+++ FORD will reveal the all-new generation FIESTA in a special Go Further event in Cologne, Germany on November 29. The worldwide premiere of the model comes after the Blue Oval company has allowed the current generation Fiesta to reside on the market for about 8 years. The model is of course one of the company’s top sellers with more than 313.000 units delivered last year, and the 7th generation Fiesta certainly has a big legacy to carry. Of course Ford wants to deliver something newer and better in every respect, so the specialists are predicting the company will deliver a larger and more upscale supermini. This is because Ford has already moved up the size ladder with the new Ka+, so the new Fiesta can be wider and longer than its predecessor, for increased occupant roominess. The cabin will also get better materials with more soft touch areas, combined of course with the newest Sync 3 infotainment system. “The new Fiesta will be our best expression of Ford: lovable fun, sporty to drive and with an unmatched personality true to the spirit of the iconic small car that has delighted generations of customers for the past 40 years”, noted Ford of Europe’s top manager, Jim Farley. +++

+++ HONDA ’s North American sister brand Acura has teased the future of its interactive and tech-packed interiors with a Precision Cockpit concept that previews forthcoming mobility innovations, autonomous driving and electrification for the Japanese brand. While still a concept at this stage, Acura says the systems are “near production” in their development and although it is the US-only brand that has wheeled out the concept at the Los Angeles motor show, it is likely the kit will filter into Honda models in other parts of the world. Acura says the cabin styling – which is not hosted by a donor car – is inspired by its flagship NSX sportscar with simple but bold surfaces manufactured from leather, Alcantara, brushed metal and wood, but the various digital displays form the centrepiece of the Precision Cockpit. Like Audi’s pioneering Virtual Cockpit, the Acura driver’s instrument cluster is an all-digital 12.3-inch screen for displaying a variety of customisable information. The large screen can display the more conventional information such as navigation instructions and speed, but can also switch to an augmented 3D reality display that can highlight and predict the movements of other road users using so-called artificial intelligence. The latter advances can assist drivers in avoiding hazards, but Acura says its main benefit is in combination with automated driving and can allow occupants to monitor the various sensors and systems about the car. With vehicle-to-vehicle technology (V2V) the screen also projects the information being relayed to it from other vehicles such as a warning glow when approaching a hazard that is not yet in line of sight. When finalised for production cars, the system will be added to the company’s AcuraWatch technology, broadening its capability and safety assistance, as well as increasing consumer confidence in autonomous systems as they progress towards full self driving. The instrument cluster screen is complemented by a second central screen which has been mounted high on the dash for easy viewing, particularly by the driver, and while many car-makers opt for touchscreen tech, the Acura system uses a touchpad with hot-key zones. Drivers can swap information between the two screens depending on the most important and Acura says the Absolute Positioning touchpad tech is one of the simplest and most intuitive methods of navigating an information system to date. The pad is located in the centre console of a left-hand-drive cabin which will work best with a predominantly right-hand-drive populous, but the car-maker has not said if a different solution will be offered for right-hand drive markets. The system runs on Acura’s next-generation Android-based operating system that will be launched in showroom models from next year. Acura has not revealed which models will be first to benefit from the concept or which features will start the roll out, but an update for the NSX is one possibility. Ultimately the systems are expected to proliferate the entire range. In addition to the demonstrator show piece, Acura has also indicated its commitment to autonomous driving and evolved technology with a specially modified version of the company’s RLX, which is dubbed the Honda Legend in other markets. With a battery of lidar, radar, GPS sensors and cameras, the development vehicle uses ‘sensor fusion’ or the sharing and rapid computation of data that is necessary for autonomous driving. +++

+++ JAGUAR, the British luxury automaker with Indian parentage, is ready to kickstart its own electrified revolution through investments of more than 3 billion pounds into research and development of green models in the near future. At the Los Angeles Auto Show Jaguar introduced the exotic and electric I-Pace concept and now the company has also revealed its entire strategy for the electrified future. By 2020, Jaguar Land Rover wants more than half of all its cars and SUVs to offer an electrified option as well. To allow the focus on more low-emissions vehicles, its U.K powertrain and design center will more than double in the next few years, with the company already investing more than 300 million pounds into electrical engineering, with 20,000 new hires. “Design leadership, technical innovation and engineering excellence lie at the heart of this responsible business”, said Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth. “We are shaping the future, developing our own approach to autonomy, connectivity and electrification to offer our customers more choice”. The first step has been made through the I-Pace concept, which has a very production ready powertrain. It’s based around a 90-kilowatt-hour battery pack and comes with an estimated range of 500 kilometers on a single charge, the production SUV should arrive in 2018, swiftly followed by sedans and even spots car options. +++

+++ U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr told him the automaker would not move a Kentucky plant to Mexico, but the firm said it informed him the decision was to keep one vehicle in U.S. production. Earlier, Trump posted on Twitter: “I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the LINCOLN plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great State of Kentucky for their confidence in me!” “He will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky – no Mexico”, the President-elect tweeted. But Ford has repeatedly said it has no plans to close any U.S. plants and likely could not do so under the terms of the current United Auto Workers contract that expires in 2019. This is not the first time Trump’s comments about Ford production have been called into question. Last year, he took credit for Ford moving work from Mexico to Ohio, while the automaker had already made the decision in 2011 – long before Trump announced a run for president. Spokeswoman Christin Baker said Ford “confirmed with the President-elect that our small Lincoln utility vehicle made at the Louisville Assembly plant will stay in Kentucky”. “We are encouraged that President-elect Trump and the new Congress will pursue policies that will improve U.S. competitiveness and make it possible to keep production of this vehicle here in the United States”, she added, in a statement. The company builds both the Ford Kuga/Escape and Lincoln MKC at its Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky, which Trump refers to as the “Lincoln plant” and where Ford employs about 4,700 people. It also has a separate truck plant in Louisville, where it builds pickups and larger SUVs. It is not clear how many jobs would have been impacted if the low-selling MKC had moved to Mexico. Ford has sold about 20,000 units of the MKC this year in the United States, compared with 258,000 Escapes. Ford said last month it would suspend production of the Escape and MKC at its Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky for 2 weeks because of low demand. In 2015, it told workers at the plant that it planned to phase out MKC production by 2019 and move it elsewhere. The U.S. No. 2 automaker is planning to move some small-car production south of the border. Ford has endured scathing criticism from Trump over its Mexican investments for nearly 18 months. He has said at times incorrectly that Ford planned to fire American workers because of its Mexican investments. During his presidential campaign, the Republican candidate also said that if elected he would not allow Ford to open a new plant in Mexico and would slap hefty tariffs on any Ford vehicles made there. A Trump spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about whether Ford’s decision to keep production of an SUV in the United States would cause him to drop plans to impose tariffs on some Ford vehicles built in Mexico. In April 2015, Ford said it planned to invest $2.5 billion to build two new plants in Mexico, adding 3,800 jobs in all. Earlier this year, Ford said it will invest a further $1.6 billion in Mexico for small-car production to start in 2018. In September, Ford confirmed that all of the company’s small-car production will leave U.S. plants and head to lower-cost Mexico by 2019, but no plants would be closed as a result. Ford has repeatedly said no U.S. jobs will be lost because of the move – and it will produce two new vehicles at a Detroit area plant that built the small cars. In October, Bill Ford said he had met with Trump to talk about his extensive attacks on Ford’s investments in Mexico. Ford said Trump’s criticism was “infuriating” and “frustrating” because of the company’s extensive investments and employment in the United States. +++

+++ It’s only logical – since Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini and other ultra-luxury producers are already doing it or officially planning – to have Mercedes’ MAYBACH division cater to the people that can afford… pretty much everything. Mercedes – after witnessing the sales disaster of the first attempt – allegedly has no plans to make Maybach an independent brand once more, even as speculation ran rampant following the introduction of the spectacular Vision 6 concept earlier this year. “There are currently no plans to have a pure Maybach brand, and there is no need”, commented global sales chief Matthias Luhrs in a recent interview. He added the long-wheelbase S-Class Maybach has already enjoyed a sizeable success, especially in China. He also hinted at what’s in store for the future of the subbrand. Namely Maybach is now weighing the options for the next model after the limited-series Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet presented to the world during the Los Angeles Auto Show. For example, the most enticing idea is that Maybach is exploring the business case for an SUV. If the model gets the green light, and judging by the strategy of building on the basis of already existing models, we could be looking at a Maybach GLS. “A Maybach SUV is definitely one of lots of options, but we have no decision yet”, the manager stressed. +++

+++ MAZDA has confirmed that work is continuing on the resurrection of a rotary-powered sports car, which will not be hybridised, however the fundamental issues of that type of engine remain a challenge. Having introduced the Mazda RX Vision at the Tokyo motor show last year, the company has made it one of its internal missions to bring back a rotary sports car of some sort. Speaking to media at today’s Los Angeles auto show, the company’s head of research and development, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, said that a rotary sports car will come back, but the timeline is undetermined for now. “RX vision is our vision model for our company and our engineers and designers, therefore for the future – I cannot say when – but in the future I would like to introduce the rotary engine in to RX vision models”. Fujiwara said. The reason it has taken so long (Mazda built its last production car rotary engine in 2008 with the final RX-8), is due to the fundamental challenges of the Wankel engine. “The issue is probably fuel economy and exhaust emissions, but from our viewpoint, the issue is the fundamental demerit, the structure issues of the rotary engine itself, we consider developing completely new technologies for breaking through this fundamental constructive issues itself… I cannot say anything specific regarding technological issues today, but we are still developing this technology”. The possibility of solving the emission and torque issues of the rotary engine may appear logically in the form of electrification, using a rotary engine with an electric motor, however Fujiwara says that is not the company’s vision with rotary sports car. “Rotary engine is suited for performance or sports car, especially for lightweight sports car, because of the low torque in low RPM, therefore pure sports car is just fitted for this kind of rotary engine. Therefore we are considering that kind of models only. Also most of the Mazda fans or rotary engine fans are waiting for the pure sports car without any electrification, I believe, because electrification requires heavy weight of the battery”. Even so, Fujiwara is realistic about the toughening emission laws and admits that it may have to succumb to a hybrid rotary sports car in the future. “As the first step I would like to try pure rotary, then probably severe and tougher regulations for each region or worldwide come in to effect and therefore we need some electrification, but at that time, probably more smaller battery technology and smart systems. But as a first step, pure rotary”. Fans of turbocharged rotaries will also be pleased to know that it’s under consideration. “Turbochargers is one of the possibilities for our smaller rotary engines, but I cannot say at this moment as to which system is better. We haven’t decided internally. It’s a number of years away”. He joked that the development process is expensive and that while “all of the engineers and designers at Mazda love rotary engines, love sports car, but some of the calculators do not”. Other manufacturers, such as Honda with NSX, have gone for the performance hybrid model, so the question remains, would a pure rotary engine sports car be the only way forward or will an electrified model be acceptable? +++

+++ It seems likely that the W205-generation MERCEDES -AMG C 63 will receive a Black Series variant just like its predecessor. British media claim to have received word from AMG boss Tobias Moers that a new C-Class Black Series is under consideration and expected to be given the go-ahead for production. Given the popularity of the previous C63 Black, it isn’t surprising that the German automaker is looking to replicate that success with the new model. If it does come to fruition, the model’s standard 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 is expected to be extensively modified. In fact, power could rise from the 510 hp of the C63 S to nearer the 600 hp mark, giving it a huge power advantage over even the BMW M4 GTS. As with the previous model, the new C63 Black Series should be based around the coupe, rather than the sedan and cabriolet versions. Alongside this addition to the Black Series family, Moers confirmed earlier in the year that the AMG GT will indeed receive a Black Series version but that it won’t arrive until nearer the end of the GT’s production life cycle. +++

+++ TESLA Chief Executive Elon Musk won approval from the electric luxury automaker’s shareholders for an acquisition of SolarCity Corp, the solar energy system installer in which he is the largest shareholder. The stock swap deal, worth about $2 billion, caps a tumultuous year for Musk and Tesla. The proposed acquisition of SolarCity, a money-losing installer of residential solar power systems, prompted a 13 percent fall in Tesla’s share price after Musk outlined the deal in June. Tesla said the deal was “overwhelmingly” approved by 85 percent of unaffiliated shareholders. Tesla investors have also been rattled by a federal investigation of the death of a Tesla owner operating his car on Autopilot, a driver assistance system, and by concerns Musk may be overextended between ambitious future goals for Tesla, the work of integrating SolarCity, and his CEO duties at SpaceX. The automaker’s shares are down nearly 20 percent for the year, and took a hit after Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election. A key Trump adviser on environmental issues, Myron Ebell, has said federal tax subsidies for electric vehicles should be cut off. Tesla faces more challenges in the months ahead, as the company tries to make a 5-fold leap in its annual vehicle production and launch next year its new Model 3 sedan, aimed at mass-market customers able to buy a vehicle with a starting price of $35,000. Tesla last month reported a narrow profit for the third quarter, and Musk said he did not expect the company would have to sell more shares to finance the Model 3 launch. However, most analysts expect the company will have to raise capital next year, possibly with a sale of equity. Musk and other company insiders recused themselves from the shareholder vote on the SolarCity acquisition. But Musk campaigned hard for the deal, arguing SolarCity’s operations would add $1 billion to Tesla’s revenue by 2017, and generate an additional $500 million in cash over three years. Musk received a boost for the SolarCity deal earlier this month when Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recommended that investors in both companies approve the deal. Under the proposed transaction, SolarCity shareholders will get 0.110 of a Tesla share for each share in the solar company. As of Sept. 30, SolarCity had $259.3 million in cash and cash equivalents and $6.68 billion in total liabilities, including debt. SolarCity has expanded dramatically in the last five years, but it relies heavily on borrowing money to finance its no-money-down residential solar installations. After expanding installations more than 70 percent between 2014 and 2015, SolarCity ratcheted down its forecast three times this year and now expects just a modest increase compared with 2015. In addition to its deliberate slowing, SolarCity is grappling with state solar policy changes that have tempered demand for residential solar systems in major markets including Nevada and California. At the same time, the extension of a federal tax credit for solar systems late last year eliminated any urgency homeowners may have felt to put up solar by the end of 2016. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will hold a press conference on Friday attended by Chief Executive Matthias Müller, among others, to discuss the revamp of its core Volkswagen brand, the German carmaker said. Management and labor leaders have been in talks for months over cost cuts and strategy which analysts say will be critical to Volkswagen’s ability to recover from its emissions test cheating scandal. “Volkswagen is facing big challenges: E-mobility and digitalization need to be financed, new business models and mobility concepts must be promoted. In short: the Volkswagen brand is repositioning itself”, Volkswagen said in an invitation sent to journalists. “A significant step to meet these challenges is the future pact jointly negotiated by the company and the works council in the past months”. Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess will also participate, as will human resources chief Karlheinz Blessing, labor boss Bernd Osterloh and Stephan Weil, premier of the state of Lower Saxony, the group’s second largest shareholder. Volkswagen’s supervisory board is due to meet on Friday to approve spending on plants, equipment and models across the multi-brand group until the end of the decade, but needs prior agreement with the works council on restructuring and jobs. +++

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