Newsflash: Skoda krijgt eigen versie van Volkswagen ID.1

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+++ The AUDI VOLKSWAGEN GROUP has unveiled its electrification strategy and business plans in the Korean market over the next years. The group said in a digital press conference its 4 affiliated brands (Audi, Volkswagen, Lamborghini and Bentley) will release more than 20 new models next year and 8 electric car models within 3 years in the Korean market. The German automaker plans to increase the proportion of electric vehicle sales in Korea to 11 % of the total sales by 2023. At the press event, the automaker unveiled 2 electric vehicle models, the Volkswagen ID.4 and Audi e-Tron Sportback 55, which have not yet gone through the certification process in Korea. The ID.4 is the brand’s first pure electric SUV equipped with Volkswagen Group’s dedicated electric vehicle platform MEB. It can be charged up to 80 % in 30 minutes on a 125 kW fast charger. It is scheduled to be released in Korea in 2022. The e-Tron Sportback 55 is the second electric car model to be introduced in Korea by the Audi brand. It can similarly be charged up to 80 % in about 30 minutes on a 150 kW fast charger. It is scheduled to be released in Korea in 2021. +++

+++ The analysis is the first of an ongoing series on the development of CHINA ‘s automobile industry during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period. It focuses on sales and market variation in that time. China overtook the United States as the world’s largest vehicle market in 2009. In the 13th Five-year Plan (2016-20) period, China’s car market peaked in 2017 and has since contracted somewhat, but experts believe there is still much growth potential, given the country’s large population. In the 5 years, double-digit growth was seen only once, in 2016. Then the sales inched 3.04 % to the peak in 2017, when 28.9 million vehicles were sold. Deliveries dropped 2.76 % in 2018, which marked the first annual fall since 1990. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers cited slowed economic growth and poor confidence in consumption as the major causes. The vehicle market shrank further in 2019 to 25.8 million vehicles, down 8.2 % year-on-year. The market was expected to rebound somewhat in 2020, but Covid-19 came out of the blue. Yet the effective crackdown on the virus and the resilience of the Chinese economy have seen the car market to begin recoup losses. By the end of November, 22.47 million vehicles were sold, narrowing the gap with last year to a 2.9 % fall. The CAAM expected the year’s fall to stand at 2 % from 2019. It said the market will grow modestly in 2021 and reach 30 million in 5 years. +++

+++ CADILLAC ‘s upcoming CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwing will be the first GM production cars to utilize 3D-printed technology. In fact, the technology will be featured front and center on one of the cars’ most hotly anticipated features: in a decorative medallion atop the shift knob of the manual transmission. Cadillac says that “additive manufacturing” (named as such because 3D printing accumulates tiny deposits of material to create the object) made the manual transmissions possible by reducing costs and waste. Aside from the medallion, the cars will employ two 3D-printed HVAC ducts and an electrical harness bracket. “The manual transmission is something we know V-Series buyers want and it’s something we knew we had to have, so we used innovative processes to make it happen”, said Cadillac performance variant manager Mirza Grebovic. Speaking of which, Cadillac commissioned a Harris Poll survey about manual transmissions and received some interesting results. For example, 66 % of American adults surveyed know how to drive manual and 55 % said they’ve owned a standard shift car. Of those who don’t, roughly 40 % are either somewhat or very interested in learning. Interest is highest among two key demographics, 64 % of those earning $75,000 or more in annual household income and 62 % of those ages 18-34. The findings seem to contradict what many automakers have said about lack of interest in manuals, with some declaring a sub-1 % take rate when manuals are offered. Perhaps with a performance-oriented car such as the V-series, buyer preferences change. The mix of old school gearboxes and new school manufacturing techniques will result in what looks like a very potent car on paper. The CT5-V Blackwing is rumored to be powered by an updated 6.2-litter V8, while the CTS-4 Blackwing is said to be motivated by a turbo-6. Neither will use the twin-turbo 4.2-liter V8 of their namesake, but they should prove to be worthy successors to the CTS-V and ATS-V. +++

+++ FERRARI was facing a fresh challenge of finding a new leader of the same standing as Louis Camilleri, just as the Italian luxury carmaker is rolling out new hybrid models and getting ready for its first ever SUV. Chief executive officer Louis Camilleri, 65, retired with immediate effect citing personal reasons, after being in the role for nearly two and a half years. Chairman John Elkann, the scion of Italy’s Agnelli family, will lead the company on an interim basis while a permanent successor is found. It was not long before names of possible candidates emerged. A spokesman for F1 dismissed rumours that the former head of Ferrari’s racing team and ex-Lamborghini chief Stefano Domenicali could take Camilleri’s role, saying he was looking forward to starting his new job as Formula 1 CEO on January 1 as planned. A source close to former Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao also said media reports about him as a candidate for Ferrari’s top job were groundless. Besides Domenicali and Colao, Italian media cited other names including Apple CFO Luca Maestri and Apple former Chief Design Officer Jonathan Paul Ive as possible candidates. Although Camilleri’s sudden departure comes at an unfortunate time for the carmaker, the appointment of a replacement was unlikely to be rushed. “It will take the appropriate time”, a source close to the matter told. Like Camilleri, who had years of experience in the tobacco and food industries before taking the helm at Ferrari, a new CEO need not necessarily be an automotive expert. Ferrari is often seen by analysts and investors as a luxury goods maker rather than an automotive specialist, and as well as leading Ferrari’s ongoing effort to expand its vehicle line-up to hybrid technology, last year Camilleri launched a plan to widen the brand to apparel, accessories, entertainment offers, luxury products and services. Intesa Sanpaolo analyst Monica Bosio said finding a successor “capable of managing Ferrari’s peculiar business model, facing at the same time Ferrari’s current issues in F1”, was no easy task given Camilleri’s retirement also occurs “in a technological transition phase”. In the F1 championship, Ferrari haven’t won a race all year and with only 1 left to go, the team’s current 6th place could leave the Prancing Horse nursing its worst result for 40 years. Camilleri was appointed to lead Ferrari in July 2018, after the sudden death of former CEO Sergio Marchionne. During his tenure Ferrari has been one of the best performing auto stocks, as demand for its high performance cars remained strong, even through the coronavirus pandemic. Under his leadership, Ferrari shares rose around 50 % and have hit record levels, with those listed on Milan’s bourse touching an all-time high of €182.95 last month. A Milan-based trader said Ferrari was a well functioning machine. “With 200 million millionaires around the world, demand is not missing, it’s not a CEO retiring that can unsettle the company”, he said. Citi analysts said whoever replaces Camilleri would inherit a “significant legacy”. “At the same time, Ferrari faces perhaps the biggest upheaval in its history with a number of questions around the deliverability of 2022 profit targets and more pertinently navigating the launch of the PuroSangue SUV and negotiating the transition to zero carbon emissions”, Citi added. Ferrari has pledged that 60 % of its vehicle sales will be hybrid by 2022, but has ruled out a fully-electric model. As customers love Ferrari for its roar and high performance, analysts say there is a risk it will struggle in the long term, when silent fully electric engines rule the market and traditional powertrains are progressively phased out. In its plan to 2022, Ferrari aimed at nearly doubling its adjusted core earnings to €1.8 billion – €2.0 billion from €1 billion euros in 2017. For this year Ferrari has targeted adjusted core earnings at around €1.125 billion. According to a company source, Camilleri, who also resigned as executive chairman of Philip Morris International, had been hospitalised for Covid-19 in recent weeks. He is now recovering at home but his illness was not said to be the cause of his decision to retire. +++

+++ HONDA said car production at its British factory will resume after transport-related parts delays halted output. “Honda of the UK Manufacturing has confirmed to employees that full production operations will resume in all areas”, the firm said in a statement. Britain’s major container ports have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted global trade, leaving containers in the wrong place and goods stacked up. That has been compounded by Christmas and goods being stockpiled before Brexit. Honda also said it was recalling 1.79 million vehicles worldwide in 4 separate campaigns, including some linked to reported fires. The recalls cover 1.4 million vehicles in the United States. The Japanese automaker said one recall covers 268.000 CR-V vehicles (2002-2006 model year) in the United States to replace power window master switches. Honda said there had been no reported injuries, but 16 fires reported related to the issue. Honda conducted a prior recall of the power window master switches in 2012. The new recall is in response to moisture-related failures of switches repaired under the previous campaign. Honda is also recalling about 735.000 Accord, Accord Hybrid and 2019-2020 Insight vehicles to update the Body Control Module software. A programming flaw could disrupt communication causing illumination of several warning lights and malfunction of electronic components, it said, including “the rear view camera display, turn signals and windshield wipers”. Honda is also issuing 2 recalls covering 430.000 U.S. vehicles in 22 U.S. states and the District of Columbia with significant road salt use to inspect and potentially replace front drive shafts. Both are in response to possible breakage of the drive shafts due to corrosion. No injuries have been reported in relation any of the recalls, the company said. Honda said repair parts are not available for all vehicles involved in the drive shaft recalls. The recalls cover some 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, 2007-2014 Honda Jazz and 2013-2015 Honda Accord vehicles. No crashes have been reported in the drive shaft or software recalls. +++

+++ Hyundai topped the global HYDROGEN vehicle sales in the first 9 months of the year on rising demand for the Nexo model, data showed. In the first 9 months, Hyundai sold a total of 4.917 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, accounting for 74 % of the global hydrogen car market, according to data from local market research firm SNE Research. Toyota ranked second with a share of 11.5 %, or 767 vehicles, while Honda ranked third with a 2.8 % share, or 187 units, the data showed. Hyundai began to sell the Nexo hydrogen model in the local market in March 2018 to take the leadership position in hydrogen mobility technology. This year, Hyundai aims to sell 10.100 Nexos in Korea, mainly to public organizations and companies, more than doubling from the 4.194 units it sold last year. From January to November, Hyundai sold 5.453 Nexos in the domestic market, achieving 54 % of its annual target. Separately, it shipped 6.318 Nexos during the same period. On top of hydrogen passenger cars, Hyundai plans to develop more hydrogen commercial vehicles, such as trucks and buses, to cement its leading position in hydrogen vehicles. Hyundai aims to build a production facility capable of rolling out 50.000 hydrogen-powered vehicles a year by 2030. It also targets selling 200.000 hydrogen fuel cell systems a year in global markets by the same year. Hyundai recently started to export hydrogen trucks and buses, paving the way for further shipments of the eco-friendly vehicles. +++

+++ The HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP is planning to stop selling conventional gasoline vehicles by 2040 in major markets including China, as the South Korean carmaker shifts its focus to electrification and fuel cell systems. Starting from 2030, the company will gradually expand battery electric vehicle offerings in key markets such as the US, Europe and China, eventually aiming to fully electrify its product lineup in those major global markets by 2040. Hyundai unveiled the goals last week when it released its updated strategy for the year 2025. China has been the world’s largest market for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids since 2015. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers estimated sales this year could reach 1.3 million, up more than 8 percent from 2019. Hyundai is planning to introduce more than 12 electric models, including those built upon its dedicated E-GMP platform. The automaker expects to sell 560.000 electric vehicles per year by 2025. The carmaker said it targets an 8 to 10 % of share in the global electric vehicle market by 2040. The hydrogen fuel cell system is a newly added pillar in the company’s updated strategy, joining the ranks of electric vehicles, urban air mobility and autonomous driving, all three of which were unveiled by Hyundai in 2019. Hyundai launched the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell electric vehicle, the ix35, in 2013. The automaker has since been expanding its offerings, including the Nexo. As a new part of its 2025 strategy, Hyundai will upgrade fuel cell system technology and expanding fuel cell business beyond the development of fuel cell vehicles. It also plans to expand application of its fuel cell system in all transportation areas including ships, trains, forklifts and urban air mobility solutions. The carmaker said in November that 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. It will scale up its fuel cell vehicle production capacity with 2.000 vehicles in 2021, to expand its presence in Europe and China. Hyundai said investments in electrification and fuel cell systems in its revised 2025 strategy will total 89.47 billion yuan ($13.69 billion) by 2025, up from 62.45 billion yuan in the previous edition. +++

+++ South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP on Tuesday named the new chief for its flagship automaker unit, while promoting key leaders in future mobility sectors to affiliates’ top posts. The latest personnel reshuffle, marking the first of the kind since Chung Euisun was promoted to the group chairman position, was seen as the Korean auto group’s augmented signal to trail its blaze in future growth domains amid prolonged economic challenges and accelerating market trend changes. Chang Jae-hoon, who until recently served as executive vice president for Hyundai Motor’s domestic sales business and its prestige brand Genesis, was promoted to president and CEO of the country’s top automaker, the group said in a release. Chang, 56, is expected to add momentum to the group’s drive for innovation and corporate culture paradigm shift, joining existing CEO Lee Won-hee, who will devote time to other specific areas such as value chain development and global business optimization, focusing on future mobility sectors, officials said. The group also named new top-level executives for other affiliates, including parts maker Hyundai Mobis, builder arm Hyundai Engineering & Construction and automotive engine unit Hyundai Wia. Taking chair as new president of Hyundai Mobis is Cho Sung-hwan, who has been leading the company’s research and development. In Hyundai Wia, Hyundai Motor’s former procurement unit chief Jung Jae-wook was named as the new CEO. Yoon Young-jun, who formerly managed Hyundai E&C’s housing business unit, was named new CEO. “The core intent of the latest personnel appointment was to add fuel to the organization’s corporate culture innovation, while enhancing the group’s capacities in future businesses, amid fast-changing management environments”, officials said. “Leaders who have proven their capacities through successful business performances have been actively promoted in line with the group’s drive for responsibility management”. As a result, 30 % of the newly promoted executives came from research and future business sectors, such as urban air mobility, autonomous driving, hydrogen fuel cell and robotics, the group explained. An example was Shin Jai-won, who was promoted from vice president to president and head of the group’s UAM division. An aviation expert from US space agency NASA, Shin is seen as representing the Korean auto group’s increasing devotion to future mobility visions. The promotion list also included several relatively young executives in their 40s, as well as 5 female figures; 1 each from Hyundai, Kia, Hyundai Commercial and 2 from Hyundai E&C. +++

+++ Production has been largely halted at JAGUAR LAND ROVER ’s Castle Bromwich plant due to a “supplier issue related to Covid” causing delivery delays, the company has confirmed. Production of Jaguar’s XE and XF is said to have stopped during last week and is not planned to restart for a further 2 weeks. However, the line is still running for the F-Type. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has insisted that the disruption is not a result of reported congestion at England’s ports; an issue that caused Honda to halt production at its Swindon plant last week. That factory, where the Civic is produced, is due to restart assembly. The port congestion is claimed to be a mixture of an increased number of imports of products for consumers at Christmas and some companies electing to stockpile to prevent potential disruption in a no-deal Brexit scenario. Castle Bromwich was closed along with most of the UK’s manufacturing output during the first coronavirus lockdown in March. However, it was one of the last factories to resume production, not starting again until August. The Jaguar brand has been hit hard throughout 2020 from what was already relatively low sales of its core models, the XE and XF. Between April and September, 46.134 models were registered by the brand; a fall of 40 % on the same period in 2019. +++

+++ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has started assembling the new JEEP Wrangler 4xe at its Toledo North factory in Ohio alongside the existing Wrangler variants. The plug-in hybrid SUV is being built on two shifts by more than 3.200 employees represented by the UAW and is set to arrive at dealers nationwide early next year. The Wrangler 4xe uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and 2 electric motors, for a total output of 380 hp and 637 Nm. Mounted beneath the back seats, the 17 kWh lithium-ion battery provides an all-electric range of up to 40 km in the dedicated driving mode that joins the Hybrid and eSave, with a total autonomy of 640 km estimated by the automaker. Jeep will offered the electrified Wrangler in 3 trim levels: the 4xe, Sahara 4xe and Rubicon 4xe, with 10 exterior colors and blue accents, as well as a more special look for the top-of-the-line model. The latter will also get electric front- and rear-axle lockers, electronic sway-bar disconnect and the Rock-Trac system, while the first two grades will arrive with a two-speed transfer case, Dana solid ales and an optional limited-slip differential. The four-wheel drive system will be standard across the range. Once it goes on sale, customers will be able to order several official accessories that will further enhance its off-road capability, including special bumpers, trail lights and 2-inch (51 mm) lift kit. Pricing will be announced in due course. +++

+++ Nasdaq-listed startup LI AUTO is conducting “pre-research” on pure electric cars, but the extended-range vehicle maker said there is not a deadline when it will go ahead. Li Auto currently produces extended-range electric vehicles, which can usually have longer ranges that pure electrics. Its pure electric vehicles will be manufactured based on the next generation of electric technologies, which are expected to include super-fast charging technology, high-voltage charging platforms and high-charging-rate batteries, according to Li Auto. The company stated that as charging technologies and infrastructure are still relatively sparse, pure electric vehicle user experience is below par. As the supporting technologies and facilities are substantially improved in the following years, charging speed and convenience will also increase. John Zeng, managing director of consulting firm LMC Automotive Shanghai, said that as electric vehicles represent the general trend of the automobile industry, it is no surprise that Li Auto, a leading Chinese NEV car manufacturer with a high market valuation, will produce pure electric cars and amplify its product portfolio. As power battery technology develops, costs will be further lowered and extended-range vehicles will be gradually phased out of the market, according to Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based consultancy firm Automotive Foresight. “Switching to pure electric cars is not demanding for Li Auto technically”, Zeng said. “However, as it is, fast charging is harmful to the stability of batteries and cuts service life. We will see if future technologies can help solve the problem”. Li Auto is the only Chinese NEV startup that produces extended-range electric cars, as its peers, including Nio and Xpeng, focus on the development and production of pure electric vehicles. Li Auto has only one model, the Li One, on sale, of which it sold 26.498 in the first 11 months this year. In November, 4.646 models were delivered to customers; a 25.8 %increase from October. +++

+++ As much as 33 % of MCLAREN RACING will be sold to a consortium of U.S.-based investors. The British company has been in a tough financial spot in 2020 and recently inked a deal with MSP Sports Capital that will see the company invest $245 million in McLaren Racing to acquire a 15 % stake in the company that will then rise to a maximum of 33 & by the end of 2022. “The cash will immediately go into racing so they can fund the operations”, executive chairman of the McLaren Group, Paul Walsh told. “This is a very good transaction that will benefit the whole group”. McLaren has also been looking to sell its headquarters in Woking since September in a deal that could be worth over $250 million. The British company would then lease back the facility and continue to use it. In March, McLaren raised $387 million) in equity and 3 months later, received a $199 million loan from the National Bank of Bahrain. According to Walsh, the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t hit the racing division particularly hard and told: “I would have made this decision irrespective of the pandemic”. “This investment represents a key moment in the progress of McLaren Racing”, added McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown. “MSP Sports Capital is first and foremost a sports investor. They know the market and their team has considerable experience and proven success in global sports properties. They are a partner as much as a shareholder, with the ability to leverage their network and knowledge for the long-term benefit of McLaren Racing”. Credit analyst Joel Levington believes the company needs to raise roughly $173 million more to boost liquidity to levels in line with its peers. “McLaren’s use of financial leverage is very aggressive, given its history of negative cash generation and niche positions within highly cyclical and capital-intensive markets”, Levington said. +++

+++ MERCEDES is peeling bits of camo off its test cars as the development of the upcoming AMG SL goes on, revealing more of the 2-seater’s exterior design. The last batch of spy shots gives us a clearer look at the new SL, which is now an AMG product, including its convertible soft top. After 2 model generations and almost 2 decades of retractable hardtops, the SL is going back to a lighter and less complicated fabric top. AMG has previously confirmed that the new SL-Class will ride on the same platform as the next-gen GT sports car and that the new model will be far sportier than its predecessor, offering the perfect balance between handling and comfort. The interior of the new Mercedes-AMG SL is expected to borrow most of the tech that debuted with the new S-Class, including a large portrait-oriented touchscreen display for the MBUX infotainment and an all-digital instrument cluster. The cabin is expected to offer a 2+2 setup, with the rear seats being suitable only for small children. The new Mercedes-AMG SL will become available with a range of powerful electrified 4- and 8-cylinder powertrains, including mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid units. At the top of the range, reports suggest that the SL 73e nameplate will be used featuring a plug-in hybrid 800 HP unit, which will combine the twin-turbo V8 with a 200 hp-plus electric motor. Other models in the new SL-Class lineup will include the SL 63, which is expected to offer 612 hp. Perhaps AMG’s biggest surprise is the new electrified 4-cylinder powertrains, which will be offered in hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, across a number of different models, starting with the next C 63 AMG, the next AMG GT and of course the new SL-Class. Mercedes is expected to reveal the new SL in the first quarter of 2021. +++

+++ Sales of NEW ENERGY VEHICLES in China are likely to grow more than 30 % year-on-year in 2021 to hit 1.8 million units, as favorable market situations are expected to continue next year, a renowned automobile expert said at a salon organized by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Ye Shengji, deputy secretary general of the Beijing-based China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, said preliminary estimates suggest the NEV sector is likely to offer a bigger surprise next year, with its annual growth rate exceeding 30 %, or even close to 40 % in 2021. According to him, preliminary estimates are based on favorable market conditions, such as the supply chain of NEVs getting increasingly mature, and consumers becoming increasingly willing to buy NEVs next year. The forecast came after CAAM disclosed data showing about 200.000 NEVs were sold in November in China, marking a year-on-year surge of 104.9 %. The total sales volume of NEVs in China is expected to hit 1.3 million this year, growing nearly 8 % year-on-year despite the negative economic fallout from the Covid-19 outbreak, Ye added. According to him, after China worked hard to cultivate the NEV industry in recent past years, the supply chain has gradually matured, consumers have a better understanding of products and enterprises have beefed up their research and development capabilities to provide diversified products to meet growing market demand. With this background, NEVs are expected to see good development in the upcoming year. But challenges and problems also exist, and there is still a gap between Chinese NEV makers and established automakers in the reliability of products. Also, though the outbreak is under control in China, the epidemic in overseas countries is also likely to have a negative effect on the China automobile market next year, Ye added. +++

+++ Chinese electric-car maker NIO joined the rush for fundraising among new-energy vehicle manufacturers, capitalizing on a 11-fold increase in its share price this year to boost its coffers. The manufacturer is selling 60 million American depositary shares in a follow-on offering, and has the option to sell another 9 million, according to a statement. Based on its latest share price of $45.22, the carmaker could raise as much as $2.7 billion, excluding a greenshoe option. Rising electric-car demand has pushed up manufacturers’ shares this year, prompting them to sell more stock to fuel their growth. Chinese rival Xpeng raised $2.16 billion in an upsized share sale. A week earlier, Li Auto sold $1.36 billion of new stock, while industry leader Tesla is raising as much as $5 billion in its third stock offering this year. Electric car demand is increasing in China, benefiting Tesla as well as its local contenders such as Nio and Xpeng that focus on their domestic market. Sales of new energy vehicles, which includes electric cars, more than doubled last month to 169.000 units, according to China Passenger Car Association. Nio’s share sale adds to what is already a record year for Chinese capital-raising on U.S. exchanges, even as relations between the world’s two biggest economies are at a low ebb. U.S. equity capital markets are having a blistering end to the year, with billions of dollars of stock being sold through initial public offerings and follow-ons. +++

+++ 1 year has passed since Makoto Uchida, 54, became NISSAN ’s president and chief executive officer. Nissan is currently reviewing its business structure, moving away from former Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s expansionist policy. However, a full-fledged recovery in the company’s earnings is not yet on the horizon, and Nissan will be tested as to whether it can continue its painful reforms. Uchida took office on December 1, 2019, with his most urgent task the rebuilding of Nissan’s financial base, which had been damaged in the Ghosn era. Nissan’s earnings fell sharply after excessive price cuts in North America degraded its brand image, sending the company into a vicious cycle of shrinking funds for development and the delayed introduction of new models. In the fiscal year ended March 2020, shortly after Uchida took over, Nissan posted a consolidated net loss of ¥671.2 billion. “We will achieve steady growth without unduly increasing sales volume”, Uchida said, reducing the sales incentives that were a source of discounts. As a result, the price per vehicle rose by 1.5%. Nissan reviewed sales for rent-a-car use, which has a low profit margin, and also decided to drastically reduce inventory and close plants in Indonesia and Spain. “We see some prospects of stopping the current bleeding, and some light in the once-dark future”, a Nissan executive said. Starting this year, Nissan will release a total of 12 new models around the world, spurred by Uchida’s philosophy that momentum is necessary to avoid diminishing equilibrium. Nissan released the Kicks small SUV in June this year and is scheduled to launch the new Note later this month. However, the launch of the Ariya electric vehicle and Fairlady Z sportscar are yet to come. The novel coronavirus has spread again in Japan, Europe and North America, and sales are feared to drop more than envisioned. The automaker expects to post a net loss of ¥615 billion in the year to March 2021, taking into account the costs of advertising new vehicles. Nissan’s situation is in sharp contrast to Toyota and Honda, which are making a profit on strong sales in China. Nissan has no choice but to continue cutting fixed costs and other expenses. Collaborating with Renault and Mitsubishi, with which Nissan has a business alliance, will also be a challenge. In May, the 3 companies announced new strategies to strengthen their alliance. They plan to divide their roles by region and technology, to cut investment in each model by up to 40 %. The details need to be discussed as soon as possible. Countries around the world are launching tighter environmental regulations for automobiles, and Japan is considering having all new vehicles be hybrid vehicles, EVs and fuel cell vehicles from the mid-2030s. Competition to develop such cars is expected to intensify, and Nissan is facing a crucial stage in its survival. The following is an excerpt from an interview with Nissan president Makoto Uchida: Until now, Nissan had been excessively tracking sales numbers. Our biggest problem was that we couldn’t adapt to the changing needs of our customers from various regions. The side effects of the expansionist policy led by former Chairman Carlos Ghosn era were bigger than I expected, and I couldn’t change the situation within a year after taking office. In the year ending March 2021, we still project a net loss of ¥615 billion. I presented this figure given that we cannot be optimistic amid the coronavirus crisis and because I also wanted to avoid a downward revision of our earnings forecast at all costs. At the same time, we will make investments necessary for growth while strengthening our financial base through restructuring. We want to show the value of Nissan and Nissan’s personality through new cars. We’ve set a goal to make a solid profit from sales of new vehicles and go into the black in the year ending March 2022. The government’s plan that all new vehicles sold must be electric by the mid-2030s is tough. However, as countries around the world have expressed their intention to tighten environmental regulations, Nissan’s main strategy is to shift to EVs. We need to focus on the development of a power train. We are also compiling a long-term plan envisioning the kind of company we want to be around 2030. We want to show how we can increase our corporate value in other ways than selling cars, for example, by utilizing EV batteries in times of disaster. The alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi is an irreplaceable asset, and we’ll do all we can to strengthen it. We are said to be slow in producing results, and the leaders of the 3 companies are discussing details now. We want to take advantage of our combined size in the field of storage batteries”. +++

+++ The latest-generation NISSAN JUKE has received a revitalised 1-litre petrol engine in time for Christmas. Although it’s really a revamp of an existing powertrain, the arrival of the new 114 hp motor has seen the asking price rise slightly, in line with what Nissan calls the “benefits” of the new motor. That price hike will be roughly €500. Bearing the DIG-T 114 name, it’s essentially the same engine as before, albeit marginally less powerful than the DIG-T 117 originally offered to Juke customers. But although it may not have much to boast about in the power stakes, Nissan says the engine has more natural torque than its predecessor. Officially, it produces 200 Nm, which on paper is the same as the old DIG-T 117, but that engine needed ‘overboost’ technology to achieve that figure. Now producing that grunt without the need for assistance, the DIG-T 114 engine should (theoretically, at least) offer similar performance. Perhaps more importantly, though, the new engine has cut CO2 emissions slightly, bringing emissions down by an average of one gram per kilometre. You still get the same old standard equipment, though, so the starting price gets you LED headlights, manual air conditioning and cruise control. You get a range of safety systems, too, including autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and 2 rear Isofix child seat mounting points. However, the updated engine is available elsewhere in the range, so you can have more kit if you want. Scooting up to the Acenta version gets you alloy wheels, an 8 inch touchscreen infotainment system and a reversing camera, while the N-Connecta comes with automatic climate control, keyless entry and satellite navigation. Finally, at the top of the range, the Tekna gets you bigger alloy wheels, heated front seats and a Bose sound system, while the Tekna+ comes with some extra design features. Pietro Carminati, Nissan’s product manager for the Juke range, said the new engine had taken a huge amount of development and aimed to impress prospective customers. “The new Juke has boasted state-of-the-art in-car connectivity since its launch last year and now its powertrain reflects the very latest in engine technology”, he said. “An enormous amount of work has gone into the new DIG-T 114 engine’s development. Anyone getting behind the wheel of a 2021 model year Juke will be seriously impressed”. +++

+++ SKODA ’s Citigo may have just disappeared from the company’s line-up, but a new all-electric city car is on the cards that will be a Skoda version of the Volkswagen ID.1. Volkswagen is said to be developing a smaller version of its MEB platform, called MEB-entry, and the car resulting from it is likely to take the ID.1 name. Now new Skoda chairman Thomas Schäfer has confirmed that there would be a Skoda version. “We would definitely try and follow suit on that”, he said. “If the platform is there we could do something clever on top of it, it would definitely look completely different. It’s a good side of the family so you don’t have to do everything yourself”. The MEB-entry family is expected to use a low-cost version of the MEB architecture, meaning a vehicle length of around 4 meters; similar in length to today’s Polo. Volkswagen executives have previously spoken of aiming for a starting price of €20.000, which Skoda would probably look to undercut. Volkswagen is also rumoured to be planning an SUV based on the MEB-entry platform, likely to take the ID.2 name. However, Schäfer did warn that we would be unlikely to see a new electric city car from Skoda until the middle of the decade, with his company focusing first on the launch of the Enyaq, followed by a smaller hatchback model. “One of our biggest focuses at the moment is to go below Enyaq, that will be our first priority, then together with the group we could do something that is a city vehicle”. Schäffer also hinted that an electric saloon, about the same size as an Octavia, could follow at some stage after 2025, while the Octavia name could well continue as part of Skoda’s electric plans post 2030. “The Octavia is our key model”, he said. +++

+++ South Korean police are investigating a TESLA crash that killed 1 person and injured 2 others last week, to see if defects in the vehicle could have played a role. The Yongsan Police Station said that the vehicle has been delivered to the National Forensic Service for a forensic investigation, after the Seoul Western District Court issued a search and seizure warrant. The vehicle, a Tesla Model X produced this year, caught fire after crashing into a wall late Wednesday as it entered an underground parking space in an apartment complex in Yongsan, Seoul. The car owner, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, and the driver were both taken to a hospital after the incident, but the owner died soon after. An apartment building employee who tried to put out the fire was taken to a hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. According to police, the injured driver testified that he suddenly lost control of the car as it spontaneously drove into the wall. Cases have been reported in the US where Tesla vehicles have accelerated suddenly with the drivers apparently unable to stop them. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has looked into about 110 such petitions made by Tesla owners in January. Responding to the complaints, Tesla has denied that any of its vehicles have malfunctioned with regard to acceleration. Local experts said the battery-operated doors may have been a factor in the outcome of the latest Tesla accident. The doors remained shut even as rescuers tried to force them open from outside, they said. +++

+++ Imagine an electric car battery that provides more than 500 km of range, charges in approximately 10 minutes, requires no bulky heating and cooling systems, maintains 80 % of its charge capacity for 800 cycles (about 400.000 km) and isn’t prone to spontaneous combustion. Such is the promise of the solid-state car battery, a holy grail that automakers and manufacturers are racing to find. Now, TOYOTA announced it’ll have a running prototype with a solid-state battery ready by next year. Before you yawn and click the back button on your browser, consider the implications of this technology. Range and charge times are the biggest barriers to EV adoption, and while a ten-minute charge is still quite a bit longer than it takes to fill a gas tank with liquid fuel, it’s a lot better than having to make lunch plans while your car recharges. A compact fast-charging battery could be the EV equivalent of the electric starter, as it would allow battery-powered electric cars to conquer internal-combustion power once and for all. Toyota is far from the sole entrant in this race, nor is it the only company making headlines. Last week, a California company called QuantumScape, which has a strategic partnership with Volkswagen, announced promising test results for its own solid-state cell. Toyota’s announcement of its upcoming Euro-market electric SUV included the note that the company plans to have solid-state battery technology in its production vehicles by 2025. Toyota, in partnership with Panasonic, currently has more than a thousand patents covering solid-state batteries, and Nissan is working on its own solid-state battery, which it claims will appear in a “non-simulation” vehicle by 2028. Toyota does not currently offer a battery-powered vehicle in the United States and hasn’t offered one since the 2012-2014 RAV4 EV, but it is about to launch an update of the hydrogen fuel cell powered Mirai. Nissan, meanwhile, offers the Leaf. The brand is also preparing to launch its first electric SUV: the Ariya. Both Toyota and Nissan have the might of the Japanese government behind them. Japan is assembling a ¥2 trillion fund (around $19 billion) to support decarbonization technology, a significant part of which will be used to support the development of solid-state batteries (particularly the procurement of lithium, of which global reserves are finite). At least 2 major Japanese mining and oil companies, Mitsui Kinzoku and Idemitsu Kosan, are building infrastructure to produce solid electrolyte. Japan is hoping early advances in solid-state technology will give it the lead in battery production over China and South Korea. The global market for next-generation batteries (those that perform better than existing lithium-ion batteries) is expected to grow from $39 million this year to $413 million in 2025, $3.1 billion in 2030, and $25.2 billion in 2035. Needless to say, other companies are well into the race. Samsung has developed a solid-state battery using silver-carbon instead of lithium. This prototype battery has the potential for 800 km of range in a pack half the size of a modern lithium-ion battery. Additionally, Colorado-based Solid Power is partnering with Ford and BMW to develop battery tech, while Mercedes is working with Hydro-Québec in Canada. The race to develop a solid-state battery for electric vehicles is on, and if Toyota’s plans to produce a running prototype in 2021 come to fruition, then we could very well be looking at the dominant automotive technology of the future within the next year. +++

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN GROUP is working on a new flagship electric vehicle that currently goes by the Landjet internal codename. Audi is leading the ambitious engineering project as part of the Project Artemis plan to take the German conglomerate’s EV push to the next level. The man in charge of Ingolstadt’s design, Marc Lichte, says about the mysterious zero-emissions car: “Landjet is being developed to cover long distances without the need for human input, which can only mean we should be expecting a large battery pack and an advanced autonomous driving system. Forget about Audi’s current designs. The styling will be completely different. The vehicle will be a revolution”. As usual when talking about VAG products, Landjet is being prepared to accommodate more than just a single badge. Other than carrying the Four Rings, the tech-laden EV will allegedly spawn Bentley and Porsche versions for a vehicle that will ride on the modular PPE architecture jointly developed by Audi and Porsche for big vehicles. Rumour has it the car “Landjet” will have 3 rows, which would typically imply either an SUV body style or an MPV. However, it might actually be a saloon if the reports are accurate, much like the Tesla Model S. Bespoke EVs are in virtually all cases more spacious inside than a similarly sized vehicle equipped with a combustion engine, so a 3-row saloon can be done without exaggerating the proportions to fit that third row. While the styling remains a complete mystery at this point, the 2017 Aicon concept did portray a high-end electric saloon with a level 5 autonomous driving system. It only had a 2+2 layout, but you could probably install 3 rows of seats given its sheer size as it was a whopping 5.44 metres long. Mirroring the Landjet’s rumoured long-range capabilities, the Aicon was also envisioned as the ideal companion for an extended trip. When Audi unveiled the concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show, it promised a range of up to 800 kilometres. It’s too soon to say whether the Aicon’s specs will rub off on the Landjet, which is scheduled to come out in 2024. It’s certainly going to be a long wait as the design hasn’t been finalised yet, so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Once it’ll be ready to hit the assembly line, VAG’s electric crown jewel could be put together at the Hannover factory in Germany where it builds the Amarok pickup and the Transporter. +++

+++ Chinese electric car start-up XPENG will launch in Europe this month as part of a longterm plan to establish itself in the Western EV market. One hundred examples of its G3 electric crossover will arrive in Norway in December before the company introduces the model to other major EV markets in Europe during 2021. The G3 is promised to have a WLTP-certified range of 430 km from a 66 kWh battery pack and can charge its battery from 30 % to 80 % in 30 minutes. It has also been awarded 5 stars in China’s C-NCAP crash tests. Moreover, the promised price point of around €40.000 for this model would mark out Xpeng as especially competitive. Xpeng, which sold its first car in 2018 and is now listed on the New York Stock Exchange, currently builds 2 models on its self-developed EV platform. The G3 and the P7 sports saloon will be joined by 2 new models in 2021 and 2022. The firm has developed its own skateboard architecture, called SEPA, which leans heavily on external sensors. It uses 12 ultrasonic radar sensors, eight high-definition cameras and three millimetrewave radar sensors. Xpeng says the car currently has ‘level 2.5’ autonomous driving and self-parking capabilities. The self-developed vehicle operating system makes significant and regular use of over-the-air software updates, according to Xpeng’s own Chinese-market data from existing customer cars. Brian Gu, Xpeng’s vice chairman and president, told the company is prepared to take a long-term view on establishing a domestic Chinese brand in Europe. “We believe that technology is key in changing people’s perceptions and we note that Korean brands such as Samsung and Kia have succeeded”, Gu said. “We also think that the legacy European auto brands might not have the same brand advantages in the market for EVs. We want to build a long-lasting presence. It is not easy to get a strong brand globally, but we are very confident in our product”. Gu pointed out that the SEPA architecture uses chipsets from global giants Qualcomm and Nvidia, underlining the potential for new types of brand quality in automotive production. Gu said the G3’s roll-out in Norway, supported by its own staff and engineers, would also be used as the start of research into how Xpeng will retail and support its vehicles in the medium term as. +++

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