Newsflash: Porsche stelt introductie Taycan Cross Turismo uit

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+++ The coronavirus pandemic hammered the auto industry and a number of companies are still struggling to fully resume operations. One of them is GENERAL MOTORS , which has been facing “high absenteeism” at their Wentzville Assembly plant, which builds the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon as well as the Express and Savana vans. To keep the plant running, GM has tapped white-collar workers. However, this has outraged the UAW who sees it as a violation of their contract with the automaker. UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg told they “strenuously object” to GM filling union jobs with white-collar workers. The local union has also reportedly filed grievances against the company. GM contends they don’t have much of a choice as spokesman Jim Cain told: “The team on the ground in Wentzville is trying to navigate a very difficult situation to keep the plant operating, while accommodating employees who are not showing up to work due to concern of Covid-19”. The plant normally runs 3 shifts with approximately 1.250 workers on each. However, the high rate of absenteeism has made it difficult to run all 3 shifts and GM originally planned to drop a shift in July. However, the company eventually decided to hire 200 temporary workers and keep all 3 shifts. This is where the problem lies as the company hasn’t found enough workers to cover union members calling out absent. As result, they’ve been using white-collar employees to work at the plant. While this seems to be a temporary issue that only involves a few dozen white-collar workers, the UAW says it’s a violation of their contract.  In particular, the contract says “Supervisory employees shall not be permitted to perform work on any hourly-rated job except in the following types of situations: 1) in emergencies arising out of unforeseen circumstances which call for immediate action to avoid interruption of operations; 2) in the instruction or training of employees, including demonstrating the proper method to accomplish the task assigned”. Depending on how you interpret things, the coronavirus pandemic could very well meet the definition of an unforeseen emergency. However, the UAW seems to disagree. Regardless, GM is already working on a solution as they’re seeking temporary workers and are transferring employees from the Spring Hill Assembly plant in Tennessee where a shift was recently cut. As a result, the issue will likely be solved in time. However, the dustup comes less than a year after UAW members went on a strike that lasted over a month. That alone caused production issues and the coronavirus has complicated matters even further. Of course, GM isn’t the only company to have white-collar employees building cars as Honda did the same thing at their Marysville plant in Ohio. However, that plant isn’t unionized so it wasn’t much of an issue. +++ 

+++ Ineos has submitted a binding offer to purchase Daimler’s Smart plant in France in order to build its GRENADIER , which is aimed at fans of the original Land Rover Defender. A Daimler spokesman told that negotiations for the sale were “positive and well advanced. Ineos wants to build some 25.000 Grenadiers per year at the Hambach factory in northern France. “Although the contract has not yet been concluded, we are confident that agreement will be reached on the terms and conditions and that the Grenadier’s new home will be France”, said an Ineos spokesman. Ineos originally intended to build the Grenadier at a new plant in Bridgend, Wales, using a separate factory in Portugal for the vehicle’s body and ladder-frame chassis. Those plans were however scrapped after they heard about Daimler looking to sell its Smart factory. “Hambach is a great solution for Ineos, with a very experienced workforce and an excellent track record among Mercedes plants in terms of product production quality”, added the spokesman. As for Smart, assembly will move from France to China, courtesy of Daimler’s joint venture with Geely. The Smart plant in France opened back in 1997, churning out the 2-seat Smart ForTwo. It has since expanded to accommodate the likes of the Mercedes EQ A electric crossover, whose production will now move either to Rastatt, Germany or Kecskemet, Hungary. In any case, the Hambach factory should be well-equipped to handle production for something the size of the Grenadier. +++ 

+++ HONDA said it will start selling its first mass-produced electric car on October 30 in Japan as part of its drive to electrify a large portion of its vehicles over the next decade. The new E 4-seater compact has a driving range of up to 283 km under the WLTP standard, Honda said. While its range is considerably lower than larger electric vehicles including Tesla’s Model 3 and Nissan’s Leaf, the Honda E features the latest information technology such as smartphone-controlled door locks and starter, the company said. The car can also be equipped with a side camera mirror system and an automatic parking feature, it said. Honda, which expects to sell 1.000 units a year of the model, launched it in Europe earlier this month with an annual sales target set at 10,000 units. Honda is aiming for EVs, fuel-cell vehicles, plug-in hybrids and other hybrids to account for twothirds of its cars sold globally by 2030. Nissan has pursued EVs more aggressively than its domestic rivals, though European brands are more quickly catching up with Tesla and Chinese manufacturers. In July, Nissan unveiled its new Ariya crossover EV to go on sale in Japan in mid-2021 and other major markets including North America, Europe and China by the end of that year. Toyota plans to introduce a small electric 2-seater mainly targeted at older drivers later in the year in Japan. Toyota, which sold over 9.7 million vehicles in 2019, aims to boost its global sales of EVs including hybrid cars to 5.5 million units by 2025. +++ 

+++ The electric car industry will dominate demand for LITHIUM over the next 10 years, Chilean state mining agency Cochilco said, accounting for more than 3 quarters of the ultralight battery metal’s consumption by 2030, up from one third in 2019. Cochilco said demand for lithium for electric vehicles had been muted this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, expected at around 75.000 tonnes, but would surge to 1.4 million tonnes by 2030. Meanwhile, demand not associated with electromobility but with cell phones and other consumer goods would reach 377.000 tonnes in 2030, compared with the 242.000 tonnes expected for this year. Lithium prices have been on a steady decline in recent years amid festering global trade tensions, the scaling back of electric vehicle subsidies in China and a wave of new production. The coronavirus pandemic and associated economic downturn has clouted demand, prompting some miners to put off near-term investments. However, Cochilco predicted a rise in demand over supply would firm prices by 2025-2026. It foresaw Australia and Chile maintaining by slimmer margins their leads in production, with growing competition from the United States and Argentina reducing Australia’s global supply from 48 % today to 31 % by 2030 and Chile’s from 29 % to 17 %. +++ 

+++ We already know that the LUCID AIR will charge extraordinarily fast and has a class-leading EPA estimated range of 832 km. Now, as the days tick over until the car’s debut on September 9, I have details regarding the EV’s battery pack. Sitting beneath the sleek bodywork of the Lucid Air is a 113 kWh battery pack, smaller than the 130 kWh battery that many pundits thought the Air would have. According to Lucid, the Air’s battery pack hasn’t just been built to provide exceptional range but has also been designed to be compact and energy dense, allowing the car manufacturer to maximize interior space. “It’s relatively easy to achieve more range by adding progressively more batteries, but gaining ‘dumb range’ that way increases weight and cost, and reduces interior space”, Lucid chief executive and chief technology officer Peter Rawlinson said in a statement. “Lucid Air has achieved its remarkable range whilst also reducing battery size through its in-house technology, resulting in a breakthrough in overall vehicle-level efficiency”. Lucid claims the Air offers “unprecedented” interior space for its compact exterior footprint. The EV also has a frunk offering 280 liters of space and in total, offers up an impressive 739 liters of luggage space. “By pursuing this ‘smart range’ approach, Lucid shall not only be able to offer the Air with this unprecedented absolute range, but also offer future models that achieve competitive range from proportionately smaller battery packs, thereby saving cost, weight, and space”, Rawlinson added. “Lucid’s breakthrough is not merely just a few percent; we are talking about a significant improvement, which I shall cover further on September 9th. This represents a true breakthrough and what excites me the most for the future and for Lucid’s role in advancing electrification and sustainable mobility”. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ Korea unveiled 3 new luxury SUV models, expanding its premium SUV lineup to 9 in the country. In the unveiling ceremony held via its official YouTube channel, the automaker presented Mercedes-Benz GLB, a “versatile” family SUV; the new Mercedes-Benz GLA, a dynamic sporty SUV; and the new Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, a premium coupe SUV. Opening the unveiling event was interim president and CEO Kim Jee-seop, who was formerly vice president of the company’s customer services department and was appointed earlier this month. “I joined the company as a rookie employee, and it is an honor and exciting for me to stand here now as the representative of the company”, Kim said. Kim joined Mercedes-Benz Korea in 2002, and has since worked in various departments, including sales, marketing, product strategy and customer service, before his recent appointment. “Taking the position at a critical time, I feel the weight of the responsibility on my shoulders as I have before, I will keep the company philosophy, to make nothing but the best, and do my best”, Kim said. Following Kim’s greetings, Mark Raine, vice president of products and marketing at Mercedes-Benz Korea, took over the presentation to explain the new models. “The Mercedes-Benz luxury SUV family is a lifestyle product and a perfect partner in crime to pursue and conquer any urban adventures”, Raine said. “The new GLA, GLB and the GLE Coupe come with a stunning design, the latest digitalization and technology as well as superior luxury and exclusivity to compliment the active lifestyle of our Korean customers and Mercedes-Benz fans”. The new GLB, which joins the automaker’s SUV lineup for the first time, is a family car with generous interior space and practicality. Equipped with a new 4-cylinder 2.0-liter gasoline turbo-charged M260 engine, the GLB model combines that with the 8G-DCT transmission to deliver a powerful and efficient driving performance, according to the automaker. The new GLA is a second-generation model of the company’s dynamic sporty SUV that was first released in 2013. Raine emphasized its strong, dynamic character, with its AMG Line exterior adding the sporty look, and facilitating the same M260 engine as the GLB model. The Off-Road Engineering Package is also available. For the new GLE Coupe, Raine likened the vehicle to a “beast”, highlighting its strong appearance and sheer size that will mark its presence on roads. The GLE 400d 4Matic Coupe is equipped with a 6-cylinder in-line turbo diesel engine and the 9G-Tronic automatic transmission. +++

+++ BMW will reportedly cut 400 jobs at the MINI factory in Oxford, following a sharp fall in customer demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The affected workers are employed by agency Gi Group, and individual decisions will be made based on length of service, skill sets and disciplinary records. Gi Group employs 950 of the approximately 4.000 workers at the site. Those affected are employed full-time on the production line. The job cuts come as BMW prepares to move the factory from a 3-shift pattern to 2 shifts in October, following changes to its production forecast in light of the global downturn. It’s expected that production capacity will be reduced from 1.000 cars per day to between 800 and 900. BMW closed the site for nearly two months during the coronavirus lockdown, restarting operations in May with social-distancing measures in place. Bob Shankly, human resources director at Mini, told the BBC: “Like other automotive manufacturers, our volume forecasts for 2020 have had to change accordingly. We have, therefore, made the difficult decision to adjust our shift patterns at Mini Plant Oxford from October. This will give us the flexibility we need to adapt our production in the short to medium term, according to developments in global markets”. In a joint statement issued in the wake of the news, councillors Susan Brown and Anneliese Dodds expressed sympathy for those losing their jobs and said that “while the plant is very productive”, the pandemic has “posed major difficulties for the automotive industry”, both domestically and internationally. They added: “We will both continue to work with BMW Cowley to do what we can to ensure the future of the plant and to protect local jobs”. +++ 

+++ A new survey, conducted by Kadence International, among 1.035 Mitsubishi drivers in the United Kingdom (on behalf of the manufacturer), hints that PLUG-IN HYBRIDS are an important intermediate step in the transition to fully electric cars. I am aware that the Japanese manufacturer will present us with everything that supports the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV sales to profit, but let’s take a look at the insights. First of all, the group of 1.035 drivers split almost equally amongst PHEV and ICE drivers. As it turns out, 48 % of Outlander PHEV drivers considered a fully electric vehicle when deciding which car to buy. On the other hand, only 9 % of ICE drivers were considering an all-electric car and 23 % of them considered PHEV. In other words, many buyers were not ready to switch to fully electric cars: range anxiety reportedly was one of the main barriers. Plug-in hybrids at least for now was their only way to drive electric (in EV mode). In the future, the share of those who consider BEVs is expected to grow. According to the study, now 70 % of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV owners surveyed would consider a BEV as their next purchase. “Plug-in hybrid vehicles not only have an immediate environmental impact, they help familiarise consumers with electric vehicles, providing the perfect segue to a pure electric future. The survey also reveals 70% of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV owners would consider a fully electric vehicle for their next purchase compared to 27% of ICE drivers”. Rob Lindley, Managing Director of Mitsubishi Motors in the UK, commented: “This latest research reinforces the fact that PHEVs are a gateway to an all-EV future. Consumers still harbour concerns about pure electric vehicle range, affordability and relying on the nascent nature of the charging infrastructure in the UK, all of which can be addressed by PHEVs while these issues are resolved over time. In the interim, PHEVs can help both the industry and government make an immediate impact on climate change and air quality, especially in urban areas, and speed up the acceptance of electrified vehicles”. If we treat the results seriously, that more and more consumers in both ICE and PHEV category will be switching to BEVs, the next step should be to offer an all-electric car right? But an electric Mitsubishi is not coming to Europe … +++ 

+++ PORSCHE ‘s roll-out of 992-generation 911 variants is continuing in earnest, and now the most track-focused of them all, the GT3 RS, has been caught testing. Seen for the first time ahead of a likely 2021 official debut, the hardcore model follows on from spyshots of the ‘standard’ GT3 variant upon which it’s based. Tell-tale signs that this is no ordinary GT3, however, include a giant dual-wing spoiler with a bespoke mounting platform. This is targeted at generating downforce levels on par with those of a fully fledged racing 911. Further differences that mark this prototype out as the GT3 RS include a different rear bumper design (incorporating a diffuser element) and a revised centre-exit tailpipe. New cooling vents on the bonnet and front wings also feature, along with a larger front splitter. Details of the new GT3 RS’s performance capability remain thin on the ground. We do know, however, that it will make use of the naturally aspirated 4.0-litre flat-6 engine used first in the 991-generation run-out 911 Speedster last year. That puts out 510 hp, revs to 9.000 rpm and is paired exclusively with a manual gearbox. Expect the standard GT3 to approach that, but given the old GT3 RS made 520hp, it’s likely that some further fettling will raise the output further for the new model. Other race-spec details are expected to include rose-joined suspension and specification upgrades close to the 911 Cup racer. The interior will be typically stripped-out to save weight, with the GT3 RS likely to be one of, if not the, lightest 911 variants on sale. We will see the new GT3 before the GT3 RS is unveiled. That’s likely to be early 2021, given pandemic-related delays. So although it’s not confirmed, we could see the GT3 RS in the latter half of next year. +++ 

+++ As its rivals invest billions of dollars into electric pickups, RAM made headlines by dropping a supercharged, 702 hp V8 engine between the 1.500’s fenders. While critics will inevitably argue there’s nothing forward-thinking about the Hellcat engine, the company explained its customers are more interested in V8s than in EVs. Brand manager Carl Lally explained the company is open to the idea of exploring electric powertrains. His comments echo the ones made recently by Mike Manley, the head of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). Ram will begin developing a battery-powered pickup if customers demand one, but it sounds like its market research finds there’s not a tremendous amount of interest in a gasoline-free model. The market research must say otherwise over at Jeep, which is bringing the plug-in electric hybrid Wrangler 4xe to market. “It’s fundamental to us that it’s not about chasing the EV trend, but about chasing what the customer really wants and providing it to them. That changes over time, but today it’s a supercharged, 6.2-liter V8 that has them most excited”, said Lally, referring to the 1500 TRX introduced as an alternative to the Ford F-150 Raptor. Adding credibility to Lally’s statement is the fact that the 702 available units of the TRX Launch Edition model sold out in a couple of hours in spite of a base price of approximately $90,000. Ram is not limiting production of the regular-production TRX, which starts at $71,690, so time will tell if its bet on V8s pays off in the long run. Market leader Ford wants to plant its stake in both segments. I know it’s developing an electric variant of the 14th generation F-150, and an earlier report claims the next Raptor will receive the Mustang GT500’s 700-plus horsepower V8. As for General Motors, it’s planning on launching a battery-powered Chevrolet Silverado sooner or later, but it has chosen to watch the horsepower war from the sidelines, for the time being, at least. +++ 

+++ ROLLS-ROYCE no longer sees itself as an automaker but instead as a “house of luxury”. To fit this new identity, the company is reworking the branding to put forward a more modern message. The business wants to have greater appeal to younger customers because the average age of buyers is now just 43. The famous Spirit of Ecstasy will have a greater role under the new branding plan. A simplified version of the female figure will appear on the company’s products. The drawing will always face towards the right because this will apparently have her looking to the future. “The use of the Spirit of Ecstasy marks a shift in the resonance of the brand: from an automotive to a lifestyle context”, said Marina Willer, the leader of the revised brand identity. “She commands an aspirational quality in the luxury sphere and by placing her at the centre of the visual language. The Spirit of Ecstasy can now be interpreted as the muse for the marque, in addition to the motor cars themselves”. Rolls-Royce will also use a new signature colour called Purple Spirit, and you’ll often see it with a metallic shade of rose gold. The re-branding team believes these two hues communicate a sense of royalty and longevity, respectively. The brand name will look a little different, too. It’s now in the typeface Riviera Nights, which is similar to the previous Gil Sans Alt font. The letters now have more bevelled edges, and the company also believes there’s a greater emphasis on the letter “R” in Rolls and Royce. One thing that’s not changing is the double R monogram that represents founders Rolls and Royce. It was simply too iconic and linked to the company to change. You’ll start seeing the new look for Rolls-Royce’s branding starting in September. This means it should have a prominent place on the new Ghost that debuts September 1. +++ 

+++ The future of the SPORTS CAR has never been in greater jeopardy. Car makers are finding it increasingly difficult to justify them in their line-ups as demand slows and ever-tightening emissions regulations make for higher costs. Some have already disappeared. Peugeot, for example, is quite clear about concentrating on cars that make money before considering a replacement for the RCZ, while even the Audi TT is likely to be reinvented as a crossover rather than an out-and- out coupé next time around. Thankfully, the Japanese still believe in their sports cars; Toyota’s Supra (with the help of BMW) and GT86 are firm favourites, while Mazda’s MX-5 keeps on going. Nissan, too, knows the value of a great sports car and there’s a new Z car on the way. So what is the value of a car like that, having already pointed out that it’s difficult to make money from one? Let’s take a look at the MX-5, a car that’s at the heart of everything Mazda does. Every car the brand makes has a bit of the MX-5’s soul in it, and is all the better for it. If there were no MX-5, Mazda just wouldn’t be the same. We know that Porsche makes more money from its SUVs than its sports cars, but would you still want a Porsche SUV if the firm didn’t also make the 911? So Nissan’s decision that it needs to spend the money to add a new Z car to its line-up needs to be applauded. It would be an easier decision not to do it. Putting a sports car on your driveway can be difficult to justify, too, even though some recent models (what we’d class as modern classics) are good investments. It’s something I’m grappling with myself, trying to persuade my boyfriend of the benefits of buying a sports car: a 1991 Lotus Elan. My negotiations with him are proving as tough as any negotiations at board level would be when trying to get a new sports car over the line. Wish me luck! +++ 

+++ The second body style of the Porsche TAYCAN , the Cross Turismo high-riding estate, will no longer debut this year. The automaker initially planned to launch the Taycan Cross Turismo late this year, but has now said the debut has been postponed to early 2021. According to Porsche CEO Oliver Blume, the reason for the delay is the strong demand for the Taycan sedan in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. This suggests Porsche wants to focus on meeting demand for the Taycan sedan first and then roll out the Taycan Cross Turismo. While that’s a nice “problem” to have, customers who prefer the more practical estate body style of the Taycan won’t be that happy, especially those who have already paid deposits. This gives Porsche engineers more time to test the Taycan Cross Turismo. Even though everyone pretty much knows what the estate model will look like, Porsche insists on placing stickers to disguise the design of key exterior elements. The most obvious areas Porsche is trying to hide include the taillights, the C-pillar and the third lateral window. Looking at these images, it’s pretty clear this is no standard Taycan Cross Turismo. Our money is on the Turbo S variant seeing as the aggressive bumpers look very similar to the Taycan Turbo S sedan’s. The wheels are identical and they house massive brake discs and red calipers. New additions compared to the Taycan Turbo S sedan include the generous roof spoiler and plastic cladding around the wheel arches. Expect the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo to offer the same variants as its sibling, like the base rear-wheel-drive model, 4S, Turbo and Turbo S. The latter will be the top dog with a combined output of 761 hp and 1.050 Nm of system torque with the Overboost function enabled. +++ 

+++ Aside from helping turn TESLA into the world’s most valuable carmaker, the Model 3 is also showing signs of being dominant on the used car market, even though it’s still early to draw a definitive line seen as how owners typically keep their cars for at least a few years. Yet, based on a few small sample sizes courtesy of various car shopping websites, the data looks quite favorable for Tesla’s entry level sedan. “If you’re looking for a used Audi A4, you have other comparable options like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Lexus IS”, explains George Augustaitis, director of automotive industry and economic analysis at CarGurus. “If you’re looking for a Model 3, there’s no substitute”. While that’s not going to be the case for long, he definitely has a point as far as used electric vehicles are concerned right now. Unlike early EVs such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3, which depreciated even faster than conventional cars due to low demand and a limited driving range, the Model 3 has pretty much everything going in its favor, including the fact that battery degradation isn’t as big of a concern nowadays. According to iSeeCars, between March and June this year, used Model 3s needed just 29.3 days on average in order to sell. That’s more than two times faster than the industry average. The graph also shows how successful the Model S and X have been among well established Japanese offerings. Also, make what you will of the BMW X6 being so in-demand on the used car market. “Demand is outpacing the limited supply”, concluded Augustaitis about the Model 3. “Its range and tech and price point are still unique”. Over the next decade or so, used EVs from Volkswagen, Polestar, Volvo and various other brands should give the Model 3 some competition and used car buyers more options to choose from. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA plans to drastically review the way it calculates annual pay raises in spring, by linking them with personnel evaluations instead of the current across-the-board wage increase, sources said. The planned method would eliminate regular pay hikes, and the automaker has already begun negotiations with the labor union, hoping to introduce the method in 2021. There are roughly two types of regular pay raises: an across-the-board hike based on position and age and a raise based on evaluation, meaning that all employees have benefited. The new calculation method will use performance-based criteria only, reflecting factors such as employees’ ability to get things done. This may mean employees with the lowest evaluations do not receive a pay raise. The labor union will officially decide whether to accept management’s proposal at a regular meeting scheduled for September 30. Toyota hopes its employees will maintain high motivation levels while retaining good people by offering performance-based pay hikes, rather than across-the-board ones. +++00

+++ VOLKSWAGEN said it will start testing autonomous vehicles in China’s eastern city of Hefei, its first in the world’s biggest car market. China has become a hot spot for trying out autonomous driving vehicles. Toyota-backed Pony.ai, Baidu, Nissan-backed WeRide and Didi Chuxing are all testing autonomous cars in different cities as automakers and tech companies are investing billions in the technology. Volkswagen, the biggest foreign automaker in China, will start the test in Hefei with Audi’s e-Tron from September, it said in a statement. The test will be open to the public from next year. In May, Volkswagen said it would invest €1 billion to take a 50 % stake in the state-owned parent of Chinese electronic vehicle group JAC. Volkswagen will also take full management control of its existing electric vehicle joint venture with JAC in Hefei by raising its stake to 75 % from 50 %. Volkswagen also has ventures with state-owned China FAW Group and SAIC Motor. The German car company sold 1.59 million vehicles in China in the first 6 months of 2020; down 17 % from 1.92 million vehicles in the same period last year. For all of 2019, Volkswagen sold around 4.23 million vehicles in the country. In June Volkswagen closed its $2.6 billion investment in Pittsburgh-based self-driving startup Argo AI, in which Ford also has a stake. +++

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