Newsflash: nieuwe Nissan Qashqai komt later

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+++ BMW is dramatically ramping up its electric car offerings, with new i5 and i7 saloons set to headline an expanded line-up of 9 models that will underpin an ambitious 10-year growth plan. The German manufacturer will launch the new cars as part of its new ‘Power of Choice’ sustainability plan, under which it has committed to selling more than 7 million plug-in hybrid and pure-electric vehicles by the end of 2030. The new plan, which will also include 2 electric cars from the Mini brand, is the first major initiative to be overseen by Oliver Zipse since he was promoted to the top of the Munich company last summer. It is designed to make BMW a leader in electric vehicles sales against rival premium brands such as Audi, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla and to help it meet increasingly tough targets to cut the CO2 output of its new models. To date, the BMW Group has sold more than 500.000 electrified models across the BMW and Mini brands, but it expects that figure to have doubled by the end of 2021 as new electric and plug-in hybrid models are launched. It’s also ramping up the output of electric vehicles produced by its joint ventures, such as Spotlight Automotive, an operation that was recently established by Mini and Great Wall Motors in China. BMW expects to sell 4.6 million fully electric vehicles within the next 10 years; an average of 460.000 per year and a huge increase from the 42.249 sold last year (all of them an i3). It also expects to sell 2.4 million plug-in hybrids. To this end, it recently launched the 6-cylinder petrol-electric 545e xDrive, which is aimed at the fleet market and is the fifth electrified 5 Series model. Having already committed to offering plug-in hybrid variants of every existing model in its line-up, BMW’s new plan calls for a considerable increase in pure-electric model range, which is initially set to include at least nine new models. These include the recently unveiled iX3 and will continue with next year’s i4 Gran Coupé and a production version of the iNext (likely to be called the iX5). BMW has also confirmed an electric version of the X1, badged the iX1, that will indirectly replace the i3, plus a new i5 and i7, based on the next-generation 5 Series and 7 Series saloons respectively. The manufacturer is also set to launch an electric version of the latest 3 Series saloon, using the running gear from the upcoming i4, according to sources familiar with the production plan. With the current i3 going out of production, it is likely that the 3 Series-based saloon will adopt the vacated i3 name, according to the sources. While plans for Mini are less defined, the British brand is planning to build on its recently introduced Electric 3-door hatchback with at least 2 new electric cars, including uniquely styled SUVs based on the iX1 and iX3. The foundations for BMW’s ambitious strategy were laid with the establishment of the i electric vehicle division in 2011. But while BMW’s original electric vehicle plan centred on a dedicated platform, the second wave of electric models has been conceived around the company’s current FAAR and CLAR architectures. The ‘Power of Choice’ model plan calls for up to four different powertrain variants (petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and pure-electric) in each of its main model lines to be built on the same production line, starting with the X3. BMW says that it will continue to offer both petrol and diesel engines in each of its main model lines for the foreseeable future, in a move aimed at providing buyers with what the company describes as “the most suitable drivetrain for any given usage scenario”. In a previously announced strategy being driven by recent developments in China, BMW has also confirmed that it will start offering hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrains on extended leasing programmes in certain models and markets, starting with the X5 next year. +++ 

+++ CHEVROLET has started a second shift at the Corvette Assembly Plant, meaning those with orders might not have to wait as long as initially expected before taking delivery. It is understood that Chevrolet began a second shift at the plant on August 31. While operating a single shift, the Bowling Green site was building approximately 95 vehicles per day but on September 1, the first full day where both shifts were operating, 140 Corvettes were built. Employees in the second shift started working alongside those on the first shift to get prepared. It is understood that second shift workers had already been trained prior to the Covid-19 shutdown. Strikes initiated by the United Auto Workers union last year pushed back the production start of the Corvette until February 3 this year. However, the Bowling Green factory was forced to shut at the end of the day on Friday, March 20 due to lockdown orders. During this period, just 2.700 Corvettes were built and for some time, it was speculated these could be the only 2020 model year cars produced with Chevrolet potentially shifting immediately to 2021 cars once the site was allowed to re-open. Ultimately, this isn’t what happened and Chevrolet continued to accept 2020 Corvette orders for a couple of more months. It is continuing to work through more than 20.000 orders for the C8 Corvette but recently admitted it won’t be able to build all 2020 model year orders with some customers being offered a 2021 model instead. +++ 

+++ In the first half of 2020, CHINA ‘s listed car companies experienced overall operating pressure, while some highlights remained. China’s auto sales fell 16.9 % year-on-year to 10.26 million in the first 6 months of 2020, according to the China Automobile Manufacturers Association. However, the newly released half-year financial statements revealed that some auto companies achieved favorable sales results from January to June. SAIC Motor achieved revenue of 283.74 billion yuan ($41.53 billion) in the first half of this year, significantly ahead of other Chinese listed car companies. Dongfeng Motor Group achieved a year-on-year growth of 4.4 % in revenue during that span, while Great Wall Motors had reached total assets valuing 119.4 billion yuan through the end of June; up 5.5 % from the end of 2019. SAIC Motor’s financial statement showed that its asset-liability ratio is beyond 60 % and its net interest rate is 3.06 %, which is relatively low. SAIC Motor said it will strive to turn around sales in the second half of the year and achieve a faster sales than the average level of the Chinese vehicle market. Fu Bingfeng, CAMA’s deputy secretary general, said that from July to December, the Chinese auto market is expected to remain stable. “And if the auto market recovers well in the second half of the year, the full-year sales decline may be less than 10 %”. BYD achieved revenue of 60.5 billion yuan in the first 6 months this year and a net profit attributable to its parent company valuing 1.66 billion yuan; up 14.29 % from the same period of the previous year. BYD realized a net cash inflow of 15.53 billion yuan in the first half of this year, hitting a new high. It is expected to provide a financial guarantee for its development in the second half of the year. GAC Group and Changan Automobile achieved net interest rates of 9.04 % and 7.94 %, respectively, between January and June. GAC Group reached revenue of 159.7 billion yuan in the first half of this year. Changan’s revenue in the first 6 months totaled 32.78 billion yuan; up 9.73 % from the same period in 2019. Geely’s half-year financial statement shows that turnover of its total assets reached 34.02 %, reflecting a high asset utilization rate. However, Geely is calling 2020 “the most difficult year ever”, with its revenue in the first half of the year reaching 36.82 billion yuan; down 23 % from the same period last year. In the first half of the year, Great Wall Motors achieved 35.93 billion yuan in revenue. In the same period, the average price of Great Wall’s vehicles has been approaching 100,000 yuan; up 8 % year-on year, which is well above the average price of Chinese auto brands. The cumulative research and development spending of Great Wall Motors in the first 6 months this year exceeded 1.2 billion yuan; a growth of 33 % year-on-year. The auto dealer inventory alert index fell to 52.8 % last month, illustrating a reduction in auto dealer inventory and an increase in market demand, according the China Automobile Dealers Association. Last month’s index declined 9.9 percentage points from July and 0.5 percentage points year-on-year. The inventory alert index reflects inventory pressure of automobile dealers. It typically is lower than 50 % when the market is healthy. It is composed of inventory, market demand, dealership finances and surveys of dealers’ purchases, sales and stocks. Lang Xuehong, deputy secretary-general of CADA, said the market has shown signs of recovery during the past two months due to a combination of factors, including the government launching preferential measures on Chinese-branded new energy vehicles in rural areas that promote sales and carmakers launching marketing events. Some car purchase demands were released during the back-to-school season. As the traditional “golden September and silver October”, which refers to the period of best market performance each year, arrives, more new models will hit the market in the upcoming Beijing auto show, Lang added. CADA forecasts that market demands will recover to its previous levels in September. CADA research shows that 32 % of dealers believe that market demand will increase in September and 54 % believe that demand will remain at the same level as last month. Statistics from CADA showed that the index of joint ventures declined to 54.7 % in August and the index of Chinese brands declined to 56.3 %. Because of the consumption upgrade and price cuts, the index of luxury brands in August showed the best condition. It declined to 46.5 %, below the warning line, according to CADA. Some luxury vehicle brands saw sales growth last month. FAW’s premium brand Hongqi sold 21.000 cars during the month, which represents an increase of 110 % year-on-year. Toyota’s premium arm Lexus saw sales grow 22 % to 20.698 units. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers forecast on Wednesday that August sales will reach 2.18 million units, increasing 11.3 % year-on-year and 3.2 % month-on-month. +++ 

+++ 3 of the FASTEST SELLING USED CARS in the United States are Teslas, a new survey has found. During an analysis of over 4.4 million new and used cars that were sold from March until June 2020, iSeeCars discovered that it typically took 68.9 days for a used car to sell but there were some vehicles that sold much faster than that. The fastest-selling used vehicle proved to be the popular Tesla Model 3, taking an average of 29.3 days to sell. “The Tesla Model 3 began making deliveries in 2018 and because it’s so new to the marketplace there is a low inventory of used versions”, iSeeCars chief executive Phony Ly said. “The Tesla Model 3, which was the automaker’s least expensive vehicle, had the highest number of pre-orders of any car ever produced, and the long wait time helped further drive the high demand for the vehicle which has been sustained in the secondary marketplace”. 2 other Tesla models occupied positions within the Top 10 of fastest-selling used cars in the country. In 6th is the Model X, which requires an average of 47.6 days to sell on the used market, while the Model S was ranked as the 10th fastest-selling used vehicle, proving that demand for the company’s flagship sedan remains strong even after the arrival of the more affordable Model 3. In second place is the BMW X6, with an average of 43 days to sell. Closely following the X6 is the Subaru BRZ (44.5 days), the Toyota Yaris (44.8 days) and the Honda Civic (47.4 days). The Infiniti Q60 came in 7th place (49.4 days), followed by the Honda Accord (50 days) and the Toyota Corolla (50.2 days). +++ 

+++ FORD will cut 1.000 white-collar jobs in the United States by the end of the year in what is the latest step in its $11 billion restructuring. Sources close to the situation say that the job cuts will be made under a voluntary program and do not come in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These buyouts are just the latest step in a reorganization of the company being led by outgoing chief executive Jim Hackett. In 2019, the car manufacturer closed a number of plants in Europe while eliminating thousands of jobs and continuing to encounter issues with its Chinese operations. It was expected that the cutting of 7.000 salary positions worldwide in 2019 would save the car manufacturer $600 million a year. Despite these continued cutbacks, Ford expects to report a full-year operating loss for the first time in a decade. The announcement of these latest job cuts comes just four weeks before Hackett leaves his post as chief executive and is replaced by current chief operating officer Jim Farley. The incoming CEO has promised to return Ford’s North American region to a 10 % profit margin. Speaking earlier this year in relation to the impacts of the coronavirus, Farley said he saw a resolve within the workforce reminiscent of that from the 2009 financial crisis. “Everyone at Ford knows the situation we’re in”, he commented. “I can see it on the faces of my colleagues and it takes me back to about 10 years ago. I’ve seen the look before”. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS ’ electric vehicle (EV) strategy relies heavily on its technological partnership with South Korean battery maker LG Chem, according to an online global roadshow held by Cadillac through Zoom. GM also empathized the extensive supply base that Korea has, ranging from battery technology to electronics parts for GM’s connected vehicles. “I can’t say enough about the supply base in Korea and their support for GM for many years”, said Steve Kiefer, president of GM International, during the online presentation. “The joint venture with LG Chem will really produce the world’s best and most efficient and cost-effective battery cell and we are really excited about the partnership”. Last year, GM and LG Chem formed a 50-50 joint venture investing a total of $2.3 billion to mass-produce battery cells for the auto company’s future EVs, including building a new manufacturing site in Ohio. Out of 100 to 130 suppliers that the U.S. automaker recognizes every year for being the “best supplier”, Steve said 30 % have regularly been based in Korea including LG Electronics, which is in charge of in-vehicle safety and security systems for GM vehicles. The Cadillac team during the online global roadshow also presented blueprints for its first-ever pure electric vehicle Lyriq, which it will start mass-producing from late 2022 at the earliest. When asked about its belated entry into the market, Steve said “bringing the vehicle when they are ready” is more important than bringing it faster than its competitors. “When we see the Lyriq, we often say this isn’t just a great electric vehicle but it is a great vehicle”, said Kiefer. “We are confident that from market timing, when our customers see the vehicle and drive and feel the performance, they will come to the brand very quickly”. Lyriq, a luxury full-electric SUV, is the epitome of GM’s future car technology, which plans on offering a range of more than 480 kilometers on a single charge and an advanced cruising system which, according to the carmaker, will be able to offer completely hands-free driver assistance features. Cadillac, a fairly niche luxury brand in Korea, accounted for 0.7 percent of the newly registered vehicles last year in the import auto industry. During the January to August period this year, it sold 886 new cars; a 26.5 % year-on-year drop. +++ 

+++ In order the pass the moose test, a vehicle’s entry speed must be 77 km/h or higher and recently a lot of new cars have struggled to stay between the cones. One of the latest rides to have been subjected to the test was the HONDA E . The electric supermini was put through its paces in the range-topping variant, which has 154 hp and 315 Nm, can sprint to 100 km/h in 8.3 seconds and hits a top speed of 145 km/h. So, how did it do? The highest entry speed was 75 km/h, so technically, it has failed the test, despite the low center of gravity provided by the positioning of the battery under the floor and the fact that it came with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. A higher entrance speed was not possible and ended its evaluation with the slalom test, which the zero-emission subcompact hatchback tackled with no problems whatsoever. The Honda e’s result is comparable to other, more powerful and upmarket cars, like the Audi A7, which is much bigger and heavier. It is also identical to the current mega hatch king, the 421 hp and 500 Nm Mercedes-AMG A 45 S, which passed the test at 75 km/h as well. Other rides that performed similarly were the 306 hp BMW M235i Gran Coupe, the regular Mercedes-Benz CLA and, surprisingly, the new generation Suzuki Jimny, to name but a few. +++

+++ The MAYBACH name is synonymous with luxurious land yachts, but it could mean something more eco-friendly in the future. In an interview, Daimler chairman Ola Källenius said “There’s room to do more with the Maybach brand name” and the company’s upcoming electric vehicle platform “offers some opportunities”. Unsurprisingly, this suggests the company is considering a Maybach variant of the upcoming EQS. Set to be introduced next year, the EQS was previewed by a similarly named concept and will ride on the new Modular Electric Architecture (MEA). The company hasn’t said much about the upcoming electric vehicle, but recently confirmed one variant will have a range in excess of 700 km in the WLTP cycle. However, there are expected to be multiple variants (with different ranges) including a base model with 408 hp and an AMG variant with around 612 hp. Considering Mercedes has referred to the EQS as an electric S-Class, a Maybach variant seems like a natural fit. After discontinuing the standalone Maybach brand, the name was relaunched on a range-topping S-Class before eventually spreading to the GLS. The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is popular in China, which happens to be the largest market for electric vehicles. Given all of this, a Maybach-branded EQS makes a lot of sense. And it fits in with Källenius’ plan to increase profits to improve the company’s financials while also helping to pay for the development of new technologies. +++ 

+++ It was a few days ago when MERCEDES unveiled the new S-Class and I’m already turning our attention to future derivatives of the luxobarge. As it turns out, we won’t have to wait a long time for the posh Maybach version as the official premiere is scheduled to take place in November. Unsurprisingly, the extra-long saloon will premiere at the Guangzhou Auto Show in China where the Maybach brand has been enjoying great success since its reintroduction a few years ago. Mercedes has already announced the Maybach S-Class will be the only version of the lineup to still offer the silky smooth V12 engine, a twin-turbo 6.0-litre powerhouse with heaps of power. Its output will remain unchanged, at 630 hp and a mountain-moving 1.000 Nm) of torque. The Benz-branded S-Class is already bigger than its predecessor in both wheelbase configurations, but the fancier Maybach will be stretched furthermore for stellar rear legroom. Aside from the confirmed 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, additional details are not available at the moment of writing. However, Markus Schäfer, board member for Group Research and Development, Procurement and Supplier Quality, told the Maybach version will be “very differentiated from the long versions”. In related news, the S-Class lineup will be further diversified with the launch of not one, but two AMG models. While the V12-powered S 65 is not coming back, the S 63e and S 73e will pack a tremendous amount of power. Both are said to combine a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 with a rear-mounted electric motor, which will allegedly develop 136 hp in the S 63e to enable a combined output of nearly 700 hp. The top dog will employ a 204 hp specification of the electric motor for a grand total of 816 hp. Both AMG models are believed to be in the final development stages and will share a lithium-ion battery pack with a capacity of approximately 20 kWh. It’s unclear when the 2 performance versions, but deliveries won’t start until the middle of next year. The slow-selling coupe and cabriolet versions are not coming back, while a plug-in hybrid diesel powertrain has also been ruled out even though the E-Class is available in some markets with an electrified diesel. The most advanced setup will be reserved for the EQS, a fully electric flagship coming next year with a far more striking design compared to the conservative S-Class. +++ 

+++ The Development Bank of Japan extended a record 130 billion yen ($1.2 billion) to NISSAN in May with a guarantee that the government will repay most of it in case of a default by the struggling automaker, sources familiar with the matter said. The guarantee is part of the 180 billion yen loan that Nissan received from the state-affiliated financial institution to weather the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Under the arrangement, if the automaker defaults on the loan, the government will shoulder up to 80 %, or about 100 billion yen, of the guaranteed portion, using taxpayers’ money. The pandemic has dealt a further blow to sales at Nissan, already hurt by restructuring following the expansion pursued by former boss Carlos Ghosn, who was ousted amid allegations of financial misconduct. The DBJ judged that the loan should be extended swiftly due to the potential impact from Nissan’s woes on local economies such as jobs at suppliers, according to the sources. Nissan reported a net loss of 671.22 billion yen in the business year that ended in March, the first full-year red ink in 11 years. In March, the government launched a scheme to extend loans to companies stung by the coronavirus outbreak via financial entities such as the DBJ. While the DBJ provided about 1.8 trillion yen in loans to large and midsized companies as of the end of July, the loan to Nissan is the only one with a state guarantee, the sources said. During the financial crisis following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Japan Airlines took out a loan of about 67 billion yen in 2009. It defaulted on the loan the following year when the carrier went bankrupt, causing the state to shoulder about 47 billion yen. +++ 

+++ If there’s still anybody out there who thinks that small crossovers aren’t slowly but surely taking over the world, well, there’s nothing like a spike in demand during times of a global pandemic to help change someone’s mind about a developing trend. In this particular case we’re dealing with a high demand for PEUGEOT ’s second-generation 2008, built at PSA’s factory in Vigo, Spain. It features both internal combustion as well as fully electric variants. Given this recent development, PSA has had to add a 4th shift to the plant’s assembly line, meaning that the 2 lines will both be working 4 shifts for the very first time. No fewer than 600 additional employees have been brought on to staff the shift, bringing the factory’s total to 7.500 workers. The Vigo plant opened its gates in 1958 and currently has a capacity of roughly 420.000 vehicles per year. The new shift will increase weekend production to 2.400 cars, half of which will be the Peugeot 2008. This tiny and quite trendy model has already proven to be a strong seller, as 19.773 units departed showrooms in the month of July, trailing the Peugeot 208 by only a few hundred units. The latter happens to be the PSA Group’s best selling car. Based on PSA’s CMP platform (launched in late 2019), the second-generation 2008 is available with a selection of gasoline, diesel and electric powertrains. The fully electric e-2008 is powered by a 50 kWh battery pack and a 136 hp electric motor. +++ 

+++ The next generation of Peugeot models will start with the new 308 in 2022. As expected, the next-generation’s styling appears to mark a radical departure from that of the current car, to bring it into line with the new 208, 2008 and 508, plus the facelifted 3008 and 5008. It looks like the PEUGEOT 308 will swap its protruding lower bumper for a rounded front end that incorporates Peugeot’s new frameless grille and narrow headlights, while the brand’s vertical daytime running lights are likely to feature in some form. The roofline also appears to curve more steeply towards the rear, which makes the hatchback appear longer and lower, while details including new wing mirrors, a subtle rear spoiler and a sharkfin-style aerial will round off the transformation. Peugeot boss Jean-Philippe Imparato has previously hinted that the 308 will build on the bold look of all other recent Peugeots: “We put the design first”, he said when describing why the brand’s comeback has been so successful. “On top of all the investment choices, I protected the design. Then the brand image recovers”. When it was launched in 2014, the current 308 kick-started the transformation of the entire Peugeot range with a more confident design approach. The successful, more daringly styled 3008 followed, along with the 5008, 208 and 2008. The next 308 is set to play that role again by laying the groundwork for a new era of Peugeots when it goes on sale in 2022, most likely after a public debut towards the end of 2021. It will be built on an updated version of the EMP2 platform that underpins more than a dozen PSA Group models and was originally introduced on today’s 308. PSA’s strategy so far has been for EMP2 models to be offered with plug-in hybrid technology and for smaller CMP models to come with dedicated electric versions, both offered alongside existing petrol and diesel variants. The 308 is set to get a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, mixing a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to drive the front wheels in a mainstream variant. However, it’s a proposed second plug-in hybrid model that will interest enthusiasts. This model, developed by the brand’s new PSE performance arm, would gain an additional electric motor on the rear axle (a set-up already used on the 3008 Hybrid4) to give the 308 four-wheeldrive and create a new 360 hp hot hatch version that would also receive a host of sporty chassis and styling upgrades to challenge the likes of the Volkswagen Golf R. The PSE badge is set to appear first on a range-topping performance version of the 508. Should the 508 PSE be a success, Imparato told the PSE formula could be applied “on the 3008 and other cars”, a comment that alludes to the desire to extend it to the 308. Success won’t be judged on sales, either, but instead on the reputation and acclaim the PSE models receive. To that end, the PSE project is as much about “transforming electric cars” and the perception of them, because Imparato sees “a big opportunity for a line-up of sporty cars” in this mould. The GTi badge won’t be used on the 308 or any other Peugeots. The next 308 range will again include 5-door hatchback and SW versions, with still no return for the likes of the 308 CC coupé-convertible seen in previous generations, due to the lack of profitability with such cars. “I love these cars but today there are 3 other topics first”, said Imparato, naming 5G connectivity and autonomous vehicle development alongside electrified models. However, a crossover version of the 308 is a strong possibility for Peugeot. It has noted the success of the Mercedes-Benz GLA, effectively a raised version of the A-Class hatchback. In addition, fellow PSA brand DS is planning both hatchback and crossover versions of its own new A-Class/GLA rival, which is due later this year with a shared body-in-white. There’s enough of a gap between the 308 and larger 3008 to make such a car a reality. Updated petrol and diesel engines will continue to be offered alongside the plug-in hybrids. Peugeot is still committed to diesel and is even offering it in its new 208 and 2008 models at a time when many rivals are abandoning the fuel at this end of the market. Inside, the style-led formula will continue with an updated version of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit design, adapted from that of the newer 3008 and 508. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen has temporarily stopped taking new orders for the POLO GTI , the automaker told. The hot hatch can no longer be configured on VW’s customer website. Prospective buyers wishing to virtually build their Polo GTI are accompanied by the following message. “The Polo GTI can no longer be ordered with individual equipment. However, finished, already produced vehicles are available for you. Simply contact your Volkswagen partner or find your dream vehicle online in the car search”. When something like this usually happens, it means that production has stopped for one reason or another. I reached out to Volkswagen to find out if the Polo GTI has indeed been discontinued after just 3 years on the European market. Fortunately for fans of small hot hatches, the Polo GTI has not been axed. “The Polo GTI cannot be ordered for the time being due to the high demand. The volume planned for this year has already been sold. We have therefore decided to take the Polo GTI out of the sales range for the time being”, VW spokesman Christoph Peine explained the situation. So what happens if you want to buy a VW Polo GTI but don’t like being limited to choosing one from stock? Well, you just need to have a little patience. “The Polo GTI will be available to order again at the end of the year”, the representative said. That’s all Volkswagen was willing to share with us, but don’t be surprised if this temporary interruption is also related to a mid-cycle refresh planned for the entire Polo range and, subsequently, the Polo GTI. +++ 

+++ The PORSCHE Taycan is proving so popular that the German automaker is borrowing employees from sister company Audi to help production. When the Taycan was first launched, the company expected to build 20.000 units during the first year of production. However, following the EV’s positive reception, it changed that aim to 40.000 units and with the Taycan now on sale in the United States, it has called on Audi for assistance. An Audi spokesperson confirmed that 400 employees from its Neckarsulm site will start working at Porsche’s Zuffenhausen facility to help with production of the Taycan. It is understood that the first staff made the transition in June and that more are joining in the coming months. The Porsche Taycan has already proven itself as one of the most desirable electric vehicles on the market. It is also one of the quickest, having shown itself to be slightly more-accelerative than the flagship Tesla Model S Performance. However, with a tri-motor version of the Model S just around the corner, as well as the long-awaited Lucid Air arriving soon, the Taycan Turbo S may soon lose its quarter-mile crown. Porsche is looking to make the most of the continued demand for the Taycan by reading a Cross Turismo variant. This model was scheduled to debut this year but has since been delayed until 2021. Despite the delay, the Taycan Cross Turismo has the potential to be a hit, particularly thanks to its stunning looks and its added practicality. +++ 

+++ Production of Nissan’s all-important new QASHQAI has been pushed back until the middle of 2021. 2 sources claim production was originally set to begin in October, although that date has not yet been confirmed by the Japanese car maker. In a statement, Nissan said: “preparations continue for the launch of the new Qashqai in Sunderland, which represents a £400 million investment in the plant”. The firm added: “We have not yet announced a date for the next-generation model, but look forward to sharing some exciting news in the coming months”. The apparent delay is largely due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which has delayed development and changed the firm’s priorities. It suggested the delay could also allow Nissan to work out its course of action should Britain not secure a deal with the European Union post-Brexit. Just over half of the circa 500.000 cars produced at Sunderland annually are exported to Europe, and twothird of those are Qashqais. Any trade tariffs with the EU would “jeopardise” Sunderland’s business model, bosses have previously claimed. The new Qashqai will not begin production after April 2021. The current version has been on sale since 2014. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has detailed a plan to revive its fortunes by restructuring the business around four core pillars. One of them is Alpine, which has a new brand boss and a secure future after months of speculation. The new strategy is being deployed by the group’s new boss, ex-Seat CEO Luca de Meo. The 4 core business units are the Renault, Dacia and Alpine brands, plus a New Mobility operation. “The company needs to change its ‘game module’ and move from a search for volume to a search for value and profitability”, said de Meo. “The organisation around 4 strong brands and large cross-functional functions would make it possible to work in a simpler way, more oriented to the markets and customers, with a team spirit, to seek the best possible result”. De Meo heads up the Renault brand, with sales and marketing executive vicepresident Denis le Vot piloting the new structure at Dacia and deputy CEO and CFO Clotilde Delbos taking control of New Mobility. But the biggest news is the appointment of Cyril Abiteboul (Renault Sport Racing boss and a pivotal figure in Renault’s return to Formula 1 as a works team) as head of Alpine. While this is good news for the sports car brand, it is speculated (but unconfirmed) that the F1 outfit could be renamed to incorporate Alpine branding. Alpine’s future had been called into question earlier this year, with a number of key figures in the A110’s development leaving and an uncertain future for its Dieppe base. Renault said in May that it was staging an “open reflection” on the future of the French facility once production of the A110 ends. A plan has been worked up to turn Alpine into an all-electric performance brand, but nothing has been confirmed. Renault also announced in May that it would be slashing its fixed costs by more than €2 billion in the next 3 years, leading to the loss of 15.000 jobs worldwide. It posted heavy losses and was already proposing to restructure before the pandemic-induced sales slump made it more urgent. Renault has declined to comment beyond the released details and de Meo’s statement. Further details of brand-specific organisational changes are expected to be detailed later this year. +++ 

+++ ROLLS-ROYCE chief executive Torsten Muller-Ötvös says demand for the automaker’s vehicles is rebounding. While recently speaking with members of the media, he said that demand for Rolls-Royce models has been particularly spurred on by sales in Asia, adding that he is optimistic about the outlook for 2021 following the widespread impacts of the coronavirus pandemic this year. “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”, he confirmed. “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’ comments come shortly after the new Ghost was unveiled with a host of new features and an upgraded design. The new vehicle can already be ordered and will be delivered to customers sequentially from December this year. +++ 

+++ Production of the SKODA Kodiaq vRS will gradually cease in the coming weeks as the model becomes the latest victim of tightening emissions regulations. Confirmed by the Czech brand in a statement, the sporting large SUV will no longer be offered with the 240 hp twin-turbo diesel engine currently used in the vRS. The statement also confirms there will be “certain adjustments in the engine product line of Skoda next year”. However, the news doesn’t mean the only high-riding vRS model in the Czech brand’s line-up is gone for good. The statement adds that an upgraded version of the Kodiaq vRS will be reintroduced when the car is given its mid-life revamp. It remains unclear if Skoda will take the opportunity to offer a petrol engine in the range flagship instead as the market gradually shifts away from diesel power. The large, 7-seat SUV sector still favours the fuel, but trends show a continuing decline. Despite the increasing focus on electrification throughout the Volkswagen Group and Skoda’s new Octavia featuring a plug-in vRS model, sales and marketing boss Alain Favey has told “there is no Kodiaq PHEV in the foreseeable future”. “It’s much too early for us to see any patterns with regards to consumer progression from ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) to PHEV (plug-in hybrids) to BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles)”, Favey continued. “The Citigo-e iV is already over, and we have only had the Superb plug-in hybrid since last year, so we don’t have any of those customers who would be buying a next car. But perhaps people might jump directly from Kodiaq to Enyaq without going through the transition of a plug-in hybrid”. The Enyaq, Skoda’s recently revealed electric SUV, is the first MEB-based model to be built outside of Germany. It promises the interior space of the Kodiaq but with a smaller external footprint. Further details of Skoda’s revised 2021 Kodiaq are expected to emerge either later this year or early next year. +++ 

+++ TESLA has released a new software update for its vehicles that allows them to detect speed limit signs, among other changes. In the release notes of the 2020.36 software update, Tesla writes that the new Speed Assist function “leverages your car’s cameras to detect speed limit signs to improve the accuracy of speed limit data on local roads”. Speed limit signs that are detected will be displayed on the instrument cluster and used to set the associated Speed Limit Warning. There had been speculation in the past that Tesla was using GPS data for speed limit detection rather than actually detecting speed limit signs. Elsewhere, Tesla has added a chime that will play when the traffic light you are waiting for turns green. If a Tesla owner is driving behind another vehicle, the chime will play once the car in front advances, unless Traffic-Aware Cruise Control or Autosteer is active. The car manufacturer has also added a function that detects if you are about to run a stop sign or stop light while Autosteer in use. Importantly, the system only acts as a warning and doesn’t stop the vehicle. Last but not least are some minor updates to the cruise control, including the ability to adjust the Traffic-Aware Cruise Control or Autosteer speed to the current speed by simply tapping the speedometer. Drivers can also tap the speed limit sign on the screen to adjust the set speed to the speed limit. +++ 

+++ TURKEY ’s special consumption tax for vehicles with an engine capacity of 1.6 liters has been raised from 60 % to 80 % according to a presidential decree published this past weekend. Models with a capacity of more than 2.000 cc saw their taxes go up from 100 % to 130 %, while costs for high segment cars will jump from 160 % to 220 %. These hikes don’t apply to locally produced cars, only imports. However, that doesn’t mean that domestic producers won’t struggle, seen as how they rely on imported goods too, said Erol Sahin, General Manager of automotive consultancy firm EBS. He also confirmed that “Turkey has once again the highest automobile taxes in the world”. Furthermore, lower-tier tax brackets increased by 15,000 TL ($2,000) and 10,000 TL ($1,360), with tax rates holding steady at 45 % and 50 % respectively, while VAT costs on all car purchases have remained unchanged at 18 %. These measures are part of a recent tax increase that Turkey has been planning since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, hoping to discourage imports and support domestic industries. The Turkish lira hasn’t been doing too great either, losing nearly 19 % of its value year-to-date. On the flip side, car sales actually went up due to falling interest rates, surging 387.5 % from July 2019 until the same period this year. January-July numbers look pretty good too with a 60.3 % spike (passenger car sales up 58.9 % to 273.022 units). Because of the stay at home orders and various lockdown measures, fewer new vehicle stocks have made their way into the market, which in turn led to more robust prices as far as used cars are concerned. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , new figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that new car registrations fell 5.8 % year on year in August, which is traditionally the quietest month for sales. A total of 87.226 new cars were registered last month (more than 5.000 less than the 92.573 recorded in August 2019) in the run-up to the new 70-plate being introduced at the beginning of September. Private car sales were down by just 699 units, at 39.833, but fleet sales recorded a more substantial decline, with a 2.650 unit shortfall bringing the total to 48.593 for August. The SMMT also recorded declines across all model segments except B segment cars, with demand for specialist sports cars falling 41.9 % and for AQ segment cars falling 64.2 %. On the other hand, it was a bumper month for electrified vehicle sales, with plug-in hybrid demand soaring by 221.1 % and registrations of battery-electric vehicles increasing by 77.6 %. The SMMT adds, however, that PHEVs still accounted for only 1 in 30 sales and EVs made up just 6.4 % of the market in August. However, battery-electric vehicles now account for 4.9 % of new car registrations year-to-date, compared with 3.8 % at the end of August 2019. There were no significant changes to the top 10 bestselling models year-to-date list, with the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus retaining the first and second positions respectively, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa at number 3 and the Volkswagen Golf in 4th spot. The SMMT said: “In the past 5 years, the range of zero-emission-capable car models available in the UK has trebled to more than 80, with some 200 more in the pipeline over the coming years. “For customer demand to keep pace, at least 1.7 million new on-street charging points will need to be built by 2030, along with a long-term commitment from government to provide incentives for EV purchases”. SMMT boss Mike Hawes called the decline “disappointing” in light of July’s promising uptick but added that “August is typically one the new car market’s quietest months”, so “it’s important not to draw too many conclusions from these figures alone”. +++

+++ One auto industry expert has suggested it will take at least 2 years for car manufacturers in the UNITED STATES to restore the sales and production numbers to levels equal to those before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. President and chief executive of the Center for Automotive Research, Carla Bailo, believes that in response to staffing shortages and a drop in demand the car industry will need to adapt and work more collaboratively in the future if sales are to return to pre-pandemic levels. “Everyone is predicting this year about 13 million vehicles sold, pre-Covid we were about 17 million”, Bailo told. “We expect it’s going to take another 2 years, but that’s predicated on a good recovery and continued recovery throughout this year. Should we have another hit in the fall, we’ll have to adjust those figures. So about 2 years to come back to where we were”. Bailo was speaking with a number of Michigan manufacturers and industry authorities while briefing lawmakers about the pandemic’s impact on the automotive industry. Speakers agreed that the industry helped to save lives by producing ventilators and personal protective equipment at the height of the pandemic, but added that there are many challenges ahead that will continue to impact the auto industry. According to General Motors regional director of state government relations Brian O’Connell, the impact of factory shutdowns earlier in the year means any new disruption would be crippling. “The shutdown had a huge impact on our industry and our company. And we cannot afford a shutdown. We cannot afford a week shutdown”, he said. Overall sales across the industry are down about 25 % and there are also 20.000 fewer jobs in the automotive sector compared to the second quarter of last year. Companies such as General Motors, Ford and FCA are following strict testing and quarantine protocols for sick employees or those that have come in contact with Covid-19. While this is a necessity, Bailo admitted that keeping workers on production lines is a challenge in these times. “This is going to continue to be an issue. It’s a strain on the manufacturing sustainability and keeping the production line running”, she said. “You don’t have the option to work remotely when you’re on the line. And if you’re a single parent trying to educate children, that’s a significant problem”. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has filed to trademark the name ‘e-Thing’ in Europe, suggesting that an all-electric version of the iconic VW Thing could be on the cards. The German car manufacturer has trademarked a plethora of interesting names for future electric vehicles in recent years but this is one of the most intriguing filings made to date. The trademark was filed on August 31. Given the utilitarian design of the original VW Thing, it would be reasonable to assume that the automaker could use the e-Thing name for a production-ready version of the ID Buggy concept that was unveiled 18 months ago at the Geneva Motor Show. Volkswagen did give the ID Buggy the green light for production shortly after its unveiling. Plans to bring it to the market ultimately fell through when e.Go Mobile, the company that was tapped to build the model, recently went bankrupt. Autointernationaal.nl earlier reported that while the ID Buggy has been canceled, those within VW have reportedly decided to build an electric off-roader that will draw inspiration from the Buggy. It could be called the Ruggedzz. So what will the e-Thing name be used for? It is claimed that the future of the Ruggedzz is not set in stone for the VW brand and that it could morph into a Skoda model. If that were the case, it could give VW the impetus to build a U.S. bound variant inspired by the original Thing. There has been some speculation such a model could be dubbed the Junglezz and while I think that’s a fun name, I’d rather see it called the e-Thing. +++ 

+++ Having been unveiled in October of 2018, the X7 hasn’t even blown 2 candles off its birthday cake, but our spy photographers came across a camouflaged prototype of the full-size luxury SUV leading us to believe that they may have already started work on the facelifted model (LCI in BMW-speak). It is still too early to know about aspects of the facelifted X7, but if BMW’s prior LCIs are of any indication, the interior should gain a polished up infotainment system and instrument panel, alongside revised upholstery and trim offerings. Most (if not all) of the engine lineup should be retained, possibly with some tweaks here and there to improve fuel economy numbers and further reduce emissions. There won’t be an X7 M this time around, so the M50i will continue to serve as the range-topping variant, with its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, pumping out 530 hp in the current iteration. Alpina is expected to update the XB7 once the facelifted X7 breaks cover, with the current model boasting 625 hp from the tuned V8. If there is indeed the mid-cycle refresh of BMW’s flagship SUV, then we wouldn’t look for it sooner than late next year, possibly even later on in 2022. +++ 

+++ Nissan has just released another teaser of the Z PROTO , reminding us of its reveal on September 15, but what caught our eye is a brief look inside the new sports car. It’s a true blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, with the teaser showing the driver’s palm resting on top of the car’s shifter. The teaser is shot in a way that blocks any meaningful view of the said shifter but if you turn down the speed of the playback and you’ll see just a small part of what looks like a manual shifter. Perhaps this is Nissan’s way of hyping (or confirming) that the new Z will offer a manual option. I can’t be 100 % sure just yet but I also can’t see why Nissan would do this in a teaser if they didn’t plan to offer a manual transmission in the new Z. The upcoming Nissan Z Proto is expected to be a near-production concept of the next-generation sports car, which according to some reports it will hit the market in 2021 and others claim it would launch in late 2022. The new Nissan Z is reportedly going to be based on a heavily updated version of the 370Z’s platform and will use the company’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine, which makes 400 hp under the bonnet of the Infiniti Q50 and Q60 Red Sport 400. The latest teaser image of the new Nissan Z also gave us a first look at the rear end design, which appears to adopt design cues from the 300ZX. The sketch shows a series of slim LED taillights and reveals more of the Z’s sloping roofline. Nissan is going to reveal the new Z Proto concept on September 16 so hopefully all of our questions will be answered then. +++

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