By Norihiko Shirouzu
BEIJING (Reuters) – Nissan Motor is accelerating the rollout of electric vehicles in China under its main brand and its local, no-frills Venucia marque as it overhauls its strategy in the world’s biggest auto market, four sources told Reuters.
Besides the focus on green vehicles, the plan involves using more locally made parts and technologies to reduce costs and help the struggling Japanese carmaker compete better with lower-cost Chinese firms and major global rivals, the sources said.
The China strategy is a key pillar of Nissan’s turnaround, which involves focusing on producing profitable cars for China, Japan and the United States, rather than chasing all-out global growth as it did under disgraced former boss Carlos Ghosn.
“Before we were saying global, global, global, and China was just part of that strategy,” one of the four people familiar with the plans told Reuters.
“With regionalisation now replacing globalisation, we have to improve the cost competitiveness of all the components and technologies that go into a car by going totally local,” he said.
Both the Nissan board and the board of its China joint venture Dongfeng Motor Company have backed the plan and some elements of the new strategy will be unveiled at the Shanghai auto show in April, the sources said.
Nissan plans to launch three cars in China this year: the new all-electric Ariya crossover, a significant redesign of its X-Trail sport utility vehicle (SUV) and a hybrid Sylphy compact car using its e-Power technology, the sources said.
At least one new Nissan car will hit the Chinese market each year through 2025, with most either fully electric or hybrids equipped with autonomous and smart driving technology, the sources said. One is likely to be an e-Power X-Trail.
Two of the sources said the plan also involves turning Venucia more into a brand for affordable electric vehicles (EVs), though details are still being worked out. The idea is to price new Venucia EVs well below its current cheapest EV – the e30 mini car – which starts at 61,800 yuan ($9,540).
All four sources work for Nissan and spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to reporters.
Nissan declined to comment on its future product strategy.
“China is a core market for Nissan and Nissan is getting prepared to launch a slew of technologies including e-Power technology to fulfil customers’ aspirations,” a Nissan spokesman said. He also confirmed the Ariya would be launched in 2021.
Despite being one of the world’s first automakers to fully embrace fully electric cars with its best-selling Leaf, Nissan has fallen behind Toyota and Honda, analysts said. Both launched a slew of new hybrids in China in 2019 and 2020 which has helped boost their sales.
“Nissan has nothing to show off in terms of green cars in China today,” said Yale Zhang, head of consultancy Automotive Foresight in Shanghai. “That’s hurting their image and, most importantly, sales.”
Nissan’s new China strategy is also a response to growing competition from price-competitive Chinese automakers such as Geely Automobile, GAC Motor, and BYD, two of the sources said.
One of the sources said a new focus on “China-specific” cars designed to appeal to local tastes underpinned Nissan’s more decisive turn towards electrified models. That should mean bolder grilles, sharp-looking headlamps and tail lights as well as richer, softer and more sumptuous vehicle interiors.
Many local brands are now producing better-quality cars and that’s putting pressure on Nissan’s mainstream cars, as well as vehicles produced by other global automakers.
The most critical part of Nissan’s China-specific strategy, however, is to make cars with more parts and technologies procured within the country to slash costs.
After posting its first loss in 11 years, Nissan is scrambling to slash its production capacity and models by about a fifth and to cut fixed costs by 300 billion yen ($2.9 billion) over three years.
Nissan expects to post a record operating loss of 340 billion yen in the year ending March 31.
Two of the sources said there wasn’t necessarily a cost-cutting target for the China initiative.
However, Nissan is worried about the potential hit to profitability from increasingly stringent emissions and fuel-economy rules, as well as a likely rise in the cost of materials such as steel, other metals and semiconductors, they said.
Under the new China plan, parts engineered and procured locally should go well beyond bumpers, seats and lamps to include more complex technologies such as sensors and electric power inverters, three of the sources said.
Batteries for Nissan’s e-Power models, for example, will be locally developed and sourced from China’s Sunwoda Electric Vehicle Battery Co.
Nissan’s new plan is modest in terms of volume growth. It is simply aiming to outpace the overall Chinese market for cars and light commercial vehicles, which Nissan expects to grow by about 10% to 25 million vehicles by 2025, one source said.
Nissan’s previous “Triple One” China plan aimed to boost annual sales to 2.6 million cars by 2022 but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed it. Nissan sold 1.46 million cars last year, down from 1.56 million in 2018 when that plan was unveiled.
While Nissan’s performance in China last year was broadly in line with an overall 6% decline in passenger car sales due to the coronavirus, its Venucia brand fared particularly badly.
Established in 2012 to compete with local brands making cheap, gasoline-fueled cars, Venucia’s sales peaked in 2017 at 143,206 before sliding to 79,000 last year. The plan is to relaunch Venucia more as a brand for affordable EVs though it won’t be going fully electric for now, two sources said.
Carmakers in China need to make enough so-called New Energy Vehicles to win green-car credits which then offset negative points from their production of combustion engine vehicles.
Nissan looks set to fall short of credits so it would either have to buy them from rivals, or step up its EV production. As buying credits would eat into profitability, it is favouring the second strategy, one of the sources said.
Cheaper EVs made locally by global rivals such as General Motors through joint ventures have also proved to be a success story with customers, especially in big cities.
Launched in July, GM’s tiny Wuling MINI EV has already become China’s best selling electric vehicle, knocking Tesla’s Model 3 sedan off its perch.
“We don’t have enough electric cars in China. The new plan for Venucia is all about changing that more decisively,” said one of the sources familiar with Nissan’s plans.
($1 = 6.4767 Chinese yuan renminbi)
($1 = 103.8300 yen)
(Additional reporting by Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Editing by David Clarke)
Sunak to raise business tax to pay for COVID-19 support – The Sunday Times
(Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak is set to increase a tax on business to pay for an extension to COVID-19 support schemes in the budget next month, The Sunday Times reported https://bit.ly/3ujaBcU.
Sunak, in his speech on March 3, will announce he is increasing corporation tax from 19 pence in the pound and will outline a pathway where it rises to 23 pence in the pound by the time of the next general election, the report said. The move will raise an expected 12 billion pounds ($16.8 billion) a year, the report added.
According to the report, at least 1 pence is set to be added to the bill for business from this autumn, at a cost to business of 3 billion pounds, with further rises in subsequent years.
Allies of Sunak clarified he would not increase corporation tax higher than 23%.
These measures will be helpful in paying for an extension to the furlough scheme, VAT cuts and business support loans until at least August.
Unlike the 2010 Conservative-led government, which pursued spending cuts to rebalance the economy after the global financial crisis, Sunak is expected to defer most of the toughest decisions about how to pay for that support in his budget speech.
“The corporation tax hike will be higher than expected and the extension of the support schemes will be longer than most people expect,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.
Insiders indicated the stamp duty holiday on property purchases would also be extended in line with the other coronavirus support measures, the report said.
Britain’s economy had its biggest slump in 300 years in 2020, when it contracted by 10%, and will shrink by 4% in the first three months of 2021, the Bank of England predicts.
($1 = 0.7136 pounds)
(Reporting by Vishal Vivek in Bengaluru; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
Foxconn chairman says expects “limited impact” from chip shortage on clients
TAIPEI (Reuters) – The chairman of Apple Inc supplier Foxconn said on Saturday he expects his company and its clients will face only “limited impact” from a chip shortage that has rattled the global automotive and semiconductor industries.
“Since most of the customers we serve are large customers, they all have proper precautionary planning,” said Liu Young-way, chairman of the manufacturing conglomerate formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd
“Therefore, the impact on these large customers is there, but limited,” he told reporters.
Liu said he expected the company to do well in the first half of 2021, “especially as the pandemic is easing and demand is still being sustained.”
The global spread of COVID-19 has increased demand for laptops, gaming consoles, and other electronics. This caused chip manufacturers to reallocate capacity away from the automotive sector, which was expecting a steep downturn.
Now, car manufacturers such as Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co have cut output as chip capacity has shrunk.
Counterpoint Research says the shortage has extended to the smartphone sector, with application processors, display driver chips, and power management chips all facing a crunch.
However, the research firm predicts Apple will face a minimal impact, due to its large size and its suppliers’ tendency to prioritise it. Apple is Foxconn’s largest customer.
Foxconn is looking at other areas for growth, including in electric vehicles (EVs), and Liu said their EV development platform MIH now had 736 partner companies participating.
He expected it would have two or three models to show by the fourth quarter, though did not expect EVs to make an obvious contribution to company earnings until 2023.
Liu also said the company was still looking for semiconductor fab purchase opportunities in Southeast Asia after not winning a bid to take over a stake in Malaysia-based 8-inch foundry house Silterra.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Jeanny Kao; Writing by Josh Horwitz; Editing by William Mallard and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
EU seeks alliance with U.S. on climate change, tech rules
By Sabine Siebold and Kate Abnett
BERLIN (Reuters) – Europe and the United States should join forces in the fight against climate change and agree on a new framework for the digital market, limiting the power of big tech companies, European Union chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.
“I am sure: A shared transatlantic commitment to a net-zero emissions pathway by 2050 would make climate neutrality a new global benchmark,” the president of the European Commission said in a speech at the virtual Munich Security Conference on Friday.
“Together, we could create a digital economy rulebook that is valid worldwide: a set of rules based on our values, human rights and pluralism, inclusion and the protection of privacy.”
The EU has pledged to cut its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, while President Joe Biden has committed the United States to become a “net zero economy” by 2050.
Scientists say the world must reach net zero emissions by 2050 to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times and avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
The hope is that a transatlantic alliance could help persuade large emitters who have yet to commit to this timeline – including China, which is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060, and India.
“The United States is our natural partner for global leadership on climate change,” von der Leyen said.
She called the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol a turning point for the discussion on the impact social media has on democracies.
“Of course, imposing democratic limits on the uncontrolled power of big tech companies alone will not stop political violence,” von der Leyen said. “But it is an important step.”
She was referring to a draft set of rules unveiled in December which aims to rein in tech companies that control troves of data and online platforms relied on by thousands of companies and millions of Europeans for work and social interactions.
They show the European Commission’s frustration with its antitrust cases against the tech giants, notably Alphabet Inc’s Google, which critics say have not addressed the problem.
But they also risk inflaming tensions with Washington, already irked by Brussels’ attempts to tax U.S. tech firms more.
Von der Leyen said Facebook’s decision on a news blackout on Thursday in response to a forthcoming Australian law requiring it and Google to share revenue from news underscored the importance of a global approach to dealing with tech giants.
(Additional reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Robin Emmott and Nick Macfie; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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