Newsflash: toekomst Ford Focus onzeker

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+++ BMW is nearly ready to unveil the next-generation 7 Series. It released a handful of preview images that confirm the big sedan will wear a more extroverted exterior design than the current model, and it detailed some of the tech features that buyers will have access to. Although the 7th generation 7 remains shrouded in darkness, I can tell that its front end borrows a handful of styling cues from the iX and the XM concept both unveiled in 2021. Yes, the grille is gigantic: this is a polarizing styling cue that BMW customers seem to like, and we’re betting that it’s going to stick around for quite some time. As the grille grows, the headlights shrink. They’re noticeably smaller than the ones fitted to the current-generation 7 Series, they feature lighting elements made with crystal glass, and they’re mounted horizontally at almost the same level as the top of the grille. BMW calls this a “modern and distinctive” spin on the twin round headlights fitted to older 7s. What’s interesting is that photos of a camouflaged test mule published by BMW in December 2021 seemingly show bigger lights. Are there 2 different front end designs in the pipeline, or is the camouflage playing tricks on us? I know that an electric model called i7 will be sold alongside the gasoline-powered variants. It’s not too far-fetched to speculate that the EV could land with a drivetrain-specific look. Inside, the next 7 will offer the latest evolution of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, the curved display that we’ve already seen in the iX and the i4, plus a light and function strip embedded into the passenger’s side of the dashboard and into the door panels. Sitting in the back sounds like it will feel like going to the movies: an available 31 inch screen will let the passengers stream content in 8K resolution. Powertrain specifications haven’t been released yet, but BMW confirmed that the battery-powered i7 will be the most powerful member of the 7 Series portfolio. It will offer about 305 miles of driving range, according to the company. Gasoline-burning engines will be available as well for buyers who are not interested in going electric, though don’t expect a V12 powered rangetopper. BMW will soon stop building V12s. BMW will unveil the 7th generation 7 Series in April 2022. Additional details about the flagship will emerge in the coming weeks. +++

+++ Japan’s Renesas Electronics, Murata Manufacturing, Sony Group and other precision parts makers halted some operations on Thursday after an earthquake jolted the country’s northeast, the latest blow to the global supply chain. Even as Japan’s dominance of consumer electronics had faded, manufacturers have carved out a world-leading niche in highly specialised components such as Murata’s ceramic capacitors and Sony’s image sensors. Thursday’s production halt comes after pandemic-related COMPONENT SHORTAGES have already hobbled production of autos and electronics globally. “An earthquake stopping production is a pure negative given components are currently selling as fast as you can make them”, said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute. The magnitude 7.4 temblor struck just before midnight on Wednesday east of the Fukushima prefecture, the same area that suffered Japan’s biggest quake 11 years ago. Renesas last year emerged as a supply chokepoint after a fire broke out at its Naka plant in Ibaraki prefecture. The firm, which makes nearly a third of the microcontroller chips used in cars globally, said on Thursday it had temporarily halted production at 2 plants and partially stopped output at a third. Among them was the advanced 300 millimetre wafer Naka plant. Ford said as much as 80% of its lost vehicle production in the second quarter of last year was due to the fire. Kyoto-based Murata, the top global supplier of ceramic capacitors, which are used in smartphones, computers and cars, said it had suspended operations at four factories following the quake. A fire, later extinguished, broke out at one facility producing chip inductors, it said. Highlighting the strain on the auto industry, Toyota said its global production target would be 10% lower in May and 5% lower in June than previously estimated. The revised estimates did not include the impact of the quake, it said. While many of the companies are not household names in the West, such makers are increasingly being seen as key national assets amid growing tech competition between China and the United States. One of Japan’s best known conglomerates, Sony, said it halted production at two factories in Miyagi prefecture and a third factory in Yamagata prefecture producing storage media, laser diodes and image sensors. The firm said later that production would be restarted gradually. Chipmaker Kioxia said some production equipment at a factory in Iwate prefecture stopped automatically after shaking caused by the quake was detected. +++

+++  ELECTRIC CAR RANGE during the winter can be as much as 20% lower than in summer, a new real-world test by What Car? and Move Electric has revealed. The tests were conducted with 4 identically specced cars driven to a specified route and within defined parameters for driving style at a proving ground last summer and again earlier this month to discover how lower temperatures affect electric car battery efficiency. In the winter range test, the Porsche Taycan 4S Performance Battery Plus managed 360 km on a full charge. That’s a 20% drop on the 450 km miles that the same model on the same-sized wheels achieved when What Car? tested it last summer. Other models retested included the Ford Mustang Mach-E Extended Range RWD (which fell 18.0% short of its summer figure), the Skoda Enyaq iV 60 (15.7%) and the Fiat 500 42kWh (15.2%). Significantly, the test also revealed the positive impact of buying an electric car fitted with a heat pump, which reduces strain on the battery by drawing excess heat from the electric drivetrain, distributing it around the interior of the car through the airconditioning. 5 models equipped with a heat pump were tested and they fell short of their official WLTP mileage figures by an average of 25.4%. By comparison, 5 models that relied on a regular interior heater suffered an average deficit of 33.6%. The tests were conducted on a closed vehicle proving ground, on a 24 km route consisting of 5 km of simulated stop-start urban traffic, 6 km of steady 80 kph driving and 13 km driving at a constant speed of 110 kph to simulate motorway journeys. +++

+++ FORD ’s announcement on Monday that it will launch 7 new electric vehicles in Europe by 2024 (5 passenger vehicles and 2 vans) left open more questions about the company’s future structure and ambitions in Europe than it answered. Questions put by journalists to Ford of Europe’s president, Brit Stuart Rowley, following the announcement were smoothly rebuffed. Here we highlight the outstanding questions and attempt to answer them, using both Rowley’s coded answers and Ford’s previous indications. What happens to the Ford Fiesta? The Monday announcements are “not the end of the journey” for Ford on electrification, Rowley said in response to this question. But it seems unlikely the Fiesta will exist as we know it going forward. Ford will move to EV-only for its passenger vehicles in Europe by 2030 and small EVs are hard to make money on; a negative for the Fiesta, given that Ford is doing everything it can to staunch years of losses in Europe. In fact, Ford is gradually moving the Fiesta’s Cologne, Germany facility to EVs from 2023, although Ford hasn’t indicated when production of the Fiesta will actually stop. One possibility is that the Fiesta’s role will be taken by the passenger Tourneo version of the small Transit Courier van being made in Romania from 2023. Offered as a petrol, diesel and, from 2024, as an EV, the car’s lower-cost van roots would let it fulfil the role of basic transport that small cars traditionally used to inhabit, instead of the mini-sports limo that cars like Fiesta have evolved into. Ford’s statement that it will carry on selling combustion-engined vans until 2035 gives it a loophole to sell this welcome cheaper-end model for a good 10 years yet. Why is Ford’s Turkey joint venture buying the Puma plant? This was one of the most interesting elements of the announcement from a business point of view. Ford Otosan makes Transits for Ford in Turkey and very successfully, too, supplying a growing demand for Ford’s vans across Europe (including a whopping 34% of the overall LCV market in the UK past year). On Monday, we heard that Ford Otosan is buying out Ford’s Craiova plant, where it makes the Puma, outgoing EcoSport and, from 2023, the new small Transit Courier. Rowley’s answer that it will “better utilise our resources” in Europe was too vague to give a real clue, but the answer could lie in Ford’s recent split of its vehicle development and assembly into three business units: Model E for electric, Ford Blue for internal-combustion-engine vehicles and Ford Pro for commercial vehicles. Moving the ownership of Craiova to Ford Otosan places it in the Ford Pro division, despite it still making Puma. Ford’s commercial vehicles division is profitable and its Romanian plant, with its lower production costs compared with Germany, is very likely profitable, too (Ford doesn’t provide detailed figures), so that will look good on Ford Pro’s books come financial results time. Craiova could also conceivably supply Volkswagen with small vans within the 2 companies’ van-swap relationship. What happens to the Ford Kuga? A good question that wasn’t addressed. Rowley pointed out that the Kuga is currently key to Ford’s emissions reduction in Europe because of its plug-in hybrid, but the Kuga’s role will ultimately be taken by the new electric SUV built in Cologne from 2023 on the Volkswagen MEB platform, the one that underpins the ID.3 and many others. A second ‘sports crossover’ due in 2024, likely a coupé-styled version of the SUV, will give Ford the coverage it needs in that crucial segment in an EV era. Unless Ford names 1 of the 2 new SUVs ‘Kuga’, the model looks destined to be phased out when it reaches the end of its life, likely around 2026 but possibly before. And the Ford Focus? Ford pointed out that 58% of sales last year in Europe were SUVs, meaning that the market for the Focus is dwindling. Sales nearly halved last year to go under 100.000 units in Europe. Ford said its new Model E electric and Ford Pro commercial divisions will “define Ford’s future in Europe”. However, no role was assigned to Ford Blue, the new ICE division that’s expected to generate much of the company’s income in the US. That leaves a massive question mark over the Focus. The only way for Ford to reliably swing to profit in Europe is to shed vehicle assembly plants, and the Focus plant in Saarlouis, near the French border with Germany, would likely be first on the chopping block. The Valencia plant in Spain, where it makes the Kuga and (in ever dwindling numbers) Mondeo, Galaxy and S-Max, looks to be second. The sheer size of the $2 billion investment promised in the announcement to electrify Ford’s plant in Cologne sucks much of the remaining hope for a revival of its plants in Valencia and Saarlouis, barring huge cash injections from local governments. What about Dagenham? News that Ford’s Transit range and other commercials will go zero-emission by 2035 seemed to spell the end for Dagenham, the former vehicle assembly plant on the banks of the Thames in east London that now builds diesel engines for those commercials. Any hope of a revival in the EV era must surely be dashed by Ford’s announcement that it will build a battery plant for commercial vehicles in Turkey with its joint venture partner there, Koc Holdings, spelling the end of the distant dream that Ford might repurpose Dagenham by swapping cylinders for cells. Rowley pointed out that Ford will need a lot of diesel engines by 2035. “The diesel segment in LCVs in the medium term will remain very important”, he said. But aside from the good news last year of the switch to electric transmissions for Ford’s gearbox plant in Halewood, Merseyside, the UK’s role in Ford’s future looks to be mainly one of development of new commercial EVs at its long-term engineering centre in Dunton, Essex, rather than an industrial contributor to their success. +++

+++ MASERATI ’s lineup will look a lot different in the second half of the 2020s than it does in 2022. The company confirmed that the Levante and the Quattroporte will be replaced by electric models, and it announced that the Ghibli, its entry-level car, will retire without a successor. “What we see in the market is that there is a transition from sedans to SUVs. There is still a very clear demand for sport sedans, but we believe that we can serve customers even better by substituting the Ghibli and the Quattroporte with just one new sport sedan”, explained Francesco Tonon, the Italian company’s head of product planning, during a press conference. We don’t know when the Ghibli will retire yet. Executives aren’t worried about losing sales by axing the Ghibli. The long-awaited Grecale crossover scheduled to make its debut online on March 22 will likely become the best-selling Maserati model with relative ease due to its positioning, and it will neatly fill the void left by the sedan at the bottom of the company’s range. And, the next generation of the Quattroporte will carry the sedan torch into the 2020s. “We strongly believe that there is a future for the sedan, but probably not for two sedans. One will be enough to meet demand”, Tonon noted. It’s too early to provide concrete details about the next-generation Levante and Quattroporte. Both are due out in 2025 at the earliest. However, what’s already set in stone is that neither car will be available with a gasoline-burning engine. Both will be all electric, all the time. “We are focused on delivering the best EV and the best electric large SUV. There will be no ICE and no PHEVs; just electric”, Tonon said. +++

+++ It’s no secret that big vehicles like pickups and SUVs offer more limited visibility in several scenarios when compared to smaller cars that sit lower to the ground. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that drivers of pickup trucks and SUVs are more likely to hit PEDESTRIANS while making turns than drivers of cars. “It’s possible that the size, shape or location of the A-pillars that support the roof on either side of the windshield could make it harder for drivers of these larger vehicles to see crossing pedestrians when they are turning”, says IIHS Senior Transportation Engineer Wen Hu. Analysis from Consumer Reports last year found that due to their taller structures and blockier design, “some pick-ups had front blind spots that measure 4 meter longer than those in some sedans and 2 meter feet longer than in many popular SUVs”. The IIHS says “more research will be needed to understand the role of visibility in these crashes”. While further studies may be needed, one thing that isn’t debatable is that pedestrian crash deaths and injuries have increased every year since 2009. In 2020, the most recent year that data is available, there were more than 6.500 pedestrian fatalities and 54.700 injuries reported. Previous studies by the IIHS found that SUVs are more lethal to pedestrians than smaller cars, and we all know that sales of SUVs and trucks have continued to rise while sales of smaller passenger cars have declined. When turning left at an intersection, SUVs were found to be twice as likely as cars to hit a pedestrian; vans were three times as likely and pickup trucks were four times as likely. For right turns, the odds that a crash that killed a crossing pedestrian were 89 percent higher for pickups and 63 percent higher for SUVs than for cars. The IIHS also found that “SUVs and pickups were associated with 51 percent and 25 percent greater odds than cars of killing a pedestrian walking or running along the road versus a fatal straight-on crash with a crossing pedestrian”. Police-reported statistics in North Carolina are also included in the study and “found similar, though less dramatic results in this dataset, which includes less severe crashes”. +++

+++ A heavily disguised PEUGEOT 4008 prototype has been pictured testing on public roads in Germany, sporting a line-distorting livery with minimal features on display. The new car, which is mechanically based on the new 308, was photographed with an undisguised Peugeot badge and the firm’s staple sabre-tooth LED lights on display. It’s the first time the 4008 has been spotted in public. It sports a lower stance and a sleeker roofline to the 3008, suggesting it will offer a more dynamic driving experience to traditionally shaped SUVs. The model also appears to be roughly the size of the Renault Arkana. One image shows the driver’s side of the interior, including the steering wheel, part of the door trim, a digital cockpit and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. The model was photographed shortly after Peugeot CEO Linda Jackson suggested there were no plans to expand the French firm’s vehicle line-up with a 3008-based coupé. “We work on a core model strategy, that is: key models in the volume profit pool”, Jackson told in February, explaining how the French firm would target global expansion. “Peugeot is very fortunate to have representation in most of the key profit pools. I’m very happy with what we have”. Because it’s based on the 308, the 4008 will likely be offered with a selection of petrol and diesel engines, as well as a plug-in hybrid powertrain. An all-electric variant could also be on the cards. The all-electric e-308 meanwhile, which is set to join the Peugeot range later this year, will offer 156 hp / 300 Nm and 400 km of range from a 54 kWh battery. +++

+++ TOYOTA is cutting its global production target in April to 750.000 vehicles; down 150.000 from an earlier plan, the automaker said on Thursday, as a semiconductor shortage and the Covid-19 pandemic bite into its plans. The news comes about a week after Toyota said it would scale back domestic production by up to 20 % during the months of April, May and June to ease the strain on suppliers battling shortages of chips and other parts. “It is still difficult to foresee the situation several months ahead, and there is a possibility the current plan will be revised downward”, the company said in a statement. Average monthly global production for the period from April to June would be about 800.000, Toyota added. Its global vehicle production will be down 10% in May and 5% in June from previous estimates at the beginning of the year, said Toyota executive Kazunari Kumakura. The shortages have led the automaker to repeatedly change its production plan, frustrating suppliers and prompting President Akio Toyoda to call the interval from April through June an “intentional cooling off” period. Apart from the persistent chips shortage, Toyota faces a number of challenges. Curbs against Covid-19 forced it to suspend a joint venture with China’s FAW Group in the northeastern city of Changchun. The automaker also cited logistical hurdles for suspension at a plant in Russia amid political uncertainty sparked by the Ukraine invasion, which Russia calls a special operation. These factors were not reflected in the April-June global production plan, Kumakura said, adding that while Toyota had not yet suffered specific impacts from the Ukraine crisis, it would look into short- and long-term risks. +++

+++ A closely watched auto-industry forecaster lopped more than 5 million cars off its projections for global production this year and next, largely due to fallout expected from Russia’s invasion of UKRAINE . S&P Global Mobility, formerly known as IHS Markit, lowered its 2022 and 2023 estimates each by 2.6 million vehicles. The forecaster now expects auto companies to make 81.6 million cars worldwide this year and 88.5 million next year. “The downside risk is enormous”, Mark Fulthorpe, S&P Global Mobility’s executive director for global production forecasting, said in a statement. In the firm’s worst-case scenario, production would be as much as 4 million vehicles below its earlier projections for each year. S&P Global Mobility cites the effect that Russia’s war is having on the prices of energy and raw materials, expectation for the semiconductor shortage to worsen and disruptions to the flow of wire harnesses from Ukraine. Suppliers may have issues sourcing neon gas used for chip-making from Ukraine, as well as palladium from Russia. The platinum group metal is a base element of catalytic converters, which turn engine exhaust into less-toxic emissions. China’s outbreak of Covid-19 cases is also leading to plant closures in manufacturing hubs including Shenzhen and Changchun. Toyota, Volkswagen and Tesla are among the companies that have idled factories this week. +++

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