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+++ The new AUDI A8 is advancing electrification on a broad front. In the next model generation, the flagship will for the first time feature an electrified powertrain as standard. To that end, the combustion engines will be equipped with mild hybrid technology. What this means for the customer is refined running and enhanced performance, coupled with greater efficiency. The basis is the 48-volt electrical system, which features for the first time in the new A8 as the primary electrical system. The mild hybrid drive comprises 2 main components: first, the watercooled 48-volt belt alternator starter (BAS), which complements the conventional pinion starter. The latter is only required for cold starts in the new Audi A8. Then there is the lithium/ion battery in the luggage compartment to act as the energy accumulator for the MHEV (mild hybrid electric vehicle) with a 10 Ah charge carrier capacity and a 48-volt system. The advantage of the BAS becomes particularly clear when the driver approaches a red traffic signal or a roundabout. If the traffic signal turns green during braking while the vehicle is coasting to a stop or if a gap appears for the driver to weave into, and the driver releases the brake, the combustion engine is started immediately. The car accelerates without any delay. This is all thanks to the belt alternator starter, which is permanently connected to the combustion engine. The new drive combines efficiency with comfort in a very special way: The fourth-generation A8 can enter the noiseless coasting mode within the speed range of 55 to 160 km/h. The automobile can then coast with zero emissions for up to 40 seconds with the engine off altogether. As soon as the driver steps on the gas again, the BAS prompts a swift, very smooth restart. In addition, start/stop operation is actually active from 22 km/h. The convenient start/stop function in the new A8 differs markedly from previous systems. The high-connectivity luxury sedan can distinguish between different traffic situations. When the road ahead is clear, the BAS starts the combustion engine conveniently and promptly, letting the A8 drive off swiftly. After long standstill phases and if the customer wants to turn up the air conditioning, the combustion engine is started extra-smoothly and quietly. There is the new feature of predictive convenient starting: As soon as the vehicle in front of the A8 moves, the engine starts even if the brake is still pressed. In this scenario the control strategy concludes that the driver will spontaneously fall in with the flow of traffic. To achieve the high standard of efficiency, the new A8 comes with sophisticated powertrain management: It processes both route data and information from its highly networked set of sensors, which include the front camera. The powertrain management uses this equipment to decide whether the A8 is in coasting or recuperation mode. It recovers energy not just from brake applications or when coasting; the A8 also does so if it is in danger of getting too close to a preceding vehicle while coasting. All these measures are beneficial not just to comfort, but also at the gas station: In the A8, the mild hybrid drive reduces fuel consumption during customer operation by up to 0.7 liters per 100 kilometers. The new Audi A8 makes its world debut at the first Audi Summit in Barcelona on July 11. +++

+++ A visit to trucking firm Titanium Transportation helps explain why BLACKBERRY ‘s stock is once again a darling in Canadian markets, having soared 70 percent in 2 months. Nestled in an industrial area some 50 kilometers north of Toronto, the trucker is an early adopter of a new BlackBerry fleet-tracking service known as Radar, which uses $400 boxes to collect and transmit information on movement, temperature and physical contents of Titanium’s 1,300 truck trailers. Efficiency gains tied to Radar should allow Titanium to get maximum utilization of its fleet, positioning it to cut the number of trailers by 5 percent and also reduce labor costs, company executive Marilyn Daniel told. “Time is everything in our world”, she said. “Being able to tell a driver where exactly a trailer is as opposed to having a driver search through a yard for sometimes hours has been a definite improvement”. Radar is emblematic of BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen’s strategy for turning around the Canadian icon, by steering the company away from consumer electronics and back to its roots of selling products to businesses. Beyond Radar, BlackBerry is also betting on other types of software for industrial customers. It is leveraging its QNX subsidiary’s software foothold deep inside car infotainment consoles to expand into self-driving technology, while promoting its cyber-security software and services to thwart increased threats from hacking. BlackBerry’s stock rallied after it showed signs of progress in quarterly earnings results at the end of March, followed by news in April of a nearly $1 billion cash windfall from arbitration with Qualcomm expected to fund future investments in growth. That comes in the face of an expected revenue decline to below $1 billion this year for the first time since 2004. At its smartphone peak, BlackBerry had annual sales of $20 billion. Among the recent BlackBerry bulls are institutional investors such as Nokota Management, which took a new position with almost 4.8 million shares in the first quarter, and Oppenheimer Funds, which added 3.3 million more shares to its existing 4 million share stake, according to U.S. securities filings. Iridian Asset Management and Connor, Clark & Lunn Investment Management, 2 of BlackBerry’s biggest shareholders, each raised their stakes by around a quarter as of the end of March. Nokota did not respond to requests for comment, while the others all declined to discuss their stakes in BlackBerry. The strategy is not without risks. BlackBerry faces challenges entering the telematics market, where analysts say rivals include Omnitracs, Teletrac Navman, Tomtom, Trimble and U.S. telecommunications giant Verizon Communications. Verizon last year paid some 2.4 billion dollar to buy GPS vehicle tracking firm Fleetmatics Group. Radar “is not a unique and earth-shattering product”, said Nicholas Farhi, a partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants who advises companies on optimizing logistics operations. That’s why some investors advise caution, saying it is too soon to figure out how to properly value the new BlackBerry offerings. “It’s not the type of situation you can justify from a valuation standpoint”, said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management, which manages more than $1.5 billion and exited the stock a decade ago, when BlackBerry phones were still dominant. “It is all about hope and promise”. And yet hope and promise among BlackBerry investors were hard to come by in the aftermath of Apple and Samsung walking away with the consumer hand-held phone business. Since taking the company’s helm in 2013 to attempt a turnaround, Chen has turned to technology products used inside automobiles and corporate cyber security services, in addition to targeting the gritty trucking industry with Radar. He also bolstered the company’s ability to manage rival devices in the workforce (still the single largest contributor to sales) with the purchase of rival Good Technology in 2015. And he outsourced production of handsets last year, meaning the company receives a cut from any devices sold by its partners rather than carrying the risk and revenue on its own books. With Radar, BlackBerry enables customers to track trailers across country, and drivers can quickly locate vacant trailers scattered across vast parking lots. Previously, where drivers had to walk around those lots, banging on trailers in search of a hollow sound indicating it was empty. BlackBerry charges $10 to $20 per month for every trailer connected to Radar, a product that an analyst at investment bank Macquarie says could play a pivotal role in a more than doubling of BlackBerry’s sales by 2020. Sandeep Chennakeshu, president of the BlackBerry Technology Solutions unit that oversees Radar, told that large package delivery firms and big carriers of lumber and home goods are among the more than 50 companies testing it. “It really depends on us convincing our customers to try our solution”, he said. “Once they try it, we’re very confident they’ll see the benefit”. BlackBerry says that it is targeting some 16 million to 20 million trailers, chassis, vans, refrigerated units and piece of construction equipment for the Radar service, with a new variant on the hardware due to launch later this year. On its last earnings call, the company named Trailer Wizards, a Canadian trailer rental and storage company with 25,000 trailers, as its third Radar customer. AT&T will supply needed cellular connections for Radar in North America, and a second carrier is lined up to provide such services when it expands to Europe and Asia, Chennakeshu said. The company expands Radar’s functionality with quarterly updates. The next one will tell customers if a trailer is a quarter, half or three-quarters full and improve integration with warehouse inventory management systems, he said. The Radar boxes can send alerts when a trailer door is opened, its internal temperature goes beyond a set range, has been emptied or travels through a specific geography, features which Chennakeshu said are attractive for tightly-regulated movers including pharmaceutical companies. Raymond James analyst Steven Li forecasts that 8 million trailers will be equipped with Radar by fiscal 2020, generating annual revenue of 80 million dollar. Macquarie analyst Gus Papageorgiou is even more bullish, saying combined hardware sales and subscription fees could hit $540 million in fiscal 2020. “The best is yet to come for BlackBerry”, said Paul Rivett, president of Fairfax Financial, the company’s second largest shareholder and owner of BlackBerry debt that can be converted into shares at 10 dollar a piece in late 2020. “Its future earnings growth as a software company is only starting to be understood”, said Rivett. +++

+++ Following the launch of the redesigned 5- and 7-Series, BMW is hard at working putting the finishing touches on the new 3-Series. The car will be about 7 cm longer than its predecessor with about 2 cm of that being due to the longer wheelbase. The interior is expected to get a makeover and the number of buttons in the cabin is slated to be reduced. The car will also be equipped with the latest iDrive infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster on higher end variants. BMW has been making a conscious effort to make its vehicles lighter and the 3-Series isn’t an exception. The model will ride on the CLAR platform and the report suggests the car will weigh around 40 kg less than its predecessor. A variety of different engines will be able with rumors suggesting an assortment of three-, four-, and six-cylinder options. The gasoline units are expected to receive a minor performance boost as well as reductions in fuel consumption and emissions. The company could also offer a couple of plug-in hybrid variants with an electric range of up to 50 km. Buyers looking for something more powerful will reportedly be rewarded with a 340i M Performance, which is designed to battle the Mercedes C43 AMG. There could also be a 340d M Performance with all-wheel drive and a diesel engine developing around 320 hp. The next-generation M3 is still way into the future, but early reports suggest it will have an electric motor mounted between the engine and the transmission. The car is also slated to have a 48-volt electrical system, additional lightweight components and an output of around 460 hp. +++

+++ A study shows BOSCH is responsible for creating emissions cheat software. A joint university study concluded that Bosch’s role was significant. A joint study by the University of California, San Diego and Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany has concluded that electronics supplier Bosch’s contribution to Volkswagen’s (and possibly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) emissions cheating was more significant than originally suggested. The study indicates that there is strong evidence that both defeat devices were created by Bosch and then enabled by Volkswagen and Fiat for their respective vehicles. Since the study was conducted by academic institutions, the documentation used to evaluate Bosch’s role in the scandals was sourced from outside the company, namely via service technician portals and enthusiast web sites. For that reason, the researchers caution that their source documents have not been directly authenticated by Bosch. The extent to which Bosch was involved in creating the emissions work-arounds has been a growing question as Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal and the recent allegations against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have unfolded. Bosch’s role in powertrain development can vary from vehicle to vehicle. In some cases, the company works directly with automakers; in others, they simply provide the software. If the latter was the case with VW and FCA, it would mean Bosch’s role in both scandals was limited to simply supplying the companies with the means to accomplish the work-around. If the former, it could validate allegations that the company conspired with the automakers to circumvent regulations. Bosch declined to comment on the study or its conclusions, citing the fact that the matter is still under investigation and embroiled in litigation. +++

+++ CHEVROLET has been slowly rolling out the Bolt EV (Opel Ampera-e) to more states ever since the car’s introduction last December. Originally, the Bolt was supposed to go on sale in all 50 states as of September 2017, but General Motors has moved up its plans. GM representative Fred Ligouri confirmed recent reports that the Bolt EV will be released nationally in August. He also mentioned that cars will be delivered to an additional 5 states at the end of this month for a total of 21 states since the December launch. For a car that has only been available in less than half of the United States, the Bolt EV has been selling pretty well, at least compared with Chevrolet’s other plug-in, the Volt. From January 2017 to May 2017, the Bolt EV has sold 5,950 units. The Volt, which is available everywhere, has sold 9,187 units in the same time frame. Expanding the Bolt EV’s availability will likely improve the car’s sales substantially. +++

+++ The redesigned HONDA Accord is expected to be the first front-wheel-drive car with a 10-speed automatic. Honda’s next-generation Accord will apparently drop its optional V6 and embrace turbocharged engines. The company has confirmed plans to offer the 2018 model with three “powerful and fuel-efficient” powertrains including 2 direct-injected turbocharged 4 cylinder engines, and an updated 2-motor hybrid system. The smaller 1.5-liter engine will benefit from dual variable cam timing, while the higher-output 2.0-liter unit will feature Honda’s i-VTEC valvetrain. Both powerplants will be built at Honda’s Anna, Ohio factory. The redesigned Accord is expected to be the first front-wheel-drive car with a 10-speed automatic transmission. A 6-speed manual gearbox will still be available for both turbo engines, however. “With these 3 advanced new powertrains, the 10th generation Accord will be the most fun-to-drive, refined and fuel-efficient Accord yet”, says America Honda Motor senior VP Jeff Conrad. Full details have not yet surfaced, but the new powertrains will likely offer more power than the current generation. The existing 2.4-liter four-cylinder mill delivers 185 horsepower, while the 3.5-liter V6 steps up to 278 horses. Additional specs will be confirmed ahead of the new Accord’s fall 2017 launch. +++

+++ With the industry and the world around it moving rapidly towards electric propulsion and autonomous vehicles, will there be any room left for enthusiast favorites like V8 engines? Ian Callum thinks so. “Because there will be so few of them, the fuel they burn will be a drop in the ocean”, said JAGUAR ‘s design director. “I only do 300-500 kilometers a year in my V8 hot rod, for instance”, he said. He’s assurance is reassuring, especially when you consider that Jaguar makes some one of the best V8s (a supercharged one at that) in the business. The company’s 5.0-liter AJV8 produces as much as 600 horsepower in the forthcoming XE SV Project 8, emits a thoroughly intoxicating exhaust note, and has powered countless other Jaguars and Land Rover (not to mention a few Fords, Lincolns, and Aston Martins). “In my opinion it will be sooner than a lot of people think”, said Callum. “It’s inevitable. A lot of that momentum will come from the car industry. But the real transformation will come when local and national governments sort the infrastructure”. That doesn’t have to mean the end of the automobile as we know it, though. “In 1972 nobody wanted cars, because of the oil crisis. People had written them off. It was a difficult time to go into car design”, recalls Callum. “The difference today is that the changes now are something we are more in control of. You have to set the agenda. You have to be a visionary and predict what’s going to happen in five, 10, 15, 20 years’ time”. +++

+++ Big automakers are rushing to launch self-driving cars as early as 2021, but the industry’s major players are moving slowly when it comes to widespread deployment of a less expensive crash prevention technology that regulators say could prevent thousands of deaths and injuries every year. NISSAN said it would make automatic braking systems standard on an estimated 1 million 2018 model cars and light trucks sold in the United States, including high-volume models such as the Rogue (X-Trail) and Rogue Sport (Qashqai) cross-overs, the Altima sedan, Murano and Pathfinder SUVs, Leaf electric car, Maxima sedan, and Sentra small car. Nissan sold about 1.6 million vehicles in the United States last year. Toyota has said it will make so-called automatic emergency braking standard on nearly all its U.S. models by the end of this year. Volvo, the industry’s safety leader, has had the technology as standard equipment across its product line since 2014, with some versions on some vehicles earlier than that. Overall, however, most automakers are not rushing to make automatic brake systems part of the base cost of mainstream vehicles sold in the competitive U.S. market. The industry has come under pressure from regulators, lawmakers and safety advocates to adopt the technology, which can slow or stop a vehicle even if the driver fails to act. So far, only about 17 percent of models tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offered standard collision-avoiding braking, according to data supplied by the auto safety research group backed insurance industry. Many of the models with standard collision-avoiding brake systems are luxury vehicles made by European or Japanese manufacturers. The systems require more sensors and software than conventional brakes, and automakers said they need time to engineer the systems into vehicles as part of more comprehensive makeovers. Last year, 20 automakers reached a voluntary agreement with U.S. auto safety regulators to make collision-avoiding braking systems standard equipment by 2022. Safety advocates have petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to begin a regulatory process to require the technologies, but the agency has said the voluntary agreement will result in faster deployment than a formal rule-making process. NHTSA says the technology could eliminate one-fifth of crashes. “Do the math. That’s 5 million crashes every year; 20 percent reduction means 1 million less. Those are big numbers”, Mark Rosekind, the NHTSA’s then-administrator, told Reuters last year. But customers would likely experience the benefits of the technology infrequently. The technology to enable a car to drive itself is far more costly, but industry executives foresee autonomous vehicles driving revenue-generating transportation services that could be attractive to investors. General Motors offers automatic braking as optional equipment on about two-thirds of its models. The company did not say how many vehicles have the technology as standard equipment. GM has not made public its plans to make the technology standard across its lineup. “Any time you have a voluntary agreement you have a spectrum of implementation”, Jeff Boyer, GM’s vice president for safety, told Reuters. Asked when GM would roll out standard automatic braking, Boyer said, “let’s just say we honor the voluntary commitment”. Ford “has a plan to standardize over time,” the company said in a statement. Currently, automatic braking systems are optional on several 2017 Ford and Lincoln models, and will be offered on certain 2018 models including the best-selling F-150 pickup truck. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles offers automatic braking as optional equipment in 9 model lines, using cameras and radar to detect hazards ahead. The company has said it will meet the 2022 target for making the systems standard. As 2018 models roll out during the second half of this year, more vehicles will offer automatic braking, said Dean McConnell, an executive with Continental’s North American business. Continental’s automatic braking technology systems will be on certain Nissan models. “We see it accelerating”, he said. “It varies. There are some (automakers) that are being aggressive” and others that are waiting. Nissan did not disclose how much prices for vehicles would rise to offset the cost of standard automatic emergency braking. The 2018 models will be launched later this year. Currently, Nissan, like most carmakers, offers automatic braking as part of a bundle of optional safety and technology features. A 2017 Nissan Sentra compact sedan has a starting price of $17,875. To buy the car equipped with automatic braking requires spending another $6,820 for a Sentra SR with a premium technology package. German auto technology suppliers Continental and Robert Bosch will supply the systems, Nissan said. +++

+++ General Motors could complete the sale of OPEL , its European arm, to the PSA Group as early as July 31. When PSA Group agreed to buy Opel from General Motors last March, with the value of the transaction set at $2.3 billion, the 2 companies said that the deal could be completed by the end of the year. But the original timeframe appears to have been significantly altered, with the deal set to be completed ahead of schedule. “We confirm that the closing is expected to take place in the second half of 2017 as planned, and that the date of 31 July constitutes a first assumption for the earliest possible date, subject to the decision of the competition authorities”, Opel said in a statement. The acceleration of the procedure was made possible because GM formally agreed to protect factory jobs by signing binding contracts last week, according to a trade union source. General Motors has signed agreements which give workers co-determination rights at Opel Automobile GmbH, the new company that will be sold to the PSA Group, and guaranteed it had set aside enough provisions to fund pension liabilities. +++

+++ BMW makes ultimate driving machines, but TESLA ’s stock is the one that’s motoring. A week-long rally in Tesla shares, spurred by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s confidence in selling electric vehicles at scale, vaulted the company’s market capitalization past the German luxury carmaker. The amount of ground Tesla covered was vast: BMW was valued at a $30 billion premium as of early December. The change in rank is no small matter. Luxury carmakers like BMW trade at a higher value than the likes of General Motors or Ford, which Tesla passed back in April. BMW has a powerful brand among car buffs and affluent consumers and its vehicles command premium prices and fatter margins. In bidding its market cap past BMW, Tesla investors are signaling confidence the company can go up against a formidable player that also sells electric cars, and prevail. “The argument is that Tesla has the ability to do things that the others can’t and that, being all-in on electric cars, they will win”, said Kevin Tynan, an auto analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “It’s a flawed argument. You can’t tell me that BMW can’t do what Tesla can do”. Musk, 45, engendered optimism this week by telling shareholders his most affordable electric car thus far, the Model 3, will start production as scheduled in July. Within 2 to 3 years, Musk sees following that sedan up with a cheaper crossover model, the Model Y, that eventually will draw more demand and need its own assembly plant. Tesla’s surge in value is controversial. Short interest represented about one fourth of the shares as of the latest quarterly filing. Investors including Jim Chanos, who famously bet early on energy company Enron’s failure, point to the carmaker’s sparse profits (it’s posted losses in all but 2 quarters of its history) and expect Musk to go through billions in cash to fund his lofty ambitions. “We think they are going to be burning close to $750 million to $1 billion a quarter for the next handful of quarters”, Chanos said. Tesla “has its big test ahead of it, the Model 3. It has been losing money selling 120,000 dollar cars, but it hopes to make money selling the 35,000 dollar car”. Tesla has a long way to go to catch up to BMW in terms of sales and profits. The German carmaker sold almost 2.4 million vehicles cars in 2016, while Tesla delivered fewer than 80,000. Tesla lost about 725 million dollar in 2016; BMW made 7.7 billion dollar. Some of the excitement around Tesla is tied to its other business units, including energy, said Ravi Malik, principal and portfolio manager with Los Angeles-based SSI Investment Management, which oversees 1.5 billion dollar in assets including Tesla convertible bonds. Malik, who called the share price overvalued, estimates the car division is probably 300 dollar of the share price and the rest is based on the possible value of Tesla’s battery business and self-driving car technology. If Tesla can sell more cars, get that business profitable and also break into the power utility industry with its energy storage products, there’s more upside in the stock, Malik said, conceding that’s a lot of ifs. “It’s a controversial valuation”, Malik said. “At this level, it seems fully valued, but if everything goes right we can see more upside”. What will eventually decide whether Tesla justifies its valuation is whether electric cars really take off in demand, said Ben Kallo, analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. If the car market is near an inflection point in which battery-powered vehicles become the big draw, then Tesla not only has a lead, but players like General Motors and BMW have a lot of capital trapped in making gasoline-powered autos that could be in decline. “If we do make this transition to electric vehicles, the other car companies have stranded capital”, Kallo said by phone. If Tesla stops trading on potential growth and starts trading on profitability, the stock would plummet, Tynan said. Musk would need to raise billions to get to BMW’s size. It takes the German carmaker about $59 billion in plants, property and equipment to generate its $104 billion in revenue. Tesla, by comparison, uses about $6 billion in plants and equipment to generate $7 billion in revenue. In addition to giving BMW a run for its money in the markets, Tesla is about to be competing more head-on in showrooms. The Model 3 will start at about 35,000 dollar and may typically sell at prices similar to BMW’s bread-and-butter 3 Series sedan. BMW has the i3 plug-in hybrid in its lineup and plans to sell an electric version of its X3 in 2020. Volkswagen’s Audi and Porsche brands also plan to introduce sporty electric cars to test Musk’s growth plans. Not to worry, says Kallo: Musk has a lot of fans. “I’m not sure if people want electric cars, but they do want Teslas”, he said. +++

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