Newsflash: Mini komt in oktober met “iets spannends”

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+++ FORD is closing out September with the sad task of alerting owners to 5 different recalls, 2 of them camera related. The first is a safety compliance recall affecting 620.246 units of 12 models from the 2020 model year: Edge, Escape, Expedition, Explorer, F-150 and Super Duty, Mustang, Ranger and Transit, plus the Lincoln Corsair, MKX, and Nautilus. On these vehicles, the circuit board in the rearview camera suffers from insufficient electrical conductivity. The issue can cause the resulting image to not appear or to be distorted, which can lead to an accident while reversing. Ford will begin notifying owners as of November 7 to get their vehicles to dealers for replacement of the rearview camera. The second camera-related issue affects the 2020 and 2021 Ford Explorer, Lincoln Corsair and Lincoln Aviator with the 360-degree camera. Technically, if you own a 2021 Explorer that only has a rearview camera and not a 360-degree camera, neither the above recall nor this one apply to you, but it’s probably better safe than sorry here. There are 354.330 crossovers covered by this action. A video output issue could cause the displayed image to cut out, increasing the chances of a reversing accident. Ford will notify dealers starting October 7, the fix being to have a dealer update the Image Processing Module software. The F-250 and F-350 Super Duty are in for another recalls thanks to potentially improper welds on the front axle’s wheel end yoke. A bad weld could alter steering performance, getting the truck to pull left or right, or change the sensitivity of the steering. There are 9.628 affected pick-ups in the U.S. and 961 in Canada. Dealers will replace the axle assembly if any bad welds are found. The fourth recall affects 38.005 Mustangs in the U.S. and another 2.873 Mustangs in Canada and Mexico from the 2020 model year. In this instance, the brake pedal bracket might fracture during sudden stopping, which can decrease brake pressure and increase the chances of an accident. Finally, 126.033 units of the 2011 to 2013 Explorer are being recalled over a potential suspension issue. Certain vehicles might have had a rear toe link cross-axis ball joint replaced by one that could seize up. If that happens, there’s a chance the rear suspension’s toe link could fracture. Ford is still determining how many vehicles might be affected and where they’re located, but at the moment it includes Explorers that are registered, have ever been registered, or were sold in 22 states. This is an addition to two other ongoing recall campaigns. Ford will inform owners by mail starting November. +++

+++ In JAPAN , industrial output fell for the second straight month in August as Covid-19 outbreaks elsewhere in Asia disrupted supply chains for carmakers already facing headwinds from a prolonged chip shortage. Separate data showed retail sales in August slipped for the first time in 6 months as households cut spending amid a coronavirus relapse, signaling lackluster consumer sentiment. The data suggests the pandemic continued to gnaw at Japan’s economy this quarter, posing an immediate challenge to the next prime minister, Fumio Kishida, who won the ruling party leadership vote on Wednesday, ahead of general elections that must be held by late November. Factory output lost 3.2 % in August from the previous month, official data showed, hit by weaker production of cars and electronic machines and marking the second consecutive month of contraction after a 1.5 % drop in July. The decline was larger than the 0.5 % fall forecast in a poll of economists. Major Japanese automakers including Toyota, Nissan and Honda have faced production cuts since late August due to a components shortage, which could last well into October, the industry lobby warned earlier this month. Suzuki announced it will close two assembly plants in Japan for one to three days in October due to supply shortage. “Auto production cuts have affected many other related sectors that must reduce supplies when plants are shut down”, said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute. “A halt in the recovery from the pandemic is lasting longer in Japan compared to other countries”. Manufacturers surveyed by the government expect output to rise 0.2 % in September and 6.8 % in October, but the bolder projections entail “large downside risks” given the uncertainties around car production cuts, a government official told reporters. The government downgraded its assessment of industrial production for the first time since April 2020, saying it was “stalling”. Analysts expect the world’s third-largest economy to grow at an annualized pace of 1.2 % this quarter, much weaker growth than other advanced economies, as stop-go coronavirus curbs hit private consumption. With worse-than-expected August production and consumption, “Japan’s July-September gross-domestic product now looks closer to zero growth”, said Minami, adding weaker results in September may bring it to red. Separate government data on Thursday showed retail sales were weaker-than-expected, falling 3.2 % in August from a year earlier, dragged down by consumer electronics and clothing. That marked the first decline in 6 months and was larger than the median market forecast for a 1.0 % fall. The worse-than-expected retail sales came after Japan said earlier this week it would lift coronavirus curbs in all regions given a stark fall in Covid-19 cases and as around 60 % of the population have been fully vaccinated. Compared with the previous month, retail sales declined a seasonally adjusted 4.1 %. +++

+++ Electric vehicle startup LORDSTOWN will announce the sale of the northeast Ohio assembly plant it acquired from General Motors to Taiwan contract manufacturer Foxconn, a person familiar with the matter said. The deal will be announced by the companies soon, said the source, who asked not to be identified. Bloomberg earlier reported that Lordstown was in talks to sell the plant to Foxconn and that a deal could be announced this week. In August 2020, GM agreed to invest $75 million in Lordstown, which went public through a merger with DiamondPeak Holdings in a deal that valued the startup at $1.6 billion. GM’s investment included the plant and equipment, which were valued at $20 million. Lordstown shares were up 8% in late morning trading. Foxconn and Lordstown declined to comment. Lordstown, which named a new chief executive in August, is working to launch its electric Endurance pickup truck while also looking to raise additional funding. The Ohio company also faces regulatory scrutiny. Lordstown had previously said it was in talks to build vehicles for other automakers or lease space in its factory. It uses only 30 % of the plant’s 6.2 million square feet. Foxconn, meanwhile, has been exploring possible sites to build EVs in the United States. The company had previously said it was in talks with Wisconsin about building EVs there. Foxconn and Fisker said in May they had finalized a deal for Foxconn to build EVs for the EV startup. Lordstown’s founder and largest shareholder, Steve Burns, resigned as chief executive in June following an internal investigation into claims made by short-seller Hindenburg Research. Lordstown faces probes by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission related to its merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) and statements it previously made about preorders for its vehicles. GM announced its planned closure of the sprawling Lordstown plant in Northeast Ohio in November 2018 along with 3 other American plants, drawing condemnation from then U.S. President Donald Trump and many U.S. lawmakers. +++

+++ MINI ’s product lineup is feeling a bit stale, but the brand is at an odd inflection point as consumers continue to choose crossovers and SUVs over hatchbacks and coupes. That’s not great for Mini’s lineup of small vehicles, and the transition to electrified propulsion isn’t helping either: it does offer the Mini Electric. However, the company is preparing “Something Thrilling” for October, though I have no idea what it could be. The teaser image provides somewhat of an answer, giving an overhead view of what appears to be the front clip of a Mini Cooper S hatch. The Black trim around the headlights is clearly visible, as is the blacked-out grille and the black badge that sits above it. Also visible (but barely so) is a grille badge that occupies the same area of the car’s face as the Mini’s “S” trim badge. Mini could be prepping a special edition model as some soft of send-off trim because much of the car’s lineup feels overdue for a refresh. We know the company is planning to launch its last combustion-engine vehicle in 2025, with plans to go fully electric in the 2030s. We also know the company is planning to keep the Mini Convertible through the end of the decade, or even longer. New products are coming, and this model teased could be the start of that transition. Mini’s post says that people should clear their calendars, but it didn’t provide anything more than that. Those interested should “stay tuned for more,” and we’ll be watching Mini to see what exciting thing it reveals this month. Earlier this year, Mini debuted its Multitone roof with a tri-colour gradient for 3- and 5-door versions of the Hardtop and Clubman. Mini’s October reveal could very well be something similar: a visual upgrade without any other significant changes, though we’ll have to wait for something official. +++

+++ General Motors’ Cruise SELF DRIVING CAR subsidiary said it has become the first company to receive a regulatory permit to offer driverless ride-hailing services in California. Waymo also said it has obtained a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to deploy autonomous vehicles – with safety drivers behind the wheel. They may give rides for free with the new permit, but they would need to obtain another permit from the California Public Utilities Commission to start charging passengers for rides. Cruise and Waymo had earlier this year applied for approval from the California DMV to deploy their self-driving vehicles in San Francisco, setting the stage for the biggest tests yet of the technology in a dense urban environment. The California DMV said in a separate release that Cruise driverless “vehicles are approved to operate on public roads between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at a maximum speed limit of 30 miles per hour”. The Waymo vehicles which have safety drivers behind the wheel “are approved to operate on public roads within parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties with a speed limit of no more than 100 kph”, the DMV said. +++

+++ Say what you will about the Volkswagen Group’s obsession with crossovers and SUVs, but it’s still offering plenty of regular cars. Case in point, the SKODA Superb will live to see a new generation, complete with a revamped Passat as both will share the assembly line at the revamped Bratislava plant in Slovakia. Yes, the Superb will no longer be made in Kvasiny, Czech Republic while the Passat will lose its “Made in Germany” label. Skoda’s exterior design coordinator Petr Matušinec provided a glimpse into the 2023 Superb’s styling earlier this year, hinting at an evolutionary design. The company’s flagship is likely to grow in size considering the latest Octavia is now bigger than ever before. Both liftback and estate body styles are on the agenda, which might not be the case for the Passat as we’re hearing VW intends to retire the saloon. My spies have stumbled upon a 2023 Superb, but it was only a test mule wearing the current-gen estate’s body, so there’s not much to see. The sketches are more indicative of what to expect from the company’s crown jewel, which is already shaping up to be an attractive car. The vertical air inlets of the test mule are new and we can (barely) see them in the official drawings. It would appear Skoda put some weights on the rear seats to simulate the presence of passengers sitting in the back and there are some test-related devices affixed to the centre steel wheels rocking glorious hubcaps. While the headlights appear to be taken from the facelifted model, the taillights seem to come from the version sold until mid-2019. With rumours about the next Passat coming exclusively with an automatic transmission, it could also mean the Superb will lose the clutch pedal. In a recent statement, Skoda CEO Thomas Schäfer said that while plug-in hybrids are not the future (pure electric cars are) a PHEV setup still makes sense in the Octavia and Superb for fleets. Expect a lot more spy shots to arrive in the coming months, and sooner or later, Skoda will roll out with prototypes using the final body with production-ready lights and everything. We’re also eager to see the styling direction the Passat will take for its next interaction, which might be the last considering the recently spied Aero B is seen as its direct replacement in the electric era. +++

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , just 37.000 new cars were built in August amid the global chip shortage, according to new figures released this week. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows the country’s total output for the month was down by more than a quarter compared with the same month in 2020. According to the SMMT’s figures, a total of 37.246 new cars were built on these shores in August, down from more than 51.000 in August 2020. And the organisation is blaming that 27 % drop in output on the global semiconductor shortage, which has caused production stoppages at car factories around the world. It’s a trend that has been developing over the past few months, and the SMMT says the chip shortage has been impacting UK factories since the early part of the year. Although the lockdowns of 2020 have massaged the industry’s year-on-year figures for 2021, the SMMT has blamed semiconductor shortages for the UK’s lacklustre output since February. To prove the point, production during the first 8 months of 2021 remained higher than during the same period in 2020. The first two-thirds of this year have seen almost 590.000 new cars built in this country, up from 518.000 during the same part of 2020. However, the first 8 months of 2019 saw almost 867.000 cars roll off UK production lines. That means 2021’s output so far is down by around a third (32 %) compared with 2019. And compared with the 5-year average for the 8 months from January to August, 2021’s output is down 42.8 %, or more than 440.000 units. Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the result was “extremely worrying” for the industry, and claimed the cessation of the furlough scheme was coming at “the worst time” for the sector. “Another significant decline for UK car production is extremely worrying both for the sector and its many thousands of workers nationwide”, he said. “While not the only factor at play, the impact of the semiconductor shortage on manufacturing cannot be overstated. Carmakers and their suppliers are battling to keep production lines rolling with constraints expected to continue well into 2022 and possibly beyond. Job support schemes such as furlough have proven such a lifeline to automotive businesses yet its cessation comes at the worst time, with the industry still facing Covid-related stoppages which are damaging the sector and threatening the supply chain in particular. Other countries have extended their support; we need the UK to do likewise”. +++

+++ The XPENG P5 follows the XPeng G3, a compact SUV, and the XPeng P7, which is a long-range sports saloon. The P5 is a family saloon with a focus on comfort, technology, and affordability. The P5 has a single front-mounted 208 hp / 310 Nm motor that sends it to 100 km/h from standstill in 7.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 175 km/h. It comes in 6 different versions (460G, 460E, 550G, 550E, 550P, and 600P), with a choice of three battery packs (55.9 kWh, 66.2 kWh and 71.4 kWh) that give it NEDC ranges of 460 km, 550 km and 600 km. All versions take under 40 minutes to charge from 30 to 80 %. After subsidies, the XPeng P5 starts at 157.900 yuan in China, the equivalent to €21.000, with the highest specced version retailing at 223,900 yuan, equivalent to €29.000. Its pricing outside of China has yet to be announced, but it should still undercut similar-size rivals like the ubiquitous Tesla Model 3. XPeng is quick to point out that the P5 is targeted for city driving. It won’t have the high performance or long-range of the P7, but those sacrifices have allowed XPeng to add XPilot 3.5 into the vehicle, giving it the most advanced ADAS available in China today, while keeping the price less than that of the P7. “The P5 realizes our vision of navigation-assisted autonomous driving, aiming to liberate the driver’s concentration and effort from the drudgery of manual driving. We seek to enable autonomous driving in all weathers and in the most challenging driving conditions”. The P5’s XPilot 3.5 incorporates 2 LIdar units into what was already an extremely advanced driver’s assist system. In addition to the LIdar technology, XPilot 3.5 has 12 ultrasonic sensors, 5 Monocular vision cameras, 4 surround-view cameras, 1 trinocular front-view camera, and 1 driver-monitoring camera. The P5’s double-prism Lidar units can distinguish pedestrians, cyclists, and scooters, which are encountered more often in China than in Europe and North America. It can also identify static obstacles and road construction, but perhaps the biggest improvement over XPilot 3.0 is its ability to extend the navigation guided pilot (NGP) function from highways to now include city driving. The P5 first debuted back in April of this year at the Shanghai Motor Show. Order books are already open too. +++

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