Newsflash: eerste details nieuwe Mercedes-AMG GT zijn bekend

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+++ BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES (BEVs) accounted for 6 % of the global automotive market at the end of 2021, up from 3.1 % just 12 months earlier. The latest vehicle sales data from industry analyst Jato Dynamics reveals a meteoric surge in popularity for BEVs, driven chiefly by an uptick in demand in China, which accounted for roughly half of all worldwide BEV sales last year. Jato also pointed to an increase in Europe and said that BEVs “began to gain traction” in North America last year, but noted that “other markets in the world continued to lag behind”. Overall, some 4.2 million BEVs were sold worldwide last year, up from 2.01 million in 2021 and 1.4 million in pandemic-blighted 2020. The increase in BEV sales was in contrast to a wider industry downturn (as a result of the semiconductor crisis throttling production for most vehicle manufacturers) and a decline in demand for traditional petrol and diesel cars. Jato, which will publish its full findings later, has already confirmed that Tesla alone sold 21 % of the world’s battery-electric cars last year, but legacy manufacturers included Volkswagen Group and Stellantis recorded stronger growth in the sector. Jato said: “Thanks to the arrival of the Model 3 in North America in 2018, and China and Europe in 2019, Tesla has been able to hold its position as the world’s leading BEV manufacturer. Because the Model Y has also been a success, Tesla has been able to maintain the attention of consumers and continue its gradual expansion with a relatively limited offering to consumers”. The organisation posits that Tesla’s “impressive growth” has paved the way for existing European and American manufacturers to establish a foothold in the BEV market, and has cultivated a growing awareness of electric vehicles in China, where domestic manufacturers are fulfilling local demand for BEVs. By contrast, various market factors “have slowed significant adoption” of EVs in the US, namely sustained demand for large combustion-powered SUVs and pick-ups. Jato says increasing energy costs and the emergence of popular new EV brands like Tesla, however, are “underpinning a shift in the market”. +++

+++ HONGQI , the premium arm of China FAW Group, said Tuesday its sales in the first two months this year reached 63.800 units, up 40 percent from the same period last year. The performance is way above the industry’s average single-digit growth rate. As China’s oldest premium automotive marque, Hongqi expects its sales to hit 450.000 to 500.000 units in 2022. Even if Hongqi sales hit the lower range of the target, that would mark a 50 percent rise from its deliveries of 300.000 units in 2021. The upper range of 500.000 stands for a 66.7 percent rise year-on-year. Hongqi has seen its sales grow rapidly over the past few years thanks to its growing number of models and increased popularity among the younger generation. Last year, it ranked fifth in terms of sales in China’s premium vehicle market after BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Tesla. Its cumulative deliveries across the country have exceeded 600.000 units, said Hongqi. +++

+++ Following the recent debut of its even sportier SL roadster, MERCEDES-AMG is gearing up to launch a more hardcore second-generation GT. The Porsche 911 rival will be based on an all-new platform that it will share with the SL, with the new GT set to be positioned as an even racier version of the car it will replace. It’ll be powered by a familiar engine, in the form of AMG’s 4.0-litre biturbo V8. This could produce more than 600 hp in the GT 63-badged model, placing clear distance between it and the 63 version of the new SL; and, as has already been confirmed for that car, an E-Performance plug-in hybrid V8 version could also feature in the new GT line-up. Thanks to the new aluminium-intensive MSA platform that has been engineered to accept Mercedes’ 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system, the next AMG GT is likely to break from the tradition set by the outgoing model and send its power to all four wheels. That should mean the car delivers a 0-100 kph time that dips under 3.5 seconds. As in other all-wheel-drive AMG models, the set-up will offer a more driver-focused bias, sending more power to the rear axle, and with the system’s parameters changing depending on the driving mode, boosting agility and stability. Expect rear-wheel steering, AMG’s Active Ride Control adaptive suspension and anti-roll tech too. Spies have already caught the new GT undergoing testing, and their shots show an even more aggressive profile, with a heavily raked rear screen. Some details are evident, such as muscular rear wheelarches and sleek proportions, including a long bonnet with AMG’s trademark Panamericana grille. It’s expected that the next AMG GT’s interior will receive a complete overhaul too, potentially inheriting elements of the SL’s cabin, including an 11.9 inch touchscreen. AMG’s chief technical officer Jochen Hermann has already confirmed that the next GT won’t be offered in roadster form, with the new SL covering that market. It’s not known if the GT will inherit the SL’s 2+2 layout or if it’ll remain a strict two-seater. We’ll see the new AMG GT break cover later this year, with an on-sale date in early 2023 likely. Prices will rise slightly over the current car’s entry point. +++

+++ MG will expand its range in Europe later this year and has teased a new all-electric model, which the brand says it will reveal towards the end of 2022. Although there’s no official confirmation, data on the brand’s website suggests the vehicle will be called the MG 4. Alongside the teaser images this suggests that it will be a larger family hatchback compared with the brand’s B-segment MG 3 supermini. MG has already confirmed the size of the vehicle, at 4.3 metres long, putting the MG 4 into competition with family hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf. And given the all-electric powertrain, the MG 4 will be a rival for cars such as the Volkswagen ID.3, Citroen ë-C4 and upcoming Peugeot e-308, albeit with a more budget-friendly ethos. Leaked patent images from China could point the way to the design of the car. The totally modernised look is in contrast to the brand’s big-grille design language used at present. Instead, we expect that the MG4 will adopt more typical EV design elements. The teasers reveal side skirts with chunky black plastic cladding, suggesting that the new MG will be an elevated hatchback along the lines of the Volkswagen ID.3 and the new Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric, rather than a lower-riding, more conventional family hatchback, as is the case with Peugeot’s all-electric e-308. At the rear, meanwhile, a new full-width LED tail-light bar curls around the tailgate, similar to the design used on the Kia EV6. No technical specifications have been alluded to, but the MG 4’s dimensions overlap with the ZS’s, so it’s possible that the new car will share the same platform, battery and electric motor technology as the brand’s budget electric SUV. MG has just given the ZS EV a major update, including new batteries, and there’s a fresh Long Range version of the car using a 73 kWh battery capable of 440 km on a single charge, according to WLTP certification. A standard-battery version employs a 51 kWh pack for a 320 km range, although in the smaller, lower-riding MG 4 this would probably be able to take the car beyond this mark. Sitting above the MG 4 in the firm’s line-up will remain the MG 5 estate, recently updated with a new 57.7 kWh (usable) battery for a 400 km range, combined with 100 kW rapid-charging tech. Although MG’s inconsistent approach to battery technology across its electric-vehicle portfolio makes it difficult to pin down what will power the MG 4, the carry-over of electric motor tech from the ZS EV and the 5 should be straightforward, using a front-axle-mounted e-motor with an output of 156 hp. MG says that the new car has been “developed with the European consumer in mind”. Further details will be provided closer to the car’s unveiling, which will take place towards the end of the year. However, given MG’s focus on affordability, we expect it will be much cheaper than its rivals. If the MG 4 is to sit below the ZS in terms of cost, a starting price around €30.000 for a potential standard-battery version seems likely. +++

+++The NISSAN Qashqai will gain a new e-Power hybrid option later this year, becoming the first model in Europe to be driven by the firm’s updated e-power technology. The powertrain is an uprated version of that first used in the Nissan Note in 2017. It pairs a 154 hp 1.5-litre 3 cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a 30 hp electric motor. Using technology first introduced by Nissan-owned premium brand Infiniti, the engine is able to optimise emissions and consumption in low-power scenarios or power the battery when more power is used. Nissan says the powertrain provides “superior fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions” compared with a regular ICE car. Nissan expects Qashqai e-Power drivers to spend almost three quarters of their time in urban or suburban areas. The car features a one-pedal driving system to accommodate this, which brakes at a force of 0.2 g; enough to illuminate the brake lights. The car doesn’t stop completely but can recuperate energy under deceleration and braking. “We’ve developed the e-Power system to run as efficiently, effectively and discreetly as possible in those circumstances”, said David Moss, senior vice-president of research and development at Nissan’s European technical centre. “But there’s no compromise to the driving performance. Acceleration is instant, thanks to the pure-electric drive to the wheels, and there’s no gearbox to interrupt the power delivery”. The Qashqai will retain its 1.3-litre mild-hybrid petrol engine option alongside the new e-Power system, with two available power outputs of 140 hp and 158 hp. Nissan hasn’t yet revealed pricing information for the Qashqai e-Power but has confirmed that the powertrain will be introduced “late in the summer”. The smaller Nissan Juke crossover will also gain boosted power and efficiency from a hybrid system in the summer, with a new engine that has resulted from Nissan’s partnership with Renault. The new Juke’s powertrain is significantly more restrained than the Qashqai’s, partnering a 92 hp 1.6-litre petrol engine with a 48 hp electric motor for a total of 140 hp. Nissan claims CO2 emissions are capped at 118 g/km. +++

+++ A significant moment came in STELLANTIS future strategy presentation when CEO Carlos Tavares spoke of the company’s “pride” at being a legacy car maker. ‘Legacy’ has long been seen as a dirty word among auto maker investors, many of whom see companies with outmoded operations, outsized payroll and a creaking industrial base in comparison with more nimble start-ups. At the event, held in Amsterdam, Stellantis’ official corporate home, was partly about convincing the assembled analysts and journalists that this conglomeration of historical brands, now a year old, was worth more than its sluggish stock price suggested. Investors have not reacted as you might have expected to Stellantis’s recently posted profit of €13.4 billion representing an outstanding 11.8 % profit margin. The company’s share price has remained sluggish and its valuation based on that price is still behind that of US start-up Rivian. Tesla meanwhile remains the beacon for automotive investors. However, Tavares pitched a strong case for legacy in the strategy, dubbed Dare Forward 2030. “It shows a serious commitment and ability to manufacture efficiently at scale. It shows grit, perseverance and staying power”, he said. “Other companies have yet to prove this”. He admitted Stellantis needs to learn the skills of younger firms (which he didn’t name), to vertically integrate elements like software. But he also said they have lessons to learn from Stellantis. “They know when they reach 1 million vehicles per year, they will have problems with high-volume efficiencies in their plant quality”, he said. “We have to learn faster than they do”. He laid out plans described as “very challenging and ambitious” that called for a “shift in mindset”. For example, the company will speed up the transition to EVs, with all brands going electric in Europe by 2030. By the same date, sales of its US brands will be 50 % EV. It will launch 75 all-electric models by 2030 and it will launch only electric models for its premium brands from 2025 on. Teases and reveals of future models in the presentation were almost exclusively restricted to US-centric brands, including an electric Jeep, an electric Ram pick-up and electric Dodge muscle cars. He promised analysts that this will be done with utmost cost efficiency. Distribution costs, including those incurred by selling through dealers, will fall 40 % by 2030. The cost of EVs also will tumble by 40 %. Stellantis is an “all-weather company”, Tavares said, one that can survive any number of shocks in a tumultuous period. The focus on costs that Tavares has become so famous for means that by 2030 the company will still make money if sales for any reason drop to half of the predicted annual figure. Meanwhile, revenues are forecast to double to €300 billion annually by 2030, with profit margin promised at more than 12 %. “This company is a big cash machine”, he told journalists. However, cash gets you only so far. “It’s not a money problem. It’s an execution problem”. he said. To become more nimble on products and services, Tavares promised a different mindset, with the company’s “people” (not employees) at heart. “We are making Stellantis an extraordinary place to work and a magnet for people with the drive to make customers’ lives better,” he promised. If anyone can do it, Tavares can. Philippe Houchois, analyst at the bank Jefferies, said: “The fear of failure is part of the personality of Tavares and he drives his teams in a way that looks a little bit like Tesla. They do something Monday and on Tuesday morning they question how they can do it better. He’s got the right mindset to move from legacy to something else, whatever that is”. However, the strategy itself is seen as overlapping with those of other legacy car companies, who are all striving to shake themselves of the impression they’re too big and set in their ways to react to the new electric, software-defined future. “None of what they told us in terms of financial targets are very different from what General Motors told us in October”, Houchois said. In that strategy plan, GM also voiced a goal to double revenues. Houchois, in his report on the Dare Forward strategy, recommended his clients buy Stellantis stock, but pointed out that the company’s ambitious target “implies structural industry change, where not every OEM can win or even survive”. The Dare Forward strategy lacks “vision”, in the opinion of another analyst, who spoke anonymously because they hadn’t been authorised by their company to give comment. Their view was that Tavares was a fantastic chief operating officer in his execution, but has stumbled in his CEO role to communicate an overarching idea for how the company will fit and prosper in the future of automotive. Tavares has successfully blended 2 companies with a combined total of 14 brands, many of whom were being written off financially before he pulled them into the Stellantis ‘matrix’ of scale efficiencies and made them profitable. The plan promised more of the same while ensuring the preservation of ‘freedom of mobility’, a favourite phrase meaning to just get a car and drive that, Tavares feels, is mightily threatened by the sheer cost of the shift to electric. Perhaps the strongest ‘buy’ recommendation for any company should go to the one whose proven laser focus on reining in costs could play a key role in making electric cars affordable. Whether the future will belong to the start-ups or the legacy makers hasn’t been decided as they each strive to capture the others’ strengths. “Who is going to reach that level of expertise sooner?” Tavares asked, before employing another favourite analogy inspired by his weekend hobby. “That’s the race. We are ready for the race”. +++

+++ New-car registrations in the UNITED KINGDOM rose by 15 % year on year in February, with the industry showing signs of recovery following a positive start to 2022. The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that 58.994 cars were sold last month; significantly more than in the previous year, which was severely impacted by pandemic-related measures. However, the SMMT said the positive performance for the month is still down 25.9 % compared with pre-pandemic levels, due to impacts of the global shortage of semiconductors. In February 2020, 79.594 cars were sold. Meanwhile, large fleet registrations grew a slow 2 %, which the SMMT has attributed to “a supply-constrained market”. Growth also continued for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), which took a 17 % market share to 10.417 for the month. Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models took a 7.9 % share, with a total of 4.677 units, while 6.883 regular hybrid vehicles were sold. Overall, electrified models accounted for a third of all new cars. Despite the growth, the SMMT noted February is usually a particularly quiet month for car sales, because of the March numberplate change. “Despite February’s traditional low registration numbers, consumers are switching to EVs in ever-increasing numbers. More than ever, infrastructure investment needs to accelerate to match this growth”, said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. Hawes also called for additional support for customers, with rising energy prices and the end of the EV home-charge scheme this April. The SMMT has also called for VAT on electricity used at public chargers to be cut to match the level seen when charging from home. Last month, it called for a regulated EV charger mandate. “Government must use its upcoming Spring statement to enable this transition, continuing support for home and workplace charging, boosting public charge-point rollout to tackle charging anxiety and, given the massive increase in energy prices, reducing VAT on public charging points,” it said. “This will energise both consumer and business confidence and accelerate our switch to zero emission mobility”. +++

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