+++ In Europe, combined monthly sales of BMW and Mini totalled 79,815 in July, up 5.6% compared with the same month last year. Year-to-date sales in Europe are up 10.5% with a total of 622,664 vehicles delivered.

Almost all markets in the region have contributed to this strong growth with the three biggest markets, Germany (182,390 / +7.8%), the UK (136,914 / +9.6%) and France (49,755/ +13.0%) playing a significant role. Sales of BMW and Mini vehicles in Asia also saw strong growth last month with a total of 56,819 vehicles delivered to customers in July (+7.9%). In the first 7 months of the year, a total of 417,730 BMW and Mini vehicles were sold in Asia, an increase of 7.4% compared with the same period last year. The region’s biggest market, China, achieved an 8.5% increase compared with the first 7 months of last year, with a total of 287,753 vehicles sold. Year-to-date sales in Japan (41,750 / +8.2%) and South Korea (34,569 / +9.9%) also show strong growth. Sales of BMW and Mini in the Americas decreased 3.9% in July compared with the same month last year, with a total of 38,097 vehicles delivered to customers in the region. Year-to-date sales of BMW and Mini vehicles in the region total 260,621, which is down 7.4% compared with the same period last year. While sales in Canada (25,524 / +7.3%) and Mexico (18,308 / +9.1%) are up, the increasingly competitive market in the USA has seen year-to-date deliveries decrease 9.5% with a total of 209,131 BMW and Mini’s delivered to customers. +++

+++ The next-generation FORD Fiesta will build on the current car’s success with more mature looks and a higher-quality cabin. The design and mechanical layout of the seventh-generation, due to be unveiled at the end of this year, has been heavily influenced by 2 familiar small cars. One is the new budget Ka+, which promotes the Ka nameplate from the A-segment to the B-segment and frees the new Fiesta to move to a ‘mainstream premium’ position in Ford marketing parlance. The other influencer is the current, sixth-generation Fiesta, which is still setting records after 7 years on sale. Its enduring popularity and great road ability reassure Ford that its customers will be happy with an evolutionary car. “The current Fiesta has been so successful”, one Ford insider told Autocar, “that it has earned the right to evolve”. Like the current car, the new Fiesta will be based on Ford’s Global B platform, also used in a simpler form for the Ka+. That means the new Fiesta will be very similar in overall length and wheelbase to the existing car, although there is talk of slightly wider tracks. Clues to chassis spec came to life with the current Fiesta ST, when suspension engineers decided the twist beam rear suspension needed retooling to preserve handling balance and improve ride comfort. But the investment needed was not forthcoming until Ford committed to using familiar but improved components in the next-generation car. So the new Fiesta will have a developed version of the outgoing model’s platform, complete with tuned but fundamentally unaltered MacPherson strut front suspension, rack and pinion steering and a twist beam rear end. Although manufacturers such as Renault have dropped three-doors from their supermini ranges, the new Fiesta will continue in three-door and five-door versions. Scoop photographs show a car with exterior styling reminiscent of the outgoing model’s but with a wider and more grown-up look brought by extra width, a lower bonnet, thinner headlights and horizontal tail-lights to replace the current vertical affairs. Ford hopes no current owner will be put off by the new look. The cabin styling, especially the fascia, will be simpler and focus on making the car more spacious and airy; not least because the current car’s looming dashboard was one of its few unpopular features. The presence of the Ka+ in the B-segment’s lower reaches will also allow interior quality and materials to be enhanced, to compete with the likes of Volkswagen. The Fiesta’s gentle move upmarket should allow it to major, at least for petrol engine buyers, on the 1.0-litre 3-cylinder Ecoboost engine, now available in 3 power levels, with the 1.5 TDCi four-cylinder unit as diesel support. The 6-speed dual-clutch Powershift auto will continue until multispeed ‘hydraulic’ autos arrive in 2 or 3 years’ time. Ford is also certain to continue with its class-beating Fiesta ST. The clear intention is to avoid ‘frightening the horses’ with its new Fiesta when the car goes on sale in the first half of next year, with current models accounting for one-third of European Ford sales. But the company also wants to offer something new, with greater concentration on quality and better materials. +++

+++ Production of the all-newINFINITI Q60 sports coupe has started at the company’s manufacturing facility in Tochigi Prefecture. Designed and engineered to perform, the Q60 offers a compelling combination of daring design, exhilarating performance and dynamics, Nissan said. The Tochigi plant has been producing Infiniti vehicles since the brand was launched in 1989. The launch of the new Infiniti Q60 heralds the start of a new chapter in the plant’s history. To meet the requirements of the new model, a series of upgrades have been made to the production line, and innovative manufacturing processes have been introduced. Industry-leading advances in manufacturing enabled Infiniti designers to draw the sharp angles and body lines that are characteristic of the Q60. The stamping and assembly lines feature key improvements, notably through the adoption of a unique deep-body stamping technology and new tooling machinery for the model’s unique resin trunk lid. To further enhance quality control, a new lighting system for the inspection process and a camera and video system on the assembly line have been introduced. Manufacturing, design and engineering teams worked very closely together to ensure that the unique trunk lid feature for Q60 can be realized with the highest quality at the Tochigi plant. In a world’s first application, this trunk lid is a hybrid combination of a resin skin on a steel frame. It gives Infiniti designers more freedom to develop shapes that can then be built in a single part. One major enhancement to the Tochigi facility is a new dedicated paint booth, which has been installed solely to allow production of Q60’s new “Dynamic Sandstone Red” paint finish. The glossy, deep red finish requires a new painting set-up, using a combination of machinery and manual processes developed by InfinitiÂ’s most senior coating experts. The new paint booth enables workers in the Tochigi paint shop to more finely control paint thickness and quality, and the newly-developed “Dynamic Sandstone Red” paint process is the result of testing several hundred variations of paint formulations and application methods. +++

+++ The auto industry in JAPAN is going back to tried-and-tested plays to ease the pain of yen strength as Toyota’s prediction for a 37 percent plunge in earnings threatens to end the era of record profits. A resurgent yen wiped almost half a trillion yen ($5 billion) off the operating income of Japan’s 7 automakers in the first quarter, with Toyota alone taking a ¥235 billion hit. The industry, which accounts for about 1 in 10 jobs in Japan, is responding by cutting costs, dialing back expenses and turning to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for help. Japan’s automaker association asked Abe’s reshuffled Cabinet this week to take action in response to seesawing foreign exchange markets, Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and slowdowns in emerging markets. Without the tailwinds of a weak yen boosting export profits, cost-cutting measures by Toyota such as shutting down elevators, bathroom hand driers and air conditioners may prove futile. “Carmakers including Toyota, Nissan and Honda are the driving force for Japan’s GDP”, Koji Endo, a Tokyo-based analyst with SBI Securities, said by phone. “The Japanese economy depends on the car industry a lot, so they have strong bargaining power with the Abe administration”. On Thursday, Toyota lowered its fiscal-year profit forecast to ¥1.45 trillion for the 12 months ending in March, down from the ¥1.5 trillion projection made in May. The strong yen is cutting earnings from vehicles sold outside Japan, and U.S. consumers are buying fewer Camrys, Corollas and Priuses as cheap gasoline fuels greater demand for trucks. With its 4-year reign as the world’s top-selling automaker at risk of being ended by scandal-tarred Volkswagen, Toyota is now forecasting ¥375 billion in cost-cutting efforts this fiscal year. It also pared back projections for capital expenditure and research and development spending, by ¥10 billion each. “We had an emergency profit improvement activity launched internally in Toyota and the results are being felt steadily”, Managing Officer Tetsuya Otake said of the company’s reaction to the British exit referendum. “Things are moving so rapidly every day. They got so strong”. Toyota’s souring outlook for profit this year is almost entirely due to changes in foreign-exchange rates, which the company now estimates will slash operating income by ¥1.12 trillion. That’s more than what Honda and Subaru-owner Fuji Heavy Industries earned in the last fiscal year combined. The headwinds Toyota and its peers are feeling from the stronger yen help explain the message delivered to Abe’s new Cabinet by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association on Wednesday. Chairman Hiroto Saikawa highlighted global economic uncertainty spurred by the British exit decision and the “rapid fluctuations in the foreign exchange market”. “JAMA requests not only that the new Cabinet take the initiatives necessary to prevent those risks from negatively impacting Japan’s economy, but also that it implement the economic measures” that “will facilitate investments in Japan’s future”, wrote Saikawa, who’s also Nissan’s vice chairman and chief competitive officer. Like Toyota, Honda hasn’t stood pat waiting for Abe to act. Japan’s third-largest automaker said cost reductions contributed ¥45.7 billion to operating profit in the first quarter. The manufacturer plans to cut capital expenditure by 14 percent and research and development spending by more than 4 percent this fiscal year. “Since no one can predict which direction currency rates will move, automakers will have to be much more conservative than before”, Ken Miyao, an analyst with Tokyo-based market researcher Carnorama, said by phone. +++

+++ A group of lawyers asked by MITSUBISHI Motors to investigate mileage cheating at the Japanese automaker found a divided company that had set unrealistic goals, to which employees simply couldn’t say “No”. The Tokyo-based automaker acknowledged in April it had systematically falsified mileage data on its eK wagon and eK Space minicars, also produced for Nissan.The investigative panel said Tuesday such data falsifying went on for 25 years, and the wrongdoing was systematic, extensive and escalated with time. The probe, which included interviews with more than 150 people, found the company lacked a system for checking on the team assigned to improve mileage. The company said employees did not feel compelled to respect the law or fix the wrongdoing and each department was concerned only with its own performance. “There was utterly no consciousness that the company must work as one to make and sell cars”, the panel’s 37-page report said. The government earlier found Mitsubishi had overstated mileage on its vehicles by up to 16 percent. Mitsubishi struggled for years to win back consumer trust after an auto defects scandal in the early 2000s over cover-ups of problems such as failing brakes, faulty clutches and fuel tanks prone to falling off dating back to the 1970s. Panel members, speaking at a news conference at the company’s Tokyo headquarters, acknowledged their recommendations might not be followed, just as with past scandals. Shortly after the problems were made public, Nissan announced it was taking a 34 percent stake in Mitsubishi to help its turn-around. The scandal surfaced after Nissan, which sold Mitsubishi minicars under its own brand, did its own tests and pointed out inconsistencies in data. Mitsubishi has said it didn’t lie about mileage on models sold overseas. The company is offering a cash rebate to customers in Japan who bought the vehicles for which it had reported inflated mileage, to make up for the extra gas. Mitsubishi Chairman Osamu Masuko, who helped engineer the Nissan deal, reiterated an apology and promised the company will penalize managers found responsible for the cheating. “We hope this will mark a new beginning for us as a manufacturer”, he told reporters after the panel’s findings were released. +++

+++ The chief executive of Japanese carmaker NISSAN said future investment decisions about Britain’s biggest car plant will depend on the terms of a Brexit deal struck with the European Union on customs, trade and free movement of goods. Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the north of England built nearly one in three of Britain’s 1.6 million cars last year and has been lauded as one of Europe’s most efficient facilities, where it builds the popular Qashqai. But most of the site’s output is exported to Europe and Renault-Nissan Alliance Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn told the BBC that Nissan and other companies were waiting to see the outcome of Brexit talks before making new investment decisions. “The question is what’s going to happen in terms of customs, what’s going to happen in terms of trade, what’s going to happen in terms of circulation, particularly of the products”, he said. “All of these are very sensitive elements that are going to determine, how and how much we are going to invest in the UK particularly for the European market”. Business surveys and manufacturing data have all shown faltering confidence in the British economy in the wake of the June 23 referendum. The Bank of England cut rates and unleashed billions of stimulus on Thursday. Nissan has invested around 4 billion pounds in its British manufacturing base but many firms are now closely watching formal talks on Britain’s divorce terms from the European Union, which are unlikely to start until next year. Investment decisions in the car industry often occur several years before a model rolls off a production line meaning any delay in the coming months could hit output and jobs in years to come. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signed a deal in 1984 to bring Nissan to the deprived north of England beginning a renaissance in the British car industry, which is forecast to hit record production levels by the end of the decade. But over 61 percent of voters backed Brexit in Sunderland, spurred on by concerns around immigration, ignoring their bosses who made the business case for remaining in the 28-member bloc. Ghosn said Sunderland was a “European plant” but that he was confident that British and European politicians would strike an amicable trade deal. “We are reasonably optimistic that at the end of the day common sense is going to prevail from both sides”, he said. +++

+++ TOYOTA’s much ballyhooed plug-in hybrid Prius Prime is being pushed back by several months, with the new sales date set for late this year or early next year. Toyota said Wednesday the launch dates were being delayed for Japan, but not for the U.S. and Europe because they were set to follow Japan from the start. It was unclear what the dates were for any of the regions. “We decided we want to take our time and more care before starting mass manufacturing”, said company spokeswoman Kayo Doi. She would not give other details. Toyota leads the industry in hybrids, which switch between a gas engine and an electric motor. It has sold 9 million hybrid vehicles since 1997, but only about 75,000 plug-ins, which charge from a regular household plug and switch to operating as hybrids only when batteries run low. Prius Prime was shown for the first time at the New York International Auto Show in March. Although launch delays are not unheard of, Toyota tends to be conservative about dates and other promises to the public. Doi denied any parts-supply shortages were behind the delay, and said it was just about taking more time than expected to produce a better product for customers. The first Toyota plug-in was launched in 2012, after limited leasing from 2009. The company is promising a whopping mileage equivalent to 120 miles per gallon, calculated including how far the vehicle goes as an electric car, without a drop of gas, for Prius Prime called Prius PHV in Japan. Prius Prime’s cruise range as an electric vehicle is 22 miles (35 kilometers), or long enough for about half of American commuters. That rises to about 80 percent for people who can plug in during work, according to Toyota. Other major automakers offer plug-ins, including BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo, as well as electric cars from Tesla and Nissan. A price for Prius Prime has not yet been announced. The plug-in battery is an expensive component and falling oil prices have been eroding the appeal of hybrids and plug-ins. +++

+++ Influential U.S. magazine Consumer Reports urged the Justice Department to hike compensation to 475,000 owners of polluting VOLKSWAGEN diesel vehicles and allow owners who opt for a fix to reconsider. In comments filed on Friday on the proposed agreement, the magazine said the buyback offer undervalues retail prices and urged the use of values that “would lead to buyback offers for consumers that would be at least several hundred dollars higher”. Consumer Reports also wants owners who opt for a fix to be able to change their mind and instead sell the car back to Volkswagen because the car may perform differently once a fix is performed. The public comment period for the Volkswagen consent decrees ends on Friday. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer granted preliminary approval on July 26 to the settlement, which includes the largest-ever U.S. automotive buyback offer, and set an Oct. 18 hearing to grant final approval. Volkswagen agreed to spend up to $10.033 billion on the buyback for 2.0 liter vehicles that emit up to 40 times legally allowable pollution. It has agreed to separate settlements worth $5.3 billion to offset excess polluting, boost clean vehicles and compensate more than 40 U.S. states. Volkswagen and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not immediately comment. Consumer Reports said it generally supported the settlement, but urged “regulators to wield robust oversight of Volkswagen to ensure that the company implements its recall, investment, and mitigation programs appropriately” and it called on “federal and state officials to assess tough civil penalties and any appropriate criminal penalties against the company in order to hold it fully accountable”. VW still faces fines for violating the U.S. Clean Air Act and a potential consent decree that would subject it to oversight by an independent monitor, and must resolve the fate of 85,000 3.0 liter polluting vehicles. It also faces new civil suits from New York, Maryland and Massachusetts for violating state environmental laws as well as an ongoing Justice Department criminal investigation. +++

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