Newsflash

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+++ The latest evidence that Peugeot and CITROEN are serious about coming back to North America comes with the company’s newest acquisition. Parent company PSA Group along with Montreal bank MKB purchased a stake in Communauto, a Canadian-based car-sharing service.

Communauto currently operates in seven Canadian cities and in Paris, France. For Communauto, this investment will help it to expand to more countries, and working with PSA will help them develop an electrified fleet. The latter part will likely be helped by PSA’s recent partnership with Bollore, a company that builds batteries and electric motors. As for how PSA benefits, it will provide them with greater expertise in mobility services, and working with Communauto will give them a foothold in the North American market. PSA’s CEO announced earlier this year that the company would try to return to North America market, and that car-sharing would be part of the plan. This partnership with Communauto is among the first concrete evidence I’ve seen that PSA is committed to this strategy. It will likely still be a while before we see cars in the US, though, as the company previously announced its plan will take place over 10 years. It also sounds like when the company’s cars do come to the US, Los Angeles will be the starting point. However, we’ll eventually see new French cars on this continent once again. Probably. +++

+++ One Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official has sent a mighty shot across the bow when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of international EMISSION TESTING PROCEDURES. In fact, this shot was clear across the Atlantic. And we probably have Volkswagen to thank for that. Christopher Grundler, the EPA’s director of transportation and air quality, testified earlier this week at a European Parliament committee that was formed to address violations involving diesel-vehicle emissions testing, Reuters says. In short, Grundler said European emissions-testing procedures were inadequate, and have been known to be substandard for a couple of decades. Some European regulators have proposed using real-world testing methods on new cars instead of just measuring their emissions in laboratories. Grundler wants more, though, suggesting that vehicles’ exhaust measurements should be taken after a few years on the road in addition to being measured when new. Grundler added that the EPA has fined automakers a collective $1 billion because of emissions-related shenanigans, suggesting that European regulators haven’t done enough to deter automakers from engaging in such subversive practices. The debate over emissions-testing effectiveness was largely spurred by Volkswagen and the automaker’s emissions-testing scandal that broke last September. Europe’s largest automaker equipped as many as 11 million of its vehicles with software designed to ensure that the diesels produce artificially low levels of emissions while being tested. As a result, some Volkswagen diesels emit nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels of as much as 7 times European limits once those cars are on the road. Volkswagen in late June reached a settlement with the EPA and other US regulators over its diesel-emissions practices that may cost the automaker as much as $15 billion. The US is home to about a half-million diesel vehicles equipped with the so-called “cheat” software. +++

+++ Total LEXUS hybrid sales were 28,782 over the January-August 2016 period. Lexus sells 7 hybrids in Europe: the CT 200h, IS 300h, RC 300h, GS300h/450h, NX 300h, RX 450h and LS 600h. An 8th model has been announced and will start sales in mid-2017: the striking new LC 500h coupe with the brand-new Multi-Stage Hybrid System. Lexus’ best sellers in Europe are the NX 300h (10,936 sales from January to August 2016), the new RX 450h (6,052) and the CT200h (5,519). +++

+++ PSA (PEUGEOT, Citroen, DS) said it plans to sell more than 150,000 Peugeot vehicles in Iran in the second half of this year as the French carmaker seeks to reclaim the leading position it once enjoyed in the country. Peugeot, the biggest-selling European automaker in pre-sanctions Iran, suspended sales in 2012 when an international boycott due to Iran’s nuclear program was extended to cars. Most sanctions were lifted in January. The French carmaker’s sales peaked at 458,000 vehicles before its withdrawal, nearly 30 percent of the Iranian market, but it now faces stiff competition from Chinese carmakers that have grabbed more business during the sanction years, as well as from western rivals such as Renault, who are also flocking back with newer models. Iran’s Minister for Industry Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh will visit PSA’s Velizy research center near Paris on Thursday to discuss cooperation with the carmaker, CEO Carlos Tavares told reporters at the Paris autoshow. “This is the kick-off for the implementation of the deals we have signed,” said Tavares, who will travel to Iran next week. Tavares wants to sell 300,000 Peugeot vehicles in Iran in 2017. The Paris-based carmaker in July struck a framework deal with Iranian counterpart SAIPA to invest 300 million euros in the development and production of three Citroen models through a new joint venture. The deal with SAIPA, Citroen’s partner since 1966, follows a joint venture deal inked in June between stablemate Peugeot and state-owned Iran Khodro. PSA’s smaller DS premium badge has also clinched a distribution agreement in the country. +++

+++ RAM has announced plans to set up shop in Europe. Fiat-Chrysler’s truck-building division traveled to last week’s IAA Hannover show in Germany to present the 1500 to European journalists and buyers for the first time. The truck on display featured a long list of Mopar accessories homologated in Europe, and a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine modified to run on either liquified petroleum gas (LPG) or gasoline. “This is the premier show in the world for the commercial segment and is the perfect entry point for Ram Truck to expand its reach to new markets. We are using this show to gather customer and media feedback. This is just the beginning and we’ll continue to unfold the Ram Truck brand plan on a regional basis,” said Ram boss Bob Hegbloom, according to Motor1. Precisely what the future holds for Ram’s European division is up in the air at this point. Pickup trucks are becoming increasingly popular on the other side of the pond, but roads are generally narrower than they are in the United States so the segment is largely limited to mid-size models like the Volkswagen Amarok, the Ford Ranger, and the Toyota Hilux. With that said, it’s unreasonable to expect the Ram 1500 will become a volume seller in Europe. A smaller model stands a much better chance at making in-roads in Europe; luckily, rumors indicate Ram is interested in returning to the mid-size segment after a long hiatus. +++

+++ SEAT has confirmed that the Arona, its new Ibiza-based compact crossover SUV, will arrive in the UK at the tail end of next year. The announcement came at the Paris motor show. Built to rival the likes of Nissan’s Juke and Renault’s Captur, the Arona will be built on the same A0 platform as the forthcoming new Ibiza, using the Volkswagen Group’s modular MQB architecture. Expect styling reminiscent of the Ateca, and more space inside for passengers than the Ibiza thanks to a higher roofline. The Arona is expected to arrive in the showrooms in the autumn of 2017 after a debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It is last of three new Seat models planned for the next year, after an update to the Leon and the launch of the fifth-generation Ibiza. The Arona is named after a city on the Spanish island of Tenerife, and also after a town on Lake Maggiore in the Piedmont area of Italy. It will be developed and built at Seat’s Martorell headquarters in Barcelona, Spain. +++

+++ Starting with the fifth-generation models, TOYOTA might do away with standard hybrid technology altogether in the Prius line-up. Instead, Toyota is considering making every future Prius a plug-in hybrid. The logic comes down to, if you want to push the envelope, you sometimes have to redefine what the envelope is. Shoichi Kaneko, assistant chief engineer for the Prius Prime, told AutoblogGreen that creating the next-generation Prius will be a tremendously difficult challenge. Because Toyota wants to lead the way in reducing (and eventually eliminating) fossil fuels from its vehicles, simply making a better standard hybrid powertrain might not be enough. “Ultimately, PHEV may be the way to go,” Kaneko said through an interpreter. Kaneko’s comments mirror those we’ve heard from Toyota before. Back in 2013, Toyota’s managing officer Satoshi Ogiso said that, “To beat your own record becomes very difficult,” when taking about improving the Prius’ fuel economy for each successive generation. Toyota needed to make many little improvements to get the fourth-generation Prius to the fuel economy levels it has and so to push the fifth-generation is incredibly hard. Putting a plug on every Prius would move the brand forward, keep it relevant, and meet the company’s objectives. Which brings us to the all-new Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. Kaneko said that Toyota poured a lot of resources into making the Prime the best Prius that it could be. While the company is confident that the new car will be a success, there’s a lot riding on its new double wish-bone rear suspension. If the Prime struggles, Kaneko said, then Toyota might have to reconsider its whole PHEV strategy. +++

+++ The facelifted VOLKSWAGEN e-Golf will make its debut in November, possibly at the LA motor show, ahead of going on sale early next year. The upgraded car, which was hinted at by VW boss Herbert Diess at the Paris motor show, will offer a zero-emissions driving range of up to 300 km. By comparison, the current e-Golf can travel up to 190 kilometers on a single charge. VW’s e-Golf will also come with the firm’s upgraded suite of infotainment and connectivity features, incorporating gesture control for the first time. Gesture controls were shown on the e-Golf Touch concept car at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. While the current e-Golf can only be had with a 115 hp electric motor, the facelifted model will also be offered with a new 136 hp motor – allowing for greater performance. Electric mobility is a big subject for VW at this year’s Paris show, where the manufacturer has also unveiled the ID concept car. The all-electric model will reach production in 2020 and can travel up to 600 kilometers on a single charge. The e-Golf should arrive in showrooms at around the same time as the facelifted Golf hatchback. +++

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