Rumour Has It
Ghosn scandal rocks alliance
Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi ponder uncertain future after arrest of their charismatic leader
France moved this week to oust Carlos Ghosn from the helm of Renault after his arrest in Japan on financial misconduct allegations but sought to defend the car maker’s alliance with Nissan, which has been rocked by the scandal.
Ghosn, one of the best-known leaders in the car industry, was arrested on Monday after Nissan said he had engaged for years in wrongdoing, including personal use of company money and underreporting how much he was earning. The Japanese car maker plans to remove him as chair on Thursday.
“Carlos Ghosn is no longer in a position where he is capable of leading Renault,” French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told France Info radio, calling on Renault’s board to set up an interim management structure.
The French state owns 15% of Renault, which in turn holds a 43.4% stake in Nissan in a complex alliance forged by Ghosn over almost 20 years and which some analysts think could fall apart without the 64-year-old to steer it.
Close to bankruptcy when Renault bought its stake in 1999, Nissan has recovered to be the engine of an alliance that generates synergies for both companies and allows them to rival the likes of Volkswagen and Toyota on the global stage.
The shares of all three alliance members — Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi — fell sharply in the wake of Ghosn’s arrest.
Ghosn’s alleged improprieties raise questions over governance at the alliance, in which the three partners’ boards are all chaired by a single executive.
One Nissan-headquartered manager told Reuters he is concerned decision making at the alliance could slow due to the lack of a unifying figure. The manager, who declined to be identified, said he was also worried Ghosn’s departure could hit sales as fans of the charismatic leader abandon the company.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that Nissan paid billions of yen for the purchase and renovation of homes for Ghosn in Rio de Janeiro, Beirut, Paris and Amsterdam, citing unidentified sources. The properties had no business purpose and were not listed as benefits in filings to the Tokyo bourse, NHK said.
At the time of publication there has been no comment from Ghosn on the allegations. He was born in Brazil, of Lebanese descent, and is a French citizen.
Countdown to new Mazda 3
As we reported on the all-new Mazda a few weeks ago, just days before its official reveal at next week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, spy shots caught the car testing in Germany and draped in minimal camouflage, showing that styling is inspired by the Kai concept from the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show.
What the moles discovered is that the car features a nose and profile similar to the concept and that the main grille is larger than the current model’s, while it leans forward assertively. Thick C-pillars hark back to the MX-5 RC, while the rear window sill rakes up sharply for sharp and taut shape.
Although Mazda has been tight-lipped on the powertrain, it’s expected that the new range of cleaner Skyactiv-X engines with spark-controlled compression-ignition petrol engine will be found within the engine bays. If not, we will look to the official reveal to see what’s in store.
Wire Evoques hit London streets
Land Rover has marked the countdown to the world premiere of its new Range Rover Evoque later this week with a fleet of full-scale wire form sculptures inspired by the new model. Spread around some key London addresses, the British car maker is confident that the new generation will be equally popular and boast an improved array of changes and standards in design, capability and sustainability.
The wire cars were produced by Land Rover design teams responsible for shaping the new Evoque. They have used the 1:1 scale sculptures to showcase the sleek roofline and rising waistline of Range Rover’s new entry-level SUV.
Aston’s first SUV is a go
Aston Martin’s first SUV is firmly on its way. Officially confirmed as being named DBX, the company has shown the first development prototype being put through its paces on a decidedly testing Wales Rally stage.
The camouflaged test mule is set for more gruelling tests from the Arctic and the scorching deserts of the Middle East to high Alpine passes and the high-speed demands of the German autobahn and Nürburgring Nordschleife, says Aston Martin, in assuring potential customers that the DBX will be more than just a café cruiser.
The DBX is scheduled to be unveiled in the last quarter of 2019 and will be built at Aston Martin Lagonda’s St Athan manufacturing plant, which will ultimately become Aston’s “home of electrification” when the marque’s full-EV models enter production.
Kia to bare its soul
The all-new Kia Soul will make its world debut at next week’s Los Angeles Auto Show. Teaser images of the new car suggest it retains its recognisable box shape. It is earmarked for a 2019 launch.
Kia has hinted that the new Soul will be made available with several powertrain options, including turbocharged conventional engines and zero-emissions electric options. The new all-electric Kia Soul is set to go on sale in Europe in 2019 and you can expect the model to reach these shores sometime in the new year or early 2020.
Next TT to be a four door
Four years after it showed the TT Sportback concept at the Paris Motor Show, Audi’s attempt to add a sexier four-door sedan to the TT range is about to become reality.
It looks like it will happen at the expense of a fourth generation of the once jaw-dropping TT Coupe and Convertible.
The next time the world sees a TT badge on a new car, it will be very different from the coupe of today, with a practical four-door “coupe” arriving within two years.
Then R&D boss Ulrich Hackenberg floated the idea of a full, standalone TT range in 2014, including a four-door version and even a crossover SUV, but a year later Audi found itself fighting to keep its head above the rising dieselgate waters and the project was shelved.
The original TT made its production debut 20 years ago and its sales have fallen in the third generation as the market for two-door coupes has shrunk.
The next TT four-door will remain faithful to the original concept, though updated by a generation, sitting less than 300mm longer than the existing coupe.
It will sit on the MQB Evo architecture that will underpin the Golf VIII in 2019, stretching the wheelbase out by about 120mm over the current TT.
Electrification is high on the agenda, too, with mild-hybrid, 48V technology standard to save fuel and add low-down urge for both petrol and diesel versions, while there will also be EV and plug-in hybrid options.