+++ Enthusiasts who want to pick up a new FERRARI with a manual transmission are out of luck. The newly-independent Italian brand has confirmed that it has axed the row-it-yourself gearbox from its lineup. A majority of the cars that leave the Ferrari factory are equipped with an automatic transmission, but the company explained that lack of demand isn’t what pushed it to kill the manual. Instead, it insists its cars are simply faster when they’re equipped with only 2 pedals. “Ferrari is design, performance and state-of-the-art technologies. There’s no manual transmission that can beat this performance and therefore we have decided to stay on the double-clutch gearbox”, explained Michael Hugo Leiter, Ferrari’s chief technology office, in an interview with MotorAuthority. Ferrari isn’t the first sports car manufacturer to bid farewell to manual transmissions and beautiful gated shifters. Arch rivals Lamborghini and McLaren have already come to that conclusion and neither have ever looked back. However, Aston Martin is committed to building cars with a manual transmission for as long as possible, and Porsche has recently made a similar promise. +++

+++ A U.S. judge on Wednesday said FIAT CHRYSLER Automobiles (FCA) must face a lawsuit claiming it defrauded shareholders by overstating its ability to comply with vehicle safety laws. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan said the automaker must face claims over statements in late 2014 that it was “substantially” in compliance, even as it was being probed by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration for shortcomings tied to 2 recalls. Furman dismissed claims accusing Fiat Chrysler of violating accounting principles by failing to set aside enough money to cover recalls it had reason to expect. The judge also allowed shareholders to pursue claims over the compliance disclosures against Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne and the former safety chief of the automaker’s FCA U.S. unit, Scott Kunselman. Fiat Chrysler, in a statement, said it was pleased that the judge dismissed “several of the more significant claims”, and that it will defend itself against the surviving claims. Lawyers for the shareholders did not immediately respond to similar requests. The shareholders accused the defendants of inflating Fiat Chrysler’s share price by hundreds of millions of dollars from October 2014 and October 2015 by downplaying safety concerns. They said the shortcomings materialized last year when the automaker paid $175 million of NHTSA fines, and took a roughly $670 million charge for recalls. In a 26-page decision, Furman said reasonable investors “could, and likely would” interpret Fiat Chrysler’s statements about its safety compliance as suggesting that it was in substantial compliance with “all” applicable regulations. He said that could be misleading, given how the NHTSA probes had begun, the automaker had begun closer monitoring of safety issues, and, “after all, only months later, FCA admitted to widespread noncompliance”. But the judge said he would not allow a claim for what he called “fraud by hindsight” for suggesting that Fiat Chrysler underestimated the cost of its recalls. “Misguided optimism is not a cause of action, and does not support an inference of fraud”, he wrote. +++

+++ MERCEDES issued one of the most significant announcements at the recent Paris motor show: its EQ concept car – a pointer to a new generation of electric cars and a harbinger of a whole new way of owning and driving cars bearing the three-pointed star. The EQ is “very close” to the new GLC-sized electric crossover due in showrooms in 2018. But it’s the thinking behind it, as much as the actual product itself, that’s noteworthy. Daimler’s move has echoes of BMW’s Project i, which is siring a whole generation of electric vehicles over in Munich. The Generation EQ concept shows the first in a series of new electric Mercedes cars. Marketing chief Jens Thiemer took time out from the French show to explain the thinking behind the electric car project. “These new cars are purpose-designed; they will not be existing cars”, he told Car Magazine, pointing to the crisp style pioneered by the EQ. “This concept car is called Generation EQ because we want to say it’s a whole family coming. “The model you see here is very close to the first electric production car. You will see it in 2018… and the price will be comparable to a top-end GLC”. That GLC reference is pertinent; the EQ has similar proportions, but with a slicker, more modernist vibe. Pop on production door handles, wheels, lights and interior, and you can easily imagine this sliding into dealer showrooms. And unlike BMW’s posh supermini and racy sports car, Mercedes is planning to launch its sub-brand with a vogueish SUV. The front end is especially striking. Why the distinct face? “We have to bring something new to market”, says Thiemer. “We have to electrify the design too. We think the front end is a very strong signal of our intent”. The EQ project is much more than just this one car. It’s part of a new strategy dubbed CASE – encapsulating ‘the four megatrends transforming our industry.’ They are: C: Connected Cars are communicating car-to-car and to the wider world. A: Autonomous Driverless cars are coming and will remove drudgery of driving. S: Sharing An Uber model will allow cars’ usage to increase hugely. E: Electric Battery power will become the norm in crowded city spaces. This mantra will underpin everything Mercedes-Benz does in the new era of electromobility. It’s a future in which Mercedes electric vehicles are increasingly shared, with membership clubs and pay-by-the-hour availability for owners who might borrow a hybrid car for longer journeys and a pure electric vehicle for the final miles into town. “We see the end of ownership among people in metropolitan parts of the world”, according to Thiemer. “They want to rent cars by the kilometre instead. Distribution will be different too. We will not exclude our dealers but there will be a proportion of online sales”. Expect to be buying, or more likely leasing, Mercedes cars on your phone sooner rather than later. Crucially, the car and its applications are at the heart of users’ digital lives. “The car becomes the digital device”, argues Thiemer. “Our services must be completely integrated with it”. For Mercedes, connected cars will club together to spot empty parking spaces and communicate that data back out to the ecosystem. “Finding a parking space can take 10-15 minutes on each journey today”, says Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche. “Not in a connected future”. The boss envisages a world in which Mercedes apps and services power a new sharing economy. “Cars are not used for 23 hours a day on average. Why not use them for peer-to-peer car sharing?… It could be like AirBnB for cars!”. It’s no pipe-dream. Mercedes will launch a P2P trial in Germany in November 2016. Mercedes’ electric adventure started some years ago, and spans everything from Smart to the biggest plug-in S-classes. Thiemer reckons it’ll take a good 3 years to establish the EQ brand, but says that process is well underway. “We will have 10 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by 2017”. And a full range of EQ family members, all bespoke electric models? “Within 5 years we will have a whole family”, the marketing chief says. “By 2025, 15-25% of the Mercedes range will be fully electric. Add in PHEVs, and they’ll make up 50% of our range”. You’d better believe it: the electric revolution is coming. +++

+++ The European Commission has approved Nissan’s acquisition of MITSUBISHI Motors. Earlier in May this year, Nissan and Mitsubishi announced that a basic agreement had been signed with the 2 peers which will see Nissan take a 34 per cent stake in its fellow Japanese manufacturer for 237 billion yen (1.6 billion euro). The announcement followed the news that Mitsubishi had been cheating fuel economy tests on some vehicles sold in Japan, a practice that could have been going on for around 25 years. The 2 manufacturers have worked together on the development of several models over the last 5 years, but the extending of the alliance now makes Nissan the largest shareholder in Mitsubishi. The alliance will see the 2 brands working more closely together, sharing vehicle platforms, technology, and purchasing costs. The alliance will see the two brands working more closely together, sharing vehicle platforms, technology, and purchasing costs. +++

+++ PEUGEOT ’s new 3008 could get a hot GTi version to sit above the existing GT model. The 3008 GTi would slot into the range as a racy, well-equipped flagship model to tempt buyers considering more expensive cars into Peugeot’s new SUV. When asked about a 3008 GTi, 3008 Project Manager Marion David told Auto Express that, “GT is the fastest version for now, but if it does very well then we will look at a higher-level version. People are moving down from more expensive cars and they still want the good performance”. The Peugeot 3008 sits on the EMP2 platform that also underpins the 308, which means much of the chassis and powertrain could be brought over from the 308 GTi hot hatch. That means the same 270 hp 1.6-litre turbo petrol could be used. A potential GTi model would also have its chassis tuned by Peugeot Sport for more involving handling. With the ‘Coupe Franche’ livery, where the back of the car is painted a different colour to the front, already available on certain 3008 models, it’s likely that the hot 3008 would get the same treatment, also seen on the 208 GTi and 308 GTi. As we’ve previously reported, it would also join a hot 2008 GTi in the Peugeot range, as the company begins to build up a portfolio of hot halo models for its cars. +++

+++ The Korean SUV brand SSANGYONG has confirmed that it will be launching a 7-seat model to rival the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Kia Sorrento and Hyundai Santa Fe by the end of the decade. CEO of SsangYong Motor Company, Johng-sik Choi said: “We will be developing a new D-segment global monocoque platform to build a D-SUV and D-MPV in the next 5 years”. Ssangyong currently has 2 platforms, favouring a monocoque for cars like the Tivoli and a ladder-frame platform for its bigger SUVs like the Rexton. Ssangyong used the recent Paris Motor Show to preview the next Rexton with its LIV-2 concept. “As an off-road player we like to keep a frame-type vehicle, but completely modernised”, Choi told. “We specialise and it differentiates us from others. A tough environment suits our cars. SsangYong has 65 years of brand heritage, coming from a body-on-frame chassis and diesel engines”. Choi also confirmed he was planning to increase production to 500,000 cars per year, using technology from within his own company, parent company Mahindra and the LG U+ telecommunications arm of Korean electronics giant LG. +++

+++ A settlement with U.S. regulators gives VOLKSWAGEN too much authority over how to spend 2 billion dollar on electric vehicle technology, a U.S. congresswoman from California said this week in a letter, echoing concerns from states and others who fear the German automaker gains undue influence in the deal. Volkswagen agreed to spend 1.2 billion dollar nationally and 800 million dollar more in California on electric vehicle technology as penalties for equipping hundreds of thousands of diesel vehicles sold in the United States with software designed to cheat tailpipe emissions tests. The letter from Representative Anne Eshoo comes ahead of an Oct. 18 hearing at which a federal judge will consider whether to give final approval to 15.3 billion dollar in settlements for owners, state and federal regulators or require changes and renegotiation. A provision “of particular concern” allows VW to make “possible investments in its own proprietary technology and subsidiaries”, Eshoo, a Democrat, said in the Oct. 4 letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa McCarthy. The EPA declined to comment. Volkswagen was not immediately available for comment. It has urged the court approve the deal. Eshoo’s fears mirror those raised by electric car-charging station companies in August. Four members of the California state legislature, in comments to the U.S. Department of Justice, also urged independent oversight and administration of the Volkswagen funds “to ensure that multiple vendors with cutting-edge technology are able to enter the market”. The Justice Department said last month it received 1,195 comments period from private citizens, state and local government offices and agencies, businesses, and institutions and associations. The DOJ urged the agreements be approved with only minor changes. Objectors face an uphill battle since U.S. courts generally give the government significant latitude to negotiate settlements. The Justice Department said nearly half of the comments were submitted on behalf of a company that provides truck-stop electrification services to long-haul truck drivers, IdleAir, urging that the Volkswagen program be allowed to fund such projects. +++

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