Aston Martin Is Praying For End Of Coronavirus

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I drag Aston Martin for a stupid thing its boss said, Japan wants Carlos Ghosn to return and answer for his alleged crimes, and Honda’s CR-V Hybrid comes out swinging for the RAV4 Hybrid. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.

1st Gear: Pray For The Virus To Be Over Because Profits

As the coronavirus outbreak rampages on, it isn’t just people who are suffering. Oh, no. The brands and their profits are suffering, too. Won’t the virus just let up so the precious brands can stay in the black?? Jesus.

Chinese demand for cars is already down and there’s still no end in sight. This means Aston Martin’s sales will slide for the first half of this year—and the DBX SUV the company is betting big will sell well in China isn’t even out yet. But once DBX deliveries start, Aston hopes it’ll be able to “double output,” reports Bloomberg and via Automotive News.


In a phone interview, Aston CEO Andy Palmer revealed his hopes and prayers the virus will be done fucking up the market by the time his car comes out. “China is an important region for us. The release into China is quite late in the year, so we’ll hope and pray that the virus is done by then.”

Same, bud. Totally same. Hope that pesky virus gets bored of killing people so they can go back to buying cars. Viruses, as we’ve freshly observed, have little respect for profits, revenue, or borders. The best you and I normal people can do is stay safe.

Aston has had a rocky couple of years. The company went public in Oct. 2018. Since then we’ve reported a 75-percent nosedive in shares and a $120 million in losses in the first nine months of 2019. When we last left off, the British automaker was valued at merely a quarter of what it was when it went public. Brexit issues, obviously, haven’t helped, either.


So, like any automaker, Aston is hoping—no, praying—its SUV sells. It can’t really afford for it not to.

2nd Gear: Get Back Here

Carlos Ghosn, ex-chairman of Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, accused of financial misconduct, and alleged escapee via a musical instrument case, should go back to Japan, according to the Japanese deputy justice minister.


Hiroyuki Yoshiie is leaving Tokyo tomorrow to meet with Lebanon’s Justice Minister Marie Claude Najm on Monday, reports Reuters. Yoshiie will attempt to “make the case that fugitive ex-Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn should stand trial in Japan.”

Nissan released a statement that echoed the sentiment. “It is Nissan’s hope that Ghosn will return to Japan so that all the facts can be properly established under Japan’s judicial system.”


Ghosn fled Japan, where he was being held, and arrived in Beirut, Lebanon. The country doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Japan. Ghosn denies the charges of financial crimes. Instead, he’s been tweeting.

Last night, Ghosn tweeted a petition for the release of former Nissan exec and colleague Greg Kelly, whom Reuters reports was arrested at the same time.


“My prayers go to Greg Kelly and his family who remain trapped by the Japanese Hostage Justice System,” Ghosn wrote. “16 months after his arrest in Japan, Greg is waiting for a trial date. Greg deserves support from his government. Please join me in signing this petition.”


Really doubling down! Or is it tripling down? Quadrupling down? I’ve lost count at this point.

3rd Gear: Battle Of The Crossovers

In September of last year, Honda unveiled the automaker’s very first electrified SUV of any kind, the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid. The car will hit dealerships on March 1—and its price should make the Toyota RAV4 hybrid very nervous.


The hybrid CR-V will start at $28,870 (which includes the $1,120 destination charge), according to a Honda press release. That, as Automotive News notes, puts the car at $600 less than the starting price of the hybrid RAV4.


The outlet also points out, “Last year, the RAV4, available in gasoline and hybrid forms, was the No. 4 selling nameplate in the U.S., while the CR-V, available in gasoline only, was No. 5.” No doubt here that Honda is hoping to close that gap with the introduction of the hybrid CR-V.

The CR-V’s powertrain includes a two-motor hybrid system that’s related to the Honda Accord Hybrid’s, but with advancements to the battery. That results in “more time in EV mode than previous Honda hybrids” and a 40 mpg EPA city fuel economy rating. The gasoline motor is a 2.0-liter DOHC that, when combined with the electric motor, produces a total system output of 212 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque.


The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid produces 219 combined HP and has an EPA-estimated city fuel economy of 41 mpg, according to a spec sheet. So, in a power- and efficiency-sense, the two cars compare very closely. What it really comes down to is price and which makes you happier.

As for me? I’m really excited for the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime.


4th Gear: Hyundai Halts For Coronavirus

Today, after a worker tested positive for coronavirus, Hyundai shut down a factory in South Korea, according to Reuters. The move will disturb production of the Hyundai Palisade.

In a news release, Hyundai said, “The company has also placed colleagues who came in close contact with the infected employee in self-quarantine and taken steps to have them tested for possible infection.”


Hyundai also noted factory disinfecting efforts are underway, but didn’t mention when production would start back up again.

Reuters provides some background information in regard to the factory:

Hyundai operates five car factories in Ulsan, which has an annual production capacity of 1.4 million vehicles, or nearly 30% of Hyundai’s global production. Hyundai employs 34,000 workers there in the world’s biggest car complex.

The factory that was shut down produces sport utility vehicles such as the Palisade, Tucson, Santa Fe and Genesis GV80.


Here’s to hoping nobody else caught the virus.

5th Gear: Dieselgate Forever

Did you think Dieselgate was over? Hah! NOPE. Here’s your latest update.

Yesterday, German prosecutors searched three offices and three private apartments belonging to Porsche employees over an investigation into their suspected involvement in the emissions scandal, the Germany paper Der Spiegel reported, according to Reuters.


From the (very short) story:

Prosecutors have widened their probe and are now investigating seven current and former Porsche employees, up from four employees, Der Spiegel said.

Porsche had no immediate comment.

This concludes your Dieselgate update for today.

Reverse: Happy Birthday!

Mario Andretti was born on Feb. 28, 1940. A former racing driver, Andretti is one of two drivers who has won NASCAR, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship, and Formula One races. He also came to our party, once.


Neutral: RAV4 Hybrid Or CR-V Hybrid?

You pick!