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+++ The conventionally styled MPV is dying, and it looks like the CITROEN C3 Picasso will be the latest model to transition from MPV to SUV. Citroen has confirmed that the next SUV to join its range will be called the C3 Aircross (based on the Citroen C-Aircross Concept from Geneva) which could spell the end for the Picasso name. It will follow the C5 Aircross which Citroen will launch at the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show, and is expected to arrive towards the end of the year. It’s likely that larger and mid-sized SUV designed to sit above and below the C5 Aircross respectively could also arrive as replacements for the C4 Picasso and Grand C4 Picasso ranges. If Citroen does decided to axe the Picasso lineups, it would also save the French manufacturer a tidy sum, as an annual fee has to be paid to the Picasso Administration for use of the Picasso name. However, the C-Aircross takes its styling cues from the new C3 hatchback, as well as the pumped-up C4 Cactus, and offers plenty of hints as to how the C3 Aircross could look. The maker’s now-synonymous Airbumps feature on the doors, while raised suspension and body cladding give it a distinctive SUV design. Scuff plates and roof bars offer added style, while the C3’s distinctive LED running lights and double chevron grille also feature. Citroen says every surface is designed to improve efficiency, with air inlets all over as well as a rear diffuser to aid aerodynamics. The slatted theme runs to the C-pillars, which, instead of being solid plastic, allow light through small holes – making the interior feel much brighter. And the panoramic roof (as seen on the C4 Cactus) offers a feeling of space as per Citroen’s Advanced Comfort philosophy. Elsewhere, the digital dashboard gives a look at Citroen’s bold cabin of the future. Personalisation will be key, with flashes of red throughout, as well as a 12-inch screen and glass head-up display. ConnectedCAM dashcam tech from the C3 hatch also features, as well as speakers in the seat’s headrests. There’s no gearlever, allowing room for a wide centre console with wireless phone charging. Despite ditching its MPV roots, practicality is as important as ever, with compartments dotted around the cabin. The mirrors are replaced by cameras, but these won’t make it on to the production model. Engines will be lifted from the C3 hatch, including a range of turbocharged petrol and diesel units. The platform has also been designed for electrification from the outset. This being a concept, we’re unlikely to see the Aircross’s rear-hinged doors translate to the production model. To give an idea of size, the 4,1 meter body puts it between a Ford Fiesta and Focus, although at 1,63 meter high it’s almost as tall as a Kuga. The C-Aircross concept will make way for a production model in the summer. It will go on sale in late 2017, with first deliveries before Christmas. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER Automobiles’ outspoken chief executive Sergio Marchionne admits consolidation in the car industry may be an “unrealistic dream”. The CEO has finally signalled a shift away from his persistent attempts to find a merger partner. Speaking to investors gathered in Amsterdam for the company’s annual shareholder meeting, the outspoken executive admitted “we are not at a point of time to discuss any alliance”, according to quotes published by Bloomberg. “We need to be very careful that we don’t start unrealistic dreams about consolidation as we are on our way to achieve historically important results and a debt-free position”, he added. FCA had publicly focused on General Motors as its preferred merger partner, but the feeling was not mutual. More recently, Marchionne turned his sights to Volkswagen in a series of seemingly contradictory comments regarding Opel’s sale to the PSA Group. Despite seemingly backing down from merger talks in the near term, Marchionne still argues that the industry is overdue for further consolidation. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS is to hire 1,100 workers at its Cruise Automation R&D facility in San Francisco. The hiring spree will help GM accelerate development of autonomous driving technology. General Motors acquired the California-based company little more than a year ago. The startup had been developing a $10,000 roof-mounted autonomous retrofit kit that would convert normal vehicles for autonomous operation. After the buyout, Cruise engineers refocused their efforts on the Chevrolet Bolt (Opel Ampera-E). The project currently involves a fleet of more than 50 Bolts that are used to test self-driving technology in San Francisco, Scottsdale and Detroit. GM plans to effectively double the R&D space dedicated to Cruise Automation, providing space for the new workers and helping accelerate development over the next 5 years. “As autonomous car technology matures, our company’s talent needs will continue to increase”, says Cruise chief executive Kyle Vogt. “Accessing the world-class talent pool that the San Francisco Bay Area offers is one of the many reasons we plan to grow our presence in the state”. +++

+++ Following reports that GENESIS was going to unveil an SUV concept during this year’s NY Auto Show, the GV80 fuel cell concept is here to prove all those voices correct. The GV80 Concept represents Genesis’ first take on a versatile luxury SUV, displaying a confident posture on the road, while also boasting a spacious interior with immersive technology for passengers to enjoy. In order to get you from A to B, the GV80 Concept uses the latest plug-in hydrogen fuel cell electric technology, with Genesis determined to continue studying the benefits of such an alternative propulsion system for future product applications. “The GV80 Concept is a SUV that alludes to the confidence and evolution of the Genesis brand: its design is timeless, with an understated yet dynamic overall surface complexity”, said head of Genesis Design, Luc Donckerwolke. “These are all characteristics that embody Genesis products and delicately reflect distinctive elements, which you’ll continue to see in future models from our brand”. “There is a unique energy and diverse global culture to New York that is fitting for Genesis, and we are excited to unveil the GV80 Concept here”, added Genesis boss, Manfred Fitzgerald. “This concept is an important milestone for the brand to share our vision of the future, introducing a further expansion of our product portfolio”. In terms of aesthetics, the GV80 Concept is distinguished by its proportions, “finely balanced with dominant surfaces, exhibiting sophistication and functionality”. In other words, it looks like a modern SUV, which is what Genesis wanted to convey. The front of the car features the signature Genesis crest grille, which together with the wide-set horizontal quad headlights with jewel-like graphics help give the SUV a significant presence on the road. A careful look also reveals an aerodynamic front spoiler designed to channel air through precision facet cut-outs around the front wheels and side rocker panels. The rear boasts slim quad lamps elongated towards the quarter panel. Their design is quite simple, though thanks to the laser fiber optic technology, they also produce a unique lighting signature for future Genesis owners to enjoy. Other exterior features include the profile’s parabolic design line, muscular fenders, 23-inch mesh alloys and electronic door handles, resting underneath the crease line for enhanced aerodynamic performance and visual simplicity. Moving on to the interior, the GV80 Concept is clearly looking to impress onlookers with its excellent craftsmanship, advanced technology and attention to detail. The cabin offers a bridge instrument panel and a wide 22-inch curved display cascading into the driver’s cluster. Also interesting are the concept’s side pillars. They’re constructed with a structural truss design, viewable from both inside and outside the vehicle. According to Genesis, this should help “bring in the exterior environment, promoting a unique interaction with the outside landscape”. Going back to the horizontal 22-inch curved OLED infinity display, it’s important to point out that it features 2 distinct zones for different driver and passenger experiences, orchestrated by the innovative Human Machine Interface and its new multi-function interactive controller with capacitive touch. On top of this controller you’ll find a concave gorilla glass touch pad and knurled metal wheel with handwriting recognition. Also, those polished linear metal inlays integrated into the wood lower center console have capacitive touch capabilities, and each one allows direct access to the most commonly used functions, such as Navigation, Entertainment, Communication and Environment. When the passenger taps these metal strings, he or she will gain separate control of a mini-view on the right side of the display, without disturbing the driver. As for the craftsmanship of the cabin, Genesis decided to go with semi-aniline leather, with quilted diamond stitching on the interior door panels, seat inserts and center console side. There’s also an interesting contrast between the leather on the upper instrument panel and the distinctive suede on the instrument panel bridge. In the cargo area, the GV80 Concept features an elegant tonal and texture effect, mixing in suede with dark gray leather and slate ash wood, a mix that is both visually appealing as well as functional thanks to the contrasting sleek metal tie downs. +++

+++ HYUNDAI ’s plans for green cars are a costly array of hybrids, plug-ins, pure electrics and fuel-cell vehicles for both the Hyundai and Kia brands. But theautomaker’s eco-car czar, Lee Ki-sang, expects a technological shakeout between 2020 and 2025 that will make it clearer whether a post-lithium ion battery breakthrough is on the horizon. Lee, senior vice president for Hyundai Motor Group, said next-generation solid-state batteries seem to hold the greatest potential. And if a breakthrough comes, Hyundai could rapidly shift its lineup toward electrics. Much is riding on the direction of tomorrow’s batteries because Hyundai aims to be the world’s No. 2 eco-car maker by 2020, after Japanese rival Toyota. To get there, it plans to launch 28 eco cars by then, consisting of 10 hybrids, 8 plug-ins, 8 electric vehicles and 2 fuel-cell vehicles, all of which require some kind of battery. Eco cars make up about 2.5 percent of Hyundai Motor Group’s global sales. But that could rise to between 20 percent and 40 percent of its total volume by 2025, Lee predicted. “If a really new, next-generation battery appears, like magic, around 2025, then the market share of electric vehicles will go from 20 to 30 percent to 80 to 90 percent of the whole market”, Lee said in an interview at the South Korean manufacturer’s fuel cell development lab. The problem is diminishing gains from improvements in lithium ion batteries, the chemistry currently considered cutting edge in production cars. If no successor technology can be found to lithium ion, then Hyundai-Kia should keep investing in fuel cells as a viable alternative, he said. Lee expects the tipping point to occur sometime after 2025, based on what he hears from battery manufacturers’ efforts to deliver a next-generation, high-storage power pack. Today’s lithium ion batteries will have run their limit by around 2022 or 2023, he said. Battery makers are already targeting 2025 for next-generation replacements. Possible technologies include solid-state batteries, or batteries using a lithium-sulfur or lithium-air chemistry, Lee said. “The problem is nobody can ensure the real possibility of building that kind of new battery technology”, Lee said. “Everybody is announcing ‘We are developing it’. But to prepare a production line and to validate and to apply it to the vehicle, it will take some more time”. Hyundai-Kia hopes clues about the market direction will emerge around 2020. “I can see some meaningful signal around 2020; that’s my hope”, Lee said. “Based on that meaningful signal, we have to modify our future plan. It can be a kind of turning point”. Lee said solid-state batteries seem to be the closest to reality. Solid-state batteries use a solid electrolyte instead of the liquid electrolyte in today’s cells. They hold the potential for being lighter and more compact and for having a higher energy density. They also are more stable than lithium ion batteries and safer as a result, Lee said. “Solid-state batteries are closest to realistic mass production”, Lee said, adding that they are still a long way off. “We think solid-state batteries will be a strong candidate”. +++

+++ JAGUAR could use hybrid power trains in future sports cars, according to its chief product engineer, Jaguar sports cars, Erol Mustafa. While he said there were no current plans to implement hybrid power to help with performance or emissions, Mustafa said he “wouldn’t rule out hybrid performance” in the future. He added: “We always look at ways of improving the car but it’s got to be the right application for a sports car”. However, with other models in the Jaguar range more focused on achieving good emissions figures, Mustafa said there was “no pressure on him” to implement a powertrain that wouldn’t suit the F-Type. When asked about a possible diesel F-Type, Mustafa said he could not comment. Mustafa was talking at the reveal of the new entry-level F-Type at the New York motor show, which uses its 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium engine, already announced for the XE and XF saloons. While it is the cheapest F-Type on sale, Mustafa said it had its own character, differentiating it from the V8 and V6 models. +++

+++ MERCEDES has said that it is still unsure if it will resume selling diesel vehicles in the United States. On the back of stricter measures employed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the wake of Volkswagen’s diesel emissions-cheating scandal, Mercedes has yet to receive local approval for its 2017 model year diesel vehicles, including the C-Class. While speaking with Automotive News at the ongoing New York Auto Show, Mercedes-Benz USA chief and president Dietmar Exler said that company engineers are in talks with the EPA but isn’t aware of the status of these talks. “No decision made one way or the other”, he said. Although the carmaker’s diesels are quite popular in Europe, the same can’t be said of the United States. In fact, Exler revealed that in the past, diesel vehicles have only accounted for 2-3 percent of U.S. sales. As Mercedes susses up its local diesel future, Exler reiterated that focus remains firmly affixed to the automaker’s plan of launching 10 EVs by 2025. +++

+++ The first all-electric VOLVO is expected to be exported from China to global markets in 2019. Whether the EV will be a car or a crossover is not yet known. Sources tell Automotive News that it will be based on Volvo’s compact modular architecture (CMA) platform, shared with China-based parent company Geely. Volvo’s second EV could be a larger model based on the scalable product architecture (SPA) platform, already put to use in the XC90. Volvo has introduced 2 concepts based on the CMA platform, the Concept 40.1 crossover and the Concept 40.2 sedan. Separate rumors suggest the 40.1 will be presented in production form as the XC40 at the Shanghai auto show, potentially aligning with the AN report pointing to the EV announcement at the same venue. The EV is expected to be manufactured at Volvo’s Luqiao factory in southeast China. The plant is said to focus on CMA-based vehicles, both from Volvo and Geely’s new Lynk & Co brand. The EVs are believed to be a small part of Geely’s plan to expand Volvo production in China. +++

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