Newsflash: Volvo ‘s instapper XC20 wordt volledig elektrisch

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+++ Rupert Stadler, former chief executive of AUDI , arrived in court in Munich to face fraud charges as part of Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal, which was uncovered by United States regulators 5 years ago. Volkswagen and Audi were caught disguising excessive diesel pollution by using illegal engine management software to falsify emissions readings during anti-pollution tests. The carmaker initially claimed the fraud was the work of a handful of engineers, and that no senior managers were involved, but testimony from a raft employees led prosecutors to remand Stadler in custody for four months in 2018. He arrived in court in a Mercedes-Benz to face trial which is expected to take until 2022. Stadler is accused of knowingly selling cars which had manipulated engine software and did not comply with environmental standards. Stadler has denied to charges. +++

+++ Crowds packed a mega motor show in BEIJING on Saturday (the only major international auto event this year) as manufacturers hope to boost the world’s biggest car market despite the coronavirus battering demand. Delayed for 5 months because of the pandemic, the 10-day event opened as China has largely brought the virus outbreak under control, although travel restrictions mean most overseas executives appeared virtually to introduce their new motors. But this did not stop a packed audience in mandatory face masks from cheering as new cars were driven on stage to be shown off. The fact the glitzy gathering was going ahead marked “a symbol of hope” in the industry, BMW China CEO Jochen Goller told the crowds Saturday morning. Tickets were limited this year in a bid to reduce crowds, although crowds surged through the exhibition centre shoulder-to-shoulder. China’s auto industry is showing signs of recovery after passenger car sales collapsed by around 80 % in February, when consumers stayed home and the economy came to a near-standstill to curb the virus outbreak. Sales have picked up after a painful first quarter; up 8.8 % on-year last month according to the China Passenger Car Association. Saturday’s sprawling displays of almost 800 vehicles includes 82 world premieres, with automakers jostling to gain market share and revive consumer interest after a long slump predating the pandemic. In a year where global auto sales are expected to fall by 20 %, rating agency S&P expects China may be the only market to catch up with 2019 volumes in the next 2 years. Electric vehicles were also a prominent feature of the China show as Beijing pushed the sector and targets a 25 % adoption of energy-saving vehicles by 2025. There were 160 on display on top of concept cars from makers including luxury brand Audi, Japanese giants Honda and Nissan and Chinese electric vehicle start-ups like Nio and XPeng. China’s electric vehicle firms have seen a surge in interest from investors as they search for the next Tesla (also hosting a stand drawing large crowds) with XPeng and Li Auto both going public in the US this year. Meanwhile, established players like Volkswagen and BMW made commitments to their own electric future, with all-electric models to be produced in China. Although China’s auto sales are still expected to fall by up to 9 % this year overall, new energy vehicles are likely to pick up in the second half, S&P predicted. +++

+++ BMW ’s iX3 has just left the assembly line at the BMW-Brilliance Automotive (BBA) joint venture plant in Shenyang, China, where production kicked off earlier this week on September 26. This BBA production facility is meant to have a comprehensive quality management system, where a “zero defect concept” strategy ensures that high global market requirements for electric vehicles are met. The iX3 is built by BBA on the same line as the internal combustion engine-powered X3. BBA executive Franz Decker had this to say during the production start event: “Today, we begin production of the BMW iX3, the first pure electric model from our core BMW brand. With a production system like this, specialized for high quality, we are able to deliver what customers worldwide demand from premium vehicles”. The joint venture conducts no fewer than 128 mechanical tests and 994 software functionality tests to ensure the high quality of the high-voltage batteries. Next up are 140 functional tests that check every aspect of the iX3, including acceleration. BMW unveiled the iX3 during an online event this past summer in July, boasting about its fifth-generation eDrive system, which includes an 80 kWh battery pack and an electric motor, producing a total system output of 282 hp and 400 Nm. Everything then goes to the rear wheels, sending you to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds, while the top speed is limited to 180 km/h. The iX3 will boast a range of 460 km on a full charge per the WLTP. +++

+++ Britain’s car industry risks some tariffs being imposed after BREXIT as Brussels will not allow components from countries such as Turkey and Japan to count towards a content threshold in a trade deal, an industry source said. In ongoing talks to strike a post-Brexit trade agreement, the EU will not accept non-EU parts being combined with EU and British ones to meet a roughly 55 % level for local content, the source said, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The details were outlined in a letter from Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost to the sector, the country’s biggest exporter of goods. While such a move would not lead to tariffs on manufacturers with high domestic and European sourcing, it could affect Japanese companies such as Nissan, which brings in more content from elsewhere than some of its peers. “We want our UK team of 7.000 people to have the best possible chance of future success”, Nissan (which operates Britain’s biggest car factory) said in a statement. “We continue to urge the United Kingdom and EU negotiators to work collaboratively towards an orderly balanced Brexit that will continue to encourage mutually beneficial trade”. There is a particular risk around electric cars with key elements, such as batteries, sourced from outside the bloc. A spokesman for prime minister Boris Johnson said the government would keep working with the sector, which employs some 800.000 people in Britain and has continually lobbied for free and unfettered trade with its biggest market to be kept. “Rules of origin commitments exist in all free-trade agreements and as negotiations progress we remain committed to working with the automotive industry to try to ensure an outcome that reflects business interests across the UK”, he said. +++

+++ CUPRA boss Wayne Griffiths said the firm remains committed to “the dream” of putting the Tavascan electric concept into production, but hinted it is unlikely before 2024. The SUV-coupé concept, built on the Volkswagen Group MEB platform, was first shown at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, featuring radical exterior styling and a 306 hp twin-motor powertrain. Griffiths said the Tavascan is “a dream for the brand and we’re fighting to bring it to reality”. He added: “It’s a project we’re working on, but we’re not ready to announce dates or timings, not because we have doubts but because we have a lot of other models to launch first. The pipeline is full for the next few years”. Those models include the new Formentor and the el-Born, Cupra’s first full EV, which will be launched next year. Griffiths declined to comment on reports that the Tavascan could be built in China from 2024 onwards as part of a joint venture between the Volkswagen Group and JAC Motors. Named after a ski resort near the French border in Catalonia, the Tavascan is said to marry “the presence of an SUV with the sleekness of a sports coupé” and showcases the evolution of Cupra design as it moves further away from its parent company, Seat. The front end of the Tavascan is designed to balance the desire for “muscularity and dynamism”, the company claims, with an exterior shape honed for range-boosting aerodynamic efficiency. The front end is also intended to create a “totally different focal point” from those of conventional combustion-engined cars, with an illuminated Cupra logo mounted low, below the blanked-out grille. A separate badge spells out ‘Cupra’ in a vent linked to the headlights. The rear is also heavily dominated by the lower portion’s styling, with a striking bumper shape mated to a steeply raked rear window line and full-width light bar, intersected by the Cupra logo. It is claimed each vent and slat on the body serves a purpose, either in allowing air to flow over the body or directing it internally to cool batteries. The model also sits on aero-optimised 22 inch wheels. Cupra claims the interior “mixes material and technological concepts with openness and focus” by the use of “contrasting colours, structural carbon and dynamic approaches to technology and design”. Leather, carbon and Alcantara are the dominant materials. There is a floating dashboard but a digital instrument cluster and 13.0 inch infotainment screen are the focal points. The screen can be moved towards the passenger if needed and speaker and smartphone connectivity features are integrated into the seats. Cupra stresses that the Tavascan concept is designed to deliver “the performance, dynamics and drivability its customers demand”. +++ 

+++ On his first day in Ford’s top job, chief operating officer Jim FARLEY is replacing the company’s chief financial officer and announcing other structural and management changes. The company says in a prepared statement that chief financial officer Tim Stone is leaving October 15 to be chief operating officer at a small artificial intelligence company. Stone had a short tenure at Ford, joining the company from Amazon in April of last year. He’ll be replaced by John Lawler, a 30-year company veteran who has been running autonomous vehicle operations. During Stone’s tenure, the company has struggled in the midst of an $11 billion restructuring plan designed to cut expenses and raise capital for spending on new technology such as autonomous and electric vehicles. Wall Street analysts raised questions about the pace of the restructuring. Farley says in the statement that Ford has made progress under retiring CEO Jim Hackett, but he wants to speed up its transformation, which has been in the works for over a year. The company has plans to grow revenue and hit a sustained 8 % pretax profit margin. But the statement gave no time frame to reach that goal. The statement says Ford will expand its commercial vehicle business with new software services. It also plans to offer more electric vehicles around the globe including a Transit van and F-150 pickups. There also are plans for an electric Mustang, as well as unspecified SUVs and Lincoln vehicles. Ford also plans to add more affordable vehicles to its lineup, although no details were given. Farley is retooling the company’s management structure into three regional business units: The Americas and International Markets, Europe and China. He also plans a new business out of the self-driving system created by Argo AI, a subsidiary in which Ford is the primary investor, but no specifics were given. “We are going to compete like a challenger (allocate capital to higher growth and return opportunities to create value) and earn customers for life through great products and a rewarding ownership experience”, Farley said in the statement. Earlier this month the company said it would offer early retirement incentives with hopes of cutting its U.S. white-collar workforce by 1.400 more positions. The move was part of the broader restructuring. Last year the company said it would cut 12.000 jobs in Europe and 7.000 white-collar positions worldwide as it trimmed expenses to prepare for a world of autonomous and electric vehicles. The 7.000 salaried positions amounted to 10% of Ford’s total worldwide and included 2.300 in the U.S. The cuts were accomplished with buyouts and involuntary layoffs. The cuts were designed to reduce bureaucracy and allow the company to make faster decisions. Like other automakers, Ford has been struggling this year as the coronavirus forced factory closures and chased customers away from showrooms. Factories that were shuttered have been running for several months and demand has been returning. From April through June, Ford’s posted better-than-expected results with a $1.12 billion net profit. It was pushed into the black by a $3.5 billion accounting gain on the value of its autonomous vehicle operation. Without that, it would have lost $1.9 billion. In August, Ford named Farley (58) as its new CEO. Hackett is retiring after 3 years at the helm. Farley, who has been with Ford for more than a decade, had been chief operating officer since February and clearly was being groomed for the top position. +++

+++ FORD , which operates 2 auto plants in Germany, has applied for €500 million of German loan guarantees aimed at cushioning the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. While Germany has given coronavirus-related aid to companies such as auto parts supplier Leoni, Ford would be the first major carmaker in the country to receive such help from the government. The auto sector, one of the key pillars of Germany’s industry, was struggling even before the pandemic due to the shift towards electric vehicles and lower worldwide demand. Ford wants the federal government to grant most of the loan guarantees, while a smaller share is expected to come from German states. The company said it was part of its normal business to be in contact with financial institutions, without providing further details. Ford’s German subsidiary was founded in 1925 and operates factories in the western city of Cologne and in Saarlouis close to the French border. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS and Nikola have not finalized their deal to jointly build electric pickup trucks and hydrogen fuel cell tractor-trailers, a few days ahead of the date targeted, and are continuing discussions, GM said. “Our transaction with Nikola has not closed”, spokeswoman Juli Huston-Rough said. “We are continuing our discussions with Nikola and will provide further updates when appropriate or required”. A statement by Nikola echoed GM’s. Huston-Rough and a Nikola spokeswoman declined to comment further when asked if terms of the deal were being renegotiated. When the deal was announced, Nikola said it expected it to close before October 5, adding either side could terminate the agreement if it wasn’t finalized by December 3. The alliance, announced September 8, included plans for GM to receive an 11 % stake in Nikola then worth about $2 billion and payments up to $700 million for building the startup’s Badger pickup. With Nikola shares now trading below $18 a share, GM’s potential stake is worth less than half the initial value. In return, GM agreed to supply Nikola with electric batteries, a chassis architecture and a factory to build the Badger pickup, as well as GM’s fuel cell system for Nikola’s planned heavy trucks. As part of the deal, GM also would keep 80 % of EV regulatory credits generated by the Badger and have the right to buy the rest at market rates, which would help GM offset sales of its gasoline-powered vehicles. Short-seller Hindenburg Research then released a scathing report on September 10 that called Nikola a “fraud” and said Nikola founder and then executive chairman Trevor Milton had made false claims about Nikola’s proprietary technology. Milton denied the allegations and Nikola threatened legal action while referring the matter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice have reportedly opened investigations into the matter, although neither has confirmed that. Milton, who owns 25 % of Nikola, resigned on September 21, citing a desire to not be a distraction. He was replaced by board member and former GM vice chairman Steve Girsky, whose firm VectoIQ took Nikola public earlier this year through a reverse merger. Hindenburg previously said Milton’s exit was “only the beginning of Nikola’s unraveling” and warned GM to “carefully evaluate” the potential damage to its brand. GM, instead, has said it would stand by the deal, which it said made strategic sense by giving the Detroit automaker scale to cut costs. +++

+++ Berlin based technology group IOTA said it has teamed up with several large corporations around the world such as Jaguar Land Rover and NTT Data in the launch of software that would grant consumers remote access and control of items such as cars and appliances. The software, called IOTA Access and developed by the University of Cambridge as well as a European start-up 3 years ago, also grants and revokes conditional access by individuals other than the user to the physical devices. IOTA, which specializes in distributed ledgers (a technology similar to blockchain) has teamed up with Jaguar Land Rover, chipmaker STMicroelectronics and NTT Data, among other companies, to launch IOTA Access, it said in a statement. Global companies are exploring blockchain applications to figure out different ways in which they can leverage the technology to suit their needs. “With IOTA Access, we have to focus on getting more to the consumer”, Dominik Schiener, IOTA co-founder, told late last week. “You want to be able to use your phone to access anything. Our phones should be our personal keys”. 3 other European companies were part of the partnership, Schiener said. The product will be embedded in Jaguar vehicles, Schiener noted, as the British carmaker has a long-standing partnership with IOTA. Using Jaguar as an example for this new software, consumers would be able to access the trunk remotely, for instance, to allow a neighbor to put a package in it that had been delivered. IOTA’s Schiener said STMicroelectronics provided the hardware such as the micro-controllers that enable the smart devices, while NTT helped develop the technology. +++

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER has announced that future models will use new materials created with recycled wasteland and ocean plastic, as part of a new company-wide sustainability drive. The British company has teamed up with Italian fibre and polymer giant Aquaful, with next generation cars set to be offered with floor mats and interior trims using Econyl. It’s a patented yarn produced using waste plastics including recycled industrial materials, fabric offcuts from clothing manufacturers, and dumped fishing nets. The synthetic material is used widely in interior design and has been used in fashion and watchmaking, too. Its use in the automotive industry is already well established: BMW has used it in the i3 since 2016, Volvo turned to the material for the Ocean Race special editions in 2017, while much more recently the fibre is used in the floor mats of luxury vehicles like the brand new Mercedes S-Class limo and the all-electric Porsche Taycan. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Aquafil say that creating the reclaimed fibre over newly synthesised nylon is around 90 per cent less impactful on the environment. Byproducts, such as non-nylon, metallic materials or copper sulphate (found on discarded fishing nets) are removed and sent to alternative recycling industries. JLR says that the resulting product is hardwearing and premium to the touch, but has not identified which specific parts of its next interiors will be trimmed in Econyl, aside from the floor mats. +++

+++ LOTUS has secured financial support from the UK government to develop an all-new electric vehicle (EV) platform. The funding will come from the government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) following Lotus’s winning application in the Advanced Route to Market Demonstrator competition. Lotus won with its Lightweight Electric Vehicle Architecture (LEVA), which is planned to serve as “a showcase for pioneering new BEV chassis and powertrain concepts” and underpin a range of next-generation EVs. The platform will be further developed in partnership with lightweight engineering specialist Sarginsons Industries alongside a team of academics from Brunel University London. Lotus says it will confirm further details of the LEVA platform in due course. Matt Windle, executive director of engineering at Lotus, said: “This is great news for our industry and its transition to electrification. As a collaboration between Lotus, Sarginsons Industries and Brunel University London, there’s a wealth of talent involved, and we’re excited to have already begun the project work. Following the launch of the Lotus Evija, our all-electric hypercar, this project is a key building block in our vision to deliver a full range of electrified Lotus performance cars for the drivers. Funding of this nature is critical to stimulate the automotive industry and supply chain as both continue to adjust to a rapidly changing landscape”. Lotus is set to in 2021 unwrap its first all-new model in 12 years, sitting atop a new rivet-bonded platform and powered by a hybridised petrol V6. The Norfolk-based, Geely-owned firm is also expecting to begin deliveries of the Evija midway through next year. +++

+++ European Union antitrust regulators will decide by February 2 whether to clear the Fiat Chrysler and PSA plans to MERGER , a filing on the European Commission website showed. After a 2-month halt, the European Commission resumed its investigation of the deal after the companies provided data which it had requested. PSA has offered to make changes to its van joint venture with Toyota to try to allay EU antitrust concerns about its plan to create the world’s 4th-biggest carmaker with FCA. The EU executive will now seek feedback from rivals and customers before deciding whether to accept the offer or demand more. +++ 

+++ It looks like the MITSUBISHI i-MiEV is completely out of juice. The Japanese brand will completely end production of its tiny electric car this year. Global sales were only a little over 30.000 units over its lifetime. It’s not hard to see why the i-MiEV struggled. While its kei-car size and funky styling made it a unique city car, it was compromised in other ways. It only made 66 hp and had an official range of 100 km. While the limited range was augmented somewhat by DC fast charging capability, but it didn’t take long for competitors to launch larger, more powerful, longer-range cars for not a whole lot more money. And the gulf between the i-MiEV only expanded over the years. The reason the i-MiEV went so long unchanged was a lack of funding and resources. But now that Mitsubishi is part of the Renault-Nissan alliance, there will be a successor to the bubbly EV co-developed with Nissan to be launched in 2023. Whether this next small electric Mitsubishi appears in Europe seems like a toss-up. +++

+++ NIKOLA has announced that is is postoning the unveiling of its Badger pickup. The embattled startup had intended on unveiling the car at its event in Arizona, but on Wednesday, it was announced that this event will no longer happen. Nikola says this is because of the state’s ongoing restrictions enforced in response to the coronavirus pandemic. No replacement date has been given for when the Badger will be unveiled. “Due to Covid-19 audience size restrictions at Arizona’s major venues, we have made the decision to reschedule an in-person Nikola World until we can bring the Nikola community together safely”, the company said. Last February, Nikola first announced the Badger with a series of renderings and some preliminary specifications. The Badger has quite a bold and aggressive look, with plans calling for it to be offered in both hydrogen and electric forms. Nikola claimed that the electric pickup would have a 160 kWh lithium-ion battery pack providing approximately 482 km of range. By comparison, the hydrogen variant has been touted as having a range of up to 966 km. Those aren’t the only impressive figures, though, as the truck will allegedly deliver 906 hp and 1.328 Nm of torque. Nikola and General Motors announced a partnership in early September that calls for GM to develop and build the Badger, while Nikola will be tasked with selling and marketing the truck. It remains uncertain if this is still the plan as, just a few days ago, a GM spokeswoman confirmed that the deal with Nikola hasn’t been finalized despite initial plans calling for the deal to close before September 30. +++

+++ August has turned out to be another solid month for PLUG-IN ELECTRIC CAR sales globally. Maybe not as high as July, but still one of the all-time bests. The registration figures almost touched 241.000 (up 58 % year-over-year), which is 3.8 % of the total global market. By the way, the global market has sunk by 10 % year-over-year. The pure electric cars are still responsible for more than two-thirds of the plug-in segment (165.000 or 67 %), but the growth of 46 % year-over-year is 2 times lower than plug-in hybrids (up 92 % year-over-year to 76.000). Overall, close to 1.44 million plug-ins were sold so far this year. Some symbolic 1 % above 2019 at this point. The Tesla Model 3 continues to outsell all the other plug-ins by a huge margin. It could basically outsell the next 3 models combined! But there are interesting things happening down the table as well. Wuling’s Hong Guang Mini EV has become the number 2 for the month, the Tesla Model Y was third and jumped to 6th position year-to-date! Hyundai Kona Electric was able to pass the Nissan Leaf in third position. And the Ford Kuga PHEV is now number 15 year-to-date. The top-selling models last month were: 1. Tesla Model 3 (31.281 YTD 196.106), 2. Wuling’s Hong Guang Mini EV (9.150 YTD 17.546), 3. Tesla Model Y (8.052 YTD 29.007), 4. Renault Zoé (9.279 YTD 52.835), Hyundai Kona Electric (5.692 YTD 31.909). In terms of brands, Tesla once again is the number 1 with almost 43.000 (estimated). 5 other brands noted 5-digit results: SAIC, BYD, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and BMW. Surprisingly, Mercedes-Benz was the top European brand, mainly thanks to the A 250e. Nissan is going lower and lower in the table (currently at number 13), while Ford is going up. NIO managed to stay in the top 20 for another month with chances for number 17-19 soon. +++

+++ POLESTAR , the performance electric vehicle maker based in Sweden and owned by Geely, plans to build its Precept electric sedan in China at a new factory, its CEO said. Thomas Ingenlath, who is one of the few international executives to attend the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition 2020 after a 14-day compulsory quarantine upon his arrival in China, made the remarks at an event at the auto show. Polestar will build a manufacturing facility for the model in China, the world’s biggest auto market. The automaker started producing its Polestar 2 sedans this year in China and sells them in China, Europe and the United States. Ingenlath told this week that Polestar also plans to expand its sales network and is looking at new markets in the Asia Pacific region and the Middle East. +++

+++ The 4 main unions representing employees at RENAULT oppose its cost-cutting plans, union sources said, adding to the French carmaker’s restructuring headaches. Loss-making Renault, which is 15 % owned by the French government, has outlined €2 billion in savings, including via job cuts and reorganising its factories, to restore profitability. Employee representatives only have a consultative role in the plans, but rejecting them would complicate the task for new chief executive Luca de Meo. De Meo, who arrived in July, had called on staff to back him in a recent internal memo, saying: “I need you to carry out this turnaround”. The CFE-CGC, CFDT, CGT and Force Ouvriere unions rejected Renault’s plans at a meeting with representatives of the firm, 4 union sources said. The CFE-CGC union confirmed its opposition to the cuts in a statement, saying it was not convinced by the way Renault planned to go about its plans even if it understood the economic imperatives. The company has like peers been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, which forced it to halt production earlier this year while dealerships also closed temporarily. This exacerbated existing problems with profitability, and De Meo wants Renault to produce fewer cars while improving margins. The firm plans to cut 15.000 jobs worldwide in the next 3 years, including 4.600 in France. Unions have rejected wide-ranging layoff plans by other carmakers in France before, including PSA in 2012. This has not stopped them from going ahead. But PSA managed to get unions on board for subsequent competitiveness agreements, which included wage freezes. +++

+++ SAIC MOTOR , the biggest automaker in China, plans to have nearly 100 new energy models with its partners by 2025, its president Wang Xiaoqiu said. New energy vehicles include battery electric vehicles as well as plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Among the nearly 100 models, which include new and existing models, SAIC plans to have over 20 plug-in hybrid models and 10 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, Wang said. Nearly 60 of them will be from SAIC’s own brands. SAIC partners with Volkswagen and General Motors. They have announced their plans for electric vehicles in China, the world’s biggest auto market. Monthly sales of the Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV, a micro electric car by a venture between SAIC, GM and another local partner, have reached 20.000 units, Wang said. +++

+++ SEAT has seen an uptick in demand despite the Covid-19 pandemic and sales in September could surpass those in the same month of 2019, which was a record year, its incoming chairman told. “We are having a very good September”, Wayne Griffiths said at the carmaker’s plant outside Barcelona. “And the 4th quarter is looking good both for Seat and Cupra, because I think that with our investments in new products we are in a great position to start to grow again when the market starts to come back”. Cupra is Seat’s sports car brand. Griffiths was last week named Seat’s new chairman and will keep his role as the head of Cupra. At its Martorell plant, just outside Barcelona, Cupra started on Tuesday to produce its new Formentor model. Overall output at the factory is back at the levels before the pandemic, said Griffiths. He said the carmaker remained committed to starting production of electric vehicles in Martorell in 2025, but that it would depend on government support and other factors. The Spanish government announced in June a €3.7 billion aid package for the auto industry, including a scheme to encourage drivers to trade in older cars for new low-emission and electric vehicles. Carmakers are ramping up production of battery-powered vehicles to try to meet tough European emissions regulations, but the hefty costs involved have come just as the sector has been hit by the coronavirus crisis. +++

+++ SOUTH AFRICA ’s car makers have asked the government to reduce taxes on new vehicle purchases as part of a proposed stimulus package for the coronavirus-hit sector, according to a presentation from an industry body. The proposal, aimed at boosting local sales of new cars as rising coronavirus cases threaten demand in key export markets, was presented to the government on Monday by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA), its chief executive Mike Mabasa said. NAAMSA represents global car giants like Nissan and Toyota which produce vehicles in South Africa, with around 64 % marked for export. Automakers want to lower the tax rate for new vehicles from 42 % of the price currently to between 35 % and 38 %, Mabasa said. Removing a tax on carbon dioxide emissions imposed at purchase and reducing an ad valorem levy (a value-based tax on items considered a luxury in South Africa) could together boost new sales by almost 28.400, NAAMSA’s presentation showed. Without this, some NAAMSA members who rely heavily on export sales could find their South African operations become unviable, Mabasa warned. “If the investments car makers are making are not giving them the required return, they will certainly consider leaving the country as a result of that”, he said. That would hurt an ambitious 2035 plan to supercharge auto manufacturing in South Africa, a key element of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s attempts to revive growth and bring unemployment down through industrialisation. The coronavirus crisis is already thought to have put some key aims of the plan out of reach as a lockdown brought the industry to a standstill and both local and global demand collapsed. The additional demand for new vehicles resulting from the proposed tax cuts would be equivalent to around a month of sales, Mabasa said. He added that NAAMSA estimated this could create some 4,000 jobs across the industry. Removing the sales tax would result in an additional 1 billion rand ($58.22 million) for the country’s strained treasury, while the reduction in the ad valorem tax would have a neutral impact, as higher sales would offset the lower rate of tax per vehicle, NAAMSA estimated. Automakers also asked the government to set aside a portion of existing coronavirus relief, such as a Covid-19 fund for small businesses, for transport operators to stimulate fleet renewals. +++

+++ TESLA is poised to start selling some Model 3 vehicles made in China equipped with cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, 2 people familiar with the matter said. Currently, the Model 3 electric sedans made at the carmaker’s Chinese plant use nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) batteries. Tesla will announce the product change as early as Thursday, the 2 sources said. They declined to be named as the matter is confidential. LFP batteries are cheaper to make and contain no cobalt, one of the most expensive metals used in electric vehicle batteries. Tesla will use LFP batteries in all Model 3 vehicles made in China with standard driving ranges, according to the sources. In China, Tesla sold over 11.000 vehicles, mostly Model 3s, in August. It is also building a new car manufacturing capacity for the Model Y in Shanghai and expects to start delivery of them from next year. It was previously reported that Tesla would use LFP batteries made by CATL, which declined to comment at the time. Tesla cut the starting price of its Chinese-made Model 3 sedans by about 8 % to 249,900 yuan ($36,805), once Chinese subsidies for electric vehicles are taken into account, according to its China website. Previously, the starting price for Model 3 sedans made in Tesla’s Shanghai factory with a standard driving range was 271,550 yuan, after state purchase subsidies. Tesla started to deliver cars from the Shanghai factory in December, helping it save on shipping costs and tariffs for imported models. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA ‘s annual global sales of electrified vehicles could reach 5.5 million in 2025, 5 years earlier than initially planned, a senior company executive said at an industry conference. Toyota in 2017 had announced a plan to sell 5.5 million electrified vehicles, including 4.5 million of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles and 1 million electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, by 2030. Seiya Nakao, chairman and president of Toyota China’s engineering and manufacturing, said auto electrification was progressing faster than expected and the top Japanese automaker thinks it can reach the target sooner. A China-based Toyota spokesman said 2025 was not a formal company target now. Toyota sold more than 10 million vehicles globally last year, including around 2 million electrified vehicles. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN chairman Herbert Diess has used the company’s annual general meeting to reveal some new details about Audi’s future lineup. First and foremost, the executive confirmed the e-tron GT is still on track and is scheduled to go into production late this year. Diess confirmed the Q4 e-tron and Q4 Sportback e-tron will follow in 2021 with a range in excess of 450 km. He also said the models will have Quattro all-wheeldrive and will ride on Volkswagen’s MEB platform. Diess also revealed a little bit more about the company’s Artemis project. He said the project means “Audi has started the race to catch up to Tesla” as a small team specialists are working on a “next-generation electric car”. The company has previously suggested it could arrive as early as 2024. The executive went on to say their Car.Software.Org group has been tasked with developing new software for the model, and it will eventually be rolled out across the Volkswagen Group. Diess added Audi will “present an initial view of the new polestar next year”. He went on to say the car will be equipped with an all-new VW.OS operating system and will become the first vehicle from the Group to run it. However, the operating system will find its way into a number of different models as Diess said “We plan to increase the share of internally developed software in our vehicles from below 10 %, at present, to 60 % in 2025”. This is important as he stated, “The fact that the car will develop into a fully networked mobility device in the next 10 years will be much more far-reaching than the transformation of propulsion” from ICE to electric. Diess also touched on the coronavirus pandemic as he revealed the Volkswagen Group has “clearly felt the effects”. While he noted business started to pick up in the second half of the year, worldwide deliveries were down 21.5 % to 5.6 million units in the first 8 months of 2020. Despite the drop, global market share grew 0.4% compared to last year. +++

+++ VOLVO is pushing ahead with plans for a smaller SUV, potentially badged XC20, and the company boss has confirmed that it will be one of the first cars based on the new pure-electric platform developed by the Swedish brand’s owner, Geely. The Chinese conglomerate unveiled the EV-specific underpinnings, called Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA), at the recent Beijing Auto Show. The technology was showcased using a concept from Lynk & Co, but Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson admitted that his engineers are also working on models based on SEA and that the much-rumoured baby SUV will be one of them. “We will also use SEA”, Samuelsson said. “We’ll use it for a smaller car, where I think it’s very practical and smart for us to share that, so we can have a cost structure for a smaller car that’s very competitive. It’s difficult to push the CMA platform (the XC40’s chassis), which is a combination platform for EVs and combustion-engined cars, further down. So if you want to do a smaller car than XC40 then SEA can do it. We will use it for that”. Last year Samuelsson hinted at a smaller model, suggesting, “Small cars can also be premium. Just because you have a small suit, it doesn’t have to be polyester”. Now he says that Geely’s investment in SEA means that it can support a car carrying the Volvo badge. “We can build a very premium Volvo on SEA”, he said. “We’ll do it together with Geely, so it’s very natural. We’re cooperating on this. We developed CMA in Gothenberg, although it was financed jointly. But SEA has been developed in China, and with Chinese suppliers you get a very good cost structure. But with a Volvo top hat on”. Samuelsson also admitted that the first Volvo sub-40 model is indeed likely to be a small SUV. When asked if this body style was in the plans, he replied, “Yes – good guess! It has to be premium, and SUVs are very popular, but it should be all-electric too. I think the SUVs in the future might not be exactly as SUVs are today. Ground clearance and off-roading capability are probably not the most important things now”. Volvo has trademarked various XC names, including both XC10 and XC20, but Samuelsson declined to give the new model a specific badge just yet. “Let’s see what it will be called”, he said, “but it will be a car that’s definitely in line with customers’ expectations”. No time frame has been given for the ‘XC20’, but Samuelsson confirmed that it is one of the cars at the heart of Volvo’s plan to fill half of its sales volumes with pure-electric models by 2025. Samuelsson also revealed that the next 40-series model is coming in 2021. “Next year there will be another 40-series Volvo, which will also be electric”, he said. “So we will have electric cars to support our ambition to sell half of our cars as all-electric 5 years from now”. Higher up the range, it seems likely that Volvo’s next-generation flagship will be called XC100 when it arrives in around 2022. It is a possibility because the firm is developing the second generation of its larger-car platform, called SPA2. The present architecture, SPA, underpins all ‘60’ and ‘90’ series models, but it’s unable to go much larger than the current Volvo XC90. Autointernationaal.nl understands that SPA2 will be engineered to support vehicles up to 5.5 metres long. And crucially, the third Polestar model, a huge pure-electric SUV, will use the same underpinnings. This development will allow Volvo to exploit economies of scale and make a big 7-seater. The new vehicle is already said to have the internal project code V616, denoting ‘6’ for the largest size in Volvo’s range, ‘1’ for the first generation of the vehicle and ‘6’ for the SUV body style. It’s said to be around 30 cm longer than the current XC90 and slightly lengthier than even the BMW X7, at 5.2 metres. This gain will be shared between the wheelbase (improving second-row legroom) and the rear overhang, improving the seven-seat functionality and boot capacity. The XC100 is likely to feature a mixture of higher-end powertrains from the manufacturer’s line-up, with entry-level editions using a high-powered petrol-based mild-hybrid set-up, and alternatives available with both plug-in hybrid and pure-electric configurations. The new flagship SUV has been made possible not only by buyer trends in key markets, including the United States and China, but also by Volvo’s improved brand strength. This will support a new high point in the firm’s pricing strategy, because when equipped with more expensive powertrains, the XC100 could well cost more than €120.000. +++

+++ Electric vehicle maker XPENG said it would start building a new car plant in China’s southern city of Guangzhou with 4 billion yuan ($590 million) in financing from the local government. Xpeng, listed in New York and headquartered in Guangzhou, will start making cars at the factory from the end of 2022. It is already makes P7 sedans and G3 sport-utility vehicles in 2 existing factories in China. The Guangzhou city government will provide the financing to Xpeng to build the new plant in the area, Xpeng said in a statement. The new plant will have an annual car manufacturing capacity of 100.000 vehicles. +++

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