Newsflash: Mazda maakt van de nieuwe CX-5 een X3 en GLC concurrent

0

+++ New owners, new leaders, new product plans: in a year that has come with upheaval as standard, ASTON MARTIN can perhaps uniquely consider the coronavirus as just another hurdle to overcome. But for all the sense that the change (most notably its closer tie-up with Mercedes-Benz) might do Aston Martin good in the long run, it’s hard not to ponder whether the need to survive has impacted on its ability to thrive. Cast your mind back 3 years and you might recall chief designer Marek Reichman’s hugely swaggering assertion that Rolls-Royce and Bentley were the equivalent of “Ancient Greece” as he uncovered the first of 2 Lagonda concepts, electric-powered and built around sustainable materials. A well-to-do rumpus ensued, as Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös fired back that Reichman had “zero clue what’s going on in the upper, upper segment”, pointing out that Aston Martin sold cars to buyers several strata below its wealthy clientele. Now the Lagonda concepts are on ice. It seems a perfectly logical decision; Aston Martin faces enough challenges without having to invest huge amounts of resource in developing an all-new range of cars in a hurry. Yet (theoretical though it may be, given executive chairman Lawrence Stroll’s lifelong belief in the value of promoting brands in Formula 1 and current emotional investment in his son Lance’s career in the sport) you have to ponder whether it might have been worth the gamble of pouring the money heading the way of the soon to be rebranded Racing Point F1 team into accelerating these electric ambitions instead. Some will argue that the hundreds of millions an F1 team costs wouldn’t get you far down the road to launching a new electric car platform, but that equation has surely changed with Mercedes’ co-ownership. Marketing via F1 has never been clear-cut, whereas the returns on EV leadership are there, if not on the bottom line then certainly on the share price. Market valuations aren’t everything, but the stratospheric rises in the worth of BYD, Nio and Tesla in 2020 must surely have given Aston Martin’s investors pause for thought (or tears). Already you can sense the opportunity to lead is slipping away. Rival or not, Rolls-Royce is making noise about electrification and sustainable materials, while Bentley is so far ahead on these fronts that it threatens to leave everyone behind. The tipping point won’t come until the first wave of cars are released, of course, and Aston Martin may yet still be there. But right now, it appears to be focused on a different race altogether. +++ 

+++ Ford is prodding other automakers to embrace more stringent automotive clean air standards set by CALIFORNIA in another blow to president Donald Trump’s efforts to limit the state’s ability to set tougher emissions rules as the industry prepares for the Biden administration. A day before an industry trade group meeting, a top Ford executive encouraged his competitors to unify in supporting the California standards to prepare for more stringent rules expected from president-elect Joe Biden. The plea comes a week after General Motors dropped its support for Trump’s efforts to strip California of its authority on auto emissions. “During the last year and a half of the Trump Administration, we essentially split into 2 camps”, Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of the Americas and international markets, wrote. “The Biden Administration will not let the Trump standards stand, and either by way of litigation and/or a regulatory reboot, the new team will move in a different, more stringent direction”. Ford last year supported the California regulations, along with BMW, Honda and Volkswagen, which earned them the wrath of Trump, who tweeted they were “foolish executives”. Ford also backed California governor Gavin Newsom’s order banning gasoline-powered cars in his state by 2035, which he signed on the hood of an electric Mustang Mach-E. General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sided with Trump in a lawsuit aimed at stripping California of it regulatory power over autos. Rachel McCleery, a Ford spokeswoman, declined to comment on the letter but reiterated the company’s support for basing national standards on the California model. “From the beginning we’ve said that our agreement with California is the best path forward for the environment, our customers and the short and long-term health of the auto industry”, she said in an email. On a visit to a Ford factory last May, Trump expressed his displeasure to executive chairman Bill Ford that the automaker was not standing with him. “He wasn’t very happy”, Bill Ford recalled. “I explained to him that it’s the right business decision and that frankly, if we have to engineer things twice (Product A for certain states, Product B for the rest of the states) it’s not a great position to be in”. Galhotra made a similar argument in his letter to rivals. “The process to get to new standards is disjointed and complicated and that means the predictability we all crave will be hard to find”, Galhotra wrote. “Given the outcome of the election, and the pressing issues that extend beyond fuel economy and the scope of these standards, it would be an enormous value for the industry to be able to pivot quickly and move forward with a single standard”. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES is confident of its China prospects in 2021, as its sales continue to rebound in the world’s largest automotive market, said a senior executive at the Italian-US carmaker. Like many other carmakers in the country, FCA was negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, said Massimiliano Trantini, chief operating officer of FCA operations in the Asia-Pacific region. However, with the pandemic controlled in the country, sales have recovered from the second half of the year onwards. “November is going to be the fifth consecutive increase month over month. If the market is expanding like this, we will have a very positive 2021 for all our models”, Trantini said. Trantini is also president of the company’s Chinese joint venture GAC Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which produces and imports models bearing the Jeep marque. At the 2020 Guangzhou auto show, Jeep showcased its latest models, ranging from the Wrangler to the Compass. Trantini said the Chinese people have a passion for SUVs and that creates opportunities for brands like Jeep. Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that SUV sales totaled 7.23 million in the first 10 months of the year, overtaking sedans as the largest segment in the country’s passenger vehicle market. Their sales from January to October went up 14.6 % year-on-year, becoming the only segment that saw double-digit growth in the period. “People want an SUV because it is bigger than a sedan, and they feel safe. I think there is a shift today. The SUV goes to its real nature, which is using the car off road, enjoying the adventure, enjoying the freedom, and Jeep’s DNA comes out”, he said. To better attract tech-savvy Chinese customers, FCA is updating its models with the latest connectivity and digital functions with the help of local Chinese companies like Tencent. “When we talk about trends, electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving are the main pillars in terms of technology innovation and China is the leader in the world”, Trantini said. He said Tencent’s latest connectivity system is already installed in Jeep’s facelifted Compass, and that Jeep itself is developing an app for its car owners. “When you do something exciting with the Compass, you can share how you feel and your experience with your friends, via the app”, he said. +++ 

+++ FORD has chosen its factory in Cologne, Germany for building an upcoming mass-market EV, based on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB electric architecture. Ford will invest €1 billion in the plant for EV production. This location was chosen over the carmaker’s Craiva plant in Romania, which would have had lower labor costs. The Cologne plant currently builds the Fiesta. Ford announced its deal with the Volkswagen Group back in January 2019; a deal that originally included commercial vans and midsize pickups, but then expanded to autonomous and electric vehicles. This upcoming MEB-based EV is being designed and engineered at the Blue Oval’s European development center in Merkenich, near Cologne, and will go on sale in 2023. Ford expects to sell more than 600.000 MEB-based models in Europe over a 6-year period starting in 2023. These vehicles will also be very different from VW’s own models, according to Ford of Europe president, Stuart Rowley. “We are very focused on the fact that these products will be Fords. They will look like a Ford, drive like a Ford, feel like a Ford and will be built by Ford”. +++ 

+++ Longstanding rumors claim the next-generation FORD MUSTANG could offer all-wheel drive, and they may not be false. Although the company didn’t confirm an all-wheeldrive option is on its way, it refused to rule it out. “As you know, the Dodge Challenger has all-wheeldrive. We’re always looking at different kinds of performance, but we have nothing to announce at the moment”, affirmed Mustang brand manager Jim Owens in an interview. What’s telling is that he highlighted the competition and didn’t shoot down the idea. He would have sung a different tune if asked about making the next Mustang front-wheeldrive , though taking that controversial route was once seriously considered by Ford, too. Seeing an all-wheeldrive variant of the current-generation Mustang is extremely unlikely. If it receives the green light, the layout would almost certainly be offered on the next-generation model due out for the 2023 model year. I’m guessing it would be an extra-cost option and rear-wheel drive will continue to come standard. It’s too early to tell how Ford would channel power to the 4 wheels. It could be a full-time system, or it could send spin the front wheels only when the rear axle loses traction. Either way, it’s safe to bet it will be rear-biased. Although this is pure speculation, it’s interesting to note rumors claim the next-generation Mustang will be the first one available with a hybrid powertrain. Could these 2 reports converge into a through-the-road all-wheel drive system? It’s not absurd. Ford could keep a naturally-aspirated V8 in the engine bay and channel its output to the rear wheels, while adding electric motors to zap the front wheels into motion. Patented by the Blue Oval in 2017, it’s a setup that would add weight, but odds are it would be marketed as a high-performance drivetrain. Ford has never offered four- or all-wheeldrive on the Mustang, though Ferguson Research built 2 or 3 prototypes in the 1960s. While some enthusiasts will inevitably argue a Mustang needs to be rear-wheeldrive, I’m not worried that adding the option of all-wheeldrive will dilute the car’s image or appeal. Dodge didn’t water down the Challenger by making all-wheeldrive available; it actually widened the model’s target audience. Following this path could help Ford position the Mustang as a year-round driver. We’ll need to be patient to find out more about what Ford has in store for the next-generation Mustang. Called S650 internally, it’s scheduled to arrive in showrooms nationwide before the end of 2022 as a 2023 model. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS and Nikola announced a reworked agreement on a fuel-cell partnership that eliminates an equity stake in the startup for the Detroit automaker as well as plans for building Nikola’s electric pickup. In September, the companies announced a deal under which GM would supply batteries, a chassis architecture, fuel cell systems and a factory to build Nikola’s proposed Badger electric pickup in return for an 11 % stake and $700 million. But the deal came into question after a short seller criticised Nikola as a fraud, something Nikola has denied. The new agreement, a non-binding memorandum of understanding that doesn’t expire until the end of 2021, is subject to negotiation and a definitive deal, Nikola and GM said in separate statements. Under the new deal, GM will supply its fuel-cell system for Nikola’s Class 7 and Class 8 commercial semi-trucks, Nikola said. The companies are also discussing Nikola’s potential use of GM’s Ultium electric battery system in its commercial trailers. Nikola officials said the new deal focuses on the fuel-cell side of the business, where they see the greatest potential. They also said they remain confident of signing a deal by year end with an energy partner to build hydrogen-refueling stations. J.P. Morgan analyst Paul Coster in a research note said the decision by GM not to take a stake in Nikola as originally planned would weigh on Nikola’s shares, but longer term, the new agreement was positive for the startup as it can now focus on its commercial truck business. Nikola said it would refund all previously submitted order deposits for the Badger as that rollout was dependant on a manufacturer partnership. Nikola officials said the Badger was “paused indefinitely” as the company focuses on its core business. “Heavy trucks remain our core business and we are 100% focused on hitting our development milestones to bring clean hydrogen and battery-electric commercial trucks to market”, Nikola chief executive Mark Russell said in a statement. GM said Nikola will pay upfront for the capital investment necessary for the fuel-cell capacity. The fuel-cell system will be engineered at GM’s technical facilities in Pontiac and Warren, and built at its Brownstown Charter Township battery plant in Michigan. “Providing our Hydrotec fuel cell systems to the heavy-duty class of commercial vehicles is an important part of our growth strategy”, GM global product development chief Doug Parks said in a separate statement. +++ 

+++ Unionized workers at GENERAL MOTORS KOREA , the South Korean unit of General Motors, voted down a tentative wage deal for the year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the company said. In a vote, 54 % of 7.364 union workers rejected the tentative deal, GM Korea and its union said. Union leaders will meet to “decide what (additional or revised) demands it will make to the company and whether to hold an industrial action to get their voice heard”, a company spokesman said. The union was not immediately available for comment. Under the tentative agreement, GM Korea offered to provide 4 million won ($3.600) per union worker in performance-based pay and bonuses for the year of 2020 instead of freezing basic salary. The company said it will maintain production of the Trax compact SUV and the Malibu midsize sedan, currently being assembled at the No. 2 Bupyeong plant just west of Seoul, as long as possible. Faced with strong objection from the union, which sticks to a 1 year deal, the company also withdrew its proposal to have wage talks every 2 years, not once a year, to reduce uncertainties ahead. GM Korea workers staged several rounds of partial strikes from October 30, demanding an end to a wage freeze and a new vehicle production plan at the plant. Partial strikes cost GM Korea about 25.000 vehicles in lost production. The company already suffered production losses of 60.000 vehicles in the first half due to impact of the pandemic. The Detroit carmaker has 3 Korean plants (2 in Bupyeong and 1 in Changwon) whose combined output capacity reaches 630.000 units a year. GM Korea’s operating losses narrowed to 332 billion won in 2019 from 615 billion won a year earlier. It sold 417.226 vehicles last year and sales stood at 300.352 units in the January-October period this year. This year’s sales are expected to fall far short of the 2019 sales figure due to production losses driven by strikes. In May 2018, GM and the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB) signed a binding agreement for a combined 7.7 trillion-won lifeline (6.9 trillion won from GM and 810 billion won from the state lender) to keep the Korean unit afloat amid low production rates and poor sales. Under the deal, GM is banned from selling any of its stake in GM Korea until 2023 and is required to keep its holding in the unit above 35 percent until 2028. GM owns a 67 % stake in GM Korea and KDB holds a 17 % stake in the Korean unit. +++ 

+++ CATL, a Chinese battery maker, will cooperate with Huawei Technologies, a technology giant, and Changan Automobile, a vehicle maker, to build a brand-new HIGH END AUTOMOBILE BRAND . The move is an attempt to make the most of the unprecedented opportunities brought by China’s latest development plan for the new energy vehicle sector, including the suppliers to the whole industry chain. Zhu Huarong, chairman of Changan Automobile, disclosed in a TV program that the new cooperation will cover a world-leading autonomous and controllable smart electric car platform, a series of smart car products and a smart life-and-energy ecosystem. Zhu did not disclose the extent of investment of each of the three companies in the new project. He, however, said the preliminary research and development of the project’s first product has finished and is about to enter the mass production stage. Early this month, China unveiled its latest development plan for new energy vehicles. The plan covers the period from 2021 to 2035 and sets out the path for the country to become an NEV powerhouse internationally by the end of the period. The country will promote the whole battery supply chain over the next 15 years, so the supply of key battery raw materials must be enhanced, Zhu said. Industry insiders said future electric vehicle sector investments are likely to center on component suppliers that deal in raw materials like lithium, nickel and cobalt. Zhang Peng, an analyst from Chasing Securities, said: “The latest NEV plan has created an optimistic sentiment. The NEV industry chain is expected to replicate the miracle of Apple’s smartphone chain”. The new plan also called for related enterprises to improve their capability in technological innovation, in order to achieve breakthroughs in key manufacturing equipment, and to improve production processes and efficiency throughout the supply chain. Executives of CATL, which has leading carmakers such as Tesla, BMW and Daimler among its clients, told that the company’s newly developed rechargeable battery is capable of powering an electric vehicle for 2 million kilometers and will last 16 years. Current models of batteries can help electric vehicles run for 250.000 kilometers. They have a life span of 8 years maximum. Deng Xue, chief auto analyst at TF Securities, said the new battery could be a potential game-changer and CATL ‘s supply chain firms will also receive continuous opportunities to grow. Though CATL did not disclose any supply contracts, it has signed a 2-year deal with Tesla to supply its Model 3 batteries. The US company had stated earlier that it was planning a million-mile battery. +++

+++ HYUNDAI ‘s sales in China will probably fall below 500.000 cars this year, less than half of its heyday just 4 years ago. Hyundai said that sales in China from January to October plummeted 32 % on-year to 341.600 cars. The Korean car giant had been hit hard by China’s unofficial boycott since 2017, compounded this year by the coronavirus epidemic. Sales peaked at 1.14 million cars in 2016 but have been falling since. Adding the sales of affiliate Kia in China, the total figure plunged 27 % to 527.550 over the same period. For the whole year, it is expected to stay below 650.000, a mere third of 2016’s sales. Since Hyundai and Kia can produce 2.1 million cars a year in China, their average factory operating rate stands at just 30 %. As a result, their rank in the market there has fallen from third in 2006 to a poor 9th this year. Industry watchers believe China’s unofficial boycott continues, and Hyundai and Kia’s wishy-washy marketing strategy there has given local rivals with more affordable cars an edge. Japanese rivals have also succeeded in branding themselves as premium cars and improved performance. Honda currently ranks third in the Chinese market, up from fifth in 2016, while Toyota has risen from 7th to 4th over the 4 years. Hyundai is trying to turn things around next year by rolling out new models. It already launched a Chinese version of the Sonata mid-sized sedan and new Elantra compact (Avante in Korea). Next year it will roll out a new Tucson and a Chinese-only mid-sized sedan called Mingtu as well as electric and hydrogen-powered cars. It will also target the high-end market with the Genesis brand. +++ 

+++ Total global output by 8 major automakers from JAPAN rose 2.7 % from a year earlier to 2.44 million vehicles in October, continuing a gradual recovery from fallouts of the coronavirus pandemic, according to manufacturers’ data. The production increased for the second straight month following a 1.7 % growth in September. Toyota said its global production rose 9.0 % to 845.107 units, the highest output for the month, following an 11.7 % increase in the previous month and lifted by recovering sales in Japan and China. Domestic output rose 12.0 % to 309.582 units, supported by the popularity of its revamped Harrier sport utility vehicle. Overseas production grew 7.4 % to 535.525 units. Toyota’s global sales in October climbed 8.3 % to 847.713 units, also a record for the month, backed by solid sales of its luxury Lexus models in China, the world’s largest auto market, and a rise in auto demand in the United States. “The pace of recovery in production has been faster than expected”, a Toyota official said, adding that the automaker will closely watch a recent global resurgence of coronavirus infections. Suzuki said its global production jumped 27.1 % to a monthly record for October of 304.196 units, benefiting from improving sales in India where the company has a large market share. Honda’s global output grew 5.7 % with production in China reaching the highest level for October, while Mazda saw a 4.5 % increase due to solid demand for its CX-5. Subaru Corp logged a 14.0 % rise in global output, showing a strong increase from a year earlier when the company was forced to cut back production due to a typhoon. Nissan’s global production fell 15.1 % due partly to a shift in its focus to profitability from sales volume. Mitsubishi, a member of a 3-way alliance with Nissan and Renault, saw a 33.0 % plunge in global production, while Daihatsu, a minivehicle-making subsidiary of Toyota, saw a 3.6 % drop. In October, global sales of the 8 automakers rose 3.5 % from a year earlier to 2.30 million units. +++ 

+++ MAZDA ‘s next-generation CX-5 will graduate from premium to luxury to bolster the firm’s upmarket push, according to a recent report. It will again take the form of a crossover, but it might spawn a fastback-like model. Company insiders said that the next CX-5 will be comparable to the BMW X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC. If that’s accurate, the people-mover will receive substantial upgrades in the coming years, because the current model is not as big, not as luxurious, and not as quick as either of those SUVs. According to the same source, the CX-5’s transformation will be made possible by 2 key elements. First, it will ride on a new rear-wheel-drive platform that it will share with the next Mazda6, though all-wheeldrive will also be offered. Using this architecture will allow stylists to increase the dash-to-axle ratio, which will in turn expand its footprint. Second, the space between the extra sheetmetal will be occupied by a new straight-6 engine whose existence has already been confirmed by Mazda. It will get SkyActiv-X technology, and it will be available with a 48 volt mild hybrid system. Elsewhere in the world, Mazda will release a turbodiesel variant of the 6-cylinder. Adopting rear-wheeldrive and a straight-6 engine will put the CX-5 in the same league as the Germans; on paper, at least. Mazda will undoubtedly ask its stylists to give the model a suitably stylish appearance, and the range could include a new four-door fastback possibly called CX-50 and aimed at the X6. Mazda’s next CX-5 is expected to make its debut in 2023, so it might not arrive on our shores until the 2024 model year. We’ll see the next Mazda6 a little sooner, and it will give us a good idea of what’s next. +++ 

+++ The Arizona-based NIKOLA company has been planning a range of electric and hydrogen fuel cell commercial and off-road vehicles. It attracted comparisons with Tesla when it floated on the US Nasdaq earlier this year and investors pushed its share valuation from $12 billion to $33 billion within days. The company’s soaring share price attracted suspicion from some financial analysts and company founder Trevor Milton was ousted in September. Nikola had opened orders in June for the Badger pick-up, which was to be offered with electric and fuel cell powertrains, and initially said it would reveal the model in December. The machine was claimed to produce a peak of 900 hp and 1.300 Nm. In September, Nikola signed a deal with GM, giving the US car giant an 11 % equity stake (then worth around €1.8 billion) in return for the use of GM’s Ultium battery and Hydrotec fuel cell technology. GM was also going to manufacture the Badger for Nikola. But the 2 firms have now signed a memorandum of understanding over a scaled-back new deal. Under the revised agreement, Nikola will still use GM’s hydrogen technology in its planned range of commercial lorries and the two firms will “discuss” the use of GM’s batteries in those vehicles. But GM will no longer take an equity stake in Nikola and the deal does not include development of the Badger. In a statement, Nikola said: “As previously announced, the Nikola Badger programme was dependent on an OEM partnership. Nikola will refund all previously submitted order deposits for the Nikola Badger”. Nikola said it is on course to begin testing “production-engineered” versions of its hydrogen fuel cell trucks before the end of 2021. +++ 

+++ Want a cheap used car to nip around town without running the gauntlet of coronavirus on public transport? Welcome to PANDEMIC MOTORS : they have just what you need. Across Europe, people are snapping up old bangers, clunkers, Klapperkasten, tacots and catorci, desperate to avoid buses and trains but wary of splashing out on a shiny new motor in uncertain economic times. “Public transportation is terrific here, but with the Covid and all that, it’s better to avoid it”, said Robert Perez, who recently moved to Spain’s capital Madrid from Argentina. On the hunt for work, Perez, a 33-year-old automotive engineer, bought a red 2001 Seat Toledo for €2.000 from OcasionPlus, a Spanish used car firm that has opened 4 new dealerships since the lockdown due to soaring demand. Data provided by research firm IHS Markit and online car market AutoScout24 showed there has been a marked upward shift in registrations of older cars across Europe, as well as a spike in internet searches for aging vehicles. The surge in interest in used cars is neither good news for struggling mass transit networks nor the environment as dirty old cars appear to be more in demand than new electric vehicles. In the longer term, however, the shift away from public transport towards “individual mobility” in the pandemic era is expected to help carmakers, hit by a 27 % slump in new vehicle sales across Europe in the first 10 months of 2020. At Nawaie Motoring’s crammed lot in the west London suburb of Hayes, general manager Ameen Sultani points out the older cars selling for under 3.000 pounds ($3.985) that are in demand. He said prices for the cars, mostly over a decade old, have jumped by 25 % as buyers who used to take trains and buses look for affordable alternatives. “Anything under 3.000 pounds has sold very quickly and is very hard to replace in our inventory because everyone is chasing the same vehicles”, Sultani told Reuters. “Most of them have bought because they wanted to avoid public transport”. Stronger than expected demand for new cars in the United States, Europe and especially China in recent months has helped major automakers recover to some extent from the financial blows pandemic lockdowns delivered in the spring. But an analysis of car registration data in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom conducted for Reuters by IHS Markit also shows there’s a significant shift toward older, used vehicles. In France, for example, the IHS analysis showed used car registrations rose nearly 16 % in the third quarter while new vehicle sales fell more than 5 %. It also showed that in 2020 so far, vehicles over 15 years old made up a higher proportion of used car registrations than in 2019. “It’s fair to say in the time of corona that the amount of vehicles older than 15 years has increased versus prior years”, said Björn Hütter, an associate product director at IHS. There was an even bigger jump in Spain, with used car registrations up nearly 25 %, according to the IHS analysis Cristian Lopez, 34, is another buyer in Spain who went for the cheaper second-hand option, partly thanks to having saved some money during the country’s strict lockdown. “Enough to buy a cheap car in cash!”, Lopez said. Furloughed from his job at a catering company, he went back to school to study tourism management. This month, he bought a gray 2005 Renault Clio for €3.600 to get to classes from his home in the Madrid suburb of Vicalvaro. Vehicle sales portal Sumauto, part of Spanish media company Vocento SA, told that sales of cars over 20 years old jumped 25 % in Spain from June to October, while those over 15 years old rose 16 %. In an analysis, online car market AutoScout24, which serves Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, said internet searches for older cars had spiked since the summer. The data showed, for instance, that in July through September, online searches for vehicles over 20 years old jumped 80 % in France, 77 % in the Netherlands and 59 % in Belgium. AutoScout24 chief executive Edgar Berger said that while “individual mobility” had become more important to consumers in these markets because of the pandemic, they had also become more cautious because of economic uncertainty. But buyers are still shying away from second-hand electric vehicles, according to used car dealer OcasionPlus. Of the 2.800 vehicles it currently has on sale, only 6 are electric. “People are wary about batteries’ performance in the long run and are reluctant to invest in the charging cabling for a second-hand car”, marketing chief Fernando Rodriguez said. Besides the potential setback to ambitious European targets for cutting carbon emissions, there are other, longer-term ramifications from keeping very old cars on the road longer. Older vehicles with fewer safety features might cause more accidents and lead to higher premiums, insurers said, though that will take time to show up in statistics. And the shift to cars is already hitting public transport. The number of people using public transport in Spain fell 92 % in April from the same month in 2019 and was still 44 % lower in September, several months after national lockdown restrictions were eased. In Britain, before the country’s latest lockdown began at the beginning of November, rail usage was about a third of 2019 levels, while personal car usage was close to 90 %. In September, London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for a 5.7 billion pound bailout package for the city’s transport operator as passenger numbers continued to plunge. Germany and France have also bailed out their state-owned railways. Greenpeace political campaigner Sam Chetan-Welsh said the shift away from public transport was a greater environmental concern than having older cars on the road because higher sales of new, larger SUVs have left vehicle emissions relatively flat anyway. “Governments need to do everything they can to reduce traffic on the road”, Chetan-Welsh said. “That includes giving people the confidence to get back on public transport safely”. +++ 

+++ The mysterious high-riding PORSCHE 911 prototype (or is it a mule?) is back, this time with a few visual updates leaving more questions unanswered. Photographed by my spies at the company’s test center in Weissach, Germany, it has dropped the alleged Styrofoam that filled the wheel arches in the previous set of images and has adopted a completely new wing at the back. Elsewhere, it sports wide wheel arches and retains the same wheels, with a larger diameter at the rear. More importantly, it still rides significantly higher than any other 992 on the market, so could it be that Porsche is planning a modern 911 Safari? I’d sure hope so, because it would be the first time they’d use the nameplate since the 1970s model. This wouldn’t be the first time Porsche showed interest in relaunching the 911 Safari, because back in 2012, they came up with a prototype that paid homage to the classic racer. It was based on the 991, featured a jacked-up stance, big bumpers, reinforced wheel arches and a stripped-down interior. Realistically speaking, a new 911 Safari would be a huge gamble for the German car firm, especially in these challenging times, so they might actually test a new suspension that may or may not be used on a future variant of the sports car. And let’s not forget that they could always shelf the project, so we may never hear anything about it again; at least not in the foreseeable future. +++ 

+++ RENAULT SAMSUNG , the South Korean unit of Renault, announced plans to halt operations at its Busan factory for 4 days next month. The automaker has suffered a sharp decline in sales this year due to a lack of new models and the Covid-19 pandemic. The company plans to suspend operations at its plant in the southeastern port city on December 11, 23, 24 and 31. It will also continue to suspend overnight operations at the plant after having reduced operating hours starting November 10. “Until the company begins manufacturing of XM3 vehicles for exports to Europe (to be sold as Renault Arkana), our daytime operations can cover vehicles for domestic sales”, a company official said. +++ 

+++ SSANGYONG said it has gained government approval to test-run Level 3 self-driving technology for its Korando model, and will start test-driving the vehicle on regular roads next month. The autonomous vehicle of the company’s compact SUV is the second model for the automaker to receive such approval, following the Tivoli Air, the company said. South Korea‘s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has introduced a permission system to drive autonomous vehicles for test and research purposes in 2016. Level 3 autonomous cars are capable of keeping in lane to drive on highways and designated areas of motorways. SsangYong said the Korando autonomous vehicle can maintain its speed and the position on a lane or change the lane. The Korando can adjust its speed according to the designated limit set for highways and tollgates, using road data collected from its map and precise positioning system, the company said. The approved vehicle also alerts the driver at emergencies or system malfunctions, and automatically runs the “Minimal Risk Maneuver” should the driver not take over the driving mode, the automaker added. “The Korando autonomous vehicle that achieved the approval is safer, with enhanced technology close to Level 3 self-driving technology”, SsangYong said. +++ 

+++ TESLA files a lot of patents, as do all manufacturers, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that a patent filing confirms a particular gadget will make it into production. Some of the ideas they want patented under their name seem like they are fit for a sci-fi flick, while others are more down to earth and the likelihood that they’ll reach production is higher. Which out of all these Tesla patents is the craziest? Well, that distinction has to go to what the manufacturer wants to replace windscreen wipers with (almost replace them, anyway) because the laser beams would actually just remove debris and dirt from the screen, and not so much keep raindrops off the screen so that the driver can see ahead. So while this rather neat idea has been presented as a possible replacement for traditional wipers, Tesla is envisioning it more as a cleaning solution that would not only be used on glazed surfaces, but photovoltaic panels as well. We therefore could see both the lasers and physical wipers implemented on the same vehicle. Next up is the steering wheel which will get touch-sensitive panels: they’re not touchscreens, as some have erroneously stated; they are a similar solution to what manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz are already offering on production vehicles. We’ve examined this particular patent filing in detail, if you want to check it out more thoroughly. Another that is less talked about is for an age detection system that is built into the seats. Its goal is to approximate not only the age of the occupant, but also their rough size and weight. This is vital information in the event of a crash so that the car knows which airbags to deploy and how severely to deploy them. Tesla also wants the car to know if any occupants are improperly using the seat belt. Basically, this takes the seatbelt sensors that are already in all new cars to the next level. Through sensors, the car will know, for instance, if any of the passengers are not fully restrained by the belt (say, they have one arm over the belt) or if it’s just fastened to the seat and someone is basically just sitting on it. If you’ve ever driven electric vehicles, then you’ll know that their range predictions are often not accurate. Most of this inaccuracy is down to how the car is used and the inherently different energy consumption, which is why Tesla has filed a patent for a feature in the navigation system that ‘measures energy-versus-distance to calculate when your EV will run out in real time, depending on predicted driver characteristics, the weather and traffic’. Basically, the goal behind it is to give the driver a more accurate picture of how much range the car has at any given point. Similar solutions are already present in some EVs, although this one from Tesla will apparently be more advanced. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA said its global production rose 9.0 % from a year earlier to 845.107 vehicles in October, the highest output for the month, thanks to robust demand in Japan and China. Recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Japanese auto giant’s worldwide production increased for the second straight month, following 11.7 % growth in September. Domestic output rose 12.0 % to 309.582 units, supported by the popularity of its revamped Harrier. Overseas production grew 7.4 % to 535.525 units. Toyota’s global sales in October climbed 8.3 % to 847.713 units, also a record for the month, backed by solid sales of its luxury Lexus models in China, the world’s largest auto market, and a rise in auto demand in the United States. “The pace of recovery in production has been faster than expected”, a Toyota official said, adding that the automaker will closely watch a recent global resurgence of novel coronavirus infections. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN GROUP ’s executive committee is reportedly going to meet in order to discuss CEO Herbert Diess’s demand for a contract extension. Diess is seeking the support of the families with a majority voting stake in the German carmaker for an extension of his contract, which would be seen as a vote of confidence in his work as head of the VW Group. The executive committee will convene on December 1. “The options will be put on the table”, one of the sources said, adding that the outcome of the deliberations remains unclear. The VW Group CEO has faced opposition from the company’s board to his efforts to reform the biggest European carmaker and he may change his strategy if his attempts continue to be blocked, said another source familiar with the matter. 6 months ago, Diess lost his position as VW brand CEO following boardroom tensions. Diess was trying to convince the carmaker’s labor leaders, who control 9 of the 19 seats on the board, to agree to new cost cuts. He was also forced to apologize for accusing fellow board members of leaking information to the press. Herbert Diess was first appointed to lead the VW brand in 2015, before taking over the whole Group in April 2018. His current contract is going to expire in 2023 and German companies traditionally negotiate contract extensions only a year before the expiration date. VW Group’s executive committee is headed by Hans Dieter Pötsch, and includes Wolfgang Porsche, Hans Michel Piech, VW’s labor chief Bernd Osterloh, and Lower Saxony premier Stephan Weil. +++

Reageren is niet mogelijk.