Automotive

Automotive News, May 2017

 

Japanese carmaker Toyota will be responsible for best practice requirements in a £3m programme created by several public and private bodies which aims to create a platform for fuel cell production for zero-emission cars.

 

Clean energy provider Intelligent Energy will take the technical lead in the scheme, aiming to demonstrate cost reductions of fuel cells through digital manufacturing techniques.

 

The three-year programme, named Digiman, will be supported by an academic department at the University of Warwick, which provides research in manufacturing and technology. The scheme has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) under the EU programme Horizon 2020.

 

After spending 20 years being fine-tuned in R&D, hydrogen vehicles are finally beginning to filter into the market. Fuel cell industry shipments grew by two thirds in 2016 – compared with 2015 levels – with transport-related fuel-cell capacity doubling to 280MW.

 

Toyota recently pledged to work with ministers to help the UK “realise the significant potential of hydrogen as a clean and sustainable source of power”.

The Japanese company has used its fuel cell technology to create a static array to power its Honsha Plant in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Using fuel cells with an output of 3.5kW – and similar to the ones found in the Toyota Mirai – Toyota claims that this marks the first time that fuel cells have been operational in a commercial environment.

 

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Nissan has seen annual profits jump 27%, boosted by better sales in China, the US and Europe. Japan’s second biggest carmaker had net profits of 663.5bn yen ($5.8bn; £4.5bn) in the year to the end of March. Nissan forecast profits would drop by about 20% this financial year, partly due to currency fluctuations.

 

Globally, Nissan sold a total of 5.63 million vehicles across the year, with the biggest jump in sales being its 8.4% growth in China. Sales were up by 4.2% in the US while sales in Europe excluding Russia were up by 7.2%.

 

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Japanese car giant Toyota has seen profits fall for the first time in half a decade. The firm said it sold more cars in the year to March 2017 than in the previous 12 months but that higher costs and currency fluctuations hit results.

The profit of 1.83 trillion yen ($16.1bn; £12.4bn) was down 21% from 2016-17.

 

Toyota has warned next year’s profits will be even lower, due to the strength of the Japanese currency. The carmaker’s prediction is based on a forecast that the yen will average around 105 to the US dollar in the year through to March 2018, compared with 108 yen in the last financial year.

 

Toyota, which has lost its top-selling carmaker status to Germany’s Volkswagen sold 10.25 million vehicles over the year, up from 10.19 million units a year earlier.

 

The carmaker has been struggling in the US, its biggest market. Sales fell in North America as it battled to meet demand for bigger cars such as sport utility vehicles, which have become more affordable to drive thanks to lower petrol prices. Earlier this year Toyota said it would invest $10bn (£8.2bn) in the US over the next five years.

 

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Engine production for cars, vans and lorries in the UK hit an all-time high in the first three months of this year, new figures show.  Manufacturing output rose by a fifth in March as 271,359 engines rolled off production lines nationwide, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT).

 

The SMMT figures show growing overseas demand for British-built engines. In March 153,206 were shipped for export, up 18% on the same month last year. In a reversal of trends so far this year, export growth has been overtaken by demand at home, up 21.4%.

 

For the first time UK engine production in the first three months of the year exceeded 700,000 units, up 11.4% on last year.

 

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US-based automaker General Motors (GM) has announced that it will pull out of Venezuela following a lengthy legal and political fight. Mid last month the company’s primary factory in Venezuela was reportedly seized by the state due to the decision of a judge.

 

Shutting down the plant and pulling out of the country would see GM incurring losses of around $100mn. Following the April 18 seizure, GM was forced to lay off the approximately 2700 workers who were employed at the plant.

 

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Latest figures from the West Midlands-based luxury car maker show Jaguar sales booming but a dip in demand for sister brand Land Rover, blamed on the changeover to the new version of the Discovery.

 

In April sales around the world dipped 2% to 40,385. While Jaguar car sales continued to race ahead – up 54% to 12,310 thanks to the F-Pace, recently voted World Car of the Year – Land Rover sales fell 16% to 28,075.

 

Retail sales for the month of April were up in North America (33%), China (10%) and Europe (3%), but down in the UK (37%) and in other overseas markets (20%) year-on-year.

 

JLR says sales for the new Discovery are growing in the UK and Europe. New Discovery sales will begin in China and North America this month.  It is also launching its first new Range Rover since the Evoque – the Velar. Jaguar Land Rover is investing around £3.5 billion annually to extend its model range and manufacturing footprint, including a new plant in Slovakia and recently launched models including the new Discovery, Range Rover Velar and Chinese-market Jaguar XFL.

 

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Sales of new cars plunged nearly 20% in April from a year ago, but the industry said the fall was due to consumers bringing forward purchases to avoid a rise in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said 152,076 new cars were registered in April.

 

New car registrations are up 1.1% overall for the first four months of the year to a record 972,092.

 

Registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles fell by 1.3%, the first fall in 47 months, as demand for hybrid vehicles was hit by higher VED rates. Since 1 April, only newly-registered cars with zero emissions have been exempt from paying VED, which only includes electric and hydrogen cars. However, petrol cars with carbon dioxide emissions of up to 100g per km, registered before this date, are also exempt.

The biggest fall in demand (-28.4%) came from private buyers. Who are seeing prices rise faster than their wages. That could be an indication of more subdued car sales ahead.

 

The headlines over diesel may have been a factor too. About 25,000 fewer diesel cars were registered in April compared with a year earlier. Larger cars, which tend to have diesel engines, were particularly hit by the VED changes.

 

 

 

 

 

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