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+++ BMW said it will offer all electric versions of its next generation X3 and Mini models, expanding its entries in the emerging electric luxury vehicle market. BMW confirmed a report earlier Friday by Bloomberg News. Autointernationaal.nl reported in September that top BMW executives were skipping Paris auto show events this week to resolve differences over electric vehicle strategy and chart a new electric product offensive, including a possible electric Mini. The electric Mini is expected to debut in about 3 years, company officials said. BMW faces increasing pressure from German rivals Mercedes and Volkswagen as well as Tesla of the United States, which have outlined aggressive plans to court affluent buyers – and respond to regulators – with new electric vehicles. BMW moved earlier than its German rivals to field innovative electric cars, launching the i3 battery-powered city car in 2013 with a lightweight body made of carbon fiber instead of steel or aluminum. However, the i3 and the plug-in hybrid i8 have been slow sellers. Meanwhile, Tesla is aiming for sales of 80,000 or more electric cars this year, and has said that nearly 400,000 would-be buyers have placed reservations for its Model 3 sedan. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has said he is targeting a July 2017 launch for the Model 3. Mercedes and Volkswagen used this week’s Paris auto show to promote plans to launch new waves of electric vehicles. Germany’s luxury car champions face a convergence of pressure to embrace electric vehicles from regulatory mandates and from Tesla’s success at winning affluent consumers to the idea of premium electric vehicles. In the United States, California and several other states have adopted escalating quotas for sales of electric vehicles. California’s goal is that 15 percent of vehicles sold in the state in 2025 would be battery-powered. Policymakers in China, the world’s largest vehicle market, and Europe are also calling for more electric vehicles. +++

+++ FORD will become less capital intensive and will be open to partnerships as it develops new businesses such as ride sharing and autonomous vehicles, Chairman Bill Ford said. “There will be partnerships”, Ford told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Detroit on the future of transportation. However, Ford said the company will not accept a role as a hardware supplier to technology giants. “If we are making the vehicle, that won’t be all we are doing,” he said. Since taking over as the automaker’s chairman in 1999, Ford has pushed the company, which was founded by his great-grandfather, to look beyond its traditional business of manufacturing and selling cars. Now, other industry executives are sounding similar themes and putting more capital into businesses beyond manufacturing vehicles, spurred by investors concerned that the traditional auto business could be derailed by competition from Silicon Valley technology giants such as Alphabet, Uber or Apple. Ford acknowledged the tension between investing in new, uncertain ventures such as an urban shuttle service and assuring that Ford’s existing business, which profits mainly from sales of large pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in North America, stays healthy. Ford earlier this year formed Ford Smart Mobility unit, which will develop ventures outside of the automaker’s core business and on Thursday the company named a chief executive for that unit. Ford executives have said transportation service businesses could have 20 percent margins, roughly double those in Ford’s manufacturing business. Bill Ford said not all the company’s ventures will succeed. “We’re going to go down some blind alleys,” he said. The goal is for Ford to “have more revenue streams that are less dependent on fixed-cost investment”, he said. Government policy should play a role, Ford said. “If they want to solve their issues of congestion, and getting people to where work is … they (government officials) need to be involved”, Ford said. Changes in regulation will be needed to clear the way for autonomous vehicles, he said. Cities will have to decide how to accommodate autonomous and electric vehicles. “Each city has a different ability to pay for solutions”, Ford said. +++

+++ The HONDA Jazz is the best candidate to feature the new Civic’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine in the future, according to Honda UK’s head of cars Phil Webb. Speaking about the new motor at the Paris Motor Show, he told Auto Express: “With all our engines we are looking to see where we can develop them. Customers will love it, so I think it will be something we’ll look to use elsewhere. You look at what we’ve got with Jazz and you never know what’s around the corner.” The HR-V crossover would be another potential candidate for the engine. In the new Civic, revealed at the Paris show, the engine produces 130 hp, and can be paired with either a 6-speed manual or CVT automatic gearbox. In the Jazz it would help the car compete with other three-cylinder turbo superminis such as the Ford Fiesta and Suzuki Baleno. Honda is also starting a push to get younger buyers into the Jazz, which has a somewhat conservative image in Britain – despite being seen in other markets as a trendy car. Webb told that there’s room to play with the car’s image: “Our age profile for the Jazz is decreasing, so there are opportunities for us there. At the moment there’s nothing planned for a sporty version but we’re always looking for what we can do to bring younger customers into our dealerships.” In the US, where the car has a more powerful 1.5-litre petrol, a Sport version was available with a hot hatch-style bodykit, but Autointernationaal.nl doesn’t expect that car to come to Europe, nor that engine. However, the new 1.0-litre turbocharged engine produces the same power, and could get some kind of warm-hatch branding. +++

+++ The new LAND ROVER Defender is already undergoing testing, according to Jaguar Land Rover chief Ralf Speth, who told Autocar he has driven prototypes of the model. He said the appearance of the car has been decided and looks “fantastic”. With design and engineering now at the stage of development testing on road, the new Defender is expected to arrive in 2018. It will be based on the aluminium architecture of the new Discovery, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport and could be made in the same plant, in Solihull, although Land Rover now has aluminium plants in several places. Speth confirmed it won’t be related to the Discovery Sport or Evoque models. He added that it will be “fairly different” from other models in actual body componentry, because a vehicle of this capability has to be very tough indeed. “There is no question of the new Defender just being an icon. We are working on an authentic successor to the old Defender. The architecture will contain a lot of elements that are different from other aluminium cars,” said Speth. He also admitted that “all our vehicles have to make money”. Land Rover has previously been reluctant to confirm its next Defender project, with the firm understood to be struggling to justify the cost of a model which is relatively low-volume, yet which needs to offer world-class off-roading abilities and general reliability, something its predecessor is famed for. +++

+++ MERCEDES ‘ first pick-up truck will be built at Spanish and Argentinian plants owned by the Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Speaking at the Paris motor show, Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Alliance, said: “The partnership between Daimler and the Alliance has grown and matured. By sharing development and production costs, we have been able to enter new segments and offer our customers more compelling vehicles with the latest technology and features at more competitive prices”. Mercedes’ pick-up, which is expected to be called the GLT, will benefit from this business system, and will be constructed alongside Renault’s Alaskan truck and its Nissan sister model, the NP300 Navara. Despite the shared underpinnings, Mercedes is understood to be focusing on giving its version of the pick-up a distinctive character. As such, it’ll get its own range of engines and its own suspension settings. Earlier pictures of a development model also suggest it’ll sit lower and be slightly wider than its Renault and Nissan siblings. Mercedes’ design language appears in the features, with the upswept appearance of the headlights visible in outline through the camouflage. The Mercedes pick-up will most likely have a different interior to that of the Nissan too; the test GLT’s dashboard and other interior components were also camouflaged. Mercedes has remained tight-lipped on the model’s specifications, but sources believe the introduction of a range-topping AMG version is almost inevitable. The more premium interior and upmarket badge of the Mercedes mean it’s likely that the GLT will be more expensive than its Navara counterpart. The GLT will therefore occupy the upper end of the pick-up segment, rivalling the Volkswagen Amarok. Previous reports have suggested that the GLT won’t reach North America but would be sold in Europe, Australia, South Africa and Latin America. +++

+++ NISSAN wants Britain to pledge compensation for any tax barriers resulting from its decision to leave the European Union, or the Japanese automaker could scrap a potential new investment in the country’s biggest car plant, its CEO said. Carlos Ghosn’s remarks indicate growing concern among global carmakers that Britain could be heading towards a so-called ‘hard Brexit’, which would leave them paying tariffs to export UK-assembled cars to EU markets. Nissan, which builds around a third of Britain’s total car output at its plant in Sunderland, northeast England, is due to decide early next year on where to build its next generaton Qashqai. “If I need to make an investment in the next few months and I can’t wait until the end of Brexit, then I have to make a deal with the UK government,” Ghosn told reporters at the Paris auto show. “You can have commitments of compensation in case you have something negative,” he said. “If there are tax barriers being established on cars, you have to have a commitment for carmakers who export to Europe that there is some kind of compensation.” Ghosn’s ultimatum echoes concerns from fellow Japanese carmaker Toyota which said the imposition of duties as part of a Brexit deal would make running its English plant “very, very tough.” Around 814,000 people in Britain depend of on the country’s overwhelmingly foreign-owned car industry for jobs, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders industry body. The June 23 Brexit vote took many investors and chief executives by surprise, triggering the deepest political and financial turmoil in Britain since World War Two and the biggest ever one-day fall in sterling against the dollar. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has tried to reassure major manufacturers that Britain is open for business and that it will take their views into account during the country’s negotiations on new trade relations with the EU. “The UK government … is talking with all the investors in the UK and saying: ‘OK, where are you concerned? What kind of problems do you have? What would make you stay?’ And we’ve been very clear,” Ghosn said. “They will take this into consideration, build a policy, and as a function of this policy we will make a decision.” Britain is expected to trigger formal divorce talks from the EU early next year, with negotiations expected to last 2 years. It is unclear whether it will have full access to EU markets when it leaves. The British government says it will get the right deal but some businesses, especially those that export most of their finished products to the continent, are worried they may have to pay tariffs to sell goods into EU markets once Britain leaves. Toyota’s executive vice president told Reuters on Thursday it would be tough for its UK plant if Britain failed to achieve an unfettered free trade deal with fellow European nations. “The challenge for all of us in the UK is to stay competitive because 85 percent of our production from the UK plant is exported to continental Europe,” Didier Leroy said. “If 85 percent has to pay trade duties it will be very, very tough but we want to stay committed to the UK business and our factory in the UK,” he said. Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier said it was important for Britain to bring clarity as quickly as possible. “For us it would be very helpful if it were not to become a nail-biter but rather if there were to be concrete decisions that one can really adjust to,” he told Reuters. Japan this month published a list of requests to Britain and the EU over Brexit, including maintaining the current duty-free trade between Britain and the EU and preventing any additional customs clearance burden on trade. +++

+++ TESLA Chief Executive Elon Musk told employees in an email to follow company policy of not offering discounts on new cars, responding to some investors’ concerns about the practice. In a Twitter message, Musk said “corrective action” had been taken on discounting of new vehicles, which “seems to be limited to a small number of cases.” Musk’s email to employees was included on Wednesday in a response to comments on a Reddit posting of someone questioning the discount policy. The Tesla boss said, “It is absolutely vital that we adhere to the no negotiation and no discount policy that has been true since we first started taking orders 10 years ago.” Musk said there could be discounts to floor models, vehicles that had been used for testing or those that were damaged in delivery. “However, there can never – and I mean never – be a discount on a new car coming out of the factory in pristine condition, where there is no underlying rationale,” he said. Musk was responding to a research note published on Tuesday by analyst Brad Erickson of Pacific Crest Securities that criticized Tesla for offering discounts on Model S sedan inventory cars, not those built-to-order for specific customers, to boost third-quarter sales. “We found Tesla has been employing a deeper discounting formula to drive sales of inventory models, with all offers expiring this Friday, the last day of the quarter,” Erikson wrote. Erickson said he “detected aggressive Model S discounting at U.S. sales centers to maximize third-quarter deliveries.” Deliveries for the quarter will be about 22,000, said Erickson, up 90 percent from a year earlier. Mike Ramsey, automotive analyst with Gartner, said discounts on Model S vehicles have been few, and that it was “inevitable” that the car, which debuted in 2012 and often sells at $100,000, would eventually be discounted. “There isn’t unlimited demand for $100,000 vehicles,” he said, although he noted that Musk is adamant about no routine discounts for both customers and employees. Musk said in the email that the current quarter “is likely to be the best ever in Tesla history.” Tesla has posted an operating loss in 14 consecutive quarters and negative cash flow since early 2014. It is facing a cash crunch at a time when it seeks to purchase its money-losing sister company, SolarCity. The average September U.S. new vehicle discount industrywide is about $3,900, the highest since December 2009, J.D. Power said this week. +++

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