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+++ BUGATTI is finally commencing official deliveries of its much-awaited and much-hyped hypercar – the almighty Chiron. Soon, customers would be able to drive what Bugatti describes as the most powerful, fastest, most luxurious and most exclusive production super sports car in the world. In fact, 3 examples of the Chiron have just left the luxury sports car maker’s headquarters in Molsheim, France. These cars (in dark blue, light blue and silver-black exterior finishes) will soon reach their new owners in Europe and Middle East. Making the sendoff of the first official units of the Chiron possible are around 50 of the company’s people from its production, quality assurance and logistics teams. Another Chiron (also bound for delivery) will be displayed by the French company at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show before it is shipped to its new owner. Bugatti is planning to produce up to 70 examples of the Chiron at its Molsheim atelier this year. At the official launch of the Chiron at the Geneva Motor Show, the luxury sports car maker said is planning to build and offer just 500 examples of the stunning hypercar. At Bugatti’s current production rate, it would take a little over 7 years for Bugatti to build all 500 examples of the Chiron. Since Bugatti’s order book for the Chiron has already reached 220 examples sold, a customer who ordered one of the hypercars on this day would take delivery of his or her unit by 2020. While this delivery is the official commencement of deliveries of the new Bugatti hypercar, this is not the first Chiron to reach a customer. Apparently Saudi Arabian royalty Prince Badr bin Saud (grandson of grandson of the deceased King Abdullah) won both a new Bugatti Chiron and the one-off Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo concept car during an auction bid. This Chiron was actually the show car that was unveiled at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. One unit of the Chiron costs as much as $2.6 million; a price that seems not so expensive for a Saudi prince. This Chiron is powered by an 8.0-liter W16 engine with four turbochargers that are larger than the Veyron’s. This engine delivers 1,500 hp of max output and 1,600 Nm of peak torque as sent to all wheels. With this amount of power, it is easy to see why the Chiron is able to reach a top speed of up to 420 km/h. Interestingly, the Bugatti Chiron comes with an analog speedometer (featuring a conspicuous mechanical speed indicator) that displays up to 500 km/h. +++

+++ After PSA Group’s move to form Europe’s second-largest carmaker with the purchase of General Motors’s Opel unit, the next step in a looming consolidation wave could be a bid by Volkswagen Group for FIAT CHRYSLER Automobiles, the Italian automaker’s CEO Sergio Marchionne said. “I have no doubt that at the relevant time Volkswagen may show up and have a chat” for a merger, Marchionne, who plans to retire as Fiat Chrysler CEO by 2019. The PSA-Opel combination “threatens Volkswagen most, creating a No. 2 on its heels”. Opel’s planned sale to PSA could spur more mergers as manufacturers confront a shift to self-driving, electric cars. PSA’s bid to better compete with Volkswagen serves as a test case as CEO Carlos Tavares seeks to replicate his turnaround of the French carmaker at Opel. Successfully integrating the mass-market rivals could then prod others to follow. “The industry is moving towards consolidation”, said Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault, who added Mitsubishi to the French carmaker’s alliance with Nissan last year. “You’re going to see more and more players trying to gain in terms of scale. It’s logical because of all the investments we need to face”, he said in an interview. Purchasing GM’s Opel and its Vauxhall nameplate for 1.3 billion euros gives PSA a broader network to spread costs for new vehicles. But the benefits will be slow to realize and follow more than a decade of restructuring that failed to end losses at the GM unit. The critical component for making the deal work is sharing investment underneath the hood while keeping the brands’ identities unique. Teaming up with PSA “offers many opportunities” to share costs in areas including vehicle development and purchasing, said Opel Chief Karl-Thomas Neumann, who will stay on after the deal is completed. “We know we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us”. PSA is prepared for other deals, including a bid for a stake in Malaysia’s Proton, another money-losing carmaker that’s also the owner of UK sports car brand Lotus. If PSA manages to bring Opel to “an efficiency level that is equivalent to PSA’s today, we will be in a very good position to deal with prospective opportunities that could arise”, Tavares said. Meanwhile, Volkswagen, which is still recovering from its diesel emissions-cheating scandal, is dismissing any extra pressure from the PSA-Opel combination. The company has repeatedly shrugged off interest in major acquisitions as it restructures its namesake VW marque. “We focus on what we have to do to reach our strategic goals”, Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller said. For Fiat, Marchionne has long been a vocal proponent of consolidation, arguing that the industry wastes money by developing multiple versions of the same technology. Since GM rebuffed his idea for a merger 2 years ago, Marchionne has sought to eliminate debt at Fiat to make the carmaker a more attractive partner down the line. “The GM door was never open for me. I knocked and no one answered”, said Marchionne. “Would I knock again? Why not, or at any other door”. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS says it could no longer continue to be profitable in Europe with the changing market demands and regulatory requirements, following the sale of Opel and Vauxhall to the PSA Group. The president of General Motors, Dan Ammann, confirmed the challenges facing the American giant in Europe were too much. “We are at about 1.2 million units in Europe. We have some scale but we don’t have nearly as much as scale as some of our competition”, Ammann said. “We have brought the business over the last 5 years, from a pretty tough spot to a much better place, but as we look forward over the next few years, the regulatory environment, the changing consumer taste and so on in Europe, there was an increasing amount of Europe-unique development that was required. And, as we looked at the amount of investment that was required to do that and putting that over a million unit business, it becomes more and more challenging”. The sale of Opel and Vauxhall to PSA signals a near-pullout of General Motors from the European market, though the brand retains a strong equity position with its new European partner and will continue to share product back and forth. “We have had good successes already in working with PSA in some of these co-development opportunities so it felt like a natural way to explore how we could take advantage of that further. So we can get more scale, and so when we are solving a regulatory problem that’s unique to Europe we are doing it over three million units instead of one million units. So that was what was really driving this, a lot of unique European requirements and getting those in a much more efficient way”. GM and PSA will also continue to share technology such as electrification and autonomous driving going forward. +++

+++ JEEP is persevering with its strategy to become a more global brand with testing of its new Compass small SUV carried out on more continents and production chalked for more countries than any model before it. The plan to offer its range of SUVs in more markets around the world was initiated by the Cherokee mid-sizer and followed by the Renegade baby of the line-up, but the latest addition to the Jeep stable underwent development on six continents and will be produced in four different countries, making it the most global model to date, it says. Speaking at the world first drive of the 2017 Compass in Texas, Jeep Compass chief engineer Audrey Moore told that considering a wider spread of regional demands was one of the greatest challenges for the engineering team. “For this vehicle there were really 2 things”, she said. “The first one was the fact that this was the first truly global Jeep that we’ve designed – built in four different countries around the world, making sure that we had a Jeep that satisfied the customers around the world. Trying to incorporate into the vehicle all of the things that every customer needs was the first time for Jeep really. It was unique and it was different and there were some moments when it was a little challenging for us to make the right trade-offs for every region”. Moore explained that the iconic car-maker started its bid to appeal to more nations with the Cherokee before turning its focus to the Renegade, but the Compass takes that strategy to a new level of worldwide versatility. “When we took our evolution of the Jeep product we started with the Cherokee and we started shipping that to 135 different countries. When we brought in the Renegade it was truly starting to become more global because it was built in other regions to be shipped into more countries. When it came to the Compass though this is truly the first time where we tested it in 6 continents around the world”. To develop the new Compass for a broader audience, the Jeep engineering team closely examined the needs of more global markets and considered a greater number of parameters when developing the second-generation car. Moore said a massive amount of data was required to ensure the new Compass would appeal to the widest range of potential Jeep customers around the world with everything from climate, styling, consumer habits and vehicle applications taken into consideration. We talked to every region and their customers and we put all of that detail together in much more detail than we ever have. Each customer base has a different perspective, a different use case, they like things a little bit differently”. As is typical for any vehicle destined for a diverse number of global regions, the Compass was tested in all environments from arid and dusty, through wet and humid, to sub-zero icy climes and Ms Moore explained that the model almost made it on to red dirt as part of the development. Some versions of the Compass will be supplied by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) factory in India, but Moore explained that there would be no differences in quality or materials compared with versions built at the Mexican, Brazilian or Chinese sites. Together with fellow Compass engineer Jim Lyijynen, Moore has been intensively involved with monitoring the quality of each facility prior to the various lines starting up and during the early stages of production. “The great thing with us is that Jim and myself have the global lead”, she said. “We meet, personally, every one of the regions and we use the same tracking measures between every region to make sure the output is the same”. As the last of the 4 factories to start production of the Compass, Moore said the Indian factory was expected to be the most efficient, with all the lessons learned from the other 3 earlier sites ploughed into the manufacturing regimes in India. “India being the fourth plant has all the lessons learned from everywhere else incorporated there as well as the same people who have seen any other issues and can make a comparison from all the other regions. So actually they have a little bit of a leg up. The same level of requirement for interior performance, fits, finish, those same measures are applied for every region”. Moore has been working with Jeep for a majority of her career and, before the Compass project, led the development of the Renegade. Before rising to the position of one of Jeep’s highest ranking engineers Moore built extensive experience in the areas of wheels, tyres, suspension and steering engineering and humbly describes herself as a “chassis rat” in previous roles. +++

+++ The newly-appointed chief operating officer of MITSUBISHI admits that the culture of the Japanese company needs to change, for the brand to move forward. Trevor Mann, the long-time Nissan executive that was appointed as COO of Mitsubishi after the alliance between Renault-Nissan extended to Mitsubishi late last year, acknowledges that fundamental cultural change is needed. Mann said in regards to whether cultural issues at Mitsubishi need to change: “Yes of course it does, that’s why we have changed the organisation within Mitsubishi, that’s why Mitsubishi asked for Nissan’s help”. Even so, while the brand has had its share of issues in the last 12 months, Mann says the core of the business is in good hands. “Mitsubishi is not full of bad people, far from it, they are really nice people, competent engineers that want to go and do a good job. Why certain things happened in the past? We’ve had to look at that and make changes”. According to Mann, Nissan is seeking to change some very essential issues with the company internally. “A couple of fundamentals is that we are ‘re-engineering our engineering’, the processes that we go through to develop our technology and platforms and vehicles – just to make sure that everything is robust and clear, and obviously follows a compliant path. “We are reinforcing our organisation so that we have very good governance and very strong business ethics, so that also we are very open. So if somebody sees something going wrong, they are not in fear of raising their hand and saying ‘please have a look at this’. “It doesn’t mean to say we are a bad company. Obviously we can’t hide from the fact that some bad things have happened, but there are lots of reasons for those things, so we need make sure we address every single one of them. “So in terms of the company organisation, in terms of the structures, cross-functionalities, transparencies and business ethics, we are reviewing to make sure we are a robust and compliant company”, Mann said. The Renault-Nissan Alliance will have its future product plan secured for Mitsubishi before the end of March, with the potential for the brand to drop nameplates such as Lancer and focus more on its core SUV and light commercial vehicle range. +++

+++ There’s an all-new PORSCHE Cayenne SUV coming in 2018, and the flagship model in the range is set to be a hybrid. Not just any hybrid, though: the 2018 Porsche Cayenne will follow a similar path as the 2017 Porsche Panamera, with a Turbo S E-Hybrid version to sit atop the range. The Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is powered by the same 4.0-litre V8 engine from the Panamera Turbo, but with an electric motor assisting with grunt to see it churn out 680 hp of power (up 130 hp over the Turbo) and 850 Nm of torque. This being the age of the plug-in, the Turbo S E-Hybrid also features recharging by wall socket, meaning it returns a claimed fuel use figure of 2.9 litres per 100 kilometres in the Panamera, and there’s 50 km of electric range to boot. That new Panamera was unveiled at the 2017 Geneva motor show, where Porsche CEO Oliver Blume told that the same strategy would be imparted when the new-generation Porsche Cayenne comes on line in 2018. “That will be the same idea: Cayenne and Panamera with hybrid systems, this is perfect”, Blume said. “That’s kind of our idea, to promote the electric power and therefore make the top of the line model a hybrid version, like the Turbo S”. Blume said that the larger models make better sense for hybridisation, with strong benefits due to plug-in drivetrains allowing the majority of urban driving to be done without tail-pipe emissions. He added, however, that the smaller Macan may not follow suit, even in the next generation, and it’s also unlikely that the 911 will in the near future. “At this moment we are thinking only about Panamera and Cayenne”, Blume said. “What we will do with the 911 – the 911 is the 911 – and the most important engines in the future will be combustion engines. If you could come with a plug-in hybrid – it isn’t decided yet – but the concept of the new 911 will be able to integrate a plug-in hybrid. With this generation we won’t integrate the hybrid drivetrain”, he said, meaning a 911 plug-in may not arrive until the early to mid 2020s. Blume said that the company is spending about a quarter of all of its time, energy and resources on electrification of its models, ahead of the predicted launch of the Mission E pure electric model in 2019. “To give a percentage, it’s about 25 percent we are working on electric, and with the new-generation models I think every year it will be a bit more”, he said. “It’s very important to be flexible for the future, because the development of electrical needs will be very different in different countries. When you think about a long distance in Australia, people will have other arguments compared to people living in China and the big megacities. You have to be flexible – we make evaluations on every country in the world and repeat them every year, to think about what volume we will generate with electric attributes”, Blume said. It makes sense, given Porsche has previously told the company is planning to offer a family of models based on the Mission E electric vehicle, including an SUV. +++

+++ A few weeks ago there was a story going around that a VOLVO pick-up could be on the cards – and it seems that might not be such a crazy idea. The story was spurred on by images of a long-wheelbase version of the Volvo XC90 with weight over the rear axle of the car that was seen in Europe. It was, the internet speculated, the Chinese-owned Swedish brand’s competitor to the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pick-up. And while it may seem far-fetched for a Scandinavian luxury brand to be toying with the idea of a work pick-up, you should remember that Volvo is one of the world’s leading truck manufacturers. Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson told at the 2017 Geneva motor show that the company isn’t putting anything off the table yet, though he has some doubts about whether a pick-up is the right fit for the company. “I think we have to be clear – now we roll out the standard SUVs, stationwagons and sedans in 3 sizes; that is what is going to bring this company up to the size where we want to be: 800,000 units and good profitability”, Samuelsson said. “And then on the other side of 2020, you can look at that”. By “look at that”, Samuelsson was referring to the fact the company wants to roll out its core model ranges – the 40 Series with XC40 and V40, the 60 Series with S60, V60 and the just-revealed XC60, and the complete 90 Series line, with S90, V90 and XC90. “But I can also say that if you’re looking at our brand promise and our brand image, the pick-up is not exactly that”, he said. “But I won’t rule out anything. Maybe it’s for the people in the future, just to think about. It depends also what happens with customer preferences”, he said, referring to the push for more utes in Europe, and the broader global push for more premium utility vehicles. “Let’s see. This should give us something to discuss after 2020”, Samuelsson said. +++

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