Newsflash: Kia heeft de EV6 GT klaar

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+++ A disguised prototype of the new BMW M3 CSL has been spotted for the first time as it took part in high-speed tests at the Nürburgring in Germany. The model, which could join the firm’s line-up in 2023, will be the latest hardcore performance iteration of the 3 Series, joining the M3 Competition and the long-awaited M3 Touring. The front end of the prototype was pictured sporting a black and white camouflage livery, which also covered the door mirrors and rear passenger windows. The test car also had a set of yellow daytime running lights, which have previously been seen on the larger M5 CS. The model featured a fresh wheel design, quad tailpipes, more aggressive front and rear splitters and new grille inserts, similar to those seen on the M4 CSL, which itself is due to arrive as a lightweight Porsche 911 GT3 rival. The famed CSL name, which stands for Coupé Sport Leichtbau (lightweight), was first added to the E9-generation 3.0 CSL sports saloon in 1972. BMW revived the moniker in 2004 with a lighter variant of the E46-generation M3. Since then, the lightest and fastest versions of BMW’s performance cars have been badged Competition, GTS or CS. It’s not entirely clear what powertrain will underpin the upcoming car, but expect a slight increase in power over the standard M3 and M4 Competition, as well as the firm’s xDrive 4-wheeldrive system. The new CLS is also likely to receive a similar treatment to other CS models, with reduced weight, a track-focused drive and enhanced dynamic performance. +++

+++ The HYUNDAI IONIQ 6 , the brand’s second bespoke electric car, will be revealed in the next few months, design boss SangYup Lee has confirmed. The saloon’s design, which was previewed in the Prophecy concept, has also been signed off, he added, following reports late last year that a redesign of the model had been ordered. Lee did not comment on the reports, but said of the car: “The Ioniq 6 is in the spirit of Prophecy. The car gets taller because of the skateboard platform. And the design maximises the interior space. There’s also a lot of aerodynamic improvement on the car. It’s been done for a long time”. In September, the Korean Economic Daily reported that the launch of the Ioniq 6 has been pushed back to mid-2022 to allow the body to be lengthened by 20 mm, the bumpers and lights to be restyled and the battery to be upsized from 72.6 kWh to 77.4 kWh. The EV’s supposedly belated launch was also attributed to a delayed overhaul of the Asan factory where it will be produced. That site currently builds the combustion-engined Sonata saloon and needs refitting to build cars based on the E-GMP platform. The model has already been spotted testing on the road. The prototype seen had more conventional headlights and a more upright silhouette than the concept, although gaps in the camouflage show a similar pixel-style rear light bar design to the Prophecy, which made its public debut at last year’s Munich motor show. Technically, the Ioniq 6 will be broadly identical to the Ioniq 5, with which it shares the new E-GMP architecture. That means 800 Volt charging hardware will feature and the saloon is likely to be offered with a choice of single and dual motor powertrains. The 77 kWh battery pack is already available in the Kia EV6 from the firm’s sibling brand, which suggests the Ioniq 6 could be more closely related to that car technically, in line with its performance billing. That means the rear wheeldrive version is likely to use a 231 hp motor, while four-wheel-drive cars will produce either 326 hp or, in top-rung N trim, match the EV6 GT’s 585 hp. +++

+++ Thousands of auto workers have been furloughed and food prices are soaring as Western sanctions pummel the small Russian city of KALUGA and its flagship foreign carmakers, with more sanctions likely to come. The Kaluga region, 190 kilometers southwest of Moscow, says it has attracted more than 1.3 trillion roubles ($15 billion) in investment, mostly foreign, since 2006. But Western sanctions imposed in recent weeks after Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine have exacerbated lingering component shortages and halted production at 2 flagship car plants from Volkswagen and Volvo. A third, the PSMA Rus plant that is a joint venture between Stellantis and Mitsubishi which employs 2.000 workers, may halt production soon due to a lack of parts, Stellantis’ chief executive said last Thursday. “It is not clear what will happen. They don’t give us any concrete information”, said Pavel Terpugov, a welder at the PSMA Rus plant. Terpugov said he needs twice as much money to buy groceries than before the sanctions. Analysts have forecast Russian inflation could soar to 24% this year, while the economy may shrink to 2009 levels. The United States and Europe are weighing more sanctions against Russia after Ukraine accused Russian forces of civilian killings in northern Ukraine, where a mass grave was found in Bucha, outside Kyiv. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” and the Kremlin categorically denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians, including in Bucha. One source of hope for some in Kaluga, with its 325.000 residents, is the West may be reluctant to hurt its own companies. “Does it make sense to impose sanctions on its own plant and lose money?” said Valery Uglov, an auto mechanic at the Volkswagen plant. “Does it make sense to lose the Russian market?” “We hope to return to work as soon as possible and everyone will have confidence in the future again”, Uglov said. Volkswagen, whose factory employs 4.200 people, in early March suspended operations. A spokeswoman said production remained frozen. Volvo, which employs over 600 people to build trucks, also suspended production. Even before the sanctions, Russian car sales had contracted from 2.8 million units from when the Volkswagen factory opened in 2007 to 1.67 million units last year, damaged by both sanctions after the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the Covid-19 pandemic. Some factories cut output last year due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. “We have had similar furloughs at the factory, but now, of course, the situation is different and more serious”, said Alexander Netesov, a warehouse foreman at the Volkswagen plant. “But we are waiting anyway, we are not losing hope”, he said. In a sign of the squeeze workers are feeling, Netesov said a new Polo car he ordered with a factory discount had increased in price by 20% since his pre-order. Others in the city, which also boasts production by pharmaceutical and food companies as well as Samsung televisions, derive optimism from the fact that almost every crisis that has ravaged the Russian economy over the past 2 decades has been followed by a boom. “I hope, we all hope, that in the near future everything will stabilize”, said Angelina Minnigulova, a marketing executive at Volkswagen dealer KorsGroup, which has seen a fall in demand as car prices soar. +++

+++ The new KIA EV6 GT is the brand’s most powerful model yet, but it will be a true grand tourer with a high degree of versatility, according to the firm’s development guru. The new range-topping version of the Korean firm’s electric crossover features a twin motor electric powertrain with a combined output of 585 hp and 740 Nm, resulting in a 0-100 kph time of 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 260 kph. But Albert Biermann, the Hyundai Motor Group’s retired head of research and development, who now serves as an advisor to the firm, promised that the EV6 GT “will be a true GT”: “We started GT on the Stinger and the GT is always the top of the line model. It’s not a car for the racetrack, it’s a different story. This is designed for long distance touring, and it offers good speed, while being enjoyable to drive”. Biermann insisted that a GT performance version wasn’t in the original product plan for the EV6, and development had been done entirely in-house by the firm’s engineers once the firm began to realise the possibilities of E-GMP. The EV6 GT uses the same electric motors as top-spec versions of the regular EV6. While the front unit produces the regular 218 hp, the output of the rear motor has been raised to 370 hp through the use of a second inverter feeding power to it. The machine also features the latest version of the Hyundai Motor Group’s e-LSD limited slip differential, which balanced power between the four wheels. The GT retains the EV6’s 77.6 kWh battery, and with an efficiency of 2.7 mpkWh it has an official range of 420 km. As with other E-GMP models, the EV6 GT is capable of ultra-fast charging, with a 10-80% fill taking 18 minutes. Biermann noted that the Hyundai Motor Group’s bespoke electric E-GMP platform “is a fantastic base to start with” for a performance car, adding: “It didn’t need fundamental changes because it can handle this level of power”. Kia’s engineers added extra control arms to the front axle to give the system more freedom, and also did a special tune on the steering and adaptive dampers. The focus was on balancing performance with comfort at high-speeds. There’s also a dedicated GT Drive Mode, activated via a button on the steering wheel that optimises the motors, braking, steering, suspension, e-LSD and electronics stability control for performance. The upgraded motors and performance tweaks will also be used on the forthcoming Hyundai Ioniq 5 N, but Biermann insisted that the freedom the E-GMP chassis offers means the cars will have very different characteristics. “The EV6 GT still gives us good room to have very different fun cars from other brands”, he said. The Ioniq 5 N is set to take a more hardcore approach. While the powertrain and vehicle setting have been heavily reworked, the design makeover for the EV6 GT is relatively limited. There’s a unique clamshell bonnet, front and rear bumpers, a small rear aero spoiler, near brake calipers and special 21in alloy wheels. Inside the machine gains suede-trimmed bucket seats and special GT design elements. The EV6 GT is due on sale later this year. Biermann joked: “if you want to have something comparable with the GT spirit like this car, you’d have to spend more than twice the money. So you can have one EV6 GT for the week in grey, and then one in a bright colour for the weekend”. Autointernationaal’s first taste of the EV6 GT came from the passenger seat, with Kia’s development guru Albert Biermann behind the wheel. Even though Biermann is likely over-qualified for the task, on a short test route that largely consisted of German autobahn, I predictably can’t offer many dramatic insights. What I can tell you: the EV6 GT is impressively quick to accelerate and effortlessly cruises at high speeds. Biermann insists this car isn’t finished, describing it as “a mix of prototype and pre-production”. Even so, it feels settled and composed, and Biermann also demonstrates how he’s learnt to use the I-pedal energy recuperation system to aid in spirited high-speed driving. You can feel the difference in the car’s poise as he switches drive modes, but even in GT mode the ride doesn’t feel overly stiff, helped by the enveloping bucket seats. I’ll have to drive it to know for sure, but it certainly feels like the new performance car has embraced the ‘grand tourer’ ethos. +++

KiaEV6GT

+++ As LAND ROVER gears up to reveal the largest and most luxurious version of its reborn Defender 4×4, spy photographers have snapped a test mule sporting an aggressive quad-exit exhaust, which all but confirms the range-topper will get a V8-powered range-topper. The new Land Rover Defender 130 has been spotted testing several times in the run-up to its reveal (expected to be in the coming months) and patent images have already given a good look at its final design, but this is the first time I’ve seen strong signs of a V8 model. Like the existing Land Rover Defender V8 (launched last year in 90 and 110 forms) it will likely get a chassis overhaul from JLR’s Special Vehicles division to go with its extra power, but it remains to be seen whether it will use the same ‘AJ’ 5.0-litre supercharged V8 as those cars, or the BMW-derived twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre unit as used by the new Land Rover Range Rover. The former would mean 525 hp, a 0-100 kph time of around 5.5 seconds and a top speed of around 230 kph, while the latter would bump power up slightly to 530 hp and could improve pace in line with the most potent Range Rover. This extended-wheelbase variant will be the third body style in the reborn Defender line-up, positioned as a luxury-oriented flagship to rival the likes of the Audi Q7 and BMW X7, and segment stalwarts including the Cadillac Escalade and Jeep Grand Wagoneer in the US. +++

+++ MASERATI is beginning to release details about its Folgore-badged range of electric cars. I know that the battery-powered version of the next Gran Turismo will have over 1.200 hp and there are also preliminary details (including output and range) about the Grecale Folgore. Due out in 2023, the electric Grecale will share its Giorgio platform with the gasoline-powered model. The architecture will incorporate a 105 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a pair of electric motors for through-the-road all-wheel-drive. Federico De Medio, Maserati’s head of vehicle validation, told me to expect over 500 hp and more than 480 km of driving range. “We were able to install the battery pack in the lower part of the car while keeping the Giorgio platform, which is a very versatile architecture that can be multi-energy”, he said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘It can’t underpin an EV!’ Well, you can clearly see that it can”. Maserati will rely on lightweight materials, like aluminum and carbon fiber, to partially offset the weight of the battery pack. It will give the Grecale a 400 Volt electrical system, a solution chosen for its flexibility, and the motors that will power the SUV will not be the same units fitted to the Gran Turismo. Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to electrifying a portfolio of models as diverse as Maserati’s. But, while electric cars make headlines, gasoline-powered cars make volume, and Maserati isn’t giving up on that part of its range quite yet. It tentatively plans to offer only electric cars by 2030, but until then (and maybe even beyond then) it will let customers choose what they drive. “We are one of the few brands still making investments in 2 technologies: internal combustion and electric”, said Bill Peffer, head of Maserati’s American division. “People have asked us why. The reason is simple: We’re adding products to the lineup, and the EV adoption curve is different in different parts of the world, so we’re going to let the customer choose. The customer is going to decide what the rate is going to be, and we have the flexibility of ramping up or ramping down depending on demand. There’s a long runway between now and 2030”. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is working to increase its energy independence this decade, making a 3-digit million euro figure investment in solar energy and applying for licenses to build new wind parks in Germany, its chief executive said on Tuesday. “If you had asked me three or four years ago, I would have said energy suppliers take care of energy. We build cars, they make energy. Now we are also thinking about partial energy independence”, CEO Ola Källenius said, speaking on an online panel. The luxury carmaker would soon be making an application to build wind farms in northern Germany either alone or with partners, Kaellenius said, adding that being able to meet even a quarter of its own energy needs would free up energy for others. In addition, the automaker announced last week that from this year forward, it will purchase electricity only from renewable sources (solar, wind and hydro) in Germany, specifically, from a 60-acre solar park near Ingolstadt and from 24 wind farms with more than 200 turbines. And as a result, global production at all Mercedes plants and facilities worldwide would be CO2 neutral. +++

+++ NISSAN is pushing back the release date of the electric Ariya again due to a global shortage of semiconductors and other supply chain disruptions, the Japanese automaker said in a statement late on Monday. The Ariya, Nissan’s second EV-only model after the Leaf, will now go on sale on May 12 in Japan. The company had most recently flagged a late-March launch. The Ariya was originally slated for a mid-2021 launch but was delayed by Covid-related chip shortages. Sales in Europe are due to start this summer and the United States in the autumn, Nissan has said. A limited-edition version of the SUV went on sale in Japan as planned in January. Nissan pioneered mass-market electric vehicles with the Leaf in 2010. +++

+++ In 2016, the United Kingdom built 1.7 million cars. Last year, it built just 850.575. This slump in production means the UK has spare factory capacity to build another 750.000 cars at least, even despite losing Honda Swindon last year. The entire automotive industry has had a rough couple of years, as the Covid pandemic was followed by a semiconductor shortage, and car makers will be hoping to put more cars down production lines; if not in 2022 then definitely in 2023. If that doesn’t happen, though, the costs associated with OVERCAPACITY will make manufacturing cars in the UK uncompetitive for those remaining. It’s not just the UK struggling with overcapacity. According to research from analyst company Inovev, Europe has enough assembly plants to build around 22 million cars, but last year production fell below 15 million. It estimated the total capacity utilisation rate at just 60 %; the lowest in 20 years. “Given that the production forecasts are not very optimistic for the decade, manufacturers will have every interest in reducing the capacity of their factories or closing several of their factories”, Inovev said in a March report. That view was echoed by Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares at a recent strategy event. Stellantis last year had a plant utilisation rate of less than 60%, Inovev calculated; far too low for a company that’s trying to find cost-savings to run 14 brands under the same banner, including Citroën, Fiat, Peugeot and Opel. Tavares believes the ideal size for Europe’s car market is between 18 and 20 million. “If we continue to remain at about 15 million, actions on capacity (ie shutting plants) will be required, because I have to assure the sustainability of this company”, he said at the event. Gone is the optimism of 2015, when the SMMT predicted that British car production would be breaking the 1972 record of 1.92 million by 2018. Since then we’ve had Brexit, the pandemic, supply-chain shortages and a fundamental shift in the approach to manufacturing brought about by electrification. Inovev predicts that by 2030, UK car manufacturing still won’t have climbed past 1 million. “The departure of another manufacturer from the country can’t be excluded”, it wrote in its March report. The most underutilised plants are generally in the highest-cost countries, which means their owners are reducing those costs by transferring more production to cheaper countries in eastern or southern Europe. It’s no coincidence that utilisation there is much, much higher. France, Italy, the UK, Germany, Italy and Poland have the worst utilisation rates, at between 50-54%, according to Inovev, while the highest are Portugal, Hungary, Romania and Sweden (the latter an outlier boosted by Volvo demand). It’s hard to ignore the differences in labour costs. Figures from the European Union’s Eurostat statistics service for 2021 hourly labour rates put France at €37.90 and Germany at €37.20, compared with €16 for Portugal, €15.30 for the Czech Republic and €11.20 for Croatia. The UK stood at €28.50 per hour in 2019 (the last figure available). Governments will fight to stop the flow of production out of their countries. We saw last year the UK government’s determination to keep the Ellesmere Port near Liverpool open with a promise to pay 30 % of the €115 million that owner Stellantis eventually pledged to pay to transition it from making the Astra to electric vans. Ellesmere Port has been unpopular with its owners for a while now. In 2012, the UK business minister at the time, Vince Cable, made a special trip to the Geneva motor show to persuade then-owner General Motors not to shut the plant as planned. Car makers have had to come up with different ways to close plants to reduce the political fallout. One method is ‘repurposing’ the plant; a strategy used by Jaguar Land Rover for its Jaguar plant in Castle Bromwich. Production will stop at an unspecified time, but it will still be used for other activities, JLR said last year, without going into detail. Renault, meanwhile, will turn its Flins plant just outside Paris into a ‘Refactory’ that will refurbish used cars when it stops making new cars in 2024. Could the UK lose more plants? The question for vehicle makers is this: do you have faith you can switch to making EVs and still build them at a profit in the UK? For a company like JLR with a higher average purchase price, the answer is probably yes. For the likes of Toyota and BMW with Mini, it’s a tricky one. Nissan has already committed to making an crossover replacement for the Leaf at Sunderland at far higher volumes: up to 100,000 a year. Mini, on the other hand, has said the next Mini EV will be made in China, not Oxford. Toyota also has a key decision to make about its Burnaston plant in Derbyshire as to whether that can switch from making the hybrid Corolla to EVs. The danger is that the pressing need to drive down costs of mainstream EVs could also drive out a big chunk of UK’s automotive manufacturing. Protecting it is going to require more than installing a couple of battery factories. +++

+++ PORSCHE has taken a significant step towards its goal of commercialising synthetic fuels with the acquisition of a stake in multinational e-fuels maker HIF Global. The deal, worth some $75 million, has Porsche take a 12.5% share in HIF, which is leading construction of the Haru Oni eFuels plant in Punta Arenas, Chile, which will produce synthetic fuel for use in ICE Porsche cars from mid-2022. The German manufacturer is one of several large companies investing in HIF, alongside Chile-based Andes Mining and Energy (which remains the majority shareholder) and American firms EIG, Baker Hughes and Gemstone Investments. The amount raised in this funding round is said to total more than $100 million. The investment will go towards completing the Haru One project in Punta Arenas, as well as new sites in the US and Australia, “which have large supplies of renewable energy”. A key component of the Haru Oni project is using wind energy to create hydrogen and CO2-based synthetic fuels, which allow for “nearly CO2-neutral” use of internal combustion engines. This investment is the latest in a succession of firm commitments from Porsche in the future of its ICE cars. It cites the Porsche 911 sports car as a key beneficiary of the technology and has repeatedly said that will be the last model in its portfolio to go electric. However, Porsche also highlights the commercial transportation sector as an area where synthetic fuels could facilitate the ongoing use of existing fossil-fuelled vehicles. Porsche R&D boss Michael Steiner said: “Synthetic fuels offer attractive prospects across transportation sectors, from the automotive industry to the aviation and shipping sectors. “In addition, e-methanol is an important raw material for other applications, such as in the chemical industry, where it can replace raw materials of fossil origin. E-methanol is an intermediate product that’s produced during the generation of e-fuel”. Porsche’s own plans for the e-fuel centre on using it to move completed cars off its production lines, fuel cars at its track-based experience centres and for certain motorsport applications, including the Porsche Supercup. Importantly, as confirmed by Steiner, Porsche isn’t developing any new engines specifically with a view to running them on synthetic fuel. He said that “while you maybe gain some percent in terms of efficiency” by using a specially designed engine with e-fuels, adapting the fuel for a bespoke hardware would mean it couldn’t be used with existing engines. “We need to move fast”, Steiner said. “It’s better to stick with the existing grade of fuel we have at the pumps today”. +++

+++ TESLA has achieved record deliveries for the first quarter of the year, despite being heavily impacted by supply-chain disruptions and Covid-induced factory shutdowns. The American electric vehicle manufacturer delivered a total of 310.048 cars worldwide in the first quarter of 2022; an increase of 68% year on year. Around 295.324 of the overall delivery figure consisted of the Model 3 and the Model Y. The remaining 14.724 units were sales of the larger Model S and Model X. “This was an exceptionally difficult quarter, due to supply-chain interruptions and China’s zero-Covid policy”, company boss Elon Musk tweeted. “Outstanding work by the Tesla team and key suppliers saved the day”. Tesla’s Shanghai factory has been impacted particularly hard. It was shut down completely on 28 March because a two-stage lockdown has been imposed in areas of the city where Covid cases have since surged. The rising number of cases in the Chinese city has also led to the cancellation of the Shanghai motor show. Tesla was due to restart production on Monday, but production plans have since been cancelled, as most of Shanghai is still under strict lockdown. The Shanghai factory is increasingly important to Tesla’s production. In October last year, Musk claimed it has overtaken the production output of the Fremont factory in California, US. Car Tesla will publish its full financial results for the first quarter of 2022 on Wednesday 20 April, when its management holds its usual question-and-answer session. Tesla hopes its sales will grow by 50% in 2022. +++

+++ TOYOTA on Wednesday cut its 2022 outlook for the U.S. auto industry’s new-car sales, citing the struggles in the supply-chain caused by the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine. The Japanese automaker’s new outlook of 15.5 million vehicles was down from its prior forecast of 16.5 million, Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota Motor North America, said on a conference call. “The supply-chain challenges that we’re seeing will remain with us for a while”, he said. The global auto industry had already been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent shortage of semiconductor chips even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine snarled parts of the supply chain and contributed to soaring prices of raw materials such as aluminum and nickel. Carter said the U.S. industry’s sales rate in the first quarter was an annualized 14.3 million, but he is “reasonably confident” in the new forecast. However, he said there is a “downside scenario” of 14.9 million to 15 million sales if the supply chain struggles continue. Carter emphasized that the U.S. sales outlook is not based on demand as a sales rate in the mid-16 million range could be achieved if automakers could build that many vehicles. “That is an adjustment that quite frankly is not based on consumer demand”, he said. “It’s based solely on what our projections of the supply environment is going to be”. Carter said Toyota expects U.S. sales this year for its Toyota and Lexus brands to finish at about 2.35 million vehicles. While Carter expects some of the higher raw material costs to be passed on to consumers, he does not see vehicle affordability being an issue this year. He said it will take six months for inventory rates to normalize after the supply chain recovers. Toyota’s day’s supply of vehicles in the U.S. now stands at less than two versus an historic rate of 40 to 45 days. He expects that to recover to 30 days as the supply chain recovers. “The vehicles are being sold literally before they are built”, he said. +++

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , the Tesla Model Y was the bestselling car last month, followed closely by its Tesla Model 3 sibling, amid a backdrop of declining registrations caused by ongoing supply-chain issues. Tesla registered 6.464 examples of the SUV and 6.457 of the saloon, both some way ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa in third place, with 5.515, and the Nissan Qashqai in fourth, with 5.401. Importantly, Tesla’s monthly registrations tend to surge following a shipment of cars, as the firm bulk-registers imported cars at the port. The figures reflect the ongoing shake-up of the UK’s traditional best-sellers list, with the once bestselling Ford Fiesta coming in at number 10 with 3.890 for example, as parts shortages continue to restrict output for many of the world’s largest manufacturers. As a result, new-car registrations in March dipped 14.3% year on year to just 243.479. March is traditionally a bumper month for car sales as the new-year numberplate is introduced, with around 20% of the year’s registrations taking place. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reports that last month was the weakest March since 1998, before the UK switched to a ’two-plate’ system (whereby the numberplate changes in March and September). The SMMT cited the ongoing semiconductor shortage as a primary cause of the downturn but also noted that uncertainty surrounding the continuing Russian invasion of Ukraine, rising energy and material costs and a “squeeze on household incomes” as factors inhibiting both supply and demand for new cars. It said: “The result is massively disappointing for the sector and underscores the long-term impact the pandemic is wreaking on the industry. “In spite of the rollback of pandemic restrictions, which limited the industry to ‘click and collect’ in the first part of 2021, overall Q1 registrations for 2022 were down 1.9%.” Because dealerships were closed to customers in March 2021 in line with social-distancing rules, there was an 8.2% uptick in private registrations in March 2022, but that was tempered by a massive 34.4% decline in demand from fleet buyers. In terms of demand for powertrain types, it was another month of growth for electric cars, some 39.315 examples of which left dealerships (a 78.7% year-on-year increase). EVs now have a 16.1% market share in the UK, with the SMMT noting that the amount sold in March 2022 outnumbers the tally for the whole of 2019. The SMMT notes: “With grants for BEVs ongoing until at least next March, however, interest rates still low and electric cars benefiting from lower running costs, there are significant benefits for drivers who can order new vehicles now”. Meanwhile, demand for plug-in hybrids dropped by 7.5%, petrol cars by 25.6% and (in reflection of an ongoing shift away from the fuel) diesel cars by 55.2%. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes called the March decline “deeply disappointing” and said it “lays bare the challenges ahead”. He continued: “While demand remains robust, this decline illustrates the severity of the global semiconductor shortage as manufacturers strive to deliver the latest, lowest-emission vehicles to eagerly awaiting customers. “Placing orders now will be beneficial for those looking to take advantage of incentives and lower running costs for electric vehicles, especially as the Ukraine crisis could affect supply still further. With increasing household and business costs, government must do all it can to support consumers so that the growth of electric vehicles can be sustained and the UK’s ambitious net-zero timetable delivered”. +++

+++ In the UNITED STATES , Toyota and General Motors reported a slump in first-quarter sales on Friday, as industry-wide disruptions to supply chains and chip shortages squeezed inventories. Toyota, which in 2021 upstaged GM’s decades-old position as the top-selling automaker in the United States, outsold the company in the first quarter on increased demand for its Lexus hybrid and electric vehicles. Automakers are grappling with a global chip shortage that has forced them to cut production, although high car prices have partially offset the impact from tight inventory. “Supply chain disruptions are not fully behind us, but we expect to continue outperforming 2021 production levels, especially in the second half of the year”, said Steve Carlisle, executive vice president and president, GM North America. Supply bottlenecks started to ease in recent months, but the progress was stalled by Russia’s war against Ukraine as well as new lockdowns in China following a resurgence in Covid-19 infections. “Inventory will take time to build because a large number of vehicles that are coming in now are already sold to someone. So unfortunately we are likely going to have soft numbers for at least a few more months”, Morningstar analyst David Whiston said. GM said quarterly sales fell 20.1% to 512.846 vehicles, sending its shares down 1.04% at $43.28 in the morning trade. The automaker said that improved semiconductor supplies helped production in the quarter, but it expects inventory to remain relatively low throughout the year due to high demand. Toyota said sales fell nearly 15% to 514.592 vehicles. BMW was one of the quarter’s few winners, reporting overall sales up 3.2% in the first quarter, compared to the same periode in 2021. X-model SUVs constituted 57% of sales. And sales of Minis were up 9.4%. Mazda reported March sales of 33.023 vehicles, up 3.2% compared to March 2021. Year-to-date sales totaled 82.268 vehicles, down 1.2%. Nissan reported first-quarter sales of 201.081 vehicles, down 29.6%. Leaf, Altima and Frontier all saw big sales increases. Subaru sales fell 17.5% in the first quarter, at 132.346 vehicles. Subaru cited supply chain shortages as the cause. Porsche sales fell 24.9%, at 13.042, and the company also cited supply and delivery issues. It noted that it was coming off 2021, the strongest year for U.S. sales in brand history. Mitsubishi focused on retail sales alone in its report, which were up 44.7%. Though its total sales figures were down 6.5%, from 28.231 vehicles in the first quarter last year, to 26.400 in the first quarter of 2022, Outlander saw a 218% increase and Eclipse Cross was up 152%. Tesla delivered 310.048 vehicles in the quarter, a slight increase from the previous quarter, and up 68% from a year earlier. Tesla said it sold a total of 295.324 Model 3 and Model Y cars, while it delivered 14.724 Model S and Model X. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will axe many combustion engine models by the end of the decade and sell fewer cars overall to concentrate on producing more profitable premium vehicles, its finance chief was quoted as saying on Wednesday. “The key target is not growth”, Arno Antlitz told. “We are more focused on quality and on margins, rather than on volume and market share”. Antlitz said VW would reduce its range of petrol and diesel cars, consisting of at least 100 models spread across several brands, by 60% in Europe over the next 8 years. VW’s new strategy is a sign of profound changes in the auto sector, which has attempted for decades to increase profits by selling more cars each year, even if that required heavy discounting. Former VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn, who resigned in the wake of a diesel emissions scandal, had made it his goal to beat Toyota and General Motors to the title of “volume number one” by 2018. +++

+++ Among the crucial models in development as part of VOLVO ’s electric vehicle onslaught is the all-new, all-electric and all-important successor to the XC60. The SUV has been the Swedish brand’s bestselling car for the past 4 years running. Due in 2024 to fill the gap between the XC40 Electric and the long-awaited electric replacement for the XC90 coming later this year, the XC60 successor (which will have a name rather than a numerical designation) will play a core role in taking Volvo to its goal of all-out electrification by 2030. EVs accounted for just 6.5% of Volvo’s global sales last year (its best on record), but the Swedish company aims to boost that figure to 50% by 2025 on the way to ditching combustion entirely by 2030. A swiftly expanding line-up of EVs, heavy investment in production facilities and new car construction processes will be key to achieving this goal, as Volvo looks to emerge as a front runner among the ‘legacy’ manufacturers going up against Tesla. The BMW iX3 rival will be the first production car to be powered by batteries produced by the new joint venture of Volvo and battery company Northvolt, which is building a new battery factory in Sweden with a view to reaching an annual output of 50 GWh by 2026. It says this will be enough to power 500.000 cars per year, which is well over two-thirds of Volvo’s current overall output. Before that factory opens, Volvo will procure batteries for the XC60 replacement from Northvolt’s existing facility at a rate of 15 GWh annually from 2024. Given the popularity of the current combustion-engined XC60, Volvo is likely to keep it on sale for a period alongside the new EV. Importantly, it has strongly hinted that the EV will use the same SPA2 architecture as the XC90 successor, which can house both pure-electric and hybrid drivetrains, paving the way for both hybrid and electric versions to share the same design; clues to which were given by the larger Concept Recharge last year. Outgoing Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said: “Our concept car gives an idea of what could come on the same platform”, suggesting that smaller entries to the range will share its minimalist, estate-aping silhouette and emphasis on space and practicality. Importantly, Volvo recently committed to replacing its more traditional, lower-slung estates while also making its SUVs a more traditional 2-box shape, bringing all of its models more closely in line, design-wise. As for why Volvo is launching a pure-EV version of its biggest selling model after the XC40 and XC90, CFO Björn Annwall explained that it is partly to do with the life cycles of the existing cars. He said: “We launched the XC90 prior to the XC60, so as we looked at upgrading the XC90, we then concluded ‘let’s make it fully electric’ ”. This will also allow for the XC60 to be electrified as cost-effectively as possible. Annwall explained: “There’s continuous improvement of the technology we’re using for each of the cars, and then it’s even more important to have a fully cost-competitive situation when we come to the XC60. It’s easier to do that if it’s a little bit later”. Aside from the inevitable links in battery, powertrain and construction between the XC90 and XC60 successors, Annwall’s remarks suggest the smaller electric SUV will also receive high-level autonomous and connectivity functions as standard, courtesy of lidar sensors supplied by Luminar and an “autonomous driving computer” from software giant Nvidia. The collision-avoidance potential of this technology, which will be updated over the air, will help Volvo on the way to achieving its self-set goal of eliminating fatal crashes. It will also enable the integration of a new Highway Pilot function for autonomous driving on motorways where this is legal. +++

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