Newsflash: Volkswagen heeft geen idee wat zij met Seat aan moet

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+++ ASTON MARTIN has warned that higher costs from global supply chain and logistical disruptions look set to hit its profit margin this year. The group’s third quarter revenue increased by 33 percent to £315.5 million, driven by a 28 percent hike in average selling prices to £189,000. But higher costs outweighed the benefit of increased revenue, meaning its underlying operating loss widened to £55 million, from £29.1 million. The luxury car group said the snags were having a ‘more prolonged’ impact on working capital than it previously predicted, and cut its adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and ammortization margin expansion outlook to growth of about 100 to 300 basis points from roughly 350 to 450 points previously. The company said it had 400 unfinished vehicles waiting on parts, costing it £106 million in inventory costs by the end of the period. Aston Martin shares fell sharply and were down 14.82 percent. The group’s share price has slumped over 85 percent in the last year. Carmakers and manufacturers globally have been hit hard by long-running issues with supply of parts and chips used in production during the pandemic, and those woes were only made worse after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Amedeo Felisa, Aston Martin’s boss, said: “Whilst supply chain issue has created short-term impacts on our performance, I am confident that with the actions we are taking, we will exit the year in a stronger position to deliver on our goals for 2023 and beyond”. In the 9-month period, pre-tax losses grew to £511.3 million from £188.6 million during the same time a year earlier. The London-listed group now expects to deliver 6.200 to 6.600 vehicles this year, up from more than 6.600 vehicles forecast earlier. The company’s net debt was around £60 million lower than at the beginning of the year, at £833 million. Aston Martin also successfully completed its £654 million equity capital raise in the period. Executive chairman Lawrence Stroll said: “Over the last 2 quarters we have encountered specific supply chain challenges that have delayed our ability to meet customer demand. Whilst we moved quickly to resolve the shortages that affected our Q2 performance, our Q3 growth was hindered by new supply chain challenges, impacting more than 400 vehicles that had been planned to be delivered in the quarter. Although these headwinds, which are already improving in Q4, have disrupted our near-term financial performance and modestly impacted our full year guidance, the medium and long-term outlook is robust”. Sophie Lund-Yates, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Aston Martin will deliver fewer vehicles than expected this year. Supply chain disruption and logistic stalemates mean the group is being forced to downgrade guidance. This is not the development the luxury carmaker needed, its valuation has already motored downwards since listing just a short time ago, with genuine questions being raised about the sustainability of the group’s long-term growth drivers. Volume downgrades should also come with a dose of healthy scepticism, with it being possible that weaker demand, not just supply issues, could be lurking beneath the surface. Free cash is walking out the door, not helped by the unhelpful delays to deliveries which is damaging working capital. Aston Martin has already gone cap in hand to investors to the tune of £650 million, it will be some time before such an equity raise is welcomed again. That means things need to start moving by AML’s own steam, sooner rather than later”. Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor, added: “Investors have had an extremely difficult time with the stock, which is down by more than 80 percent year-to-date and almost 98 percent since its IPO in 2018”. +++

+++ FERRARI said on Wednesday it was improving its forecasts for full-year results, including for core earnings, after beating expectations in the third quarter, supported by a double-digit increase in shipments. The company however struck a more cautious tone on the margin on those core earnings, now seen at around 35 % for this year, versus a previous guidance of over 35 %. It said industrial costs and research and development expenses increased in the past quarter mainly due to higher depreciation and amortization and cost inflation. Ferrari said its adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization would grow this year to over 1.73 billion euros, versus an already improved forecast of 1.70-1.73 billion euros it provided 3 months ago. In the third quarter, adjusted earnings rose 17% to 435 million euros, topping analyst expectations of 418 million euros. +++

+++ “The alliance with General Motors is a big weapon for us”. HONDA chief executive, president and executive director Toshihiro Mibe summed up his thoughts in that one succinct phrase during a round-table discussion with members of the media last week. Speaking of the company’s transition toward zero carbon emissions, both Mibe and Senior Managing Executive Officer Shinji Aoyama extolled the virtues of Honda’s partnership with GM, both on the Ultium-based 2024 Prologue electric SUV and future products based on a platform codeveloped by the 2 automotive giants. “We believe holistic collaboration is mutually beneficial, not only the vehicle platform but with purchasing and procurement”, said Aoyama. “Collaboration is the future”. But while the Prologue is based largely on General Motors technologies (its Ultium platform and batteries are shared with the Cadillac Lyriq and Chevrolet Blazer EV), the next joint project between the 2 will likely have lots more Honda DNA. Coming in 2027 will be an electric car with a starting price of under $30.000, which will feature more intelligence-sharing between the GM and the Japanese automaker. Codenamed AEV (affordable electric vehicle), the new project will comprise the best of each respective brand. “Both Honda and GM have enough technologies to build our own cars”, Aoyama said. “So now the engineers from both entities are disclosing the technologies that we have, then trying to discuss which technologies could be optimal for both”. That could mean, theoretically speaking, that the AEV project could be an entirely Honda-sourced design, although it’s far more likely that each company will contribute certain components. What’s more, the collaboration isn’t limited just to the car itself. Both GM and Honda are evaluating their logistics and production facilities to identify the most effective way to acquire the materials, humanpower, and space needed to build the entry-level EV. It’s all part of both companies’ goal to be carbon-neutral, GM by 2040 and Honda by 2050. From now on, everything from the procurement and materials to resource circulation is a total package”. Aoyama said. “We have to realise everything in this scope, not merely battery electric vehicles”. +++

+++ The MERCEDES-AMG performance division will launch the second-generation GT in 2023, heavily redesigning and re-engineering the 2-door flagship to take on the Porsche 911. The new model, known under the internal codename C192, has been twinned with the recently introduced 7th-generation SL. However, it will be produced exclusively in coupé form, leaving the open-top duties to its SL sibling, which now also wears an AMG, rather than a Benz, badge because the performance division took over the engineering programmes for the sporting duo. Stylistically, the new GT takes on an evolutionary appearance, with familiar long-bonnet and short-tail proportions. As with the first-generation model, introduced in 2015, it receives a large liftback-style tailgate. It will likely get a special Edition 1 guise, which has been spotted testing on the outskirts of the Nurburgring. Distinguishable from the standard car by a fixed rear spoiler (which will be exclusive to the Edition 1) in addition to a modified spoiler lip at the front and carbonfibre styling cues. Active aerodynamics have played a central role in the development of the new GT, which receives the same front underbody spoiler as the SL. It extends downwards by around 40 mm at a speed of 100 kph to create a Venturi effect underneath the car, eventually reducing front axle lift by a claimed 50 kg at 250 kph. At the rear, meanwhile, a wing deploys and tilts in 5 different stages to increase downforce at speeds above 80 kph. As with the latest SL, the new GT has been developed and engineered in a programme led by AMG but with key input from other Mercedes-Benz divisions. These include the High Performance Powertrain division headquartered in Brixworth, which was also responsible for engineering the Formula 1-derived powertrain in the highly strung Mercedes-AMG One road car, revealed belatedly this year. Affalterbach headquarters in Germany have revealed that the company’s 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine, codenamed M178, will feature from the start of second-generation GT sales in 2023 with dry-sump lubrication. Hand-assembled on site, the twin-turbocharged unit is expected to offer a similar output as in the SL, with 476 hp in a new GT 53 model and 585 hp in a successor to the GT 63. Further models will be added during the new coupé’s life cycle, including more powerful follow-ups to the GT R, GT GT3 and range-topping GT Black Series. Most intriguingly, AMG is also working on a new GT 63 S E-Performance model running the same petrol-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain as the recently introduced GT 63 S E-Performance 4-Door Coupé. It mates the GT 63’s V8 engine with an electric motor mounted on the rear axle to develop a combined 850 hp and up to 1.400 Nm on overboost. If replicated in the GT, that would make this one of the most powerful hybrid coupés on sale in outright terms, eclipsing even the 830 hp Ferrari 296 GTB and the limited-run, 820 hp Lamborghini Sián. At this stage, it is not known whether the 2-door plug-in hybrid GT will receive the same 6.1 kWh battery and corresponding 12 km electric range as its 4-door sibling, although an increase in the wheelbase is claimed to have improved packaging. As with the SL, the GT has been conceived to accommodate both inline 4- and 6-cylinder engines. Among them is the M139 4-cylinder 2.0-litre unit, which features in the new SL 43 with a 48 Volt mild-hybrid system and electric turbocharger, producing 384 hp and 500 Nm of torque. The new GT will feature a 9-speed Speedshift gearbox with a wet clutch, developed and produced in-house, in place of the Magna 7-speed dual-clutch transaxle fitted to the original GT. Launch models will also have 4Matic+ 4-wheeldrive. The new coupé is based on the same Modular Sport Architecture structure used by the open-top SL but with changes to accommodate a fixed roof and the GT’s liftback tailgate. Longitudinal, torsional and transverse rigidity have all been increased, according to those involved in the new car’s development. AMG has also created new chassis mounts in a bid to improve NVH properties and the road surface sensitivity of the original model. The uniquely styled body, meanwhile, uses a mix of aluminium, steel, magnesium and carbonfibre. Key among the changes to the new performance coupé is an abandoning of the rear transaxle, a layout first employed with the SLS and continued through to the first-generation GT. Instead, the new GT’s engine and gearbox are mated up front in a move aimed at freeing up space for a fully variable 4Matic+ 4-wheel drive system and rear-wheel steering, as seen on the SL. Despite the change, the new model’s front-to-rear weight distribution is claimed not to vary much from the outgoing GT’s 47:53 figure. Underneath, newly developed Active Roll Control suspension uses a combination of double wishbones up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear, with steel springs, variable damping and hydraulically operated roll bars. Once again, it is the same set-up used by the SL but with altered elastokinematic properties and tuning to give the GT “a distinctly different driving character”. Inside, the GT is expected to feature largely the same 2+2 interior as the SL, albeit with detailed changes in trim to reflect its more overtly sporting positioning. +++

+++ MG is on track to unveil its ‘Project E’ 2-seat electric roadster in April next year ahead of first deliveries in the first half of 2024, the brand has said. The sports car, first previewed by the 2021 Cyberster concept and known internally as ‘Project E’, was due to be unveiled this month at the Guangzhou motor show, but has been put back to next year after concerns the November show would be postponed or cancelled due to Covid fears. The production car “will be a game changer in terms of perception of the brand”, MG commercial director Guy Pigounakis told at a recent event. The car will be available either as a 2-wheeldrive (likely to the rear wheels) or as a “very high performance” all-wheeldrive dual motor version. The car will become a halo model sitting above the rest of MG’s lineup. UK executives had to rethink its positioning when the first full-scale prototype of the production arrived from China in advance of the reveal originally planned for this month. “Right up to when model was arriving we were looking at it as a natural successor to the MG F. It’s completely not. It’s in a completely different sector of the market,” Pigounakis said, without revealing pricing. The car was teased in a video posted to social media in August that showed off the roadster’s sleek, long-nosed silhouette, electric folding canvas roof, yoke steering wheel, 2-tone sports seats and distinctive led headlights. Other definitive design cues visible at this early stage include a subtle ‘ducktail’ rear spoiler and a rear lighting design modelled on the Union Jack; a nod to MG’s British roots. Tellingly, MG captioned the video ‘return of the legend’, which strongly suggests the final production car will resurrect a sporting nameplate from the brand’s illustrious past; earlier this year, the brand trademarked the name MG C EV; a name which references a lesser-known, straight-6 powered version of the brand-defining MG B from the late 1960s. The 2-seat electric sports car was previewed as an outlandish concept in 2021, which company bosses said was given the green light for production after receiving more than 5.000 expressions of interest from potential buyers. The official preview and recently filed design patents show just how far the design has come since that concept and indicate that the Cyberster (which will essentially serve as an electric rival to the likes of the Mazda MX-5) is nearly ready for an official unveiling. While the production car’s silhouette bears a visual relation to that earlier concept, it’s all change elsewhere, with a total redesign bringing the car into line with MG’s production models and rendering it compliant with global homologation rules. It sits higher than before, for example, the wheels are smaller and wrapped in chunkier tyres, the headlights are now uncovered and the gaping front grille panel has been swapped for what looks to be a subtler, decorative item, perhaps housing an array of sensors. It still looks to be a 2-seater, though features a folding roof rather than sticking with the concept’s open-cockpit arrangement, and the prominent streamliners running from the headrests to the trailing edge of the boot lid are gone. Despite the car appearing more or less undisguised in these renderings, still little is known about its powertrain, pricing or performance potential. The concept was said to be based on a bespoke EV architecture, offering a range of 800 km and a 0-100 kph time of less than 3.0 seconds, and as a spearhead for MG’s new youth-focused Cyber brand, the convertible is expected to be priced affordably; potentially even competing with today’s entry-level combustion-powered sports cars. Talking about adding ‘Project E’ to the MG line-up, Pigounakis previously told: “The problem with sports cars is that everybody loves them but not many people buy them”. He added, however, that MG’s global volume means it can “afford to invest in sports cars and take a longer-term view on when there will be a return on investment”, adding that having a sports car “will bring us massive PR and marketing benefits”. The MG 4 hatchback, however, arrived first, as the initial offering in a family of EVs based on SAIC’s new Modular Scalable Platform, likely to also be used by the Cyberster. That paves the way for 170 hp and 204 hp rear-wheeldrive powertrains (in keeping with its affordable sporting brief) but also a 450 hp dual-motor range-topping option. The MG 4 is available with both 51 kWh and 64 kWh batteries, but packaging constraints and less strenuous range requirements could see the Cyberster sold with only the smaller one. Expect a range figure comfortably north of 320 km, in any case. A third new MG to arrive by 2024 hasn’t yet been confirmed, but it is likely to be a third SUV, given the continuing consumer demand for high-riding vehicles. +++

+++ Thomas Schäfer has only been in his job 100 days, but has given some clarity to the future of not only the Volkswagen brand, but also the other brands that fall under his remit: Skoda, Cupra and SEAT , although the latter is going to take a little more work. Schäfer was a shock appointment as chairman of the VW brand in a boardroom reshuffle earlier this year. He hadn’t even been running Skoda for 2 years before getting the call, following a longer stint in charge of the Group’s operations in South Africa. But after spending some time with him this week, a couple of things are evident. Most importantly, he’s an inspiring leader with a clear vision that has been signed up to and communicated well. And that communication is 2-way: he’s a listener and has reacted fast to customers’ views on his brand’s products. His vision for the VW brand’s reboot is clear. It should be “a friendly brand that people like. The people’s brand that is close to the people. A brand that listens and offers exactly what our customers want, especially in the electric and digital age of mobility”. But what about Skoda with models that have sat closer and closer to Volkswagen? “In the past, but not the future”, said Schäfer. He admitted that the brand had “moved up”, but says that it is “in the functional space”. Cupra is the easiest to place, according to Schäfer. “It’s very sharp positioning: young audience, more rebellious, but not a volume player”. But Seat seems to be a bit of a problem child. “Cupra is the future of Seat”, said Schäfer. “It doesn’t mean Seat will cease to exist. We’re still working on the actual plan for Seat; it’s okay until 2028 or 2029, so we don’t have to panic”. Sometimes the most difficult decisions are the hardest, especially when it comes to getting rid of something that, deep down, you know you don’t really need. +++

+++ In the UNITED STATES , enough car brands tallied double-digit volume improvements in October, tipping the balance of a still-struggling sector into the black after a flat Q3. This has been a catch-up year for the industry, and while reports from early on suggested easing of supply constraints and improvements in volume, many automakers are only now starting to claw back volume lost since supply shortages kneecapped the industry shortly after the onset of Covid. That said, full-year sales figures still don’t paint a very rosy picture: Ford, which showed signs of recovery earlier in the year, remains down 2.2% from a supply-ravaged 2021. The Blue Oval’s volumes slipped more than 10% in October but the company hopes to regain ground in the remainder of Q4. Honda’s results show the opposite trend. The company’s sales in the first 10 months are down more than 35%, but October was only off by 16%. Both are still bad, but Honda’s trend line is at least headed in the right direction. The same is true of Hyundai (down 8% for the year but up nearly 7% in October), Kia (down 5.1% for the year but up nearly 12% in October), Mazda (down nearly 18% so far in 2022 but up nearly 30% over the same month last year) and Subaru (down 10% in 2022 but up more than 30% in October). Toyota really knocked it out of the park in October, with volumes up nearly 28% (representing more than 40.000 units) for the month. Toyota’s down just over 12% YTD. +++

+++ Zhejiang Geely Holding Group’s premium electric car business plans to sell the first electric vehicle produced under the ZEEKR brand in Europe next year, its boss said. Zeekr joins a growing list of Chinese automakers looking to launch or expand sales of electric vehicles in Europe next year, including BYD, Xpeng and Great Wall Motors. Geely, owner of Volvo, Polestar and an investor in Mercedes Benz, launched Zeekr in 2021 as a premium brand aimed at younger customers. Geely Automobile, the listed unit of Geely, said earlier this week it plans to spin off Zeekr and float the business. An Conghui, CEO of Zeekr and Geely president, told reporters at a roundtable on Tuesday in Wuzhen in Zhejiang province that Geely had created Zeekr with the aim of meeting standards in Europe and the United States from the outset. An said Geely would market its 001 electric crossover in Europe next year. He did not give a sales target or discuss whether Zeekr would consider overseas production. Geely provided a transcript of An’s remarks on Wednesday. Zeekr launched the 001 in China late 2021. Its sales hit 39.474 units in the first 9 months, while Tesla sold 219.112 Model Y crossovers in China over the same period, according to China Passenger Car Association. The base model Zeekr 001 sells for the equivalent of $41,000 in China compared with $40,000 for the Tesla Model Y after a recent price cut. Zeekr has not announced pricing for overseas markets. +++

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