from Tuesday and aim to avoid a repeat of the “dieselgate” scandal. The rules give the European Union’s executive power to check cars for compliance, order recalls across the 27-country bloc and issue fines of up to €30.000 per car for manufacturers whose vehicles breach EU laws on emissions or safety. Previously, recalls and fines could only be issued by the national authority which approved the vehicle. The Commission said this system has not allowed cars to be fixed quickly on a wide enough scale. The EU had started overhauling the rules in 2013, but toughened its plans following the “dieselgate” scandal, which saw German carmaker Volkswagen admit in 2015 to cheating U.S. emissions tests, triggering court cases around the world that have cost the company more than €30 billion. The new rules could also enable the Commission to revoke roadworthiness certifications, potentially opening up carmakers to compensation claims from European customers if they buy models which are later taken off the roads for breaching EU law. It is usually up to an EU country to take measures against a non-compliant carmaker. Now, if the Commission deems those actions insufficient it can propose further corrective measures, including revoking the vehicle’s type approval, which need majority support from EU countries, meaning one member state cannot block them. The Commission will also start conducting vehicle checks, and said it has invested €7 million in 2 testing labs. EU countries must meanwhile conduct minimum checks on cars already on the roads; a move that aims to catch the use of emission cheat devices that perform differently in test settings to the real world. Vehicle sales have plummeted in Europe amid the coronavirus pandemic, with new car registrations dropping by 38 % in the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2019, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association said. +++ 

+++ FERRARI has ceased production of its GTC4 Lusso 4-wheeldrive grand tourer, with the company’s upcoming SUV due to serve as its indirect replacement. In a statement released confirming the news, Ferrari said: “In accordance with its 5-year model strategy announced in 2017 and the company’s standard model life cycle, Ferrari has phased out production of the GTC4 Lusso and GTC4 Lusso T”. Introduced as a replacement for the FF in 2016, the GTC4 Lusso was positioned as Ferrari’s most practical model, with 4 seats and a usable boot, and intended to appeal to younger buyers. It maintained the FF’s 6.2-litre V12 engine, but with power raised to 690 hp, and 4-wheeldrive. The GTC4 Lusso was also among the first Ferraris to gain rear-wheel steering. In 2018, Ferrari introduced a cheaper, entry-level version called the GTC4 Lusso T. This used a modified version of the 3.8-litre V8 engine found in the California T and introduced rear-wheel drive to the GTC4 Lusso range for the first time. Since its introduction, the GTC4 Lusso has attracted a strong following. Ferrari has sold more than 1.496 examples in Europe; an average of 374 per year. However, production of the GTC4 Lusso is being phased out as the marque turns its attention towards its first SUV, which is due in 2022. Dubbed the Purosangue, which translates as ‘thoroughbred’, the SUV will have 4 seats and a length of around 5 metres. It’s also known that it will employ Ferrari’s scalable front-mid-engined architecture, 1 of `2 highly flexible structures that will underpin the firm’s future model range. While no powertrains have been confirmed, expect Ferrari to produce both a V12 and V6 plug-in hybrid version of the Purosangue as it seeks to lower its CO2 emissions in line with new EU regulations arriving in 2021. Partly to this end, the marque recently introduced its first series-production plug-in hybrid: the SF90 Stradale. First deliveries of this model have been delayed by several months due to production delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They were originally scheduled for the first half of 2020, but have now been pushed back to later this year. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI will launch 9 new cars in China by the end of next year to seek a turnaround in its sluggish sales in the world’s biggest car market. South Korea’s largest automaker announced that, starting next month with the Palisade SUV, it will introduce 3 sedans, 3 recreational vehicles and 2 electric vehicles in the country through 2021 to rebound after sales there plummeted in recent years. The automaker’s 3 sedans include the new Elantra, Mistra and La Festa’s facelift version, while its RV lineup will feature the Custo MPV, ix35’s facelift version and Tucson. Also, Hyundai will launch Mistra EV and Ioniq 5; its first EV based on its new platform E-GMP. The Ioniq 5 is a subcompact crossover utility vehicle that will be released early next year featuring motifs from Hyundai’s electric vehicle concept 45. Hyundai’s sales in China, which stood at 1.14 million units in 2016, nosedived to 785.700 in 2017, maintained a similar level of 790.117 in 2018 and then dropped to 650.123 last year. As a result, Hyundai’s market share in the country dipped to 3.1 percent from 5.1 percent in the period. The automaker’s China sales in February, when the coronavirus first began to spread, fell 97.4 % on-year, while overall car sales in the country declined 83.9 % in the same period. In July, its sales in China shrank 19.1 % on-year, while overall car sales in the country increased 8.5 % in the same period. To tackle its lackadaisical performance in China, the car maker promoted Lee Kwang-guk to president and head of China operations last October from his former position as executive vice president and head of Korea business division at the company. +++ 

+++ Chinese battery and electric car maker KANDI Technologies Group said it is actively exploring setting up an electric and off-road vehicle manufacturing plant in North America. The U.S.-listed company said it is in the early stages of discussions with various partners, including local government agencies from the U.S.-Mexico border, but warned negotiations would not guarantee that a plant will be built. Many Chinese electric vehicle (EV) makers are looking at the United States for expansion as demand for EVs picks up. China’s Li Auto, backed by food delivery giant Meituan Dianping, recently made a Nasdaq debut. Xpeng, backed by Alibaba and Xiaomi, filed for a U.S. listing in July. Kandi said it plans to forge a position in North America’s electric vehicle market by offering lower-cost vehicles after eliminating shipping costs and tariffs. The company recently began accepting pre-orders for its K23 and K27 EV models in the United States, priced at $9,999 and $19,999 with the federal tax credit. The vehicles will be available for delivery from the 4th quarter of 2020. In contrast, Tesla’s bestselling Model 3 is priced at around $37,990. +++ 

+++ It’s good to see the chairman of a major carmaker mirror the thoughts of one of the most influential people on the planet when it comes to LOWERING CARBON EMISSIONS . Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess has recently encouraged Bill Gates to advise governments on how to lower emissions across the board. He also publicly criticized Germany’s slow abandonment of coal power. “You thoroughly understand the CO2 logic of the mobility sector. You know what we have to do and you could and should advise governments how to regulate and what to promote”, stated Diess while referring to the Microsoft co-founder. “As you say, it’s not too complicated: electric vehicles wherever possible”, wrote Diess, while referencing a post Gates published last week regarding how climate change could actually be more dangerous to the world than Covid-19. The Volkswagen executive would like all cars and vans to become fully electric, with long-haul trucks running on bio-fuels. He also added that switching to carbon-free electricity is critical to fighting climate change. “Germany’s target date to exit coal power only by 2038 is for a rich, tech-leading country by far not ambitious enough”. Following the Dieselgate scandal of 2015, Volkswagen has embarked on a push into the electric sector, investing €33 billion to date in order to develop the world’s largest fleet of battery-powered cars. Volkswagen wants to cut its carbon footprint by 30 % before 2025, compared to where it was in 2015. Meanwhile, their ultimate goal is to become carbon-neutral by 2050. +++ 

+++ California-based LUCID MOTORS will introduce its first car, an electric sedan named Air, on September 9. Waltzing onto the increasingly crowded EV scene with a sedan in a market dominated by crossovers and SUVs might sound counter-intuitive, but the company told Autoblog it’s the best way to guarantee its long-term success. Emad Dlala, a technology fellow at Lucid, pointed out the sedan segment remains huge even though it’s not nearly as big as it was a decade ago. “Even if we take a small percentage of that luxury segment, we’re going to be fine. We’re not going to see a shortage of orders”, he told us during an interview. Lucid isn’t chasing volume. Although an SUV is under development, Dlala added Lucid prioritized the sedan because it wanted to make a splash. Sedans are typically lighter and sleeker than SUVs, so their specifications are often more impressive. “Another thing is, as a startup, you can go with the best product in terms of how desirable it is, but even if the specs are OK, you are probably not going to succeed as well as with a car with sensational specs, even if demand is not as high. That’s what we think the sedan will lead us to: much better specifications”, he said. Lucid’s recent announcements prove his point. Built on a 113-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the Air received a 830 km range from a third-party testing company, a figure that gives it a comfortable lead in the range race. The pack zaps a pair of electric motors, whose 1.019 hp output gives the Air a 0-to-60-mph time of under 2.5 seconds. Dlala confirmed the pack is modular, so different variants of the sedan could appear later in the production run, and it will likely power other models (regardless of segment) in the coming years. We’ll find out more about the Air when it makes its debut online on September 9. Production will take place in a new factory located in Casa Grande, Arizona, and pricing will start in the vicinity of $100.000. Looking ahead, Lucid plans to build its aforementioned SUV on the same platform as the Air starting in 2023, and it hasn’t ruled out launching a longer vehicle, which will possibly arrive as a pickup, towards the middle of the 2020s. +++ 

+++ A couple of weeks ago, MAZDA officially revealed the long-awaited turbocharged variant of its compact Mazda 3. Now, there’s word that the turbo engine will spread to the somewhat related CX-30 crossover very soon. A Mazda CX-30 Turbo is set to follow the Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo, packing the same turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder found in that car, the CX-9 and CX-5 crossovers, and the Mazda 6 sedan. The 2.5-liter turbo makes 250 hp in the Mazda 3 and I expect similar numbers from the CX-30 Turbo. That amount of power would represent a significant bump over the regular CX-30, which makes 180 hp from the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter SkyActiv-X. Production of the CX-30 Turbo begins in November. The turbo model could arrive late in the year or perhaps in early 2021. But when it does, expect a price premium over the standard CX-30. The CX-30 Turbo will only be available with all-wheel drive. At the top of its pricing spectrum, the CX-30 Turbo comes dangerously close to the larger CX-5. Still, some shoppers might prefer the more city-friendly size and sleeker looks of the CX-30. Plus, it’ll probably have a better power-to-weight ratio, so it may be quicker. +++ 

+++ The 2 slowest-selling new vehicles in the United States are both MITSUBISHI cars, a new study has found. During a recent analysis of 4.4 million new and used vehicles sold throughout the United States in the period from March through June 2020, it was discovered that the Outlander and Eclipse Cross are the slowest-selling new vehicles in the country. On average, it takes 197.7 days for an Outlander and 187.7 days for an Eclipse Cross to sell. It is hardly a surprise that the Mitsubishi Outlander is so difficult to shift as it has been in production in third-generation guise, with minimal changes, since 2014 and there are many newer and more modern alternatives on the market. Speaking about it, iSeeCars chief executive Phong Ly said: “The Mitsubishi Outlander saw a 76 % decrease in sales in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 2019, which shows that there isn’t high demand for the vehicle, despite its affordability and unique features like a third-row seat”. It is somewhat of a surprise to see the Eclipse Cross so high up on the list, though, as it is still relatively new. However, like other Mitsubishi models, it is extremely basic and clearly failing to cash-in on demand for SUVs and crossovers in the United States. The third slowest-selling new vehicle is the Buick Encore with an average sale time of 170 days. It was followed by the Nissan Frontier (158.3 days), Chevrolet Impala (153.1 days), Nissan Altima (151.9 days), Nissan Armada (151.2 days), Cadillac Escalade ESV (151.1 days), Range Rover Velar (150.4 days), and the Infiniti QX60 (149.9 days). It sure is not good for car manufacturers to have their new vehicles sitting around for so long. On the flip side, shoppers may find some good savings with such vehicles as dealerships should be eager to get them off their lots. +++ 

+++ NISSAN will reveal the prototype version of its new Z sports car, previewing the long-awaited successor to the 370Z, later this month. The Japanese firm announced on Twitter that it will reveal the Nissan Z Proto on 16 September, previewing the new model that’s due in 2021. The production version of the car is set to use the 400Z title. Nissan has revealed few details of the car, which will be the latest addition to its Z sports car lineage, which began in 1969 with the launch of the Datsun 240Z. The Twitter post confirming the imminent arrival of the Z Proto read: “50 years of passion. Innovation at its core. Modern technology, with a vintage touch”. The post also featured a short video that highlighted the 50-year lineage of the Z brand and finished with a teaser silhouette of the new car. That video is the latest official hint at the shape of the future model, following a brief glimpse in a previous Nissan video highlights its future model line-up. That video shows that it could have styling evolved from the current 370Z coupé. The preview came following Nissan’s announcement that it’s to embark on a wide-reaching cost-cutting strategy under the Nissan Next banner. As well as closing its commercial vehicles plant in Barcelona, Spain, the company will reduce production capacity by 20 % over the next 3 years and streamline its ageing product portfolio. The 370Z is the oldest car in Nissan’s current line-up, having been launched in 2008. The company’s product planning boss, Ivan Espinosa, told at last year’s Tokyo motor show that the sportscar. along with the GT-R flagship, was “at the heart of Nissan” and that the company was “actively looking at and working on” a successor. +++ 

+++ Rumours of a PANAMERA COUPE have been swirling around the Internet for more than a decade taking into account we initially got wind of a potential 2-door version back in April 2009. Fast forward to August 2020, you’re still not going to find a modern-day 928 at the local Porsche dealer, nor a cabriolet version that was also believed to be in the making. However, it turns out Porsche hasn’t abandoned the idea of turning the Panamera into a sleeker car at the expense of practicality by getting rid of the rear doors. Speaking with journalists at a virtual conference organized this week on the occasion of the Panamera facelift’s debut, the model’s product line chief, Thomas Friemuth, had something to say in relation to a 928 spiritual successor: “We have not finally decided yet. So we are just discussing this topic for several years as you can imagine since other competitors also have 2-door cars. But we’re not finally yet ready to decide whether to do this or not. We have quite a nice 2-door car in our program called the 911. But we are always looking at new opportunities to get new markets and more customers. I can talk about it when we have the decision for it – not yet. I have a lot of ideas”. Turning the Panamera into a 2+2 grand tourer would enable Porsche to go after the likes of the BMW 8 Series and the next-generation Mercedes SL. It would obviously be larger than the 911 and prioritize comfort over spirited driving while offering more cargo capacity and legroom than the 911. Seeing as how Porsche hasn’t given the model the proverbial green light, it leads us to believe that even if the head honchos will approve the project, it’s not going to come out in the next three years. Consequently, it would be based on the next-generation Panamera considering the current model has already entered the second phase of its lifecycle. While the Sport Turismo estate has retained the “Panamera” moniker, a 2-door coupe (and convertible) would likely adopt an entirely different name. +++ 

+++ The Zhejiang Geely Holding Group as well as General Motors’ Chinese venture are planning to launch their first PICK-UP models, intensifying competition in a segment dominated by Great Wall Motor. Geely showed off its first pickup model last week at a company event publicised on social media, while official documents showed a joint venture of carmakers including GM seeking approval to build its first pickup model. The companies are trying to tap into the niche market, which still accounts for less than 2 % of overall vehicle sales in China, but that has outperformed as local governments ease restrictions on their entry into urban areas. China sold around 251.000 pickups in the first 7 months of 2020, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). That represented a 1.4 % fall from the same period last year, but was more modest than the 12.7 % slump in overall vehicle sales over that period. Documents on the website of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology showed a joint venture between GM, state-owned SAIC Motor and Guangxi Automobile Group seeking government approval to build its first pickup model Zhengtu. Meanwhile, Geely is building a vehicle plant which will have an annual manufacturing capacity of 100.000 vehicles, including pickups, in China’s eastern city of Zibo, construction bidding documents on the company website showed. Geely and GM representatives declined any further comment. The plans come as pickups sales are gathering pace compared to some of its peers. Great Wall Motor, China’s largest pickup manufacturer, saw pickup sales surge 38 % in the first 7 months of 2020 versus last year due to its new P-series models. By comparison, the sales of SUVs and sedans fell 11 % and 22 % respectively over that period. But Cui Dongshu, secretary general at China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), does not expect any significant jump in sales over the long term even if government curbs ease further. “There is still a lack of demand for pickups from normal Chinese customers”, he said. “They are more familiar with SUVs and sedans”. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE is again testing what appears to be a hardcore RS version of its latest 718 Cayman GT4, with the latest mule spotted in minimal camouflage at the Nürburgring. The testing prototype sports notable bodywork additions. At the front, there are versions of the Naca bonnet air ducts similar to those on the 911 GT2 RS, while the rear quarter windows have been replaced by slatted cooling vents. A new addition are the blanking plates at the front, which suggest the hardcore Cayman will gain similar wing-mounted air outlets to its 911 GT3 RS sibling. A large, bespoke rear wing (significantly larger than that of the standard GT4) appears to be mounted higher and to use a new mounting design. Also changed over the standard GT4 are the wheels, which forego the traditional 5-lug pattern in favour of a motorsport-inspired centre-lock mechanism that hints at the car’s track potential. The man in charge of the 718 and 911, Frank-Steffen Walliser, told at the Frankfurt motor show last year that he would “definitely” like to see a faster and even more focused RS version of the new 718 Cayman GT4 but that the decision hinges on prioritising development resources within Porsche. “Everybody’s asking for the RS”, Walliser told. “Can I imagine a GT4 RS? Sure I can. That’s not to say we will make a decision on it yet, as it is a challenge. Would I like such a car? Yes, definitely! Would I like more horses? Yes. But we need to put the resources where the market is; it would be a lot more expensive than the normal one”. Porsche has never made a GT4 RS, previously suggesting such a model would be too close in price and performance to 911 GT models. But the new 4.0-litre flat-6 found in the latest GT4 forms part of an all-new engine family, and it’s expected that Porsche will spin off further variants of that unit to justify the investment. It’s understood that the brand is looking to reintroduce the flat-6 to more mainstream Cayman and Boxster variants as part of a facelift. Although Walliser would only confirm that Porsche has “started the thinking process” on this, he acknowledged that the US market has been less welcoming of the current four-cylinder models than hoped. American customers aren’t asking for 4 cylinders, they’re asking for 4 litres”, he said. Walliser also discussed the idea of electric 718 models. He claimed that if the official go-ahead was given, he “wouldn’t like to change the character of the car and the price point; we need to have an entry-level car as 718 buyers often step up to a 911”. He continued: “Priority number one is to keep the character of the car: not making a big car, not making it heavy, but this is very tricky. And it’s a relatively small-volume car, so we maybe can’t do a separate platform”. Porsche definitely won’t be joining the glut of newly launched electric hypercars with its own take on the formula, however; for the time being, at least. Pouring water on the claims made by manufacturers such as Rimac and Lotus, Walliser said: “We’ve seen a lot of studies of electric hypercars. For me, the proof is when it’s on the street with a licence plate. Does an EV hypercar work? It’s like saying to me that a drag racer is a suitable sports car. For sure it’s perfect from 0-100, but to make it usable and do several laps of the Nürburgring wouldn’t work with the technology at its current state”. Walliser did welcome the idea of using hybrid technology to extend the life of Porsche’s widely celebrated naturally aspirated GT engines. “A hybrid for sure with a normally aspirated engine works well together”, he said. “The low-rev electric motor torque and high-revving normally aspirated engines fit perfectly. It could help to keep a normally aspirated engine to survive, and we’re very motivated to do so”. +++ 

+++ Croatian electric vehicle builder and tech company RIMAC has grown a lot since it was founded in 2009 and now it’s working on launching its second production model, the C_Two battery powered supercar. So far, the C_Two has only been shown as a hardtop coupe model, but a recent video uploaded on the company’s official YouTube channel alluded to the fact that a drop top model may be in the works too. Daniele Giachi, director of vehicle engineering and chief-engineer says that it has been designed to work in a roadster configuration too. Rimac has not publicly announced a C_Two roadster, but why would it go to the trouble of making the monocoque shell roadster-ready if it didn’t intend to use it in this application? Even if a topless C_Two is planned, it will probably not be revealed at the same time and alongside the hardtop, deliveries of which were supposed to commence in 2020 but have been postponed until 2021. More mainstream manufacturers often employ the same tactic: they reveal the coupe version of a specific model, then some months (sometimes years) after that, they also launch the roadster or cabriolet model. We’ll have to wait and see if Rimac goes down the same road, although we can’t be sure that it’s actually going to be launched. Much larger manufacturers often engineer 2-door cars with the intent to also sell them as convertibles, but change their mind and they never actually see a production line. 1 example of this is the current Lexus RC which was designed to also be sold as a cabriolet, yet Lexus pulled the plug on that and only made it available as a hardtop. +++ 

+++ It seems that electric vehicle startup RIVIAN can’t get enough ex-Tesla people working for them, as their latest signing, Nick Kalayjian, will occupy the position of vice president of engineering and product, said a person familiar with the matter. According to his Linkedin profile, Kalayjian spent more than a decade at Tesla, and was, more recently, a senior vice president for San Francisco-based Plenty. The former Tesla exec will replace Mark Vinnels, who until this week served as Rivian’s top engineering exec. A Rivian spokesperson confirmed that Vinnels had left the company, but did not specify when it happened. Meanwhile, neither Vinnels nor Kalayjian could be reached for comment. Even though Kalayjian is not a direct hire from Tesla, this move could easily increase tensions even more between the 2 carmakers, seen as how Tesla sued Rivian last month for alleged employee poaching and trade secret theft. According to Tesla, 4 of its former employees had taken sensitive proprietary information with them when they started working for Rivian. The latter filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that Tesla was simply trying to scare its own employees into not leaving the company for a rival brand. Rivian is currently gearing up to start production on its 2 models, the fully electric R1T truck and the R1S SUV. The company has already raised nearly $6 billion from backers such as Amazon and Ford, and production should get under way by the middle of next year at a former Mitsubishi plant in Illinois. +++ 

+++ The chief executive of ROLLS-ROYCE said demand for his company’s luxury cars is rebounding, helped by sales in Asia, and he is optimistic about the outlook for next year after the coronavirus pandemic hit consumer confidence and closed dealerships. Torsten Muller-Ötvös said the demand meant Rolls-Royce was the first car company to resume car production in the United Kingdom on May 4. “We see a very fruitful business now coming back from Asia, also Europe is coming back on track, the Americas just delivered an excellent July result and August result”, the boss of the BMW-owned brand told. “I am quite optimistic looking into 2021, particularly on the back of a very strong order bank we have already on our books”. Muller-Ötvös said his company has no plans to move production out of the United Kingdom because of Brexit. “We are committed to Britain. I would even call us being part of the British industrial crown jewels”, he said. “For that reason, Rolls-Royce belongs to Britain”. +++ 

+++ TESLA had unveiled its biggest program of new share sales as a public company, seeking to cash in on soaring Wall Street interest in the electric carmaker to raise up to $5 billion that will ease future debt pressures. The move comes a day after a 5-for-1 stock split took effect, Tesla’s first since its initial public offering in June 2010, and follows a nearly 6-fold increase in the value of its shares this year. The share sale comes as Tesla seeks to massively expand production of its existing vehicles and build new factories near Berlin, Germany and Austin, Texas. The company also plans to launch new lines of vehicles, including a semi-truck called the Tesla Semi and its futuristic Cybertruck. Tesla said it plans to use proceeds from the offering to strengthen its balance sheet and for general corporate purposes. Craig Irwin, a Roth Capital Partners analyst who has the equivalent of a ‘hold’ rating on the stock, on Tuesday said the capital raise did not come as a surprise. “They will need cash for all the facilities they are building and new growth initiatives”, Irwin said. 10 major banks, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Securities, Citigroup Global Markets and Morgan Stanley, will conduct the sale, the electric carmaker said in a filing, giving no deadline for its completion. David Whiston, an analyst at Morningstar Research, said it remained to be seen how much money Tesla will ultimately raise. The company had $8.6 billion in cash and cash equivalents at the end of June. “I can understand them taking advantage of the stock’s incredible run, but they don’t need the money right now”, Whiston said. Tesla in February had announced plans to raise $2 billion in a stock offering. Tesla shares, which rose about 8 % in early premarket trading, retreated to trade about 1 % higher on the day after the news. The company’s high-flying stock has risen another 70 % since the split was announced on August 11 and was trading at over $2.000 before the division on Friday. With a market capitalization now around $465 billion, it became the world’s biggest car company by value in July and has propelled Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s personal fortune past $100 billion. Musk has repeatedly assured investors over the past year that Tesla would not need to raise more money for costly expansion initiatives or to pay down debt. +++ 

+++ Political tension between China and the UNITED KINGDOM has started to affect industrial investment in the UK: the Huawei 5G furore, nuclear power projects and the HS2 railway line being some of the higher-profile examples. But how will this tension affect China’s car industry investments in the UK, led by Geely, SAIC and Nio? At stake are thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of investment in UK facilities. “It’s definitely a concern”, said professor David Bailey of Birmingham Business School. “Government has a new relationship with China and the big question mark is, even if these investments are private Chinese companies, they operate in a country where the state is much more active in day-to-day operations”. The biggest Chinese investor in the UK is Geely, an industry newcomer that started selling cars in 1997 yet expanded rapidly by buying ‘distressed’ overseas companies: Volvo in 2010 for $2 billion, Manganese Bronze Holdings (the London taxi maker) in 2013 and Proton and Lotus in 2017. Geely’s decade of ownership of Volvo has been textbook, bolstered by around £8.5bn of investment and delivering a convincing impression of long-term strategy. In the UK, Geely has more than 2.000 employees and a financial commitment put at £1.0bn to £1.5bn, with plenty more to come, especially as Lotus accelerates into its Vision80 plan, which should lift production to more than 5.000 cars per year by 2028. A Geely spokesman said the company is firmly established in the UK and is sticking with its agreed business plans for all UK companies: “Geely Holding remains committed to its operations, ongoing business investments and market presence the UK, where its strategy is unchanged”. Like other car firms Autocar contacted, Geely declined to discuss the geopolitical situation at government level. But Autocar understands from industry sources that there is unease at a high level that further deterioration in the relationship could spill over into the automotive sector. Car making doesn’t have the same security implications as a China-supplied 5G network, but it’s vulnerable to trade disputes, because it’s a high-value, high-profile business. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) recognises a “concern when there are global trade tensions” but says: “Trade and investment between both countries is helping to grow our respective economies”. In June 2019, the SMMT signed a co-operation agreement with its Chinese counterpart, the CAAM, that could develop into a vital communication channel to dampen hawkish rhetoric. “We hope this agreement bolsters relationships, manages issues and opens up new opportunities in both markets”, said SMMT boss Mike Hawes. The SMMT initiative might go some way to levelling the Chinese dominance in some vital areas of technology, too. China has become the sole global source of some rare metals for lithium ion battery anodes and cathodes and components such as insulated-gate bipolar transistor switches; vital parts for any Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). Time has moved on since SAIC pursued MG Rover in 2004, but the unseemly end to Britain’s last volume car maker, with Nanjing and SAIC squabbling over the remains of MG, asset-stripping its factories and subsequent on-and-off commitment to UK engineering and production, also illustrates how Chinese automotive strategy can be less than coherent. Today, MG has reduced its engineering at Longbridge to a bare minimum, sold off the remaining land for housing and concentrated on a slimmed sales operation in London. However, new MG models show how Chinese production can translate into good-value family motoring for UK drivers. Although the transfer of UK technical know-how to China is often flagged as a concern, the UK also stands to benefit from Chinese BEV battery technology. At least 5 of the world’s biggest battery cell manufacturers are Chinese. The £2 million Lotus Evija hypercar, for example, will benefit from Chinese BEV technology. Another little-known aspect of the UK-Chinese motor industry is the growing ownership of and investment in UK automotive technology start-ups by Chinese firms. Richard Gane, automotive management consultant at Vendigital, has tracked the Chinese acquisition of several British tier-1 and tier-2 suppliers. Some are high-tech, like Protean Electric, a maker of in-wheel hub motors by NEVS, the Chinese company that bought Saab and is ultimately controlled by Evergrande, a Chinese property firm that also recently bought American BEV maker Faraday Future. Midlands-based pressing companies Covpress and UYT have been bought by Yongtai Chemical Group. The UK government’s trade department can’t supply financial figures for Chinese automotive inward investment into the UK, but independent estimates seen by Autocar suggest a figure of around £500 million per year and growing. The trade department does list the number of Chinese investment transactions, which average about 100 per year, the bulk of which, Autocar understands, are of small monetary value in technology companies, many thought to be making BEV components. “Chinese investment can be a very good thing for automotive technology companies,” said Gane, “but we have to be careful that we don’t hollow out this emerging, new supply chain, resulting in very few tier one suppliers remaining British-controlled”. +++ 

+++ Car manufacturers in the UNITED STATES have been given another 6 months to ensure their electric and hybrid vehicles emit alert sounds when they approach pedestrians. A group representing many major automakers, including General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota, had asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to extend the September 1 deadline by a full year. Instead, the NHTSA has confirmed it will extend the date for full compliance to March 1, 2021. Taking into account the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the NHTSA said the 6-month delay “strikes a reasonable balance between providing necessary regulatory relief and implementing”. The rules require automakers to add sounds to vehicles when they are moving at speeds of up to 30 km/h to prevent injuries among pedestrians, cyclists, and the blind who may otherwise not see them. Regulators say that at higher speeds, tire noise, wind resistance, and other factors eliminate the need for alert sounds. The NHTSA has estimated the rules will cost the auto industry about $40 million annually because companies will need to add an external waterproof speaker to comply. However, the NHTSA adds the benefits of reduced injuries are estimated at $250 million to $320 million annually. The agency has added that the odds of a hybrid vehicle being involved in a pedestrian crash are 19 % higher than with a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle. The National Federation of the Blind praised the decision in a joint statement with auto trade group Auto Innovators. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has announced that order books for the all-electric ID.4 will open immediately following its online reveal on September 23. The reveal will come after many months of teasing and as the ID.3 hatch is not sold stateside, the ID.4 will be the first new-age electric vehicle that Volkswagen sells in the U.S. Interested shoppers will be able to jump online after the reveal and use the configurator to spec out their dream ID.4. They will then be able to secure their place in line with a fully refundable $100 reservation payment and once production starts, U.S. reservation holders will be invited to lock in their configuration and confirm their order with an additional $400 deposit. “Our online reservations portal will give those who are ready to make the switch to an electric SUV a place at the front of the line”, executive vice president, sales and marketing for Volkswagen, Duncan Movassaghi said in a statement. “We’re excited to share the future of Volkswagen with the ID.4. It’s a compelling, zero direct emissions alternative to the compact SUVs on the market today”. Volkswagen plans to offer the ID.4 across all 50 states and throughout its network of more than 600 dealers. Powertrain specifics remain unclear but it is understood initial models will be rear-wheel drive while all-wheel drive variants will be offered at a later date. Rear-wheel drive models are tipped to produce 204 hp and 310 Nm whereas AWD variants will pump out roughly 306 hp and 450 Nm. +++

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