Newsflash: 7-persoons Porsche komt in 2024

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+++ AUDI spearheads development of an ultra-luxurious EV code-named Landjet. Bentley and Porsche will sell their own versions of the extra-large electric car. The rumors claiming Audi wants to release a model positioned above the A8, and the reports of an ongoing electric car development program called Artemis internally, have seemingly converged. The firm is busily creating a super-luxurious EV code-named Landjet. Audi is leading the development process, but sister companies Bentley and Porsche will reportedly receive their own version of the Landjet. All 3 models will likely take the form of 3-row SUVs with generous dimensions. They’ll be so big that none of Audi’s production facilities will be able to manufacture them. Luckily, Volkswagen makes vans, too. It’s too early to tell what will power the Landjets. Audi assigned some of its most brilliant engineers to Project Artemis, and the technology they develop will permeate the 3 EVs before trickling down into cheaper models in the group. Expect high performance, a high driving range, and semi-automated driving technology. If the report is accurate, the Landjet vehicles will enter production in Hannover by the end of 2024. The facility currently makes the Volkswagen Transporter, which is a direct descendant of the rear-engined Bus sold for decades, and it will start manufacturing the production version of the ID.Buzz concept in the coming years. Volkswagen hasn’t commented and car companies rarely address speculation, but its Commercial Vehicles division released a statement that confirms the Hannover site will begin building SUVs about halfway through the 2020s. It’s a major shift for a factory normally tasked with manufacturing vans. “Our main plant in Hannover is becoming the production site for 3 completely new premium electric vehicles in the Group. These D-SUVs are genuine flagship projects: premium, 100 % electric and highly automated”, said Carsten Intra, the head of Volkswagen’s Commercial Vehicles division, in a statement. He added the firm will invest about €680 million to build a new assembly line, among other upgrades. +++ 

+++ A BREXIT that worsens business conditions through increased tariffs would threaten the sustainability of Nissan’s British operations, the Japanese car maker’s chief operating officer (COO) cautioned. Nissan, which employs 7.000 people at Britain’s biggest auto plant in Sunderland, north-eastern England, in June urged for an”orderly balanced Brexit”. Its latest warning, however, comes as the EU cautions Britain it has less than 16 days left to secure a deal that will govern trade from next year. “If it happens without any sustainable business case obviously it is not a question of Sunderland or not Sunderland, obviously our UK business will not be sustainable, that’s it”, Nissan’s COO Ashwani Gupta told. Almost 11 months after it formally quit the union, Britain and the EU have still not worked out a deal that will affect nearly $1 trillion in annual trade following a transition period that has kept custom rules in place. Prime minister Boris Johnson has warned his top ministers that a trade agreement is far from certain, but that Britain would thrive with, or without, a deal. Nissan in March said it will push ahead with a €60 million expansion at Sunderland to build its new Qashqai. When it announced the plan in 2016, Nissan, which also builds its Leaf and Juke there, said Britain had reassured it Brexit would not affect its competitiveness. But tariffs resulting from a no-deal Brexit would raise costs for Nissan, while any delay in parts supply from overseas due to new customs checks could slow production. Gupta said Nissan was not seeking compensation from Britain for costs incurred from any no-deal Brexit, contradicting press reports that it and Toyota would do so. “We are absolutely not thinking that and we are not discussing it”, he said. On a separate plan announced by Johnson to move up a UK ban on new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2030 from 2035, the Nissan executive said his company was ready to respond. “That is not only the UK’s transition plan, every country is talking about electrification. We are ready”. +++ 

+++ Chinese automaker Huachen Automotive Group has officially entered the bankruptcy and restructuring procedure due to debt crisis, after local court accepted the bankruptcy and restructuring petition of the company’s creditors. Huachen said in a statement that its total debt currently exceeds 6.5 billion yuan ($992.7 million). The company also has cash flow problems and payment difficulties. The State-owned enterprise headquartered in Northeast China’s Liaoning province owns 4 listed companies, including BRILLIANCE , which has a 50:50 joint venture with BMW. The German carmaker said there is no direct impact on the operations of the partnership. “The BMW Group and the operating business of the joint venture BMW Brilliance Automotive are not directly affected by the reported payment difficulties of Huachen Automotive Group Holdings Company”, said a BMW representative. BMW planned to pay €3.6 billion in 2022 to increase its stake in the joint venture from 50 % to 75 %, thus gaining the control of the joint venture, and the plan will not be affected by Huachen’s difficulties either, said the carmaker. “For the BMW Group, there is no indication that the validity of these contracts would be limited by the current situation”, said the representative. When completed, BMW will become the first international carmaker to have a controlling stake in its joint venture in China. China is BMW’s largest market worldwide, where it sold around 570.000 vehicles in the first 3 quarters of the year; up 6.4 % year-on-year, and a big proportion of them are locally made at BMW Brilliance. BMW is also making China an exporting base, with the locally made iX3 electric SUV sold globally. China has seen a smattering of high-profile Chinese debt defaults in recent days, spooking traders and sparking a bond market selloff. The latest clutch of defaults, which Goldman Sachs noted are bigger and include more state-owned enterprises than last year, highlight that investors need to pay close attention to avoid being caught in the credit cleanup. Bondholders see a bankruptcy restructuring by Huachen to be unfavourable as they will likely end up getting little out of the process. Sources told in September that Chinese state-backed investors are considering taking Brilliance private, although that is not expected to affect BMW’s plan to lift its stake. +++ 

+++ CHINA will introduce new measures to boost consumption in automobiles, a State Council’s executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided. The body agreed to stabilize and expand auto consumption, encourage the local authorities to fine-tune restrictive measures regarding car purchases and raise the license plate quota ceiling. Promotion campaigns will be carried out for vehicle purchases in rural areas and trading in used cars for new ones. In rural areas where conditions permit, residents will also be encouraged to buy cars with engines no bigger than 1.6 liters. The authorities will also subsidize car purchases for people upgrading from gasoline-powered vehicles with a national emission standard of three or below to speed up the phasing out process. The construction of parking lots and charging piles will be stepped up. Since the beginning of this year, various favorable policies introduced by the central government and local governments have stimulated potential demand in the auto market and accelerated the domestic auto market’s recovery. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, about 2.55 million automobiles have been produced in China in October, and roughly 2.57 million have been sold, with a year-on-year growth rate of 11 % and 12.5 % respectively. The number of automobiles produced and sold has grown for 7 consecutive months as of October. The sales of passenger cars in China are expected to realize double-digit growth in 2021, according to Jiang Xueqing, a researcher at Orient Securities. Jiang believes that as demand has gradually stabilized recently, companies with business related to passenger cars, parts and components have been favored by the market, and their valuations have been gradually restored. It is expected that the auto climate index will continue to rise in the 4th quarter, according to Jiang. Figures from the Ministry of Commerce show that in 2019, retail sales in automobiles, home appliances, furniture, construction materials and catering sectors accounted for some 25 % of the total retail sales in China, and retail sales in rural areas accounted for 14.7 % of the total. In October, total retail sales saw a 4.3 % year-on-year increase, registering positive growth for three consecutive months. “At present, the prominent restraint on economic development lies in consumption as the main growth engine was seriously affected by Covid-19 earlier this year. It has been picking up in the past few months, yet notable difficulties remain in restoring normal growth. We need to explore new highlights in consumption to spur domestic demand”, Li said. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER will cooperate with China’s Geely to build a next-generation combustion engine for use in hybrid vehicles, it said. Efforts to share development costs between the Chinese and the German groups come as the growth potential for combustion engines faces the twin threat of the Covid-19 crisis and a regulatory clampdown on vehicle emissions. “The companies plan to develop a highly efficient modular engine”, a spokesman for Daimler said, adding that it would be used in hybrid drivetrains and manufactured in Europe and China. German factories will be retooled gradually to build electric drivetrains while the manufacture of combustion engines will continue in Germany, Daimler said. News of the alliance was a surprise to Daimler’s works council at its factory in Untertürkheim, which specialises in electric and gasoline powertrain assembly. “We are speechless. There was not even a discussion about potential alternative manufacturing locations”, said Michael Häberle, the works council chief for Untertürkheim. “We have the ability to build 4 cylinder engines but there were not talks about it”. Most of the engines will be made in China. The alliance with Geely, which owns a 9.69 % stake in Stuttgart-based Daimler, means that parts of an existing partnership with Renault will be pared back. A Renault source told that the Daimler-Geely project does not mean an end of cooperation between Daimler and Renault. The Daimler-Geely pact would save the German carmaker a “triple-digit million sum”, implying an amount above €100 million and less than €1 billion euros. +++ 

+++ DIDI Chuxing, the largest ride-hailing company in China, unveiled what it dubbed the world’s first tailor-made vehicle for car-hailing services in partnership with automaker BYD. D1, as the new car named, is designed for the 550 million passengers and more than 10 million drivers on Didi’s transportation platform, the company said, adding that the car has been customized in terms of design, in-car human-computer interaction, internet of vehicles technologies and other areas for online car-hailing travel scenarios. Cheng Wei, founder and CEO of Didi, said in the past Didi had been committed to optimizing software. But in the next 10 years, Didi will optimize software and hardware simultaneously and rapidly iterate products and services. He predicted that by 2025, there will be more than 1 million such tailor-made ride-sharing vehicles on its platform, and the latest version by then will be equipped with its in-house self-driving modules. “By 2030, we hope to be able to remove the cockpit from the vehicles and to achieve fully autonomous driving”, Cheng added. Many cities in China suffer from traffic congestion, and Didi said shared mobility is a key factor in helping with the problem. This currently accounts for less than 3 % of the total addressable mobility needs in the country, but it plans to raise the figure to 8 % by 2022 and 30 % by 2030. Cheng Wei, founder and CEO of Didi, said: “Shared intelligent mobility is the optimum solution for the future of transportation”. He cited the example of Beijing, saying that the road length has doubled in the past 20 years, while the number of private cars has surged 10-fold. Didi statistics show that there are around 4.67 million vehicles in the capital city, however there are only 3.82 million parking spaces. “So if one doesn’t have to own a car, we can have better travel experience, especially with the continued development of autonomous driving and AI technology”, Cheng said. The D1 has been improved in terms of design, in-car human-computer interaction, internet of vehicles technologies and other things that drivers and passengers are concerned about. Yang Jun, vice-president of DiDi, called D1 a data driven car. “It is a ground-breaking vehicle that enables data connection between automakers and the ride-hailing platform. Powered by data, D1 is defined by usage scenarios and is a purpose-built vehicle for both drivers and riders”. Didi has more than 31 million vehicles registered on its platform, 550 million registered passengers, and carries out over 60 million rides a day. For example, the customized model allows the driver to take an order by pushing a button on the car, instead of clicking on a mobile phone, as they have been doing worldwide, and the passenger can have the air conditioner adjusted via their mobile phone before the car’s arrival. Cheng said the model, which features Level 2 autonomous functions, is not the ultimate one in Didi’s blueprint. He said the model will be updated around every 18 months and the company’s latest in-house autonomous driving technology will be integrated into later versions. Didi’s autonomous driving unit was set up in 2016. It has acquired public road testing licenses in cities including Beijing and Shanghai as well as California in the United States. Cheng said there will be more than 1 million tailor-made vehicles on its platform by 2025 and the vehicles will be driverless by 2030. Didi had been committed to optimizing software but in the next 10 years, it will focus on both software and hardware and update its products and services, he said. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen is paring back the variety of combustion-engined cars and retooling more factories to build ELECTRIC vehicles in an effort to keep up with rival Tesla, the chief executive of the world’s largest carmaker said. German factories in Emden and Hannover will be converted to build electric cars as part of a €73 billion investment plan to ramp up development of zero-emission and self-driving cars, the company said. “Our business so far has been running valuable brands. To increase brand value, driving margins”, Herbert Diess explained in a call with investors and analysts. “We have to be seen as a tech company”. On top of focussing on achieving economies of scale in electric and combustion engine components, Volkswagen is seeking to also gain expertise in software programming, so it can build and develop intelligent self-driving vehicles. “Yes, it is going to be a race with Tesla”, Diess said. “They are also ramping up fast. We have more different body styles, and when it comes to an established dealership network, we should have an advantage over Tesla”, Diess said. Policymakers have clamped down on exhaust emissions, forcing carmakers to accelerate the development of low-emission technology or face a penalty of €95 for each gram of excess CO2 they emit in Europe. The Volkswagen factory in Hannover will be retooled to build the all-electric ID.Buzzz microbus, as well as large premium-branded electric SUVs for Audi, Bentley and Porsche, which will share common vehicle underpinnings. “The rationale was keeping those cars together in one manufacturing site”, Diess explained. The factory in Emden will be retooled to build electric cars and production of the Passat will be shifted to a factory in Slovakia where the next generation Skoda Superb will also be build. Low end Volkswagen variants will see their prices increased or be struck from the lineup altogether, Diess said, adding that European policymaker proposals for further tightening emissions rules are effectively putting combustion engines at risk. “So long as you have to burn coal to make electric vehicles’ run it doesn’t make any sense”, Diess said, commenting about the need for burning fossil fuels to generate power for the electricity grid. “It would make a lot more sense to postpone those targets because those engines are really clean now”, Diess said of his wish to see combustion engined cars on sale for longer. Volkswagen needs the profits from combustion engined sports utility vehicles to generate the cash for investing in cleaner technologies, he said. Shifting the Golf segment of passenger cars to becoming electric will take up to a decade, the carmaker said. It has also forced managers to question the need for some of the more exotic niche brands. Volkswagen is legally separating its Lamborghini and Ducati brands as the German automaker seeks to streamline its operations and focus on mass-producting electric cars. “We are working on our Italian legal structure”, Diess said, referring to the creation of a separate legal entity for housing the Lamborghini, Ducati and the Italdesign design studio. Luxury brands which owe their attractiveness in large part due to high horsepower high-cylinder combustion engines, may not fit in to the era of intelligent, networked vehicles which provide on-demand mobility, Diess said. “Are those really valuable in the new world, we don’t know yet”, Diess said. The CEO said that Volkswagen would miss its CO2 compliance target this year by “a gram or so” but would meet emissions goals for 2021 thanks to a mass production push of electric vehicles. He saw business recovering next year, with the company planning for a return to pre-Covid crisis levels in 2022, he added. +++ 

+++ As GENERAL MOTORS KOREA continues to struggle with labor strife and dwindling performance, GM’s international chief hinted at the possibility of withdrawing from the country. In an interview, Steve Kiefe, the president of GM’s international operations, said GM has other options to produce cars in Asia, including China, where it builds nearly 5 million vehicles a year. GM workers have been staging 2 strikes daily since October 30. The major sticking point is the wage freeze that began in 2018, when GM Korea nearly went bankrupt. After 24 rounds of negotiations, the 2 sides failed to narrow their differences. Kiefer said the ongoing dispute with the labor union has cost the company 17.000 vehicles in lost production, a number that will hit 20.000 by the end of the week. “We’re basically being held hostage in the short term by lack of vehicle production”, Kiefer said. “That’s having a very significant short-term financial impact”. The industrial action is making it “impossible” for GM to invest more or introduce new products in South Korea and making the country “noncompetitive”, Kiefer added. GM is asking for a 2-year labor deal, not the current year-to-year agreements. It has also offered a signing bonus of 8 million won ($7.230) for each union member over 2020 and 2021. The union maintains that the labor deals should be renewed yearly, and is asking for an annual performance bonus of 22 million won. The workers also want the company to continue operating its plants in Bupyeong, Incheon, where about 1.200 people are employed. Over the extending dispute, Korea Development Bank, which is the second-largest shareholder of GM Korea, issued a statement to urge the 2 sides to find ways to narrow gap and for the labor union to withdraw the strike plan. “GM Korea chief Kaher Kazem visited KDB today to explain about the current situation”, KDB said. “We delivered our deep concerns over the dispute exacerbating between the management and labor, and how it is holding back the normalization of business”. GM Korea has been recording losses since 2014, with net losses reaching 320.2 billion won in 2019. With low production rates and poor sales, the company agreed to accept a $7.15 billion rescue package from the Korean government on the condition that it continue to operate in the country for 10 years. The automaker employs about 12.000 people in Korea and manufactures up to 500.000 vehicles, many of which are shipped to the US. While the company has plans to produce a Chevrolet crossover in Korea, this is facing pushback due to the strikes, the GM chief said. “We would prefer to make this model work but as of now, we are losing confidence that we are going to be able to continue to invest in that country”, Kiefer said. Meanwhile, Kia’s labor union also decided to stage partial strikes. The management and the labor union have been at odds over wages. The automaker suggested providing incentives while freezing wages, but the workers are demanding an increase in base pay as well as a bonus, among other things. The latest decision means a 9th consecutive year of strikes at the automaker. The last time the 2 sides sealed a wage deal without a strike was in 2011. +++ 

+++ Former Nissan and Renault boss Carlos GHOSN has said that he escaped house arrest in Japan and fled to Lebanon “to escape injustice”. The 66-year-old, who holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian nationalities, had been detained by Japanese authorities since his arrest in 2018 on financial misconduct charges relating to his time running Nissan. But in December last year he escaped house arrest and is now in Beirut. In an interview, Ghosn detailed his outlandish escape, which included being smuggled onto a private plan hidden in a music speaker case. He told that he took the “huge risk” because he wanted to fight injustice. He said: “There’s a good phrase in English that says: ‘When you’re living in hell, keep walking’. I was living in hell. There was endless interrogation in jail, without lawyers. They said if I did not confess they’d target my family. I was not allowed to see my wife Carole or my children. I would have faced a trial that would have lasted at least 5 years, with everyone reminding me that the Japanese prosecutors had a 99.4 % conviction rate. I had to walk, not to escape justice but to escape injustice”. Ghosn continued to proclaim his innocence in the interview, saying that the charges were brought by Nissan executives in order to stop him from potentially pushing through a full merger with Renault. He said that they wanted “to put me completely out of the picture, that meant putting me in jail”. He added: “Japan has become nationalistic. There was talk about the ‘re-Japanisation’ of Nissan”. In a statement, Nissan told that it “carried out a robust and thorough internal investigation that included external lawyers” that had uncovered “substantial and convincing evidence” that Ghosn had “intentionally committed serious misconduct”. +++ 

+++ Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk has spent years mocking the idea of using HYDROGEN FUEL CELLS rather than electric batteries to power next-generation green vehicles. “Fuel cells = fool sells”, the boss of the world’s top electric-carmaker tweeted in June. China, the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles, isn’t so quick to dismiss the alternative to batteries. Officials are promoting the development of hydrogen-powered cars, with Beijing offering to reward cities that achieve adoption targets. In a 15-year plan for new-energy vehicles released on November 2, China’s State Council said the country will focus on building the fuel-cell supply chain and developing hydrogen-powered trucks and buses. President Xi Jinping in September set a 2030 deadline for China to begin reducing carbon emissions. “Hydrogen is expected to play a much more important role to drastically decrease the country’s greenhouse gas emissions”, Kevin Jianjun Tu, a nonresident fellow at the French think tank Ifri, wrote in a report published in October. China is aiming to have 1 million fuel-cell vehicles in operation by 2030, according to an energy savings vehicle development plan drafted by authorities, despite only 2.700 such cars selling in the country last year. The nation’s renewed interest in hydrogen could put it further ahead of the U.S. in next-generation autos even as president-elect Joe Biden tries to promote clean-car development. In theory, fuel cells are an ideal alternative to the internal combustion engine, since their chemical reactions of hydrogen and oxygen emit no carbon. Powering vehicles with hydrogen can be expensive, though, and most of China’s supply comes from burning fossil fuels. The difficulties of storing and transporting hydrogen add to the cost. +++

+++ HYUNDAI is now being sued over multiple EV battery fires by roughly 200 individuals who seek compensation for the reduced value of their EVs, as well as other losses. This court filing is not a public record. Interestingly enough, General Motors is also recalling nearly 70.000 EVs featuring batteries from the same maker as those in the burned Hyundai cars, LG Chem. One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs stated that they were initially seeking 8 million won ($7.200) per plaintiff, but that this number could increase as the trial moves forward. The plaintiffs also want Hyundai to replace the entire battery pack on recalled vehicles (the most expensive part of the car), as opposed to just updating the software. “While acknowledging flaws in the batteries, your company has been relying on the wrong policy (software replacement, which is only a temporary fix) to buy time”, argue the people suing Hyundai. “A battery that is not safe is like a bomb”, stated one Park Chul-wan, a South Korean battery expert. Meanwhile, Hyundai had this to say on the matter: “We are constantly monitoring the situation after an update of the battery management system and we will continue to try to minimise consumer inconveniences going forward. The carmaker believes that only some of their vehicles have battery issues, and those that do, will get new batteries at no extra cost. As of right now, Hyundai has recalled more than 74.000 Kona EVs around the globe, after 16 of them caught fire in South Korea, Canada and Europe. GM has also recalled 68.677 EVs featuring LG Chem batteries, after 5 reported fires and 2 minor injuries. +++ 

+++ The president of INDONESIA , Joko Widodo, said he will send a high-level team next week to meet with top executives of Tesla as the Southeast Asian country aims to become the world’s biggest producer of electric vehicle batteries. The president, known by his popular name Jokowi, told in an interview the trip will be part of Indonesia’s promotion of its new, so-called “Omnibus” Job Creation law, which simplifies doing business in Indonesia. “Next week we will send a large team to America and Japan, to promote the Omnibus”, Jokowi said. The trip comes after Jokowi congratulated U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on his win. The Indonesian leader said he hoped a Biden administration would promote “stability” and “world peace”. Led by coordinating minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan, the team is set to meet with Tesla executives, he said. “It’s very important because we have a great plan to make Indonesia the biggest producer of lithium batteries and we have the biggest nickel reserves”, Jokowi said. In a separate interview, Luhut said he would also hold meetings with the World Bank and U.S. fund managers to talk about the Omnibus law and Indonesia’s environmental projects. Luhut declined to comment specifically on the planned meeting with Tesla, but said that “there is a really good chance” that companies will want to invest in Indonesian nickel processing to cut costs. Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk has said he is planning to offer a “giant contract for a long period of time” so long as the nickel is mined “efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way”. Indonesia’s new Job Creation law, which harmonises 79 existing laws, has been met with criticism for relaxing environmental standards. Luhut said Indonesia could make the supply chain of batteries environmentally friendly in 7 to 8 years by powering smelters with renewable energy sources, so they could sell green batteries for cars in the European market by 2030. Jokowi has repeatedly said the Job Creation law is vital to cutting red tape, spurring investment and boosting labour market competitiveness. Despite protests to the law from unions, students and environmentalists, the legislation has been positively received by the market. Indonesia has struggled to attract foreign investment at the same pace as some of its neighbours. The president said the new law would be one of the main catalysts to boost economic growth next year. Southeast Asia’s largest economy suffered its first recession in over 2 decades this year due to the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, with millions losing their jobs. Nevertheless, Jokowi said Indonesia has gone past a turning point and is on a “positive” and “encouraging” trend. He said he was hopeful gross domestic product would expand next year with the aid of mass vaccination. +++ 

+++ The MERCEDES-BENZ E-Class is the MotorTrend 2021 Car of the Year. It carries the stout imprimatur of old-school luxury, from the graining of the dashboard wood to the suppleness of the heated and ventilated, posture-correct leather seats. But it is also thoroughly modern, from the robust yet efficient responsiveness of its engines to the plethora of high-tech and high-zoot features. The E-Class epitomizes an automotive brand in full, one whose currency in the current zeitgeist of automotive wants and desires is unmatched. “As the car market contracts and SUVs continue to gobble up market share, it says something about a company that a midcycle refresh of a sedan could take an already good car and move it to greatness”, senior features editor Jonny Lieberman said. “The Mercedes feels 3 times as well built, as well engineered, as sophisticated as the competition”, he added. “The E-Class is a superior vehicle in terms of ride quality, dynamics, kinematics, or any other measurements you can think of. You feel the difference”. And that is the definition of excellence in motion. +++ 

+++ The Daimler and Mercedes-Benz boss has conveyed that the just world-premiered MERCEDES-MAYBACH S-Class underlines the company’s aspiration to prove that retaining leadership in traditional manufacturing is as vital as progressive technologies in tapping into the electric mobility era. When approached about the company’s direction at a crossroads in facing the fierce competition, Ola Källenius, chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz, said the model offers the best of both worlds, which could serve to navigate the company amid a transforming industry. “If you look at what the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class offers, it’s pushing the boundaries in technology in all dimensions and it’s everything that you would expect from a Mercedes”, he said. “At Mercedes you will now get the spearhead of those new technologies but also combined with everything else that you would expect from a luxury vehicle”. The company suggested that staying the modern luxury choice for customers that appreciate everything a Mercedes is about is equally as important as pushing ahead in the new technologies to compete against new players. He made those remarks regarding the S-Class Maybach through the company’s online platform during the heaving Auto Guangzhou, taking place in the southern coastal metropolis. The all-new Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, debuted under the spotlight on the occasion of an exclusive Maybach Night on the press day, is perfectly suitable for particularizing this idea. The all-new Mercedes-Maybach GLS, the brand’s first SUV model that is poised to hit the road in the offing, has been added to widen the appeal of the blockbuster. “The perfection of luxury keeps evolving, and it’s our job to define it at each moment in time”, he emphasized.”The new Mercedes-Maybach S-Class will make it very evident to you what sophisticated luxury means at Mercedes-Benz”. Chinese customers witnessed 2 of the company’s most recent Maybach models, including the GLS Maybach in 2019 and the current Maybach S-Class earlier in 2015 when the sub-brand entered China, successively making their debuts here. Since coming down the pike, more than 60.000 examples of Maybach S-Class have been delivered worldwide. “We are honored, that in no other market the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class has been more successful than in China, with more than twothirds of all Mercedes-Maybach S-Class models sold here”, said Hubertus Troska, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for China. In 2019, its sales reached a record high, equivalent to 700 units sold in China, its largest market worldwide, every month. “We all believe the strongest growth in the automotive world will be experienced over the next 5 to 10 years in China”, he said, indicating an aspiration of rolling up its sleeves in the Chinese market to create mutual benefits, a week earlier at the China Development Forum. China has been the pacesetter of the world’s premium auto business since 2018. The country’s leading position was further extended a year later to a 31 % share of the market, according to recently released research by the China Passenger Car Association, a national academic organization. The Maybach sub-brand is deemed, together with AMG, G and EQ, as one of Mercedes-Benz’s future pillars, and a key part of the brand’s overarching strategy that targets structurally higher profitability. “Our Maybach S-Class and our Maybach GLS are designed to delight the most demanding customers here in China, our most important market, and around the world”. He also stated that the plug-in hybrid model of Mercedes-Maybach will come soon and in the future, an all-electric model will be part of the lineup. The all-new S-Class Maybach in further shapes the profile of the Mercedes-Maybach family, on the basis of a sublimated understanding of luxury and superlative quality. For instance, the model’s pronounced radiator grille with Maybach lettering preserves legacy to the best possible form, while the revolutionary digital headlamps deploy a resolution of 1.3-million pixels on each side, representing the most advanced digital technology. Inside is a serene feeling of calm and comfort. Maximum legroom in segment is offered, thanks to an ultra-long wheelbase that is 180 mm longer than the longest S-Class so far, while passengers in the back can relax into the executive seats. It cannot be denied that the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is a marvel of technology, equipped with the latest intelligent safety assists from the Pre-safe Impulse side to the industry-first rear-seat frontal airbag. In addition to the debut of this distinguished model, the all-new Mercedes-Maybach GLS celebrated its market launch as well.”This is the first time that our Mercedes-Maybach brand has expanded into another segment, the SUVs”, said Jan Madeja, president and CEO of Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service. He said the all-new Maybach GLS defines the timelessness of luxury in three aspects: distinctive design, cutting-edge technology and sophisticated luxury. There is no doubt of its identity as a Maybach model, from the twotone paint finish to its impressive front end with the Maybach exclusive grille together with the standing star on the bonnet. And the 3,0 liter in-line-6 or the 4,0 liter V8 engine in combination with the 48 Volt on-board electrical system brings a powerful output, while guaranteeing driving efficiency too. Meanwhile, the dedicated Maybach drive program offered for the first time for even less noise and vibration, together with one of the most advanced E-Active Body Control, realizes an utterly smooth riding experience. “It stands for the ultimate excellence and exclusive luxury, as well as maximum comfort and state-of-the-art technology, making it the most desirable luxury SUV ever”, Madeja added. +++ 

+++ Nissan is “absolutely not” in talks to sell its stake MITSUBISHI , Nissan’s chief operating officer said, following a report the carmaker was considering pulling out of its alliance partner. “We are not in any discussion or consideration of changing the capital structure in our partner companies. We are moving ahead with many projects”, Ashwani Gupta said. He spoke after media reported earlier that Nissan was considering selling its 34 % stake in Mitsubishi to help it cope with the slump in demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Such a deal would fundamentally reshape a 3-way alliance that also includes Renault. The partnership was plunged into uncertainty when Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of the alliance, was arrested in 2018 on financial misconduct charges, which he denies. Currenty, Nissan’s stake in Mitsubishi is worth 102.2 billion yen ($975.8 million). Nissan, which is 43 % owned by Renault, last week cut its operating loss forecast for the year to March by 28 %, helped by a rebound in demand, especially in China. Mitsubishi, Japan’s No.6 automaker, expects to post an operating loss of 140 billion yen for its business year. Both companies are cutting production levels and costs in a bid to return to profitability. +++

+++ Nio, the New York-listed Chinese electric car startup, said it expects sales in the 4th quarter this year to hit a record number of around 17.000 vehicles. That is not a big number for established carmakers, but it means a doubling of Nio’s deliveries in the same quarter of last year. The goal is not a castle in the air, though. The startup gave the estimate after it released its financial results of the third quarter, in which it delivered 12.206 vehicles. “In view of the growing market demand for our competitive products, we are motivated to continuously elevate the production capacity to the next level”, said Nio founder and CEO William Li. In the past few months, the startup has revealed a new battery pack, which extends its vehicles’ driving range by around 100 kilometers to over 600 kilometers, launched its battery swap service and updated driving-assist functions for its vehicles. These moves, together with the overall rise in China’s NEW ENERGY VEHICLE SEGMENT , pushed Nio’s performance higher. Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that electric car and plug-in hybrid sales in October totaled 160.000; up 104.5% year-on-year. Steven Feng, Nio’s chief financial officer, said the company’s vehicle margin increased to 14.5 % in the third quarter, generating 4.267 million yuan in revenue. Feng said it had achieved positive cash flow from operating activities for the second sequential quarter. Its cash and cash equivalents by the end of September totaled 22 billion yuan. Based on the bright sales prospects, Li said Nio will rev up its production capacity to 7.500 vehicles a month from January. He said the company’s fourth vehicle, a sedan, is around the corner and its fifth vehicle is in development. Nio is not alone. Xpeng and Lixiang, also known as Li Auto, are listed in the United States as well and saw positive growth in the third quarter. Analysts said the three, which label themselves as premium brands, are winning over buyers from traditional ones like BMW and Audi, whose products are mainly gasoline vehicles. Favorable government policies and license plate quotas for gasoline vehicles in big cities like Beijing have also helped their popularity, they said. Xpeng’s total revenue from car sales in the third quarter reached 1.898 million yuan; up 376 percent from the same quarter last year. Its gross margin was 4.6 %. In the second quarter, it was minus 2.7 %. He Xiaopeng, chairman and CEO of Xpeng, said the figures were mainly thanks to the fast rise in sales of the P7 sedan, the company’s second model. Statistics show that 6.210 P7 sedans were sold in the third quarter, accounting for 72.3 % of its total deliveries in the quarter. Total deliveries went up 265.8 % from the same quarter last year to reach 8.578. By the end of September, Xpeng’s cash and cash equivalents totaled almost 20 billion yuan. This ensures its investment in research and development, charging facilities, sales network and marketing, said He. He estimated that Xpeng’s deliveries in the fourth quarter could reach 10.000. He expected there will be around 150 dealerships by the end of the year. Li Auto’s financial results came out last week as well. It has only 1 model, and its deliveries reached 8.660 vehicles in the third quarter; up 31 % from the second quarter. Its sales revenue totaled 2,465 million yuan; up 28.4 % from the previous quarter. By the end of the third quarter, it had cash and cash equivalents totaling 18.92 billion; up from 390 million late last year. “We will further increase our investment and continue to leverage technology to create value for users and optimize our user experience”, said Li Xiang, founder and CEO of Li Auto in a statement. For the 4th quarter of 2020, Li Auto expected the growth momentum to continue with deliveries reaching 11.000 to 12.000 vehicles. +++ 

+++ As the rush to battery-powered pickups grabs more headlines, NISSAN is said to be interested in getting its slow-selling Titan full-size pickup in on the action. The company is exploring a partnership with EV startup Hercules that would have the nascent Detroit-based electric-pickup manufacturer supply electric powertrains for Nissan. Nissan, in return would provide unnamed truck components for Hercules’ own Alpha pickup. It has previously been reported that Nissan would trim the Titan model range, dropping unpopular variants such as the single-cab version and the diesel, as part of a company-wide initiative to cut costs. But full-size pickups generally are huge profit centers for their makers, and Nissan surely wants to keep the Titan viable. An electric Titan would join the thundering herd of upcoming battery-powered pickups such as the Tesla Cybertruck, Ford’s Electric F-150, GM’s Hummer EV, the Rivian R1T, the Lordstown Endurance and Bollinger B2 among others. As for Nissan’s potential partner, Hercules has garnered somewhat less attention than several of its EV startup rivals. The company was founded in 2018 by James Breyer, joined by Greg Weber and Julie Tolley, all of whom had experience at U.S. automakers and/or suppliers. The Alpha pickup promises 1.000 horsepower from a 4-motor AWD drivetrain, 500 km of range, 12.500 pounds towing capacity, and a solar truck bed tonneau cover. The company says it plans to build the truck using modular construction at an existing facility. So far, a single exterior image has been shown, but the company is accepting $1.500 reservations for its launch Founders Edition. The pickup is slated to reach buyers in mid-2022. +++ 

+++ The head of Peugeot maker PSA Group expects more consolidation in the auto industry as carmakers invest vast sums to make electric vehicles, he said, while predicting some wouldn’t make it through the coming decade. “Only the most agile with a Darwinian spirit will survive”, Carlos Tavares said, adding PSA was no longer investing in internal combustion engines as Europe and China push for cleaner driving. Tavares also said PSA was far ahead of its objectives in meeting European Union CO2 emission targets. PSA is working towards a planned merger with Italian-American Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Tavares reiterated this was on track for the first quarter of 2021. “So far, so good”, he said, adding much of the hard work in bringing the 2 companies together had already been done. PSA and FCA will operate under the name Stellantis after they merge, becoming the world’s 4th largest carmaker. Tavares said one of the tasks facing the merged group would be improving its performance in China, the world’s largest car market, where it will have a considerably smaller market share than in Europe and the United States. “No global car company can afford not to be in the largest car market in the world”, Tavares said. Once established, Stellantis will reportedly focus on having fewer brands, fewer models and fewer factories in China in a bid to increase profitability. China used to be PSA’s single largest market, where the French carmaker used to sell over 700.000 units per year as recently as back in 2014. +++ 

+++ The revamped version of the SM6 is gaining popularity for its new powertrain, RENAULT SAMSUNG said. First released in 2016, the automaker presented the revamped version of the new SM6 in July this year, with upgrades in its powertrains. The automaker said it took 3 and 6 months to present the upgraded mode, to take in and reflect the opinions of its customers. For the development of the facelifted SM6, the company plowed in 230 billion won ($208 million), Renault Samsung said. The New SM6 is offered with TCe 300 and TC3 260 Turbo gasoline engines. The TC3 300 model exerts up to 225 hp. The TCe 260 model facilitates a 4-cylinder engine, with 1.3-liter Turbo engine. The New SM6 also embraces an Advanced Driver Assistance System, including Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Centering Assist, the automaker said. “The new SM6 is a new model that has been developed from a long period of studies, taking in the opinions of the customers”, a Renault Samusng official said. “We tried to upgrade in all details from the driving capabilities to the riding experiences and design”. All trims of SM6 is equipped with pure vision headlamps, the company added. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen plans to invest €1 billion in its Slovak plant, including €500 million to produce next-generation Passat and SKODA Superb models. The German carmaker’s investment will be in projects across the model range made in Slovakia and will create 2.000 jobs in the coming years, personnel chief Sebastian Krapoth said. The auto industry, led by Volkswagen and 3 other car makers, is the backbone of Slovakia’s manufacturing and export sectors. Skoda had announced that production of its higher-end model Superb would move to Slovakia. The Superb and Passat share the same platform and many parts. That followed cancellation of plans to source production in Turkey. It also upset unions at Volkswagen’s Czech unit, Skoda Auto, home to the Superb brand over the past 2 decades. “Total investments for Bratislava are being planned in the range of €1 billion”, Krapoth told a news conference broadcast live on television. “It is an investment across the entire model range at Volkswagen Slovakia”. He said the plan will not add overall production capacity at the plant, which made 377.750 cars last year. The plant, which mostly produced top-end models such as the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, exports more than 99 % of its output. +++ 

+++ Chinese battery maker SVOLT Energy Technology is planning to spend €2 billion to build 2 plants in Germany to explore the fast-growing electric vehicle market in Europe. Svolt, a spin-off from China’s Great Wall Motors, said it will build a module and pack factory as well as a cell factory with a 24 GWh production capacity in Saarland in the west of the country. The cell factory will be able to produce batteries for 300.000 to 500.000 vehicles a year, Svolt said in a statement. The 2 plants are expected to start operation from mid-2022 and late 2023, respectively, employing roughly 2.000 people. Yang Hongxin, president of Svolt, said: “For Svolt as a global high-tech company for electromobility, the European automotive industry and the growing market for renewable energies are of great strategic importance”. Demand for electric vehicles is growing fast in Europe. Statistics show that over 400.000 new energy vehicles were sold in the first half of 2020, overtaking China as the largest market for such vehicles. Tobias Hans, prime minister of the state of Saarland in Germany, said: “The car is one of the central pillars of Saarland as an industrial location. We want to be at the forefront of the structural change in the automotive industry and develop our federal state into a cluster for innovation in Europe, especially in and for the automotive industry”. Svolt opened the first of the 4 planned cell factories in China in November 2019. The battery maker plans to establish a combined production capacity of 100 GWh worldwide by 2025. Svolt currently employs around half of its 3.000 worldwide employees in the area of research and development alone and registered over 550 patents in 2019. It is the first company to bring cobalt-free high nickel cell chemistry to mass production readiness. Svolt also employs a research and development team working in the area of solid-state batteries. +++ 

+++ Chris Harris’ bafflement of the BMW-based TOYOTA Supra is no secret. The TV presenter, racer, and auto journalist named the Supra one of the strangest cars he’s ever driven. That was over a year ago, and he hasn’t forgotten about his confusion. In a new tweet, Harris praises the GR Yaris as an example of the Japanese automaker’s performance capability while continuing to criticise the Supra. Harris originally aired his distaste for the BMW-like feel of the Supra. “Everything says BMW”, he said, noting that it sounds, drives, and smells like the BMW Z4 it’s based on. Toyota knew the Supra would be a low-volume car, and it wanted to share its development costs, partnering with BMW. That didn’t fly with Harris, who questioned the company’s cost-saving reasoning. To Harris, the hopped-up hot hatch is proof of Toyota’s capability that “makes the Supra debacle look even more embarrassing”. Ouch. His complaints against the Supra aren’t misplaced. Toyota gave the Supra a distinct appearance; however, it uses a BMW powertrain paired with a BMW interior; both with a Toyota twist. The GR Yaris is all Toyota, with a turbocharged 1.6-litre 3-cylinder producing 2562 hp and 360 Nm, which routes through a 6-speed manual gearbox and an all-wheel-drive system. It’s a compelling hot-hatch package we don’t see much of anymore. Harris may have harsh words for Toyota, though it doesn’t appear the company will change its course. BMW and Toyota are continuing to work together even if they’re collaborating less so than before. The Supra serves as a halo car for the brand, which makes its sales numbers less of a factor. However, I doubt the GR Yaris will be a massive seller. While the Supra may not feel wholly like a Toyota, the company appears to be expanding its performance offerings, which’s a win in my book. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is aiming big with its electrification plan. According to the automaker’s recently updated strategy, it’ll invest no less than $86 billion in electric, hybrid, and digital technologies over the course of five years. Apparently, this investment will require some internal restructuring and additional savings, and part of the bill could be paid by Volkswagen Group’s Italian division. Volkswagen is discussing a potential move to carve out Lamborghini, Ducati, and Italdesign. The 3 companies could be folded into a single structure which would be easier to offer to interested parties. The German company reportedly wants to streamline its operations and put a stronger focus on its electrified future. “We are working on our Italian legal structure”, Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen, told. “We are, let’s say, bringing it into a legal structure where we could act”, he added, explaining that no final decisions on divestments have been made. “It’s probably a bit of a slower process” but “it’s on our agenda”, Diess concluded. Approximately a year ago, it was also reported that Volkswagen is considering a move to fold Lamborghini into a separate legal entity that could be complete by the end of 2020. In September this year, it was reported that Volkswagen is looking at different options for the future of Lamborghini, Ducati, and Bugatti, including selling the 3 brands. “Technology partnerships” or some form of “restructuring” were also reportedly in the plans. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN KOREA said its Tiguan surpassed 10,000 units in cumulative annual sales, a first for an imported SUV. The accumulated number of registered units sold locally this year is 10.043. Tiguan has sold a total of more than 55.000 units since its debut in Korea in July 2008. This is the first time that annual sales have exceeded 10.000 units since the launch. The automaker said the key to Tiguan’s popularity is its solid driving performance, stability and economic efficiency. This year, Volkswagen Korea expanded the lineup of the Tiguan by adding a 4-wheeldrive and a 7-seater model in line with its strategy to popularize imported cars. +++

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