Newsflash: Mercedes-AMG komt met EQE 43, EQE 53 en EQE 63

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+++ Nailing the moose test is no easy feat for a new car and while you may think smaller vehicles would have a better chance of passing, that’s not always the case. Sure, quite a few big SUVs and pickups have performed horribly in the past, but there are some large vehicles, such as the Mitsubishi L200, which didn’t do that bad. Most recently, the new AUDI A3 Sportback was put through its paces. In the first attempt, the driver entered the cones at 75 km/h, slightly less than the 77 km/h needed to pass the test. Despite that, the A3 Sportback understeered massively and took out a number of cones. With the speed lowered to 72 km/h, the driver was able to thread the A3 Sportback through the course without taking out any cones. The current A3 Sportback range was recently updated with the launch of a new 40 TSFI e plug-in hybrid variant. This uses a 1.4-liter TFSI engine rated at 150 hp and 250 Nm that’s coupled to an electric motor delivering an additional 109 hp and 330 Nm of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels courtesy of a 6-speed S-tronic transmission that allows the car to hit 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds and continue through to a 227 km/h top speed. +++

+++ In October 2003, the first China-made BMW 325i sedan rolled off a new production line owned by the German luxury brand and its joint venture partner, Brilliance, a subsidiary of provincially owned automaker Huachen Group. It was a milestone for the iconic Bavarian marque, whose cars proved massively popular in what became the world’s largest market. Over the next nearly 2 decades, the joint venture was a cash cow for both BMW and Huachen, which is run by the government of the northeastern rust-belt province of Liaoning. But this month, Huachen stands on the brink of bankruptcy, defaulting on 6.5 billion yuan ($987.48 million) in debt obligations. Chinese regulators have launched an investigation into possible violations of disclosure laws by the company. The defaults by Huachen and 2 other Chinese state-owned companies have angered investors, who say their faith in the firms’ top-notch ratings, seemingly sound finances and implicit state backing has been violated. An examination of dozens of bond filings as well as interviews with former Huachen employees and experts shows how the carmaker squandered its advantage of having a gold-plated partner and was unable to leverage its knowhow to develop competitive cars of its own. Some strategic missteps on the choice of models hurt it badly and an expansion into electric vehicles, funded by debt, came too late. “Management’s key selling point to BMW to win the partnership was simple: as a smaller and weaker Chinese company, Brilliance will follow what BMW says without making trouble”, said a person close to Brilliance’s top management at the time, declining to be named given the sensitivity of the matter. Bigger state carmakers like SAIC Motor and Guangzhou Automobile Group were actively involved in their joint ventures and used the expertise of foreign partners to build stronger domestic brands. BMW told last week that the JV’s operations “are not directly affected by the payment difficulties” of the Huachen group. The German company has agreed to pay €3.6 billion in 2022 for a further 25 % stake in the venture with Brilliance, a deal brokered in 2018 by China’s Premier Li Keqiang and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A court has accepted a restructuring application by creditors of Huachen, which employs over 40.000 people and has assets worth 190 billion yuan, including the BMW Brilliance tie-up. Huachen said in a filing that if it is not able to restructure, it will declare bankruptcy. Lou Weiliang, a Shanghai-based lawyer at Fangda Partners, said it was possible that all or part of Huachen’s stake in China Brilliance could be sold to a third-party under a restructuring, with proceeds used to repay creditors. But nothing will be clear until a restructuring plan is announced, he said. As recently as May 13, in a call with nearly 90 investors, Huachen executives told creditors that money to repay debt due in the second half of the year had been “adequately arranged”. Chief accountant Gao Xingang said that as a “dragon head”, or leading, automaker in Liaoning province, Huachen enjoyed strong local government backing. But at the end of September, one month before its bond delinquency, Huachen transferred its prize 30 % stake in Brilliance to a subsidiary, making it harder for bondholders to access those assets. Investors cried foul. “After all, Huachen is a big state-owned company in Liaoning province and we thought they had core assets including an attractive stake in the BMW joint venture”, said Shanghai-based hedge fund manager Vincent Jin. BMW Brilliance sold a record 550.000 vehicles last year and made 7.6 billion yuan in profit, helping generate dividends of HK$1.8 billion ($232.17 million) for Huachen. In the early days of China’s automotive boom, Huachen was a competitive player in its own right, selling more than 200.000 vehicles in 2013 under its Zhonghua, or “China” brand. “We thought we would be the first domestic carmaker to sell premium cars well in China”, said a former Huachen executive who now works for another Chinese carmaker. But its competitors sped ahead while Zhonghua’s domestic sales slumped to just 25.270 cars last year and only 5.312 in the first 3 quarters of 2020, according to consultancy LMC. Chinese rivals such as Geely and Great Wall developed stronger products and technology, while state-backed SAIC Motor and Guangzhou Automobile grew with the knowhow of joint venture partners. Huachen, by comparison, used a scattershot approach to planning, with vehicles such as a midsize sedan and compact SUV that were not complementary, said Yale Zhang, head of consultancy AutoForesight. “Zhonghua did not plan its products systematically”, he said. “That made their products fail to meet the fast changing market demand in China”. About a decade ago, consultants hired by Huachen warned it against plans to develop a premium MPV, citing competition, an unclear outlook for the segment and Huachen’s technology disadvantage compared with the popular Buick GL8 made by General Motors. Huachen, led by longtime chairman Qi Yumin, formerly vice mayor of the port city of Dalian, approved the Huasong project anyway. “Qi was too confident about his plans. Unlike officials with deep experience in the auto industry who tend to seek opinions from different departments, Qi made decisions on his own”, one person familiar with Qi and Huachen management said. Qi, who retired last year, could not be reached for comment. Last year, Huachen sold just 1.184 Huasong MPVs, while GM sold around 150.000 GL8s in China. Efforts to freshen Huachen’s portfolio helped lead to its current predicament. 14 bonds that Huachen has said it is unable to repay were issued between 2017 to 2020 to roll over debt, for working capital and to fund product upgrades and 2 plant projects. In one 7.5 billion yuan project, Huachen planned a revamp of a factory to be completed this year to create capacity for 100.000 vehicles, including 30.000 electric ones, based on a new car platform. The investment came way too late, as China’s saturated electric vehicle market underwent a painful consolidation after Beijing cut generous purchase subsidies. By then, rivals like Geely and BYD had rolled out more sophisticated EV strategies. “Huachen missed the golden time when Chinese brands rose and all of a sudden it fell behind smaller rivals”, the former Huachen executive said. As recently as August, Huachen vice president Qi Kai, who is not related to Qi Yumin, told an industry conference that the group planned to sell around 1.95 million vehicles annually by the end of 2025, including 1 million from the BMW Brilliance JV. Analysts call that target unrealistic. The group sold just 800.000 vehicles last year; the majority from the BMW Brilliance joint venture. +++

+++ With almost 29.000 units shipped last year in Europe, the DACIA Lodgy hasn’t been that popular, which is why the Romanian automaker has reportedly decided to pull the plug on it. Discontinuing the MPV won’t leave a gap. The RJI (internal codename) will be based on the CMF-B platform that’s shared with the new-gen Logan and Sandero, as well as the latest Renault Clio, Captur and Nissan Juke. In order to accommodate the 2 extra seats, it will reportedly have a longer wheelbase as well as a longer rear overhang. Power is expected to be supplied by the regular 1.0-liter TCe petrol engine, with 92 hp and 117 hp, and the 1.3-liter TCe, rated at 140 hp and 160 hp, with the latter possibly featuring a 12V mild-hybrid system. An LPG version of the smaller unit is understood to launch too, alongside the 1.6-liter E-Tech self-charging hybrid powertrain from the Clio, where it puts out 140 hp. Safety gear such as the automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning and hill-start assist, alongside an electric parking brake, should be available. While the Lodgy is assembled in Morocco for the European market, the new yet-to-be-named SUV, which will slot above the popular Duster, is said to be put together at Dacia’s plant in Pitesti, Romania. This should give the brand extra points with the unions, which are currently angry with Renault for making Europe’s cheapest EV, the Spring, in China. The model will supposedly premiere at the end of next summer and enter production in October, while deliveries should begin in late 2021 or early 2022. +++

+++ Taking a page from the automaker’s ad slogan of the 1980s and ‘90s, FORD ’s new chief executive, Jim Farley, is aiming to rein in rising warranty repair costs that are a key reason why the Dearborn, Michigan, automaker’s financial performance in North America has lagged that of its archrival, General Motors. As part of its new effort to cut warranty costs, Ford has told suppliers it will charge them upfront for half the cost of a warranty problem. Suppliers might get some of the money back if they resolve problems more quickly. “What we are striving for is to fix the issues as fast as possible so that those adjustments are as small as possible”, Kumar Galhotra, president of the automaker’s Americas and International Markets group, told. “They’re more incentivized to work with us”. Ford North America’s chief operating officer, Lisa Drake, who is responsible for quality and vehicle launches, said in the same interview supplier contracts have always allowed such debits. “We were never doing it and frankly, it was probably one of the reasons that we became a bit more uncompetitive”, she said. The move to charge parts makers upfront has some supplier executives worried. “They push their suppliers so, so hard that it causes the supply base to be weak in the knees”, said one executive, who asked not to be identified. But for Ford investors, action to shrink the U.S. automaker’s outlays for vehicle defects is overdue. Ford’s warranty costs for the first nine months of 2020 were more than $2 billion higher than those of GM. Industry officials blame the automaker’s higher costs on the introduction of several major vehicle platforms and powertrains, as well as the fallout from the Takata airbag recall that has now also hit GM. Bad parts from suppliers account for about one-third of Ford’s warranty costs, Drake said. The rest stem from design and manufacturing issues, Galhotra said. “Warranty recovery is increasingly seen as a revenue source” by the automakers, said Ann Marie Uetz, a Foley & Lardner attorney who works with auto suppliers. “Often times, it can feel like a bit of a grab”. To attack internal quality problems, Ford has reconstituted teams that track the quality of inbound parts at its plants. These teams were previously disbanded as cost-cutting moves. Farley is pushing executives to resolve quality issues that linger beyond 30 days. Ford’s quality gap compared with GM has worsened during the past 3 years. Warranty claims have ballooned almost $2 billion since 2017, Credit Suisse analyst Daniel Levy said. In 2012 and 2013, Ford’s warranty claims as a share of sales were below 2 % every quarter. But at the end of 2018, warranty costs topped 3 % and hit 4.3 % in the second quarter of this year as overall sales slid due to the coronavirus shutdown. For the first 9 months of 2020, Ford’s warranty costs totaled $3.87 billion, while GM’s were $1.68 billion, according to regulatory filings. “It can be fixed”, analyst editor Eric Arnum said of Ford. “They just have to make the effort”. Ford investors are focused on the launches of the redesigned and lucrative F-150 pickup, and the new and highly anticipated Bronco, but reducing what it spends on repairing vehicles at dealers could provide a big boost to the bottom line. “We’re targeting a fully competitive level of warranty spend on coverages and that’s got lots of zeroes next to it”, Farley said on an October 28 earnings conference call, citing a need to be “punitive” with suppliers who ship faulty parts. Galhotra said Ford is applying lessons it learned from the mistakes made in last year’s costly introduction of the redesigned Ford Explorer to keep its current launches on track. Part of the quality push involves reducing the complexity of the automaker’s vehicles, Farley said. For example, the proximity key for the F-150 unlocks all 4 doors, but Farley said consumers only use it for the front doors, meaning Ford can eliminate 2 sensors; a manufacturing cost savings and a potential reduction in warranty risk. Ford also plans to use data gathered from vehicles to catch problems faster (in minutes rather than months in some cases) and fix them with over-the-air software updates, Farley has said. Credit Suisse analyst Levy said investors are hopeful Farley can change things, but he will have to prove it. “There was a track record already of Ford underperforming and I think this is a frustration for investors”, he said. +++

+++ HONDA is introducing an updated CR-V Hybrid to the European market, which has been changed aesthetically to better fit with the company’s latest electrified model range and has been retuned in other areas. The 2021 modelyear CR-V will be available only as a hybrid starting from December. It features new blue-ringed H badges and Honda’s latest ‘e:HEV’ lettering to signify the electrified powertrain under the bonnet. Other updates include the new 18 inch wheels across the range, standard privacy glass from the Elegance models upwards, and wireless smartphone charging for the range-topping Executive. Under the skin, the only revisions are about some tweaks to the suspension, which has been retuned for “more linear handling responses” and to provide improved ride compliance. Furthermore, the variable-ratio electric steering has been refined to offer better low-speed maneuverability. The hybrid powertrain remains unchanged, featuring a 2.0-liter i-VTEC petrol engine running on the Atkinson cycle combined with two electric motors for a total of 184 hp. Honda’s innovative fixed-gear transmission claims to offer higher levels of refinement compared to CVTs, as well as better efficiency. The 0-100 km/h sprint comes in 8.8 seconds for the FWD version (AWD: 9.2 seconds), while top speed is set at 180 km/h. CO2 emissions are rated from 151 g/km for the FWD models and 161 g/km for the all-wheel-drive ones. +++

+++ Long live the V12! That’s a horsepower-cry we’ve been hearing recently and for good reason. As emission standards around the world get ever tighter, 12 cylinders converting air and fuel into power isn’t easy when it comes to compliance. LAMBORGHINI apparently has a plan to keep their big 12-pot alive amid the changing times, though it won’t come without at least some change. Chief technical officer Maurizio Reggiani confirmed this, following the debut of the hardcore Huracán STO. Whereas that car runs a V10, the range-topper in Lambo’s lineup is still the bonkers but well-seasoned Aventador and its 6.5-litre V12. It develops 770 screaming Italian hp in the SVJ, and for awhile now it’s been viewed as the swan song not just for the Aventador but for the mid-engine V12 Italian supercar segment as a whole. I’ve heard plenty of rumours and claims that the V12 would soldier on with Lamborghini and while this new report isn’t a straight-up yes sent out in an official press release, it’s enough for V12 fans to breathe a big sigh of relief. Moreover, the mill will nix turbochargers and stay naturally aspirated, a decision that purists will certainly be happy with. From Reggiani’s perspective, it’s vital to preserve the character of Lamboghini’s flagship model. Not everything will stay the same, however. Emissions regulations will require change, and that will come in the form of hybrid assistance. We’re already seeing that with the ultra rare, Aventador-based Sián, which combines the 6.5-litre engine with a 48 volt mild hybrid system that uses a supercapacitor instead of batteries. It’s unlikely the Aventador’s replacement will stick with the supercapacitor design, as Lamborghini sees the car as something for more mainstream use and thus better suited for a conventional battery-powered layout. When will all of this come to fruition? The Aventador is almost 10 years old, and aside from special edition variants like the aforementioned Sián, the current SVJ is likely the end of the line. It’s possible a new bull could appear in 2022, but it should arrive by 2024 at the latest. +++

+++ Originally announced at the beginning of October, the EQE will serve as the electric equivalent of the E-Class Saloon and will sit on a dedicated platform dubbed “Electric Vehicle Architecture” (EVA). Daimler also confirmed it would spawn an SUV version, much like the EQS Saloon / EQS SUV pair. You can rest assured AMG will want to tinker with some of these new silent Mercedes models in the same vein as Daimler’s performance arm did with the SLS Electric Drive nearly a decade ago. New trademark filings reveal Daimler is already taking the necessary legal precautions to secure some nameplates it has probably already decided to use in the years to come. Filed with the European Union Intellectual Property Office, the ‘EQE 43’, ‘EQE 53’, and ‘EQE 63’ monikers strongly suggest the electric saloon will get the zero-emissions AMG treatment. An AMG EQE would go up against the BMW M5 EV, which according to a wild rumour, it will have Bugatti Veyron-matching horsepower. It’s too soon to say how much power an AMG-badged EQE would have, but the larger EQS packed 474 hp in the Benz-badged concept form. An AMG EQS 43 would likely boast more power, with the hotter 53 and 63 to have a greater electric punch in the same vein as the strategy used for today’s petrol-fuelled 43/53/63 models. The smaller AMG EQE models will adopt a similar strategy, although Mercedes could give them less power to avoid clashing with the more expensive EQS cars. Daimler has already announced plans to electrify its AMG and Maybach sub-brands and will also remove the combustion engine from the G-Class for an EV variant of the reputable off-roader. In the meantime, 2021 will see the introduction of the long-awaited AMG GT 73 (name not confirmed) with a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 and an electric motor delivering a combined output estimated at 800 hp. Also next year, MERCEDES-AMG will finally commence customer deliveries of the delayed F1-engined One hypercar. +++ 

+++ A German court referred a patent licensing dispute between Finnish telecoms equipment maker NOKIA and German carmaker Daimler to the European Court of Justice to clarify the law as it applies to supply chains. The Düsseldorf Regional Court said it would suspend proceedings in Nokia’s fight against Daimler over royalties for technology used in navigation systems, vehicle communications and self-driving cars. The long-running row revolves around standard technologies used in 4G mobile networks that provide information to vehicles known as connected cars, and whether Nokia is licensing them on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The dispute has raised concern in Brussels, where the European Commission has proposed a mechanism to establish whether certain patents are essential to a technology standard and to reduce arguments over their use. “It’s a welcome development that the European courts will pronounce on these very tricky questions”, Commission vice president Margrete Vestager said in Brussels. “As you know we have tricky cases exactly in this area”. The referral to Luxembourg effectively freezes the status quo in which Daimler uses Nokia’s patents for free; a blow to the Finnish firm that earns €1.4 billion a year from licences. The judgment can be appealed. “Daimler has been using Nokia’s technology for 14 years and has looked for every avenue to avoid payment. In light of today’s decision, we will now consider our options”. Nokia said in a statement. The Stuttgart-based carmaker welcomed the Duesseldorf court’s referral, saying it would make it possible to clarify questions on standard essential patents “on a fundamental and Europe-wide level”. Nokia has said that it has discretion to determine the point in the supply chain at which it issues licences, the Düsseldorf court said in a statement following the ruling. Daimler has countered that, under European Union single market rules, Nokia is obliged to offer unlimited licences for all uses relating to standard patents. In its ruling, the court found Nokia had the right to seek an injunction against Daimler for patent violation. But it also raised the question over whether doing so would represent an abuse of Nokia’s dominant market position. It suspended proceedings pending clarification of a list of related questions it put to the European Court. The Düsseldorf case is one of several between Nokia and Daimler that are working their way through German courts; a typical feature of patent litigation as parties seek a ruling that can establish a favourable precedent. With the latest decision, Daimler has pulled level with Nokia on 2 wins each. +++

+++ PORSCHE boss Oliver Blume has revealed to the German media that the brand expects to surpass its original sales target of 20.000 Porsche Taycan this year. That would be quite an achievement in these challenging times. During the first 9 months of 2020, Porsche sold 10.944 Taycans globally, which means that it would have to sell slightly over 9.000 to meet the target. Considering that in Q3 sales amounted to 6.464, it does not sound impossible. At 9.000+ units per quarter, the company would be at a rate of 36.000 per year, which is worth noting. However, we must also note that the first derivative of the Taycan (the Cross Turismo) was delayed to early 2021, which will be a major contributor to the result (both models will be made at the same production line). In the next 5 years (by 2025), the company intends to increase the share of plug-in car sales to 50 % of the overall volume globally. It would mean that the brand soon will become more electric than ICE. The shift is already well advanced, and once the Porsche Macan EV will hit the market, the days of internal combustion engines in Porsche cars will be limited. Blume hints that even the icons like the 911 will not avoid its EV destiny, it will be electric at some point. +++

+++ The R1T and the R1S are halo products, according to RJ Scaringe. RIVIAN ’s CEO also told his company would sell smaller vehicles in Europe and China and probably be produced locally. In other words, apart from the Normal plant, Rivian is working to have at least 2 more outside of the US. It is a pity Scaringe did not clarify which vehicles Rivian plans to sell in the largest car market in the world and the Old Continent, but he is aware that the R1T is too big for their streets. A few Chinese and European buyers will eventually get the R1S by 2022, but they are not as many as those who want saloons and compact SUVs in China or compact hatchbacks and SUVs in Europe. That gives us a fairly good idea of what to expect from Rivian in these two markets. At least one of the next Rivian vehicles will certainly be a compact SUV, which can be the same for China, Europe, and the US, apart from minor tweaks. China’s love for saloons is not shared by Europe, as Europeans love hatchbacks more than any other market in the world. Anyway, both saloons and hatchbacks are losing ground to SUVs and crossovers. Sadly, the Rivian sports car may never come true. According to Scaringe, no one would take Rivian seriously if it did not have plans to sell in Europe and China. Indeed. Although the US is the second-biggest car market in the world, no car company can afford to sell only there. We’re in times of massive car market consolidations such as the one FCA and PSA want to achieve with Stellantis. Summing up, scale is king, and the Rivian CEO is pretty aware of that. Predictably, Scaringe said the company’s follow-on vehicles would share “key components” with the R1T and R1S, something that Amazon’s delivery van already does. Speaking of which, the van’s purpose is not solely to serve Amazon. It will also be the mobile service platform for Rivian to aid the 41 service centres in the US the company will establish before the cars are even delivered. By “key components”, Scaringe can only mean the battery pack and motors, which implies the Rivian platform is probably scalable like Volkswagen’s MEB. As much as its expansion plans for Europe and China, this engineering aspect speaks a bunch about Rivian’s long term plans. European and Chinese customers must be curious about what Rivian is preparing for them. We bet competitors are both curious and anxious. +++

+++ Here’s a bit of light reading courtesy of the forthcoming PSA – FCA merger known as STELLANTIS . As you might imagine, the merging of two large automotive conglomerates isn’t easy, but Autointernationaal.nl wrote before that the PSA – FCA merger isn’t really a merger but an acquisition, and PSA is the dominant partner. That is, from an accounting standpoint anyway. Available now is a 714-page document that’s filled with words like revenue, shares, redundancy and phrases such as profit-and-loss, pursuant to, and everyone’s favourite conversation starter, capital expenditure. It’s a prospectus, which is a fancy term for a formal financial document presented by a company that outlines financial security. In this instance, the document is packed with technical speak but also divided into several sections that are easier for investors to digest. One of those sections is the summary, and at the top of page 23 under Accounting Treatment you’ll find the following passage: The merger will be accounted for using the acquisition method of accounting in accordance with IFRS 3, Business Combinations (IFRS 3), which requires the identification of the acquirer and the acquiree for accounting purposes. Based on the assessment of the indicators under IFRS 3 and consideration of all pertinent facts and circumstances, FCA and PSA’s management determined that PSA is the acquirer for accounting purposes and as such, the merger is accounted for as a reverse acquisition. That’s certainly plain English, and it’s further supported by the prospectus explaining that 6 of the 11 members comprising the Stellantis board will be connected to PSA. That puts FCA in the minority and the first Stellantis CEO will be current PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares. What does this mean for FCA going forward? It’s hard to say, but we already reported on rumours that some FCA and/or PSA brands could be eliminated as a result of the merger. Chrysler has long been teetering on the chopping block, not to mention Lancia. As for the endeavour being a merger of equals, from the financial side at least it seems some companies are more equal than others. +++ 

+++ TESLA chief executive officer Elon Musk said there will probably be a wider roll out of a new “Full Self Driving” software update in 2 weeks. In October, Tesla released a beta, or test version, of what it calls a “Full Self Driving” software upgrade to an undisclosed number of “expert, careful” drivers. “Probably going to a wider beta in 2 weeks”, Musk said on Twitter, in a reply to a user asking if the software would be available in Minnesota. Musk had said earlier it was planned that the latest upgrade would be widely released by the end of this year, with the system becoming more robust as it collected more data. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN had planned to move production of the European-spec Passat from Emden, Germany to a new VW Group plant in Turkey for the midsize model’s next generation. The conflicts in Syria forced the automotive conglomerate to change its plans, ultimately deciding to shift production to Bratislava following a €1 billion investment in the plant. The switch will happen in 2023 when production of the Passat’s sister model, the Skoda Superb, will be relocated from the Czech plant in Kvasiny. However, a new report claims VW has decided to discontinue the Passat saloon in Europe, following a similar decision taken for the US-spec model built in Chattanooga. The Passat (NMS) is technologically inferior to the MQB-based European model, and much like its cousin from the Old Continent, it’s expected to bow out in 2023. The silver lining? The Passat won’t be axed altogether in Europe as the Variant will live to see another generation. The thinking is VAG wants to reduce the risk of cannibalisation as the Skoda Superb is known to eat into the Passat saloon’s sales due to its greater practicality thanks to a larger footprint and a hatchback layout. It also used to be cheaper, but the gap between the 2 has been reduced in recent years. The next-generation Superb will target customers from countries in central and eastern Europe where saloons are still popular while the long-roof Passat will lure in buyers from western Europe. It goes without saying the Passat’s biggest enemy is not its Czech counterpart, but the proliferation of SUVs. Company sources familiar with the VW Group’s agenda told the company will shift even more focus to SUVs and its ever-growing EV lineup. Another victim will be the Passat’s sleeker derivative: the Arteon. Both the standard liftback and the Shooting Brake (it’s actually a wagon) won’t live to see another generation. To end on a positive note, VW previously confirmed plans to start production of a new 4-door Aero electric vehicle at the Emden factory from 2023. It’s widely believed to take the shape of a wagon, molded after the 2019 ID Space Vizzion concept. To end on a positive note for the anti-SUV crowd, VW previously confirmed plans to start production of a new 4-door Aero electric vehicle at the Emden factory from 2023. It’s widely believed to take the shape of an estate, moulded after the 2019 ID Space Vizzion concept. +++ 

+++ Swedish car dealership chain Bilia has received notice of termination for its dealer agreements with VOLVO in Sweden and Norway, it said Monday. The termination, which has a notice period of 2 years, covers both Bilia’s car sales and services business for Volvo models. Bilia, a leading Nordic dealership with around 140 facilities mostly in Sweden and Norway, said its turnover for sales of new Volvo cars in Sweden and Norway was about 6.4 billion Swedish crowns ($743 million) in 2019, compared to 29.5 billion in total for the group. “The car business is subject to a global transformation and we are convinced that Bilia will continue to play a central role also in the future”, Bilia CEO Per Avander said in a statement. Bilia said sales of used cars were not covered by the dealer agreements and hence not affected by the termination. Volvo is trying to boost online sales, which it says have accelerated during the pandemic, and aims to sell 50 % of its global volume online by 2025. In September, Volvo announced it was buying Upplands Motor, another major Swedish dealership, and that it planned a full takeover of retailer Bra Bil, seeking to merge the 2 businesses with its own dealership Volvo Bil. Volvo is planning to use the merged businesses in Sweden as a pilot for shaping its future car sales and strengthen its direct contact with customers as they move increasingly online. +++

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