Newsflash: Lotus breidt ontwikkelingscentrum flink uit

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+++ AUDI expects lower sales in 2020 despite strong numbers in the months of July, August and September, the head of the division, Markus Duesmann, said. “We will not be able to compensate worldwide the heavy losses of the months of April and May in the full year, despite our distributors doing a really good job”, he said. September had been the best month of the year across global operations for the premium car brand. China was looking especially outstanding so that he believed it will end up showing a slight sales plus in 2020, Duesmann said. The Mexican auto plant belonging to Audi remains open and did not close following a dispute over unpaid bills that the firm denies, as was reported by local media, an official with the company told. The plant is located in the central state of Puebla. Media had reported officials from the local municipality shut the facility after several hours of failed talks to resolve a dispute over an alleged 90 million pesos ($4.3 million) in outstanding debts on items including local property taxes and water bills. “There was never any closure”, said Christine Kuhlmeyer, a communications official with Audi Mexico. “We comply on time with our obligations”, she added. Asked about the figures circulating in local media about the allegation of unpaid debts, Kuhlmeyer said she could not comment on any specific amounts, but said plant representatives would be talking with state authorities. “There were efforts like what’s been reported in the news, but they weren’t able to close the plant”, she said. Work shifts were not interrupted, she added. +++ 

+++ BMW vehicles in South Korea are being recalled after reports of vehicle engines shutting down while traveling and concerns over a fire risk related to batteries. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced that it has ordered a recall of nearly 50.000 vehicles from brands including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Kia. Of the vehicles that the government has recalled, 70 % are BMWs. The government ordered the recall of 36.300 BMWs including the BMW 520d and BMW 530e iPerformance. According to the government, 35.420 BMW vehicles may have problems with the lubrication of the timing chain. This could cause the timing chain to break, turning off the engine while driving. Additionally, 880 vehicles including the BMW 530e iPerformance were recalled due to faults in high-voltage battery packs that could lead to the vehicle catching fire. Mercedes-Benz was ordered to recall 3.154 of its vehicles including the GLK 220 CDI 4Matic due to faulty parts. The government recalled a total of 7.427 Hyundai and Kia, including Sante Fe, Carnival and Sorento cars manufactured between July and October. According to the government, these vehicles had problems with fuel hoses that could lead to leaks, raising the risk of the vehicle catching fire. Hyundai recently had to apologize and voluntarily recall its popular Kona Electric after 12 incidents of the vehicle catching fire were reported. Audi had to recall 2.854 vehicles due to a faulty safety belt warning signs, including its A4. +++ 

+++ It takes nothing more than a glance at a busy parking lot or a quick scroll through a handful of online car configurators to see which COLORS are the most popular for new cars in America. For those who relish the full spectrum of the rainbow, it’s dire. The most popular color, according to data provided by iSeeCars.com, is white, followed closely by black. Then gray, then silver. It’s all very monochromatic. These grayscale tones constitute 77.1 % of the total. The first vibrant shade to make an appearance on the list is red at No. 5 with just over 10 % of color share. Blue is next at 9 %, and then things fall off dramatically. To put the lack of color into perspective, we put together this quick pie chart. Naturally, each slice is colored to match its automotive hue. We know some of those slices of pie are pretty dinky, so here are the numbers: White, 23.9 %; Black, 23.2 %; Gray, 15.5 %; Silver, 14.5 %; Red, 10.3 %; Blue, 9 %; Brown, 1.4 %; Green, 0.7 %; Beige, 0.4 %; Orange, 0.4 %; Gold, 0.3 %; Yellow, 0.2 % and Purple, 0.1 %. Note that these data come from model years 2014-2018 and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if things were even more skewed in the direction of grays by now. It seems automakers are really diving into the not-black well with shades like graphite, titanium and tungsten. And I don’t put the blame for boring shades on the car companies, because I’m sure they’d gladly paint their cars any color that customers want to order. If you think this is an issue solely with Americans, check out this post from the dataisbeautiful Reddit community. As you can see from their much prettier chart, the black-white-gray brigade is just as strong in Poland as it is in the United States. According to automotive paint supplier PPG, it’s the same story all across the globe. +++ 

+++ European lawmakers should promote electric car charging infrastructure as aggressively as they seek to lower carbon dioxide emissions, Michael Brecht, works council chief at German carmaker DAIMLER , told. Carmakers have warned that European Commission proposals to cut average new car emissions in 2030 by 50 % below 2021 levels threaten manufacturing jobs, which are heavily dependent on assembling combustion engine cars. Overall demand for cars could suffer if ownership of electric vehicles was not made more attractive with more readily available charging networks, Brecht said. “The political establishment should not decide on a green deal to tighten carbon dioxide emission limits unconditionally”, Brecht told. “There has to be a master plan for ramping up charging infrastructure. There are lots of small initiatives but there is nobody bringing it all together”. Earlier this week, the European Parliament voted in favour of a legally binding target for the European Union to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 % by 2030. “Fundamentally its a good strategy, but ramping up electric mobility is problematic. We will not end up with the same number of employees”, Brecht warned. Brecht said the carmaker has reviewed its strategy to free up resources to retool its factories and retrain workers to build low emission cars. +++ 

+++ A combination of several factors has shot ELECTRIC car sales in Western Europe to a new all-time high, which literally destroys previous records. Some 90.000 BEVs (Battery Electic Vehicles) were sold in September (enough to take 7.5% of the market), which is almost 70 % more than the previous record in July (53.000). The third quarter closed with almost 200.000 sales (6 % of the market), while sales YTD exceeded 400.000. That is already more than in the entire 2019 (354.000). Together with plug-in hybrids, Europe heads to 1 million plug-ins a year now (already a half-million BEVs were sold in the past 12-months from October 2019 to September 2020). Factors that allowed to reach such high BEV sales include: 1) Volume deliveries of the all-new Volkswagen ID.3 (started at the same time in multiple countries), 2) Volume deliveries of the Tesla Model 3 (which usually happens in the third month of a quarter), 3) High EV incentives in multiple European countries, 4) The choice and availability of new models improved (partially because of the stricter emission requirements). +++ 

+++ China’s leading automaker First Automotive Works ( FAW ) Group sold 2.656.744 vehicles in the first 3 quarters of the year; up 8 & year-on-year, according to corporate sources. Sales of FAW’s iconic sedan brand Hongqi surged by 104.4 % to 130.091 cars in the first 9 months. The group company’s joint ventures FAW-Volkswagen and FAW Toyota also reported healthy increases in both production and sales, said the sources. Founded in 1953 in the northeastern city of Changchun, capital of Jilin province, FAW Group is seen as the cradle of China’s auto industry. The Changchun-based State-owned automaker plans to invest 110 billion yuan ($16.2 billion) in new technologies and products such as new energy, connected and smart vehicles during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period, said its top executive. “In response to the country’s dual circulation development pattern, and its call to take control of key and core technologies, we have decided to increase digitalization of our products. We will form more partnerships with research institutes and companies in other sectors to upgrade the product range, amid the wider industry shift toward developing intelligent connected vehicles”, said Xu Liuping, the group’s chairman. “Digital transformation is the core driver for upgrading and pushing high-quality growth of China’s automotive industry”, he said. The future development trend of this sector should be deep integration and collaborative innovation between traditional automakers and internet-based companies, he said. All the steps are digitally synchronized to ensure execution and complete alignment with customer demand, he said. A number of global players from Germany, France, South Korea, Japan and the United States have already digitalized their entire value chain, from product design and research and development, to logistics, production and related services. In addition to creating a collaborative design and virtual simulation platform based on digital twin approach, the FAW Group, owner of the Hongqi (Red Flag) and Besturn brands, has also accelerated digital manufacturing and technical upgrade of its traditional manufacturing facilities. A number of its digital factories are supported by 5G and industrial internet technologies. Its order delivery cycle has been significantly shortened and the company achieved intelligent production in key processes, including stamping, welding, painting and final assembly. Xu said national development strategies and supportive industrial policies (building smart cities and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles; advancing digital economy; the application of 5G technologies; “new infrastructure”; and intelligent manufacturing) will empower the entire life cycle of research and development, manufacturing, and marketing services in the automotive sector. Thanks to its growing investment in research and development, especially in areas such as modern design, digital and electric power-related technologies, sales of the FAW Group reached 2.27 million units from January to August this year, up 6.4 percent year-on-year, despite a 9.7 % fall in China’s overall passenger car sales during the same period. The centrally-administrated State-owned enterprise, which also runs joint ventures with carmakers such as Volkswagen and Toyota in China, saw its sales revenue reach 431.6 billion yuan, up almost 11 % year-on-year, yielding a profit of 28.56 billion yuan. Because the global automobile industry is undergoing profound changes, there are new trends like electrification, interconnectedness, smart control and shared systems in the development of the automobile industry, said Zhao Ying, a researcher at the Beijing-based Institute of Industrial Economics, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Among them, the biggest factor driving technology is digitalization, and its impact on the automobile industry is all-round and in all fields”, he said. “We found that consumers, especially the younger generation, rely heavily on the internet and pay close attention to a car’s connectivity these days when deciding what to buy”. The company employs 130.000 people in all at 5 domestic manufacturing bases and 16 overseas plants in countries such as Pakistan, Mexico and Russia. Over the next 5 years, FAW Group plans to expand its sales channels in markets related to the Belt and Road Initiative. The company intends to build a complete industrial chain, and so has partnered with Fujian province-based CATL, China’s largest automotive lithium-ion battery maker by production volume. Late last month, the 2 companies started to run a factory in Ningde, East China’s Fujian province, to make batteries for FAW Group’s electric vehicles. +++

+++ FORD has confirmed that the 2021 Mustang Mach 1 will be available to enthusiasts around the world. The Mach 1 will fill the void left by the Shelby GT350 and GT350R that are now heading for retirement. Only North American buyers had the opportunity to experience the GT350 twins, so it’s good news that other markets will be able to purchase the Mach 1. While it has yet to be revealed precisely which markets outside North American will receive the car, a prototype was spied in right-hand drive configuration a couple of months ago, indicating it will be sold in markets like Australia and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Europe can be expected to get left-hand drive models. Ford first hinted at its plans to make the Mach 1 global during its debut back in June. “This is one of those special Mustangs that truly brings a smile to the faces of our owners, enthusiasts and fans, including me, so there’s never been a better time to bring back Mach 1 and have it go global too”, Ford chief executive Jim Farley said in a statement. Powering the Mustang Mach 1 is a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 that has been modified to provide 480 hp and 569 Nm; the same figures as the Bullitt. Paired to this thumping V8 is a Tremec manual 6-speed with a rev-matching function or a 10-speed automatic transmission. +++

+++ Individuals looking to purchase high-polluting vehicles in FRANCE could soon be stung with significant new penalties. A draft budget law currently in France’s parliament would more than double the penalty that consumers would need to pay based on the carbon-dioxide emissions of their vehicles. The penalties could reach as high as €50,000 in 2022. Under the new plan, vehicles emitting more than 225 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer will be taxed at a maximum rate of €40,000 in 2021, increasing to €50,000 in 2022. The levy will be capped at half the cost of a vehicle. Models from manufacturers such as Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz could take the brunt of these new penalties. Vehicles such as the Lamborghini Urus and Aventador, Porsche 718 Spyder and 911, Rolls-Royce Ghost and Cullinan, Bentley Flying Spur, various Mercedes-AMG and G-Class models, and the Ferrari Portofino and 812 could all be subject to the upper limit of the levy. “This would be relatively bad news for supercars, luxury and exclusive vehicles, and a show stopper for foreign imported cars”, Jato Dynamics analyst Felipe Munoz said, adding that high-volume SUVs could be under threat in France from the levy. The new French law still needs to go through parliament, but if it does so, it could add to the pressure the auto industry is facing under the European Union’s 2030 Climate Target Plan that calls for the industry to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% from 1990 levels. +++ 

+++ GREAT WALL MOTORS (GWM), China’s largest SUV and pickup manufacturer, saw vehicle sales rise 32 % month-on-month to 117.812 units in September. From January to September, GWM sold 680.690 vehicles. Haval, GWM’s leading SUV brand, drove the overall sales growth of the company with 79.120 units sold in September, breaking the monthly sales record in 2020. The Haval H6 model sold 40.475 units last month, making it the bestselling SUV in China for 88 months, the company said. Great Wall pickups further strengthened their dominant position in the market in September with the sale of 22.885 vehicles, a year-on-year growth of 67 %. Great Wall pickups have been the first in domestic and export market for 22 consecutive years, with total sales of 1.8 million vehicles worldwide. Among new energy vehicles, ORA brand in September sold 6.619 units, a strong year-on-year growth of 253 %. The Wey brand sold 9.037 vehicles in the same period; up 20 % month on month, maintaining a good growth momentum. With an accelerating globalization strategy, GWM sold 7.773 vehicles overseas in September; up 46 % year-on-year, a new high in 2020. Headquartered in the city of Baoding, North China’s Hebei province, GWM owns several SUV and car brands including Haval, Great Wall, Wey and ORA. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI has started construction on a research and development centre in Singapore that will house a small-scale electric vehicle production facility. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the facility may produce up to 30.000 electric vehicles (EVs) annually by 2025 and represents an investment of S$400 million ($295 million). Singapore is one of the world’s most expensive places to buy a car and does not currently have any auto manufacturing capacity. But the wealthy city-state has set out ambitious plans to phase out petrol vehicles by 2040. “Automotive activities are becoming viable in Singapore once again. EVs have a different supply chain, fewer mechanical parts and more electronics, which plays to Singapore’s strengths”, Lee said. A Hyundai spokeswoman confirmed the 30.000 unit target but said that the exact capacity was yet to be determined. The facility is due for completion by end 2022, the firm said in a statement. The announcement comes after vacuum cleaner company Dyson last year scrapped plans to build an electric car in Singapore, saying it was not commercially viable. Singapore plans to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, and make a bigger bet on electrification to cut greenhouse gases and slow climate change. Hyundai said in a statement its new Singapore facility aims to be carbon neutral by using solar and hydrogen energy, will utilise technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, and will include a test drive track for customers. The centre is part of Hyundai’s vision to enable future vehicle buyers to customize and purchase vehicles online using a smartphone, allowing production to be on-demand. +++ 

+++ JEEP ‘s born-again Grand Wagoneer made its debut as a close-to-production concept without the wood panels that characterized its predecessors. While some were surprised by this omission, the company’s lead stylist said it’s intentional, and he added his team decided to avoid venturing into retro territory early in the design phase. “We actually had a few themes that were emulating the last version, from 1991. It was almost too retro. We quickly got off that bandwagon”, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) design boss Ralph Gilles told. Rather than releasing a pastiche of an SUV launched in November 1962, Jeep took the first Grand Wagoneer of the 21st century in a thoroughly modern direction. Its burly design is characterized by a tall front end with a thin rendition of the firm’s 7-slot grille and a boxy silhouette accented by a black roof. Gilles described it as “impenetrable, almost like a fortress in a way”. He singled out the rear end as his favorite part of the design. Although it’s officially just a concept, the Grand Wagoneer isn’t expected to change significantly as it transitions into a production model. Recent spy shots confirm that what we saw in September 2020 is very close to what we’ll get when the Ram 1500-based family hauler arrives in showrooms for the 2022 model year; when it comes to the exterior, at least. I haven’t caught a glimpse of the production version’s interior yet. “I know I’m gonna get a lot of crap about not getting the wood on the sides”, Gilles admitted. He added a mockup with the wood panels existed in his studio “for a hot minute” until he shot down the project. It sounds like the old-school, wood-sided look won’t even be an option, but the aftermarket will undoubtedly step in to fill the void. Jeep’s last series-produced wood-sided model was the second-generation Grand Wagoneer, which was based on the ZJ-generation Grand Cherokee and sold exclusively during the 1993 model year. However, the original Liberty (KJ) was briefly offered with an optional dealer-installed package named Wagoneer (shown above) that added a chrome-look grille insert, running boards, woodgrain trim on both sides, and Wagoneer emblems on the doors. +++ 

+++ LOTUS is upgrading its Hethel headquarters with a multi-million-pound investment as part of the company’s rejuvenated strategy under the wings of Geely. The new upgrades are designed to grow Lotus Engineering, the consultancy division of the company, and include numerous all-new and upgraded engineering test facilities, as well as a facelift for the carmaker’s own test track. One of the highlights is the all-new Electric Drive Unit (EDU) test cell, which will allow engineers to test EV powertrains and their supporting electronics as if they were in a vehicle. Lotus is also upgrading its test and development cells for internal combustion engines, their Propulsion Prototype build workshop, and the vehicle emissions lab. “We see huge potential to put Lotus Engineering right at the cutting edge of automotive innovation, further building on our core competencies as well as increasing our capability in growth areas”, said Matt Windle, executive director of Lotus Engineering. “What we continue to learn on the Lotus Evija all-electric hypercar program creates knowledge and experience which we can use to help other businesses”. Lotus’ own test track at Hethel has also been updated with new protective trackside barriers, new safety systems that include an upgraded entrance/exit barrier control system, improved fire protection around the circuit and new CCTV cameras for full track visibility. Earlier this year, Lotus Engineering announced that their new home will be on the Wellesbourne campus of the University of Warwick as part of the company’s brand new advanced technology center. Lotus Engineering has been around for 40 years, providing a wide range of technical services to automakers and suppliers. While most of its work and its clients remain confidential, Lotus Engineering is responsible for a number of iconic cars, including the Lotus Cortina, the Lotus Carlton, the Lotus Sunbeam, and more. The latest investment comes in addition to a new manufacturing facility that will assemble a new Lotus model starting next year, in addition to the new assembly hall that’s dedicated to the upcoming Evija electric hypercar. +++

+++ NISSAN is done selling its NV line of commercial and passenger vans in the U.S. and Canada. The automaker is going to push its sedans and SUVs for fleet sales instead. Nissan will end production of its full-size NV vans in Canton and the compact NV200 in Mexico next summer. A few factors went into the decision, not the least of which is Ford’s dominance in commercial vans. Nissan sold just under 39.000 units of the NV and NV200 in North America last year, while Ford sold just under a quarter of a million of the Transit and Transit Connect. In market share, Ford has nearly half of all large van sales, with Chevrolet taking a quarter. Nissan’s market share? It’s 4.9 %. The other factor: The Titan pickup was not a strong seller (though the Frontier is a popular fleet truck) and companies would prefer to buy their trucks and vans from the same source. There again, the Ford has the F-150. Nissan’s previous commercial sales program offered limited models. Now it will launch a program called Business Advantage that will market all its other vehicles to government and business fleets: all models but the GT-R, though I can’t imagine too many fleets would be interested in the 370Z, either. A purchase of just 2 vehicles from the Business Advantage Program will land commercial customers a volume discount and other perks. The strategy shift is a financial blow to hundreds of Nissan dealers, who made a major investment in lifts capable of hoisting a fully loaded commercial vehicle for service. +++ 

+++ It has been almost a year since VOLKSWAGEN introduced the 8th generation Golf, the latest version of the bestseller. While a lot can be said about the Golf’s design, one of the great things about it is that it still can be ordered with a 6-speed manual transmission. For enthusiasts and purists, that’s a huge thing. But as with most modern cars, the latest Golf has an engine rev hang, which is most noticeable in cars equipped with a manual gearbox. Douglas Skorupski, Volkswagen of America’s powertrain strategy manager, has a good explanation for this: the engine rev hang cuts the Nitrous Oxide (NOx) emissions of cars. “As you pull your foot off the throttle, what we are trying to prevent is a big hunk of air getting into the chamber without any fuel. If air gets in that way, when you do reapply throttle, it creates a lean condition (a higher than 14.7:1 air-to-fuel ratio), which generates nitrous oxides or NOx. By delaying the fuel cut-off in the cylinder, we get some fuel in there with the air to keep the mixture correct and avoid the lean condition and prevent the NOx from occurring”, Skorupski said in an explanation. Engine rev hang isn’t actually limited to the Golf. Most modern cars are equipped with electronic throttle bodies, resulting in the catalytic converter’s better control of air/fuel ratio balance and improvement of throttle control. But the use of this technology also ushered in engine rev hang, especially felt in manual gearboxes since you’re in full autonomy. While it can be intrusive for some, it’s good to know that engine rev hang has a positive environmental effect, no matter how marginal it sounds. +++

+++ With the automobile industry inevitably going the sustainable route with EVs and other hybrids, manufacturers around the globe are finding ways to maximize and adapt their existing platforms. For some, it might be a matter of compliance and brownie points, for others, it’s another chance to innovate in a field that’s bound to be highly competitive. VOLVO is definitely leaning on the latter. Last year, the Swedish manufacturer debuted its first-ever, mass-produced EV: the XC40 Recharge P8. It would be the start of a new focus for the brand, with much of its projects shifting towards making sure that half the cars it produces by 2025 will be fully electric. In fact, it appears that big changes may be happening sooner than expected, with Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson stating that it’s possible that the upcoming XC90 would be the last new Volvo launched with a combustion engine option. Samuelsson acknowledged that the end of the combustion-engined Volvo is soon, “After that, let’s see, we’ll probably be more and more electric cars”, he said. “It depends really on how fast customers will want to move, and how quickly electric infrastructure will be built up. Maybe I could answer like this: Our ambition is definitely that we should be fully electric before it is made mandatory by governments”. Samuelsson has also stated that Volvo is planning to launch multiple new electric models positioned above and below the XC40 Recharge P8. Some will run on the existing XC40 and Polestar 2 platforms, while the others will be smaller and based on Geely’s platforms in China. Volvo’s strategy heavily relies on the idea that the premium car market will be switching to fully-electric sooner or later. “You can speculate how long it will be until all premium cars are electric, but we have drawn the conclusion that if we want to be fast-growing, we should concentrate on that segment. It is much smarter for us than to try and take market share in a shrinking conventional car segment”, Samuelsson says. With governments around the world eyeing at banning sales of combustion-engined vehicles in the next few decades (some even sooner than that), Volvo may very well be leading the race by 2025 at the rate they’re going. +++

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