Newsflash: geen hybride techniek voor nieuwe Toyota Aygo X

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+++ According to Aristotle’s 4th century History of Animals, swans “are musical, and sing chiefly at the approach of death”. Scientists still debate the accuracy of this statement, but we don’t think anybody is going to argue with the melodic tones of the swan song that is ASTON MARTIN ‘s V12 Vantage. We’ve been expecting this. We saw spy shots in August of a hardcore Vantage mule out testing on the Nürburgring that was fitted with all manner of enhancements that led us to believe a twin-turbo 5.2-liter V12 may be under its vented hood. Later, the rumormill was aflutter with reports that the British marque was planning to bestow its smallest car with big power courtesy of a V12 tuned to deliver a reported 670 horsepower. That’s 20 ponies fewer than the Speedster’s twelve-cylinder, which spins out 690 horsepower and 730 Nm. I don’t know much more than that, for now. Aston Martin’s teaser says the V12 Vantage returns in 2022 and that it will be labeled a Final Edition. I’m certain the number produced will be limited, so if this is the beautiful swan song you’ve been waiting for, now would be a good time to get your finances in order. +++

+++ Auto industry executives expect ELECTRIC vehicles will make up just over half of new vehicle sales in the United States and China by 2030, and could do so without receiving government subsidies, according to a new survey by accounting and consulting firm KPMG. But combustion vehicles, including hybrids, are expected to retain a significant share of most major vehicle markets for years to come, according to KPMG’s latest annual survey of 1.000 auto industry executives. The speed at which automakers can phase out combustion engines and the carbon dioxide they emit is a pivotal issue for the global auto industry. A group of automakers and countries signed a statement earlier this month calling for phase-out of combustion vehicles globally by 2040, and by 2035 in richer nations. But the world’s 2 largest automakers by sales, Volkswagen and Toyota, and 3 of the world’s biggest vehicle-buying nations (China, the United States and Germany) did not sign on. The KPMG survey of auto industry executives found that they believe that electric vehicles will account for 52 % of sales by 2030 in the United States, China and Japan, with lower percentages for Western Europe, Brazil and India. But behind those aggregate forecasts, industry executives have widely varying views. For China, some auto industry executives expect EV sales by 2030 to be less than 20 % of the market, while others believe the world’s largest market could be 80 % electric by then. Electric vehicle sales around the world have been fueled so far by government subsidies. But 77 % of the respondents to KPMG’s survey said electric vehicles can achieve mass adoption within 10 years without government aid as battery costs drop to parity with petroleum-fueled engines. However, 91 % of auto executives said they support government subsidies. The wide-ranging survey also found that 75 % of executives surveyed expect their companies to sell “non-core” assets in the coming years as they re-evaluate what business lines will be viable as more new vehicles shift to battery-electric technology. “There is going to be a lot of M&A”, said Gary Silberg, global leader of KPMG’s automotive practice. Despite the supply-chain and pandemic disruptions of the past year, about 53 % of the executives surveyed said they were confident the industry can achieve profitable growth over the next 5 years. The most bullish executives were in the United States and China, the most pessimistic were in France, the survey found. +++

+++ KIA appears to be inching towards America’s lucrative pickup segment. The company reportedly approved the project in 2019, though we haven’t seen any evidence of it yet, and the head of its design department recently stated that he would love to work on a truck. “I’d welcome a pickup with open arms”, said Karim Habib in an interview. Kia’s heritage certainly isn’t rooted in trucks, but the firm has demonstrated it’s capable of venturing into new segments when needed (notably by releasing the Telluride), and sister company Hyundai argued with the Santa Cruz that stepping into the truck world doesn’t require decades of pickup-building experience. Of course, the definition of a pickup varies depending on who you ask and where they live. Habib was seemingly alluding to one that could be credibly sold in the United States: “It would fit our portfolio and the brand. In the pickup market in the United States, there is a huge amount of loyalty to existing brands. But, there are also new things opening up, so maybe there is room for another brand”. Reading between the lines suggests that a burly, Kia-badged truck aimed at the Ford F-150 won’t see the light that awaits at the end of a production line anytime soon. He didn’t elaborate on what new things he sees opening up; while this is pure speculation, he could have been referring to America’s renewed interest in smaller models, like Ford’s Ranger and Maverick, or the hype surrounding electric pickups. There are several paths Kia could follow to get to the truck market. The quickest, simplest, and cheapest would be to take the Santa Cruz, give it a Kia-like exterior design, and call it a good job well done. It could also design a model from the ground up. Another intriguing (and, in the grand scheme of things, far more realistic) point that’s worth bringing up is that Kia’s Australian division has asked executives for a body-on-frame SUV in the vein of the Chevrolet Tahoe. If the project is approved, the architecture would likely also underpin a Hyundai- and Genesis-badged model in order to split development costs. Putting it under a truck as well would make sense. Nothing is official yet, but it sounds like Kia is keeping a close eye on the pickup segment. Kia has made trucks before. In some markets, the firm has sold a cab-forward pickup called Bongo (or, in some countries, K-Series) since 1980. It’s purely a commercial vehicle, it wasn’t developed with family-hauling duties in mind, and it has been offered in several configurations including single- and double-cab models. Several factors have kept the Bongo away from our market, including the Chicken Tax. Kia also explored the opposite end of the pickup spectrum when it unveiled the Soulster concept in 2009. It never made the leap from the show floor to the showroom floor. Keep traveling back in time and you’ll encounter the KCV4 Mojave, which was envisioned as an alternative to the Ranger. +++

+++ STELLANTIS boss Carlos Tavares said external pressure on automakers to quickly shift to electric vehicles potentially threatens jobs and vehicle quality as producers struggle with EVs’ higher costs. Governments and investors want car manufacturers to speed up the transition to electric vehicles, but the costs are “beyond the limits” of what the auto industry can sustain, Tavares said in an interview. “What has been decided is to impose on the automotive industry electrification that brings 50 % additional costs against a conventional vehicle”, he said. “There is no way we can transfer 50 % of additional costs to the final consumer because most parts of the middle class will not be able to pay”. Automakers could charge higher prices and sell fewer cars, or accept lower profit margins, Tavares said. Those paths both lead to cutbacks. Union leaders in Europe and North America have warned tens of thousands of jobs could be lost. Automakers need time for testing and ensuring that new technology will work, Tavares said. Pushing to speed that process up “is just going to be counter productive. It will lead to quality problems. It will lead to all sorts of problems”, he said. Tavares said Stellantis is aiming to avoid cuts by boosting productivity at a pace far faster than industry norm. “Over the next 5 years we have to digest 10 % productivity a year in an industry which is used to delivering 2 % to 3 % productivity” improvement, he said. “The future will tell us who is going to be able to digest this, and who will fail”, Tavares said. “We are putting the industry on the limits”. Electric vehicle costs are expected to fall, and analysts project that battery electric vehicles and combustion vehicles could reach cost parity during the second half of this decade. Like other automakers that earn profits from combustion vehicles, Stellantis is under pressure from both establishment automakers such as GM, Ford, VW and Hyundai, as well as start-ups such as Tesla and Rivian. The latter electric vehicle companies are far smaller in terms of vehicle sales and employment. But investors have given Tesla and Rivian higher market valuations than the owner of the highly profitable Jeep and Ram brands. That investor pressure is compounded by government policies aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union, California and other jurisdictions have set goals to end sales of combustion vehicles by 2035. The United Kingdom has set 2030 as the deadline for going all-electric. Tavares said governments should shift the focus of climate policy toward cleaning up the energy sector and developing electric-vehicle charging infrastructure. Stellantis, created in 2021 with the merger of French automaker Peugeot SA and Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler NV, is on track to deliver 5 billion euros in cost reduction through streamlining its operations, Tavares said. Tavares has accelerated Stellantis’ electric vehicle development, committing 30 billion euros through 2025 to developing new electric vehicle architectures, building battery plants and investing in raw materials and new technology. Earlier this week, Stellantis said it had invested in solid-state battery startup Factorial alongside German automaker Daimler. “We can invest more and go deeper in the value chain”, Tavares said. “There may be other investments in the near future”. +++

+++ Conventionally fuelled superminis and city cars have long been tipped to become early casualties of the shift to all-out electrification. Their waning profit margins, near-incompatibility with hybridisation and negative impact on fleet emissions figures mean larger, more costly and increasingly electrified cars have been the priority for most major manufacturers in recent years. But TOYOTA has bucked the trend by introducing the new Aygo X, a higher-riding but still diminutive third-generation version of its consistently strong-selling city car. Although it has grown slightly, at 3.700 mm long and 1.740 mm wide, it will still be comfortably one of the smallest combustion cars on sale and it serves as proof that Toyota views the city car as a viable revenue stream for at least one more model cycle. Toyota Europe vice-president Andrea Carlucci is confident that the Japanese firm can sustain an offering in this endangered segment. He told that the “strong equity we have built over the last 15 years with 2 generations of the previous vehicle” cements the Aygo nameplate as a front runner. The Aygo X will not go up against the same array of competitors faced by its predecessor at launch in 2014. Seat and Skoda made their identical Mii and Citigo EV-only in 2019 before withdrawing them from production altogether; Renault’s rear-engined Twingo is now EV-only; and ex-production partners Citroën and Peugeot will no longer build the C1 and 108 alongside the Aygo in Kolín, Czech Republic. Carlucci suggested the reasons behind other manufacturers’ withdrawal from the petrol city car market in recent years: “It’s a segment that traditionally is not that profitable and, if not fully electrified, tends to be a ‘bad boy’ ”. The emissions produced by a pure-combustion motor incur hefty penalties for car makers because of a recently imposed 95 g/km average on CO2 emissions across a manufacturer’s line-up. So Toyota will have to balance the pure-petrol Aygo X’s impact with sales of statistically cleaner hybrid and upcoming pure-electric models. Were the Aygo X electrified, its environmental impact, on paper, would be likely to fall below the EU’s strict thresholds, but Carlucci suggested that a hybrid version would not be able to “stay true to the vocation of this category, which is to be affordable”. The mild-hybrid systems used by rival cars, he notes, have “even higher CO2” ratings than the Aygo and the installation of such a system would push the Aygo X’s list price up, threatening its positioning. Notably, the similarly priced Suzuki Ignis and Fiat Panda are the only electrified propositions available in this segment, but it uses a relatively unobtrusive and cost-effective 12 Volt mild-hybrid system to reduce emissions. As for whether Toyota can count on the sustained popularity of an A-segment offering, as crossovers continue their assault on the sales charts, Carlucci is adamant that there remains a market for such models. “It’s the right choice to stay in this segment. I’m confident we can succeed”, he said, adding that the new car’s raised ride height and rugged styling are an acknowledgement that Toyota aims to find “a sweet spot between the A and sub-B categories where there is nothing like the new Aygo X”. Toyota has hinted at a slight cost increase over the old car, but even a €15.995 starting price in the Netherlands would compare favourably with similarly sized electric alternatives in outright terms. Volkswagen will launch the production version of the ID.2 in 2025 at around €22.000, but combustion technology will continue to be the most cost-effective means of propulsion in this segment for now, for both consumers and car makers.Toyota remains the only mainstream brand to commit to a non-electrified city car offering in the run-up to 2030, so it remains to be seen whether the  Aygo X’s existing rivals will be renewed at the end of their current life cycles to provide competition. +++

+++ The auto industry in the UNITED STATES continues to recover from the pandemic-tainted sales of 2020, but you wouldn’t know it from a glance at the sales charts, which contained pretty much universally bad news for the manufacturers who still report monthly retail sales totals. Apart from Genesis, which is having a gangbuster year with a big fat asterisk on it, every brand that has reported its November sales so far has come up short compared to last year. Even Kia, which has already surpassed its previous full-year sales record, sold fewer units last month than it did during the same period in 2020. Sister company Hyundai saw a nearly 20% drop for its mainstream brand. Honda and Toyota, which both seemed better-positioned to weather the chip shortage earlier this year, remain up more than 12% and nearly 16% for the year, respectively, but those numbers will likely slip in December if current trends continue. With production shutdowns becoming less frequent and supply chain issues easing slightly, the final month of 2021 could be the difference between a rebound and relapse for some automakers. Subaru, which experienced many consecutive years of sales growth prior to the pandemic, is in danger of selling fewer units in 2021 than it did in 2020. Its volume was down more than 34 % in November. Of the automakers who report monthly sales, only Ford’s figures were still outstanding at the time of publication; like GM, the Blue Oval is expected to announce that its sales volumes have slipped further due to ongoing parts shortages. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN boss Herbert Diess, currently under heavy fire from unions over strategy, struck an upbeat tone at a recent manager meeting on talks over the company’s 5-year investment plan, including the future of its Wolfsburg plant. According to a copy of his speech from a meeting over the last week, Diess said negotiations with unions were going well, and hailed the company’s progress on everything from beating U.S. competitors on autonomous driving to boosting sales in China. VW was past the worst of the supply chain crisis that has hit production this year, he added, with volumes starting to rise and next year’s outlook improving. Premium brands were practically sold out next year and order books were full, Diess said; a sunnier outlook than the company gave at its third-quarter results a month ago. “You can see that my mood is very good, because we’ve made a lot of progress in the last few weeks”, said the CEO. Diess’s position at the helm of Europe’s largest carmaker has been hanging by a thread in recent weeks amid tensions over his management style and electrification strategy. Volkswagen’s supervisory board will meet later this month to agree on a 5-year investment plan. But the lead-up to the meeting has been clouded by uncertainty over whether Diess will remain in his position and disagreements over the future of the Wolfsburg plant, which workers fear is being left behind in the transition to electric vehicles. A decision on whether Diess will stay or go is expected by the end of this week, 2 sources close to negotiations who declined to be named told, with the latest round of discussions on the matter taking place last weekend. On the question of Wolfsburg, management and the works council were discussing assembling the electric ID.3 model at the plant “it could certainly make sense to produce such a model”, Diess said. The plant would become unrecognizable by 2030, he promised, with changes underway that would make it “very competitive to Grünheide”; Tesla’s giant electric vehicle factory just hours away which, pending final approval, could kick into gear in December. Diess has in recent weeks issued frequent warnings about Tesla’s efficiency and speed compared to Volkswagen’s, expressing fear that the German carmaker will quickly fall behind on its own turf. +++

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