Newsflash: Mercedes vergroot belang in Aston Martin

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+++ Mercedes-Benz will take a major stake in ASTON MARTIN as part of a “truly game-changing” strategic technology agreement that will underpin a plan for the British firm to double its sales by 2025. The agreement expands the existing relationship between the 2 firms and will include Aston Martin gaining access to Mercedes technology (including electric and hybrid powertrains) that will form a key part of its expansion plans. Aston Martin said the deal included “powertrain architecture (for conventional, hybrid, and electric vehicles) and future oriented electric/electronic architecture, for all product launches through to 2027”. With the new agreement in place, Aston Martin has targeted selling around 10.000 vehicles a year by 2025 and is aiming for revenues of around £2 billion and profits of around £500 million. For comparison, the marque sold 5.862 vehicles in 2019. Under the agreement, Mercedes-Benz will gradually increase its stake in Aston Martin up to a maximum of 20 %, providing a welcome boost in investment for and making the German giant one of Aston Martin’s largest shareholders. The technology will be supplied “on commercial terms”. Mercedes previously owned around 5 % of Aston Martin shares as part of a deal that involved its AMG performance arm developing a bespoke V8 for Aston. Lawrence Stroll, whose investment consortium completed its takeover of Aston Martin earlier this year, called the agreement “a transformational moment”. He added: “Through this new expanded agreement, we secure access to world-class technologies to support our long-term product expansion plans, including electric and hybrid powertrains, and this partnership underpins our confidence in the future. This is truly game changing. We now have the right team, partner, plan and funding in place to transform the company to be one of the greatest luxury car brands in the world”. New Aston Martin CEO Tobias Moers, who joined the firm from his previous role as head of the Mercedes-AMG performance division, said: “We have updated our plans for the business, incorporating the benefits of our enhanced partnership we are announcing today. We are targeting delivery of significant growth and margin expansion in the medium-term, not just through product expansion but also by incorporating a strategy to deliver a level of operational excellence and efficiency throughout every aspect of the organisation. The capabilities of Mercedes-Benz AG technology will be fundamental to ensure our future products remain competitive and will allow us to invest efficiently in the areas that truly differentiate our products”. Mercedes-Benz product strategy chief Wolf-Dieter Kurz said: “With this new expanded partnership, we will be able to provide Aston Martin with access to new cutting-edge powertrain and software technologies and components, including next generation hybrid and electric drive systems. Access to this technology and these components will be provided in exchange for new shares in Aston Martin”. Aston Martin has launched the DBX this year, which SUV will play a major role in growing sales in the future. The new deal is a huge boost to Aston Martin’s future plans, giving it access to proven electric vehicle technology without the need to develop its own EV systems. Since taking over, Stroll has already suspended plans to relaunch the Lagonda brand as a range of luxury EVs. +++

+++ BMW Korea said its BMW Driving Center in Yeongjongdo celebrated an accumulated 1 million visitors, since opening in August 2014. The BMW Driving Center offers various hands-on programs, such as test-drives on its 2.6 kilometer driving track and education courses for children. The center in Yeongjongdo is the company‘s first to be built in Asia and the third in the world, after Germany and the US, the company said. +++

+++ The tariffs that could arise as a result of a no-deal BREXIT would add almost £3,000 to the cost of electric vehicles, according to a UK car industry body. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says the average electric car would cost £2,800 more if there were no free trade agreement between the UK and EU. Negotiators are currently attempting to thrash out a deal, but the prime minister, Boris Johnson, has warned the country to prepare for talks to break down. Whether or not that is a negotiating tactic is up for debate, but the fact remains that such a scenario could see the UK trade with Europe on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms. That would mean tariffs of 10 % on some goods and services traded between the 2 entities. According to the SMMT’s calculations, the 10 % ‘no-deal’ WTO tariff would add “at least” £4.5 billion to the combined annual cost of fully assembled cars traded between the UK and the EU, with an average hike of £1,900 for every vehicle built in Europe and sold in the UK. But for battery-electric vehicles, the analysis suggests the cost would be even higher, with a £2,800 average price hike. That sort of increase would, to all intents and purposes, cancel out the government’s Plug-In Car Grant, which currently reduces the purchase price of electric cars by £3,000 for eligible customers. The SMMT also says such a price increase could reduce the increase in demand for electric vehicles by around 20 %, “hindering” efforts to improve uptake and decarbonise road transport. Furthermore, the SMMT claims WTO tariffs would also add around £2,000 on to the average cost of UK-built battery electric cars exported from Britain to the EU. The organisation fears that would “further hamper” the UK’s ambition to be a leader in zero-emission vehicle development and production. “Just as the automotive industry is accelerating the introduction of the latest electrified vehicles, it faces the double whammy of a coronavirus second wave and the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal”, said Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive. “As these figures show, ‘no deal’ tariffs will put the brakes on the UK’s green recovery, hampering progress towards net zero and threatening the future of the UK industry. To secure a truly sustainable future, we need our government to underpin industry’s investment in electric vehicle technology by pursuing an ambitious trade deal that is free from tariffs, recognises the importance of batteries in future vehicle production and ensures consumers have choice in accessing the latest zero emission models. We urge all parties to re-engage in talks and reach agreement without delay”. +++

+++ If you’re curious just what the world’s biggest car market will look like in the next 10-15 years, the CHINA Society of Automotive Engineers (China-SAE) has a few interesting statistics for us. According to them, NEV (New Energy Vehicle) sales will jump to 20 % of overall new car sales by 2025, as opposed to just 5 % right now. That growth will reach 50 % by the year 2035, with 95 % of those NEVs being fully electric models. The remaining 5 % will be hybrid vehicles. NEVs include not just battery electric cars, but also plug-in hybrids, hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Around 1.1 million cars belonging to these categories will reach new customers this year. These numbers were presented by China-SAE president Li Jun during a conference in Shanghai. The exec also added that carbon dioxide emissions from China’s car industry were expected to peak around 2028 and drop to 20 % of those levels by 2035. Last month, Chinese president Xi Jinping announced plans to rush the country’s Paris climate accord target, stating that China would achieve a peak in carbon dioxide emissions within the next 10 years, and total carbon neutrality before 2060. Interestingly enough, some Chinese carmakers are planning on focusing their attention on hydrogen fuel cell models, which at the moment remains a niche category in the local market. According to a previous report, SAIC Motor wants to sell more than 10.000 fuel cell models by the year 2025, with Beiqi Foton Motor (a BAIC unit) aiming for 4.000 units by 2023, before hitting 15.000 units by 2025.

+++ FIAT has confirmed that the existing 500 model will be rebranded Classic as the all-new, all-electric 500 goes on sale later this year. The president of Fiat, Olivier Francois, said that the 500 with a internal combustion engine will wear the Classic tag. “Yes, it will be known as the Classic”, said Francois. “It will be very interesting to see the shift. Our hope is to convince as many customers of the combustion engine to go electric, so we will carefully look at who the customers are and our ability to shift traditional 500 lovers to electric. We know these are urban customers and that sooner or later they will go electric. We think they are so in love with the brand within a brand that they will have the temptation to go and check out the new electric 500”. Francois and his team have worked hard to give the new 500 a more traditional feel than some of its electric rivals, so not to scare off potential buyers the first time they experience the car. “We invested some time and energy in the 5 first minutes”, he said. “Thinking about the traditional combustion customer and the way they’re going to feel when they get in the new car. Some electric cars are a little bit scary as customers are out of their comfort zone, so we wanted the traditional customer to not be out of their comfort zone. So for example, with the 1 pedal mode, which is so great, but is not the default set up: the default set-up is 2 pedals. I also wanted the buttons to be in a normal place”. However, the Fiat badge will not be in the normal place, with Francois confirming that the 500 logo will sit front on centre on all 500s in the future, with Fiat only appearing on the back. “The 500 family will have 500 in the grille, “What I call the ‘functional family’ will have the Fiat logo in the front and you will see that starting with Tipo, so we will reaffirm the existence of 2 pillars”. An all-new Panda range is set to join the recently revamped Tipo in this more functional part of the Fiat family, according to Francois. The new electric 500 goes on sale in November with first deliveries set for February 2021. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) is facing a £5 billion class action lawsuit over the alleged use of defeat devices in some of its diesel engines to breach UK and EU emissions rules. Approximately half a million Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Iveco and Suzuki diesel vehicles manufactured from 2008 onwards could be affected, according to PGMBM; a partnership of British, Brazilian and American lawyers representing alleged “victims of wrongdoing by big corporations”. Owners of affected vehicles could be due around £10,000 each in compensation, depending on the result of the High Court lawsuit PGMBM has launched against FCA, to which prospective claimants can now sign up on a no win, no fee basis. 4 of the 5 affected brands are part of FCA. Although the fifth (a Suzuki) is not (some of its S-Cross, SX4 and Vitara models have been fitted with FCA-developed diesel engines). The lawsuit follows Environmental Action Germany claiming in 2016 that it performed tests on a diesel Fiat 500X which showed that the car breached Euro 6 emissions limits by between 11 and 22 times. A report by the European Federation for Transport and Environment in September 2016 ranked Fiat’s Euro 6 diesel engines as the worst in Europe for NOx emissions. FCA agreed to an $800 million settlement in 2019 following claims from the US Justice Department and the state of California relating to the use of illegal software that produced false results on diesel emissions tests. July 2020 saw authorities from Germany, Italy and Switzerland raid the offices of FCA and American-Italian truck maker CNH Industrial, seeking evidence relating to the alleged use of defeat devices. Both FCA and CNH Industrial are controlled by the Amsterdam-based holdings company Exor, which is run by the Italian Agnelli family. Tom Goodhead, managing partner of PGMBM, said: “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have misled drivers about the true diesel emissions that many of their vehicles produce. This is yet another instance of a huge automotive firm conning consumers, with a significant impact on the environment and our collective wellbeing. “FCA must be held to account for these practices, and this case will give consumers the opportunity to pursue some justice and be compensated for being misled by a company that they may have trusted. Legally, consumers could be entitled to anything up to the full cost of the affected vehicles. But based on similar legal actions around the world, we believe that £10,000 per claimant should be expected”. An FCA spokesperson told: “FCA believes this claim to be totally without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves against it”. Suzuki has been contacted for comment. +++

+++ FISKER has announced that its European headquarters will be established in Munich, Germany, 314 kilometers from the Ocean SUV’s manufacturing site in Graz, Austria. Named Matrix, Fisker’s European head office was chosen because it offers “convenient access to key European EV markets and close proximity to Magna’s Graz facility in Austria”. The news follows the announcement regarding Fisker’s new global HQ, named Inception, which will be located in Manhattan Beach, California. It also comes shortly after the confirmation of the strategic cooperation with Magna International supporting the co-development and manufacture of the FOcean SUV. “Munich has long been a major global hub for the auto industry. Locating our regional headquarters in Southern Germany will enable us to make a fast and efficient start to building our sales and distribution operations across Europe”, said Henrik Fisker, chairman, and chief executive officer of Fisker. “Easy access to both the Autobahn network and alpine roads was also a consideration for validating our vehicle performance targets”. Earlier this month, Fisker confirmed the signing of a significant vehicle order for 300 units with Viggo, a Danish ride-hailing service. Fisker has also used the occasion to announce progress on the overall Ocean SUV program. More specifically, work on the advanced drivetrain is underway through a dedicated powertrain engineering team. The company also says its software designers and engineers are now running simulations for the Ocean SUV’s Human Machine Interface (HMI), as well as related User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) systems. Fisker aims to bring its all-electric SUV to customers in Europe in the 4th quarter of 2022 and open the first consumer experience center a year earlier, also in Munich. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS makes no secret of the importance the Chinese market has for its present and future, and launching cars designed for China is key to the automaker’s success there. As a result, the company announced that it will upgrade the GM China advanced design center in Shanghai, more than doubling current studio space and milling capacity. The center will adopt cutting-edge technology and incorporate a more flexible and multifunctional use of space “to enable GM to remain at the forefront of automotive design in the world’s largest automotive market”. Adjacent to GM China’s headquarters, the advanced design center will grow to more than 5.000 square meters, with the carmaker hoping the expansion will allow it to attract more local design talent. Work is scheduled to begin this month, with completion set for the second quarter of 2021. “Since opening in 2012, the GM China advanced design center has become an important and trusted source of creativity and insight into the Chinese auto market”, said Ken Parkinson, GM China and GM International vice president of Design. “This has led to significant programs and assignments being given to our talented creative team, which has stretched our current resources leading to this expansion plan”. The upgraded advanced design center will include a new color and material studio, paint shop, VR lab and second clay modeling studio. In addition, the current VR Room, viewing patio, clay modeling studio and other facilities will receive comprehensive enhancements and upgrades. Currently, the GM China advanced design team includes creative designers, clay sculptors, digital sculptors and VR specialists with an average age under 32. They are creating future visions of new energy and mobility concepts for China and global markets. The expanded design center in Shanghai is likely to have a more important role in designing future GM products not only for China, but also for other markets. “Inspired by Shanghai’s vibrant and progressive energy, our mission is to create innovative and exhilarating designs across GM global brands to capture the imaginations of future customers”, said Harry Sze, director of Design at the GM China advanced design center. +++

+++ Shortly after the HYUNDAI i20 N was unveiled, a prototype of the upcoming Kona N has been spied testing at the Nurburgring. The Hyundai i30 N proved to be such a success for the South Korean automaker that it is aggressively expanding its range of N-branded performance models. The i30 N was first followed up by the Veloster N and in addition to the i20 N and Kona N, models including an Elantra N and Tucson N are just around the corner. The Kona N is based around the recently facelifted model and looks to offer up some very respectable performance. It features a rear spoiler stretching off from the roof and also has a set of large tailpipes, distinguishing it from lesser variants. It also sounds much more aggressive than standard Kona models. Other styling elements that will distinguish the Kona N from lesser variants will be revised front and rear bumpers, a unique front grille and new badging. The flagship color will be Hyundai’s Performance Blue and regardless of which color customers opt for, the SUV will feature a host of red accents, including across the front and rear fascias, as well as the side skirts. Like other Hyundai N models, the Kona N will come standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that will be offered in 2 forms. In standard specification, this engine will deliver 250 hp and 353 Nm, but with the Performance Package, these figures will rise to 280 hp and 392 Nm. Both an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission and a 6-speed manual are expected. +++

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) has recorded a profit for the first time in the fiscal year 2020, citing a recovery from the impact of the pandemic-induced downturn that decimated its sales in the first fiscal quarter (April – June). The manufacturer’s latest financial report shows that retail sales were up 53.3 % in the second quarter (July – September) of the year, with 113.569 cars sold. The majority of JLR dealerships are now back in operation, following a near-universal shutdown that led to just over 74.000 units being sold in the first quarter. Factors in the growth include a 14.6 % quarterly increase in Chinese sales and strong demand for the new Land Rover Defender, which sold 4.508 units in September alone. Overall revenue generated from March to September (excluding that of JLR’s Chinese joint venture) totalled £4.4 billion, which is up 52.2 % on the first quarter, but down 28.5 % year on year as a result of the pandemic. The firm recorded a £65 million pre-tax profit, compared to a loss of £413m in the previous quarter. JLR lists “the recovery in sales, Project Charge+ cost efficiencies and favourable foreign exchange impact” as the driving forces behind its uptick. It also notes that profit margins were improved, at 11.0 %. Some £0.6 billion was generated through savings as part of the company’s Project Charge+ transformation programme, which JLR says means it is “on track to achieve the £2.5 billion target for the full year ending 31 March 2021”. JLR’s chief financial officer, Adrian Mardell, said: “We were pleased to see sales, profitability and cash flow significantly improve in fiscal Q2 from the prior quarter. While sales and profitability haven’t fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels in most markets, it was particularly encouraging to see China sales up year on year and global sales of the new Land Rover Defender starting to ramp up. The Charge+ cost and cash efficiency programme also contributed significantly to the better results in the quarter. Charge+ remains on track to deliver £2.5 billion of saving this year and, with continued strong liquidity, Jaguar Land Rover is well-placed to benefit from further market recovery in the second half and beyond”. The firm expects sales to gradually improve following the introduction of the new short-wheelbase Defender 90, plus updated versions of the Range Rover Velar and Jaguar F-Pace, XE and XF. In addition, the firm will launch another new plug-in hybrid model and a pair of new mild-hybrid options before the end of the year. +++

+++ The 2022 modelyear JEEP Compass that my spy photographers caught earlier this month was wearing less camouflage than before. Now, I may know why. Sources say the automaker will reveal the updated crossover next month at the Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition in China, which is scheduled to begin on November 22. The Compass I expect to see should feature several styling updates without any significant design overhauls. The latest spy photos show Jeep’s familiar 7-slot grille sitting between what looks like a pair of narrower headlights. Even fewer changes are expected at the rear, with small changes kept to a minimum on the lower part of the bumper and diffuser. Photos of the interior have shown a new infotainment system likely paired with a new dashboard layout. The Mopar Insiders report also says the Compass 4xe will make an appearance as Jeep announces its availability in China for the 2022 model year. The Compass 4xe debuted earlier this summer for select markets, offering the crossover with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. I expect the refreshed model to find its way to showrooms sometime early next year. Customers shouldn’t expect a host of other changes to the model. The refreshed Compass will come as Jeep refreshes another staple in its lineup: the Grand Cherokee. 2022 will also see Jeep add the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer to its lineup, giving the brand a large, 3-row offering for the masses and a tech-pack ultra-luxurious one for those wanting a Cadillac Escalade or a Lincoln Navigator competitor. +++

+++ KIA has been killing it lately. The brand recently launched a number of great vehicles like the restyled Sorento. But that impressive product onslaught is only part one of what Kia’s global CEO, Ho Sung Song, calls “Plan S”. Kia will officially roll out Plan S (the “S” meaning “Shift”) early next year. Song wants the brand to be “more dynamic, stylish and inventive, with a stronger emphasis on electric vehicles. Kia promises a lineup of at least 11 EVs by the year 2025, backed in part by a massive $25 billion investment. “We have to prepare ourselves with advanced countermeasures for all these”, Song said in an interview. “We will try to set up our new customer target together with our brand relaunch”. Kia’s upcoming EVs will ride on a new moderately priced Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), shared with Hyundai. With the affordable underpinnings underneath, the brand expects its EVs to generate at least 20 % of worldwide sales by 2025 and even more by 2029. Part of that brand relaunch also includes a new logo, which the company first previewed on the electric Imagine concept car in 2019. The brand officially confirmed the arrival of the new logo back in February as patent filings leaked, and now says that the new look will make its debut on a production vehicle next year. The new Kia logo takes the traditional wordmark and gives it a stark, italicised treatment, giving it a more modern look. All 3 letters now connect to each other, and the new logo ditches the signature circular surround synonymous with the brand since the beginning. Expect the stylish new wordmark to show up as early as January of 2021. +++

+++ Following its merger with DiamondPeak Holdings, LORDSTOWN MOTORS has started trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol ‘Ride’. The reverse merger was first announced back in August and comes on the back of other electric vehicle reserve mergers to have taken place this year, including the ones of Nikola and Fisker. It is hoped that, by going public, Lordstown will have the funds necessary to build its Endurance pickup. “We are proud of this momentous occasion”, founder and chief executive of Lordstown Motors, Steve Burns said in a statement. “Electrification of the automotive industry is at an inflection point, and this transaction helps us play our part in this transformation. At Lordstown, we have built a differentiated company, and we look forward to combining our EV startup culture with the infrastructure and assets we already have in place in order to successfully achieve our production milestones. We have a near production-ready plant and approximately $675 million in proceeds from this transaction, which is more than enough funding to get us through initial production”. Lordstown unveiled a pre-production prototype of the Endurance in June. The pickup is aimed at commercial users and features 4 in-wheel motors that produce a combined 600 hp. Lordstown says the truck will be able to hit 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds and travel more than 400 km on a single charge. Prices will start at a relatively reasonable $52,500. “We are thrilled about the successful execution of this merger, which included a PIPE that is backed by General Motors and several long-term institutional investors, and we congratulate Lordstown on achieving this key milestone”, chairman and chief executive of DiamondPeak, David Hamamoto, added. “We look forward to our long-term partnership with Steve and the entire Lordstown team as they progress towards being first to market with an electric pickup for commercial fleets”. +++

+++ The chief executive of LUCID MOTORS doesn’t consider Tesla as the company’s main rival and is instead going after the likes of Mercedes-Benz. Following the recent unveiling of the all-electric Lucid Air, comparisons were quickly drawn between it and the Tesla Model S. These comparisons gathered momentum as both companies quickly announced tri-motor versions of their all-electric sedans that could soon prove to be the 2 quickest production cars on sale. However, during a recent interview, Lucid chief executive Peter Rawlinson said the company wants to go beyond what traditional automakers are delivering. “I would say our main competitor is a car company; I highlight Mercedes Benz in terms of the attributes of Lucid Air”, he commented. “We’re going after S-class Mercedes, but it’s a natural comparison, and I accept that comparison with Tesla. I think it’s really important that we start at a high-end position as a true luxury brand. I’m a great believer that the first product defines the brand in way Tesla Model S defined Tesla as a brand”. Rawlinson went on to add that while traditional car manufacturers like GM are developing electric vehicles, such as the GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq, they are not acting fast enough. “The traditional automakers are just not rising, stepping up to the plate fast enough”, he said. “That’s really why Lucid’s come onto the scene, to accelerate this process”. He added a key way to measure electric vehicles is the number of miles they can travel per kilowatt-hour from the battery pack. He says traditional OEMs are also lagging behind by this metric. “We’re not seeing high levels of efficiency from these other automakers, Tesla’s right up there. Lucid is surpassing Tesla. We’re getting over 4,5 miles per kilowatt-hour. I’m not seeing anything close to that from these traditional automakers”. +++

+++ The MERCEDES-AMG One is coming, and Mercedes isn’t short in letting the world know about its development. As we have seen in a previous track testing footage, the German marque is still in the tweaking stages; a process that could be testing the patience of those who have already committed to buying each of the 275 examples of the F1-powered hypercar. If you’re among the one-percentres who will be shedding £3.5 million (including taxes) from their bank accounts, well, you’ll be glad to hear these rumours I gathered for the AMG One. There are reports saying that exterior changes will come with the AMG One, including what is being called a “larger fixed aerodynamic part at the rear”. While that’s kind of vague and considering that the prototype comes with an active rear spoiler, the next one’s more definite. Rumours say that there will be 4 exhaust pipes at the rear and not 3 as previously seen on the prototypes. The wheel designs will be different, as well, but that’s pretty much a given. More importantly, the 1.6-litre V6 hybrid E-turbo powertrain is currently being tweaked by Mercedes-Benz. Reports suggest that the whole ensemble of engine and electric motors will produce a combined output of 1.200 hp. Of course, take these details with a healthy dose of skepticism since these bits are not yet confirmed by the brand. I can also guarantee that the 275 would-be owners of the AMG One would have known those changes by now, so yeah it’s just for us mere mortals to speculate on. We’ll know more whether these updates are true when the AMG One hits the limelight next year, with deliveries expected to begin by the second quarter of 2021. +++

+++ NISSAN will increase its production capacity in China by about 30 % by the end of 2021. The capacity will be raised to 1.8 million cars per year from the current 1.4 million. Nissan’s consolidated financial results for the fiscal year ending March 2020 showed a loss of about ¥670 billion in final profit. The company hopes to find a toehold to improve its business performance in China, where demand is quickly recovering among major countries hit by the coronavirus crisis. The company confirmed at a board meeting held in mid-October that it will proceed with the plan. Nissan will open its own production lines in plants owned by its joint venture partner, Dongfeng Motor Group in Wuhan and Changzhou. The number of Nissan’s passenger vehicle production sites in China will increase from 4 to 6. When completed, Nissan will have a production capacity well over the 1.49 million units for Honda and the 1.27 million units for Toyota. Nissan will also strengthen sales of new models. By 2022, 7 models, including the new Ariya, will be successively launched in the China market. The company will also actively market models that use Nissan’s unique hybrid technology, the e-Power system, which combines an electric motor with a gasoline engine that charges the vehicle’s battery. China is the largest market for new vehicles. In 2019, 25.77 million new vehicles were sold there, which represented a 10 % drop from 2017 but was still much higher than the second-largest market, the United States, where 17.48 million units were sold. New vehicle sales have been making a notable recovery. Although they fell by 80 % in February compared with the same month last year, they have recovered steadily since then. And since May, new vehicle sales have been exceeding the previous year’s level by more than 10 %. Automakers other than Nissan are also counting heavily on the China market. This summer, Toyota began building 2 plants in Tianjin and Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, which it says will serve as production sites for EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs). Honda has added production lines at 2 plants in Wuhan and Guangzhou this year, increasing its production capacity by 240.000 cars. Excessive focus on the Chinese market could be a risk because China is at odds with Japan’s main ally, the United States. Delicate balancing is required for Japanese automakers since they cannot ignore China or the U.S., which are the world’s largest and second-largest markets, respectively. +++

+++ PORSCHE will soon introduce a radical reinvention of its best-selling model: the Macan SUV. It will adopt an all-new platform that will turn the car all-electric, making it Porsche’s second EV following the recently released Taycan. A massive design overhaul is coming, with the Macan moving to a more coupé SUV-like silhouette as well as taking clear inspiration from its Taycan sibling. Porsche designers are looking to put a lot of distance between the old and new Macans for one very important reason: both the current car and the second-generation model will be sold alongside each other for some time, offering Macan buyers the choice of 4 or 6 cylinder petrol power in the old car, or a pure-electric drivetrain in the newcomer.The new Macan will have a similar front end to the Taycan, with slimmer LED headlights sunk into the nose. At the back there are new tail-lights too, and a small active aero wing will be a part of the package. However, it’s when we look at the car in profile that the biggest change emerges: the new Macan will be a coupé-SUV, with the more aerodynamic shape perfectly suited to the new battery-electric drivetrain. The 2022 modelyear Macan will be the first VW Group car to sit on a new platform called Premium Platform Electric (PPE). It’s best seen as an all-electric counterpart to the current Macan’s MLB platform, intended for larger and higher-riding cars than MEB, the group’s electric MQB equivalent. Technical details are limited, but the PPE platform will match the Taycan’s 800 Volt / 350kW charging capability. This hints that the Macan will target a long range on a single charge; Porsche could look to make its electric SUV a long-range EV compared with the sportier Taycan, with a 500 km-plus variant crowning a Macan EV line-up consisting of rear and all-wheel-drive versions with different ranges, performance levels and prices. Since its introduction in 2014, the SUV has been a huge success for the German firm, with just shy of 100.000 examples being sold around the world last year. But after only one generation Porsche will radically overhaul the model, as explained to us earlier in the year by Porsche’s research and development boss. “We already started the development of an electric Macan”, Michael Steiner, Porsche’s executive board member for R&D, told. “It is an obligation for us, at Porsche, to think about and work on sporty answers to electric cars”. The move to radically overhaul the firm’s most popular new car is considered to be a risky decision, given the relatively small, but growing, market share EVs currently have around the world. So to counter any resistance from buyers who may not want an electric Macan, Porsche will continue to sell the existing SUV alongside the all-new version. +++

+++ After stripping down a Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive unit, RENAULT found that the cost of the components used was similar to what they spend for their own system, the e-tech hybrid. So just how similar, you ask? Well, Renault boss Luca de Meo said that his company’s hybrid tech was “very close” in terms of cost to Toyota’s system, despite the Japanese carmaker having a head start of more than 20 years as far as this technology is concerned. “On the cost side, we estimate that we are very close to the cost of Toyota”, he said during an interview. De Meo went on to promise that his company will “reduce costs dramatically in the next 2-3 years” for the e-tech system, whose setup is similar to Toyota’s in the sense that it uses a series-parallel system that can run the car with electric power alone, or use the combustion engine additionally. The Renault CEO also said that the cost of the system was further reduced by the fact that the carmaker doesn’t use a conventional gearbox, but rather a clutchless ‘dog’ gearbox, along with a second electric motor to synchronize the combustion and electric engines. Toyota uses a similar system, dubbed e-CVT. If you’re wondering just how Renault managed to catch up to Toyota given the latter launching its first hybrid system all the way back in 1997, well, look no further than Formula 1. De Meo stated that Renault has been working on this system for 10 years, utilizing the engineering skills of the Renault F1 Team. It’s interesting to note that Renault isn’t sharing its hybrid tech with alliance partner Nissan. When asked about this, de Meo said: “This was the same question I asked the people here when I joined: why don’t we have the same solution? But history is history”. He added that e-Tech was “more adapted to European conditions” than Nissan’s ePower system. +++

+++ Hyundai’s self-driving joint venture Motional and public transit technology firm Via have partnered to launch a shared ROBOTAXI service in the United States next year, the companies said. The partnership, which plans to launch the rides in the first half of 2021, aims to combine Motional’s driverless vehicles with Via’s technology that powers booking, routing, passenger and vehicle assignment. Last week, Motional said it would resume its self-driving mobility service with Lyft in Las Vegas after pausing operations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The partnership said it was working to ensure the health and safety of vehicle occupants. Motional, which is jointly run by auto supplier Aptiv, competes with Waymo, General Motors’ Cruise and Argo AI, jointly controlled by Ford and Volkswagen. +++

+++ China’s largest carmaker SAIC MOTOR Corporation is planning to sell at least 100.000 new energy vehicles a year in Europe by 2025, as part of its goal to deliver 1 million vehicles in overseas markets in the same year. SAIC, partner of General Motors and Volkswagen, unveiled the plan while it launched its first self-operated shipping route to Europe last week, with a roll-on roll-off, or ro-ro, ship loaded with some 1.800 electric cars on its maiden voyage now en route to Zeebrugge in Belgium. Yu De, managing director of SAIC Motor International Business Department, said the carmaker, which sold over 6 million vehicles in China last year, established its international business unit in 2011. Now its business is present in over 60 countries and regions, with the overseas sales network comprising over 750 dealerships, and has seven to eight markets where the annual sales can reach 10.000 vehicles. In the first 9 months of the year, the carmaker sold 221.000 vehicles in overseas markets, accounting for one third of the total overseas sales of Chinese automakers. Yu said the company started to explore the European market in late 2019 as the continent is promoting new energy vehicles. The coronavirus pandemic hit hard the demand, but its sales there soared nevertheless, thanks to the carmaker’s competitive edge in battery safety, life span and mileage. Its MG ZS EV was the first small-sized electric SUV to get a 5-star rating in Euro New Car Assessment Programme. “We made it into the list of top-five best-sellers in NEV-friendly countries including the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway, and this shows they like our products”, Yu said. Statistics show SAIC delivered almost 12.000 MG and Maxus-branded new energy vehicles in Europe in the first 3 quarters of this year. Considering its models’ increasing popularity, SAIC launched its own shipping service last week to ensure quality and time-efficient deliveries, which Yu said is also a symbol of the carmaker’s strength. “Usually, Chinese carmakers do not have a complete presence along the industry chain in overseas markets. SAIC is an exception”, Yu said. “We have covered car production, spare parts, logistics and even financial service. We will bring into full play our advantage to better serve our customers”. In Europe, SAIC’s MG and Maxus brands are present in more than 10 countries, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. The carmaker said the number of sales and after-sales stores in the continent will exceed 200 within the year. Zhao Aimin, executive vice-president of SAIC Motor international, said the company will launch 5 to 6 models in Europe in 3 years, and all of them are new energy vehicles. “European carmakers have done a terrific job in terms of gasoline vehicles, but we are leading in terms of new energy vehicles. That’s why we are confident in our goal, although we are the visiting team”, Zhao said. Yu said this is part of SAIC’s guiding strategy of offering different things. For example, in developed markets like Europe, new energy vehicles serve as an entry point, while in emerging markets, the carmaker highlights its intelligent connected vehicles. Another thing Yu said SAIC has followed is to be part of the markets where it is present, which he believes is crucial to any company’s overseas operations. “When we enter a market, we want to join the local community and undertake social responsibility”, he said. Yu said SAIC sponsors concerts, soccer games, and does things for the public good during the Covid-19 pandemic, and over 70 % of its local teams are local people. “We are not a small company and we don’t come and go. We live and work there together with them, and love things they love”, he said. +++

+++ SKODA will finally bring its ever-popular Fabia back into line with its Volkswagen Group siblings with an all-new version next year. Plans to bring the 4th generation Fabia to market in 2022 have been revised to reduce the complexity of having older and newer platforms produced at the same time within the group. As such, it will be revealed in the first half of next year, with first examples expected to arrive in showrooms well before the end of 2021. The current architecture of the Fabia, a re-engineered version of a platform first used back in 2008, will be junked in favour of purely MQB A0 underpinnings. That’s the same platform used by the Audi A1 Sportback, Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo, as evidenced by the Polo-based Fabia development mules that were spotted recently. Crucially, this platform will ensure the Czech supermini is no longer the poor relation of the family. As for styling, sources suggest a greater leap than the Fabia made between its second and third generations. Inspiration will come from the linked Kamiq in particular, plus design elements and details from the Scala and Octavia. The interior is likely to receive the biggest overhaul, however, given that the current Fabia’s dashboard design and technology are now off the pace compared with the Volkswagen Group standard. As such, a revised layout, much larger and clearer displays and Skoda’s latest infotainment system and connectivity features will be introduced. Despite wider group plans, the Fabia won’t offer any form of electrification initially, not even mild-hybrid engines. Insiders tell us this will keep the Fabia affordable at its core, appealing to drivers who are put off by the influx of superminis moving up to and even beyond €30.000. As electrified powertrain technology becomes more attainable in future, however, it could be brought across from other group models. As such, the new Fabia’s engines will be familiar, albeit now without any diesels. The turbocharged 3-cylinder petrol TSI will sit at the heart of the range in varying power outputs, while a cheaper naturally aspirated 3-pot will also be used. The switch to the MQB platform should also yield noticeable forward strides in the fields of refinement and comfort. The current Fabia remains one of the more spacious in its class, so actual size may not change, however. I expect prices for the Fabia to increase beyond the base price of today’s model but not significantly so. +++

+++ SSANGYONG reported a quarterly operating loss for a 15th straight quarter between July and September as exports continue to decline and demand in Korea fails to pick up. The Korean unit of Indian auto giant Mahindra announced revenue of 705.7 billion won ($624.1 million) for the year’s third quarter; a 15.6 % decline on year. Operating loss during the same period came to 93.2 billion won and net loss was 102.4 billion won. In the July-September period, SsangYong sold a total of 25.350 vehicles, marking an on-year decline of 18.5 %. According to the company, a decline in exports and reinforced social distancing rules in Korea due to the Covid-19 pandemic were behind the demand cut. By quarterly comparison, SsangYong managed to see a higher revenue figure and lower operating loss between July and September. “Q3 sales have shown an upward trend for a third consecutive quarter this year, recording the highest performance this year boosted by the continuous release of special editions, diversification of online sales channels and non-face-to-face marketing programs”, SsangYong said in a statement. “In particular, the company’s Q3 exports showed a clear recovery with an uptrend for three consecutive months since June, following the resumption of economic activities in major strategic overseas markets”. SsangYong’s net loss, however, fell to 102.4 billion won in the third quarter from the second quarter’s 8.9 billion won. During the first quarter, the figure was 193.5 billion won. According to the company’s spokesman, the second-quarter net loss was significantly smaller as SsangYong sold off its real estate assets in Guro, western Seoul, and Busan logistics center as part of its self-rescue plan. There were no asset sell-offs during the third quarter. SsangYong is in a difficult position after parent company Mahindra earlier this year withdrew its initial promise to inject 230 billion won into the struggling unit. Instead, it offered a one-time injection of 40 billion won. Mahindra currently owns 75 % of the Korean unit. In a line of effort to improve the situation, SsangYong has cut down labor costs, downsized welfare expenses and rolled out new models despite the cash-strapped situation. The company released the Tivoli Air this month and is planning to launch the all-new Rexton next month. +++

+++ The first batch of China-made TESLA Model 3 electric vehicles ready for export will start their voyage to Europe on Tuesday, said official. All produced in Shanghai’s Tesla’s Gigafactory, these vehicles totaling around 7.000 are expected to reach Belgium in November, before being further shipped to Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and Sweden, said Chen Yin, executive vice-mayor of Shanghai at a ceremony held at Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai’s ceremony to mark China-made vehicles export to Europe. It took Tesla 10 months to complete the first-phase construction of the Shanghai plant. After delivering the first batch of China-made Model 3 electric vehicles 10 months ago, Tesla is looking to supply markets beyond the China market. “This is showcasing to the world not only the speed and efficiency of Chinese construction, but also the quality of Chinese manufacturing”, said Zhu Xiaotong, Tesla’s global vice-president and head of Tesla China. “The China-made Tesla to be exported to Europe is a proof of the nation’s capability and competitiveness in manufacturing advanced new energy vehicles”, said Chen. As of the end of September, the Shanghai Tesla Gigafactory had produced 85.000 vehicles, added Chen. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has already delivered more than 14.000 units of its all-electric ID.3. That’s a pretty impressive number considering that the ID.3 started reaching European customers only 6 weeks ago. Mind you, due to software problems, customers cannot use all vehicle functions just yet. More importantly, Volkswagen has around 38.000 orders for the ID.3, which means there are still 24.000 units left to deliver at this moment. “So far there have been around 38.000 orders and more than 14.000 vehicles have already been delivered”, a spokesman told. The very first ID.3 was handed over to a customer in Dresden in mid-September. The carmaker’s assessment regarding the ID.3 is positive, despite the delayed start caused by software issues. Volkswagen was forced to start deliveries with some features disabled; models delivered in September lacked the App Connect function and the distance feature in the head-up display. It promised to activate them with a software update at the beginning of 2021. Volkswagen wants the ID.3 to become the Golf of the electric age and bring e-mobility into everyday life. For that to happen, the automaker has poured huge investments in the ID.3, as well as the ID.4 and ID.Buzz minivan. By 2024, VW plans to invest €33 billion in the expansion of e-mobility as it aims to become the market leader in battery-electric vehicles. +++

+++ In late July, South Korean TV presenter Park Ji-yoon and her family of 4 were involved in a car accident where their vehicle collided head-on with a 2.5-ton truck. All 4 members of the family walked away from the crash with only minor injuries. The accident attracted unexpected publicity for Park’s vehicle: a VOLVO XC90. Among local customers, the Swedish automaker is well known for its sturdiness. While sturdiness may not be the most exciting adjective to describe a car, the implied safety appeals to drivers navigating Seoul’s busy roads. Volvo Cars Korea has leant into this image. Last month it launched the Moment 3 campaign to introduce all the technology that goes into keeping Volvo cars (and their drivers) safe on the road. The marketing and PR campaign is part of a global initiative to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Volvo’s Traffic Accident Research Team. “We launched a big section on our official website this month to present the history of our safety technology, the systems we developed in the past for that purpose and some of the traffic accident data collected by our research team. all in one place so that our customers can see what we’re up to in this area”, said a Volvo Cars Korea spokesman. The first of the 3 key themes under the Moment 3 campaign is family safety. Volvo’s family-targeted SUVs like the XC60 and XC90 are equipped with a suite of high-tech safety features, including a Pilot Assist feature that maintains the distance with the car in front and ensures the vehicle stays in the center of the road. The XC90 also comes with a special car seat that can be attached for kids. Keeping children in the back of the car safe has long been an area of research for the Swedish automaker. It was the first company to release a rear-facing child seat in 1978, better protecting a child both during accidents and while driving. Volvo recommends using rear-facing seats for children under 4 years old in order to minimize the movement of their head and neck while traveling. The car seat was inspired by NASA astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. Watching the scene being aired live, an engineering professor in Gothenburg, Sweden, noticed that Glenn was traveling backwards on a tilted seat and came up with the idea of mimicking the design in cars. As part of the Moment 3 campaign, Volvo put together the history of its rear-facing seats, how it contributes to lowering fatalities of young children in car accidents in Sweden and uses test dummies to demonstrate why it is safer compared to other child seats, all in one video. For the rest of the safety campaign, Volvo plans to share informative, multimedia content under the themes “Million More,” focusing on its accident research team; and “City Safety”, introducing technology to ensure that Volvo vehicles safely run on city roads alongside passengers and bikes. +++ 

+++ Prosecutors in the German city of Stuttgart have dropped a market manipulation investigation into former Volkswagen chief executive Martin WINTERKORN , deferring to a criminal case against him in the city of Braunschweig. Prosecutors in Stuttgart had looked at whether Winterkorn had manipulated markets by delaying the disclosure of VW’s emissions scandal in 2015. VW in September that year admitted using engine control software to cheat U.S. diesel emission tests, battering its share price. Until his resignation in 2015 in the wake of the scandal, Winterkorn was both CEO of Volkswagen and of the group’s main shareholder, Stuttgart-based Porsche SE. A spokeswoman for the Stuttgart prosecutors said the investigation was dropped because any penalty imposed by the court there would have little significance compared to what could result from the Braunschweig proceedings. A lawyer for Winterkorn has said his client denies the charges. Should Winterkorn be acquitted by the Braunschweig court Stuttgart prosecutors may decide to resume their investigation, she said. +++ 

 

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