+++ The new CITROEN C3 Picasso has been seen testing in thin camouflage, revealing that it has design cues akin to those on the new C3, C4 Picasso and C4 Cactus. Spy shots of the model, the second incarnation of the C3 Picasso, show a rounded design, much like the C4 Cactus, with headlights following a similar design to the split units, which feature on the C4 Picasso. It also has a short bonnet with a high belt line, much like the recently spied upcoming Opel Meriva, with which it shares underpinnings. At the back is a new rear light design, mounted high on the rear end, just below the slim rear window. The doorpanels are likely to feature the French manufacturer’s Airbump technology; Citroën is understood to be introducing to the air-filled plastic panels to more models since first introducing them on the C4 Cactus. While official engine specifications have yet to be revealed, options expected include a 68 hp 1.2-litre petrol, as well as 82 hp and 110 hp 1.2 petrol units and a 1.6-litre Blue HDi diesel variant, with a choice of 75, 100 and 120 hp. As part of the PSA Peugeot Citroën and General Motors partnership, the new C3 Picasso is based on a new B-segment platform also used in the Peugeot 208 and 2008. Citroën has had huge success with the C4 Cactus, so it makes sense for the French manufacturer to bring the style of the new model to the rest of the range, and also to use the Airbump technology that has proven popular on the Cactus. expects the new C3 Picasso to be revealed in early 2017. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS Korea exported some 175,116 units of its compact Trax (Opel Mokka) in the first 9 months of this year, the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association said. Manufactured at its plant in Bupyeong, Gyeonggi Province, the vehicle is exported to over 60 countries: 94,000 to the North American market and 64,000 to Europe. As its new version is set to be released next month, accumulated outbound shipments of the model for this year are expected to surpass 200,000. Hyundai’s compact sedans Accent (159,441 units) and Avante (143,609 units) ranked second and third, followed by Kia’s Pride/Rio (137,817 units), and Hyundai’s Tucson (126,085 units). An industry insider said that at the current pace, the Trax is on course to become this year’s best-selling Korean-made car in overseas markets. The Accent, which reigned in the top spot in 2014 and 2015, saw declines in both production volume and exports this year due to prolonged strikes. +++

+++ HYUNDAI has laid out a strategy to win a greater slice of the world’s biggest car market China. Hyundai said that by 2018, just 16 years after it first entered the Chinese market, it expects to have sold 10 million cars there. Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo, speaking at the opening ceremony for the company’s new plant in China’s Hubei Province, said Hyundai now has a production capacity in China of 2.4 million cars a year, enough in theory to grab about 10 percent of the market. Total sales of passenger vehicles this year are expected to breach the 20 million mark. +++

+++ With the addition of Mitsubishi Motors, the RENAULT-NISSAN alliance is closing in on the level of 10 million vehicles sold per year as automakers vie for the title of biggest manufacturer. Carlos Ghosn, who engineered the turnaround of Nissan which he has managed along with Renault since 2005, insists that while the ranking is not the objective, size does matter as it can open up economies of scale that can tip the balance in an industry of thin margins. At the end of July the 2 carmakers announced their alliance had produced 4.3 billion euros in synergies last year. Since 2014 Renault and Nissan have shared engineering, manufacturing, logistics, purchasing and human resources. They aim to save 5.5 billion euros in 2018. By 2020 the alliance aims to have 70 percent of its vehicles built on shared platforms. It is also on the level of the alliance that the strategy for self-driving and connected vehicles is being developed. These synergies open up the possibility of more savings by cross production. Already two Renault factories in France produce Nissan vans and the Micra. This maximises use of available facilities and avoids unnecessary investments. Renault and Nissan, partners since 1999, remain distinct companies even if they are tied by cross-holdings: Renault holds 43.4 percent of its Japanese partner, while Nissan owns 15 percent of the French automaker. Mitsubishi Motors joins the family thanks to a 34 percent stake held by Nissan. The stake makes Nissan the leading shareholder in Mitsubishi Motors and Goshn becomes the chairman of the board. But the alliance runs the gamut from budget brands with Dacia and Datsun to bling with the Infiniti marque. It also includes the top Russian manufacturer Avtovaz as well as Samsung Motors. With Mitsubishi, Renault-Nissan jumps into fourth place with 8.53 million vehicles manufactured in 2015. Japan’s Toyota was top last year with 10.15 million vehicles, followed by Germany’s Volkswagen at 9.93 million and General Motors of the United States at 9.8 million. But the enlarged Renault-Nissan alliance could jump to 9.5 million vehicles in 2016 thanks to an increase in sales by Renault, which has benefitted from a recovery in the European market and the introduction of several new models. Mitsubishi brings to the alliance a network of factories and presence in growing southeast Asian nations, a region where Renault and Nissan have not been strongly positioned. +++

+++ The global SUV boom has forced several traditional bodystyles near to extinction – and it looks like SEAT ’s Alhambra is the next victim. The 7-seater is set to be aced and directly replaced by a large SUV in 2018, according to design boss Alejandro Mesonero. The current Alhambra, built alongside its Volkswagen Sharan sister car, has been on sale for 6 years, with only a minor facelift in 2015. When quizzed about what would eventually replace the Ford Galaxy rival, Mesonero said: “We do not want to do that bodystyle any more. We will replace it, but not with the one-box design we have now. Seat will launch a 7-seater, but that is not desirable now… everyone is buying SUVs right now”. The Alhambra’s replacement will be based on the 20V20 concept seen at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, with styling details also shared with the smaller Ateca. Although the 20V20 previewed a large SUV, the concept had just four seats, whereas the production car will benefit from seven. Mesonero stated that Seat’s SUV will be a bit smaller than its Skoda Kodiaq cousin. As such, it’s expected to offer a 5+2 seating layout like a Land Rover Discovery Sport. Seat (and Volkswagen) won’t be alone in giving its traditional people carrier the chop, either. Peugeot recently replaced its 5008 people carrier with an SUV of the same name, while brands such as Opel, Ford and Mazda are all either axing their MPVs or transforming them into more fashionable 4x4s. Despite several car makers moving away from the MPV format, the Alhambra is still a strong seller for the Spanish brand. Around 27,000 were sold worldwide last year, up 17 per cent on 2014. It’s expected that the Alhambra will live on for at least another 2 years as a result, making the most of the largely fleet-based large MPV market while the competition dwindles. It’s expected to be dropped after the unveiling of the seven-seat SUV late in 2018. As a result, it’s also likely that Volkswagen will consider employing a similar strategy with its Sharan. The near-identical MPV is currently manufactured in the same factory in Palmela, Portugal, as the Alhambra. No official confirmation has been made, but it’s unlikely that Volkswagen will redevelop the Sharan on the platform without support from another manufacturer which can share the costs of production. Volkswagen has two new 7-seat SUVs on the way – a Tiguan XL (that isn’t far off the Skoda Kodiaq for size) and the larger US-only Atlas model due to be revealed later this month. It also offers van-based seven-seat people carriers such as the Caddy Maxi Life and Caravelle to cater for fleet buyers. +++

+++ SKODA bosses have given the go-ahead to bringing a coupe version of the new Kodiaq SUV to Europe. Previously, Skoda boss Bernhard Maier confirmed it would be sold in China, but held off on announcing plans to bring the car to Europe. However, the company is now struggling to find the production capacity needed to deliver it. The coupe-SUV – in effect a slightly larger rival for the Range Rover Evoque and cars like the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe – was teased to journalists back in 2015. For the Chinese market, it will be produced in one of Skoda’s four plants in the country alongside a cheaper large 4×4. However, the Czech company has been wrestling with the cultural implications of selling in Europe a vehicle focused on style instead of the brand’s usual values – space and practicality. Speaking at a press conference in Prague, Maier told Auto Express: “The coupe SUV is a wonderful derivative. We are going to make the brand even more emotional”. Now, Skoda’s board member with responsibility for research and development, Christian Strube, has acknowledged that the management want to sell the coupe-SUV to European customers. “We would like to have this car in Europe, yes”, he said. “The real problem is that we do not have the capacity to build everything that we would like to build”. He added: “There would be a really big potential for that car. It’s not a question of potential; I think there is a business case. It’s a question of capacity in our factories. We’re now selling so many cars that we’re discussing where we would be able to build this car. The opportunity for Skoda here in Europe would be really high, because it’s so emotional, so attractive, that it would be the next step for us as a brand. Skoda has a tradition of being functional, but more and more it’s emotion and innovation. this car is pure emotion”. It is unlikely that Skoda would have the capacity required to make European versions of the car at its Chinese factories; the company already has local production lines for the Fabia, Octavia, Yeti, Rapid, Rapid Spaceback and Superb in the region, so even slotting in the Chinese Kodiaq, its coupe sister vehicle and that cheaper 4×4 is likely to require significant investment. The as-yet-unnamed competitor for the BMW X4 and forthcoming Mercedes GLC Coupe will get a swept-back profile and sloping roofline, plus tall suspension and a raised driving position. Expect big alloy wheels and a Superb-style front end, as well as sharp creases in the bodywork and a high boot lip for that coupe look. Inside, the new car will feel largely familiar to owners of current Skodas and other Volkswagen Group models, although we expect advances in technology to make it sharper and even more solidly built than any of the brand’s existing cars. A central touchscreen is likely to come as standard, along with various market-leading safety technologies and infotainment options. Power will come from a range of existing Volkswagen Group petrol and diesel engines, while buyers will be offered a selection of manual and DSG automatic gearboxes. A GreenLine version is also set to be an option, promising CO2 emissions of less than 110 gram/km. Plug-in hybrids could also join the range at a later date. “We will be growing our SUV range in the future”, a Skoda spokesperson said. “All of our new models will offer class-leading space, value and quality. So long as these can be included, the sky is the limit”. As a result, this new model is likely to better the BMW X4 for boot space, with more head and legroom and improved internal storage. The X4 features a 500-litre boot (50 litres down on the boxier X3), with a maximum of 1,400 litres if you fold the rear seats flat. As with the BMW, the Skoda will remain a strict 5-seater, despite being based on the upcoming 7-seat flagship SUV. As is the case with Skoda’s popular Yeti, the coupe-cum-SUV will be offered with a choice of front and four-wheel drive. The raised ride height will help with ground clearance, while underbody cladding will give it a degree of off-road ability. Like the BMW, though, this new model will be primarily designed for the road – with weighty steering and adjustable driving modes. The new coupe-SUV will form part of a four-strong crossover range due to be revealed in the coming months. After the introduction of Skoda’s all-new seven-seater in 2016, the brand will launch the new Yeti 12 months later. The revised model will build on the current car’s success, albeit with a more conventional SUV body, rather than the existing model’s van-like shape. Later that year, the Yeti will spawn a smaller, supermini-sized SUV designed to rival the likes of the Nissan Juke and highly succesfull Renault Captur. Skoda Boss Bernhard Maier told that “another specific model for China has been decided already, which will then be on the market in 2018. This will be a crossover vehicle with a strong SUV connection”. It’s hoped the four new cars will combine with the existing model range to help Skoda increase sales to a whopping 1.5 million globally by 2020 – which would be up nearly 50 per cent on its 2014 figure. With a new Fabia and Superb already on sale and a facelifted Octavia penned for 2017, there will soon be a Skoda for (almost) every taste. Sources did say, though, that a Skoda convertible is “totally out of the question”. +++

+++ TOYOTA said Friday it will start selling fuel cell buses in Japan from early 2017, gearing up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics when it hopes to introduce 100 or more hydrogen-powered buses mainly in Tokyo. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s transportation bureau plans to use two eco-friendly buses that are powered by Toyota’s fuel cell system developed for the Mirai, the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen vehicle, Toyota said. The new fuel cell bus can be used as a power-supplying source in times of disasters. Toyota aims to expand the use of fuel cell buses as part of efforts to realize a hydrogen-based society, the automaker said. Japanese automakers have been trying to promote green cars such as fuel cell vehicles, which run on electricity generated by a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen and only emit water. Public interest in green energy has grown in Japan since the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster. +++

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