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+++ A German newspaper claims to have uncovered a PowerPoint presentation from 2007 detailing the emissions cheat strategy. AUDI has reportedly fired 4 top diesel engineers after one accused current CEO Rupert Stadler of playing a role in the diesel emissions scandal. The allegations have surfaced in a labor court dispute, where lawyers representing Ulrich Weiss showed evidence that he was simply a ‘pawn’ in the scheme and Stadler knew of the illegal defeat device in 2012. Weiss, formerly Audi’s head of powertrain development, had been suspended in 2015 after the scandal came to light. He had remained on company payroll for more than a year, however, and was formally fired after the labor court allegations surfaced in German media reports. Another report, meanwhile, claims to have uncovered an internal PowerPoint presentation detailing the diesel cheating strategy as far back as 2007. The slides allegedly argue in favor of a two-mode system to manage urea injection, allowing the emissions hardware to eliminate 90 percent of nitrogen oxides on a lab dyno but only remove “30-70 percent” during normal driving conditions. Without the cheat, internal tests allegedly showed that the Volkswagen Touareg would have required an AdBlue (urea) refill every 2.000 kilometers; far below the target duration of a top up during every scheduled service visit. Weiss was one of four engineers reportedly fired as the scandal continues to evolve, but Audi has not yet signaled any intention to dismiss Stadler. +++

+++ Carmakers usually leave us thirsty for information on whether they would introduce a new, refreshed or face-lifted vehicle and on when they intend to launch it. There are reasons for this. One, they want to make customers become excited for a new product. Likewise, they want to build hype for a certain vehicle one at a time. BMW probably doesn’t like it, but it seems that its launch plans have been leaked. Someone was able to get hold of BMW’s launch plans and has reported it. The list seems pretty comprehensive and is good for the medium term, as it outlines the German premium carmaker’s vehicle launches starting this year to 2021. For this year, BMW will be introducing 12 new and face-lifted models. First off will be the 6 Series facelift, which will be followed by the i3 facelift in the summer. Also coming this year (in July in particular) are the face-lifted forms of the coupe and convertible version of the 2 Series. According to the leaked launch plans, BMW will also be launching this year the 6 Series GT, the X7 and the M5 (F90). Also up for grabs this year is the face-lifted iteration of the M2 as well as the new GTS. The new Z5 is also primed for launch this year. The list also has the X2 and the X3 scheduled for introduction in 2017. BMW’s product barrage for 2018 is headlined by the X3 M, which should arrive early next year. A possibly international version of the long-wheelbase X1 is also scheduled in 2018, as well as the i8 Spyder. The German luxury carmaker is also bound to introduce the M4 GT4 and the X4 in 2018, as well as the new 3 Series and the new X5. A plan to launch the 8 Series Coupe is slated to occur by the end of 2018. For 2019, BMW is intending to release the new 1 Series as well as the convertible variant of the 8 Series. +++

+++ CADILLAC ’s CT6 full-size prestige-luxury sedan is still somewhat new. It has been offered to the global auto market for 2 model years: 2016 and 2017. But for those who think that the first generation of the CT6 (short for Cadillac Touring 6) might be getting a little older, the US premium carmaker is readying a plethora of updates and upgrades for its range-topping sedan. According to a recently published order guide, Cadillac is giving the CT6 sedan quite a number of tweaks and updates that should allow it to become more competitive while still attracting customers and delivering a better user experience. For instance, Cadillac has deleted 4 exterior colors from the 2018 CT6 color palette: Dark Emerald Metallic, Moonstone Metallic, Red Passion Tint coat and Phantom Gray Metallic. While the premium carmaker deleted these 4 exterior colors, it also added 3 new tones as it hopes to refresh how the new 2016 looks like. These new exterior colors (Red Horizon Tintcoat; Satin Steel Metallic; and Stone Gray Metallic) are available for a fee. When the 2018 Cadillac CT6 is availed on a Platinum grade, the Stone Gray Metallic exterior color could be specified for no additional charge. Aside from the deleted as well as new exterior colors, Cadillac is also adding a high-pressure washer to the sedan’s rear-facing camera lens providing the video feed for its Rear Camera Mirror. Inside, Cadillac has updated the CUE infotainment system of the 2018 CT6 updated to version 2.6. This update enables two new features: Collection and Teen Driver. Collection allows users to browse, select and install apps on the infotainment system. Likewise, it allows users to customize content with music, audiobooks or weather. Meanwhile, Teen Driver allows users to activate customizable vehicle settings –as linked with the key fob – to limit certain vehicle features and to prevent a teen driver from turning off certain safety systems. The CUE 2.6 also provides an in-vehicle report about a teen’s driving habits. Further changes inside the new 2018 Cadillac CT6 include the addition of auto-ventilated front seat functionality and automatic heated steering wheel. Platinum versions of the 2018 Cadillac CT6 also receive a factory-installed illuminated trunk sill plate and a leather-wrapped driver-side airbag cover. The American premium carmaker likewise added pedal operation to the automatic steering function of the Automatic Parking Assist system, allowing the 2018 CT6 to park autonomously. In addition, drivers could now switch the Ct6’s Full-Speed Range Adaptive Cruise Control system to Regular Cruise Control as part of the Driver Assist Package. Cadillac didn’t announce any updates on the powertrain of the 2018 CT6, which may mean the engine and transmission system will remain the same as on the 2017 CT6. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS is planning to deploy a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EVs (Opel Ampera-e) with its ride-sharing partner Lyft next year, according to a new report. Reuters cites “2 sources familiar with the automaker’s plans”, saying the American automotive giant is looking to send thousands of autonomous-capable Bolts into testing from next year, which would mark the largest test of fully-driverless vehicles by any major manufacturer. By comparison, Google’s Waymo is testing around 60 vehicles in 4 different US states. The report claims the majority of these self-driving prototypes will be used by Lyft, an Uber-rivalling ride-sharing firm that GM invested 500 million dollar for a minority stake in last year. However, GM apparently has no immediate plans to sell the autonomous Bolt to private customers. This latest development comes after arch-rival Ford announced its plans last year to deploy a fully-autonomous on-demand ride-sharing fleet by 2021, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is partnering with Google and Waymo by supplying its Pacifica MPVs for driverless vehicle testing. It’s likely Cruise Automation – a self-driving startup company GM purchased last year – will also be making contributions to the project, especially considering just last week it released a video of its own autonomous Chevrolet Bolt navigating the streets of San Francisco without human intervention. “Cruise, Lyft, Maven are all bringing different parts of this singular solution around autonomous on-demand networks in urban environments”, Mike Ableson, GM executive, told Reuters last year before the company closed the deal with Lyft. +++

+++ HYUNDAI is stepping up its efforts to raise its prestige and customer perception through a flourishing range of new models, a sharpened focus on lifestyle and the imminent N-range of high-performance vehicles. While the South Korean car-maker has made significant inroads in recent years to boost the appeal of its growing line-up, the Australian subsidiary believes appealing new models in the pipeline and more driver-focused metal will strengthen the brand’s reputation. Speaking at the i30 first international drive event in South Korea, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) chief operating officer Scott Grant said the company still has work to do changing public opinion of the 50-year-old H-badge. “That’s our bigger and broader challenge beyond i30”, he said. “i30 needs to wrestle some of that responsibility on its own but the broader brand needs to continue to evolve. “Our products have been getting better and better almost level-up with each model change across the board and our brand is lagging that development. There are many people who, to this day, don’t appreciate the brand or the quality of the product in my view”. In addition to the continued rollout of polished new models including the new-generation i30, a key force joining the brand alignment battle will be the eagerly anticipated N range of high-performance variants led by the i30 N. Grant explained that the new go-faster branch of the company was not directly charged with the task of significantly increasing sales, but would serve as a desirability halo for the entire brand. “I don’t think in percentage terms the N series is going to be substantial but it will be hugely important from a brand and image point of view. I think it will also provide the opportunity to bring some new buyers to the brand that haven’t considered it before. It demonstrates the company’s ability to develop that kind of product. It’s i30 N today and it’s other products tomorrow. It’s a really exciting direction for the company. It provides a level of excitement to our staff, to our dealers, to existing owners. It has many areas to contribute but I don’t think pure volume is the purpose of that product”. When it arrives globally this year, the i30 N will bring up to 275 hp and a track-honed chassis to do battle with the hot-hatch brigade – often said to be led by the Golf GTI – but will be followed by yet more pumped-up models that are still to be detailed. Grant said that details of the expanding N range were still a fair way off but an SUV was not out of the question. “A sporty version of it is probably an opportunity for us. We’ve had a couple of limited editions that have been quite successful in recent times. With N we’ ll have a better halo and perhaps more consistency across products that will state what that brand is all about. It’s that emotional characteristic that drives the industry for a relatively small portion of the volume”. Outside the performance vehicle line-up, Hyundai will supplement its brand appeal with more up-to-date models over the next 18 months including a compact SUV for the competitive but potentially lucrative segment. “Later in the year we’ve got an all new baby SUV codenamed OS that we’re excited about and then, as we turn into next year, we’ve got new Veloster, new Santa Fe, somewhere in that mix we’ve got Ioniq and there are other products after that”, Grant said. While rival brands of all kinds flock to the highly popular one-tonne ute segment, Hyundai is yet to lay its big pick-up cards on the table, but Grant said the company was likely to enter the market at some point in the next 2 years. +++

+++ BMW has been named the world’s MOST ADMIRED automotive company by business magazine Fortune, one of only two car makers to make the top 50. Topping the rankings were Apple, Amazon.com and Starbucks, while BMW managed 21st, and Toyota came in at number 34. Other companies making the top 50 included Facebook and Microsoft (joint 9th), Coca-Cola (16th), Boeing (30th), Intel (46th), and McDonald’s (48th). Fortune’s ‘World’s Most Admired Companies’ chart draws on the votes of some 3.800 executives, analysts, directors and experts, with the top 50 ranked every year. Toyota has won top gong for automotive manufacturers for the last couple of years, but this year the Bavarian car maker nabbed top spot. Interestingly, no other manufacturers made the top 50 in this year’s list, with companies like Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and General Motors (GM) all missing out on a ranking. +++

+++ Just recently, it was speculated that a new PORSCHE Cayman GT4 RS is coming. There is no official confirmation yet from the German sports car maker, but the arrival of the 2018 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS was inadvertently revealed. How do we know that a new vehicle is coming? The most reliable information would be an official announcement from a carmaker. Their officials and executives could also drop a big hint over the new offering. In addition, insiders could also provide vital information over an upcoming vehicle. Spy images of new vehicles also serve the purpose. Dealers could also be the source for information about new and yet-to-be-announced models. At times, they hold private presentations to a select group of clients who they believe are likely buyers of the new vehicle. During these presentations, sneaky clients could take some pictures and leak them. Just recently, a dealer for Porsche inadvertently leaked the arrival of the Cayman GT4 RS through its Instagram account. Apparently seeking expressions of interest for the car, the Porsche Centre dealer called out the fans and aficionados of the Cayman GT4 and announced that an RS version is on its way because of the high demand for a more hardcore variant. The dealer also disclosed that the 2018 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS will be a limited edition model that will be powered by a 4.0-liter flat-six engine. While there is no further information about this new engine, this could be the same powerplant that serves as the core of the bigger GT3 RS, delivering 500 hp of output and 460 Nm of torque. That would represent a big gap against the power levels of the Cayman GT4, which has a 3.8-liter flat-six engine that develops 385 hp of output and 420 Nm of torque. So as not to upend the Porsche 911 GT flagship, the 4.0-liter engine in the Cayman GT4 RS might be detuned to produce less output and torque. Better, Porsche could increase the power levels of the 911 GT. +++

+++ Malaysian car maker PROTON and its subsidiary Lotus were reported last year to be up for sale, with a number of car makers said to be keen on a purchase. In September, business paper Reuters reported Peugeot and Citroen parent PSA Group as one suitor, while Renault and Suzuki were also believed to be considering bids of their own. This week, Reuters claims sources close to the matter have confirmed exits for Renault and Suzuki, adding that Chinese giant and Volvo owner Geely is now also in the game. The report suggests PSA has backed out of a potential bid, although the Financial Times claims the French company (also confirmed to be in talks over buying the Opel business from General Motors) is still in the race for Proton. Neither company has offered confirmation, although PSA gave FT the usual line: it “regularly explores new business opportunities”. For both companies, a purchase of Proton would mean access to a Malaysian plant capable of producing around 600,000 right-hand-drive cars each year. It remains to be seen if the Proton badge – which carries very little brand cachet outside of Asia – would continue to be offered, although either suitor could introduce modern technology and engines to pump up Proton’s appeal. The loss-making Lotus brand could prove more appealing from a halo and technology perspective, with the historic marque bringing a respected engineering division with it. A report elsewhere, with the UK’s Autocar, claims that the deal could take a different shape: Geely buying Lotus for its engineering expertise and halo brand value, with the Proton brand going to PSA. The reports adds that PSA’s interest is largely in volume, with its plan said to include expanding Proton’s production capacity to around 2 million vehicles per year. Whatever the case, the previously confirmed Lotus SUV and new sports cars could now be in doubt, with a change in ownership sure to mean a review of future product. Still, with SUVs the current gold mine of the market and more sports car brands confirming entrants in the segment, that part of the Lotus plan may be safe. +++

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