+++ The next update for the FORD Ranger pick-up will be sold in the US from 2019, and will be accompanied by a new Bronco SUV in 2020. Apart from confirming their return to the North American market, after an absence of eight and 24 years, respectively, Ford hasn’t released many details about either the new Ranger or Bronco. For the US and Canada, and possibly Mexico too, both the Bronco and Ranger will be built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, replacing the Focus and C-Max currently made there. This will leave some diehard Bronco fans crestfallen, as their pairing at this factory means the new Bronco will be based on the T6 Ranger rather than the larger F-Series truck, the donor vehicle for most generations of the Bronco. The 2019 Ranger, and by extension the Bronco too, is expected use an updated version of today’s T6 platform, with drivetrain updates and changes necessary for compliance with US safety standards. It’s not known how different the American Ranger will be from its global cousin, but given the One Ford policy we would expect it to be closely aligned with the ute currently sold in almost every corner of the world, save Canada and the USA. As is often for case for global Ford vehicles sold in the US, the North American version will likely feature differences in styling and specification. If the current-generation Transit and Fusion/Mondeo are any indication, the North American Ranger might favour larger capacity and higher output engines. With development of the global Ranger being led by a team at Ford Australia, this means our local designers and engineers will play an important role with a pair of vehicles that will, in all likelihood, sell in significant quantities in the USA. This will help with the economics of the T6 platform, as Mazda is severing one of its last remaining Ford links and teaming up with Isuzu to jointly develop the next-generation BT-50 and D-Max. Any drop in volume caused by this move will likely be offset by the new Bronco, and the entry of the Ranger to the American and Canadian markets. The new Ranger will enter a market segment currently growing significantly after many years in the doldrums. The US mid-size pick-up truck market grew by almost 26 per cent to 448,398 units in 2016, with all entrants growing their sales. In first spot was the Toyota Tacoma on 191,631 sales (up 6.7 per cent), followed by the Chevrolet Colorado up 28.8 per cent to 108,725. In the final podium position was the Nissan Frontier, still based on the previous-generation Navara, up an impressive 38.4 per cent to 86,926. The only other 2 players were the GMC Canyon, a rebadged Colorado, which was up 24.5 per cent to 37,449, and the Honda Ridgeline, which shot up an eye-popping 4.451 per cent from 520 sales to 23,667. While these numbers are impressive in isolation, they pale into insignificance against the full-size pick-up segment, with the Ford F-Series (820,799), Chevrolet Silverado (574,876), and Ram pick-up (489,418) all singlehandedly outselling the entire mid-size pick-up market. +++

+++ Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said she would seek to repatriate production of motor vehicles and other industrial goods in FRANCE, just as President-elect Donald Trump hopes to do in the United States. Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on cars made abroad, saying the practice costs American jobs. He has praised Ford’s decision last week to scrap a plan to build a plant in Mexico, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ confirmation of plans to create 2,000 jobs at its U.S. factories. Asked whether she would like to see the same thing happen with French manufacturers Renault and PSA (Peugeot, Citroen DS), the National Front (FN) leader said: “He (Trump) is putting in place measures I have been demanding for years”. Speaking on France 2 Television, she described the policy as “economic patriotism, (and) intelligent protectionism. I don’t mind explaining to French companies that they can not escape tax that they should be paying in France, that they cannot go offshore without suffering the consequences … A choice has to be made, a choice of patriotism”. Both Renault and Peugeot have significant cars and parts-making activities in Spain and eastern Europe. Other candidates in France’s spring presidential election have praised Trump’s attitude on Ford, including Socialist Arnaud Montebourg and left-wing independent Jean-Luc Melenchon. Le Pen’s protectionist and anti-globalization agenda has helped win her widespread support in her campaign. Most opinion polls show her contesting, but losing, the second and final round of the presidential election in May with Francois Fillon who represents conservative party The Republicans. Industrial policy is one of the key differences between the two. Fillon has a liberal program aimed at rolling back state involvement in corporate life. On Dec. 1 he advocated selling government holdings in major companies, saying the government’s near-20 percent stake in Renault was pointless and could not prevent it from building factories abroad. +++

+++ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has confirmed several upcoming JEEP models along with a $1 billion investment into its Michigan and Ohio production facilities. The Jeep Wagoneer, Grand Wagoneer and ‘Pickup Truck‘ – likely to be the dual-cab ute based on the next-generation Wrangler – have been confirmed to commence production by 2020, which should see the addition of 2.000 American jobs. With the $1 billion investment FCA will upgrade the Warren Truck Assembly plant in Michigan to produce the new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, while the south plant of the Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio will be upgraded to accomodate the upcoming Jeep Pickup Truck. Additionally, the upgrades to the Warren facility will also allow FCA to produce the Ram truck in the US; it is currently built in Mexico. Since 2009, FCA US has committed to investments in excess of $9.6 billion for its North American manufacturing plants and created 25,000 new jobs. Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA, said: “The conversion of our industrial footprint completes this stage of our transformation as we respond to the shift in consumer tastes to pick-ups and SUVs, and as we continue to reinforce the US as a global manufacturing hub for those vehicles at the heart of the SUV and truck market. These moves, which have been under discussion with Dennis Williams and the rest of the UAW leadership for some time, expand our capacity in these key segments, enabling us to meet growing demand here in the US, but more importantly to increase exports of our mid-size and larger vehicles to international markets. Our commitment to internationalise the Jeep brand is unwavering, and with these last moves, we will finally have the capacity to successfully penetrate markets other than the US which have historically been denied product due to capacity constraints. In addition, these all-new products will reach new consumers as well as those that have been part of the Jeep tradition”, he added. However, these announcements are still subject to the negotiation and final approval of incentives by US state and local authorities. +++

+++ Nissan says that its approach with newly acquired Japanese brand MITSUBISHI is to leverage scale in manufacturing and parts in order to increase profit margins, not to make clones of its existing cars with different badges. Nissan’s global chief planning officer, Philippe Klein, said the integration with Mitsubishi would be deemed a failure if customers could perceive the 2 brands were the same. “We are not integrating Mitsubishi”, Klein said. “We are going to try and establish the sort of relationship we have between Renault and Nissan, which means we are going to try and share as many components, platforms and technologies as possible yet Mitsubishi will be responsible for designing their own cars and remains a different company, so it’s exactly the same model we are applying to Renault and Nissan that we’ve been applying for the last 17 years”. The problems facing Mitsubishi are well documented, with the brand having recently announced the axing of its Lancer (now a decade old), without an immediate replacement. The once mighty Japanese brand’s focus on electric cars and limited R&D budget post the GFC has had a long-lasting negative effect on the business that Nissan CEO and now Mitsubishi chairman Carlos Ghosn says will be fixed “with no shortcuts and no blind spots”. Klein says the financial savings for both companies are substantial and platform sharing will allow Mitsubishi to substantially reduce operational costs. “We have already sent a list of synergies, components and technologies we are going to share and have made official some potential synergy savings for next year and the year after, it’s 24 billion yen ($280 million) for Nissan, it’s the way we are going to work”. As for how Nissan will position the brand within its portfolio? “Mitsubishi, Nissan and Renault have their own heritage, you cannot decide a brand top down, it doesn’t work, you have heritage and the vision for where it has to go. So Mitsubishi has its own strengths in some segments and countries, Nissan and Renault have their own”. Sadly, it appears that the future of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is for now in doubt, with no new suitable platform for it to exist on. “It’s a very nice cherry on the cake, but you need to have a cake first”. The next-generation L200 pick-up, however, will share the same platform as the Nissan Navara and upcoming Mercedes-Benz X-Class, however, just like the German variant, Nissan says the L200 will be its own car. “What you’re going to see is, in fact you will not see it. The main objective that we pursue is that we are going to be successful if you don’t see it, yet we share components, modules, platforms. If the consumer starts to perceive that this is the same car, it’s a failure for us. This is what… we have 17 years of experience with Renault with that, we have some very good successes and some more difficulties”. Ghosn said that Mitsubishi will soon make an announcement as to its future and its collaboration with Nissan-Renault alliance. +++

+++ Investors don’t seem to mind that TESLA failed to achieve its delivery targets for the full year 2016. It seems that their optimism for Tesla’s growth is still very high despite the failed target achievement, simply because deliveries in 2016 are still much higher than the figure a year ago. In press release published on January 3, 2017, Tesla said it produced a total of 83,922 vehicles in the full year 2016, or around 64-percent more than the California-based carmaker manufactured in 2015. Of these, 76,230 vehicles have been delivered to its new owners, which means that these units were promptly delivered to customers with no issue on paperwork. Tesla doesn’t count ordered vehicles as delivered units. This delivery figure is short of the delivery prediction made in February 2016, when Tesla said that it aimed to deliver between 80,000 and 90,000 vehicles for the full year 2016. Tesla had adjusted this predicted figure to 79,000 units, but still failed to achieve the adjusted delivery target. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Tesla manufactured a total of 24,882 electric vehicles, of which only around 22,000 units were promptly delivered during this period. Model-wise, Tesla delivered around 12,700 Model S units and 9,500 Model X SUVs in the last quarter of 2016. According to the carmaker, it didn’t consider around 2,750 vehicles as delivered units, no thanks to last-minute transportation delays as well as the inability of some customers to physically receive their Tesla vehicles. Tesla noted that even though these vehicles were already paid in full, it didn’t count them as deliveries in the fourth quarter of 2016. Tesla said that its production in the fourth quarter was adversely affected by certain issues that hounded the carmaker from the end of October to early December. These issues (including the shift to the new Autopilot hardware) heavily affected production in the quarter, although Tesla was able to recover and achieve its production targets. However, the production delays ultimately affected deliveries in the fourth quarter, with some vehicles failing to reach their new owners before the end of the year. At the end of the fourth quarter, around 6,450 vehicles were already on their way to customers, and these units will be recorded as deliveries in the first quarter of 2017. Tesla’s failure to achieve its intended target was offset by the fact that it managed to significantly surpass deliveries in 2015, which was pegged at 50,557 units. Because of this, investor confidence remained high. In fact, a day after Tesla announced its delivery figures for 2016, its stock price jumped three percent to $223.55, reaching a peak of $227. +++

+++ Some of VOLKSWAGEN’s top executives may find it risky to leave Germany as U.S. prosecutors prepare to charge more company officials. Oliver Schmidt, a VW executive, was arrested in Miami as he was returning to Germany from vacation and faces charges of misleading regulators about the automaker’s diesel-emissions cheating devices. Prosecutors are preparing to charge more high-level German-based executives in the case, a person familiar with the matter said. Schmidt’s arrest caught many VW executives by surprise, including some attending an auto show in Detroit this week, according to another person. Lawyers for some senior executives in Germany have already warned their clients not to leave the country, according to a third person. The arrest and the looming charges against senior executives show that the year-long investigation into the emissions cheating is coming to a head in the final days of the Obama administration. A multibillion-dollar settlement between the carmaker and the Justice Department will probably come this week, people familiar with the matter have said. VW admitted last year that about 11 million diesel cars worldwide were outfitted with so-called defeat devices, embedded algorithms used to game emissions tests. Schmidt, 48, who was VW’s liaison with U.S. environmental regulators, appeared in federal court in Miami Monday, where a judge ordered him held in custody as a flight risk. His lawyer sought Schmidt’s release, saying his client had alerted the government he was visiting and was willing to speak with investigators and face charges. The court filing against Schmidt lays out what could be a road map to charges against higher-level executives. Volkswagen’s senior officials in Wolfsburg, Germany, were told in July 2015 of the existence, purpose and characteristics of the device that lowered emissions on diesel cars when undergoing environmental testing, the U.S. alleged, citing information obtained from three cooperators. VW admitted its efforts to skirt environmental standards in September 2015. “VW employees assured VW executive management that U.S. regulators were not aware of the defeat device”, according to the filing in federal court in Detroit. “Rather than advocate for disclosure of the defeat device to U.S. regulators, VW executive management authorized its continued concealment”. The person familiar with the matter declined to specify when charges against more senior-level executives may be filed or whether any executives that could be charged are still employed by the automaker. The Justice Department declined to comment on additional charges. The government and Volkswagen have been trying to reach a settlement by Jan. 20 before the Trump administration comes into office and replaces the political appointees who have been overseeing the diesel-cheating case. VW also faces a criminal probe and lawsuits in Germany. Any criminal penalty from the government would come on top of a $14.7 billion U.S. civil settlement between drivers, regulators and VW that requires the company to fix or buy back some models and pay to promote zero-emissions vehicles. In all, the company has already committed to spending almost $20 billion to settle complaints by car owners, dealerships and regulators in the U.S. and Canada. VW has said top management was unaware of the decision to install the software to cheat emissions tests. “The then and current board of management of Volkswagen AG had, at any rate, no knowledge of the use of unlawful engine-management software at the time”, Volkswagen wrote in its annual report for 2015, a statement it has cited in response to subsequent inquiries. VW has suspended or pushed out about a dozen executives in the aftermath of the scandal including former Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn, who has denied any knowledge of the cheating. “Volkswagen continues to cooperate with the Department of Justice as we work to resolve remaining matters in the United States”, the company said in a statement. “It would not be appropriate to comment on any ongoing investigations or to discuss personnel matters”. The U.S. can charge individuals in Germany, but getting executives to stand trial in the U.S. could be difficult because Germany’s constitution bars extradition of German nationals to foreign countries other than European Union members. Dozens of Volkswagen officials in Germany have hired U.S. criminal defense lawyers over the past several months as the Justice Department ramped up its investigation, Bloomberg reported last month. U.S. authorities have traveled to Germany to arrange interviews with managers and seek cooperation. Schmidt began working for the automaker in 1997 and served as general manager in charge of its Environmental and Engineering Office from 2012 to 2015, according to an affidavit filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That office was primarily responsible for communicating and coordinating with U.S. regulatory agencies, according to the filing. In March 2015, Schmidt was promoted to a more senior management position within Volkswagen and returned to the company’s headquarters in Germany. After learning in April 2014 that West Virginia University’s (WVU) Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions had found that three VW diesel vehicles had emitted 40 times the permissible limit in the U.S., Schmidt wrote to a colleague: “It should first be decided whether we are honest. If we are not honest, everything stays as it is”, according to the affidavit. In the same message, Schmidt noted that the International Council on Clean Transportation, an environmental group, had “stupidly” published the WVU findings. “Not good”, he said. In the summer 2015, Schmidt took a direct role in VW’s response to questions from U.S. regulators about the emissions tests. After these emissions-testing discrepancies became known to the U.S. government, he allegedly misled federal regulators about reasons for the differing test results. Schmidt offered “reasons for the discrepancy other than the fact that VW was intentionally cheating on U.S. emissions test in order to allow VW to continue to sell diesel vehicles in the United States”, according to the affidavit. Schmidt is accused of participating in a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and Volkswagen customers and to violate the federal Clean Air Act from 2006 to 2015. The FBI affidavit lays out how in August 2015, senior Volkswagen managers approved a plan for what the automaker’s employees would say in an upcoming meeting with California regulators. That plan called for Volkswagen employees to continue concealing the existence of the emissions device. However, one employee, who is cooperating with the investigation, ignored those instructions and admitted that Volkswagen cheated on U.S. emissions tests. The government notes in the criminal case against Schmidt that the charge against him is based in part on information from two cooperating witnesses who worked in Volkswagen’s engine development department and also from James Liang, a former VW software engineer who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in September. The unidentified witnesses are helping the U.S. in exc hange for immunity from prosecution, according to the FBI affidavit. +++

+++ The regeneration of the VOLVO brand as it aims to establish itself as a stylish European alternative has reached its first milestone, and the next 2 goals will be completed in the coming 2 years, the brand’s chief says. Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars CEO and chairman of the board, made it clear at the 2017 Detroit motor show the brand will complete its 3 ‘series’ of cars in the next 24 months. It has already done all it will do for the 90 series, with the XC90, S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country all on show on the one stand together for the first time in Detroit. Now the focus shifts to the smaller range of cars in the 60 series (S60, V60, V60 Cross Country, XC60) and 40 series (currently V40 and V40 Cross Country). “We will soon present to you also new cars in the 60 and 40 series”, Samuelsson said at the event. “And 2 years from now, we will have completed the biggest rollout of new products in the company’s history, making the award-winning XC90 the oldest car in the line-up”. Volvo says part of the reason it can turn around so many new products so quickly is because it doesn’t suffer the complexity issues of some of its larger (German) luxury car competitors. Samuelsson said the company’s main architecture (known as SPA) will be used with the 60 series models and has already been used for the 90 series variants, while another architecture developed by Volvo’s parent company, Chinese organisation Geely Automotive, will underpin the 40 series models. It is expected the first new model we will see as part of that rollout will be the first ever XC40, a compact SUV built in China, as presaged by the Volvo Concept 40.1. “It will be coming this year, and then of course there could be further expansion”, Samuelsson said of the first member of the 40 series family. After that it is likely that the new-generation Volvo S60 will debut at Detroit in January 2018. “Last year we also saw construction starting on our new plant in Charleston, South Carolina. In a bit over 12 months from now, production of the all-new S60 will start in this country. That means we are investing and creating jobs in the US, direct employment jobs as well as indirect jobs with suppliers and so on”. Lex Kerssemakers, president and CEO of Volvo Cars America, told the investment in the US was a move to satisfy market demand. “The S60 will be produced in Charleston for the US, half for the US approximately, the rest for Asia and Europe. Just S60. V60 will be produced in Sweden. XC60 will also be built in Europe, in Belgium”, Kerssemakers said. “It’s very simple: the S60 is the most popular segment in the United States; the V60 is in Europe, so that’s why we split it. And the volumes are too high to put in one factory anyhow, so that’s why we split it, so they will be built in 2 factories”, he said. So, S60 will be first for the 60 series, then probably the V60 at Geneva 2018, and the XC60 maybe a month or so later. Where does that leave the rest of the 40 series models? Samuelsson explained: “I think with the 60 we will basically see the same top hats”, he said, referring to the fact there will be the S60, V60, V60 Cross Country and XC60, as is the situation today. “But with the 40 series, so far (at the moment) we only have a hatchback, but of course we have said that a small SUV would probably be at the least the number one”, he said. “And then of course there could be further expansions on that. A sedan could also come then”. And for fans of Volvo’s interior treatment (including the tablet-style infotainment system with over-the-air updates and, now, even Skype connectivity) there’s good news: the smaller model lines will likely share the same media systems, and more. “You shouldn’t be misled by the number of cars, you should be looking at the number of central units, that’s where you have the efficiency”, Samuelsson said of the fact the brand will use just 2 architectures and a range of identical engines and components across the model lines. “It’s very likely the lower series models will have the same electronics screen, which is of course cost-efficient, but also valuable for the consumer because they love that. So it should be perceived as a Volvo, but also brings up the volume to a very high level”, Samuelsson said. Kerssemakers suggested there had been lessons learned by Volvo in the past about platform sharing and component borrowing from different brands, but now that the company has more independence, despite being owned by a big Chinese player: it can shape the cars it wants to build in the way it wants to build them. “We have been working together with Renault in the very far past, we have been working with Mitsubishi, we have been using technologies and engines and platforms from Ford”, Kerssemakers said. “And now we took the lead of the development of the C-platform cars, very much with the same philosophy as the SPA, as the big platform, and that we share with (wherever we can share) Geely. “It works. We have no fear that there will be any sort of brand dilution, as long as you do it cleverly”, he said. “Sharing of parts is all over the industry without any brand dilution, you just walk around here”, he said of the plethora of models on show in Detroit. So is that it? The 3 model lines with no coupes, no convertibles and no sports cars? Well, the T8 drivetrain will be offered in all models, Samuelsson confirmed, which means the V40/XC40 model will be available with a 400-horsepower petrol-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain! As for different body shapes, though: “Maybe, but if you look into this first space, then it’s complete”, Samuelsson said of the 90 series range, before suggesting there could be something else a little further down the track, maybe even like the amazing looking Volvo Concept Coupe. “Long-term there could of course be new model derivatives. First step is we want to have a wagon, the V, the S sedan and the XC. We will introduce similar cars for the 60 and 40 concepts, that’s step one”, he said. “And after that of course you could think about other cars, but then you’re on the other side of 2020”. +++

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