+++ New vehicle sales in AUSTRALIA bounced back last month, growing 6.4 percent to a new May record of 102,901 units. The strong return to form in May improved the year-to-date (YTD) differential this year too. YTD sales are now only 0.9 percent down on 2016, which was a record year. According to VFACTS numbers released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), SUVs and light commercial volumes both grew by 9.4 percent over May 2016. Market leader Toyota doubled its nearest rival Mazda with 19.876 May sales, up around 16 percent. Mazda’s record May tally was 9.903, up 3 percent, ahead of bronze winner Hyundai on 8.312, down 8 percent. Next tier sat were Ford (7.617, up 16 percent), Holden (6.917, down 7 percent) and Mitsubishi (6.521, up 6 percent). Rounding out the top10 were Nissan (5.083, down 9 percent), Volkswagen (5.080, up 11 percent), Kia (5.005, up 41 percent) and Subaru (4.146, up 4 percent). Smaller-volume brands with above-average growth included Alfa Romeo (up 87 percent thanks to Giulia), Foton Light (up 125 percent as stocks clear), Honda (up 43 percent, in 11th place), Isuzu Ute (up 26 percent), LDV (up 25 percent), Mini (up 16 percent) and Renault (up 40 percent). Brands that fell away included Citroen (down 48 percent), Fiat (down 14 percent), Jeep (down 28 percent), Land Rover (down 29 percent), Peugeot (down 33 percent) and Volvo (down 18 percent). Once again the 2 most popular vehicles in-market were pick-ups: the Toyota HiLux (4.154) and Ford Ranger (4.069), with the latter edging the former in lucrative 4×4 sales. Next were the regular trio of small cars, the Toyota Corolla (3.160), Hyundai i30 (2.683) and Mazda 3 (2.594). The best of the rest for May were the Mazda CX-5 on 2.298, Toyota Camry on 2.233, Hyundai Tucson on 2.135, Nissan X-Trail on 1.992, Toyota RAV4 on 1.977, Holden Colorado on 1.924 and Holden Commodore on 1.841. +++

+++ After a prototype version of the BMW 1 Series 120i sedan (sans any disguise) was spotted in Munich, Germany early this year, many interested and potential customers had their hopes up that the German premium carmaker would offer the front-wheel-drive 1 Series Sedan in Europe. But to their dismay, BMW doesn’t plan to immediately bring the 1 Series Sedan from China to Europe. While the new 1 Series Sedan is part of the BMW’s offering, it is not being offered in Europe since this so-called baby Bimmer is an exclusive product targeting affluent customers in China. BMW officially introduced the 1 Series Sedan at the Guangzhou Auto Show in China, hoping to take advantage of a new generation of car buyers that might shy away from larger premium vehicles that are currently the trend in the country. BMW has already made it clear that the BMW 1 Series Sedan will only be offered in China. A BMW source said the carmaker won’t be rushing the introduction of the 1 Series sedan outside of China, even though rival saloon model from Audi (Audi A3 saloon) managed to achieve much success in the global stage. Likewise, BMW’s reluctance to launch the 1 Series Sedan in Europe bears quite a contrast to a recent confirmation from rival Mercedes-Benz that its A-Class line-up will feature a saloon model in 2018. Built in China in a joint venture between BMW and Brilliance, the FWD 1 Series Sedan will only focus on the Chinese market. This is primarily because small sedans remain in high demand in China, whereas compact hatchbacks are more popular in Europe. Moreover, BMW is wary that the BMW 1 Series Sedan would just cannibalize sales for its bestselling offering in Europe, which is the 3 Series Sedan. Notably, the BMW 3 Series Sedan offers higher profit margins than the 1 Series Sedan, and it would be counterproductive for BMW to favor the smaller car in Europe. The BMW source hinted that while the A3 sedan has been a success, it also represents conquest sales against its larger sibling, the A4 sedan. Thus, introducing the BMW 1 Series Sedan in Europe at this time doesn’t present a good business case for the German premium carmaker. BMW has already disclosed that it is currently conducting a study on the feasibility of offering the 1 Series Sedan in the global market. However, this would concern the next generation 1 Series Sedan in 2021. For now, BMW has plans to switch the next generation of the 1 Series hatchback to front-wheel drive architecture from rear-wheel drive platform, making it less costly to produce. The front-wheel drive 1 Series hatchback is expected to arrive in 2019, after which the 1 Series sedan could be offered in global markets. +++

+++ New car buyers can soon expect to see a more aggressive approach from NISSAN , Renault and Mitsubishi as the brands push for greater relevance in the busy Australian market, following a strongly-worded press conference with the global head of 3 three brands this week. The chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Carlos Ghosn, told media at a roundtable event in Sydney that the company is “going on the offensive” to strengthen the Japanese and French brands, which he said “are not doing their fair share” in Australia. “I think that, to be fair, for Australia, I consider, and each one of the brands considers that they are not doing their fair share to contribute to the Australian market”, Ghosn said. “So you can expect to see Mitsubishi, Nissan and Renault much more on the offensive in the Australian market. Much more on the offensive not only from a product offer, technology offer, dealer services, et cetera”. Exactly what “the offensive” means is yet to be defined by the heads of the respective brands, none of which were present for comment after the press conference. However, it seems clear the growth strategy involves more product; that could have something do with Renault adding the sedan and wagon versions of the Megane range, and Nissan’s recent model clean-out that saw passenger small car offerings such as the Micra, Pulsar and Altima axed, while revamped versions of the X-Trail (just launched) and facelifted Qashqai (arriving soon) should help dealers remain busy in some crowded market space. Mitsubishi is expected to lose the Lancer at some point, and has seen the Mirage sedan (Space Star in Europe) given the flick, too. Ghosn is at the helm of the automotive industry’s second-biggest sales player in the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which, from the start of this year to the end of April, had sold 3,471,808 vehicles; putting it just behind Toyota, with 3,526,343 vehicles. It is expected that Renault-Nissan will sell more than 10.4 million vehicles this year.
It is no surprise, then, that he finds the Australian market a conundrum: Renault-Nissan (and its affiliate brands like Infiniti and Mitsubishi) wouldn’t even get close to second overall here, where Toyota is the undisputed king of the market. “If you think that the lion’s market share in Australia, which is about 18 percent, I wouldn’t say the brands have been under-performing”, he said. It was clear to those in the room that Ghosn was trying to talk around the figures: to the end of May, Toyota’s Australian market share is 18.2 percent (19.0 if you include Lexus), where Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Infiniti combined have just 12.5 percent of the overall share. “The Nissan brand in the United States has achieved 9.5 percent market share, and in North America more than 10 percent. One of the most competitive markets in the world, the North American market, Nissan is making more than 10 per cent market share: I have a hard time understanding why Nissan cannot make more than 6 percent market share in Australia”, he said. Mitsubishi is by far the shining light for the Alliance, with 6.5 per cent of the total market, while Infiniti is 0.1 per cent, Renault is 0.9 per cent and Nissan is 5.0 per cent. “I think the European presence can be much bigger than what Renault today enjoys. And both Japanese brands can do much better in my opinion. I would say, in a certain way, how can we perform better? That’s the way I would put it. I see it more as an opportunity than blame, more as a kind of encouragement to be much more on the offensive in Australia for the three brands”, Ghosn said. +++

+++ RENAULT , one of the few “all hands in” proponents of green vehicles, has now partnered with Powervault to give used electric vehicle batteries a second chance in life as home energy storage elements. This is not a new idea; Tesla and Mercedes (albeit they use new batteries) have their own home and business energy storage solutions, with the Americans arguably being the more renowned in this case. Powervault says the use of former electric vehicle batteries is good way to drop the cost of a Powervault ‘smart battery’ by 30%, which might persuade consumers to adopt them. An initial trial run will see the production of 50 units made from former Renault electric vehicle batteries be used by select homes that also have solar panels, some Greenwich schools and some social housing residences. The idea is to bundle them with customers already owning a solar grid, with the packs storing the collected energy, and they can also be charged when energy costs less, then resend the energy into the house during peak grid times, when electricity straight from the grid would be more expensive. Renault explains that after about eight to ten years inside an EV the batteries can still be used for around a decade in the Powervault system. +++

+++ TOYOTA has reportedly filed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office that will save you some worries, like thinking if your AI-equipped car is going to conspire against you in a Doomsday case scenario. Ever since James Cameron outed the Terminator (frankly even before that, we humans have so many fears) there was a major worry that one day machines would become sentient and self-conscious and try to take over the world, instead of just opening a dialogue with us. Now the Internet is pretty much everywhere and no Apocalypse has happened; but as connected, Artificial Intelligence-equipped and autonomous cars are set to rule the roads in the near future, we’re again looking to see if there’s any killer robot with the face of the Governor of California on it. But Toyota is apparently looking to set things right, as in quenching the fears of those nervous about being driven by a computer when they step inside an autonomous vehicle. A new Toyota patent is showcasing the idea of using an augmented reality head-up display to show the persons inside the car what the self-driving system is actually doing. The HUD would get messages like Change Lanes, Right Turn, Acceleration, Steady Running, and Autonomous Driving End, each accompanied by graphics, and besides info from the autonomous system, the HUD would also bring all relevant data about the road at the behest of anyone inside. +++

+++ TVR ’s new super coupé will make its public debut at the Goodwood Revival this September, the reborn British brand has confirmed. The public showing will follow a series of private reveals for customers who have already placed deposits on the 320 km/h, front-engined V8 two-seater. For its Goodwood launch, the car will be located in the Earls Court building alongside several classic TVR models, to celebrate the marque’s 70th anniversary. Although still under wraps, we know the new car will be built very much in character with the traditional Blackpool TVRs but entirely new from the ground up. Designer Gordon Murray hosted customers who viewed the car at his HQ near Guildford, Surrey. A new preview picture shows one of the car’s tail-pipes, which are located behind the front wheels. The car that’s shown in September won’t be in production specification, but will feature parts that will end up on the final car. The display will remain static, because Goodwood Revival rules dictate that only cars made before 1966 can run or do demonstrations on circuit. TVR chairman Les Edgar said: “It’s the first time a global launch of a new car has occurred at this event, and it seems an entirely appropriate place for us to do it, with the marque’s motorsport heritage and an enthusiastic audience of dedicated car fans, and in our 70th anniversary year. After a series of secret private viewings organised for the benefit of existing customers for the new car, we know that we have a surefire hit on our hands, and very much look forward to seeing the public reaction in September”. A spokesman said that orders for the first 500 Launch Edition cars have almost sold out, meaning order books for this first run could close at Goodwood. +++

+++ New car registrations in the UNITED KINGDOM fell by 8.5 percent in May compared with the same month last year. A total of 186.265 cars were registered, compared with 203.585 in May 2016. The hardest-hit segment of the industry is diesels, which following a downward trend across the year-to-date have dived by 20 percent compared with May of last year. Just 81,489 were registered compared with more than 101.000 during the same month last year. This makes diesels’ market share 43.7 percent, compared with petrol cars’ 51.8 percent. Petrol cars, on the other hand, remain buoyant, with 0.4 percent growth in the same time period. Some of diesel’s losses were mopped up by alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) (hybrids, EVs, hydrogen cars) which grew by 46.7 percent, to 8,258 registries and 4.4% of the total market. This share is the highest the segment has ever taken. Across the year, compared with the same period of 2016, total registrations are still down by 0.6 percent; 6.500 fewer cars have been registered so far. Diesel and private segments make up the hardest hit across this period, with 8.8 percent and 4.2 percent downturns respectively. Established brands and models dominate the top 10 list of best-selling cars in the UK and the hatchback rules supreme. However, the latest sales figures show that some newer additions to Britain’s roads are growing in popularity, perhaps foreshadowing a change in preferences among buyers. The latest figures cover the year to the end of February and show that superminis and hatchbacks are the most popular. The Ford Fiesta continues to fly out of dealerships, with the Vauxhall Corsa is chasing hard but some way behind in overall sales. The Focus is still attracting plenty of fans; even more than the Volkswagen Golf, which is now 4th overall despite VW’s recent tribulations. Nissan’s Qashqai shows the continuing popularity of small SUV, meanwhile, the Audi A3 has been knocked out of the top 10 by the Mini. The Vauxhall Astra continues to sell well and is chasing the Focus, while the Volkswagen Polo shows that there are plenty of buyers willing to pay extra for a more classy supermini. In May, the British top10 cars were 1: Ford Fiesta ( 50.779 registrations), 2: Ford Focus (31.762), 3: Nissan Qashqai (28.471), 4: Volkswagen Golf (27.895), 5: Vauxhall Corsa (27.821), 6: Vauxhall Astra (25.431), 7: Mercedes C-Class (23.284), 8: Volkswagen Polo (22.500), 9: Mercedes A-Class (19.222), 10: Mini (18.952). +++

+++ One of the key figures behind VOLKSWAGENs dominant return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) has been appointed managing director of the German manufacturer’s ever-popular ‘R’ performance arm. Volkswagen has announced that, effective June 1, Jost Capito will head up Volkswagen R GmbH, despite leaving his post as Volkswagen’s director of motorsport in August 2016 to take up the position of CEO of McLaren Racing just one month later. In his role at McLaren Racing until January, 58-year-old Capito takes over from 58-year-old Ulrich Riestenpatt Richter, who had been Volkswagen R GmbH MD since 2009, prior to the sub-brand’s official 2010 launch. In charge of Volkswagen’s R division (Volkswagen’s ‘competence centre for design and performance oriented products of the Volkswagen brand’) Capito will also sit as MD of Volkswagen’s Zubehor GmbH, focussed on developing and marketing vehicle accessories worldwide. Volkswagen’s director of motorsport from May 2012 to August 2016, Capito was also team principal of Volkswagen Motorsport for the marque’s triumphant 2013 WRC return, and consecutive 2013, 2014, and 2015 WRC world titles. Before moving to Volkswagen, Capito was a long-time employee at Ford, holding the position of director of global performance vehicles and motorsport business development, where he played a key part in models such as the first- and second-generation Ford Focus RS. With motor racing well-and-truly flowing through his veins, Capito’s resume also includes being chief operating officer of the Sauber Red Bull Formula 1 team from 1998 to 2001, head of motorsport organisation at Porsche from 1989 to 1996, and even a powertrain development engineer at BMW’s M division in the mid-to-late 1980s. +++

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