+++ BMW ’s upcoming range-topping X7 could spawn the company’s biggest M-tuned model. Enthusiast website BMW Blog has learned BMW executives are debating whether to build a X7 M. If approved, the model will land with a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine tuned to generate no less than 620 horsepower. A dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive will come standard. If those specifications sound familiar, it’s likely because the entire drivetrain will also be found in the next-generation M5 that we expect to see early next year. The extra power will be complemented by bigger brakes on all four corners, a sport-tuned suspension, and a muscular-looking body kit. Whether the X7 M will offer space for 7 or just 4 passengers is up in the air; the standard model will come standard with 7 seats, but BMW is planning an ultra-luxurious variant with room for 4. Interestingly, the 4-seater will stand out with a look of its own. The BMW X7 is scheduled to arrive in 2019, a timeline that suggests the X7 M won’t arrive until 2020 at the earliest if it’s approved for production. The regular variant will fight in the same segment as the Mercedes-Benz GLS and the Land Rover Range Rover. +++

+++ Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Tata Motors are testing CONNECTED cars which can communicate with each other using technology designed to speed up journeys and cut accidents, the first such trials in Britain. Cars which are able to warn drivers when another connected vehicle brakes suddenly and those which can monitor traffic signals and regulate their speed to encounter fewer red lights were being showcased at a testing ground in central England. Increasingly sophisticated technology in vehicles is paving the way for fully driverless vehicles, with Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India’s Tata Motors, also demonstrating a self-driving Range Rover Sport which can automatically overtake slower moving cars. “The benefits of having cars that can communicate with each other and their surroundings could be very significant — from increased road safety to improved traffic flow”, said Tim Armitage, a project director at government-backed UK Autodrive which coordinated the trials. Earlier this month, a driverless car was trialled on Britain’s streets for the first time as part of government efforts to create an industry which can serve a worldwide market which it estimates to be worth up to 900 million pounds ($1.1 billion) by 2025. Britain is aiming to have driverless cars on its roads by the end of the decade. Automakers are racing to head off the challenge from technology firms such as Alphabet Inc’s Google, which is developing autonomous vehicles. Jaguar Land Rover said earlier this year that it plans to create a fleet of more than 100 research vehicles over the next four years to test autonomous and connected technology and Volvo plans to trial driverless cars in London next year. Ford and Volvo are working with ride-hailing company Uber on trials of self-driving cars in the U.S city of Pittsburgh. +++

+++ Chinese automaker GEELY, the owner of Volvo cars, showed off the first model of its new Lynk & Co brand, a compact SUV aimed at taking on the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, as well as ride-hailing service Uber, across the world. The Lynk, made in China, will go on sale at home in 2017, followed by Europe and the United States in 2018, and marks one of the first attempts by a Chinese carmaker to create a global brand that makes use of European design and technology know-how. Chinese companies have been snapping up cutting-edge German technology to push upmarket and gain a global footprint. This year alone, Chinese home appliances maker Midea has agreed to buy German robotics firm Kuka and Fujian Grand Chip Investment Fund LP is taking over semiconductor equipment maker Aixtron. Long seen as a cheap, no-frills brand in China and unheard of in Europe, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group purchased struggling Swedish carmaker Volvo from Ford in 2010 to help it leapfrog a decade of research and development. While Volvo will continue to focus on premium vehicles, Lynk is an attempt to grab a slice of the mid market. It will initially take on foreign carmakers’ joint ventures in China, but it also aims to challenge the world’s biggest automakers in their own markets. Alain Visser, senior vice president at Lynk & Co, described the SUV as “our first smartphone on wheels”. It is targeting tech-savvy consumers that may have prioritized flexibility over car ownership in the past. “We are looking very much at millennial consumers all over the world who are very much concentrated around bigger cities”, he said. Each car will be permanently connected to the Internet and have a “share” button, enabling owners to rent out their car to other motorists via a smartphone app. “That becomes a source of income, which some of the consumers may use, a bit like an Airbnb vehicle”, said Visser, referring to the home rental company. Lynk has more models in its line-up, which the carmaker plans to launch over the next 3-5 years, but Visser declined to give details on body styles or launch dates apart from the name of the next car: ’02’. Once the full line-up is launched, Lynk aims to sell more than 500,000 vehicles a year by 2021, he said. Geely’s design has been refined by British designer Peter Horbury, who headed up design at Volvo in the 1990s and oversaw it for Jaguar, Aston Martin and Ford’s other brands from 2002. In doing so, Geely is upping the competitive pressure on established global carmakers, which have long accused Chinese rivals of merely ripping off their designs. Jaguar Land Rover, for example, has sued China’s Jiangling Motor after it released the Landwind X7 SUV in 2014, a car that JLR says copies its Land Rover Evoque while costing around the third of a price. The car will be a hybrid powered by a 1.5-litre three cylinder petrol engine combined with a lithium-ion battery and electric motor, and will be the first based on the Complex Modular Architecture platform developed by Geely and Volvo. Mercedes-owner Daimler and BMW are also investing heavily in hybrid vehicles and will be watching closely to see how the ’01’ fares with European consumers. Geely said the car would be priced competitively and said it would be fixed across all markets, but declined to give details. It plans to keep down costs by selling the car online only and limiting the number of configurations available. +++

+++ NISSAN will make a decision next month on whether to produce the next Qashqai model at its Sunderland plant in Britain following the country’s decision to leave the European Union, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said. Ghosn last week met with British Prime Minister Theresa May after warning the country’s decision to exit the European Union could halt investment at the plant in northern England. The factory, which builds the popular Qashqai and many other models exported throughout Europe, is Britain’s largest car plant, producing 475,000 vehicles last year, of which 80 percent were exported. “We’re not asking for any advantage from the British government, but we don’t want to lose any competitiveness no matter what the discussions”, Ghosn told reporters at Nissan’s company headquarters in Yokohama. Ghosn said he had received reassurance that the British government would be “extremely cautious” in “preserving the competitiveness” of the Sunderland plant. “As long as I have this guarantee … I can look at the future of Sunderland with more ease”, he said. Production of the next Qashqai model is expected to begin around 2018 or 2019. The time it takes to bring a new car into production means Nissan needs to decide on the location of its next-generation model soon. Businesses have been concerned that Britain is headed towards a “hard Brexit”, which would leave it outside the single market and facing tariffs of up to 10 percent on car exports. Ghosn also said he expected the bulk of Nissan’s initial cost savings from its partnership with Mitsubishi to come from purchasing and engineering, as Nissan benefits from Mitsubishi’s localized supplier network in Asia and uses the smaller automaker’s technology for plug-in hybrid vehicles. Nissan completed a deal to take a controlling stake in Mitsubishi, retaining the embattled automaker’s chief executive in a bid to help it recover from a mileage cheating scandal. +++

+++ U.S. safety regulators confirmed an 11th death in the United States caused by a ruptured TAKATA airbag inflator, the latest fatality tied to the largest ever auto safety recall. At least 16 deaths are now linked to the defect, including 5 in Malaysia, that prompted the recall of nearly 100 million airbag inflators worldwide by more than a dozen automakers. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said a 50-year-old woman died after a Sept. 30 crash in Riverside County, California in a 2001 Honda Civic that was first recalled in 2008 and never repaired. This is the first U.S. death reported from a Takata inflator since a 17-year-old high school senior died in Texas in March in a moderate speed crash. Automakers have fixed about 11.4 million inflators in the United States to date — leaving more than 20 million unrepaired. The defective airbag inflators deploy with too much force sending metal fragments flying. Honda said in a statement Thursday that more than 20 recall notices were mailed over nearly 8 years to registered owners of the vehicle in the deadly California crash. The victim was identified as Delia Robles, a Corona, California resident who died at a hospital after a crash at a Riverside intersection, the coroner’s office said. 9 of the 11 U.S. deaths have been reported in 2001-2003 model Honda and Acura vehicles that in June NHTSA classified as high risk and urged owners to immediately stop driving until they got repairs. The 313,000 vehicles identified in June have as high as a 50 percent chance of a dangerous airbag inflator rupture in a crash, NHTSA said citing test data. Takata spokesman Jared Levy said the “tragedy underscores the importance of replacing those airbag inflators that have been recalled by automakers”. Honda said previously it had already repaired more than 70 percent of the original group of 1.08 million vehicles recalled with this specific version of the inflator deemed high risk. In May, NHTSA said 17 automakers will be required to recall another 35 million to 40 million U.S. air bag inflators assembled by Takata by 2019. Takata is seeking a financial investor to help pay for huge liabilities from the world’s biggest auto recall. 5 bidding groups, who are the airbag maker’s creditors and customers, will meet with Takata this month in New York, Reuters reported last week, citing people familiar with the matter said. +++

+++ TESLA is planning to roll out a ride services program and will announce details next year, the luxury electric vehicle maker said, a service first outlined by Chief Executive Elon Musk in his master plan in July. News of the Tesla Network is in a disclaimer about the self-driving functionality on new Model S vehicles. Musk said on Wednesday Tesla is building new vehicles with the necessary hardware to eventually enable full autonomy, although the software is not yet ready. “Please note that using a self-driving Tesla for car sharing and ride hailing for friends and family is fine, but doing so for revenue purposes will only be permissible on the Tesla Network, details of which will be released next year”, read the disclaimer. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for more detail. Car makers have rushed to invest in so-called mobility services, hoping to capture the potential trillions of dollars in revenue from selling both vehicles and such on-demand services, while carving out a stake in the industry dominated by Uber. Barclays analyst Brian Johnson wrote in a note to investors that although a Tesla Network could “excite the market” over its potential earnings stream, it was a costly proposition. “While we think ride-sharing/hailing is the future of mass-market mobility, we have some financial concerns with the idea of an OEM-owned fleet”, Johnson wrote. Venture capitalists and corporate investors had poured nearly $28 billion into the ride services sector in the past decade as of June, according to a Reuters analysis. General Motors has made the biggest bet, investing $500 million in Lyft in January. GM’s upcoming electric Chevrolet Bolt was designed expressly with car sharing in mind, executives have told Reuters. Money-losing Tesla lacks the deep pockets of General Motors, and ride services companies like Uber and Lyft burn billions of dollars in price wars to secure regional dominance, as occurred with Uber in China before it ceded to local rival Didi Chuxing. In his “Master Plan, Part Deux” in July, Musk outlined a system in which a Tesla owner could add a car to a shared Tesla fleet using a phone app, allowing it to “generate income for you” and lower the cost of ownership. Musk said that in cities where car ownership is lower, Tesla would operate its own fleet. +++

+++ TOYOTA announced today that it will start production of a hybrid transaxle in 2018 at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Poland (TMMP) in Walbrzych, and add 2 petrol engines (a 1.5L in 2017 and a 2.0L in 2019) at Toyota Motor Industries, Poland (TMIP) in Jelcz-Laskowice. Combined, the new projects represent an additional investment of approximately 150 million euros, bringing the total investment to-date of Toyota’s manufacturing operations in Poland to over 950 million euros since operations started in 2002. “We are very pleased to be able to bring additional petrol engine and hybrid transaxle production to the heart of Europe, here in Poland, at TMIP and TMMP, where the members of our plants have developed exceptional quality and competitiveness”, said Johan van Zyl, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Europe. “Toyota always seeks to increase local content and adapt to market trends, with the goal of achieving sustainable growth in mind”, he added. The hybrid transaxle to be produced at TMMP is a key part of Toyota’s hybrid powertrain, and will be fitted into the 1.8L ZR engine. This hybrid engine equips all Toyota Auris and Auris Touring Sports Hybrid vehicles sold in Europe, and will equip the new crossover Toyota C-HR when it starts production at the end of this year. The hybrid transaxle for Auris is currently being produced at Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan and imported to Europe. Additionally, some R&D functions through testing materials for production will be started at TMMP to support the localisation of hybrid transaxle parts. Hybrid is a key differentiator for Toyota in Europe. Going forward, Toyota Motor Europe expects its hybrid sales in Europe to increase from today’s 31% of total sales to a target of 50% hybrid vehicles by 2020. “We are committed to further strengthen our presence in Poland”, said Eiji Takeichi, President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Poland. “Adding the hybrid production makes our operations sustainable for the future for the benefit of our members and local community”. TMIP, which currently produces 1.4L and 2.2L Diesel engines, will add 2 petrol engines to its production. Assembly of a 1.5L petrol engine will start in February 2017 and will equip the Toyota Yaris, and a 2.0L petrol engine will be added to the plant’s output in late 2019. “Although TMIP is currently manufacturing only diesel engines, the European market is moving towards an increased share of petrol, hybrid and electric vehicles,” said Kazunori Masuoka, President of Toyota Motor Industries Poland. “It was therefore important for us to diversify our output and develop our petrol engine manufacturing skills, which will help secure our future”. +++

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