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+++ Some may find it hard to believe, but AUDI is no longer considering diesel models as its priority. This was confirmed by Audi Sport’s Stephan Winkelman himself in a recent interview with Motoring during the new RS 3’s premiere. When asked to comment how dieselgate has affected the brand, the head for Audi’s performance division responded that it is now shifting its focus on to vehicles that are more appealing to the global consumers. Besides, Audi Sport is a brand that has to be credible and consistent. The core values he said, have to match the consistency of their products especially when it comes to handling, weight, range, top speed and acceleration. In addition, Winkelmann thinks that since not all countries are the main market for diesel models, he no longer sees it useful to come out with just one engine. Having just one car to offer, he believes will lessen their opportunities particularly in North America and Asia. Due to limited budget and their need to build more vehicles that will cater to all markets worldwide, the diesel models as Winkelmann confirms will be more like a second priority. So far, the SQ7 and SQ5 have been Audi Sport’s two most successful diesel lineups. The remarkable successes of these two have even brought up the possibilities of an RS version for both the Q5 and Q7 models. Winkelmann explained how the performance brand is not only dealing with the dwindling diesel market but there are also issues brought by higher electrification cost. Audi Sport as a brand, has to explain to their clients regarding the difference between an electric model and the RS model in terms of size, price and body style. He went on to say that the sportier it looks, the more it has to offer. Combining the demand for sporty and sustainable cars is challenging to say the least. For this same reason, Audi Sport is moving ahead with lesser diesel models and more SUV models while also increasing its electrified model range. Over a year ago, the performance brand introduced the E-tron Quattro concept that boasts up to 600 km of range and less than 4.6 seconds acceleration. Audi Sport is also said to be developing a new battery pack that could deliver an impressive 500 km range including a supposedly new SUV coupe. Seeing where this is going, it does look like Audi Sport is ready to take on the big challenge. +++

+++ FORD Global Technologies filed a patent in 2015 and only recently was it published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It detailed a technology with high potential that Blue Oval came up with; a tech in which any electric vehicle with a built-in internal combustion engine could automatically start the said engine to recharge its own battery. Now that is sweet. Electric vehicles are all the buzz right now in the automotive industry. There are several prominent variants of electric vehicles currently introduced in the market: including pure electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf, and plug in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt and the Ford C-Max Energi. According to Paul Scott, a founding member of the EV advocacy group Plug in America, the main difference is that the hybrid has a small scale combustible engine that is being hooked to a generator. It runs via electricity but still utilizing the oil and engine to generate that electricity. In summary, the hybrid car will run on the electric charge alone and when the battery is nearly depleted, the engine will take over for the battery to charge. This will allow the client to drive farther locations until it will be eventually recharged or refuelled. The idea of Ford is that it keeps the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) charged by using the gas engine even though the car is parked and there’s no one on the driving seat. It’s a bit disturbing for a car to just do that by itself but Ford thinks otherwise. The patent is officially labelled as “Electrified Vehicle Method and System for Charging During a Non-Drive Cycle”. I start to question then if Ford can make sure to avoid any accidents, fire or certain malfunctions, as there’s no one manning the EV. Well, the patent doesn’t exactly indicate how the EV will identify its surroundings whether it’s an open space or not, but it does highlight that the internal combustion engine will not be started in any way if the EV is in an enclosed space. Hmm, so this must mean that Ford installed some sort of sensor in the said EVs. I hope so. Also, the patent pointed out that the engine will not turn on automatically if the EV has low fuel. Moreover, the timing of the wake-ups could be based not on fuel alone but also on the temperatures and the voltage of one or both batteries. That means it could detect if the charge is below the threshold for both the accessory and the traction battery. The EV is also programmed to send the driver text messages, commanding the driver to move the EV to an open area, or so the patent says. The tip off could be in the form of an email, an audio signal, a visual signal or other types of notification that provide a signal to the clientele driver. The charging-while-no-one-is-in-the-car system can come in handy eventually when someone prefers to leave their trendy plug-in hybrid at an airport to go outside the country. +++

+++ The JAGUAR XF was first introduced in 2007 as a replacement for the Jaguar S-Type and has been a fairly successful model, with 202,678 models sold between 2009 and 2016. In 2015, the XF went through a generational shift that didn’t change its overall design too drastically but did bring about the use of aluminum, allowing Jag to shed more than 200 kilos compared to the first-gen model. The second-gen model is offered with a wide variation of engines that include diesel and gasoline models, depending on the market. The 2.0-liter diesel engine gave buyers the option of a 6-speed manual transmission, but going with the larger diesel or any of the gasoline drinkers sticks you with an automatic. An AWD system is available with some drivetrain configurations, and power output ranged anywhere between 161 and 375 ponies. It’s only been 2 years since the second-gen XF rolled into showrooms. No other notable changes came with the 2017 model year, but 2018 might be a different story. A prototype wearing extensive camo has been spotted testing. While it’s hard to spot any real changes, there are a few. It’s way too early for Jag to be testing a third-gen model, so it looks like we may see a serious design update in the near future. +++

+++ OPEL , which is being sold to France’s PSA Group, has committed to producing Buick-branded vehicles in German factories for General Motors beyond 2019. In addition, two Opel plants in Germany will receive new models as promised, securing their midterm future following the acquisition. Opel will build a large crossover at its home factory in Ruesselsheim near Frankfurt, starting in 2020, the company said. Opel’s plant in Eisenach, eastern Germany, will produce a successor to the Mokka X subcompact crossover starting in 2019. “Investments are also confirmed for exports of sister products for another GM brand from these plants”, the statement said. An Opel spokesman confirmed the statement refers to a pledge to produce Buick vehicles. The Insignia shares the same underpinnings as the Buick Regal, while the Mokka X shares the same underpinnings as the Buick Encore. GM has unveiled the sixth-generation Buick Regal (which will be sold in 5-door liftback and wagon variants) and said the models will be assembled by Opel in Rüsselsheim. GM agreed to sell Opel to PSA last month, forcing it to start unwinding a product strategy which for years aligned Buick and Opel’s platforms and cars. A briefing held for Opel workers in Rüsselsheim said PSA will be locked into producing vehicles based on GM platforms for a number of years. PSA’s agreement to buy Opel and its UK Vauxhall business from GM for 2.2 billion euros led to union fears that German factories could be axed as the combined PSA-Opel moved to reduce excess capacity. However, PSA CEO Carlos Tavares pledged to continue all Opel’s collective agreements when he met German government and union officials. Opel is launching 7 new and replacement models this year including the Crossland X small crossover and the Grandland X compact crossover. Both use PSA architectures. Rüsselsheim currently builds the Insignia and Eisenach makes the Adam and Corsa. The Mokka X is built in Opel’s plant in Zaragoza, Spain. Opel said in the release it was changing its legal status into a GmbH from an AG as a step toward the automaker’s European businesses being grouped into one company, then merged with PSA. The changes to the legal entity will be completed in the second quarter, Opel said. All co-determination rights of the employees will remain unchanged, the company added. The closing of the agreement between GM and PSA that will trigger the integration of Opel/Vauxhall into PSA is subject to various regulatory approvals, including the clearance by the European Commission, Opel said. +++

+++ PSA Group (Citroën, DS, Peugeot) is making its first moves back into the US market, announcing this week that it had created a new entity in the region and set up a car-sharing service in Los Angeles as the first steps of its “progressive entry” into North America. PSA has not had a presence in North America since its Peugeot brand exited in 1991, but just a month after sealing a deal to purchase General Motors’ European brands Opel and Vauxhall (which also build cars for Buick in the US), the French auto group is now laying the foundations of a full-scale return under its ‘Push to Pass’ plan. The company has appointed US automotive industry veteran Larry Dominique as senior vice-president and head of the new North American entity, who brings more than 30 years’ experience to the role including stints at General Motors, Chrysler and Nissan. Most recently, Mr Dominique was president of industry valuation firm Automotive Lease Guide and executive vice-president of automotive pricing and information website TrueCar. His first task is to roll out PSA’s mobility services in North America through its Free2Move sub-brand and partner TravelCar, a car-sharing start-up company founded in 2012. The ride-share service was launched this week at Los Angeles airport ahead of a larger deployment across the US. This non-traditional approach will see PSA-brand cars gradually build a presence in key areas via the mobility services before a full-scale sales channel is set up inside the next 10 years. As well as Peugeot, PSA brands include Citroen and DS, although the French group is still to decide which of these will be launched in the US. “With the creation of PSA North American entity, PSA Group makes an important step forward in the rollout of our project to progressively enter the region”, said PSA chairman of the managing board, Carlos Tavares. “Moving forward, we will ramp up our mobility activities and the development of car-sharing services, among other efforts. Today we start with our partner TravelCar”. Mr Tavares previously worked with Mr Dominique when they were both at Nissan in the 1990s and early 2000s. Among various roles, Mr Tavares had responsibility for global product planning while Mr Dominique, an engineer, had risen to product planning senior manager and chief product specialist for the Americas, working on programs such as the Titan pick-up truck. Mr Tavares later relocated to the US as president of Nissan North America, with Mr Dominique vice-president in charge of product planning and strategy for the region. +++

+++ Chinese automaker QOROS will unveil an electric sport sedan concept at the upcoming 2017 Shanghai auto show. Teaser shots reveal a stubby, fastback design with four individual seats. The concept, tipped to be called the 9 Q-Lectriq, is yet to be announced but Swedish supercar marque Koenigsegg was involved in the developmen (a Qoros electric compact car concept unveiled in 2016 was called the 3 Q-Lectriq). Qoros and Koenigsegg have collaborated on a number of projects in the past, including the development of a car powered by an engine using Koenigsegg subsidiary FreeValve’s pioneering “camless” design. It’s not clear what Koenigsegg was tasked with for the latest concept but it could be carbon fiber construction, which the teaser shots hint at. The concept won’t feature an internal combustion engine, however. It’s said to be a pure electric with a range of 500 kilometers and a 0-100 km/h time of 3.0 seconds. And revealed in the teaser shots is something that resembles a solar panel roof. +++

+++ The electric strategy over at VOLKSWAGEN is being spearheaded (or delayed, put it the way you want it) by the introduction of several previewing I.D. concepts. So far, we had two of them: the original I.D. concept over at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, a Golf-sized hatchback that promised an interior space comparable to the Passat. It was also able to go without a charge up to 600 kilometers on a full battery. Then in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, they revisited the quintessential Microbus concept via the I.D. Buzz, a futuristic reenactment in electric key, complete with autonomous driving technology. I’ve already learned from various sources a third electric concept is going to arrive this month at the Auto Shanghai in China where Volkswagen is playing into the popular SUV field. And months from now, a fourth prototype will be presented – can you guess the body style? Yes, it’s going to be a sedan, coming in as a “surprise”, according to VW design chief Klaus Bischoff. On a personal note, I would indeed be surprised if they brought an interesting design… Anyway, it turns out the vehicle (already seen internally) is scheduled to debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September after aweing numerous people within the group. Needless to say, these concepts will be followed by correspondents in real life, all based on the newly developed MEB electric vehicle architecture. +++

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