Newsflash: nieuwe Countryman Cooper S E wordt sterkste Mini ooit.

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+++ ALFA ROMEO , DS, Lancia and Maserati will launch only pure-electric models from 2025 as part of a bold electrification strategy launched by parent company Stellantis. The move brings the European premium brands into line with British rival Jaguar, which will also go all-electric from 2025. All other Stellantis brands operating in Europe (Abarth, Citroën, Fiat, Jeep, Opel, Peugeot and Vauxhall) will stop launching ICE cars in 2026. Stellantis has launched its Dare 2030 strategy with a view to slashing its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030, boosting revenues and maintaining strong operating margins. The initiative has heavy implications for all brands in the portfolio but particularly the premium-oriented European brands, which will now undergo a period of rapid and dramatic reinvention to meet the new deadline. Stellantis plans to multiply its premium segment revenues by 4 and its profits in this segment by 5 by 2030. It hopes that in 8 years’ time, premium cars will contribute 11 % of its overall revenues, up from 4 % currently. Alfa Romeo currently sells the Giulia and Stelvio, both pure-combustion propositions, and is about to launch the Tonale crossover, which will get an EV option in 2024. The latest development means the existing duo’s replacements won’t offer an ICE option, calling time on the firm’s Giorgio platform and venerable 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine. The Turin-based brand is planning to launch an entry-level electric crossover, reportedly called the Brennero, and could revive the GTV name for an electric sports coupé to rival the next generation Porsche Boxster / Cayman. +++

+++ DS has doubled the size of its line-up with the addition of the new 4 family hatchback and 9 saloon, but it still has only 1 electric vehicle on its books: the 3 Crossback E-Tense. The French company’s first bespoke EV is due in 2024 on Stellantis’s new STLA platform, alongside an electric version of the 4. +++

+++ Henrik FISKER has “quite big expectations” for the all-electric Ocean, the firm’s CEO told at the 2022 Mobile World Congress. Fisker claims Europe will be “critical” for the car and the success of the firm, and forecasts up to 50 % of its overall volume will be sold in Europe. The firm also hopes to ship around 60.000 sales in Europe within the next 2 to 3 years. “I think 60.000 would be a huge success. We have been building our marketing/sales team. They’re based in Munich”, said Fisker, who wants to move further onto the continent. “Right now, our 3 top countries are Denmark, United Kingdom and Norway. We’ve got to get into the middle of Europe and really start doing some commotion and getting the vehicle out there”. Fisker says the Ocean will appeal to European customers because of its range, size and pricing. The model boasts a maximum range of 620 km with its largest battery. “Europe has been slow for EV adoption and having lived in Europe, many live in smaller villages. You have to drive to bigger cities or other locations, so you want that freedom of the range”, Fisker told. “Also, I think the fact that we did a silhouette of a real SUV, but sporty, separates us from all of the fastbacks and hatchbacks. It has that luxurious and sporty feel but it’s still very utilitarian”, he said. Fisker also suggests the Ocean’s low entry price point will draw more customers towards the brand, with a selection of key technology features to give it the edge. “When I look at how that segment is growing, I see it’s mostly growing in the expensive segment”, he said. “I think we’re in a price segment where we have a lot of market opportunity as there aren’t a lot of great-looking cars there”. “My goal was that we always need to have around 3 or 4 features that nobody else in the class has. We have the longest range in our price range, we have the 17.1 inch rotating touchscreen, we’ve got a solar roof and for those who are really interested in performance, we’ve got torque vectoring”. The model currently has around 33.000 reservation holders, and while Fisker suggests the Ocean is in a comparable market segment to the Tesla Model Y, he insisted there would be no direct rivalry. “That’s the comparison, but I don’t see that as a place to get our customers. Tesla’s customers have already chosen to go in that direction”, Fisker said. He went on to suggest that the majority of sales would be from drivers of cars from ‘traditional’ brands like Mercedes, Toyota and BMW. “When we asked them if they’d had an electric car before, 70 % of people had never had one. It’s generally from people who have a car from €45.000 – €75.000 and that could be anybody. In our case, because we have new technology and we’re a new brand, we have people coming from all-over”. Deliveries of the model, which is set to go into production at Magna’s plant in Austria from 22 November, will start in early 2023. +++

+++ GENESIS is primed to launch a wave of bespoke electric cars in the wake of the new GV60 crossover as it strives to establish itself as a stand-alone luxury brand. The Hyundai-owned firm plans to introduce its final combustion-engined model in 2025 and will usher in a family of 8 bespoke EVs atop its parent company’s dedicated E-GMP platform, replacing its first-generation models over the course of this decade. The brand’s chief creative officer, Luc Donckerwolke, told that the imminent GV60 serves as “a taste of things to come” from the 7 EVs that will follow it onto market. Asked whether Genesis’s new bespoke EVs will directly succeed its current petrol and diesel cars, Donckerwolke said the range won’t be so concretely defined by their physical footprints, but rather their interior proportions. “Due to the platforms, the cars will have generally longer wheelbases and more space inside the vehicle, so you won’t be able to compare them one to one”, he said. He highlighted that the GV60’s cabin is larger than is customary for an ICE car of similar size and that, in the future, flat-floored platforms will “have a scale-up effect” on the brand’s models. As a result, the all-electric successor to the current Genesis GV80 (a large SUV) will be bigger inside, but not necessarily in terms of its footprint. It is expected to use the same extended-wheelbase variant of the E-GMP platform as the production versions of the recent Hyundai Seven and Kia EV9 SUV concepts, which lines it up as a rival to electric SUV flagships from established premium brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Donckerwolke wouldn’t be drawn on the nature of a halo model for this EV roll-out, but a production version of last year’s X concept, which was posited as a “high-performance GT”, could be brought to market as a rival to the Porsche Taycan, using the E-GMP platform’s most potent motor configurations. He did suggest that Genesis EVs wouldn’t follow Kia and Hyundai’s new naming strategy, however. Donckerwolke said dropping the existing ‘G’ and ‘GV’ prefixes would be like “Coca-Cola deciding to only sell Light products rather than the originals. Then every product is called Light”. +++

+++ LANCIA has only had 1 model on its books for several years: the 11-year-old Ypsilon supermini. Questions have been raised about the brand’s sustainability, given this extremely limited portfolio and the fact that it currently sells only in its Italian home market, but Tavares’s plan represents Stellantis’s commitment to reviving Lancia’s fortunes as an EV manufacturer. Given that the Ypsilon is based on the old Fiat 500 platform, it’s feasible that a new-generation car could be introduced atop that of the new electric 500. +++

+++ MASERATI currently sells mild-hybrid versions of the Ghibli and Levante, and is tipped to launch an electric Folgore version of the new Grecale SUV and GranTurismo sports coupé in 2023. It has yet to be confirmed by Stellantis if the Quattroporte, Ghibli, Levante and new MC20 supercar will survive beyond 2025 with electric powertrains. +++

+++ The next-generation MINI Countryman plug-in hybrid, due next year, will be the BMW-owned brand’s most powerful series-production model yet. The Countryman will share its FAAR front-driven architecture with the all-new BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and be produced alongside that model and the upcoming X1 in Leipzig, Germany. It is set to use the same range of petrol and plug-in hybrid powertrains, the most potent of which will be a four-wheel-drive PHEV set-up with a combined output that shades even that of the current Mini JCW GP hot hatchback. The powertrain will pair a 1.5-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine with a 177 hp electric motor for a combined output of 326 hp, making the model substantially quicker than today’s 220 hp Countryman Cooper S E All4. A 14.2kWh (usable) battery will supply it with around 90 km of EV range; a near 100 % increase. It can be fully charged in 2.5 hours from a 7.4 kWh charger. It is not yet confirmed whether the most powerful Countryman will wear the JCW badge traditionally reserved for Mini’s performance models, but the brand has already confirmed its intentions to carry the nameplate through to its electrified product range. A less powerful PHEV option with a combined 245 hp will also be available, as will 170 hp 1.5-litre 3-cylinder and 218 hp 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol engines, both with 48 Volt mild-hybrid technology, and a 2.0-litre diesel. The Countryman will follow its BMW X1 sibling in gaining a pure-electric powertrain option, too. Few details are currently available but, like the combustion-engined car, it is expected to be front-wheel drive as standard. We got our first look at the hot range-topper late last year. A camouflaged test mule gave itself away with a beefy quad-exit exhaust, sports alloys and prominent rear spoiler. Importantly, however, FAAR will not be used for Mini’s long-awaited entry-level supermini, known at this early stage as the Minor, which will be built in China as part of a new joint venture between BMW and Great Wall Motors and use a platform supplied by the latter. Crucially, the Countryman will be noticeably bigger than today’s car, with early estimates suggesting a 200mm increase in length to provide enhanced load capacity and leg room. Effectively, this increase will bump Mini’s crossover into a new segment, moving it away from rivals such as the Toyota CH-R and Nissan Juke, and lining it up against the larger RAV4 and Qashqai. The Countryman’s tenure as Mini’s only SUV model is nearly up. It will be joined in dealerships shortly after launch by an all-new electric crossover model built in China by Great Wall Motors, as part of the ‘Spotlight’ joint venture between the 2 companies. However, that model is expected to be smaller than the Countryman, so the existing car will continue to cap out the fourth generation of models sold by Mini under BMW ownership. +++

+++ OPEL will ditch internal combustion engines completely in 2028 and has promised to offer an electrified version of every model by 2024. The pledge comes in the wake of parent company Stellantis’s vow to go all-electric in Europe by 2026 and launch 75 new pure-electric models globally by 2030. As part of this push, the successors to the Opel Crossland and Insignia will be pure-electric, confirming that Opel will maintain an offering in these segments beyond the current cars’ lifecycles. Whether or not they will retain the names of the current ICE models remains to be seen, however. Also confirmed today is that Opel will bring the reborn Manta; an electric SUV-Coupe tipped to rival the Toyota bZ4X. A spokesman confirmed that it will sit alongside the Insignia successor, rather than serving as the replacement for that model. Arriving by 2025, the Manta is set to be one of the first cars to use Stellantis’s new STLA EV platform, which will be available in 4 sizes and rolled out across the 14-brand group’s entire global portfolio. Opel said the Manta is “emissions-free, versatile and a car that will appeal to the heart and mind”. Other clues to its positioning are promises that it will be “astoundingly spacious” and a “new interpretation of a classic”, which suggests that it will draw some styling inspiration from its 1970s namesake. Joining the Manta, Corsa-e, Mokka-e, Combo-e Life, Vivaro-e Life, Insignia successor and Crossland successor in Opel’s EV line-up will be the new  Astra-e from 2023, which Opel has now confirmed will be available in both hatchback and Sports Tourer estate guises, like its ICE sibling. Opel says its future electric line-up will “perfectly meet European motorists’ needs” with driving ranges of between 500 and 800 km, as well as being able to charge at a rate of 30 km per minute. Opel currently uses the e-CMP architecture for all its EVs, with a single front-mounted electric motor producing 136 hp and a 50 kWh battery giving roughly 320 km of range. Stellantis (alongside Mercedes-Benz) has partnered with energy firm Total to create the Automotive Cells Company, a joint venture which aims to become “a world-class player in the field of developing and producing high-performance batteries for the automotive industry”. The companies have pledged to boost capacity at ACC’s battery plant in Germany to 32 GWh. This will provide power to a range of EVs in Stellantis’s future line-up, including those from Opel. +++

+++ News that the Volkswagen Group is pulling the levers to SPIN-OFF the highly profitable Porsche company makes it the most high-profile example in recent months of a growing trend to divide up automotive groups. Why manufacturers and their suppliers are doing this boils down to two reasons: unlocking value and better preparing themselves for the shift to electric away from internal combustion engines. The decision to list 25 % of Porsche on the stock market is a good illustration of the first reason. Porsche has consistently been the Volkswagen Group’s most profitable arm in recent years, and therefore a separate listing could value it at as much as €90 billion; not far off the €116 billion value of the entire Volkswagen Group, as per its current share price. The Volkswagen Group would then pocket up to €11 billion; a nice buffer against future disruption. “Volkswagen is using the IPO (Initial Public Offering) to effectively raise capital”, noted investment bank Jefferies. The split will also give more freedom to Porsche, which has long chafed at having to share platforms, even with Audi. The second reason was cited by Ford when it announced last Wednesday that it was splitting its car business into 2 separate divisions, one for EVs and one for ICE cars. The idea is that the EV division (Ford Model E) will harness the strengths more associated with start-up companies, while the ICE division (Ford Blue) will attack costs to better extract profit from dwindling ICE sales. Ford CEO Jim Farley said: “The reality is our legacy organisation has been holding us back. We had to change. “The customers are different. We think the goto-market is going to have to be different. The product development process and the kinds of products we develop are different. The procurement supply chains are all different. The talent is different”. Splitting a company is a complex process, but dividing it can offer investors a much clearer idea of the strengths, weaknesses and future direction of each part. For example, ICE cars are making a lot of money for manufacturers right now but have no long-term future, while the reverse is true of EVs. However, investors often look deep into the future to value a company, meaning that, despite posting multiple billions of profit (as many are doing after a bumper year), car companies with ‘legacy’ operations aren’t valued anywhere close to Tesla, which has no historical ICE business. Manufacturers are having to think again on parts sourcing for EVs. The long-understood playbook of building engine blocks and buying in most other parts no longer works if you’re having to reach deep into the supply chain to secure your share of precious semiconductors, battery materials and software expertise to build the new generation of smart EVs. Now the mantra is ‘vertically integrate your core business and divest what’s not’. Mercedes-Benz had that thought when it looked at its truck division, which it spun off in December. “Trucks and cars address different requirements”, said Ola Källenius, CEO of the new Mercedes-Benz Cars and Vans entity, in the October meeting agreeing to the split. “They have different technological solutions and groups; on the customer and on the investor side”. Mercedes’ €9.2 billion gain from the sell-off was also a pretty useful chunk to invest in its own electrification shift. The Volkswagen Group has done the same with Bugatti, which was once its crown jewel but had become a distraction. It was moved over to Croatian EV newcomer Rimac, which came pre-vetted, thanks to Porsche’s investment in it. What investors don’t want to see is a load of legacy business holding back company value. Volvo responded last year ahead of its own IPO by hiving off its engine division into a firm run together with owner Geely called Aurobay, which will cease to have Volvo as a customer when the Swedish brand is all-electric by 2030. Aurobay “aims to be a leading player in the supply of high-quality, low-emissions, cost-efficient powertrain solutions”, according to Volvo. Meanwhile, Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo has said that his company could split its EV powertrain activities from its ICE ones, with the legacy business moved out of Europe. The thinking employed by the likes of Mercedes (which has a new ICE partnership with Geely), Renault and Volkswagen (which has turned over development of future ICE platform tech to sibling firm Skoda) is that the world is splitting into 2 tiers. Namely, EVs in the main markets of China, Europe and (eventually) the US, and ICE cars in developing markets; at least for another couple of decades. This was one possible reason why the Volkswagen Group, a clear leader in EV technology and roll-out among the legacy companies, wouldn’t sign the pledge at last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) to stop selling ICE cars by 2040. Meanwhile, General Motors and Ford, 2 manufacturers that have been dialling back in emerging markets, did sign it. Could the Volkswagen Group also split off Skoda? It would avoid future public relations black marks like that at COP26. The move mirrors one that’s playing out within the automotive supplier industry Mega-supplier Continental is going about it 2 ways. Last year, it spun off its ICE business into a firm called Vitesco; a move that was warmly welcomed by the Fitch ratings agency, which noted the powertrain side was “underperforming” compared with the rest of the business. Vitesco is now moving into EVs itself with electric motors and associated drivetrain technology, but the ICE side, now described as “non-core”, still accounts for €2 billion of annual company revenue. On the other side, German media reported in February that Continental is considering a flotation of its Autonomous Mobility division. The hope being, presumably, that investors would value it on potential future earnings, rather than its current revenue. Other top-tier suppliers distancing themselves from ICE technology include Germany’s BASF, which last year announced that it was spinning off its exhaust gas cleaning catalyst division to focus more on the profitable and in-demand business of cathode battery materials, one of very few companies in Europe to offer that. The message is that EV technology is the future; everything else is expendable. Will spin-offs be slowed by stock market slump? The incredible stock market valuations of the past 2 years for EV start-ups, some with zero revenue, have sunk dramatically downwards. In November last year, Rivian was the world’s fifth most-valuable car company, above Daimler, while Lucid was seventh, above General Motors. The value of Tesla was more than a trillion dollars; 4 times that of Toyota, the world’s leading car company by revenue, in second place. Now Rivian has sunk to 11th, Lucid is 14th and Tesla’s share price is down more than $300 billion. Volvo, meanwhile, was valued at a conservative $18 billion when it listed in October and is now ranked 23rd among global car companies on valuations, behind Tata. However, that hasn’t stopped it from going ahead with the listing of its Polestar division via a Spac (special acquisition company) that, when it completes, could have it valued at $20 billionVolvo parent firm Geely wants to also list the Chinese ‘lifestyle’ EV division of Lotus, Lotus Technology, and is busy tempting potential investors with behind-the-curtains peeks at its £100k debut SUV. The attraction of the stock market to raise money for car makers hasn’t dimmed quite yet; at least not for those that believe they can demonstrate a solid foundation for future growth. +++

+++ All STELLANTIS model launches from 2026 in Europe will be pure-electric as the company strives to slash its carbon footprint. The deadline has been set with a view to reducing Stellantis’s carbon output by 50 % from current levels by 2030. Stellantis’s new strategy, detailed today by CEO Carlos Tavares, is called Dare 2030. It will have each of the company’s 14 brands go all-electric in the coming years, using a family of new EV platforms and advanced software architecture. The company will sell only EVs in Europe by the end of the decade, and 50 % of its US-market passenger cars and light commercial vehicles will be pure-electric by the same time. Tavares confirmed that the company will launch 100 new products between 2022 and 2030, by which point it aims to boost revenues by 72 % compared with 2021 levels (€152 billion). “Dare Forward 2030 inspires us to become so much more than we’ve ever been”, he said. “We’re expanding our vision, breaking the limits and embracing a new mindset, one that seeks to transform all facets of mobility for the betterment of our families, communities and the societies in which we operate. Powered by our diversity, Stellantis leads the way the world moves by delivering innovative, clean, safe and affordable mobility solutions. Stellantis will be the industry champion in climate-change mitigation, becoming carbon net-zero by 2038, with a 50 % reduction by 2030. Taking a leadership role in decarbonisation, as well as a decisive step forward in the circular economy, is our contribution to a sustainable future”. A big part of this push will be a reinvention of Stellantis’s premium brands. Alfa Romeo, DS, Lancia and Maserati will launch only EVs from 2025 and stop selling ICE cars from 2030. Overall, Stellantis will launch 75 new Battery EV models by 2030 and be selling 5 million annually by that point. Previewed as part of the presentation was a new electric off-roader from Jeep, which will be launched in the first half of next year and joined by an electric ‘lifestyle’ family SUV in 2024. The unnamed new model looks similar in size to the existing Renegade, though with heavily evolved styling that gives clues to the look of Jeep’s future line-up. It was shown just 2 weeks after Jeep CEO Christian Meunier outlined plans for the SUV brand to add a pure-EV in “every major SUV segment” by 2025. He said there will be “a few BEVs before the Wrangler”, and that the company will “cover the entire range of SUVs (true SUVs, not raised hatchbacks)” in its EV push. Meanwhile, Dodge will launch an all-electric pick up in 2024, which Tavares said will “outperform” its primary rivals (the Ford F-150 Lightning and Chevrolet Silverado EV) in terms of range, payload and charging times. In addition to expanding its EV portfolio, Stellantis will seek to double its net revenues by 2030 while sustaining double-digit margins for the duration of the strategy. Its break-even point will remain at fewer than 50 % of shipments. It will also seek to bolster its in-house production capabilities by expanding its EV battery capacity to around 400 GWh across the US and Europe, rolling out hydrogen FCEV drivetrains to its large vans by 2024 and working with autonomous-driving technology developer Waymo to create a “delivery-as-a-service platform”. Tavares has said it will be “easy” for each of the company’s 14 brands to bring to market fully differentiated EVs with the 4 vehicle platforms and three software architectures at their disposal. Speaking to reporters ahead of a wide-reaching Stellantis strategy announcement , Tavares said that one of the the company’s greatest strength is that it can share “common engineering assets” between brands, thereby boosting development efficiencies by 30 % compared with rival firms. He added that Stellantis takes a universal approach to platform development, saying: “We don’t put any pride in saying that ’this platform has been developed in this country by this team’. We think that’s obsolete”. Stellantis will usher in a new family of EV platforms from late 2023 under the STLA banner: one for small cars like the Opel Corsa, one for medium-sized cars like the Peugeot 3008, a larger one for “AWD performance and American muscle” cars and one for commercial vehicles. Alongside that platform roll-out, Stellantis is working on 3 new AI-powered software platforms for use across its model range portfolio. It has claimed that these will generate as much as €4 billion in additional revenue by 2026 and around €20 billion by 2030 via 34 million “monetisable” cars. The move towards much greater commonality across its 14 brands suggests that Stellantis will need to invest heavily in other means of differentiation in order to ensure that each brand maintains its own distinct positioning in the market. Asked if 4 platforms and 3 software platforms would be enough to achieve this, Tavares said: “By far. But you tell me; you’re the judge. If the cars start looking alike, let me know”. He added that the shared elements between cars will be “things that customers don’t see” and said they can be “customised” according to the principles and priorities of each brand. “25 years ago, we were discussing whether 2 brands could have the same platform: can a Peugeot and a Citroën enjoy the same platform for the sake of volume-scale effect? 25 years later, it’s obvious, right?” He suggested that any criticism of a lack of diversity in Stellantis’s line-up would stem from the design side, rather than the engineering: “If there were to be a problem, I don’t think it would come from the fact that we’re sharing engineering assets. I think that it would come from a lack of imagination of the studio taking care of that brand”. Stellantis currently sells a raft of identically powered but differently positioned entry-level EVs atop the eCMP platform; several electrified midsized cars on the larger EMP2 platform; and various cars from different brands on platforms developed long before the merger of the PSA Group and FCA (for example, Alfa Romeo’s Giorgio and the SCCS used by the ex-FCA brands). The STLA family will essentially serve as a universal replacement for these platforms, meaning the successor to the DS 7 Crossback will share elements of its make-up with larger and more sporting EVs from Alfa Romeo, Dodge and Maserati, for example. To give an indication of how these more specialised products will be differentiated, Tavares pointed to the first EV from Dodge, which is due to arrive in concept form this year. “With Dodge, we’re going to make e-muscle cars, and that’s something you can’t imagine”, he said. “They presented to me what they’re going to propose, and it’s just shocking. So brilliant that it’s shocking”. He added that Dodge engineers are “creating a sound you can’t imagine”, which will be “louder and more powerful” according to how the car is driven, hinting at a shift in priorities for performance cars when rapid acceleration becomes a more universal attribute among EVs. +++

+++ The Russian invasion of UKRAINE is starting to have a notable impact on the car industry across Europe. A large number of car makers are reacting to Russia’s war by halting sales and in some cases production in Russia itself, while many are having to halt production elsewhere as supplies of key car parts out of Ukraine are being disrupted. Companies that have announced they’re stopping sales in Russia including Aston Martin, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Volkswagen and Volvo. The halt in sales is partly because the sanctions imposed by the European Union have made it very difficult to ship cars to Russia and for buyers to pay for them if they do get there. Aston Martin, for example, said the reason for its pause was the “operational impact” of the sanctions. Several manufacturers that build vehicles in Russia have announced they are pausing production, with Volkswagen Group becoming the biggest yet so far to do so. It will halt production at its Kaluga facility as well as at contract manufacturing operations run by Gaz in Nizhny Novgorod, citing “the backdrop of the Russian attack”. It said that it was giving employees “short-time working benefits” while production was stopped. Others pausing production include BMW, Ford (which has a joint venture with Sollers making vans) and Mercedes-Benz. The European maker with the biggest operations in Russia is Group Renault, which owns Avtovaz, the parent company of Lada. Lada remains Russia’s biggest car brand with a 22% market share in 2021, according to data from the Association of European Businesses (AEB), and Avtovaz brought in €2.8 billion in revenue for Group Renault last year, 6.2% of its total. Since the invasion began, Avtovaz has paused and restarted production of Ladas and Renaults at its vast Togliatti plant in Russia but blamed a shortage of chips rather than the war or sanctions. Russia was once hailed as Europe’s most promising car market, with sales expected to overtake Germany for the region’s number-one spot. However, after hitting a record 2.8 million sales in 2008, the market has settled well below that. Last year, Russia bought 1.67 million cars, according to AEB figures, putting it just ahead of France at 1.66 million and the United Kingdom at 1.65 million. The biggest demand is for budget saloons and hatchbacks, but there’s also a strong market in premium vehicles. The effect of the sanctions is likely to promote Chinese cars within Russia, which have steadily gained ground from sales of around 25.000 in 2011 to more than 100.000 last year. In January, 2 Chinese brands (Chery and Great Wall Motors’ owned Haval) made the top 10 for the first time ever. Ukraine’s biggest contribution to the European car market isn’t through sales, which last year roughly matched those of Ireland, at 103.245. Instead its importance to the industry is as a supplier of wiring harnesses to car makers throughout Europe, and the disruption caused by the war is being felt across the region, to the point that a number of factories have had to pause production. “It’s difficult to provide a reliable outlook, due to the highly dynamic situation, but one thing is clear: there will be further disruption of vehicle production in Germany”, stated German car association the VDA. Porsche paused production of the Macan and Panamera and won’t restart it until the end of next week. BMW said it too had paused assembly at unspecified European plants, affecting both BMW and Mini production. “The conflict in Ukraine is having a far-reaching impact on production in the supplier industry there”, a BMW spokesman told. Meanwhile, Volkswagen has said that it will have to stop its Wolfsburg plant in the week beginning 14 March, while Mercedes is also having to cut production levels at its European plants. Ukraine has built up a competence in wiring harnesses in recent years, with suppliers such as Leoni and Yazaki setting up plants there. Other key supplies for car makers coming from Ukraine include neon gas, needed to make chips, as well as the precious metal palladium, used in catalytic convertors. The country is also a key source of nickel ore, which is refined into cathode materials to make batteries for electric vehicles. A more immediate effect on all motorists is the rising price of petrol, which has climbed to new highs as oil prices have surged in response to Russia’s attack. So far, Europa has not moved to stop buying oil or road fuels from Russia, but pressure is growing to halt this source of foreign earnings and include it in the sanctions designed to apply painful economic pressure on Russian president Vladimir Putin. Already pressure is building to stop that cashflow to Putin’s regime. Green activist group Transport and Environment this week called for fuel stations to disclose what share of petrol and diesel they sell originates from Russia, saying that “drivers deserve to know whether their petrol station is financing Putin’s war on Ukraine”. +++

+++ Vietnamese car maker VINFAST and Italian designer Pininfarina have detailed the designs of 2 all-electric SUVs at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ahead of reservations for the models opening in April this year. The 2 cars have been confirmed for a European launch (first in Germany, France and the Netherlands) in the second half of 2022, priced from the equivalent of approximately €54.000. The VF 8 and VF 9 feature what Vinfast has described as a “modern design language to optimise aerodynamics”, which reduces energy consumption. Vinfast says the VF 8 and VF 9 are inspired by sports cars and claims working with Pininfarina will help its cars become “more efficient, attractive and accessible” for all customers. Inside, the models are fitted with a 15.6 inxh touchscreen. Physical buttons are minimal but there is a full-colour head-up display that can be used to track important information about the car. The firm plans to use eco-friendly materials in the production version of the 2 cars. The seats will feature eco-leatherette upholstery and Vinfast also claims the model’s batteries will be recycled to reduce water waste and chemical emissions. The 2 cars were publicly presented for the first time at the Los Angeles motor show last year. Vinfast says the VF 8 has a maximum range of 500 km and up to 408 hp and 600 Nm. The 6- or 7-seat VF 9 is expected to get the same dual-motor set-up. The firm says it is targeting a Euro NCAP safety score of 5 stars for both cars. “The exquisiteness and creativity in Pininfarina’s design have created the appeal of Vinfast EVs, helping us to realise our efforts”, said Emmanuel Bret, Vinfast deputy CEO. “I believe that Vinfast will rapidly move towards the goal of smarter and more sustainable mobility solutions for all”. Pininfarina CEO Silvio Angori said the firm was “energised” to design the Vietnamese model. “We are even strongly moved to visualise the future of mobility with Vinfast”, said Angori. “We hope that our greener and safer cars can captivate and inspire global audiences to join hands for the movement to a more sustainable future for all”. +++

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