French automaker Renault said Tuesday that it would start building only electric vehicles for China’s huge passenger car market, dropping conventional internal combustion engines as well as its joint venture with local manufacturer Dongfeng. The strategy shift comes after years of sluggish sales in China, where Renault hoped its 50-50 venture with Dongfeng, announced in 2013 and focused on a factory in Wuhan, would allow it to make inroads quickly.But the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan forced the factory to shutter, just as Renault was wrestling with slowing growth worldwide and a cashflow squeeze that has prompted ratings agencies to cut its credit ratings to “junk” status. Topics : “We are opening a new chapter in China. We will concentrate on electric vehicles and light commercial vehicles, the two main drivers for future clean mobility,” Renault chairman for China operations, Francois Provost, said in a statement.The automaker will transfer its stake in the DRAC venture to Dongfeng, which will stop marketing the Renault brand. No financial details of the transaction were disclosed.To bolster its all-electric push, Renault said it will “reinforce” its eGT venture, also formed with Dongfeng as well as Renault’s Japanese alliance partner Nissan, to further development of its City K-ZE model, a low-cost crossover vehicle that Renault plans to launch in Europe next year.Renault said its other Chinese venture, Jiangxi Jiangling Group Electric Vehicle Co., aimed to have four core models for the Chinese market by 2022. It said 860,000 electric vehicles were sold in China last year, making it the largest market in the world — though they were still just a small fraction of the 25 million vehicles of all types bought. Renault sold just 180,000 cars, both traditional and electric, in China in 2019, down from 217,000 the previous year, and representing less than one percent of the overall market.It said electric vehicles are forecast to account for 25 percent of the Chinese market by the end of this decade.Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said this month that he hoped to get up to five billion euros ($5.5 billion) in loans guaranteed by the French state to help the automaker weather the coronavirus crisis, which has seen sales nearly grind to a halt in affected markets.
Researchers on Wednesday released some encouraging news about a possible treatment for coronavirus.They announced that the experimental drug remdesivir could help patients recover more quickly.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it is in discussions with Gilead Sciences, the maker of the drug, about making it available to patients.“As part of the FDA’s commitment to expediting the development and availability of potential COVID-19 treatments, the agency has been engaged in … discussions with Gilead Sciences regarding making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible, as appropriate,” FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said in statement.The government-funded study found that patients who took remdesivir recovered faster than patients who did not.Additionally, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is optimistic about those results.“The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” Fauci said at the White House during a meeting with President Trump on Wednesday. He added, “What [the clinical trial] has proven is that a drug can block this virus. This drug happens to be blocking an enzyme that the virus uses.”Fauci, who has been at the head of the agency for 36 years, compared the findings to the 1986 discovery that the anti-retroviral drug azidothymidine, or AZT, could suppress the HIV virus in patients with AIDS. That drug, which later became known as Retrovir, allowed for HIV patients to turn what was often considered a terminal illness into a manageable chronic health condition.Results from the preliminary trial show remdesivir improved recovery time for coronavirus patients from 15 to 11 days, similar to the effect Tamiflu has on flu.“Although a 31% improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100%, it is very important proof of concept,” Fauci added.“Results also suggested a survival benefit, with a mortality rate of 8.0% for the group receiving remdesivir versus 11.6% for the placebo group,” the NIAID said.There is no word on when the FDA may approve the drug for use.