+++ AUDIincreased sales in June in all its 3 largest sales markets. In China (+1.7%), the company returned to growth. In the tightening US market, the Four Rings saw business continue to grow substantially, up 5.3 percent. Sales also increased year-on-year in Western Europe (+2.6%). Audi delivered around 170,650 automobiles to customers worldwide in the past month, thus exceeding the high level of June 2016 (+1.0%). Cumulative sales since January total around 908,950 units. The impact in the first few months of the year of extraordinary effects associated with the strategic alignment of Audi’s China business meant sales by midyear were down 4.7 percent on the 2016 figure. “June has confirmed that the trend for Audi in all regions around the world is developing positively”, says Dietmar Voggenreiter, Board member for Sales and Marketing at Audi. “Following a difficult first 6 months of the year, we expect a stronger second half of the year in light of the current order situation. Furthermore, we will herald the start of our wide-ranging prestige campaign in the full-size segments with the new Audi A8”. The new edition of the Audi flagship will celebrate its world premiere on July 11 at the Audi Summit in Barcelona and will be available in the first markets toward the end of the year. Shortly after the market launch of the A8, Audi will be renewing other full-size models (A6 and A7 Sportback). In addition, the company will substantially expand its presence in the top segments of the premium market over the next few years, beginning in 2018 with the all-electric powered Audi e-tron and the Audi Q8. With regard to last month’s sales balance, North America provided the strongest momentum. In Canada (+24.3% to 3,857 cars), Audi once again achieved strong double-digit growth, while in the United States the company increased sales for the 78th month in a row: up 5.3 percent to 19,416 customers for Audi of America. In the first half of the year, the premium manufacturer increased its U.S. sales in a declining overall market by 6.2 percent to 102,971 customers. As such, Audi exceeded for the first time the 100,000 customer mark in the United States within the first 6 months, selling more automobiles over this period than in the whole of 2010. Back then, Audi’s annual sales in the United States totaled 101,629 units. In addition to the Q7 (+13.5% to 16,732 cars), strong demand for the A4 (+18.4% to 18,652 cars) contributed to the successful U.S. sales balance for the first 6 months of 2017. In Germany, sales of the A4 also increased substantially in the first 6 months: 36,786 automobiles sold reflect additional gains of 18.6 percent for the market leader in its premiumsegment. Across all models, Audi sales in the German domestic market expanded slightly by 0.9 percent in the first half of the year, setting a new all-time high of 167,620 units. In June, 28,323 customers represented an increase of 1.1 percent. Among the other European core markets, the United Kingdom (+4.7% to 15,218 cars) and Italy (+9.0% to 6,336 cars) in particular reported growth for the month. In cumulative terms, Italy also was among the European export markets with the largest volume gains in the first half of the year (+9.0% to 35,012 cars), followed by Spain: 30,274 deliveries to Spanish customers since January topped the previous year’s figure by 5.1 percent. In Western Europe as a whole, Audi sold around 75,150 cars in June, 2.6 percent more than a year ago. Around 432,850 cumulative d eliveries in the region were up 1.3 percent by midyear, with the ongoing generation changeover of the Q5 having a dampening effect on the sales balance. Engine variants for the new edition of the bestselling Audi SUV become successively available in the markets. In China, sales continued to recover last month, consolidating the trend which had begun at the end of May with the agreement on the future collaboration between Audi and its local partners. With 51,900 cars delivered, the Four Rings achieved 1.7 percent growth year-on-year and the highest June sales figure in Audi history in the market. As a consequence of significant declines at the start of the year, the 254,785 cumulative deliveries by the end of June were still 12.2 percent below the 2016 reference figure. For the month of June, Audi already saw substantial growth in the full-size segment, with combined sales of the Audi A6, A7, A8 and Q7 up 15.5 percent year-on-year. The Q7 e-tron 2.0 TFSI Quattro, a full-size SUV with plug-in hybrid drive, supplemented the Audi portfolio in the Chinese top segment last. +++

+++ With all the news and the noise DODGE is making in the United States, it is definitely becoming a more popular car. And believe it or not, for the first time in 7 years, the Dodge Challenger was able to outsell the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. That is a big deal considering that 2 months ago, it was announced that the Ford Mustang is the best-selling car in the world; at least in last year’s ratings. Last month alone, Dodge was able to deliver 6,605 Challengers, which definitely is a huge hike from last year’s sales. The company sold 1,000 units more than it did in June 2016. For the sake of comparing, Ford sold 6,186 Mustangs which while Chevrolet only delivered 4,691 Camaros in June 2017. While sales of the Dodge Challenger had suddenly gone up in June, I do not know if this will be a trend in the next coming months. In terms of year-to-date sales, the Ford Mustang still is at the top of the leaderboard at 44,608 units during the first 2 quarters of the year, followed by the Chevrolet Camaro at 36,567 units, and catching up is the Dodge Challenger with 35,910 examples sold. What makes the unexpected increase in sales interesting is the fact that the Dodge Challenger has not been given an upgrade since 2008, whereas the Mustang is fairly new with its 2015 model year, and the 2016 Camaro is the 6th generation to have come from the brand. But do you think the sales hike was just a stroke of luck for Dodge, or do you think the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon has something to do with it? The increase in sales happened just after the Demon made its debut so it probably isn’t a coincidence. But then again, some people will always disagree. Dodge Challenger has not been getting much attention for the past few years, and has been trailing the Mustang and the Camaro. But when Dodge came out with variants like the Scat Pack, SRT 392 and the Hellcat, the 2008 Challenger caught the eye of many consumers. The recent launch of the Challenger Demon that produces 840-horsepower and does the 0-100 km/h per hour sprint in 2.5 seconds truly was an effective marketing scheme for the company. In fact, before the Demon was released, it is impossible to go to a car blog or go through a magazine without seeing a photo of it, or reading news about it. Well, it seems like all the marketing has paid off, according to its impressive sales made last month. +++

+++ FERRARI has seemingly bowed to the inevitable and is working on a ‘secret’ project that will culminate in the first-ever SUV bearing the Prancing Horse emblem. Despite repeatedly and long denying it would ever build an SUV, it seems the project is now in full swing at the company’s Maranello headquarters. The ‘top secret’ project is known inside Ferrari as F16X and is set to take on the likes of Lamborghini’s still-to-be-released Urus and Aston Martin’s DBX. The F16X, reportedly due in 2021, will come in either V8 petrol or hybrid versions. The high-riding soft-roader is also likely to feature suicide rear doors, eliminating those pesky b-pillars. The F16X is likely to be twinned with the next-generation GTC4 Lusso, due for replacement in 2020 and will share the GTC4’s aluminium architecture and all-wheel drive platform. It’s expected the F16X will hit showrooms with a sticker price in excess of €300,000 and according to insiders, will double Ferrari’s annual sales to around 16,000 vehicles. +++

+++ The GEELY Auto Group and the City of Gothenburg have signed a Letter of Intent to develop a 70,000 m2 Innovation Centre in the heart of the Swedish city. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Gothenburg Mayor Ann-Sofie Hermansson and their joint delegation were welcomed by the chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Li Shufu, and the group president, An Conghui, at the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (ZGH) headquarters to witness the historic commitment between the 2 parties. Upon its completion, the planned Geely Innovation Centre is expected to house highly skilled staff, opening doors to wider job opportunities for over 3,500 employees. Prime Minister Löfven said: “We are very pleased with Geely’s long-term commitment, belief and investment in Sweden. Geely has developed and strengthened Volvo as a leading car brand and this new innovation centre, together with earlier substantial investments, contributes to both growth and jobs in Sweden”. The new Geely Innovation Centre will be situated at the Lindholmen Science Park in Gothenburg and will house the China Euro Vehicle Technology Centre (CEVT, a subsidiary of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group), Geely powertrain R&D Centre, Geely Design Europe, Lynk & Co’s International Marketing, Sales and Services as well as several key suppliers to Geely and serviced apartment facilities. With operations planned to start in 2020, the new Centre will be wholly owned by ZGH and operated by Geely Auto through a new Swedish holding company. The Letter of Intent signifies ZGH’s commitment to the Gothenburg region and the deepening cooperative relationship between China and Sweden. Chairman Shufu said: “The Swedish government and the city of Gothenburg have been very supportive of our R&D efforts and we highly appreciate their unwavering support. We are fully committed to our long-term investment in Sweden, furthermore by leveraging the expertise and talent pool in Gothenburg. By working alongside the planned Electric Mobility Lab in Lindholmen, we aim to develop the Geely Innovation Centre into one of the most advanced innovation hubs in Europe”. The ZGH president and Geely Auto CEO, Conghui, led the delegation on a tour of Geely headquarters where they briefed them on Geely’s latest innovative projects including the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform that will be used by both Volvo Cars and Geely Auto. Mayor Hermansson said “This is indeed a great day. I am very happy about the Letter of Intent and about the establishment of a Geely Innovation Centre in Gothenburg. The new facilities will not only be an important step forward for Geely, they will also be very positive for the local automotive cluster, for the City of Gothenburg, for the automotive industry in Sweden and for Sino-Swedish relations in general”.

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER ’s Special Vehicles Operations (JLR SVO) division is looking into creating its own sports car to compete with the likes of the Mercedes-AMG GT. The managing director for the company’s special operations division, John Edwards, said SVO is keen to create its own model. “Deep down we want to make our own model”, he said. “Just look at the success of the AMG GT”. Edwards’ comments come in the wake of the Jaguar F-Type-based Project 7 and the upcoming XE-based Project 8 limited editions, along with the series-production Jaguar F-Type SVR and Range Rover Sport SVR. Should a bespoke model from the SVO division become a reality, it’s possible the architecture and mechanics of the supercharged V8-powered F-Type SVR could serve as a basis, dressed in a new body and a unique interior. It’s unclear how far into the future a unique SVO sports car is in the company’s plans, but in the meantime it appears the Jaguar F-Pace and Range Rover Velar SUVs are prime candidates for the SVO treatment, with Edwards telling both luxury crossovers have “great potential”. +++

+++ PORSCHE may be known for its petrol-burning sports cars, but the company’s CEO has suggested electric vehicle technology could soon feature in as much as 50 percent of its cars. CEO Oliver Blume said the company is planning for an annual production capacity of 60,000 electric vehicles from its Zuffenhausen plant, once it releases the market-ready version of the Mission E concept in 2019, and an upcoming EV SUV coupe which should hit the market 1 or 2 years after. This is 3 times more than previously forecast by the German marque’s boss, who last year projected 20,000 units annually from the Mission E alone. Additionally, the current Macan accounted for 95,000 of Porsche’s 230,000 overall sales last year. Blume confirmed that the next-generation version, which is about 4 or 5 years away, will be electric only. Together, the Macan EV, the upcoming SUV Coupe EV and the Mission E could achieve an annual figure of around 115,000 if sales continued at the current rate. Should the company reach a 50 percent split within that time frame, that will put it ahead of just about any other established automaker. For example, parent company Volkswagen is only forecasting around a quarter of its own vehicle sales to be accounted for by battery electric vehicles (BEVs) by the year 2025. The real test will be the Mission E, which in concept form has a power output of 600 hp, and claims a 0-100 km/h sprint time of “under 3.5 seconds”. Projected driving range is rated at “more than 500 kilometres” on a single charge, while a new 800-Volt charging system should be capable of replenishing 80 percent of the vehicle’s battery capacity in just 15 minutes. Porsche has invested “around 1 billion euros” into its facilities to accommodate its first all-electric model, which is scheduled to hit the market in 2019. +++

+++ TESLA chairman Elon Musk has followed through with his promise to help address South Australia’s energy woes, announcing that Tesla has reached an agreement with the state to install the world’s largest lithium-ion battery. Holding a press conference at Adelaide Oval, Musk was joined by South Australia premier Jay Weatherill to reveal the official plan, which will see the 2 parties work alongside French renewable company Neoen. The battery will store energy produced by Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown, which remains under construction. Once the grid interconnection agreement has been signed, Musk will have 100 days to deliver the battery or it is free to taxpayers, as per his original tweet to fellow billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes (an Australian citizen) in March. “If South Australia is willing to take a big risk, then so are we”, Mr Musk said. Scheduled to be installed by December, the 100-megaWatt Powerpack system is estimated to cost $33 million, assuming Musk meets his proposed target and the South Australia government is charged. Upon its installation, the battery will place the state at the forefront of global energy storage technology, according to Weatherill. “It will completely transform the way in which renewable energy is stored, and also stabilise the South Australian network, as well as putting downward pressure on prices”, he said. “It opens up new opportunities for renewable energy in this state, in this nation, and around the world”. Specifically, it will be operational at all times to provide stability services for renewable energy, as well as an emergency back-up power source if an issue is imminent. Musk described the project as “not a minor foray into the frontier”, claiming that it is “3 times further than anyone has gone before” and that it would “stabilise the grid and buffer power”. “You can essentially charge up the battery packs when you have excess power when the cost of production is very low … and then discharge it when the cost of power production is high, and this effectively lowers the average cost to the end customer”, he said. Following South Australia’s widespread blackout in February, its state government revealed a $500 million power plan that included owning and operating a $350 million gas-fired plant, as well as the 100MW battery. There were 91 international bidders for the battery project, with Tesla eventually winning the contract thanks to Musk’s back-and-forth Twitter exchange. +++

+++ WALKINSHAW . That is the new name that will be replacing Australia’s Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) brand. Rumours have been going around that Holden’s performance division is aiming to rebrand the company by next year. This will however remain as rumours until it is officially announced by the company. But then again, this information is based on “credible and varying sources” who suggest that there will be an announcement sooner or later. In addition, there are 3 dealers that have confirmed the name change. However, we should never validate anything unless the company takes action, or at least confirms it. I received hints of this development when Premoso Pty, which operated HSV, announced a huge 25 percent profit increase in the 2016 calendar year. The company’s financial statements suggest the progress that started in 2015 to begin the engineering program for the company’s 2017 model year vehicles is beginning to reap profits for the company. In the same documents, there was an item dedicated to operating lease expenses over 5 years, which have increased by almost 300 percent. This is a sign that the brand will soon start importing and converting more left-hand-drive vehicles. The rebranding also suggests that Walkinshaw could be the driver for the import and conversion of other nameplates, which means that they may start importing Chevrolet or Corvette branded cars into Australia. If you are not aware of the brand, Clayton, Victoria based Holden Special Vehicles came about in 1987. It was formed as a joint-venture between Holden and Tom Walkinshaw Racing to replace the former Holden Dealer Team (HDT) special vehicles operation that was managed by Peter Brock. Walkinshaw, is a company started and still operated by Scottish racing car driver and entrepreneur, Tom Walkinshaw. HSV does not only specialize in their own vehicles but also works on cars from General Motors, but only in small quantities. The company currently exports their products to countries including Singapore and New Zealand as HSV. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom and the Middle East import their vehicles, branded as Vauxhall and CSV. If the rumours actually come true next year, the all new company will have new products that will be modified by the company making them exclusively Walkinshaw. And if this plan pushes through, it may be the Colorado, that is scheduled to be released next year, that will first be wearing the Walkinshaw badge. Furthermore, I suggest that the company should import cars from the GM portfolio if they do the rebranding. +++

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