+++ AUDI inaugurated on Friday a new plant in Mexico, where it will build the new Audi Q5 SUV. The factory near to the central city of Puebla will have a production capacity of 150,000 cars a year, the company said. The company will manufacture conventional gasoline-powered versions of the SUV, and will later roll out greener models. “We will bring electricity and electrified versions (of the Q5 SUV) here to Mexico”, Audi Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler said in a press briefing following the inauguration. “I’m talking about the plug-in hybrid in the first stage,” he said. Reuters reported in June that Audi, Volkswagen’s luxury car brand, would make an electric version of the Q5 at the plant. Earlier on Friday, Audi said in a statement that the new Mexican factory “will probably soon build an SUV that can drive in electric mode.” +++

+++ The FORD Mustang is set to gain a 10-speed automatic gearbox option when it is facelifted in 2018. The Mustang is currently available with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, and US models will also gain a more efficient 10-speed automatic option next year. Whether this gearbox will be available with both the 2.3-litre Ecoboost and naturally aspirated V8 engines or just the larger unit is not known yet. A possible outcome could be that the V8 gains this 10-speed option, while the smaller Ecoboost unit retains the 6-speed auto option. The new gearbox, which is also used in the Chevrolet Camaro, isn’t confirmed for Europe as of yet, but Ford’s global strategy has our sources convinced it will almost certainly be added to European cars, albeit several months later. US cars are already available with a naturally aspirated V6 engine, but this won’t be coming to Europe. New spy pictures of a development car for the 2018 model also show that the refreshed Mustang will receive exterior tweaks. Heavy cladding hides the changes, but it does at least show that the design updates will be focused on the car’s grille, front bumper, headlights and tail-lights. An inside source said that Ford will likely make an announcement on the facelifted Mustang at the Los Angeles motor show in November or possibly the Detroit motor show in January. The Mustang, which is available in both fastback and convertible body styles, has sold strongly since its launch in 2015. Ford says that current order waiting times have been pushed back to May as a result of strong demand. +++

+++ JAGUAR ’s first-ever SUV, the F-Pace, will soon get a very powerful variant that’ll adopt either the SVR or the R moniker. It will sweep the floor with the current F-Pace S and its 380 horsepower, as it probably use the 5.0-liter supercharged V8 sourced from the F-Type R, in which it is good for 550 horsepower. Other reports indicate towards the adoption of an updated V6 which could deliver as much as 500 HP. Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain – the Jaguar F-Pace SVR / R is on a mission to become an intimidating rival for the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 and the Porsche Macan Turbo. Besides growing more muscle, the potent SUV will also benefit from an improved chassis, with work focused on the suspension and steering. Bigger brakes are also needed and updated electronics should close the technical updates list, while setting it apart will be a beefed up body kit. +++

+++ RENAULT Sport is apparently edging towards a decision on whether or not to bring the Clio R.S. 16 into production. The concept car, which made its public debut back in May, caused headlines thanks to its adoption of the Megane RS275 Trophy R’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine. Although the French marque hasn’t signed the model off for production, executives told Car Advice during the Paris Auto Show that a decision is imminent. According to RenaultSport boss Patrice Ratti, “I’d like to have it. Every week I hope there is a decision. But there are still a few things to check and some approvals to wait for.” Last month, a prototype was spied testing alongside Alpine’s upcoming sports car, suggesting that a thumbs up for (a probably limited) production run is looking more likely than not. If it does indeed see the light of day, it could be offered in both left and right-hand drive configurations, ensuring it appeals to RS-loving RHD markets, too, like the UK and Australia. A source close to RenaultSport claims that the French firm’s performance division has ruled out any possible RS-branded SUV models. According to Motoring, RenaultSport was pondering creating a performance-focused variant of the Captur SUV last year. Fast forward 12 months and it has apparently changed its mind. A senior source “working closely with RenaultSport” told the publication that the project has been cancelled due to the fear of a potential lack of demand for such a model. “The RS SUV is cancelled, it’s finished,” he said. “It’s not going to happen. Sure, RenaultSport can make a really nice car, a car that handles maybe unlike any other SUV, but there’s a worry there is no demand for it. “Okay, you might say ‘But Audi make sporty SUVs and they sell’ and you would be right… But we need to remember, we’re not Audi and it is too risky to try,” he said. Additionally, it is reported that RenaultSport didn’t want to undermine the brand’s legacy which has been solely focused on making potent hot hatches since 1999. +++

+++ The styling of the all-new SKODA Yeti, set to hit roads in early 2018, has been signed off, design chief Jozef Kaban has confirmed to Autocar. Although Kaban wouldn’t be drawn on specifics, he said the Yeti’s current distinctive boxy style wouldn’t be abandoned completely. But he also acknowledged that the Kodiaq, Skoda’s new large SUV, would inform its look. Potential customers are expected to get their first chance to see the new Yeti in mid-2017, ahead of its on-sale date in early 2018. “It’s no secret we didn’t build the Kodiaq in isolation, and there are aspects of that car that can look good in every segment,” said Kaban. “There was an aspect to the Kodiaq brief that meant we needed to keep in mind that it is a car that is opening the door to a very attractive SUV world. So, of course, it can influence how other SUVs might look. I’d say that the next Yeti will look up to its bigger brother, rather than simply being cut from the same cloth. As with any family, the big brother will have influence, but each member of the family will have their own spectacular talents.” Kaban’s comments are thought to reference some of the Kodiaq’s most distinctive design touches, including the front and rear light elements, the front grille design and its front, rear and side profiles. The current Yeti has been on sale in a variety of updated forms since 2009 and has enjoyed increased sales in Europe every year since its launch. However, its sales growth has slowed in the past two years despite the segment booming, peaking at about 65,000 units in Europe — around a quarter of the number achieved by Nissan’s market-leading Qashqai. The new launch is likely to give Skoda the opportunity to move the Yeti onto the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, bringing with it economies of scale and greater access to the newest generation of engines and technology. As such, it will be powered by the latest petrol and diesel engines and have some advanced technology options from the Kodiaq, potentially including the option of limited autonomous functions to allow it to drive itself in traffic jams. The switch to the MQB platform also means the new Yeti will sit in the VW Group’s range alongside the Seat Ateca, Volkswagen Tiguan and Audi Q3, giving the firm its most convincing SUV line-up for the European market yet. +++

+++ Major automakers are expected on Monday to report their second straight decline in monthly UNITED STATES sales as heavy discounting has failed to bring demand up to last year’s robust September sales. Twenty-four economists polled by Thomson Reuters expect September sales of 17.3 million vehicles on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, below forecasts by J.D. Power-LMC Automotive of 17.68 million and TrueCar Inc at 17.4 million. The economists’ estimates ranged from declines of 0.8 percent to 2.5 percent. Most industry analysts see a decrease 2016 from last year’s record sales of nearly 17.5 million vehicles. As the market shrinks, automakers are hiking incentives to entice consumers to spend. September industry incentive spending is tracking at an average $3,923 per new vehicle sold, which would surpass the previous high of $3,753 from December 2008. Nissan said its September U.S. sales were 127,797 vehicles, up 5 percent. SUVs and pickup trucks registered an increase of 20 percent, while it sold 7 percent fewer cars that a year earlier. Nissan’s sales were much stronger than expected by six analysts polled by Reuters, who forecast a 0.4 percent decline. Eight analysts polled by Reuters expect U.S. sales declines of 2.3 percent for General Motors, 8.5 percent for Ford and 1.3 percent for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Six analysts polled by Reuters showed expectations that Toyota U.S. sales would show a rise 1.1 percent; Honda up 0.9 percent; and combined sibling companies Hyundai and Kia a 0.3 percent increase. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN confirmed late Friday it will make $1.21 billion in payments to 652 U.S. brand dealers as part of its $16.5 billion diesel emissions settlement to date. Volkswagen’s dealers will receive an average of $1.85 million each on average over 18 months under the settlement that was first announced in principle in August. Separately, the U.S. Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and lawyers for owners of 475,000 polluting diesel cars filed legal papers late Friday asking a federal judge to grant final approval to buy-back offers and diesel remediation efforts at an Oct. 18 court hearing. A filing by lawyers for company dealers says Volkswagen won’t sell any U.S. diesel vehicles for the 2016 and 2017 model years. The company, which has been barred from selling all diesel vehicles in the United States since late 2015, said earlier this month it is uncertain whether it will ever sell diesel vehicles in the United States again. As part of the settlement with Volkswagen brand dealers, the company will continue making some incentive payments to dealers, buy back diesel vehicles that dealers can’t sell and suspend capital improvements for two years that it wanted dealers to make. A federal judge must still approve the settlement. Volkswagen still faces billions of dollars in potential civil and potential criminal U.S. fines for violating emissions laws, as well as a possible costly buy-back of 85,000 vehicles equipped with 3.0 liter diesel engines if it can’t convince regulators that they can be fixed. The Justice Department said Friday in a court filing that regulators are still working on “a technical solution that reduces the emissions of these vehicles.” Reuters reported that Volkswagen has held talks in recent months with the Justice Department about settling the criminal investigation. “The United States will continue to vigorously pursue its claims for civil penalties to fully hold (Volkswagen) accountable,” the Justice Department filing said Friday. Volkswagen has admitted it installed improper software that deactivated pollution controls on more than 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide. In June, Volkswagen agreed buy back 475,0000 U.S. vehicles equipped with 2.0 liter engines at a cost of up to $10.03 billion or offer fixes if regulators approve. To date, about 311,000 owners have already registered to take part in the settlement and only about 3,300 owners have opted out. Volkswagen also agreed to spend up to $5.3 billion to address claims by federal regulators and 44 U.S. states. Volkswagen is still in talks with the Justice Department about winning approval for proposed fixes for the 2.0 vehicles. Under the Justice Department deal, Volkswagen will provide $2 billion over 10 years to fund programs to promote construction of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, development of zero-emission ride-sharing fleets and other efforts to boost sales of cars that do not burn petroleum. Volkswagen also agreed to put up $2.7 billion over three years to enable government and tribal agencies to replace old buses or to fund infrastructure to reduce diesel emissions and award states about $600 million. The Justice Department said it received nearly 1,200 comments on the proposed consent decree but said it was making only some minor mostly technical changes to the agreement. +++

+++ VOLVO ’s CEO confirmed that the automaker is on the rise with two 90-series models currently on sale and others due early next year. During a recent press event, Lex Kerssemakers said that US sales went up by 29% through August, which in turn is evidence that the company’s aggressive “revival” strategy was the right path to take. “We are on a turnaround in the US that started with the XC90,” said Kerssemakers during an interview. “We are at the end of the beginning,” added the Volvo exec, a beginning which took place with the launch of the all-new XC90. Volvo also sold no fewer than 21,760 units of their new full-size SUV through August, more than Audi have with the competing Q7. According to Kerssemakers, the new V90 Cross Country will account for an additional 5,000 to 6,000 units next year in the US, when the V90 and long-wheelbase S90L will also go on sale. In total, Volvo’s US sales should easily top 75,000 units this year alone said Kerssemakers, though the brand won’t hit 100,000 units before the year 2018 – a year in which the Scandinavian automaker will also roll out new 60-series vehicles, including the all-new XC60 and the S60, where the latter will be built at Volvo’s facility in Ridgeville, South Carolina. As reported by Autonews, not all Volvo models are doing as well as the XC90 at the moment. The current XC60 for one showed a US sales decline of 22%, reaching 12,770 vehicles through August of this year. +++

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