Newsflash: Dacia Sandero is best verkochte auto van Europa

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+++ China will continue playing its important role in AUDI ‘s development as it accelerates efforts to go electric, said the German carmaker. The premium arm of Volkswagen Group made the remark when it unveiled its new strategy ‘Vorsprung 2030’. “The corporate strategy ‘Vorsprung 2030′ will ensure that Audi remains viable long into the future. The pace of change in our society is rapidly increasing. That’s why we’re accelerating our own transformation”, said CEO Markus Duesmann. As part of the strategy, the Ingolstadt-headquartered carmaker said its new models from 2026 will be pure electric, and production of combustion engine models will end in 2033. Audi said China, its largest market, will continue to play an important role in the company’s new strategic alignment. It estimates that the premium vehicle market in China will grow to 4.5 million sales annually by 2030 from 3.1 million in 2020, and electric vehicles’ share could increase from 10 % today to as much as 40 % by the end of the decade. “As such, it is only logical for Audi to continue expanding its business in China. This includes increasing the supply of electric cars produced locally”, said Audi in a statement. Audi is producing electric vehicles, including the e-tron SUV, in China. A joint venture dedicated to electric cars based on the PPE platform Audi developed with Porsche has been established in the country as well, with the first model scheduled to hit the market in 2024. The joint venture is located in Changchun, capital of Jilin province, where Audi has been producing gasoline vehicles with FAW for 3 decades. Audi said the number of China-made Audi models, both gasoline and electric, will grow to 12 by the end of this year. The German carmaker is also manufacturing Audi vehicles with another Chinese carmaker SAIC, with the first model to be launched in 2022. “Our approach here is based on the idea of ‘In China for China’, and as such, Audi is focusing on the specific needs of customers in the world’s largest automotive market and actively driving innovation”, said Werner Eichhorn, president of Audi China. Audi has sold a total of more than 7 million vehicles in the Chinese market. Last year, it delivered 727.358 vehicles in the country. The figure hit 418,.749 in the first half of 2021; up 38.6 % year-on-year. +++

+++ The market penetration rate of new energy vehicles (NEVs) in CHINA was 5.4 % in 2020, indicating strong growth momentum in the sector, according to an annual report released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. NEV sales in China increased 10.9 % year-on-year to 1.37 million units in 2020, amid government efforts to encourage their use and ease pressure on the environment. China’s NEV sales have exceeded 1 million units for 3 consecutive years, ranking first globally for 6 consecutive years, the report said. There were 4.92 million NEVs in China at the end of 2020, accounting for 1.75 % of the country’s automobiles, it said. The report also pointed to weaknesses in the sector, as pure electric vehicles continue to have problems such as reduced driving ranges in low-temperature environments. Earlier data shows China’s NEV sales hit a historic high of nearly 1.48 million units in the first 7 months of this year, surpassing total NEV sales in 2020. The data accounted for 10 % of new car sales during the period; up 6.1 percentage points from the share in the same period last year. China aims to raise the proportion of new NEVs in its sales of new vehicles to 20 percent by 2025, according to a development plan for China’s NEV industry released last year. +++

+++ The DACIA Sandero has become Europe’s bestselling car. It was also No. 1 favorite in Spain in July. The Sandero secured the topspot for the first time since its launch in 2008. In July, overall registrations in Europe fell 24 percent, ending 4 months of growth. New-car sales fell to 967.830 last month from 1.27 million in July 2020, according to data from 26 European markets collected by JATO Dynamics. The Sandero had the No. 1 spot for the first time since its launch in 2008. The Volkswagen Golf, which usually tops the rankings, was in second place, followed by the Toyota Yaris. Registrations fell in most European markets in July, as the pandemic continued to weigh on consumer confidence and the global shortage of microchips hit the availability of many models. The French market plunged 35 percent, the UK and Spain both saw sales fall 30 percent and the German market was down 25 percent. Sales in Italy declined by 19 percent. Hyundai and Suzuki were among brands that gained volume in July, with Hyundai’s registrations up 5.5 % and Suzuki gaining 4.7 %. All other major brands saw sales decline, with Renault down 54 %, Ford down 46 %, Nissan down 37 %, Peugeot down 34 % and Citroen down 31 %. Volkswagen, Europe’s topselling brand, saw registrations drop 19 %. Helped by the Sandero’s popularity, Dacia’s 16 percent decline was less than the overall market. The Sandero’s third generation, introduced last year, is boosting the sales and the budget hatchback is Europe’s bestselling car among private retail customers, JATO analyst Felipe Munoz said. “Dacia is more or less offering it at the same price of the previous one”, Munoz said. Sales of electrified cars were a bright spot during July. Registrations of battery-powered and plug-in hybrid cars had their best July results to date, and the second-highest monthly market share this year after June, JATO Dynamics said. A total of 160.646 battery-powered and plug-in hybrid cars vehicles were registered in July, accounting for almost 17 % of total registrations. “Consumers continue to respond positively to the deals and incentives attached to EVs which have made these vehicles far more competitive in terms of their pricing”, Munoz said. The Volkswagen ID.3 was Europe’s top-selling full-electric car in July while the Ford Kuga was the bestselling plug-in hybrid (see chart below). Munoz said consumer uptake of electrified models has not been enough to offset the big drops posted by diesel cars. The monthly market share for diesel cars declined to 22 % from 30 % in July 2020 and 32 % in July 2019. The share for gasoline cars was 59 %, down from 60 % in July 2020 and 63 % in July 2019. Last month’s 17 % share for electrified cars was up from 9 % in the same month last year and 3 % in July 2019. July sales were still below pre-pandemic numbers for the month. Registrations were 1.27 million in July last year and 1.32 million in July 2019. European registrations for the first 7 months of this year are up 24 % to 7.38 million. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS Korea and its labor union have signed a wage agreement for the year amid the extended Covid-19 pandemic and sluggish sales, the company said. In their second vote held early this week, some 65 % of GM Korea’s unionized workers agreed to accept the company’s revised proposals that newly include 300.000 won ($260) worth of repair coupons for Chevrolet brand vehicles and 200.000 won worth of gift certificates GM Korea, the South Korean unit of General Motors, and its union have held 15 rounds of wage negotiations since May amid the extended Covid-19 pandemic and sluggish sales. Last month, union members voted against the tentative wage deal that includes an increase of 30.000 won in monthly base pay and a one-off bonus of 4.5 million won per person. The union originally demanded an increase of 99.000 won in basic monthly pay, as well as a lump sum payment of over 10 million won in performance-related pay and a cash bonus per person. It also asked the company to suggest future vehicle production plans at the plants. As for upcoming vehicle output plans, the company said it is hard to promise any production plans for now, the company said. GM Korea has 3 plants: 2 in Bupyeong, just west of Seoul, and 1 in Changwon, 400 kilometers south of the capital city. The plants’ combined output capacity reaches 630.000 units a year. From January to July, its sales fell 13 % to 173.998 vehicles from 200.670 units in the year-ago period. +++

+++ JAPAN , which Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged will become carbon neutral by 2050, is grappling with a classic “build it and they will come” problem. After offering subsidies to the tune of ¥100 billion ($911 million) in fiscal 2012 to build charging stations and spur electric vehicle adoption, charging poles mushroomed. Now, with EV penetration only at around 1 %, the country has hundreds of aging charging poles that aren’t being used, while others (they have an average lifespan of about 8 years) are being taken out of service altogether. The number of EV charging stations in Japan fell to around 29.200 in the 12 months ended March, down from more than 30.300 the previous year, according to Zenrin. It’s the first decline since 2010, when the publisher of maps began collecting data. “Next year or the year after will be a peak” for replacing EV charging stations, said Tsuyoshi Ito, a planning division manager at e-Mobility Power, a joint venture between Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings and Chubu Electric Power. Going forward, it will be crucial to place chargers at convenient spots for users and ensure not all expire at once to sustain EV growth, he said. Japan is aiming to increase the number of EV charging stations nationwide to 150.000 by 2030, and companies are weighing in, with Tepco planning to boost the number of rapid chargers on highways to 1.000 units by 2025. Hitachi is developing smaller, lighter chargers, according to local media reports. But Akio Toyoda, president of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, has warned that merely sticking to targets can be problematic. “I want to avoid simply making installation the goal”, Toyoda said in June. “If the number of units is the only goal, then units will be installed wherever it seems feasible, resulting in low utilization rates and, ultimately, low levels of convenience”. +++

+++ Unionized workers at KIA , South Korea’s second-biggest carmaker, voted Friday to accept the company’s wage proposals without a strike for the first time in a decade. Kia said 68 % of 26.945 workers voted in favor of wage offers that include an increase of 75.000 won ($64.30) in monthly basic pay, 2 months of wages in performance-based pay and cash bonuses worth 5.8 million won. More than 1.600 out of the 28.604-member union abstained. But Kia rejected the union’s demand to extend the retirement age to 65 from the current 60 and reinstate fired workers. The company and the member union reached a tentative wage deal early this week without staging a strike amid the pandemic. It is the first time for Kia to sign a wage deal without industrial actions. They are set to sign the wage agreement Monday. Last month, its bigger affiliate Hyundai and its union signed this year’s wage deal without strikes for the third consecutive year. +++

+++ Japan’s Rohm says that vital SEMI CONDUCTORS for automobiles and industrial machinery will likely remain in short supply at least throughout next year, adding to ominous warnings about further fallout from the global chip crisis. The Kyoto-based chipmaker, whose customers include Toyota, Ford and Honda, has been hampered by a severe shortage of key materials as well as full production lines, said chief executive officer Isao Matsumoto. The company started boosting its capacity last September and plans to spend another ¥70 billion ($636 million) in the current fiscal year, but the full contribution from such investments won’t be seen immediately because production machinery is taking longer to arrive, he added. “All of our production facilities have been running at their full capacity since September last year, but orders from customers are overwhelming”, Matsumoto said in an interview this week. “I don’t think we can fulfill all the backlog of orders next year”. The firm joins peers like Infineon Technologies in warning that supply chain struggles are likely to persist for far longer than previously anticipated. Chip delivery times have already surpassed 20 weeks, as the Covid-19 delta variant complicates efforts to resume normal operations from Japan to Southeast Asia. Material and component shortages, compounded by jammed trains, ships and planes, have forced global automakers to cut or suspend production in recent weeks. Japanese car giant Toyota said last week it would temporarily halt production at 14 plants. Founded more than 60 years ago, Rohm has become an integral part of the automotive supply chain as carmakers add more electronics and semiconductors to vehicles. The manufacturer’s automotive solutions include devices used for power management, air conditioning, lighting and entertainment. The most severe bottleneck is a lack of materials like those required to make leadframes: the metal structure inside a semiconductor unit that communicate signals to and from the outside of the package. “Offers to hike prices won’t do a job at all anymore because our suppliers just don’t have a unit of stock at hand”, Matsumoto said. “Even for the ones we reserved, the pace of arrival at our site isn’t living up to our expectations”. But the shortages may benefit the bottom line. “Rohm’s operating profit margin may widen as its planned capacity expansion could bode well for sales and profit growth as well as overseas market share gains amid looming global chip shortages”, Masahiro Wakasugi and Ian Ma of Bloomberg Intelligence wrote in a research note this month. Still, some analysts warn a sudden drop in demand may eventually follow, as beefed-up production lines start contributing to capacity and customers finish securing enough inventories. “The current crunch is stemming from suppliers’ lack of output and makers trying to buy more components than what they need due to concerns,” said Morningstar’s head of equity research Kazunori Ito. “Both should go away in 2023 or so”. The current supply shortage means Rohm has had to put on hold a previously outlined multi-year plan to outsource a part of its chip production process to foundries overseas. The arrangement (especially for chips that require cutting-edge technology) was intended to serve as part of its business continuity plans given the increasing frequency of natural disasters in Japan. “Our plan to increase the quantity of chips we ask others to make on our behalf hasn’t changed, but these foundries have no such capacity right now, and next year looks very tight as well”, Matsumoto said. “Maybe we can resume it from a year after next, albeit gradually”. Rohm this year received two sets of government subsidies to strengthen its production in Japan and Malaysia. But to support semiconductor makers and their subsidiaries further, Matsumoto said his home country’s government could offer more benefits, including tax incentives and lowering the cost of renewable energies, given rising customer demand for a carbon-neutral production process. “How much renewable energy we should use in Japan is a big challenge, as we consume a lot of electricity and the cost of such energy here is very expensive,” he said. “That could become a problem for us when it comes to boosting our domestic production capacity, and relocating these production lines outside of Japan could become an inevitable option for us to think about”. +++

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