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+++ This much we know: SUVs and crossovers sell like hotcakes. The body style has become such a juggernaut that for the first time in recorded history, sport utes beat out sedans this year to score the biggest slice of the luxury pie. Love ’em or hate ’em, SUVs are here to stay, and carmakers are investing more than ever in the segment. SUVs also played a bigger role than you might think in making AUDI relevant in the US, and based on what I learned during a sit-down with Audi of America president Scott Keogh at the Paris Motor Show, their role is only going to continue to grow at the automaker. Last year, the brand sold 202,202 cars in the States, capping off 60 consecutive months of record sales. But it’s not enough to focus on traditional SUVs like the Q5, which was launched on the heels of the global economic meltdown in a tiny small segment of around 160,000 vehicles and has since ballooned to over 400,000 units. The Q5 has scored 80 percent of its buyers from conquest, and a new plant in Puebla, Mexico, promises to churn even more units to the US and the world. Still, tackling the future head-on can be like wrestling an eel – an elusive, almost impossible-to-execute challenge – and Audi is betting a huge part of that success will be the production version of the E-Tron Quattro Concept that debuted last year in Frankfurt. Internally referred to as the C Bev, this battery-powered SUV claims a 500 kilometer range, and might as well be nicknamed the Tesla Model X Killer. “If you look at where this car migrated from”, Keogh says, “it started as a European-ish city car, and then it migrated into a sedan-ish sportback-y type thing, and then we pushed very aggressively to make it an SUV”. Keogh says the vehicle will hit showrooms “after 2018”. The SUV layout naturally lends itself to batteries, but it also boils down to a simple bureaucratic advantage: “We get government CO2 and fuel economy credits for volume”, says Keogh. “It’s not just enough for a car to be there, it’s got to be a car that a lot of people want to buy”. Sized between a Q5 and a Q7, the E-Tron Quattro resides in a target-rich environment, a 600,000 – 700,000 unit segment. Add Audi’s goals of electrifying 25 percent of its lineup by 2025, and a high volume, medium/large SUV simply makes sense. So while coupes, cabriolets, and sports cars attract warm bodies to dealerships, it might be a battery-powered SUV that helps take Audi – and the auto industry at large – to the next level. +++

+++ A rapid 600 hp-plus BMW M8 performance flagship is set to crown a resurrected 8 Series model line-up by the end of the decade. The upmarket coupé is tentatively scheduled to make its world debut during the second half of 2019 and will rival the Aston Martin Rapide, Bentley Continental GT and Mercedes-AMG S 63 Coupé in a move aimed at projecting BMW back into the upper echelons of the performance car arena. The M8 will be propelled by a new twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine and offer buyers the choice of rear-wheel drive or an optional xDrive four-wheel drive set-up. All-wheel drive is expected to provide the aluminium and carbonfibre-intensive coupé with off-the-line traction to match the keenest of its rivals in standing-start acceleration. Insiders suggest its 0-100 km/h time will be “well under 4.0sec”. The decision to push ahead with the M8 comes after an earlier aborted attempt at mating the original 8 Series with BMW M’s performance know-how. In 1990 the German car maker produced a one-off prototype of the 8 Series fitted with a 600 hp naturally aspirated 6.0-litre V12 engine, a bespoke 6.1-litre version of which was used to power the McLaren F1 supercar. However, plans for a production M8 were dropped because of the high cost of development and concerns about the demand for such an extreme car. Instead, BMW pushed ahead with the 850 CSi, which was launched in 1992 and was powered by a 380 hp 5.4-litre V12. The reborn 8 Series is planned to indirectly replace the existing 6 Series, the coupé version of which is set to end production at BMW’s Dingolfing plant in Germany in early 2018 to make way for its 8 Series successor. A fabric-roofed convertible version of the new 8 Series will follow in 2019, shortly before the new M8, according to BMW sources familiar with the company’s model plans. Stretching to well over 5000mm in length, the big 2+2 receives a distinctive cab-back profile with a long, sweeping bonnet, large wheel houses, a heavily curved roofline, frameless doors, long, flowing C-pillars, prominent rear haunches, a shallow, fixed rear screen and a short bootlid. The basis for the new flagship model is the versatile CLAR (cluster architecture) platform used by the current 7 Series and set to be adopted on upcoming successor models to the 5, 4, 3 and 2 Series. As with the latest 7 Series, it will feature a mix of materials, including aluminium, magnesium, high-strength steel and carbonfibre, in a bid to provide the 8 Series with both the highest level of rigidity and lowest kerb weight in its class. Trademark applications recently lodged by BMW with intellectual property regulators provide a hint to the engines being readied for the 8 Series. In March BMW moved to protect a number of possible model designations, including 825, 830, 850, 860 and M850. More recently, it also applied to register the trademark M8. Among the petrol engines earmarked for the standard 8 Series are a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six in the 840i and a new turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 in the 850i. The V8 will provide the basis for the powerplant used by the M8 and M850 M Performance. They will be supported by a turbocharged 6.6-litre V12 in the 860i. Also planned is an 840e plug-in hybrid using the same petrol-electric powertrain as the recently introduced 740e iPerformance. +++

+++ Advanced drivetrain technology is being developed by automotive engineering firm GKN to enable future ELECTRIC cars to mix extreme performance with agility and excellent traction. The British company, which has contributed to the drive systems of models such as the BMW i8, Porsche 918 Spyder and Ford Focus RS, expects its future technology to include inner-wheel electric motors, allowing for continuous control of torque to each wheel. “Right now, the technology is not there for us to produce these compact electric drivetrains in sports cars, where big power is needed”, said Theo Gassman, GKN’s director of advanced engineering and eDrive systems. “But for city cars, where the power output of each motor has to be only 20 kW or 30 kW, maybe it’s not so far away”. Gassman said this individual motor layout allows for full torque vectoring, improving agility and traction control. It could also enable the use of smaller brakes because each motor can turn into a high-drag generator that can slow the car as it regenerates energy. “In city cars, when we move the motors into the wheels, it also means we can use a skateboard architecture layout, with no transmission tunnel or space needed for a combustion engine”, said Gassman. “It provides lots of opportunity for cabin space”. Because of the larger motors needed to power them, performance-biased electric models are likely to continue to use centrally mounted motor modules – such as GKN’s eAxle – for many more years. “With this set-up, you can have two eAxle modules in one car, one powering each end”, said Gassman. “The BMW i8 has one in its front, but with two the torque levels are much bigger”. Tesla employs this kind of layout with its most potent all-wheel-drive Model Ss. But Gassman believes GKN’s drive modules are the best in the world. He suggested that if two were integrated into a new sports car, the performance potential would be unrivalled. “We’re working towards becoming a complete driveline supplier, so we supply everything from the power electric motor to the CV joints that connect to the wheels”, said Gassman. “Our first complete driveline will be featured in a new model in the coming years, maybe 2018 or 2019”. Gassman refrained from revealing which new model that would be, but he confirmed it will be a hybrid. “Hybrid power is still the best solution for today’s vehicles”, he said, before confirming the electrified part will produce up to 2000 Nm of torque and be highly modular. “We can scale this driveline up or scale it down, so it can be used in multiple platforms”, said Gassman. This suggests it’s on course to feature in other cars. +++

+++ FORD Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said he has met with Donald Trump to talk about the Republican presidential candidate’s extensive criticism of the automaker’s investments in Mexico. Ford told that he thought Trump’s criticism of the No. 2 automaker’s foreign investments were “infuriating and “frustrating” because of the company’s extensive investments and employment in the United States. Trump has threatened if elected to impose hefty tariffs on Ford imports from Mexico. Ford told reporters after the event that the session with Trump was a “great meeting” that took place a few months ago. “He was very thoughtful, asked good questions”, Ford said of Trump. “He certainly knows the facts”. Asked if Trump had changed his mind about his criticism, Ford did not directly answer but said, “The campaign trail is a different animal than anything I’m ever familiar with”. A person briefed on the matter said the meeting took place in New York this summer at the real estate mogul’s Trump Tower. The automaker had previously invited Trump to visit its headquarters at Dearborn, Michigan but he has not taken the company up on the offer. Ford rejected the criticism from Trump, noting that it employs more U.S. workers and builds more vehicles in the United States than its rivals. “We should be celebrated I think in some ways as the great American car company”, Ford said. “We make more cars and trucks here than anyone else”. Ford announced last month that all of the company’s small-car production would be leaving U.S. plants and heading to lower-cost Mexico, drawing another rebuke from the White House hopeful. Ford has repeatedly said no U.S. jobs will be lost because of the move, and it will produce 2 new vehicles at a Detroit area plant that built the small cars. Trump called Ford’s decision “horrible”. He has criticized Ford’s Mexican investments for more than a year and vowed to pressure the automaker to reverse course if elected. “We shouldn’t allow it to happen”, Trump said. Trump has also repeatedly misstated Ford’s plans at times, wrongly suggesting last month Ford would “fire all of their employees in the United States”. Many major automakers have announced big expansions in Mexico, where labor rates are much lower than what U.S. workers make. A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately comment. Last year, Ford said that chief executive Mark Fields had written to Trump to explain its investments in Mexico. +++

+++ KIA is considering producing an all-electric version of the Niro, the crossover vehicle that was the first from the South Korean company to be designed as a dedicated hybrid vehicle. Kia Motors operating chief Tae-Hyun Oh told the UK’s Car Dealer magazine that the Niro’s size, utility, and hybrid pedigree, along with stricter worldwide emissions mandates, may push the automaker to make a Niro EV. Kia, whose sister company Hyundai sells the hydrogen fuel-cell Tucson crossover in limited numbers, is also considering making a fuel-cell car in order to boost its green-vehicle pedigree further. Kia has sold more than 1,000 Niro hybrid vehicles since that model debuted in August. An all-electric Niro would be based on the same platform as the Kia Ioniq. That model has hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric variants, reflecting what Kia said earlier this year was a three-pronged attack to broaden the Ioniq’s exposure. The all-electric version of the Ioniq, which debuted in South Korea earlier this year and is slated to start sales by the end of 2016. Currently, Kia sells an all-electric version of the Soul. That model can go 150 kilometers on a full charge, though reports surfaced in September that the Kia Soul will get a refresh in 2018 that will boost its single-charge range in order to better compete with longer-range models such as the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3. +++

+++ United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union is jeopardizing local car production, and one of the models that could suffer is the NISSAN Juke. Produced at the company’s factory in Sunderland, and with roughly 80 percent of the output exported, mostly to EU markets, the brand’s subcompact SUV is under threat, as the company’s officials refused to give assurance that output will continue at the facility located in northeast England. “We make all our decisions on merit and added value to shareholders. We make them based on what we know, and right now we don’t know”, as Trevor Mann, Nissan Chief Performance Officer, told AutoNews during the 2016 Paris Auto Show, last week. Even if negotiations between the UK and EU are said to take 2 to 3 years, a possible plan sees Nissan asking the local government for compensation as a condition for investing in the country, if the company has to pay taxes to export its cars to the European Union, according to chief Carlos Ghosn. Nissan CEO’s announcement comes right after the manufacturer said that it will invest in the Sunderland facility to build the second-generation Nissan Juke, without providing an exact date: “This announcement gives security to our Sunderland plant beyond 2020”, Ghosn previously said. With an annual capacity of just over 500,000 units, the Sunderland factory is also where the Note is being put together too, but due to poor sales, the compact car will be dropped next spring in order to make room for the brand’s most popular model, the Qashqai. +++

+++ Based on registration data, with almost 800 Model X units delivered in Norway over the quarter and over 600 in the last month alone, TESLA ‘s all-electric SUV has become the country’s second best-selling car. Its sibling, the Model S, has often been among Norway’s best sellers, though this is a first time for the Model X since deliveries began back in June. The numbers show 7 Model X units sold in June, 23 in July, 168 in August and a whooping 601 in September – which compensated for the declining Model S deliveries (406 in the same period). According to Electrek, Model S deliveries are down more than 50 percent in Norway. Still, thanks to the massive success of the Model X, Tesla’s overall deliveries in Q3 of 2016 (1,252 units) were up by 120 percent compared to the same period last year. The previously mentioned 601 Model X units sold were sufficient to make the Model X the best-selling EV in the country and second best-selling car behind just the VW Golf. While some would point out that monthly sales numbers aren’t as important as quarters or the entire year, the Model X remains among the top-selling cars in Norway even when looking at the last quarter. Other EVs currently popular in Norway according to registration data are the BMW i3 with 581 units delivered in September, and the Nissan LEAF with 199 units sold. +++

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