Newsflash: Mercedes-AMG S klasse komt er met 700 pk en 800 pk


+++ ALFA ROMEO Formula 1 drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi have been behind the wheel of the new 540 hp Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA at the firm’s historic Balocco test track. The pair were on hand to provide feedback to engineers regarding the super-saloon’s aerodynamic properties and handling set-up. A new video shows the car being driven in anger for the first time since it was revealed earlier this year. The Giulia GTA is the most powerful road car Alfa Romeo has built, and with a starting price of €230.000 in the Netherlands for the standard car and €236.000 for the stripped-out GTAm variant, the most expensive, too. It is even more expensive than the limited-run 8C Competizione supercar, of which production finished in 2010. Alfa Romeo’s Centro Stile design studio has taken inspiration from the original GTA’s best-known motorsport victories for a range of available liveries, including a yellow-and-red paint scheme that harks back to the 1971 European Touring Car Championship-winning car. Standard colours, including Trophy White, Montreal Green and GTA Red, are also available. Alfa Romeo will build a total of just 500 GTA and GTAm versions of the Giulia, offering a raft of mechanical and dynamic upgrades over the current Quadrifoglio range-topper. The historic GTA nameplate (which stands for Gran Turismo Alleggerita, or lightened grand tourer) has been revived to indicate the new car’s lightweight construction and performance potential. Alfa referred to the car’s unveiling as “a momentous comeback”, signifying a return to performance car construction. The GTA takes its power from the same twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 engine as the Quadrifoglio, but calibration tweaks and the addition of a titanium Akrapovic exhaust help to boost its output from 510 hp to 540 hp. They’re also claimed to give the car a unique soundtrack. Performance figures have yet to be confirmed, but it’s likely the GTA will eclipse the Quadrifoglio’s 3.9 seconds 0-100 kph time and 307 kph top speed. In addition to the power hike, the GTA benefits from a 100 kg weight loss, courtesy of a bonnet, a roof panel, a front bumper, front wheel arches, rear arch inserts and a driveshaft made from carbonfibre. Aluminium and composite materials feature elsewhere on the car in order to further reduce kerb weight. The GTA is also claimed to perform better in corners than the Quadrifoglio, thanks to a bespoke suspension set-up and a 50 mm wider track at both the front and rear. Visual differences from the Quadrifoglio include a Formula 1-inspired active aero package comprising a larger front splitter, a carbonfibre rear diffuser and a rear wing. There are also 20 inch centre-lock wheels and Alcantara-trimmed interior panels. Like the similarly conceived Jaguar XE SV Project 8, the GTA will also be available in hardcore track-focused guise, with the rear seats making way for a roll bar. Called the GTAm, it remains road-legal but swaps its front seats for race items with carbonfibre bases and six-point harnesses, gains a much larger spoiler and can crack the 0-100 kph sprint in just 3.6 seconds. The GTA badge first appeared on a racing version of the 1965 Giulia Sprint, which used an all-aluminium bodyshell to weigh just 745 kg, giving it an edge in motorsport and becoming one of the world’s most revered sports saloons. +++ 

+++ Are you an American and feeling particularly patriotic today? Then you’ll appreciate reading about General Motors coming out on top in 2 separate independent studies as the carmaker with the most U.S.-made vehicle models. According to’s annual AMERICA MADE INDEX for 2020, 9 of the top 25 models on the list were GM products, more than with any other carmaker. The report looked over 91 models assembled in the U.S. for the 2020 model year, and even analyzed what percentage of parts were U.S.-made or Canadian-made, as well as country of origin for available engines, country of origin for available transmissions and U.S. manufacturing employees relative to the company’s footprint. The second study was the American University Kogod School of Business ‘Made in America Auto Index’, where 10 GM models ranked in the top 25; the most of any carmaker. This study also ranked GM highest among manufacturers for total domestic content across all 2020 models. “We’re proud of GM’s massive American manufacturing footprint, consisting of 11 vehicle assembly plants, 26 stamping, propulsion, component and battery plants, and 19 parts distribution centers”, said Phil Kienle, GM vice president of North American Manufacturing and Labor Relations. “Our manufacturing strength in the U.S. is a team effort starting with our employees and extending to our supplier partners and local communities across the country”. These are the models that ranked in the top 25 for both surveys: Chevrolet Corvette (Bowling Green, Kentucky), Chevrolet Colorado (Wentzville, Missouri), GMC Canyon (Wentzville, Missouri), Chevrolet Camaro (Lansing, Michigan), Cadillac CT5 (Lansing, Michigan), Cadillac XT4 (Fairfax, Kansas), Cadillac XT5 (Spring Hill, Tennessee), Cadillac XT6 (Spring Hill, Tennessee), GMC Acadia (Spring Hill, Tennessee). Since 2009, GM has invested over $27 billion in the U.S. +++ 

+++ Failure to strike a Brexit trade deal with the EU would be “extremely damaging” and cut profits by up to a quarter at BENTLEY , its boss told, as the government urges firms to plan for potential disruption. Britain said there was still no basis for talks with Brussels to resume, just over 2 months before free and unfettered trade is due to end, leading to possible tariffs, customs checks and long delays for imports and exports. The Volkswagen-owned luxury brand has spent millions to prepare, including stockpiling, switching ports and a provisional air freight contract, but warned on failure to find an agreement. “It would be extremely damaging”, chief executive Adrian Hallmark told. “If you took the duties on components, 45 % of the bits we buy in, and the 10 % tariff on cars, worst-case scenario, it would take out a significant percentage of our profits”, he said. “It would probably cost us 20 % to 25 %”. After a €288 million operating loss in 2018, the firm returned to the black in 2019 with a €65 million profit following a turnaround plan with record sales of 11.006 vehicles. Disruption between Britain, the world’s 6th biggest economy, and the EU, the largest trading bloc, would come on top of the hit caused by Covid-19, which prompted Bentley to stop production between mid-March and early May. Output has neared full capacity since mid-September, as distancing measures in the factory are enforced, and the firm has seen a strong bounceback in major markets such as China. “In August, September, October, we’ve been running at about 20-25 % above the pre-crisis planned level of orders in China”, said Hallmark. There have been smaller increases in Europe and the U.S. and flat levels in Britain, South Asia and the Middle East. “They didn’t close China down”, he said. “The coronavirus didn’t suppress economic activity anywhere near as much as we put the brakes on and the fundamentals have been strong”. +++ 

+++ A British magazine has announced the winners of its inaugural BEST CAR AWARDS , with the category winners able to call themselves the country’s best cars: to drive, own and really cherish. These are awards with a difference that sidestep the typical and ever-expanding categorisation of cars by size, such as city cars, superminis, hatchbacks, estates, saloons and SUV-coupés. Instead they name the very top of the crop not bound by typical conventions. The small team of judges picked winners based not just on a car’s objective merits but also on more nuanced and subjective factors such as how likeable and enjoyable a car is. All winners are cars that everyday motorists want to own and drive. Among those celebrated, the Peugeot e-208 is recognised as Best Electric Car, the Volkswagen Golf GTI as Best All-Rounder and the Mazda MX-5 as Best Fun Car. Other winners include the BMW 330e for Best Company Car, the Toyota Corolla for Best Hybrid Car and the Land Rover Defender for Best SUV. The Best Family Car award goes to the Skoda Octavia Estate while Citroën’s Berlingo is the pick of the large cars. The Ford Fiesta supermini is the Best Small Car winner. Alongside the 10 individual cars celebrated (see the full list below), there are 2 extra awards. The Honda E is crowned winner of the Best Car Tech and Toyota is the manufacturer that impressed most across the board this year. Best Company Car: BMW 330e. The judges said: “Your bank manager will love it, but you will even more: the 330e is a car of quite extraordinary all-round abilities”. Best Fun Car: Mazda MX-5. The judges said: “It’s affordable and effortlessly entertaining. There is, quite simply, no way to have more fun on four wheels for less”. Best SUV: Land Rover Defender. The judges said: “No other SUV can claim to be as versatile across such a wide price spectrum, nor as capable on the road as off it”. Best Dream Car: Alpine A110. The judges said: “It’s hilarious fun delivered in effusive and accessible fashion. A car to stand the test of time”. Best Electric Car: Peugeot e-208. The judges said: “It looks great, performs strongly, is fun to drive and is well priced for an EV, plus it has enough range to quell anxiety”. Best All-Rounder: Volkswagen Golf GTI. The judges said: “It’s desirable, fast and exciting yet also smart, usable and less shouty than its rivals. Feels ready for just about anything”. Best Small Car: Ford Fiesta. The judges said: “With agile handling, characterful engines and a pervading sense of fun, the Fiesta is the standout driver’s choice”. Best Family Car: Skoda Octavia Estate. The judges said: “Now looks smarter than ever yet retains its outstanding practicality, comfort, value for money and ease of use”. Best Hybrid Car: Toyota Corolla 2.0 Hybrid. The judges said: “Responsive, keen-handling and frugal, it’s a hybrid with as broad a spread of dynamic qualities as any conventional car”. Best Large Car: Citroën Berlingo. The judges said: “It can meet your every need yet doesn’t feel drab. Well priced, brilliantly thought out and appeals as an anti-status symbol”. Best Car Tech: Honda E. The judges said: “The E’s futuristic exterior looks are backed up by the kind of clever technology to which even Tesla would doff its cap”. Best Manufacturer: Toyota. The judges said: “Toyota has transformed itself into a maker of exciting enthusiast-focused cars as well as dynamic everyday models”. Editor Mark Tisshaw commented: “The experience and expertise of our testers means they are uniquely placed to offer great car-buying advice from the perspective of car lovers. As well as being great to drive and own, our award winners are lovable cars that owners can cherish. But the best rule is always to have very few rules, and that’s why we haven’t followed traditional categories but rather reflected how people actually buy cars across different categories and considering all sorts of, sometimes contradictory, criteria. The awards reflect how differently people choose and buy cars these days”. In the future, these new awards will become part of an expanded main Awards that will return to its traditional calendar slot in May 2021. This inaugural set of Britain’s Best Cars Awards winners will also be celebrated at next May’s Awards. +++ 

+++ New Groupe Renault CEO Luca de Meo has warned that some models in the Renault range could disappear in the desire to achieve profitability for the UK subsidiary. With the potential for a no deal BREXIT that would bring extra tariffs to the UK car industry, plus any currency swings that make it more expensive to do business in the UK, Renault, like many car makers, could be forced to slim down its range to the models that make the most money. De Meo said: “We are looking at any market and any product that’s not doing enough money and we’re questioning that. I’m not going to tell you that we have to pull out of the UK, it’s such an important country, but we need to make hundreds of micro decisions that will allow us to get back to a certain level of profitability. Without cash, we have no future. We have 24 months to cross the desert economically, so I have to make some decisions. “In some cases for the UK specifically, I might have to make some decisions on some products and some versions. It’s normal”. While Renault models such as the Espace and the Talisman are not sold in the UK, they could be joined by other models, or specific trim levels, that Renault UK struggles to make money on. However, that’s not likely to include the Clio and Captur, the brand’s 2 biggest sellers. “In the case of the Captur and the Clio, the cars where we really do volume and are competitive, you will be surprised by the margin we do on those cars”, said de Meo. Dacia is set to stay in the UK, though, although the new, all-electric Spring will not be sold there because no version on the rightside of the car is planned. “Dacia is a brand that is really doing well, not only commercially but also in terms of profitability”, said de Meo. However, he also warned that Dacia prices would have to rise slightly to cover the costs of meeting the latest emissions standards. “In Dacia we will probably need to put some euros to cope with Euro7 that is coming”, he said. +++ 

+++ 2020 has been a busy year for BUGATTI . It unveiled the Pur Sport variant of the Chiron, it began building the Divo, and it dusted off some of the fascinating prototypes it canceled in the 2010s. It has at least one more surprise up its sleeve, and it published a dark, perplexing preview image to give enthusiasts an early look at the model. Bugatti captioned the sketch “what if…?”, which suggests we’re looking at a model that’s markedly different than the other cars in its range. I can’t imagine the French company would invite me simply to imagine what a Chiron with black wheels and gold brake calipers would look like. I’m intrigued by the shape of what looks like the rear lights: they form an X, and they don’t match the light signature worn by Bugatti’s other models. We’ve seen the X theme on the aforementioned Pur Sport, though the four strips of LEDs are also reminiscent of something you’d spot in outer space. It’s a very spaceship-like look that could hint at the brand’s next design language. X marks the spot where what we know about Bugatti’s next car ends, and speculation begins. Working extra-long hours, the rumor mill recently brought us murmurings of an electric car possibly fitted with 4 seats. Could we be looking at it? Alternatively, some reports claim more Chiron variants are in the pipeline, and this might be one of them. What’s certain is that, whatever we’re looking at, it’s not an SUV; Bugatti stressed it won’t build one. Finally, it’s too early to tell whether the model is related to unverified claims that Rimac is preparing to buy the firm. Bugatti will introduce the model online in the not-too-distant future. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS said it will invest $2 billion to convert its Spring Hill factory to produce electric vehicles, starting with the new Cadillac Lyriq, alongside existing combustion-engine Cadillacs. Spring Hill will be GM’s third U.S. electric vehicle factory, along with existing plants in Detroit and Orion Township. The Tennessee plant was built in 1990 as the exclusive source for GM’s now-defunct Saturn brand. The Cadillac Lyriq crossover is slated to go into production in Spring Hill in late 2022, according to AutoForecast Solutions (AFS), which tracks industry production plans. AFS said it expects some electric vehicle production will be announced at a later date for a factory in Mexico. Among additional investments, GM said it will spend $32 million at its truck plant in Flint to increase production of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty pickups. GM will spend $100 million to shift production of the redesigned GMC Acadia crossover from Spring Hill to a plant near Lansing. Spring Hill will continue to build the Cadillac XT5 and XT6. The plant also will build other future electric vehicles in addition to the Lyriq. The automaker’s plans for investing in U.S. factories comes with two weeks left in the U.S. presidential election campaign. President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden are competing for support from auto workers in Midwestern swing states. GM Chief Executive Mary Barra has outlined plans to invest $20 billion by 2025 in new electric vehicles and battery technology. The automaker is spending $2.2 billion to overhaul and retool its Detroit-Hamtramck factory to build a GMC Hummer EV electric pickup in late 2021, followed by an automated robotaxi and other electric vehicles. GM builds its electric Chevrolet Bolt at a large assembly plant north of Detroit. GM chief executive Mary Barra has outlined plans to invest $20 billion by 2025 in new electric vehicles and battery technology. The GMC Hummer EV electric pickup will be followed by an automated robotaxi. +++ 

+++ You would be forgiven for assuming the judges of the Motor Trend ‘2021 SUV of the Year’ competition simply walked around the parking lot filled with 28 new and refreshed SUVs and pinned the award on the LAND ROVER DEFENDER without starting a single vehicle. Unlike most of this year’s field, the all-new Defender actually looks the part of a proper SUV. SUVs as we know them have transformed from go-anywhere tools to mall-crawling tall wagons and minivan substitutes. Most vehicles we refer to today as SUVs are actually car-based crossovers lifted up in the air a few inches, not for ground clearance but because people like to sit up high. There is no mistaking the Land Rover Defender for one of these poseurs. That said, the Defender itself has metamorphosed to play in the current times. It ditches the decades-old steel frame of the previous L316 version (itself an evolution of the original ‘Series’ Land Rovers, a chromosome or 2 removed from a farm tractor). Instead, the new L663 Defender sports an aluminum unibody. Perhaps most shocking of all to loyalists and off-roading aficionados, the live axles have been dropped in favor of fully independent suspension. How do you say “sacrilege” in the Queen’s English? Yet if asked to traverse great swaths of rutted, tumbling African trails, the Defender is a steadfast, undeterred companion and guide. It seems like a simple decision to hand the Golden Calipers to the lads from Solihull. But not so fast. Merely being a rough-and-tumble ‘real’ SUV does not automatically earn you SUV of the Year. Even during this global-crisis reality, Motor Trend put all 28 contender vehicles (including variants) through a slew of instrumented and evaluative tests, checking everything from acceleration and handling to second-row passenger space, from fuel economy to infotainment intuitiveness. In so doing, it cut the list to 6 finalists, then dove back in for a round to test (among other things) rough road ride, switchback cornering, and smart cruise control at freeway speeds. At the end of a less-than-ideal process, one SUV stood roof rack and rearviews above the rest. This year, the ‘2021 SUV of the Year’ result is not only the obvious one, but it’s also the surprising one and the feel-good one. To conclude, summarize, and even proselytize, the new Land Rover Defender bowled Motor Trend over: the design, both inside and out; the wonderful synchronization of the stout engine and yeoman transmission; the exceptional ride quality; its ambient nature; the baked-in, go-anywhere-on-the-planet capability; and its amazing value. It’s a heady and compelling mixture. Then there is the element that’s not an official part of the 6 criteria but that I always lobby for: Winners should have some sort of X-factor, a secret sauce that reminds Motor Trend why they chose to write about cars instead of refrigerators or computers. They love cars, trucks, and in this case SUVs. The Defender has these ineffable qualities in spades. The Defender received every first-place vote but one. See? It’s special. A teammember accurately summarized their thoughts: “Ignoring emotion, how can the Land Rover Defender not be our winner? No other vehicle here hits our 6 criteria so squarely in the mouth”. And as Mike Tyson said and as the SUV segment is about to discover, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Stellar work, Land Rover. Motor Trend doffs their pith helmets. +++ 

+++ Following the recent unveiling of the all-new S-Class, I’ve had my first sighting of the performance-oriented MERCEDES-AMG variant ahead of its anticipated launch next year. Marking itself out as the Affalterbach-fettled car by its sports wheels, unique grille, bespoke bumper designs and square-tip quad-exit exhaust, the prototype was captured by my photographers on public roads, hinting that an advanced development programme is under way. As with the previous-generation car, the S63 can be expected to retain the tech-heavy interior and overall proportions of the luxury-focused standard car, while gaining significant chassis tweaks alongside its more powerful engine, which will be exclusively hybridised for this iteration. 2 plug-in AMG-badged variants are inbound, both propelled by a variation of the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 that powers the brand’s GT supercar and GLE 63 performance SUV. The standard S 63e 4Matic+ will mate the petrol engine with a 136 hp electric motor for a combined output of around 700 hp, while the more potent S 73e 4Matic+ will boost overall output to more than 800 hp, courtesy of an uprated 204 hp electric motor. Visual differences between the performance duo are likely to be minimal, as is the case with AMG’s E-Class-based E 53 and E 63. The S65 will not return for this generation, with its V12 engine continuing only in the Maybach-badged range-topper. Early last year, Mercedes launched the S 65 Final Edition as the previous-generation S-Class bowed out of production, taking with it the 12-cylinder engine and marking an end to nearly 30 years of V12-powered S-Class models. +++ 

+++ Daimler’s chief executive said China will remain MERCEDES-BENZ ’s biggest growth market in the next decade and the German carmaker will adjust production locations to capture shifts in demand as global trade tensions continue to rise. The remarks by Ola Källenius come against a backdrop of increasingly strained relations between the United States, China and Europe after almost a decade of growth that has helped Mercedes to emerge as the world’s biggest selling luxury car brand. “The situation has become much rougher, with a tendency toward rougher talks, right up to and including trade conflicts”, Källenius told the Frankfurt-based ICFW Journalists association. “We need to look at our production footprint and where it makes sense, shift our production”, he said during the video call meeting. “Last year we sold around 700.000 passenger cars in China. The next biggest market is the U.S. with between 320.000 and 330.000 cars”. Thanks in large part to a strong rebound in demand from China, Daimler and German rival BMW both pre-released forecast-beating third-quarter results. “In the next 10 years we also expect the biggest growth in China”, Källenius added, explaining that the luxury carmaker will follow the market. But with international trade tensions on the rise, the outlook for global sales remains uncertain. Britain’s Brexit negotiations could end without tariff-free trade with the European Union and serves as an example of how things can go wrong, the Swedish executive explained. “I am hoping for last-minute common sense”, Källenius said in response to a question about his expectations on the outcome of Brexit talks. If Britain and the European Union fail to clinch a deal, World Trade Organization (WTO) rules would apply, resulting in tariffs. “In the event of a so-called hard Brexit, we would not open factories, because this would not be worth it, given our sales numbers”, Källenius said, referring to sales in Britain. “We would have to learn to live with WTO rules”. Increasingly fragmented global markets make it harder to build cars at a profit because it reduces economies of scale in production, he said. Mercedes-Benz, for example, only builds its top-of-the line S-Class model in Germany. With global sales of only 100.000 vehicles, it hardly makes business sense to build new production lines in the United States and China to build these cars locally, he said. However, tensions between United States and the rest of the world are likely to remain, regardless of whether the Republicans or Democrats win the U.S. election next month. “What the 2 presidential candidates are saying is that they have an interest in improving the trade balance, and we need to be ready for that”, Källenius said. +++ 

+++ Daimler is bringing its MERCEDES-EQ brand to the U.S. next year with a new-found focus on profit margins instead of overall sales volume. According to CEO Ola Källenius, this will result in the company no longer kicking off its EV offensive in America with the EQC crossover, but rather the flagship EQS. The latter will supposedly benefit from the influence of the S-Class sedan, which has always brought in some of the brand’s most loyal customers. “We will start and lead with the EQS, that’s our strategy for the U.S.”, said Källenius during a recent media roundtable. “We said that for positioning the EQ brand in the U.S., start from the top and then go from there”. The Mercedes EQS will arrive in America next summer, boasting a range of 700 km on a single charge, based on the WLTP test cycle. “Instead of shooting for high volume, starting with the niche models provides higher transaction prices and helps them pay off the investment for all of the electrification coming in the next few years”, said Sam Fiorani, vice president at AutoForecast Solutions. “When the performance benefits of high-end models such as the EQS become apparent, buyers who can’t afford the EQS will be lined up for less expensive vehicles such as the EQC”. “Cadillac has acknowledged that 500 km is table stakes and 600 or 700 km is more desirable while brands like Tesla and Lucid are approaching 800 km”, he added. As for when the EQC might be coming over, it could be as late as 2022. “We kind of launched the EQC in volume into the Covid lockdown, which was perhaps not ideal”, argued the Daimler CEO. While sales are expected to pick up going forward, the EQC’s rather limited driving range could make it a tough sell in the U.S.: roughly 467 km on a full charge. +++ 

+++ The 2021 NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL AUTOSHOW will be held in August, rather than April, organizers announced, adding yet another move to the seemingly endless leapfrogging of American auto shows in 2020 and 2021. Next year’s American show season has been thrown on its ear by coronavirus disruptions. For now, the Chicago Auto Show is still on for February, but that may change. A show spokesperson told that Chicago may be pushed back to March, but plans have not yet been finalized. New York’s move to August creates a bit more breathing room for the Windy City team. Either way, it will remain in the lead-off slot for the 2020-2021 show season, followed by the Los Angeles Auto Show (kicking off May 21), then the New York Auto Show (August 20-29) and finally the Detroit Auto Show, which will run from September 28 through October 9. “Looking at all the issues we’re facing, we have determined that moving the dates of the 2021 NYIAS to August is not only the responsible thing to do, but it puts us in a unique position to occupy the expanded Javits Center with an additional 100.000 square feet of new exhibit space on the main floor and much more”, show president Mark Schienberg in announcing the move. Of the 2021 schedule changes, only Detroit’s move to the fall slot appears to be permanent. The North American International Auto Show was slated to be held in June this year for the first time, moving back from its previous January slot. It now appears that a springtime Detroit Auto Show was simply not meant to be. +++ 

+++ China-based electric automaker NIO has really impressed with its success of late. The company is experiencing record sales, making incredible progress with its full-scale battery swapping process, and gaining solid ground on the US stock market. It’s too bad the automaker isn’t making vehicles for the United States. I can only hope that changes in the future. Just last week, an image surfaced of what was reported to be a spy photo of the upcoming NIO EE7 electric saloon. It’s on a flatbed trailer, but it gives us a good indication of the EE7’s size and shape. Reports suggest NIO will reveal the car at its upcoming NIO Day, which is scheduled for January 9, 2021. The event will be held in Chengdu, China. According to people familiar with NIO, this is a concept car that will likely be named the EE7 and will hold the role of the company’s flagship electric saloon. It’s rumoured to go on sale in 2022 and may have Level 4 autonomous drive technology. I’ve attached the full NIO EE7 mobile teaser image below. Unlike teasers from most automakers, it’s actually quite revealing. Sure, we don’t get to see it from the side or the rear, but it definitely paints a pretty solid picture of what it will look like, in addition to giving us a reasonable idea of its potential size. +++ 

+++ Luca de Meo will unveil an 8 year turnaround plan for RENAULT next year, as the carmaker attempts to overcome a slump in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The recently-appointed CEO spoke about this timeframe during an interview with a Spanish newspaper. The turnaround is expected to include the Renault brand making an upmarket shift. De Meo already spoke about how his company might have to make even more cost cuts than the €2 billion it had already outlined for bouncing back to its feet after a drop in earnings. “The next 2 years will be tough. We have an 8 year plan that will be announced in January, and we can turn it all around”, he told the newspaper in an interview. He didn’t however disclose any specifics regarding the plan. However, based on everything de Meo himself has stated in recent months, as well as multiple reports, I can pretty much deduce a sort of direction as far as this plan is concerned. For starters, we know de Meo wants to boost the Renault brand’s image, as he was quoted by a French magazine back in September. This means moving away from small and cheap passenger cars and letting the Dacia brand take the reins there. This also means that Renault will aim for value and profitability rather than volume. I also know that big things are in store for Alpine, which come 2021 will be involved with Formula 1 in an official capacity, while in the long term, it will produce multiple sporty EVs, some of them perhaps featuring luxury price tags. Another recent report claims that future Renault performance models will feature Alpine branding, either together with or instead of RenaultSport. +++ 

+++ If the resistance by some Americans to wearing a mask during the coronavirus pandemic feels vaguely familiar, you may be recalling the decades-long campaign to persuade vehicle occupants to wear SEAT BELTS . A feature in The New York Times this week takes us back to those days when people routinely ignored the risk of being slammed into a dashboard or ejected through a windshield during a crash. The excuses? The seatbelt was uncomfortable, it wrinkled clothes. Or especially: “Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do, especially not the damn government”. You’ve probably heard complaints of comfort and individual freedom regarding masks. The comparison isn’t perfect, of course. Wearing a seatbelt is about ensuring your own safety (though, just like wearing a motorcycle helmet, there is a societal benefit to avoiding serious, costly injuries that we all bear through higher insurance rates). But while a mask helps protect the wearer, its most important benefit is in preventing the spread of coronavirus to others: strangers in a store, friends, those with health risk factors, and especially one’s own grandmother. Refusing to wear a mask, just because someone’s telling you to, is cutting off your nose to spite not just your face but everybody else’s, and disrespects health-care workers trying to treat the disease. But both situations do share the personal liberty argument. And both share an element of ignorance or denial. There’s a failure of imagination about what happens when one’s body accelerates from 0 to 60 and back to 0 in a fraction of a second. And there’s the mistaken belief that Covid-19 is no worse than the flu, or it’s fake news. Or that not following public health guidelines is some kind of liberal-vs.-conservative badge of honor. (There’s also the ignorance of those who wear a mask but don’t cover their nose, but that’s a somewhat different problem). On the flip side, wearing a seatbelt and wearing a mask have one other important thing in common beyond safety: In both cases, you’re modeling responsible behavior for your children. The first state seatbelt law was enacted in 1984. Today, the only American state that still doesn’t mandate the wearing of seatbelts is live-free-or-die New Hampshire. Laws or no laws, most people have wised up. And once you’ve acquired the seatbelt habit, you almost feel naked without one. That said, a study from 2017 indicated that women wear their seatbelts 90 % of the time, while men wear them 82 % of the time; in other words, we’re still not at 100 %. Seatbelt use is more lax in states that have “secondary compliance” laws, meaning police can’t pull over a motorist for not wearing a belt but can issue a citation if the driver is pulled over for a different infraction. Compliance is best in states with “primary” laws: that is, where you can be pulled over for not buckling up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that of the 23.714 people killed in car crashes in 2016, 48 % were unrestrained. Surprisingly, the 13- to 15-year-old age group had the highest rate of unrestrained deaths, at 62 %. When broken out by vehicle type, pickup drivers had the highest rates of going without seatbelts, at 60 %. +++ 

+++ SSC has dropped some additional details about the ‘baby’ supercar it is planning to sell alongside the newly-crowed world’s fastest production car, the Tuatara. Jerod Shelby first commented on the ‘Little Brother’ to the Tuatara earlier this year and while speaking with the media following the company’s record-breaking top speed run, provided some additional details about the car. “We haven’t been interested in an SUV, but we have had a drawing board over the last few years with what we call the ‘Little Brother Project”, he told. “It would be a car that looks very much like the Tuatara, but it would be in the 600 to 700 horsepower range, and sit in a price point where a much larger percentage of the population can afford it. We’re talking a $300,000 to $400,000 car”. “Instead of one-tenth of 1 % of the population that can afford a Tuatara or any of these hypercars, the Little Brother Project would make it more in that range where you might see 3 or 4 in a lot of cities”, he added. With upwards of 700 hp and a price tag between $300,000 and $400,000, the next SSC could be a fitting rival to the likes of the McLaren 720S and Ferrari F8 Tributo. However, as it will come from a much smaller manufacturer, far fewer examples would be built. It remains to be seen where SSC plans on sourcing an engine from but it’s possible that it could tap Nelson Racing Engines, just as it has done with the 5.9-liter twin-turbo V8 that powers the Tuatara. Unfortunately, we will have to wait a little while longer before this new model hits the market. SSC’s production of the Tuatara won’t hit full speed until 2022 when 25 units will be built annually of the planned 100 unit production run. +++ 

+++ Shortly after president Donald TRUMP was elected in 2016, he made a proposition to the CEOs of the three largest U.S.-based automakers at a White House meeting: I’ll cut taxes and regulations, and you increase jobs and investment. He made good on the tax and regulatory cuts, handing corporate America hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks and repealing Obama-era fuel-economy rules, though that rollback has fractured the industry. For all of the policy moves he made, there’s little evidence so far that the trajectory of the industry and its job growth changed markedly, even before the pandemic. On the campaign trail, Trump tells voters he “saved” the auto industry by ripping up old trade deals and renegotiating new ones. “You better vote for me. I got you so many damn car plants”, he told supporters last month at a rally in Midland, Michigan. Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden claimed the administration’s policies have hurt U.S. manufacturers in a October 12 speech to autoworkers in Toledo, Ohio. “We’re in a manufacturing recession because of Donald Trump”. The biggest impact of Trump’s tenure has also been the most unexpected: an onslaught of tariffs, real and threatened, that sent ripples throughout the automotive-supply chain and are likely to reverberate for years to come, no matter who is in the White House. The administration’s bluster led to a new trade pact with Canada and Mexico that replaced the quarter-century-old NAFTA and has begun to shape investment decisions across the region. And while a trade war with China hasn’t yielded tangible results, a more bellicose stance toward the ascendant Asian superpower is likely to remain a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy. It’s too early to measure the long-term impact of the president’s policies, but it’s clear that virus-related shutdowns, which triggered a 20 % plunge in auto production this year, have wiped out the automotive-related job growth during his tenure. The number of Americans employed making vehicles and parts declined 3.9 % because of the Covid-19 pandemic, from 956.000 in January 2017 when Trump took office to about 919.000 as of September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Before virus-related shutdowns cut vehicle sales, employment had risen by roughly the same amount, to 994.000. “It would be fair to say the Trump record for the auto industry is mixed”, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “He’s created a focus, a goal of there being greater U.S. production of vehicles. I don’t know that the data bears that out”. There are 200 more factories (including auto-parts and vehicle-assembly plants) in the U.S. since he became president, though that trend started in 2012 when the industry, aided by federal bailouts, began to rebound from the Great Recession. The total includes a wide swath of transportation manufacturers that goes beyond passenger-car makers. The reality is any president’s influence over the decision to build an auto-assembly plant is limited. While they make for great scenery on the campaign trail, multibillion-dollar factories are driven by consumer demand and investment plans that span decades, not a single presidential term. Still, Trump, who courted auto executives by inviting them to the White House, then berated them on Twitter when their decisions displeased him, managed to change industry behavior, Dziczek said. “I don’t recall any other president being that micro-directive about what a company does or does not do”, she said. “I think he changed the way auto companies make announcements”, if not the announcements themselves. One of the most memorable moments of Trump-era automotive politics came in January 2017, when Ford scrapped plans for a $1.6 billion small-car factory in Mexico that was already under construction. Then-chief executive officer Mark Fields credited “the pro-growth policies” of president-elect Trump for the decision. He later said Ford would have made the move regardless, because shifting U.S. consumer tastes meant there was less need to add small-car manufacturing capacity. Trump also targeted Toyota for building more cars in Mexico. Shortly thereafter, the automaker said it would invest $10 billion in the U.S., and months later it unveiled plans for a new factory built jointly with Mazda in Alabama. By the same token, General Motors’ 2018 decision to close its Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant as part of layoffs affecting 14.000 workers in North America was a devastating blow, both for the rustbelt community of 3.200 and Trump’s jobs record. In June, vice president Mike Pence visited the Lordstown plant, now occupied by an electric-truck startup that employs a tiny fraction of the workers GM did. He touted the completion of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, as a game-changing law that will stop auto jobs from leaving the country.“The incentive that was in NAFTA to move jobs south of the border. That’s all gone”, he said. “We’re going to keep automotive jobs growing right here in Ohio and right here across the United States”. The agreement, which raised regional content requirements and labor standards for cars to trade duty-free, is “the No. 1 accomplishment for this administration for this industry,” said Ann Wilson, senior vice president of government affairs at the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, which represents auto suppliers. But while industry leaders laud the stability USMCA created, they’re cautious on whether it will create more auto jobs in the U.S. “The next couple years will tell whether these provisions helped meet that objective”, Wilson said. Whatever the Trump administration’s manufacturing achievements, they came at the expense of a costly trade war that forced companies to operate amid chaos and uncertainty. Ford and GM lost at least $1 billion each absorbing the effects of steel and aluminum tariffs on metals costs. Off-road vehicle manufacturer Polaris, which relies on cheap Chinese parts to keep its assembly plants running in the U.S., says Trump’s policies were a wash financially, though deregulation was “incredibly helpful”. “The lower tax rate saved us about $70 million”, said CEO Scott Wine. However, “Almost all of that tax benefit was offset by tariffs”. Polaris is lobbying Congress for an exemption of the tariff on Chinese goods. Harold Weaver, president of a metal stamping company in Gadsden, Alabama, says the trade war with China actually brought him new business, albeit indirectly. Weaver, whose company, Stamped Products, supplies metal parts for Hyundai, Kia, Honda and Mercedes vehicles, says foreign automakers preemptively moved parts work to the U.S. out of concern their home countries could face similar tariffs. “When he came in and started putting those tariffs on, we started doing work that we’d never had the opportunity to look at because they were imported”. Weaver didn’t mind the steel tariffs because he was able to pass on the cost to automakers and their customers. A reset of trade relations with China is the Trump administration’s other big achievement, even if tangible results are still elusive, industry observers say. U.S. trade deals needed to be reworked, because they’re stuck in a post-World War II era when Europe was rebuilding its economy and China wasn’t the biggest car market in the world, said Xavier Mosquet, senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group in Detroit. “Whether it’s a Biden administration or a Trump administration, I think it should be part of the U.S. policy”, Mosquet said. “Once we pay the cost of entry, it would be good to go to the end, and not waste this effort that has been taken”. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group is hosting preliminary talks with potential bidders for its Ducati brand to gauge potential interest in the motorcycle maker ahead of a November planning round, 3 people familiar with the matter told. During the five-year planning round, VW will review the future of its Ducati brand as well as of its super sports car brands Lamborghini and Bugatti, they said. Volkswagen is analyzing the future of Lamborghini, Bugatti and Ducati as part of broader quest for more economies of scale as it shifts to mass producing electric cars and as the company tries to more than double its value to €200 billion. The review could result in technology partnerships for the high-performance sports car and superbike brands, restructuring, or other options up to and including a listing or sale, the people said. Whether Volkswagen agrees to kick off a formal sales process at that meeting is still uncertain, but for a sale to be possible early next year, investors and bankers need to gauge price expectations and potential strategic fit, a second person familiar with the discussions said. “There is some movement here,” one of these sources said, commenting on the potential kick-off of a Ducati auction. No decision has been taken yet, the source added. 2 other people close to the matter said that Volkswagen is expected to launch the sales process in early 2021 and may mandate a sellside advisor before Christmas. Volkswagen attempted to sell Ducati in 2017, when peer Bajaj Auto BAJA.NS in a tie-up with KTM, as well as Polaris PII.N and private equity groups Bain, PAI and Investindustrial expressed interest in buying the Italian motorbike brand. A sale met oppostion from labour leaders and was shelved. As part of its next strategy review Volkswagen is also drawing up plans to carve out Lamborghini and has sounded out bankers and potential investors about listing the Italian sports car maker on the stock market, sources told. A listing could be attempted in 2021, a source familiar with the matter told. Italian supercar rival Ferrari saw its valuation more than treble since Fiat Chrysler listed it in 2016, though shares in rival Aston Martin have slumped since its IPO in 2018. +++ 

+++ WALL STREET expects U.S. automakers to report strong results for the third quarter, as a recovery in sales after this year’s initial coronavirus lockdowns tightens inventory for an industry watching cases in Europe and the United States rise. Starting with Tesla on Wednesday, investors will be most focussed on what executives have to say about the quarters ahead, as signs grow that the pandemic, which halted work earlier in the year, is again worsening. “It’s going to be pretty strong earnings across the board”, said Deutsche Bank industry analyst Emmanuel Rosner, adding he expected all suppliers and carmakers to beat current forecasts. “Investors want to know what early 2021 is going to look like”. The pace of U.S. car and light truck sales has increased each month since shutdowns were lifted, and plants are working at close to full speed to rebuild inventories for high-profit SUVs and pickups. In China too, General Motors and Ford are recovering, registering double-digit sales growth for the quarter. For GM, 12% year-on-year growth in July-September, marked the Detroit automaker’s first quarterly sales improvement in 2 years in the world’s biggest market. For Ford, the 25 % volume growth was its second consecutive quarterly sales increase in China after almost 3 years of decline. Most analyst also see automakers firming up their cash flow positions and repaying debt. GM indicated in July it would generate enough cash to pay off a $16 billion loan by the end of the year. But only if the U.S. economy continued recovering and there were no further significant production shutdowns. Shares of GM, down 9 % so far this year, have recovered since hitting a low of $16.8 in March. Ford shares have fallen about 19 % and were as low as $4 in mid-March. +++

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