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+++ ASTON MARTIN announced the launch of their new Timeless pre-owned program. Buying a high-end exotic sports car is a decision you make with your heart, not your head. But if your head can’t overcome your heart to get around the typically enormous costs involved in purchasing, maintaining, and swallowing the depreciation on such an extravagance, going the certified pre-owned route can be a compelling alternative. Timeless allows potential customers the possibility of purchasing a second-hand Aston Martin built within the last ten years, ranging from the ubiquitous Vantage and DB9 to the rare and exclusive V12 Zagato and One-77 – but with several advantages. Each vehicle is inspected and certified by the automaker and comes covered by a comprehensive one-year warranty, including roadside assistance. Customers are also offered discounts on upgraded equipment, and even get a special handover package. Of course most of the vehicles (save for the aforementioned latter rarities) will also be cheaper than buying new, but offer more peace-of-mind than otherwise buying used. The program has already launched in the UK, continental Europe, and the Middle East, and will launch in the Far East and the Americas after the start of the new year. +++

+++ The 2017 FORD Ecosport will inherit the more muscular lines of the Kuga and Edge models. The facelifted model is due to be revealed late this year, with sales kicking off in the start of 2017. Jeremy Schofield, manager of SUV communications at Ford, told that the updated compact SUV will gain a similar face to its larger siblings. The European-spec car will do away with the spare wheel to give the rear a cleaner, less rugged appearance. Across all markets, the 2017 Ecosport will inherit Ford’s Sync3 infotainment technology, as all of Ford’s smaller models adopt the system from 2017 onwards. It seems likely that the current car’s engine line-up (1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol, 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol and 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel) will be retained. But the option of four-wheel-drive may be added, with Schofield suggesting market trends could encourage it. “15% of B-spec SUVs are four-wheel-drive”, he said. “It’s a small but significant proportion”. If an all-wheel-drive option is introduced, it’ll only come available with the most potent engine or engines. The facelifted car’s starting price is expected to stay close to the current car’s. Looking further ahead, the next Ecosport update will come when an all-new model is launched. That model will be based on the 2018 Fiesta platform and it’ll share engines with that car too. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS ‘ sales in October fell a less-than-forecast 1.7 percent as hefty gains for pickups and SUVs offset declines for its sedans but the industry was expected to report a larger drop. U.S. auto sales in October were seen declining between 6 percent and 8 percent, according to industry analysts, as higher consumer discounts failed to prevent a fall-off from last year’s record high. General Motors said on Tuesday U.S. industry auto sales will be 17.4 million on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, slightly weaker than most industry analysts expected. General Motors’ 2 full-size pickup truck models, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, collectively fell 7.6 percent. General Motors’ Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon large SUVs collectively gained 69 percent versus a year ago. The vehicles are hugely profitable for General Motors. The rate of decline in October from a year ago will not be known until later this week because Ford is delaying its sales report due to a fire at its Dearborn, Michigan headquarters on Monday. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) sales slid 10 percent, hampered by outsized drop-offs of 2 sedans it will soon stop making, and a rare decrease of 7 percent for its Jeep SUV brand. Cherokee sales were down 23 percent. Ford, the second-biggest automaker in the U.S. market with a 15 percent share of sales through September, has not said when it will issue its sales report. Analysts expect Ford to show a decline of between 9 percent and 11 percent from a year ago, which some analysts said was due to better discipline on the use of discounts. Others pointed out that the company stemmed production at North American F-150 pickup truck plants and sedan plants to counteract weak demand. Comparisons to last October are pressured because of 2 fewer selling days. But even with that factored in, sales would likely have been weaker if not for the big consumer discounts, known as incentives, analysts said. TrueCar Inc said October incentives industrywide rose nearly 16 percent from a year earlier, or about $3,600 per new vehicle sold. Nissan’s sales fell 2.2 percent, though sales of its SUVs and pickup trucks rose 13 percent. +++

+++ China’s sixth-largest car maker by sales, GUANGZHOU Automobile Group (GAC Group), plans to sell up to 15 billion yuan ($2.2 billion) worth of shares to fund development of its green car business, proprietary brands and factories, the firm said late on Monday. Chinese automakers have invested billions in developing electric and petrol-electric hybrid vehicles at the direction of the government, which sees green cars as a way to leapfrog global competitors more experienced in traditional petrol engines while also cutting heavy pollution. Five investors involved in the private placement of GAC Group A-shares are mainly controlled by the government in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, Thomson Reuters’ IFR reported on Tuesday. The automaker, like most domestic peers, is a state-owned enterprise. GAC Group said in an exchange filing that the proceeds would be used in 10 projects, with nearly a third of the funds to be spent on research and development of green energy cars and other technology. Other projects include factory expansion and improvement and developing a host of new models for its GAC Motor brand. In addition to making cars under a wholly owned brand, GAC Group also makes vehicles through joint ventures with Toyota, Honda and Fiat Chrysler. +++

+++ The United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union hasn’t scared HONDA away, as the car company has no intention of withdrawing from the country. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t keep an eye on the factors that could affect it directly, as Executive Vice President, Seiji Kuraishi said, cited by AutomotiveNewsEurope. “We need to carefully watch currency exchange and sales trends. But we have no intention of withdraw from the UK and will continue doing business here”. Honda is currently investing approximately £200 million (222 million euro) in its factory located in Swindon, in order to expand production of the 5-door Civic hatch, which is being exported not just to EU markets, but also Japan and the United States. “We hope to keep the current production capacity”, Kuraiashi added. The Japanese-based manufacturer’s announcement comes just a few days after Nissan said that it will continue to build the next generation Qashqai and X-Trail in Sunderland, England, after it received the support of the British government. Unlike their rivals, Honda hasn’t asked the local government for help. Nonetheless, Kuraiashi believes that the support offered to Nissan should apply to all automakers. +++

+++ NISSAN ’s Sunderland plant would have been shut down if the manufacturer hadn’t struck a deal with the Government after the UK’s vote to leave the European Union (EU). A report by Bloomberg alleges that an insider of the brand’s discussions with the Government revealed that Nissan told officials that the plant would eventually close, and the construction of the next-generation Qashqai and X-Trail would have been placed elsewhere. The plant currently employs more than 7.000 people and is the largest car producing facility in the UK. It was recently announced as the factory where the 2 new models would be produced, following negotiations with the Government. The results of these talks have since been declared as open to all car manufacturers in the UK. Greg Clark, the UK’s business secretary, is under pressure from the shadow cabinet to publish his letter to Nissan, but he has so far refused to do so, saying the letter contains “sensitive commercial information”. Clark’s letter to Nissan has become a contentious topic in parliament, as Labour MPs call for the publication of the Government’s deal with Nissan and other car makers. Clark said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that UK car makers would be immune from any export tariffs that would come about as a result of Brexit, but it is as yet unclear if this is the full extent of the offer. BMW and Honda have both announced that they see no reason to leave the UK as a consequence of Brexit. However, several manufacturers, including Ford, Honda and Suzuki, recently raised the prices of their cars in response to the fluctuating value of pound sterling. A BMW spokesman said: “The situation regarding the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU and other countries remains uncertain. Uncertainty is not helpful when it comes to making long-term business decisions. However, unlike Nissan, we are not in the situation where a major UK investment decision needs to be taken imminently. Of course we continue to monitor the situation very closely but for the moment, the BMW Group continues to operate ‘business as usual’ at its four manufacturing bases in the UK”. An official spokesman from Nissan was unavailable for comment at the time of writing. +++

+++ It has been revealed that the next-generation RAM 1500 pickup will be built alongside the outgoing model. Autonews asserts that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has made this decision with the hope of selling the outgoing 1500 for fleet businesses while targeting individual customers with the next-generation model. The new Ram 1500 will arrive in early 2018 and throughout that calendar year, almost 325,000 units are expected to be produced at the firm’s Sterling Heights Assembly facility. Meanwhile, the current model will continue to be built well into 2019 at the Warren Truck Assembly plant, with 200,000 expected to be made in 2018 and an additional 65,000 in 2019. The model will then be retired. While recently discussing this decision, Richard Palmer, FCA’s chief financial officer said “Going into 2018, having more pickup capacity will allow us also to satisfy the fleet customers’ demand on pickup, which we struggle to do today because we favor retail in the U.S. and Canadian volume, which have higher margins. As we realign our capacity, we’re going to be able to continue to work on improving our fleet mix”. In October, the first images of the redesigned Ram 1500 emerged online, revealing a much more streamlined design. Alongside the new look, it is reported that the next-gen model will continue to use steel in its construction, rather than aluminum, and be powered by an updated version of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will end its World Rally Championship (WRC) programme at the end of this season. In a meeting held in Wolfsburg on Tuesday morning, the German car maker’s board vowed to retain the 200 employees at its Volkswagen Motorsport division, with plans for them to focus on the VW Golf TCR customer car and other motorsport programmes within the Volkswagen Group, possibly including  Skoda’s rally programme. An official statement confirming the end to Volkswagen’s WRC involvement is set to be made on Wednesday, after affected staff have been told of the decision. “The priority is to advise our employees of the plans first”, a senior source revealed. “We will then make the decision to pull out of the WRC public. Until then, there will be nothing official”. Despite developing an all-new Polo WRC to 2017 WRC regulations, Volkswagen does not intend to provide it to customer teams. “The costs involved in developing the 2017 car will be absorbed into the existing R&D budget. There are no plans to offer it through a customer programme. It will be mothballed”. Volkswagen‘s departure from the WRC comes after a hugely successful campaign that resulted in it winning four manufacturer and driver championships throughout the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons. Volkswagen’s tally of WRC victories presently stands at 41, with the Australian round of the 2016 championship providing one last chance for a further win. The decision to end Volkswagen’s commitment to the WRC comes in the wake of its diesel emission scandal, which has already seen it pledge over £10 billion to buy back or fix up to 500,000 cars in the US as well as develop fixes for affected diesel models in Europe and other world markets. Volkswagen’s sister company Audi axed its WEC programme last week after 18 years; officials confirmed it plans to switch its focus to Formula E. +++

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