Newsflash: SsangYong op zwarte lijst toeleveranciers

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+++ Volkswagen Group chief executive Herbert Diess believes that tech giants pose more of a challenge for the automaker going forward than its traditional rivals. Last week, Diess mapped out a plan that will see Volkswagen’s massive Wolfsburg plant taking on Tesla’s Berlin Gigafactory, with the latter bound to draw in engineers, workers and ultimately customers right on the German carmaker’s home turf. More recently though, VW’s boss took to Linkedin in order to address the topic of tech giants entering the car industry. When asked about reports of APPLE developing a car, he said: “We look forward to new competitors who will certainly accelerate the change in our industry and bring in new skills. The unbelievable valuation and the practically unlimited access to resources instill a lot of respect in us”. “I’ve said it before: the most valuable company in the world will again be a mobility company. It could be Tesla, Apple or Volkswagen”, he added. After receiving a fresh vote of confidence from the automaker’s supervisory board this month, Diess is free to focus on expanding the VW Group’s EV lineup with new models such as the ID.4 crossover, Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo. As for Apple, a recent report claims that its Project Titan vehicle is back on track, with a possible launch window scheduled for 2024. The car’s battery could feature a monocell design which “bulks up the individual cells in the battery and frees up space inside the battery pack”. +++ 

+++ ASTON MARTIN will axe its FIA World Endurance Championship GT team for the 2021 season, with the firm instead supporting customer teams racing the Vantage GTE while focusing its works motorsport efforts on Formula 1. The British firm has maintained a manufacturer presence in the WEC’s GT division since the launch of the series in 2012, with its works team run by preparation specialist Prodrive. Aston Martin has scored 47 class wins in the WEC, including four class wins in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Aston drivers Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen have won the drivers’ championship twice, and the squad also won this year’s GT manufacturers’ crown. For 2021 the Racing Point F1 team, which is owned by Aston chairman Lawrence Stroll, will be rebranded as Aston Martin, and this will be the focus of the firm’s official motorsport efforts. While it will not run a works team, Aston has agreed a multi-year deal for Prodrive to continue to manufacture and distribute the current V8 Vantage GT racer, and provide support to customer teams fielding the cars in major sports car events. Aston Martin chief executive Tobias Moers said: “Vantage proved it has world champion pedigree in 2020, and in its GTE variant is a 24-hour race winner. Now with the Vantage GT3 we wish to give our partners and customers the best opportunity possible to fight for victory against our closest rivals in the toughest endurance challenges GT racing has to offer”. Aston Martin Racing was formed in 2004 with Prodrive running the DBR9 in the GT1 category of sportscar racing. The squad took its first Le Mans class win in 2007 and the following year expanded to field a machine in the top prototype category. After struggling to be competitive in the LMP1 division, Aston returned its manufacturer focus to GT racing when the WEC was established in 2012. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY ‘s first electric vehicle (EV), scheduled for launch in 2025, is likely to be assembled and finished at its Crewe headquarters, although the firm must earn the right to do so ahead of its Volkswagen Group peers, chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark has revealed. The EV is expected to be a high-riding saloon based on a bespoke VW Group architecture, codenamed Project Artemis, an Audi-led initiative to develop an advanced EV platform. As such, it is anticipated that the EV’s bodies would be built at an Audi facility before being sent to the United Kingdom for finishing. “We started building in Crewe in 1936 and we’ve invested hundreds of millions in infrastructure and certification for electrification, so we have the capability to do it”, said Hallmark. “But the important thing to note is that we still have to be competitive, and fight to ensure the maximum possible content for our cars is made in Crewe. We are part of a group so we must prove we are the best option, but from a brand point of view, it is our mission to ensure everything can be built here. Yes, it is feasible that we may get coated, unpainted bodies and then do the rest of the work; all the way through to the bespoke trim and interiors, but we have a proud record of adding value on the site that is exceptional. Today, I can say that the mission for this car is to have it in Crewe”. Hallmark also highlighted potentially closer links with Audi in years to come, particularly highlighting the Project Artemis underpinnings. He said: “We will have more synergies in 5 to 10 years with Audi in terms of luxury than we do now with Porsche on sportiness. “Working with Audi is an opportunity and not a risk. We will have relations with sister brands and are happy to do so. It sends a strong message for Bentley’s future that we are a strategic part of the group: that we are electrifying and are pushing forward. “Artemis is a derivative of a new electrical architecture. It will be the basis for multiple products in different segments. With our current cars, we had to get into engineering largely after the architecture had been done. We had to add bits as well as engineer the architecture for Bentley. With this new one (Artemis), we’re right in at the beginning defining what it needs to achieve for us. We’re a benefactor of it and paying a contribution, so we can give detailed engineering requirements from day one so it makes industrialisation much easier for the company”. Asked why Bentley is only launching its first EV in 2025, Hallmark said: “Weight is a concern on electric cars, which is why we’ve waited. If you look at the power density per cubic centimetre 5 years ago and 5 years into the future, there has been a rapid evolution of power density but also power management. We build big heavy cars and they will be heavier. But improvements in battery tech and battery management, and a dedication to make cars lighter, have better aero and less resistance, mean even the heaviest car can be a very efficient car”. Hallmark also dismissed concerns that not all nations would be ready to go electric by 2030, the date by which all new Bentleys will be electrified. He said: “It’s possible everywhere by then. Look at the rate of ramp-up on motorways and elsewhere, it’s extraordinary, and there will be innovations by then that help, too, such as inductive charging breakthroughs”. In a wide-ranging interview, Hallmark also talked up autonomous functions but said Bentley will not be pioneering in the field: “We want to be a close follower but not a pioneer, to avoid all the boring bits”, and he called hydrogen “a great idea, but the quantities of energy required for its production and the challenges of storing and transporting it mean it doesn’t make sense yet”. The transfer to Audi control means Bentley will use differently tuned and calibrated platforms. Given Audi’s more comfortable nature compared to the sports cars of Porsche, this probably means the engineers of Bentley will have an easier task when converting the architectures for use in its ultra-luxury cars. “With the current cars we had to get into the engineering of those architectures after they had largely been done”, Hallmark commented. “The difference now with this new electric architecture is that we are right at the beginning of the definition of what it needs to achieve”. +++ 

+++ BOSCH is currently developing vehicle computers for all possible automotive applications and their goal is to ultimately reduce the complexity of electronic systems. The German tech giant has already received several billion euros worth of orders for its computers: €2.5 billion since last summer alone. Aside from controlling functions such as driver assistance systems, it will unveil central computers for cockpit functions and body electronics. “Vehicle computers have huge business potential for Bosch. Even now, our high-performance computers mean that automakers view us as one of their leading engineering and technology partners”, stated board member Harald Kröger. The market for these systems is said to be worth about €20 billion and could grow by 15 % annually between now and 2030. In order to meet demand, Bosch’s new Cross-Domain Computing Solutions division, which will handle all the hardware and software engineering for vehicle computers, sensors and control units, will start operations in January 2021. With Bosch developing computers for cockpit and connectivity functions, driver assistance and automated driving, as well as powertrain and body electronics, it will look to concentrate control over all central vehicle functions using just a handful of high-performance central computers. One example is the information domain computer currently under development which will assume the tasks done by as many as 10 control units. Right now, some vehicles boast more than 100 control units in total, and such developments will help greatly reduce that number. Of course, less units also means less wiring, and thus fewer costs and less weight. “Bosch vehicle computers will make it possible to master even highly complex driving functions across individual vehicle domains”, says Mathias Pilin, who will take over the new Cross-Domain Computing Solutions division next month. +++ 

+++ The car market in CHINA once again proved to be the “most important pillar” of the global automotive industry and of German manufacturers in particular, according to a report published by global consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY). China’s share of global sales by German carmakers in the third quarter (Q3) climbed from 35.7 % to 39.2 % year-on-year, according to EY. During the first Covid-19 wave in the second quarter, 51 % of all new cars by German carmakers were sold to customers in China. The 3 major German carmakers Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler benefited to an “above-average extent” from the market recovery in China as their Q3 sales in China increased by 9 % compared to last year, EY noted. At the same time, sales of German carmakers in Western Europe fell by 4 % and were even down 14 % in the United States, according to the EY report. Following a massive slump in global revenues as well as unit sales in the second quarter due to the Covid-19 crisis, businesses of the 17 analyzed automotive groups worldwide were “considerably better” in the third quarter, the EY report said. Revenues of the analyzed automotive groups rose by 53 % compared with the previous quarter, while new vehicle unit sales climbed by 46 %. Compared to the previous year, however, global car manufacturers still had not reached the previous year’s level, the report found. In terms of revenues and sales, the analyzed car manufacturers were 5 % below pre-crisis levels. +++ 

+++ China’s leading automaker, the FAW GROUP , a State-owned enterprise based in Changchun, Jilin province, announced that it had sold 200.000 Hongqi brand vehicles, achieving a 5-fold increase within 5 years. In 2018, the company set sales targets of 100.000 Hongqi cars by 2020, 300.000 by 2025 and 500.000 by 2035. Hongqi, meaning “red flag”, is China’s iconic sedan brand established in 1958 that has been used in parades during national celebrations. In recent years, FAW Group has sped up the expansion of its product portfolio, adding models H5, H7, H9, HS5, HS7 and E-HS3 at different price points. In 2019, sales exceeded 100.000, which was 1 year ahead of schedule. “On the path of the enterprise’s transformation and upgrading, FAW continues to explore a suitable development model”, said Xu Liuping, the group’s chairman. “The revitalization of the Red Flag brand is our top goal. FAW strives to build global brand influence and promote Hongqi top independent high-end car brand”, he said. “Only by constant innovation and gathering superior resources, can we lead the future development of the automobile industry”. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES and Mahindra have been fighting over Jeep Trade Dress for what seems like an eternity, but the Roxor producer is claiming victory following a ruling from the International Trade Commission. According to Mahindra, the ITC determined the “redesigned 2021 Roxor does not infringe on the ‘Jeep Trade Dress’ claimed by FCA”. The company went on to say this follows earlier rulings which found “Mahindra did not infringe on any of FCA’s registered trademarks”. While Mahindra has yet to reveal the 2021 Roxor, the legal battle between the 2 companies came to a head last year when Administrative Law Judge Cameron Elliot determined the Roxor infringed on Jeep’s Trade Dress. Among the styling features that were key to the case were exterior hood latches, “door cutouts above the bottom portion of the side body panels”, a “boxy body shape with flat appearing vertical side and rear body panels ending at about the same height as the hood”. Mahindra Automotive North America CEO Rick Haas even acknowledged the similarities in a deposition as he said the Roxor “has the appearance of a Jeep CJ” and added the model “does look like a CJ”. He went on to claim the Roxor is “actually a CJ” and “everyone understands that our vehicle is a CJ”. However, he also admitted “The CJ is a Jeep brand vehicle.” Given all of the evidence, Elliot found the Roxor infringed on Jeep’s Trade Dress and recommended a cease-and-desist order to prevent Mahindra from selling Roxors in the United States. The legal issues continued and Mahindra unveiled an updated Roxor in January. However, the styling changes were limited and the most noticeable difference was a revised grille inspired by classic Toyota Land Cruisers. While it remains to be seen what the 2021 Roxor will look like, Mahindra said the ITC’s ruling “validates” the redesigned model and will allow them to manufacture and distribute the vehicle. Haas went on to say the SUV will have a rugged design as they “wanted an aggressive look that reflected just how tough and capable the Roxor is”. I reached out to FCA for comment and the company told me: “While FCA is disappointed with the Commission’s decision regarding the redesign, we believe we will be successful in appealing this decision”. This suggests the legal drama is far from over. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS boss Mary Barra will give a keynote address at CES on January 12th, and it appears she’ll have plenty to talk about as the company is reportedly planning to preview an assortment of upcoming electric vehicles. While we’ve already reported the Bolt SUV could be unveiled at the event, the automaker will show a video that previews a handful of concepts including a “plug-in Chevrolet pickup”. That could be the same truck that was shown in the background during GM’s presentation at the Barclays Global Automotive Conference. Besides the truck, we can expect a look at future Cadillacs as well as vehicles from other brands. The report is light on specifics, but GM is embracing an all-electric future and has promised EVs at “all price points for work, adventure, performance and family use”. The automaker will launch 30 electric vehicles globally by 2025 and more than 20 of them will be available in North America. Cadillac will be front and center as the brand will launch the Lyriq and Celestiq as well as a full-size SUV. The company has also said we can expect additional electric crossovers and “low roof entries”, which could include a coupe or sports car. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Chevrolet will introduce the facelifted Bolt and all-new Bolt SUV. The company also has plans for a full-size pickup as well as crossovers and “low roof entries”. The GMC Hummer EV pickup will be followed by a Hummer SUV and a more affordable full-size GMC truck. Last but not least, there will be electric crossovers from Buick as well as autonomous electric vehicles from Cruise. +++ 

+++ GENESIS sold 10.000 new GV70 SUVs on the first day they hit showrooms in South Korea. The record already surpasses 20 % of the sales target of 44.000 cars for next year. The domestic market for premium mid-sized SUVs is only estimated at 20.000 cars a year, but the GV70 ate up half of that in just one day. Mercedes Benz sold about 5.700 GLCs, which are thought to be the GV70’s main rival, from January to November this year, and BMW sold around 3.000 X3 SUVs. One reason is that the GV70 is cheaper at W47.91 million for the gasoline-fueled model, though the price tag rises to W75 million with full options to rival premium imports. But other attractions are the cutting-edge features and driving performance. No one had expected it to do so well since a large Palisade SUV costs the same. Hyundai’s premium brand has had a banner year by rolling out the GV80 large SUV and G80 large sedan to great acclaim as well. The GV80, which hit showrooms in January, racked up sales of 15.000 cars on the first day and had sold 30.745 by November. The G80 hit showrooms in May and sales have stood at between 6.000 to 7.000 a month. The strong performance has helped Genesis beat both Mercedes-Benz and BMW to rank first in the Korean premium market. Meanwhile, Hyundai’s midsized Sonata sedan, which once reigned supreme in Korea, is losing its luster. Sales have been so poor that Sonata assembly lines at its Asan plant have been shut down temporarily from Wednesday until January 6 of next year as the automaker depletes mounting inventory. Sonata sales in the first 11 months of this year reached only 63.078; down 31 % on-year. The large Grandeur sedan seems to be replacing the Sonata, selling over 10.000 since March and well on its way to becoming the bestseller here this year. +++ 

+++ When Carlos GHOSN arrived at Nissan in 1999, suppliers took the brunt of cost-cutting that helped revive the automaker. 2 decades later, his successors are trying for another turnaround without the ability to pressure parts makers. Nissan, like rivals, has been hit as the pandemic sapped global demand. But Japan’s No.3 automaker has another problem: an ageing line-up out of step with changing tastes, including growing appetite for SUVs in the United States and luxury brands in China. Ghosn’s relentless pursuit of chasing volume resulted in a focus on price and incentives, rather than new designs. Under Ghosn, Nissan halved its suppliers to 600 firms. Those that remained had to lower costs, but benefited from more orders as Nissan’s global market share went from 4.9 % to 6.6 %. Ghosn, who also ran alliance partner Renault, was arrested in Japan 2 years ago on charges of financial wrongdoing, which he has denied. He has since fled to Lebanon. In recent years Nissan has lost its way and new management is once again looking to cut costs, but can’t offer increased volume to suppliers. Nissan plans to reduce production capacity and model types by a fifth to trim costs by 300 billion yen ($2.88 billion). “Cost-cutting is a no-brainer”, chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta told in an interview, acknowledging that suppliers may take some persuading. “We need to have a logic to convince both internally and externally that this is why we want the rationalisation”. Adding to the challenge is the increased “regionalisation” of the auto market, Gupta said. Automakers face a number of different standards and regulations around the world, forcing them to sell cars in different regional versions. Under Ghosn, Nissan was able to use fewer suppliers and increase economies of scale for components. Now it needs to use more suppliers. Nissan also faces an intensifying technological battle in electric vehicles and connected autonomous driving against competitors with deeper research and development pockets such as Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors, as well as new rivals such as Tesla. “We would appreciate an increase in sales volume, otherwise it means the development costs become a bigger burden”, an official at one of Nissan’s suppliers told. Nissan is planning to revamp the ageing vehicle line-up, with 12 new models over the next few years. Pulling that off will mean working more closely with parts makers. That is the main difference between Nissan’s turnaround plan now and 20 years ago, Gupta said. “The working with suppliers is a more technological partnership at a very early stage to achieve design to cost”, he said. Examples of such collaboration include designing night vision rear view mirror displays with Panasonic and an agreement with Chinese company Sunwoda Electric Vehicle Battery to study battery development for its e-Power hybrids, a Nissan spokeswoman said. “In their dealing with us they have become very polite and more humble”, said an official at a second Nissan parts maker, who also asked not to be identified. Nissan’s search for technology has already extended its traditional supplier base, including to companies that work for rival Toyota. Nissan now buys around a tenth of its parts, particularly electronic components, from Toyota suppliers because they are large-volume producers and therefore cheaper, said William Nestuk, an analyst at Pelham Smithers Associates in London. “Nissan cannot currently fund the development of next-generation technologies without input from either the Renault side and/or from Toyota suppliers”, Nestuk said. That competition will heap further pressure on Nissan suppliers already trying to adjust to declining output. “I am concerned that even if we try to work with them the business relationship won’t last”, said the official at the second supplier. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI has completed the acquisition of a decommissioned General Motors factory in Shushary (St Petersburg), Russia, as per company spokeswoman Yulia Tikhonravova. The plant was built by GM back in 2008 and held a capacity of up to 100.000 units per year. However, the U.S. carmaker had to shut it down in 2015 as part of its decision to reduce its international operations. The spokeswoman added that the deal was actually closed in early November, and that it is too early to say when Hyundai might be able to begin production. She also didn’t mention which models could be built there. “If we talk about the plant in Shushary: yes indeed, it is our second plant, now we are working on possible scenarios to use this asset”, added Alexey Kalitsev, head of Hyundai’s Russia unit. Both Hyundai and Kia already have a factory in Russia, with a manufacturing capacity of more than 200.000 units per year. In 2019, the 2 brands sold a combined 400.000 vehicles in Russia. As of right now, Hyundai sells the following nameplates in Russia: Solaris, Creta, Elantra, i30 N, Sonata, Tucson, Santa Fe, Palisade, and the H-1 passenger van. According to Kalitsev, the Russian market will face a decline of roughly 10 % to 1.55 – 1.66 million cars, compared to last year, with Hyundai targeting to sell 163.000 units. Meanwhile, the Association of European Business (AEB), responsible with tracking new passenger cars and light commercial vehicle sales in Russia, expects the country’s car market to drop by 13.5 % overall to 1.52 million vehicles this year. +++ 

+++ To help realize a decarbonized society, the government of JAPAN will include minicars in their goal to be reached by the mid-2030s of having the cars sold domestically be electric or hybrid vehicles, sources said. The goal is a priority area in the government’s plans for the automobile industry and storage batteries for electric vehicles, to achieve net-zero emissions; a plan which will be drawn up by the end of the year. The government will also aim to lower costs when purchasing, using and maintaining electric or hybrid vehicles to the level of of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2030. They are believed to have decided the electrification of 1.47 million minicars (or 34 % of the about 4.3 million new passenger cars sold in the nation in 2019) will expedite work to achieve net-zero emissions. The government also plans to clarify by the summer of 2021 when trucks and other commercial vehicles, which emit more exhaust than passenger cars, should be converted to electric or hybrid vehicles. Minicars, which are cheaper than passenger cars, provide transportation especially for people living in areas with poor public transportation systems in place. Since a storage battery costs nearly ¥1 million, the introduction of more electric vehicles is feared to raise the prices of vehicles, which creates a bigger burden for consumers. The government will therefore work to lower storage battery-related costs, which account for 30 % of EV prices, while promoting the electrification of minicars and other vehicles. Specifically, the government will work to quickly improve the domestic production system by providing subsidies and technical support to manufacturers. The government also plans to hasten the development of innovative batteries with greater charging capacity that can be made smaller and lighter compared to conventional storage batteries. By doing so, it hopes to increase the share of Japanese storage batteries in future electric vehicle markets. Lowered production costs are expected to reduce vehicle prices. There is an issue of carbon dioxide being emitted in the process of producing and disposing of EVs. The government aims to eliminate the emission to achieve decarbonization of the entire automobile sector by 2050. It will thus include in the action plan the intention to establish relevant rules. In addition, the government will support the development of next-generation fuel using CO2 emitted from factories. It will also take comprehensive measures to pursue deregulations to promote the use of electric or hybrid vehicles, the expansion of charging stations and the promotion of investment. It also plans to help small and midsize companies, such as parts makers, to change their lines of business. +++ 

+++ A U.S. regulator ruled that MAHINDRA ’s new design for its Roxor off-road utility vehicle did not infringe the intellectual property rights of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep brand, 6 months after barring the sale of older models. The International Trade Commission (ITC) said the post-2020 Roxor model did not violate the “trade dress” of FCA’s Jeep Wrangler, accepting an administrative law judge’s October recommendation that design changes made by Mahindra meant an earlier cease-and-desist order should not apply to newer models. “The ruling validates Mahindra’s redesign of the highly popular Roxor off-road vehicle”, Mahindra said in a statement. “Mahindra is now permitted to manufacture and distribute the redesigned Roxor”. “While FCA is disappointed with the commission’s decision regarding the redesign, we believe we will be successful in appealing this decision”, FCA said in a statement. Trade dress consists of the unique characteristics that make a product stand apart and is generally accepted as identified with that product by the public. For example, FCA sees the Jeep Wrangler’s boxy body shape, front grille and round headlights as distinct to the brand. In June, the ITC ruled Mahindra infringed on the intellectual property rights of FCA’s 2019-model Jeep brand and barred the sale of vehicles in question. The ITC issued a limited exclusion order prohibiting the sale or import of the vehicles and parts, as well as a cease and desist order to Mahindra and its North American unit. Mahindra had said the 2020 model was refreshed and changed to avoid the issue, but the commission did not decide at that time whether the newer model and subsequent versions infringed Jeep’s trade dress. The Roxor is assembled in Auburn Hills, north of Detroit. +++ 

+++ For several years, the hottest MERCEDES-AMG GT you could get was the R. Then came the Black Series, which did more than just supplant the R as the hottest car in the GT family. It set a new record as the fastest overall production car at the Nürburgring, which is unreal for a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive machine. Now, it could be pushing the R out of existence. The R will disappear after the 2021 model year. The source is an alleged email sent to Mercedes-Benz dealerships stating the former GT flagship was discontinued for 2021. Furthermore, order banks for 2021 model-year Rs are said to close forever on December 29, with any existing orders not being converted to 2022. The email featured looks legitimate, but I’ve contacted Mercedes-Benz for an official confirmation and I’ll let you know if/when I receive that. The AMG GT R isn’t a cheap car by any means. However, it’s in a completely different financial universe compared to the lineup’s new flagship, the Black Series. Pricing for that car is more than double that of the GT R. The extra cash doesn’t give you double the horsepower, but the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 under the long bonnet is a completely different animal. Its flat-plane-crank design that redlines at 7.200 rpm and generates 740 hp, all sent to the rear wheels. With gobs of aero tweaks, upgraded suspension, and a carbon fibre diet, it laps the ‘Ring in 6 minutes, 43.6 seconds. As for the rest of the GT line, the base model just received a power boost to 530 hp. That brings the GT much closer to R performance, and with the Black Series serving as the flagship, cutting some fat from the AMG lineup does make sense. The AMG GT family is also getting along in years, having debuted for the 2015 model year so don’t be surprised to see more extensive changes in the near future. +++ 

+++ MICRO MOBILITY has announced that the first chassis tests of its adorable tiny EV, the Microlino 2.0, have taken place. That means that the Microlino will be ready to enter production in 2021, says the company. The full, first prototype will be completed soon, says Micro, but for now, a bare chassis is being tested. “The first tests have already shown a great improvement in the handling and comfort compared to the Microlino 1.0”, wrote the company in a release. The prototype that will eventually be built on top of this chassis will be the first complete car with all of its components. That will include a folding roof, lights, and the interior. In all, Micro Mobility plans to build 5 prototypes. It expects the construction of each prototype to take a few weeks. It has also announced that the dashboard and outside lighting elements that you see in the pictures will also make it into the full production model. If the design looks familiar to you, that might be because it’s inspired by the BMW Isetta, or it might be because of the Microlino’s difficult legal history. It actually all sounds pretty frustrating for Micro Mobility, which hired an Italian company to handle production of the Microlino in 2015. During development, the Italian company was purchased by Artega. That company was supposed to build the Microlino but instead came out with the Karolino, a suspiciously similar and not legally distinct enough microcar, in 2019. In 2019, a court found that the designs were not distinct enough and stopped Artega from producing the Karolino. That all means that Micro Mobility can now make good on the production of the Microlino. The 2-seater is billed as “the ideal mix between a motorbike and a car”. It’s also revealing that the company advertises the Microlino as having enough space for “2 adults and 3 beer crates”. It can go up to 200 km per charge and up 90 km/h. That’s because it weighs just 513 kg. The base price will apparently be around €12,500 in The Netherlands. Micro Mobility also announced today that Hans-Peter Kleebinder, Audi Germany chief marketing officer and former head of Mini Germany, has joined its Advisory Board. He was the company’s first test driver in Germany and will help Micro launch the Microlino smoothly. +++ 

+++ MITSUBISHI sees hybrid models in Southeast Asia as a key part of its electrification strategy to stay competitive in the region, chief executive Takao Kato told in an interview. While some Southeast Asian governments are trying to promote full battery electric vehicles (EVs) as a way to cut CO2 emissions, Kato said conventional gasoline-electric vehicles and plug-in electric hybrids were “probably a more realistic a choice for the region for now”. The Japanese automaker held a ceremony in Thailand to officially start local production of a plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander. Mitsubishi decided to localize the SUV’s production in part to take advantage of incentives for hybrid technology. The use of gasoline-electric hybrid technologies to gradually replace pure gasoline-fueled cars is an emerging trend in countries such as Japan and China. Some automakers, however, appear to be focused on skipping hybrids and switching completely to “pure-electric” battery electric cars. Mitsubishi intended to produce Outlander plug-ins in Thailand with key drivetrain systems and batteries shipped in from Japan, and planned to add more hybrid models to its line-ups in Southeast Asia, Kato said. The company has said it plans to sell some 3.000 plug-in Outlanders in Thailand a year. The plug-in comes in 2 versions, priced at 1.64 million baht ($55,000) and 1.75 million baht. Aside from the plug-in Outlander, Mitsubishi will likely launch a conventional gasoline-electric hybrid version of the Xpander SUV for some Southeast Asian markets over the next few years, company officials said. The gasoline-fueled Xpander car has been sold in the region since 2017, starting with Indonesia and later the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. In the year ended March 2020, Mitsubishi sold about 290.000 vehicles in Southeast Asia, with a majority of those in its four biggest markets of Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. +++ 

+++ NISSAN is bringing back the Z and the company wants to be sure it gets it right. That means the people in charge have to really consider what Z means. Not just to Nissan, but to the fans of the brand as well. That means that people like Hiroshi Tamura, the chief product specialist for the Z Proto, are being asked to consider what the essence of Z is. So what ties the 280Z to something like the 370Z even though they were built decades apart? To Tamura, it’s a certain Z-ness that connect cars to drivers. “Z-ness, to me, is the spirit of Nissan”, he says. “It’s where the driver meets machine, resulting in an authentic ‘oneness’ or ‘bond’ between the driver and car”. It’s what builds a relationship between a driver and a car, and it’s what keeps fans excited about a new Z car today. And Tamura knows a thing or two about cars with ravenous followings. He has worked in the product planning department since 2006. In 2012, he took on duties for both the R35-generation GT-R and the 370Z. It won’t surprise you to hear then, that when Tamura was a kid, he was a fan of 2 main cars: the GT-R and the Z. “I remember the GT-R’s power and racing performance, and I remember the beautiful look of the Fairlady Z; these cars changed my life”, said Tamura. “I have so many happy memories owning and driving the Z and GT-R, and to think that I am now responsible in creating them leaves me speechless”. As the chief product specialist, Tamura sees his job as being “the voice of the customer”, so this is all anything but academic. That’s a lot to consider, though, because of how many different reasons people have found to love past Zs. Be it performance, appearance, or simply just memories, the love is deep. It’s hard, though, to keep everything in balance, says Tamura. Being sure that the next Z car will look right, feel right, and perform convincingly by today’s standards is no mean feat. “My intent for the Z has always been to provide a balance between style, power, and technology, all of which can be easily accessed by the customer”, he said. “We must consider the customer’s wants and their happiness first”. To understand what Tamura thinks will make customers happy, it might be useful, then, to look back at the cars he’s owned. He says he has owned two Z cars. The first was the 240ZG. If you don’t live in Japan, you might never have seen a 240ZG, because they were only built for the domestic market. The G stands for Grand and refers to the car’s status as a Group 4 homologation special. The race car won the Fuji Grand Champion Series in 1972. Despite that, Tamura says he immediately started trying to tune the car in pursuit of what he calls the car’s ultimate performance. But it wasn’t just performance that caught his it was the appearance, too. See a theme developing? “I loved the 240ZG’s appearance, which looked to me like a Shinkansen (bullet train)”, he says. “It had a very sleek aerodynamic body with a shape that sliced the air”. His next Z car was a first-generation 300ZX. Tamura immediately started tuning it, explaining that the tuning scene was big at the time. He admits that there were some tough lessons in his tuning days but that, in the end, “it turned out to be a very nice car”. So what’s Tamura looking for in the next Z car? A dance partner, he says. “I want customers to smile and enjoy the car, while continuing to spread the Z dream”, said Tamura. “The next Z will be a car that will keep Nissan’s sports car spirit alive, and I hope it will help create new, happy memories for the Nissan family, car lovers, and Zenthusiasts everywhere!” +++ 

+++ SAIC – GM – WULING Automobile is to make inroads into North America, with the export of vehicles to Mexico starting from January. The Sino-US joint venture said 500 Baojun-branded compact SUVs, the first shipment, have already rolled off the assembly line in the city of Liuzhou in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. They are expected to leave Guangzhou Port in neighboring Guangdong province for Lazaro Cardenas, the largest seaport in Mexico, next month. “Considering the presale orders, Mexico can become the largest overseas market for the model”, said the carmaker in a statement. The SUV, called Baojun 530, is the first model the carmaker has specifically developed for global markets. Since its launch in 2019, it has been sold in 21 countries and regions, with deliveries totaling 96.584 units. SAIC-GM-Wuling said the smaller Baojun 510 is scheduled to join the Baojun 530 in North America as well. The Baojun 510 is already a hit in Chile in South America, with 1,487 sold since it became available in the country in October. SAIC-GM-Wuling is one of the most popular carmakers in China, with over 1.35 million vehicles sold domestically in the first 11 months of the year. +++ 

+++ SSANGYONG , which recently filed for court receivership due to a severe liquidity crunch, will suspend the operation of its Pyeongtaek factory after its suppliers refused to deliver parts. The Pyeongtaek factory in Gyeonggi accounts for 86.54 %, or 3.1 trillion won, of the automaker’s yearly sales. “With the disruption of auto parts delivery, production will be suspended”, the company said in a regulatory filing. Production will be suspended for 2 days in December, but the scheduled resumption could change depending on the situation, the filing read. Hyundai Mobis, LG Hausys and S&T Dynamics are among the multiple parts suppliers that have suspended deliveries to SsangYong. “Reflecting on the 2009 crisis, the suppliers might be thinking that we will not be able to make payments to them, which is why they are refusing to supply the parts”, a SsangYong spokesman said. Back in 2009, the Korean automaker went through a similar process where it filed for court receivership before Mahindra stepped forward to acquire the beleaguered company the next year. The missing parts include headlamps and bumpers. SsangYong filed for court receivership after defaulting on snowballing debt including a 60-billion-won loan from foreign creditors and 90-billion-won loan from the Korea Development Bank. It also applied for what’s called autonomous restructuring support (ARS) with the court on the same day, which holds off the receivership process by a maximum of 3 months to earn the troubled company more time to negotiate with creditors and potential investors. “If the court approves the ARS program, it means the company can operate normally which also means the suppliers will get their payment, but only if the factory is able to operate normally”, the spokesman said. “We really hope the big suppliers will cooperate with us so that we can sort the situation out fast, or else the smaller suppliers will also collapse”. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA president Akio Toyoda has lamented the growing hype around electric vehicles and expressed concerns about politicians pushing too hard to ban ICE vehicles. While speaking at a news conference for the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, of which he is chairman, Toyoda claimed Japan would run out of electricity in the summer if all vehicles were electric. He added that the infrastructure needed to support a complete transition to EVs would cost the country the equivalent of $135 billion to $358 billion. “When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline’, do they understand this?” he asked. Toyoda added that if the automaker’s home country rushes forward with a ban of ICE vehicles, “the current business model of the car industry is going to collapse”. Toyoda’s critique of electric vehicles didn’t stop there as he claimed that because Japan gets most of its electricity from burning coal and natural gas, electric vehicles don’t actually help the environment. “The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets”, he claimed. Despite pioneering hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell technologies, Toyota has long been quite resistant to electric vehicles. In recent times, however, it has appeared to become more open to the idea of EVs and is developing a host of them to launch in the coming years. Indeed, it is also said to be leading the industry in the development of solid-state batteries and could unveil a prototype as early as next year. +++ 

+++ TVR has reached an agreement with the Welsh government to begin an extensive renovation programme on its Ebbw Vale factory early next year. The reborn sports car brand will begin preliminary site works in January 2021, which will see the building’s roof replaced, the structure recladded and extensive groundworks, in addition to the preparation of a prototype build area for the long-awaited Griffith supercar. “This is a fantastic milestone in our mission to rejuvenate an iconic British brand, and we are all tremendously excited to witness the renovation of our new home in Ebbw Vale”, TVR chairman Les Edgar said. “We have hundreds of faithful depositors worldwide who are patiently waiting to take delivery of their Griffiths, so today I hope they are just as delighted as we are”. Around 80 people are initially expected to be employed at the Ebbw Vale site once refurbishment works are completed, eventually expanding to 200 when Griffith production is fully ramped up. Planning applications for the works were originally submitted in March, coinciding with the appointment of new CEO Jim Berriman, best known for his work at the Rover Group on the first Land Rover Freelander and Mk3 Range Rover. Launching the Griffith is a key part of the firm’s 18-month revival plan, which could also include a potential return to racing for the brand. The front-engined, two-seater Griffith is set to use a highly strung version of Ford’s 5.0-litre V8 engine, and should produce around 500 hp. To date only 1 car has been road-registered and is used for testing and event participation. +++ 

+++ It was only last week when news came that VOLKSWAGEN plans to turn the ID.Vizzion into a 700 km production EV and now we’re hearing rumours of a higher-specification electric saloon. It doesn’t have a name just yet, but the more sophisticated eco-friendly car will be positioned above the Vizzion to take on the Tesla Model S. A source close to the matter claims it will be built at home in Wolfsburg, Germany where VW is looking to make major investments to turn the factory into its EV manufacturing flagship. Even though the new model will be on the large side, the report says it will still ride on the MEB platform like the ID.3 and ID.4, albeit in an “evolved version” of the underpinnings. Sticking to MEB will allow VW to avoid the higher costs commanded by the upcoming PPE architecture currently being developed by Audi and Porsche. It goes without saying the Group wants to avoid a clash between the mainstream VW brand and its luxury-focused marques, so we’re expecting this new EV to undercut similarly sized cars coming from Ingolstadt and Zuffenhausen. With the road-going Vizzion expected to replace the Passat, I can’t help but wonder whether this larger EV is the long-promised Phaeton replacement. VW’s head honcho, Herbert Diess, admitted nearly 4 years ago the success of the Model S forced the company to go back to the drawing board and re-engineer the large zero-emissions saloon. It appears the model is still on the agenda, but it’s likely not coming anytime soon. Chances are it will arrive after the Vizzion, which is scheduled to hit dealerships at some point in 2023. The influential VW labour leader and member of the supervisory board Bernd Osterloh expressed his desire to have a Wolfsburg-built EV by 2025. His sentiments were echoed by Volkswagen Group board member Stephan Weil, but the electric saloon could also be built outside of Germany. The source says total production output could reach 300.000 units annually if VW were to assemble the large electric saloon in China and the United States as well. “Think Model S” is how an insider characterised the mysterious new model, which was apparently approved for production in Wolfsburg by VW Group board members earlier this month. Volkswagen is also pushing ahead with plans for a production version of the ID.Roomzz, CEO Ralf Brandstätter has confirmed, but likely only for the Chinese market. The concept version of the electric SUV measures 4.930 mm long, 1.903 mm wide and 1.675 mm tall and is expected to be popular with high-end customers. “We’re working on it, but it’s a China-only model at the moment”, said Brandstätter. “There is a possibility that it might be sold in other markets, but we’re still looking at it”. The production model is set to use the same version of Volkswagen’s EV-specific MEB platform as the production version of the ID.Buzz MPV, enabling it to house a dual-motor, 4-wheeldrive powertrain and a battery of up to 82 kWh in capacity. +++

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