An article from our wider GlobalData family drew many just-auto readers this week: UK-based carmakers forced to halt or reduce production in recent months have been placing workers on COVID-19 furlough and claiming their wages from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, according to newly published government figures. But were their struggles directly attributable to the pandemic or due to other issues such as the well-known semiconductor shortage that has been hitting several industries in the past few months?
Ssangyong. Sshudder. Latest: It announced it would cut the number of senior management positions by almost 40% as part of a range of cost cutting measures at the bankrupt SUV maker. It entered court receivership earlier this month after its parent company failed to attract a buyer for the loss making business. Mahindra & Mahindra had held talks for more than a year with US importer HAAH Automotive Holdings to sell all or most of its 75% stake in Ssangyong but a letter of intent to acquire the company failed to materialise.
Future models: Announcing record sales for the first quarter earlier this month, BMW singled out the 3 Series and 5 Series, along with SUVs as reasons for the big gains. In this first of six reports on the group’s next generation models, cars took centre stage and that includes the latest developments for existing sedans, wagons, coupes and convertibles, too.
An interesting interview with a key industry player: Hildegard Wortmann, Audi board member responsible for sales and marketing, told just-auto that Audi’s electric vehicles will be more profitable than combustion engine cars ‘within two years’. In an exclusive interview with us, she also pointed out that ICE cars needed huge investments to meet tighter emission and CO2 regulations. “Within two years our BEVs will be more profitable than ICE cars,” she said. She added: “Remember, ICE cars still need huge investments to meet regulations. We will have to do ICE and electric. The consumer will decide how long we will sell ICEs.”
Ford Europe confirmed this week a development president Stuart Rowley hinted at a couple of months ago – the Romanian plant in Craiova will build an EV. Production won’t start until 2024 though output of ICE versions will commence the previous year. A US$300 spend will see Craiova, once a Daewoo factory, build a new light commercial vehicle line including, eventually, an all-electric variant which will be the first Ford BEV volume vehicle to be built in Romania. The plant currently produces the 48v mild hybrid Puma, EcoSport and one litre petrol engines.
Still with Ford: its announced management changes designed to 'speed turnarounds of key regional units'. Steven Armstrong, ex-CEO of Ford Europe who has headed the Changan Ford joint venture in China for the past year and a half, will become transformation officer, South America and India, effective 1 May. In that role, he will lead evaluation of capital allocations to India and conclusion of restructuring of Ford's South America business. The company said in January that, going forward, it will serve customers in South America with SUVs, pickups and commercial vehicles sourced from Argentina, Uruguay and other markets. At the same time, Daniel Justo, currently Ford's CFO in the region, will become, president, Ford South America. Justo and Anurag Mehrotra, managing director, Ford of India, both will report to Armstrong in his new role.
And more still with Ford: it announced a new global battery centre – called Ford Ion Park – to accelerate research and development of battery and battery cell technology, as well as future battery manufacturing. The company is centralising a cross-functional team of 150 specialists in battery technology development, research, manufacturing, planning, purchasing, quality and finance to help more quickly develop and manufacture battery cells and batteries. The Ion Park team also is exploring better integration and innovation opportunities across all aspects of the value chain – from mines to recycling – working with all teams within Ford, including experts at a new Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory, Customer Service Division, plus key suppliers and partners.
The self-driving car utopia: the UK government is to allow vehicles equipped with a degree of automated operation on UK roads this year. The government has set out how vehicles fitted with Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) technology could legally be defined as 'self-driving', as long as they receive GB type approval and there is no evidence to challenge the vehicle's ability to self-drive. ALKS is described as a first example of self-driving technology, and will be limited to speeds of up to 37mph in slow traffic on motorways. There you have it. You can use it when you are stuck in a motorway jam, so it's envisaged as a capability in reserve for less-than-happy motoring situations. Your feet can have a rest, but the ever-present possibility of a 10-second warning for the driver to take back control means your brain can't fully disengage.
'Lecky last mile: DHL Express said it had purchased 100 electric E-Ducato vans from Fiat to further electrify last mile deliveries in Europe. The large vans are 100% electric with a range of about 200km (120 miles) so "very well suited for last mile logistics", according to the freight shipper which plans to operate 14,000 in Europe by 2030 to reduce carbon emissions. "We strongly believe that the future of last mile logistics is electric," said Alberto Nobis, CEO of DHL Express Europe.
Lock the bosses in - not the first time that has happened. All seven executives prevented from leaving Renault's Fonderie de Bretagne factory eventually exited the building but the dispute between the manufacturer and a hardline union showed no sign of abating. Renault is seeking a buyer for its Fonderie de Bretagne (FDB) manufacturing facility in Caudan, near Lorient, employing 350 staff, after an eight month study, with one union in particular angered by what it saw as an impasse. The plant has been in South Brittany since 1965 and produces rough-cast and machined parts for the automotive industry, including safety components, engine and gearbox elements.
'Bank Holiday weekend' for us, enjoy yours.
Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, just-auto.com