Newsflash: volgende generatie Peugeot 208 alleen nog in elektrische vorm te koop

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+++ Auto supplier APTIV has unveiled its next-generation technology platform for automated driving, which can be used across a range of vehicles and be updated wirelessly so carmakers can upgrade car features and fix glitches. Aptiv chief technology officer Glen De Vos told the core of the new platform was the same whether a manufacturer was building a compact car or a fullsize sedan; the larger vehicles merely require more sensors or cameras. One of the biggest problems facing global carmakers as they develop the sensors, radars and cameras necessary for self-driving technology is the cost. Fully self-driving vehicles are years away, but assisted-driving features such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance are becoming more common. For carmakers “developing and validating these systems can cost many hundreds of millions of dollars in development and testing”, De Vos said. “This platform dramatically reduces the system validation costs and represents dramatic savings for manufacturers”. He added the new platform could save carmakers up to 20 % or 30 % over Aptiv’s previous generation platform. In 2019, Hyundai and Aptiv launched a $4 billion venture called Motional to develop self-driving technologies and be among the first to deploy fully autonomous cars on public roads. Aptiv’s new platform also allows the supplier to track vehicle problems and provides over-the-air updates so carmakers can fix issues or upgrade self-driving features in real time rather than waiting for the next version of a vehicle. “Now that I can update that car, I can enable new features and content for manufacturers to sell into that vehicle”, De Vos said. Aptiv, headquartered in Dublin, also unveiled “zone controllers” for carmakers to break down computing functions in cars into more manageable pieces that will improve computing power and reduce vehicle weight and cost. +++

+++ For the 4th time in the last year, an ASTON MARTIN out-discounts all other automakers by offering the largest monetary savings off the retail price of an automobile in America. This time, though, the discount isn’t on the aging (though still beautiful) Rapide or range-topping DBS Superleggera, it’s for the DB11. For those keeping track, the DB11 also led this discount list back in May of 2020. This time, though, the price is even lower than before. Right now, buyers of the Aston Martin DB11 are seeing discounts of $24,330. That’s a 12.1 % cut off the car’s average retail price of $201,820 and it means buyers are paying an average transaction price of $177,490. Still expensive, but really not bad for a drop-dead gorgeous machine with as much as 630 hp. Next in line is a familiar face, the Honda NSX. As impressive as the Japanese hybrid supercar may be, Honda has been running big rebates on the NSX for as long as we’ve been running these lists. This month, the NSX buyers are seeing discounts of nearly 14 % for an average transaction price of $138,648. The third biggest discount this month shows up on the most expensive vehicle on the list. The Rolls-Royce Phantom carries an average sticker price of $537,500. But buyers are getting about 4 % off that for an average transaction price of $516,333. It may not be a massive discount when measured by percentage, but when the asking price is so high, even a small discount equals big bucks. +++

+++ AUDI ended 2020 with the most successful quarter-year in the company’s history for cars delivered: between October and December the company supplied 505.583 cars to its customers; more than half a million in a quarter for the first time ever. In a challenging year, marked globally by restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Audi delivered a total of 1.692.773 models; a fall of 8.3 % compared with the previous year. In China, however, the company nevertheless attained new best figures with a total of 727.358 vehicles supplied (+5.4 %). “Thanks to an extremely strong performance internationally by our team, around the middle of last year we emerged from the first wave of corona. Following a strong third quarter, this made a major contribution to the successful final push in 2020”, says Hildegard Wortmann, board member for Sales and Marketing at Audi. “The global situation continues to be challenging at present. Nevertheless, for 2021 we have set ourselves ambitious targets, aim to achieve continued growth, and view the future with optimism”. Through the expansion of digital sales and service offerings, for example Audi Live consultation, the Four Rings brand has reacted flexibly and successfully to the challenges of the corona pandemic. Ongoing digitalization of sales and experience gained during the first wave of coronavirus in spring have contributed strongly to Audi ending 2020 with the most successful quarter-year in the company’s history. Audi is continuing its transformation into a provider of sustainable premium mobility and is by some distance the biggest maker of electric vehicles among the three German premium brands. The successful e-Tron model (including the Sportback) registered a significant increase in demand last year, with growth of 79.5 % (47.324 cars) compared with the previous year. The e-Tron is the global top seller among electric vehicles made by German premium manufacturers. In Norway it is even the best-selling of all models. In Germany the e-Tron (including the Sportback) was able to more than double its sales volume in the final quarter in comparison with the previous year. In respect of other models in the range, Audi increased deliveries especially for the Q3 (+18.1 % in comparison to the previous year) and the A6 (+11.8 %). The high-performance models from Audi Sport were also extremely popular with customers: More than 29.300 cars delivered in 2020 marks a new best, and a clear increase of 16.1 % compared with the previous year. In China, Audi supplied more cars to customers last year than ever before. A total of 727.358 automobiles represents a rise of 5.4 %. The fourth quarter, too, was more successful than any previous period, with 214.467 cars supplied (+7.7%). In the largest market for the Four Rings, rapid economic recovery and high demand for individual mobility led to new record figures. The development was especially positive for the Q2 (+33.8 %), the A6 (+41.1 %), the A7 (+142.1 %) and the A8 (+13.8 %). In the USA, 186.620 deliveries of new cars represented a fall of 16.7 % year on year. Strong consumer demand and the upward trend towards the close of the year demonstrate that the outlook for 2021 is favorable, however. Rising demand can be seen in the SUV segment above all: the share of SUVs in 2020 was 66 % and in the fourth quarter it rose to as much as 74 %. Significant impulses came in the year as a whole from the Q3 (+83.9 %) and the e-Tron (+10 %). In the final quarter the sales performance of the Q5 (+15 %) and the Q8 (+11 %) was particularly strong. In Europe, car deliveries declined in 2020 by 19.5 % to 619.723 units. Nevertheless, the trend was positive for the e-Tron (+80.6 % including the Sportback) and the Q7 (+6.3 %). In the 4th quarter an upwards trend was already evident again, despite increasing restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic: the delivery of 178.891 cars between October and December was a rise of 2.5 % compared to the previous year. In Germany the company supplied 214.427 cars to customers (-21.1 %). In Audi’s home market, demand rose clearly again in the 4th quarter: 61.231 vehicles delivered represented a rise of 9.2 %. +++

+++ BENTLEY ’s former design chief Stefan Sielaff has left the British automaker and will reportedly start working for Geely. A Bentley spokeswoman confirmed Sielaff’s departure earlier this week, stating that he “left his position to pursue other career opportunities outside Bentley and the Volkswagen Group”, but did not comment on the reports of him joining Geely. Sielaff assumed the role of Bentley’s design boss in 2015 having previously headed up the Volkswagen Group’s Potsdam design center in Germany. The 59-year-old has spent most of his career with the VW Group, having joined the car manufacturer in 1990 as an interior designer at Audi. Sielaff’s move to Geely will see him take over Peter Horbury’s role as the head of Geely design. Bentley has confirmed that the former head of exterior design for Audi, Andreas Mindt, will take over from Sielaff as the brand’s director of design. During his time at Audi, Mindt played a key role in the design of the e-Tron, as well as the Q8. He has worked for companies within the Volkswagen Group for 2 decades and was involved in the design of the 1999 Bentley Hunaudières. “Bentley is a jewel within the Volkswagen Group”, Mindt said. “Designing a car, and a future, is always a process based on the performance of many, not one, and so I look forward to working with my colleagues to help define the next phase for Bentley, into an electrified future”. +++

 

+++ The BMW X2 is the sportier, more stylish alternative to the subcompact X1 and the compact X3. In the range-topping M235i trim specifically, the pint-sized crossover offers 306 hp, all-wheel drive and aggressive looks. But reports suggest that BMW might be taking the X2 in a slightly different direction come 2023. With a brand-new X1 slated for arrival in 2022, a new X2 could show up the following year with many of the same features. I’ve already seen the X1 in spy photos showing off its more substantial size and with multiple powertrain options: petrol, plug-in, and fully electric. The new X1 will use a front-drive-based modular architecture (with all-wheel drive available as an option) and the X2 should adopt nearly all of those same cues. When the new BMW X2 arrives in 2023, expect it to be larger than the current model. The modular architecture underneath the X1 is larger, so expect the X2 to also grow slightly. Both gas and plug-in powertrains should debut on the X2 early or at launch, with the possibility of a fully electric iX2 joining the range down the line. The new plug-in model should exceed the current X2 xDrive25e, which offers 55 km of electric range. Stylistically, the new X1 and X2 will have bigger kidney grilles, however, those kidneys will extend horizontally unlike the gaping vertical units in the 3 and 4 Series. Spy shots of the X1 show that the new kidney grilles on these two crossovers will likely extend horizontally rather than vertically. Both crossovers will also get slim LED headlights and larger running lights below that, something similar to what we’ve seen on spy photos of the upcoming X7 facelift. Unfortunately, I won’t know all the details until the new X2 officially shows up, likely sometime late in 2022. As for the new X1, we could see that crossover as early as this year. +++

+++ BREXIT brings with it many changes, and the latest to emerge is that speeding British drivers caught on speed cameras in European Union countries are unlikely to face penalties. This is because the UK’s departure from the EU ends an arrangement that previously allowed continental countries to pursue speeding offences committed by UK drivers abroad. The Cross Border Enforcement directive was introduced in 2015, and allowed authorities in EU countries to pursue drivers for motoring offences, as long as their car was registered in an European Union country. That arrangement has now come to an end thanks to Brexit, meaning the half-million-plus UK drivers caught by speed cameras in France each year would not face action once they returned home. Estimates put losses to French coffers at as much as €60 million thanks to their inability to issue cross-border penalties. The end to cross-border enforcement works both ways, however, meaning UK authorities would be unable to issue tickets to EU drivers speeding here once they had arrived back in their homelands. British drivers caught by French police rather than automated speed cameras could still be issued with on-the-spot fines, however, while UK cops can require similar roadside deposits for drivers without a ‘satisfactory UK address’. French authorities are said to be seeking a bilateral arrangement with the UK, similar to the one they have with Switzerland, which would allow previous cross-border arrangements over speeding penalties to be restored, but such an agreement could take years to bring about. +++

+++ Just this week at General Motors’ Consumer Electronics Show presentation, the company’s vice president of Global Design Michael Simcoe teased several electric cars. One particular model was speculated by several publications as a new CORVETTE electric SUV based on its headlight configuration. Simcoe later refuted those rumours and confirmed that it’s actually a future Buick model; much to the relief of every purist out there. Then again, it seems like the speculations of an upcoming crossover based on the Corvette aren’t exactly off the mark. That’s if we’re to believe the recent report from Bloomberg. According to it’s sources, which requested not to be named, the General is now working on at least 1 electric Corvette SUV, which will signal the start of Corvette as a family of performance vehicles. If that strategy’s familiar, well, that’s parallel to what Ford did on the Mustang, which gave birth to the Mustang Mach-E. The sources added that several Corvette-brand concept vehicle designs are already underway, courtesy of GM designers that are already working on the project. It could come out as early as 2025, the sources said. A GM spokesperson declined to relay a comment. Rumours of the Corvette spinning off as a separate brand with an SUV and a saloon in the lineup came out as early as 2019 when a number of GM insiders spilled the beans. Since then, the idea of a Corvette-based SUV/crossover lingers and as expected, people aren’t happy about it. With the automotive trend pointing towards electrification, along with the high demand for high-riding vehicles, we won’t be surprised if GM will push through with this plan. The backlash from enthusiasts and purists alike will only add to the clout. +++

+++ CUPRA is a few months away from officially launching the el-Born. Seat’s performance brand has announced that the electric compact EV will make its premiere after mid-2021. A slightly hotter variant of the Volkswagen ID.3 and the first zero-emission sporty hatchback made by the Group, the el-Born will be part of the Cupra lineup exclusively. It will share its MEB platform with the ID.3 and will be built at the same factory in Zwickau, Germany. The model is expected with an electric motor, which could generate 204 hp and will drive the rear wheels. Cupra said that the el-Born needs 2.9 seconds for the 0-60 km/h acceleration and with the 77 kWh battery fully charged, it should be have a range of around 500 km. The el-Born was previewed by a concept at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, and it will echo it in terms of styling for the most part. Thus, expect very similar front and rear ends, aggressive side skirts, a roofline slightly arched towards the rear, big wheels and some bronze accents. Its ID.3 roots will be more visible inside, where it will get a 2-layer dashboard, free-standing digital instrument cluster and 3-spoke steering wheel. The center console will be a bit raised compared to the electric Volkswagen and it will have distinct upholstery and trim colors. The el-Born might be a bit pricier than the ID.3. On a related note, Cupra will also launch 2 plug-in hybrid variants of the Formentor in the first quarter of 2021, while Seat will expand the electrified lineup with the Tarraco e-Hybrid. Moreover, the Ibiza and Arona will be updated this year. +++

+++ DAIMLER will cut production and reduce working hours at a second factory, the latest automaker to suffer from a global shortage of semiconductors. Automakers and electronics makers are facing a shortage of chips as consumer demand bounces back from a slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic that led to manufacturing delays. The Mercedes maker will reduce production in Bremen, with the plant possibly even being closed in early February for some days.The company said it was cutting hours at its compact car plant in Rastatt. Rival Volkswagen said it would further cut car production at its main plant in northern Germany due to the shortage of semiconductors that has hit the industry worldwide. Audi also announced that it would cut hours for about 10.000 employees at its Neckarsulm and Ingolstadt plants. Production will be partially halted from next week until the end of January. +++

+++ FORD ’s decision to close 3 plants in Brazil will cut its losses and allow it to focus on boosting profitability in its underperforming international segment, J.P. Morgan analysts said. The United States’ No. 2 automaker said it would take pretax charges of about $4.1 billion to close the Brazilian plants, under used for a while due to pandemic-related restrictions, affecting 5.000 jobs. Shares of the company gained 3 % following the announcement. Ford said the move was part of a previously announced $11 billion global restructuring, of which it has already taken a charge of $4.2 billion in the third quarter of 2020. It expects to book another $2.5 billion in the 4th quarter and about $1.6 billion in 2021. J.P. Morgan analyst Ryan Brinkman said in a note the move came at a time when investors had been complaining of the absence of a path to profitability for the South American businesses. “We expect the move to quickly reduce losses in its South American operations, for which we now model a breakeven result in 2020 compared with a loss of $300 million prior”. The brokerage raised its price target for Ford’s stock by 10 %. Credit Suisse analysts also said the plant closures supported Ford’s road to improved margins and that a reduced footprint made sense. Ford said it sold 602.627 vehicles in China last year; up 6 % from 2019, its first annual growth in the world’s biggest car market since 2017. After a peak of 1.08 million vehicles in 2016, Ford’s sales began faltering in late 2017. In the past 3 months, Ford sold 190.916 vehicles; up 30 % from the same period last year. In China, Ford makes cars through Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC), in which it has a stake, and a joint venture with Chongqing Changan Automobile. +++

+++ Following its recent deal with Chinese EV start-up Byton, FOXCONN has joined forces with yet another carmaker in Geely. Together, they will provide contract manufacturing for other car companies. On Geely’s end, this partnership will allow it to distribute its EV-focused platform to other brands, as per people familiar with the company’s plans. This is their second major deal this week alone, following the tie-up with Baidu for EV production. As owner of Volvo and 9.7 % stake holder in Daimler, Geely now wants to improve the capacity utilization rate of its plants around China. Geely Automobile sold roughly 1.32 million units in 2020, even though they have the capacity to build over 2 million vehicles per year, so it would make sense for them to maximize the potential of their facilities. Following the news, Geely shares went up 1 %, while Foxconn finished 2.4 % higher compared to before the announcement. One goal for Foxconn is to also provide components or services to 10 % of the world’s electric vehicles by 2025-2027. On the components side, Foxconn recently unveiled its own EV platform, able to underpin a variety of vehicles including hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs and MPVs, with wheelbases ranging from 2.750 mm to 3.100 mm. The iPhone-maker is also working on high-tech software that supports over-the-air updates, not to mention autonomous driving systems. The likes of Amazon Alexa, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are said to be part of the package. Back in October, Foxconn went as far as to call Tesla the iPhone of electric cars, following that up by saying that they’d like to become the Android of that segment. +++

+++ Carlos GHOSN concealed the scale of his compensation at Nissan because he feared the French government would force him out of Renault if it discovered how much he earned, an executive at the Japanese carmaker told a Tokyo court. Hari Nada, a former Nissan vice president in charge of legal affairs, is a key whistleblower in the case brought by Japanese prosecutors against former Nissan and Renault boss Ghosn, who was arrested in 2018. Nada was testifying at the trial of former Nissan executive Greg Kelly who is charged with helping Ghosn hide 9.3 billion yen ($89 million) in compensation over eight years through deferred payments after Japan introduced new rules requiring executives to disclose payments above 1 billion yen. Kelly has pleaded not guilty. He has been on bail in Japan since his release from jail in 2018 and is facing trial without Ghosn because his co-accused fled to Lebanon in December 2019. Ghosn, who was one of the world’s most prominent auto bosses as head of the Renault – Nissan – Mitsubishi alliance, has denied wrongdoing. He says he is the victim of a boardroom coup by former Nissan colleagues worried he would push through a merger between Nissan and Renault, its largest shareholder. Nada told the court that Ghosn had concealed his true compensation because he feared the repercussions in France. He said Kelly had given him this information. “He (Ghosn) didn’t want to be fired. If he paid himself what he wanted and that was disclosed, the French state would have felt obliged to fire him”, said Nada, who agreed to cooperate with Japanese prosecutors in return for immunity from prosecution. A person close to Ghosn dismissed the notion that he had feared being forced out over his pay levels. France’s economy ministry declined to comment. Nada was demoted following Ghosn’s arrest. Ghosn is also charged with enriching himself through $5 million in payments to a Middle East car dealership, and for a breach of trust for temporarily transferring personal financial losses to his employer’s books. He denies any wrongdoing. Kelly’s trial could take about a year. If found guilty he could face up to 10 years in prison and a 10-million-yen fine. +++

+++ After several weaker quarters, Jaguar has finally announced really positive news that the JAGUAR I-PACE significantly expanded in the fourth quarter of 2020 to an all-time quarterly record of 7.807 units globally. The year-over-year growth stands at 69 % and the I-Pace share out of the overall Jaguar volume surged to an unprecedented 27.8 %! Unfortunately, the brand itself still struggles and its sales went down by 21 % year-over-year to 28.072. Despite the outstanding 4th quarter, previous quarters weighed heavily on the I-Pace results in 2020 and the overall sales of 16.457 have turned out to be 5.2 % lower than in 2019. The average I-Pace share out of Jaguar’s volume increased to 16.1 %. Cumulatively, Jaguar sold over 40,700 I-Pace cars since the second quarter of 2018. Let’s hope that the I-Pace will continue to improve in 2021 and that the 4th quarter was not a one-off event caused by the situation in Europe (a necessity to lower the average CO2 emission and the launch of strong incentives to buy BEVs). +++

+++ A report out of Japan has uncovered several details about MAZDA ‘s upcoming rear-wheel-drive cars powered by a new straight-6 engine. In conversations with suppliers, the Nikkei has learned that production will begin in 2022, and that they will “produce about 300.000 units, or just less than 20 % of Mazda’s global sales, in the fiscal year ending March 2025”. Additionally, the report reveals that the eagerly awaited inline-6 engine will have displacements of 3.0 to 3.3 liters and will come in gasoline, diesel, and the novel compression ignition SkyActiv-X formats. We can probably assume that a turbocharged version will follow. The first cars to be produced on this new platform will likely be SUVs. Originally intended to replace the CX-5 and CX-8 (a Japanese version of the CX-9 with smaller dimensions that conform to the country’s road tax hierarchy), they will be sold alongside the existing models. So, perhaps a CX-50 if we follow the CX-30’s naming convention. These new cars will also be “priced significantly higher than existing models”, but Mazda is seeking to cut costs by expanding its supplier base to non-Japanese firms. The Mazda 3, despite being positively reviewed, has not sold well. Nor have cars equipped with the SkyActiv-X sparkless combustion motor, considered to be the holy grail of internal combustion engines. With a sales hit made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, sales are down 8 % for the fiscal year ending in March 2021 and the company will take a $870 million hit when all the books are balanced. Mazda’s commitment to gratifying motoring experiences and superb handling remains a rarity in today’s market. By building rear-drive, straight-6 vehicles (considered by many to be the ideal layout for drivers’ cars) Mazda is really leaning in to their automaking philosophy and putting all its eggs in that basket as well. +++

+++ MERCEDES-AMG has decided to finally give the A 35 and CLA 35 the same Panamericana grille used on all other AMG models. This exciting news means that even the lowliest Mercedes-AMGs will match AMGs of all performance levels. Today the Panamericana grille is a status symbol, but this unique styling queue has a rich history dating back to the 1950s. The Panamericana grille debuted on the legendary 300SL in the early 1950s where racing variants all used this distinct grille. A 300SL sporting this unique grille won the Carrera Panamericana in 1952, even after a dangerous altercation with a vulture and the rest is history. The Panamericana grille hit showrooms in 2018 when it was added to the AMG GT sportscar. After its first use on the AMG GT, Mercedes-AMG started to use the grille on other AMG models ranging from their SUV models to their luxurious S 65 and S 63. Eventually, all AMG products had the Panamericana grille, which will now include the A 35 and CLA 35. The entry-level A 35 and CLA 35 AMGs offering aspiring Mercedes-AMG customers an opportunity to join this exclusive club with a more affordable and practical vehicle. Many have tried to discount the importance of these cars and claim that they are not “real” AMGs. The engine is not a Mercedes-AMG unit and is not hand-built like the engines found in other Mercedes-AMG products. Instead, the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is a modified version of the engine found in the entry-level A 250 and CLA 250. Is this detail enough to discredit the value and performance of the A35 and CLA 35? Or is the opportunity to own a more affordable entry-level AMG product enough to give up some of the exclusivity? +++

 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is teasing the forthcoming EQA electric crossover once again, and this time the focus is on the cabin. The company also confirms that the model debuts January 20, ahead of going on sale in Europe in the spring. The EQA 250 will be the model available at launch, and it’ll make 192 hp. A version making over 272 hp and all-wheel drive will arrive later. Mercedes isn’t discussing the EQA’s range yet. The concept for the model from 2017 was capable of 400 km from a 60 kWh battery pack. Judging by the teaser image, the EQA has a minimalist cabin. There’s lots of dark upholstery with blue highlights. The centre console has a screen on the upper portion and three illuminated HVAC vents below it. Mercedes confirms that the standard features include a navigation system with Electric Intelligence that calculates the fastest route to a destination while taking into account the available range and need to charge along the way. Spy shots already provide a very good idea about how the EQA looks. Like the other models in the EQ sub-brand, there’s a smoother front end with a closed-off grille. Skinny, horizontal headlights, and there are separated eyebrows above the lamps. The engineers barely bother to conceal the rear. There are relatively small taillights and a metal-trimmed lower fascia. As an alternative to the EQA, Mercedes is also preparing the EQB. This model has a boxier exterior design that should also mean increased room in the cabin because of the flatter roof. The overall footprint would be about the same, though. The EQB should debut later in 2021. +++

+++ NISSAN chief executive Makoto Uchida said that Renault’s strategy overhaul, aimed at focusing on fewer and more profitable models, was a strong plan that would help cement progress within the 2 firms’ alliance. “The complementary and collaborative nature of our business plans makes me very confident of the opportunity the alliance presents”, Uchida said by video link during Renault’s online presentation. “We all need to be prepared to face a very challenging business environment ahead of us”. Renault and Nissan have been trying to patch up their partnership, which was shaken by the late 2018 arrest and departure of former boss-turned-fugitive Carlos Ghosn. +++

+++ PEUGEOT boss Jean-Phillipe Imparato has confirmed that the next generation of B-segment Peugeots, replacing the current 208 and 2008, will only be available with electric power. The existing 208 and 2008, including e-208 and e-2008 versions, were only launched in 2019 and are available with petrol, diesel or electric power. However, the next generation, expected in the second half of the decade, will only feature electric versions. “The B-segment and the B-SUV segment next generation after 208 and 2008 will be full EV”, Imparato told. The decision to go fully electric for the next generation of Peugeot small cars has been boosted by current sales of electrified models, as Imparato revealed. “Globally, this EV trend is increasing each and every month, and each and every week. In the last 10 weeks of orders we are above 14 % fully electric on the 208 and 2008. And on the 3008 we introduced at the beginning of December the PHEV mix is at 27 %”. Peugeot’s 2020 sales figures showed that 10 % of its cars sold globally were electrified. However, Imparato sounded a warning for small cars like the 108, which, unlike other city cars, is still in production with internal combustion engines. However, increasing costs due to enforced regulations could sound the death knell for models like the 108. “On the A segment, if you add EV, plus connectivity, plus 5G, plus EuroNCAP, plus other regulations it impacts the affordability of mobility, the initial €10.000 becomes €30.000”, said Imparato. +++

+++ RENAULT pledged to slim down and focus more on technology as its new chief executive officer laid out plans to revive a business hammered by management turmoil and the Covid-19 crisis. In a departure from the world-conquering view of former boss-turned-fugitive Carlos Ghosn, Luca de Meo said Renault would reduce the number of cars it turns out, focus on its most profitable models and on new electric launches, including a revamped version of the classic Renault Super Cinq. “We grew bigger, but not better”, De Meo said in an online presentation, which aimed to project a jazzier, more youthful brand under a street-art style “Renaulution” slogan. De Meo, who arrived last July after a stint running Volkswagen’s Seat brand, said the task now was to “steer our business from market share to margin”. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic upended the car industry, Renault was struggling to adjust to life without Ghosn, the architect and long-time boss of its alliance with Japan’s Nissan. Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on financial misconduct charges, which he denies, and later fled. The company also faces new challenges, as the European Union tightens emissions regulations and rivals PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles complete their merger to create Stellantis, the world’s 4th-biggest automaker, with potentially more resources to meet the industry changes. Renault’s car production will drop to 3.1 million vehicles by 2025 from 4 million in 2019, and down from the 5 million per year targeted by Ghosn in 2017. Half of new launches will be electrified, manufacturing will be simplified and Renault will also focus on areas like car sharing and ride hailing, with the aim of deriving a fifth of revenues from these mobility services by 2030. De Meo ruled out further job cuts, beyond the 15.000 it earmarked last year over the next 2 to 3 years. But he hiked cost savings goals, with an extra €500 million planned to reach €2.5 billion by 2023 and then €3 billion by 2025. Investors were initially unimpressed, with Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois describing profit goals as “underwhelming”, reflecting the “depth of challenges at Renault”. Under de Meo’s efficiency drive, Renault will build vehicles on fewer shared platforms to pare back costs by €600 per car by 2023, and aim to cut development time for new vehicles by 1 year, to under 3 years. The 53-year old’s shift to a more electric line-up will include building a battery plant in France with one of the company’s suppliers, while the company is working on partnerships in areas like technology. “We’ll move from a car company working with tech to a tech company working with cars”, De Meo said. Renault aims to lift operating margins to 5 % by 2023. It also plans to lower capital spending and research costs to 8 % of revenue from 10 % by 2025. Together, these measures should lower Renault’s break-even point by 30 % by 2023. The company has yet to publish margins for 2020, though following the Covid-19 pandemic which disrupted operations, they are likely to be lower than the 4.8 % hit in 2019. Renault also said it was targeting automotive free cash flow of €3 billion by 2023, and €6 billion by 2025. “The commitment to short-term cash targets is positive as it remains the key concern for investors”, Citibank analysts wrote in a client note. Renault said it had drawn an additional chunk of its €5 billion government-guaranteed loan secured early in the Covid-19 crisis. Renault in December drew down an extra €1 billion, deputy chief executive Clotilde Delbos told. Renault has now tapped €4 billion of the loan, Delbos said, adding that the company felt it was wise to use the means at its disposal. The company said it would combine all its sports car efforts into one unit “dedicated to developing exclusive and innovative” vehicles, with Formula One racing “at the heart of the project”. +++

+++ SUBARU hasn’t announced its plans for 2021, though a new batch of spy photos potentially previews one new offering we could see later this year: the Outback Wilderness Edition. It is a more rugged offering. Rumours of such a trim, including having it proliferate to others, aren’t new. The spy photos show an Outback that is riding higher than any other Outback model that Subaru offers today. The extra space between floorboards and the asphalt likely accommodates a more robust suspension designed to tackle tougher terrain. The rugged, off-road aesthetic is further enhanced by the smaller black wheels and the larger, chunkier all-terrain tyres wrapped around them. The Outback also sports a revised front fascia, which has a revised grille and repositioned fog lights. Only the rear bumper is covered at the back, though it doesn’t look different than what’s offered on the model now. It’s also unlikely that the Wilderness Edition will receive any performance enhancements. The new trim should carry the model’s mill: a 2.5-litre flat-4. Inside, Subaru will likely add some Wilderness Edition touches and badging to help the interior match the exterior’s upgraded ruggedness. The new Outback Wilderness Edition is expected to launch in the second half of 2021 and is yet another soft off-roader from a mainstream automaker. Terrain look cars remain popular, and automakers differentiate them with various unique trims, often tip-toeing toward the off-road-oriented part of the segment. I expect the model to arrive for the 2022 model year, with the possibility of it going on sale before the end of the year. +++

+++ After years of waiting for VOLKSWAGEN to decide whether it would make one of its many retro microbus concepts a reality, we finally got one in the shape of the ID.Buzz. But now, it looks like the company will keep us waiting a little longer. Volkswagen North America CEO Scott Keogh explained that the realities of production mean assembly of the ID.Buzz won’t commence until 2023, instead of 2022 as had been previously indicated. The delay comes as a result of the nature of the ID.Buzz. Being, essentially, a fun van, Volkswagen decided to produce it at its Hannover plant. The plant needs to be retooled to allow for the MEB platform. With sales in Germany only starting in 2022, we won’t be getting it until 2023 in North America. “I wish it was coming next year”, Keogh said. “It’s not going to come quite as soon as that; it’s going to be a little bit later than that”. Initially, it looked like the ID.Buzz might be built at Volkswagen’s Zwickau plant, which already produces the ID.3 and ID.4. Since those are more mass market models, their production will probably be prioritized over the ID.Buzz. The ID.4 will be the first MEB Volkswagen sold in North America and it will be the first one built there, too. A new building to accommodate the MEB line at VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant is already under construction, with vehicles expected to start rolling off the line in 2022. +++

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