Newsflash: BMW presenteert iX als technologisch visitekaartje

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+++ London-based luxury car dealer group Pegasus Brands has detailed plans for its revival of the historic BIZZARRINI marque, best known for developing a succession of strikingly styled, limited-run supercars in the 1960s. The low-volume Italian manufacturer was founded in 1964 by Giotto Bizzarrini, who previously had served as an engineer, test driver and engineer at Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. Over the next 5 years, the company raced with varying success at events including the Le Mans 24 Hours and launched the Strada, Europa and P538 sports cars before being revived in later years for a series of one-offs and concepts. Now Pegasus Brands plans to ensure “this legendary name lives on to compete on the global stage”. Details of any future cars are thin on the ground, but the outfit will operate out of bases in London, Geneva, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Dubai and will build on the heritage of the brand “while also engaging with a new generation of collectors and enthusiasts”. Bizzarrini’s revival will be piloted by a trio of ex-Aston Martin executives, most prominently Ulrich Bez, who served as CEO of the British brand from 2000-2013. Bez also spent time at Porsche (where he directed design and development for the 911 Carrera RS 2.7, 968 and 993-generation 911) and was pivotal in Korean brand Daewoo’s global success in the 1990s. As chairman of Bizzarrini, Bez will work alongside CEO Christopher Sheppard, who was previously the boss of Aston Martin Middle East North Africa, and chief marketing office Janette Green, who held a similar role at Aston Martin from 2005-2014. Bizzarrini himself isn’t named in the brand’s revival plans, but it’s likely that his own designs will heavily influence any new products. +++

+++ Ilka Horstmeier, a BMW board member, said China is one of the most innovative markets worldwide and will play a more important role in the company’s global network. In an interview, Horstmeier said the carmaker initiated an event earlier this year where university students from across the globe were invited to share their vision of mobility in 2040. She said she was very impressed that 2 of the event’s 3 finalists were from China’s Tsinghua University. Horstmeier, who is in charge of the group’s human resources, said the event shows BMW’s connection with China as well as the fact that the country is one of the most innovative future markets worldwide. “This is one of the reasons we call China a home away from home, and it is not a phrase for us”, she said. She said BMW built its first engine plant outside Germany in Shenyang, Liaoning province, in 2016. China is the German carmaker’s second largest research and development network worldwide, employing over 1.100 people. “They are a strong force in our global R&D network and over 3 quarters of them are Chinese”, Horstmeier said. “Together, we’re working to shape the future of mobility”. “We keep investing in our R&D footprint and expanding collaboration with leading local tech companies”, she added. “There are numerous experts here in all future fields of mobility”. BMW has partnered with companies including Alibaba and Tencent in terms of digitalization and autonomous driving. China is BMW’s largest market in the world and has recently become one of its exporting bases. Statistics show that the group’s sales in China in the first 3 quarters of this year totaled around 570.000; up 6.4 % from the same period in 2019. The carmaker’s iX3 has rolled off its plant in Shenyang and is scheduled to hit global markets soon. Horstmeier said as BMW’s business continues to rapidly grow in China, the carmaker will improve its competence in terms of human resources to train and develop its staff in the country. “For me, the most important thing is that all BMW organizations in China play a more crucial role in the global network”, she said. +++

+++ “The fact I like most about CIIE (China International Import Expo) is, that it is not only promoting free trade, globalization and innovation, but it is also focusing on what is actually our most important asset at Daimler and Mercedes-Benz in CHINA , our customers”. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz is one of the most popular premium brands in China, which is also the brand’s largest market worldwide. In the third quarter this year, over 220.000 vehicles were delivered; up 23.4 % year-on-year. From January to September, almost 570.000 vehicles were sold in China; up 8.3 % from the same period last year. As the largest British exporter to China, Jaguar Land Rover is presenting 8 imported models at the event, including the Land Rover Defender off-roader and the Jaguar I-Pace. Wang Yan, vice-president of Jaguar Land Rover China, said this year’s CIIE is of great significance, showing China’s determination to push forward high-level opening up. The British premium carmaker, which has participated in the CIIE 3 years in a row, said it will attend the event in 2021 as well. Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is showcasing models including the Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV, in an effort to build its environmentally-friendly SUV brands and show pure Italian performance. “FCA is looking forward to enhancing our close connection and emotional resonance with our consumers at the CIIE through our flagship brands in China”, said Massimiliano Trantini, chief operating officer of FCA Asia Pacific. “The influence of Jeep and Alfa Romeo far exceeds the product itself. They represent a unique lifestyle, a spirit of adventure as well as an enthusiasm for cars and racing sports, which will offer an unique experience to Chinese consumers”. German carmaker Volkswagen Group, together with its Audi and Porsche brands, is highlighting electric vehicles at the event. Liu Yunfeng, vice-president of Volkswagen Group China, said China’s dual circulation strategy has boosted foreign companies’ confidence in the country. He said Volkswagen has attended the event 3 years in a row, and has announced it will invest €15 billion with its local partners in e-mobility. Toyota is presenting its new energy vehicles, ranging from Toyota’s Levin E+ to the Lexus UX300e. Toyota has sold over 1 million electrified vehicles in China. As a major player in fuel cell vehicles, the carmaker is demonstrating its fuel cell-related technologies at the CIIE, including its high-pressure hydrogen storage unit and the fuel-cell Coaster vehicle that will be made in China. Toyota is also showcasing the GR Supra and the GR Yaris, both of which are making their Chinese premieres. +++

+++ Carmakers from around the globe are showcasing their latest models and technologies at the ongoing CHINA INTERNATIONAL IMPORT EXPO , demonstrating their confidence in the further potential of the world’s largest automotive market. In the first 3 quarters of the year, more than 17.11 million vehicles were sold in the country, despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to the statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. General Motors is presenting the latest-generation of its iconic Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and its full-size SUVs under its GMC, Cadillac and Chevrolet marques. Julian Blissett, president of GM China, said GM is committed to introducing the best products, technologies and services into China to seize new growth opportunities and benefit customers and partners. The Corvette Stingray, Chevrolet’s most powerful coupe, sports a 6.2-liter engine and can accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 3 seconds. The Cadillac Escalade ESV is another highlight of GM’s booth at the CIIE. Due to its Super Cruise system, the giant SUV can now change lanes automatically on expressways in the United States. It also features the industry’s first curved OLED interior display, which has twice the pixel density of a 4K TV. This leading-edge technology enables bold imagery, perfect blacks and the largest color range available in the automotive arena. BMW is attending the CIIE for the third time. It is presenting seven imported models including the i8 Roadster and the 7 Series sedan. Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Region China, said BMW sees the CIIE as the symbol of China’s continuous opening-up, and this year’s event is particularly significant because of the pandemic. “China was the first country to successfully fight the pandemic among major global economies. Thanks to that, our business in China is also recovering quickly”, Goller said. Statistics show that BMW’s 2020 sales in the first 3 quarters were 6.4 % more than the same period of 2019, which Goller said was a “very hard-earned result in this very unusual year”. We are confident in the long-term prospect of the Chinese market and will continue to invest in the country”. Daimler has brought a comprehensive lineup of models including the Mercedes-Maybach Pullman, Mercedes-Benz G-Glass and the Mercedes-Benz Arocs truck to Shanghai. Hubertus Troska, a Daimler board member responsible for China, said: “We are happy to see that this year’s CIIE is taking place as scheduled. It’s a strong sign for both China’s continuous recovery from Covid-19 and its further opening-up to global companies like Daimler. +++

+++ FORD is introducing its Focus Wagon, which is popular in European countries, into China. The localized model will be unveiled at the upcoming Guangzhou auto show, set to kick off later this month. Steven Armstrong, president of Ford’s joint venture Changan Ford, said that the China-made model has been redesigned to meet the demands of local Chinese customers. Among other things, he said the model available in the Chinese market will be more stylish and have better connectivity functions. The segment of wagons, or estate cars, remains limited in China. The majority of buyers still choose either SUVs or sedans. Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that sales of SUVs and sedans in the first 3 quarters of the year totaled 12.45 million, accounting for over 92 % of total passenger vehicle sales. Armstrong said as the customers in China are becoming younger, he believes there is growing potential for the segment. Changan Ford said in a statement that the Focus Wagon will have an affordable price and further enrich the carmaker’s lineup that is driving up Ford’s sales in China in spite of the pandemic. The joint venture sold 20.495 vehicles in China in September; up 10.1 % year-on-year. Ford and its joint ventures sold 164.352 vehicles in China in the third quarter. The US carmaker said the sales momentum contributed to 25.4 % year-over-year growth (the largest since the 4th quarter 2016) and a 3.6 % quarter-to-quarter increase. +++

+++ Toyota will raise its production capacity for FUEL CELL VEHICLES (FCVs) tenfold to 30.000 a year, it has been learned. To prepare for the December launch of the fully revamped Mirai, the automaker aims to promote and popularize FCVs by setting up a complete mass-production system. Dubbed the ultimate eco-car, FCVs use hydrogen as fuel and emit only water while moving. The company will boost production capacity of fuel cells (the main source of power) 10 times compared to the current capacity, including those to be used on buses and other commercial vehicles, according to Toyota. The current first-generation Mirai was launched in 2014 as the world’s first mass-produced FCV model. However, sales are not growing partly because production capacity is limited to 3.000 units per year. Only 690 FCV passenger cars sold in Japan in 2019. The second-generation Mirai will have a range of 850 km when it is fully loaded with hydrogen; up by 30 % from the first model. Seating capacity also rose from 4 to 5, boosting its user-friendliness. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS Korea warned that it will review pledged investment in the automaker’s plant in Bupyeong west of Seoul after workers went on strike regardless of their perilous situation. Assembly line workers went on a half-day strike and threatened more partial strikes this week. The threat could be intended to get workers to return to the production lines, but there are fears that GM is trying to get out of its commitments to the government and quit Korea altogether. GM had promised to invest US$190 million into the Bupyeong plant starting next year to co-manufacture new utility vehicles assigned for production at its Changwon plant in 2022. At present, the Bupyeong plant makes only the small Trailblazer SUV. “We experienced a serious liquidity crisis in the first half of this year because of the coronavirus crisis, which resulted in a production decline of more than 60.000 cars. The recent partial strikes cost us at least another 7.000 cars”, GM Korea said. “Cumulative production losses are expected to reach 12.000 cars if the strikes continue, which would make the situation even worse”. One industry watcher said, “It looks like further investment has become realistically impossible due to cashflow problems”, an industry insider quoted GM Korea CEO Kaher Kazem as saying in September, “If another production glitch occurs, GM will have to pull out of Korea”. Observers fear GM will gradually decrease investment in Korea despite earlier pledges and eventually pack up and leave. +++

+++ The HYUNDAI Motor Group is to introduce its hydrogen fuel cell vehicles into China as the segment is starting to gain momentum in the world’s largest automotive market. The South Korean carmaker said last week it plans to sell at least 27.000 fuel cell vehicles in China by 2030. The country has set a target of having 1 million such vehicles on its roads by 2035. Hyundai said it will scale up the production capacity to 2.000 vehicles in 2021 to expand its presence in such markets as Europe and China. Li Hongpeng, vice-president of commerce at Hyundai Motor Group in China, said the carmaker will introduce its Nexo into China in 2021 for trial operations and launch medium-duty trucks in the country starting from 2022. Li made the remarks at the China International Import Expo, where the carmaker showcased its fuel cell vehicles, ranging from the world’s first mass-produced heavy-duty truck, Xcient, to the concept Neptune electric truck as well as the Nexo. The Nexo can be refueled in 5 minutes and run for 800 kilometers, said the carmaker. It has a maximum output of 163 hp and a top torque of 530 Nm. In the past 2 weeks, Hyundai has signed deals with local Chinese companies to run 3.000 fuel cell trucks in China’s Yangtze River Delta and 1.000 in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region by 2025. Together with its partners in the Yangtze River Delta, including Shanghai Electric Power, Hyundai will carry out demonstrations including vehicle use, hydrogen production and hydrogen station building. In the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, China Iron & Steel Research Institute Group will be primarily responsible for hydrogen storage and transportation, HBIS Group will produce hydrogen, and Hyundai will develop and promote fuel cell vehicles suitable for local demands. Hyundai is one of the most competitive carmakers in terms of fuel cell vehicles, with its research and development efforts starting in 1998. Its iX35 was the first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle when it rolled off the assembly line in 2013. +++

+++ BMW’s bold new electric iX , revealed in near-production form, will serve as the firm’s “technology flagship” when it goes on sale late next year. The 5-seat SUV, which was previewed by the Vision iNext concept, will offer up to 500 hp from 2 electric motors that drive all 4 wheels. According to BMW’s R&D boss, Frank Weber, it will have a 0-100 kph time of less than 5 seconds and a range of more than 600 km. The iX is BMW’s second dedicated fully-electric production model after the 7 year old i3. Weber said the iX nameplate was chosen to signify the new model’s position at the top of the electric i line-up and its role in showcasing technology: it uses the new fifth-generation version of BMW’s electric drive system, and also offers high levels of autonomous and connected technology. The iX will take on the likes of the Audi e-Tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC, as well as offerings from EV-only firms such as the Tesla Model S and Nio ES8. Weber said that, while broadly similar in size to the X5 externally, the interior of the iX “offers accommodation and load-carrying space comparable to the X7”, thanks to the electric platform, which makes extensive use of carbon fibre in its construction. The iX, developed under the internal codename i20, is a departure from BMW’s previously announced plan to base future electric models on the same platforms as its existing petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid cars. It uses a new aluminium spaceframe that supports an inner carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) structure, and a body made out of a combination of aluminium, composite plastic and CFRP. Weber said the platform is described by Weber a “totally new development”, though he says it is “highly compatible” with the CLAR platform used for the likes of the 3 Series and X5, suggesting key elements of its engineering will be used by other new BMW i sub-brand models in the future. This shared chassis componentry is key to allowing BMW to produce the iX alongside the 5, 6, 7 and 8 Series at its Dingolfing factory in Germany. The iX adapts the controversial design of the iNext concept in 2018, with a large blanked off grille, largely unadorned flanks, frameless doors, fixed B-pillars, and tapered glasshouse. Without the need for a front radiator, the large grille houses the cameras, radar and sensors needed for the driver assistance systems. For the first time in a modern BMW model, the iX will feature a fixed clamshell-style bonnet. “Without a traditional engine or frunk (front trunk), there is no need for customers to open the bonnet”, said BMW design boss, Domagoj Dukec. The windscreen washer bottle is accessed via the BMW emblem above the grille. BMW’s traditional corona light graphic has been replaced by a quartet of light bands in the upper part of the slim headlamp assemblies. Full-LED lights are standard, though buyers will also be able to specify Laser lights as an option. Aerodynamic developments, including minimal air ducting within the front bumper, flat underbody panelling, integrated door handles and the tapered glasshouse, contribute to a claimed drag coefficient of 0.25. Buyers will be able to order the iX in both standard and M Sport styling; the latter with a more heavily structured front bumper. With wheel houses similar in size to the X7, it will offer up to 22 inch aerodynamically optimised rims and 275/40 profile rubber. BMW is yet to reveal details of the variants it has planned beyond the range-topping 4-wheeldrive twin motor version. The individual outputs of the 2 electric motors, which retain full power up to their peak revs, remain under wraps for now, though Weber indicated the rear will be the more powerful of the two: “We’ve engineered the drivetrain to support between 122 hp and 408 hp per axle, front and rear”. The iX sends power to all 4 wheels; while the drive split hasn’t been specified it is expected to feature a typical rear bias. Top speed is above 200 kph. The iX will be offered with different battery options with a “100kWh plus” unit fitted to the range-topping model. With a claimed average power consumption of 21.0 kWh per 100km, that model will offer a range of more than 600 km, compared to 456 km offered by the iX3’s lithium-ion battery. Despite the extensive use of aluminium and carbon fibre, the large battery means the iX weighs what Weber described “as a good 2.5 tons”. The new charging system employed by the iX enables optional DC fast charging at up to 200 kW, allowing the battery to be charged from 10 % to 80 % in under 40 minutes. The standard charger operates at 11kW, which provides the same charge in 11 hours on a wallbox feed. Underpinning the new BMW is an aluminium-intensive chassis featuring a double-wishbone (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension, offering active rear-wheel steering. BMW is readying a comprehensive range of connectivity and sensor functions. “The iX has more computing power for data processing than the newest models in our current line-up”, said Weber. Included is over-the-air functionality via 5G and Level 3 autonomous driving technology. The iX features a spacious interior with a flat floor and natural materials. It also uses recycled plastics, including a new microfibre fabric for the seats. Up front, there’s a hexagonal multi-function steering wheel, with the instruments and infotainment functions grouped together in a lightly curved digital display panel connected to the dashboard on a plastic mount within a newly designed head-up display. The centre console has been removed, with the controls, including a rocker to select the drive and a new version of BMW’s iDrive rotary controller, set within the forward section of a high mounted armrest. Other controls are set within the upper part of the door trims. “It’s not switchless but it has less switches than current BMW models. You still need a haptic experience”, said Dukic. There is no third-row seat option; BMW claims the less than three per cent take-up for the third row seat on the current X5 was key in this decision. Boot capacity will be similar to the 650 litres of the X5. There have been no indications of a price for the iX, but as a high-tech flagship it is expected to command a premium over comparably sized models. +++

+++ To the casual observer, the reshuffle of design leadership at JAGUAR LAND ROVER might not be much more than internal house management and a reward for Gerry McGovern’s unusually successful long run (from a 1985 MG concept to the next Range Rover) at the various brands that once made up British Leyland. However, the changes put in place under the management of new CEO Thierry Bolloré mark a shift for the company in combining JLR design activities under one roof, given both design directors now report to McGovern. A single design studio, it’s argued, makes more operational sense and helps Jaguar avoid the limitations of operating as small, standalone operation. Indeed, as Bolloré and his team work intensively on their restructuring plans for JLR, one source has also flaoted the most radical suggestion is for Jaguar to be folded into the Land Rover operation, making it a genuine single company for the first time, although this is something that JLR denies. It would be huge change for the brand, which has managed to retain its independent identity during a tumultuous 50 years. When Jaguar became part of the British Motor Holdings conglomerate in 1965, it was still a family firm, run by Sir William Lyons. As part of BMH and, 18 months later, British Leyland Motor Corporation, it remained a standalone operation. Its sale to Ford in 1989 made no difference to its status, despite it being a very small operation. Even Ford’s sale of Jaguar to Indian giant Tata didn’t greatly impact on its independence of product development and, after the demise of its post-war Browns Lane factory, it also found a new production base in Castle Bromwich. However, the combination of the sales impact from the coronavirus pandemic and the huge costs for JLR’s development of the MLA architecture means the source suggest Jaguar’s days of semi-independence may be coming to an end. The cold hard facts are that the XE and XF saloons were sales failures by any global comparison and the expansion of the Jaguar range with modest-selling models such as the E-Pace and I-Pace via licensed production overseas might not have been especially profitable ventures. Jaguar will also be struggling to support new model development on annual sales that have been hammered since the beginning of this year. While Jaguar sales bounced back strongly from a low between April and June, it sold only 27.400 cars between July and September. Meanwhile, Land Rover sold nearly 3 times as many. On top of that, overall JLR investment spending has been slashed from a peak of £4.1 billion in 2018 to a planned £2.5bn in 2021. While there’s no doubt that JLR is about to undergo a significant transformation, the company’s Jaguar problem needs to be addressed. +++

+++ The long-term future of the United Kingdom’s electric car industry, which has benefited from considerable investment from JAPAN , is facing uncertainty under new trading arrangements being proposed by the European Union, according to a body representing auto manufacturers. Even if a trade deal is agreed to by January, Japanese companies based in Britain may face 10 % tariffs on exports of electric cars into the economic bloc, according to authoritative reports of the negotiations. Industry representatives and analysts have warned this could make the country a less attractive investment destination for Japanese firms and ensure the EU becomes the main home to the electric car industry. Britain is in a transition phase with the EU until January, so exports from U.K.-based Japanese firms into the bloc are still tariff-free. It is hoped a new deal will be in place by the start of the year. That new agreement will see rules of origin to ensure goods that come from either the UK or the EU have sufficient “local” content to benefit from zero tariffs in the free trade area. Brussels is reportedly proposing that from January 2021 until 2027 at least 55 % of the value of electric cars exported from the U.K. into the EU must have been locally sourced. If not, then a tariff of 10 % would be placed on the vehicle. Besides, the European Union is also planning on insisting that by 2027 all battery packs in cars must originate from the UK or the EU, reports say. When assessing the local content level in a car, the battery often constitutes between 35 % and 45 % of its overall value. According to trade experts, it would be tough for any manufacturer to meet the local content requirements under these rules. It has long been argued that both Britain and Europe lack a homegrown supply of components and materials for electric vehicles. For example, Toyota, which makes the hybrid Corolla, and Nissan, which makes the all-electric Leaf, use technology from Japan and other parts of Asia. AutoTechInsight, a business intelligence platform from IHS Markit, noted the Nissan Leaf had a “significant dependency” on parts sourced from Japan and other Asian countries. And the Toyota Corolla has battery components imported from Japan. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in the United Kingdom recently estimated a 10 % tariff would add £2,000 to the average cost of a British-built electric car. The trade body warned that such a move would make the U.K. “less attractive” to investors and “hamper the country’s ambition to be a leader in zero-emission vehicle development and production”. David Leggett, an automotive analyst at GlobalData, a data and analytics firm, said that a 10 % tariff would make life “difficult” for Japanese firms whose margins are already slim. “The carmaker would be forced to either pass on the tariff penalty to the final customer or absorb it”, he said. “In practice, it may not be quite as bleak. For example, the United Kingdom government could look at ways to compensate the manufacturers and therefore protect their competitive position. However, tariffs on EU trade would be a blow and would force manufacturers to review sourcing strategies, perhaps making more within the European Union customs union area”. On the EU’s proposals, Sam Lowe, a trade expert at the Centre for European Reform, wrote, “the proposed rules of origin suggest the European Commission spies an opportunity to use the trade agreement to further its ambitions of ‘strategic autonomy’ and cajole European industry into hastily developing an on-shore domestic battery industry”. According to reports, London is pushing to initially lower the “local” content for the UK and EU to 30 % for electric cars and 25 % for batteries. The UK also tried to get Japanese inputs classed as “British” (to get around the rules of origin requirements) but this appears to have been rejected. Anna Jerzewska, a trade and customs expert, said she thinks the proposals from both sides are effectively “lines in the sand” before further negotiations. “Both sides will have to make some compromises, but it’s difficult to tell at this point”. She said it is possible the EU may be more flexible on a limited number of car parts but will be keen to protect its own electric vehicle supply chain. Toyota declined to comment, and Nissan failed to respond to an inquiry. Auto manufacturers have long argued that tariffs will seriously challenge their business model. There are reports the two companies may seek compensation from the government if tariffs are imposed. Britain formally left the European Union in January, and negotiators are currently trying to hammer out the details of a new trading arrangement that needs to be in place by the start of 2021. +++

+++ MAZDA has used its third-quarter financial presentation to show its new straight-6 engine, which is likely to be used by the next Mazda. The new 6-cylinder unit, which was announced in 2019, is set to be offered “after 2022” and will be available in petrol, diesel and Skyactiv-X compression-ignition petrol guises. Technical details for the engine are thin on the ground. All we know so far is that it will be installed longitudinally and mated to a four-wheel drive system, although possibly not exclusively the latter. Its existence is significant, however, because earlier reports from Japan and the US have indicated that the replacement for the 6 (also expected to be shown in 2022) will adopt this engine. Those reports indicated that the model would be rear-wheeldrive, but it’s entirely possible that four-wheeldrive variants could also be offered. If Mazda does intend to use such powertrains in the next 6, it would push the car’s positioning further upmarket; something Mazda had been trying to do with its smaller models, such as the 3. Rivals for the 6 would therefore include everything from the BMW 3 Series to the Kia Stinger. Expect styling inspiration for the new 6 to be taken from cars such as the Vision Coupé concept, which was shown back in 2017 as a preview for the brand’s latest Kodo design language phase, first used on the 3. However, there remains a question mark over the likelihood any successor to the 6 would be offered in the UK and Europe. The model is still popular in markets such as the US, but sales have slowly dwindled here as D-segment saloons from mainstream brands fall out of favour in the face of SUVs. A Mazda spokesperson was unable to confirm or deny its position in the brand’s future European product plan. Mazda has previewed the engine alongside a new plug-in hybrid powertrain and an inline-4 engine. The latter will use 48 Volt mild-hybrid technology and is likely to replace today’s four-cylinder unit in due course. It remains to be seen which models will use the PHEV powertrain, but we expect it to be a priority for Europe in order to help Mazda reduce is fleet-average CO2 emissions. +++

+++ Some 24.257 foreign cars were sold in SOUTH KOREA last month; an increase of 9.8 % on-year. Despite the coronavirus epidemic, tax breaks for new vehicle buyers and the roll-out of new models propelled sales. Mercedes-Benz came in first, followed by BMW, but Audi and Volkswagen’s sales also grew markedly. Sales of the 4 German automakers in Korea had been impacted by a diesel-emission-rigging scandal in 2015. The Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association said that sales also grew 11.1 % in October from the previous month, while cumulative sales in the first 10 months of this year grew 14.2 % to 216.004. Mercedes-Benz, which released a face-lifted E Class last month, sold 6.576 cars, followed by BMW’s 5.320; up 29.1 % on-year. Audi’s sales rose 14.3 % to 2.527 cars and Volkswagen’s surged 221.1 % to 1.933. Volvo’s sales also surged 54.1 % to 1,449. Jeep sold 937 cars and Mini 890. Overall sales of Japanese cars fell 12.2 %, but Lexus’ rose 91 % to 871 cars and Toyota’s 35.5 % to 553. The bestselling model in October was Volkswagen’s Tiguan with 1.089 units sold. Next came the Volvo XC40 (1.017), BMW 520 (834), and Audi A6 (734). Tesla only sold 90 cars here, down 95.6 % from September. +++

+++ SUZUKI issued a rare operating profit outlook among Japan’s automakers that topped analysts’ average projection, underscoring the smaller manufacturer’s resilience during a pandemic that has decimated sales and profit among competitors. Japan’s 4th biggest car company is targeting an operating income of ¥160 billion ($1.5 billion) for the fiscal year through March, the company said. That compares with analysts’ average projection for ¥123 billion and even the highest forecast for ¥155 billion. Shares in Suzuki climbed 4.9 % to their highest since February 18, leaving the stock up 7.2 % this year. The shares of Toyota, Nissan and Honda have all declined this year as the pandemic eroded their sales and profits. Suzuki had a lucky break earlier this year, avoiding the initial downturn in business activity in China, where the new coronavirus originated. The company also saw little impact from U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to slap tariffs on automobile imports last year, because it was already reducing its footprint in North America. “Suzuki’s operating profit could continue to recover in the third quarter and beyond as its automobile units sales, particularly in core markets such as India and Japan, improve steadily”, Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst, wrote in a report. The automaker plans to start operating the Gujarat C plant in India in April next year, the company said in a statement. Sales of automobiles will decrease 20 % during the current fiscal year, Suzuki said. Suzuki reported sales of ¥845 billion for the quarter that ended in September, exceeding analysts’ projection for ¥802 billion. Operating income for the period was ¥74 billion, compared with the average prediction for ¥25 billion. +++

+++ TOYOTA has drastically raised its consolidated earnings forecast for the fiscal year ending in March 2021. The company once predicted that the impact of the novel coronavirus would be greater than the global financial crisis triggered by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers. However, Toyota’s earnings were ultimately boosted by a steady lineup of new cars at home and abroad. Toyota’s upward revision is likely to be good news, as the automobile industry is expected to have a large ripple effect on the Japanese economy. “There were 6 months of hard work. Toyota is getting stronger bit by bit”, company president Akio Toyoda said at an online news conference about the company’s efforts over the past half-year. In May, the company expected that operating profit for the year ending in March 2021 would fall 80 % to ¥500 billion. But in the 6 months from April to September alone, the company’s operating profit was ¥519.9 billion; higher than the forecast. The company raised its full-year operating profit estimate to ¥1.3 trillion, or 2.6 times the previous forecast. New car sales in major markets have rebounded and exceeded last year’s figure. In September, new car sales in China were up 25.3 % from a year earlier, thanks mainly to brisk sales of luxury cars such as the Lexus. In the United States, sales rose 16.2 %. It was the first time in 7 months for sales to top last year’s. Sales were up of SUVs, which the company has been focusing on for a long time. In Europe, sales climbed 15.1 %; up for 3 consecutive months. In addition to its new Yaris, Toyota has launched new models such as the RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid and the Harrier. “Sales reps’ work on the online sales process”, according to Toyoda, was also effective. Sales recovered above the market average. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, when Toyota temporarily halted production at its domestic plants, the company continued to work on “kaizen” efforts to improve production efficiency. From April to September, the company reduced costs by ¥50 billion by improving the efficiency of sales and production sites and ¥115 billion by saving office supplies. This year, Toyoda attended the press conference on the company’s interim financial results for the first time since he became president in 2009. “I wanted to say thank you to the people, such as distributors and suppliers, who are working hard”, he said. In the United States and Europe, the novel coronavirus is spreading again. Depending on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, automakers may be forced to comply with environmental regulations. “The effects of lockdowns and the spread of the coronavirus should be closely observed. The situation is unpredictable”, Toyota operating officer Kenta Kon said at the press conference. +++

+++ Hyundai said it will produce the all-new TUCSON in its U.S. plant to meet local demand for SUV models. Hyundai plans to produce gasoline and gasoline hybrid versions in the Alabama plant next year for the sale of the compact SUV in the U.S. market starting early next year, the company said in a statement. The Tucson with a gasoline and gasoline hybrid engine will also be manufactured in Hyundai’s main Ulsan plant in South Korea. The 2022 Tucson plug-in hybrid model will be assembled there and shipped to the United States for local sales, it said. “Our new Tucson represents the future of Hyundai’s full-spectrum eco-powertrain approach, offering internal combustion, hybrid and plug-in hybrid models in a high-volume compact SUV”, Thomas Schemera, executive vice president in charge of the product division at Hyundai Motor Group, said in the statement. Hyundai plans to launch 12 SUV models, including the Tucson, Santa Fe, Kona and Santa Cruz, with combustion engines or environment-friendly ones, in the world’s most important automobile market in the next 15 months. The upcoming SUV models include the Tucson N Line model, which was unveiled in the United States. The N Line models sit between Hyundai’s high-performance N brand and the general Hyundai brand. The N models bring full performance capability to daily driving, while the N Line brings performance-inspired elements to base model vehicles. Hyundai currently sells the Veloster N, i30 N and i30 Fastback N, as well as the Avante N Line and the Kona N Line in select markets. +++

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , the new car market faced yet another period of decline in October, according to figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). However, it seems that much of the year-on-year fall can be specifically attributed to the Welsh car market, which suffered in the latter part of the month due to the ‘firebreak’ lockdown that begun on 23 October. A total of 140.945 cars were registered throughout last month, a fall of 1.6 % year on year and the weakest October figure since 2011. The SMMT claims “new models and ongoing financial incentives” helped boost sales in the first portion of the month. The lockdown in Wales, which closed all car dealerships and brought online-only measures into place, saw the country record 25.5 % fewer registrations by the end of the month. That, said the SMMT, accounted for more than half of the overall decline. Another factor was “subdued activity” by businesses, with 2.500 fewer vehicles joining company fleets than in October 2019. Private registrations were actually up by 0.4%, but the SMMT cautions that this figure is “flattered” by last year’s already weak figures for the month. The overall market forecast for the year has again been revised down following the announcement of a second lockdown in England. With dealerships closed until at least early December, the SMMT’s mid-October forecast of 1.66 million new cars in 2020 has been drawn down to 1.56 million. That makes a year-on-year decline of 750.000 registrations. The SMMT estimates 2020 will, as a result, be the weakest year for new car sales since 1982, with a turnover loss of £22.5 billion. Diesel’s market share fell once again, down to 19.2 % if you include the 4.3 % figure for mild hybrids. Petrol car registrations were 21.3 % lower than in October 2019, too, while plug-in and hybrid car registrations grew substantially once again. For example, fully electric cars captured 6.6 % of the market compared with just 2.2 % in October 2019. Unusually, Mercedes beat the usual suspects (the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Golf) with its A-Class securing the bestseller spot for the month. The Ford Puma, a relatively new arrival, was in fifth place with only 236 fewer registrations than the Fiesta. +++

+++ Perhaps the most complex challenge facing the car industry today is VEHICLE AUTONOMY , the path to achieving it and the motivations for doing so. To most, the end goal isn’t in question; a utopia of zero accidents is too compelling for legislators to ignore and the rewards of success (this is an industry estimated to be worth £5.5 trillion by 2050 by the admittedly invested Intel) too great to be overlooked by established firms or disruptors. While some of the tech is there or thereabouts now, that in itself is part of the problem: unless it delivers perfection, autonomous tech is fallible, just like human beings, and thereby open to all sorts of moral, emotional and legal challenges. Supporters will point out that today’s optimistically labelled ‘self-driving’ tech has already proved its value, with accidents occurring far less than when people drive unaided. This is a line that Tesla boss Elon Musk has espoused before, although his data was challenged. Others will suggest that the cost in terms of injury and death is worth it in the short term in order to advance the tech faster for the long-term. It’s a logical argument but no comfort to the parents of a child killed by a computer’s failure. To degrees, many new-car drivers already experience autonomous tech’s abilities when they use adaptive cruise control or lane-keeping assistance. While these often make for a jerky and unsettled drive, they can on a good day get you from London to Wales on the M4 with scarcely an input. Tech that works in ideal conditions is all well and good, but what happens when it’s impaired, say by the weather or dirt? Or when something unpredictable happens ahead and the car is moving at 110 kph? Can a computer really read the scenario as a human can? And even if it can, how should it react? Will brands with safety at their heart programme their tech to be warier than those that prioritise driving thrills? For instance, would a Volvo pull up at the first sign of trouble but a BMW wait a moment longer? If they all offer the same thing, why choose one over another? And then there are the issues of who is at fault if it does go wrong. The tech developer who created the systems, the car maker who sold the tech or the driver who elected to switch it off or on? Or do insurers have to carry the can, even during the transitional stage when some cars might run the systems and others won’t? As the saying goes, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. But as with flying cars, there’s always the risk that ambition and reality don’t mix. +++

+++ VOLVO has a long-term vision for the China market, a strategy that did not get disrupted by the short-term economic fallouts due to the Covid-19 outbreak, a senior executive said at the sidelines of the ongoing 3rd China International Import Expo. Jan Gurander, deputy CEO of Volvo Group, said in an exclusive online interview that “We are always long-term when we take decisions. That’s why we stuck to the decisions of shifting our regional Asia-Pacific headquarters of Volvo Construction Equipment and Volvo Financial Services to China earlier this year, even when it was difficult for China at that time due to the epidemic situation”. According to him, these decisions highlight the company’s strong commitment to the nation, which is by far the biggest market for construction equipment, and also places more emphasis on electric transportation technologies; 2 areas that Volvo excels in. “What is very important is that China continues to open up as well, because if you put a regional headquarters in China it is possible to conduct the business not only in China but also to have the possibilities to do transactions outside of China to and from other countries in the region”, Gurander said. According to the senior executive, China has achieved a V-shaped recovery in many sectors after the epidemic was brought under control in the country. For example, Gurander said 2020 is likely to be a record year in terms of trucks (sales) in China. Thanks to quick recovery from the pandemic with great support from Chinese local governments, Volvo Group said it has sustained and even grown its business in the nation. This year marks the first time that Volvo Group has an independent exhibition at the CIIE, which offers a good opportunity to be more seen and more noticed in China, Gurander said. At the event, the company showcases its latest products such as electric excavators. “Here we want to take the opportunity to show that Volvo is, from a global perspective, a leading manufacturer of equipment, but also taking the lead in terms of new technologies”, Gurander said. As Chinese companies are shifting their focus from pure upfront costs to a more sustainable life-cycle-cost perspective, they become more willing to embrace highly efficient and environmentally reliable products, and this offers good opportunities for Volvo Group, he added. To better serve local consumers, the company also unveiled a new product called Pay As You Use, which is a customized service that basically allows consumers pay how much they use the company’s equipment. “The strengths of China have been extremely important to Volvo. And we have a strong belief in China in the long-term”, Gurander added. +++

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