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+++ One of the main features that have appealed to CADILLAC ’s customers is its Cadillac User Experience system or CUE. This is once again expected to change as the brand recently revealed that it will be coming out with the next generation of its CUE system. Offering an interface that is more intuitive and more personalized, the new CUE is slated to make its official debut with the 2017 Cadillac CTS. Customers in the U.S. market should expect this to arrive at their favorite dealerships within the first quarter. After the 2017 CTS, Cadillac will then be including this new system with the 2018 ATS. The brand disclosed that other product ranges will have the same system in their future model years. Many are already familiar with this system but this next generation dynamic platform now allows modification over time in order to meet the connectivity needs of the customer, which itself is continuously evolving. In addition, it fully utilizes the Cloud to allow for better personalization. That said, connection navigation is still present and applications can be downloaded through the Collection app store. Since the new Cadillac user experience is able to have smartphone practices and popular apps applied to vehicles, it guarantees that customers will be able to get access to the system’s most common feature. One of these features is known as Summary View wherein it displays all of the applications, like audio, climate, navigation, and phone, into a single screen. There are 3 main features of the next generation CUE and the first is the My Driver Preferences which uses the Cloud to enable customer to personalize the infotainment system to suit their own personal tastes. The second is the new navigation app which comes with an intuitive interface. Like the first feature, it also allows access to the Cloud but this is meant to access information regarding the destination. The data shown include the current price of fuel, real-time traffic information, points of interest, and even parking information. Finally, there is active connection made possible by the OnStar 4G LTE integrated to the system. With the approval of the customer once sale is official, Cadillac can update the features remotely. The 4GLTE Wi-Fi hotspot meanwhile accepts a total of seven devices to be connected. It can even support the use of two compatible phones using Bluetooth. Cadillac Director of Product Strategy Richard Breckus says that when the brand brought OnStar to the market, it started the idea of connectivity in vehicles. In fact, he adds, Cadillac is the first luxury brand to allow both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on its product range. Breckus continues by saying that the brand has been working to improve the overall response of this system and the result is that this next-generation version is able to offer more improvements mainly focusing on intuitive control. +++

+++ HYUNDAI has weighed into the autonomous car race with confirmation that it will offer the first stages of self-driving technology in its vehicles within 3 years as well as a more distant perspective that portrays almost completely driverless vehicles before 2030. Like many global car-makers, the South Korean brand is forecasting the advent of its autonomous technology to be marked by vehicles that will first offer capability in simpler scenarios such as freeways, but will gradually evolve the systems to function in all situations, including more challenging environments. Speaking at a demonstration in South Korea, Hyundai Motor Company intelligent safety research team senior research engineer Byungyong You told that the car-maker would roll out its autonomous tech gradually, introducing the initial levels by 2020. “We are aiming for highway first and next we will expand it to urban driving conditions” he said. “I think level two and three. We are targeting for the highway in 2020 and urban driving in 2030. We are aiming for level four. We are targeting 2030 for full autonomous”. Vehicle autonomy capability is often described using a scale of one to five, with one represented by some of the active cruise control, emergency braking and lane-departure assistance features already available in many vehicles, while level five offers complete self-driving in all scenarios and conditions. Hyundai predicts some of its cars to have achieved level four by 2030 which would enable owners to be chauffeured by the vehicle in all but the most difficult circumstances such as extreme weather. However, it has not yet placed a timeframe on reaching level five. “With level four there are limitations such as weather conditions and road conditions. We can limit in constraints but with level five there is no limitation”, Mr You said. “We are aiming for level five but our timeline is not there”. The South Korean car-maker has been working closely with information technology partners such as Mobileye to expedite its autonomous cars, but is keen to remain independent in the race to production models. “We do not want to depend full on Mobileye or the other companies”, Mr You said. “We can co-operate with them but we do not want to depend on them, so we are developing our own software”. Over the coming years, Hyundai will start a number of public road trials in Korea, China and the United States, where it has already been exploiting changes in the state of Nevada to allow trials of autonomous commercial vehicles. As for which models will introduce the technological advances, Hyundai says it is most likely to be higher-end cars such as the Sonata and sister models from Genesis, although any model could technically be equipped with the hardware and software. “I don’t want all the vehicles to have those same sensors and the same configurations but I think the Genesis models and the Sonata has those sensors and they can drive autonomously. It can be divided”, Mr You said. GoAuto was given the opportunity to experience some of Hyundai’s autonomous technology on a visit to the developmental epicentre of Hyundai and the Namyang proving ground in the country’s north. On hand were a pair of testing and development vehicles that had been retrofitted with an array of sensors and computers to constantly monitor the vehicle surroundings, enabling it to ferry us on a lap of the sprawling centre without driver intervention. A version of the new Ioniq was one of the models that had been rigged with the special equipment, but we selected an autonomous ix35 Fuel Cell SUV – the same model that I drove in a 100 km emissions-free driving demonstration in 2015. The first thing that is immediately noticeable about the mid-sized SUV is that, other than a bespoke and outrageously lurid green interior, very little appears to be different from the model that sold so strongly in Australia before being superseded by the Tucson last year. A large screen in front of the front passenger offered a glimpse at what the world looks like to the series of computers with oncoming traffic, road furniture and even pedestrians represented by stick drawings and objects. The self-driving Hyundai uses a combination of information sensed from its surroundings by lidar, radar and camera sensors, as well as pre-programmed information similar to a navigation system map. Operating the vehicle is as simple as starting a regular ix35 Fuel Cell with the push of a button followed by starting the drive demonstration with another innocuous switch integrated into the dashboard. With no pomp or ceremony, the SUV silently pulled away – with water vapour as its only emission – and proceeded to obediently follow a pre-planned route. During the short 10-minute trip the engineer at the helm touched no controls and confidently allowed the car to brake for a vehicle that appeared that it was about to pull into our path and slowed for a pedestrian who wanted to cross the road. If the system had a prevailing driver personality it would certainly be on the cautious side and reacted to a number of ‘hazards’ that most good drivers would not, including an oncoming Genesis that turned a bend and was clearly deemed to be on a collision course with our car. A slight stab of the brakes was retracted when the offending car was no longer an apparent threat. Throttle and brake application was occasionally abrupt but, generally speaking, after a few minutes we had forgotten the vehicle was being controlled not by flesh and blood, but by silicon and electrical signals. And that is the acid test of infant autonomous technology. Rather than an edge-of-the seat nail-biting wait for something to go wrong, our short journey was relaxing thanks to a confidence-inspiring system that is passive in its nature. The ix35 used for the test is three years old and the system incorporated into its existing electronics has been many years in the making, so one can only imagine how far Hyundai’s technology is advancing behind the walls of its vast test facility buildings. The Namyang demonstration was a simple one in more controlled circumstances than real-world roads, but the successful, repeatable test proves that the bare bones of true production self-driving cars is not a pipe dream but a glimmer on the horizon. +++

+++ If you look at LOTUS on the surface, you’ll see a company that appears to be on stable ground. It’s never been an automaker that prides itself on the volume of vehicles it makes, but it has released its share of models, most of which have been universally praised for being some of the best handling sports cars in the segment. But if you dig deep enough, you’ll realize that the soil that Lotus’ foundation stands on isn’t as stable as you’d think. Financial trouble. Mismanagement. Multiple bouts with near-bankruptcy. The list of ills run long within Lotus, and as news comes out that the automaker is reportedly on the verge of another ownership change, the question on whether Lotus can have a stable and supportive ownership group has never been as relevant as it is today. Reports say that DRB-Hicom, one of Malaysia’s biggest conglomerates and the current owner of Lotus, is on the verge of selling the sports car brand to Chinese manufacturer Geely. Separately, Proton could also be in play with reported talks of the PSA Group gaining a controlling stake in the Malaysian auto brand. Two potential deals are on the table, but for now, or at least in this space, we’re only going to talk about Lotus. The issue here is the tenuous status Lotus has had for years despite producing some of the purest sports cars in the segment. It’s gone through numerous bankruptcy ordeals just to keep the company afloat. It’s also gone through numerous ownership changes, most recently in 2012 when its parent company, Proton Proton , was fully acquired by DRB-Hicom. Now DRB-Hicom is reportedly looking to divest Lotus from Proton and sell it to Geely, a Chinese automaker that counts Volvo among its auto brands. Oh, and let’s not forget about the many controversies the company has been embroiled in, most notably the ouster of CEO Dany Bahar in 2012 over allegations that he was misusing company funds for his own lavish expenses. The two parties eventually settled in 2014 after multiple lawsuits but the fiasco served as another stain in the company, whether it deserved it or not. So what do we make of this reported sale of Lotus to Geely? According to multiple reports, the Chinese automaker is keen on taking on Lotus while the PSA Group, the parent firm of Peugeot, Citroen, and DS, would be taking over Proton, thus splitting the 2 brands that have been linked together since 1993 when Proton acquired Lotus. Negotiations are still ongoing, but if it does happen, Lotus could find itself with another new owner. Hopefully, Geely has serious plans to turn Lotus around and bring some stability back to the company. It’s a crying shame that the once proud British automaker has never had an ideal ownership situation for close to three decades now, but with a new ownership group reportedly on the horizon, there’s at least hope of seeing brighter days ahead for the sports car brand. The fact that one of the world’s purest sports cars hasn’t had a stable ownership foundation for years is one of the industry’s most under-the-radar mysteries. Sure, it found some modest stability when DRB-Hicom purchased Proton in 2012, but if these reports end up being true, we may have overvalued that “stability”. My point here isn’t so much about lamenting on the company’s jagged history or complaining about all the opportunities it has missed to establish itself as a more legitimate sports car outfit. I’m looking into the future now to see what it has in store for Lotus and my hopes for strong support from its new owner, whoever it ends up being. Apparently, that new owner could be Geely, who we all know is the owner of Volvo. It also owns the London Taxi Company so if ever you end up in London and ride one of those black cabs, you’ll know that Geely owns them. On the bright side, it’s important to give credit where it’s due. Geely, despite initial skepticism of its capacity to own a brand as storied as Volvo, has done an incredible job in bringing life back to the Swedish automaker. Actually, it’s done more than that if you think about where Volvo was when it was owned by Ford to where it is now. It’s completely transformed into a legitimate luxury brand and while it may not still be on the same level as it once was during its ultimate peak in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it’s turned into a luxury brand to be reckoned with. Geely deserves a lot of credit for that. Now, can it do the same for Lotus if it does end up buying it? I’m holding my reservations on making any judgments at this point because it’s hard to compare a luxury brand that caters to a volume-based strategy to a sports car brand that has never been about selling the most number of models compared to its rivals. That’s not to say that Lotus can’t reach that point because it actually tried that approach earlier this decade with a full lineup of concepts that it planned to turn into a family of production of models. Then its former CEO and the driving force behind that strategy got canned and those plans went away faster than it takes the Hennessey Venom GT – a Lotus Elise underneath, mind you – to go from 0 to 100 km/h. There have been no indications yet on what Geely might do if it ends up acquiring Lotus but from a financial standpoint, it’s going to be a good new home for the British sports car brand, not only because it finally frees itself from the struggles of its old parent firm, but more importantly, it’s going to breathe new life into the brand with a new parent company that has shown over the past few years with Volvo that it has the capacity and the fortitude to bring some sparkle back to a struggling automaker. I’m hopeful for Lotus, as I’m sure most people are. +++

+++ NISSAN chief executive Carlos Ghosn will hand over the reins to his lieutenant, Hiroto Saikawa, on April 1 and focus his attention on the “expansion and stewardship” of the entire group which includes Renault and Mitsubishi. Ghosn has been chief executive of Nissan since June 2001 and is credited with steering the company from near-bankruptcy to profitability after joining 2 years earlier as chief operating officer. The Brazilian-born Frenchman brought a formidable reputation as ‘Le Cost Cutter’ to bear on the Japanese car-maker – forged over a 15-year period with Michelin during the 1980s and early 1990s – and will remain a driving force as chairman of all three alliance companies and CEO of the Renault Group. A 40-year Nissan veteran, Saikawa has been groomed to take over the top job, serving as co-CEO since last November after spending the previous 3 years as ‘chief competitive officer’ – a role that saw him responsible for maintaining Nisan’s “global competitiveness and leading global purchasing, manufacturing, supply chain management, R&D and total customer satisfaction”. He has held a variety of senior management positions since Ghosn has been at the helm, including chairman of the management committees of the Americas and Europe and executive vice-president of purchasing, and sat on the Renault board from 2006 to 2016. Saikawa is also currently chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA). The “management evolution”, as Nissan is describing it, comes as France’s PSA Group – parent of the Peugeot, Citroen and DS brands, and the arch-rival of Renault – is expanding its operations on various fronts and could soon take over General Motors’ European brands Opel and Vauxhall if a takeover deal currently being thrashed out proves successful. In a statement released this week, Ghosn said he will seek renewal of his mandate at the company’s general shareholders meeting in June, which has a focus on expansion and ensuring “the opportunities available to alliance members are fully harnessed”. Turning around the fortunes of Mitsubishi will clearly be a major area of attention. “As Nissan’s chairman, I will continue to supervise and guide the company, both independently and within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance”, Ghosn said. “This planned change will also allow me to devote more time and energy to managing the strategic and operational evolution and expansion of the alliance and ensuring that all its members benefit from the competitive advantages that its scale will deliver. I am committed to supporting the alliance as it evolves and expands, and will continue to serve each member of the alliance wherever and whenever necessary”. Ghosn added that he was “confident that the management team I have developed at Nissan over the past 18 years has the talent and experience to meet the company’s operational and strategic goals”. “Having recently taken on new responsibilities at Mitsubishi Motors, and taking into consideration the upcoming Nissan general shareholders meeting, I have decided that the time is right for Hiroto Saikawa to succeed me as Nissan’s CEO”, he said. Overseas reports characterise Saikawa as a results-driven, no-nonsense operator who will keep a close eye on costs while ensuring Nissan remains at the leading edge of the industry in an era of rapid technological change. “Under Mr Ghosn’s chairmanship and with the support of the excellent leadership team that has been built at Nissan, my focus will be delivering our company’s continued performance and development and on continuing Nissan’s contribution to the success of the alliance”, he said. +++

+++ World’s famous luxury SUV maker RANGE ROVER can stretch to make more car-like models in the future as it looks to expand its product lineup to have wider appeal. Speaking to media at the Land Rover Discovery launch in Utah, USA, the head of design for Land Rover and Range Rover, Gerry McGovern, said the brand equity that Range Rover holds will allow it to stretch into other product types. “Why not?” McGovern said when asked if Range Rover could make passenger car-like models. “If you look at how other brands have come into this SUV territory, why couldn’t Land Rover, Range Rover go into that territory? The thing about Range Rover is, it has massive brand equity. It has equity comparable to certain fashion brands, not because it’s fashionable but because of the margin. I’d argue that RR as a brand is peerless, there is nothing else like it, and we’ve proven with things like the Evoque and we will prove with the next car, the Velar, that we have the ability to stretch and have much greater resonance in the marketplace, so I think there are lots of opportunities”. McGovern believes that if Land Rover and Range Rover are to evolve and be successful, they need to deliver what the market is asking while still maintaining the links to their strong heritage and DNA. “We have got a specific DNA which has evolved over the years and its about taking that DNA and those ingredients and cooking them up in a way that is absolutely relevant. “All the vehicles that we create now need to sell a certain volume so we can get that investment back and reinvest it in the future. We are never going to be about massive volume but we need to get to critical mass so we can sustain ourselves”. According to McGovern, the designers have to be proactive and come up with the potential market opportunities based on future trends and where the market is going. “Let’s say that the SUV market, generic term SUV, it is fragmenting, it’s proliferating, we are seeing lots of different types of niche products coming off it. And part of the job that we have in design is not to sit there for the market planners to come to us, we define the opportunities of the business. What about if we did this? Would it give the brand more resonance and bring new customers to the brand?” With the introduction of the new Range Rover Velar just a week away, any additional all-new models will likely be some time away. Whether that’s a small passenger-car like crossover SUV or something similar remains to be seen. For now, Range Rover and Land Rover appear to be on a road to a new era of rapid product introduction. +++

+++ An updated RENAULT Captur will be one vehicle among a multitude of reveals by the French automaker at the upcoming Geneva motor show. Renault says that the updated Captur will have “more distinctive styling and new technologies”. This means that the small crossover will likely gain a new front-end design with C-shaped headlights and a larger grille, similar to one setup seen on the latest Koleos and Megane models. Joining the revised Captur on the Renault will be an ‘EV surprise’. We’re not sure what that entails at the moment, but it could be one of the following: a new EV concept previewing the next-generation Zoe, another EV supercar concept, a new EV variant for an existing model, or further range upgrades for existing Renault EVs. In addition to these reveals, the Renault Group will also be relaunching the Alpine brand with a new mid-engine coupe. Widely believed to be badged as the A120, the new car will very closely resemble the 2016 Vision concept. Featuring an aluminium chassis and probably powered by a turbocharged 1.8-litre engine, the Alpine coupe should go on sale in The Netherlands for a starting price of around 65,000 euro. Rounding out the company’s busy schedule in Geneva will be limited edition models from Dacia, as well as the new Logan MCV Stepway, an SUV dress up pack for the budget brand’s stationwagon. +++

+++ The 2018 SKODA Yeti will be vastly different to the model on sale today, according to the director of Skoda, Michael Irmer. Speaking with media this week, Irmer indicated that the all-new Yeti, which replaces the current, first-generation model in the autumn, is likely to be unrecognisable compared to the current version. Spy shots of what I believe is the new Yeti indicate that it is expected to be a reworked, Skoda-ized version of the Volkswagen Tiguan. “The new Yeti will be changing very much dramatically from the current model, and I think we want to have the association with the new Kodiaq – it could be like the smaller Kodiaq, rather than a new take on the existing Yeti”, he said. “Some of the boxiness, and the very small compact size: the new Yeti will be different”. Irmer described the way the new Yeti will play its part in the brand’s SUV sales mix alongside the larger, more expensive, 7-seat Kodiaq. “We’ll be pushing in that space: the Yeti will basically have a 5-seat layout, smaller engines, front-wheel drive. It will serve that market”, he said. “We will fill the space up high with Kodiaq to create as much space as possible to put the Yeti underneath it. And then later on we might reach down, further on”, he said, indicating that the brand will look at the small SUV segment with its own micro-high-rider to target the Mazda CX-3 and Peugeot 2008. Kieran Merrigan, Skoda’s planning and product manager, said the arrival of the new Yeti, which will grow in size and supplement the sales of the Kodiaq, will be vital for sales increases. “The new Yeti coming next year is a really strong base to see some growth”, he said. “We can’t get enough of Yeti. The current Yeti will stop production in the end of June this year in preparation for the new-generation Yeti. So the European market has gone nuts for Yeti – they’re starting to build cars out of Russia to supply Europe, it’s incredible”, he said. “I think once the European market realised that Yeti is going to stop production, even 7 years into its lifespan, the markets all jumped up and down for more production, which hurt us a little bit. We’ve asked for more cars, and we can’t get them”. The all-new Skoda Yeti is due to be revealed mid-2017, and we should get a chance to drive it before the year is out. Stay tuned for that and more on the new model. +++

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