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+++ AUDIis racing to get its e-Tron cross-over to market ahead of the Jaguar I-Pace in a bid to secure the title of the first premium electric SUV. Spotted wearing full-body camouflage, the SUV’s all-electric drivetrain is signalled by its lack of tailpipes. The car’s design looks to have been toned down compared with the e-Tron Quattro concept it is based on, with a slightly less butch front and less raked rear window. But the concept’s lighting designs, which include a strip to connect the tail-lights, look to have been retained. A senior Audi executive previously told that beating the I-Pace to market would make it the “first real premium manufacturer doing a premium electric SUV”. This title could be important in kick-starting sales. The e-Tron, predicted to have a range of at least 500 km, is built on a development of the electrified platform Porsche is using for its Mission E electric saloon. It is powered by 3 electric motors, 2 of which drive the rear wheels while 1 powers the fronts. This set-up was seen in the e-Tron Quattro concept of 2015, which offered maximum combined outputs of more than 500 hp and 800 Nm. It enabled a 0-100 km/h time of 4.5 seconds and a restricted top speed of 210 km/h, previewing what’s to come with the production model. This set-up will also be used in a second all-electric cross-over model, which itself was previewed by the e-Tron Sportback concept shown at this year’s Shanghai motor show. It features a more swept-back design and will make it to market one year after its sibling. Audi has previously said that the e-Tron will “cost about the same as a well-specced Audi A6”, suggesting it will have a price point of at least 70,000 euro in The Netherlands. The e-Tron Sportback may top that figure. Audi sales and marketing boss Dietmar Voggenreiter said that Audi has chosen to launch the e-Tron next year because that is when battery technology will be mature enough to offer a range of more than 500 km. This figure is “crucial”, he said, because consumers won’t accept less. Charging infrastructure should also be more extensive next year; another key reason for choosing a 2018 launch date. “A 400 km to 500 km range must be possible and we must have a fast charging infrastructure”, said Voggenreiter. “Both things are coming in 2018. The battery energy density is there and there is a lot of charging infrastructure in Europe, the US and Asia”. Voggenreiter said Audi was involved through Volkswagen Group and with rival firms such as Ford, BMW and Daimler in ensuring there’s a fast-charging network for longer-range electric vehicles to use. “It’s not our job to invest in charging points”,  he said. “We are pushing and organising this, though, and working with partners on it”. He referred to the ‘chicken and egg’ situation of limited charging infrastructure to date: there has been no need for third parties to install chargers because there are not enough cars to use them, and vice versa. “No cars, no infrastructure, but in the next 2 years there are lots of investments”, he said. Audi has opted not to launch its electric cars under a sub-brand, like BMW with its i models and Mercedes-Benz’s future EQ range. Instead, it is using e-Tron, which has been a suffix on electrified Audis, as a model name in its own right. It is intended as a stand-alone, milestone launch model to introduce the technology, in a similar strategy used by Audi with ‘Quattro’ in the 1980s. Speaking last year about the e-Tron name, Audi boss Rupert Stadler said: “It is comparable to the first Audi Quattro, which was known simply as the Quattro. In the long term, the name ‘e-Tron’ will stand for a pure electric driveline structure”. Voggenreiter said the e-Tron name will be used on a range of follow-up electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, where it will appear mostly as a suffix, as is the case with the A3 e-Tron. +++

+++ Hyundai has revealed sweeping plans to introduce a new range of ELECTRIC vehicles including a dedicated battery-powered platform to take on the likes of Tesla. The brand is set to pump up its green credentials with an electric version of the upcoming Kona compact SUV in 2018, as well as a battery-powered Genesis luxury car in 2021 and a new electric-only model with at least 500 kilometres of driving range after that. Hyundai revealed the next chapter of its sustainability plans at a special preview of its second-generation fuel cell electric vehicle in Seoul. Known internally as the “FE”, the hydrogen-powered SUV will bring up autonomous driving capabilities and up to 800 kilometres in range. The yet-to-be-named fuel cell car is set to make its official debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2018. A statement released by the brand says Hyundai and Kia will release 31 eco-friendly models around the globe by 2020. “Hyundai Motor plans to take a multi-pronged approach to its eco-vehicle program”, it says. “The company is committed to a future vehicle line-up comprising a variety of powertrain options (electric, hybrid and fuel cell) to suit customers’ varied lifestyles”. Hyundai plans to introduce new hybrid variants of four-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive vehicles, suggesting next-generation Santa Fe and Genesis models are in line for new drivelines. It aims to “establish a lineup ranging from small electric vehicles to large and luxurious Genesis-brand models” rolled out over the next 5 years. +++

+++ Rumors are spreading that GENERAL MOTORS is planning to pull out of South Korea. GM Korea posted a loss in the first quarter of this year and Korea Development Bank, which is the second-largest shareholder of the automaker, said it cannot stop it from pulling out. GM’s headquarters office in Detroit is apparently becoming extremely concerned about the labor union at the Korean subsidiary, which belongs to the militant Korean Metal Workers’ Union. GM has been shutting down operations around the world that were not generating revenues. It has closed plants in Australia, Indonesia and Russia since 2013 and announced in March of this year that it agreed to sell the Opel brand in Europe to France’s PSA Group. It decided in May to pull out of India as well. After acquiring the bankrupt Daewoo Motor in October 2002, GM pledged to manufacture cars in Korea for at least 15 years. That means it would be free to leave after October. GM owns a 76.96-percent stake in GM Korea. GM Korea suffered cumulative losses of more than W2 trillion from 2014 to 2016 to reach a state of capital impairment, when a company’s investments have declined in value to less than what is recorded on its balance sheet. Its domestic sales plunged 17.4 percent from January to July compared to the same period of 2016. Three new models (the Cruz, Malibu and Spark) have fared poorly in showrooms. Unfazed, unionized workers decided last month to go on strike for a 7.2-percent wage hike, a 500-percent bonus and an extension of the retirement age to 61. CEO James Kim abruptly announced his resignation last month, while KDB in a report warned of the U.S. automaker pulling out of Korea. GM Korea denies the rumors. The company “has spearheaded the development of the Spark and Trax, while the Bolt electric vehicle was created by its design center in Bupyeong, Gyeonggi Province”, a spokesman said. “Once the Opel sale is completed, GM Korea will see its role increase by overseeing the development of GM’s global compact car”. +++

+++ HYUNDAI Mobis, Korea’s biggest auto parts maker, has developed a so-called bi-directional onboard charger for an electric vehicle, the company said. A bi-directional onboard charger (OBC) allows an electric car to charge itself at a charging station. It also allows the vehicle to supply electricity from its battery through grid networks to industrial complexes or homes, the company said in a statement. “It’s like buying electricity at cheap prices at night and selling it at high prices during the daytime. An electric car mated with an OBC will serve as an energy storage system when a power shortage occurs”, a Hyundai spokesperson explained. Some 100,000 OBC-equipped electric cars can supply a combined 500 megawatts of electricity. The OBC is the most essential part in realizing vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology that will allow electric cars to supply electricity to power grids. As Hyundai expects the vehicle-to-everything (V2X) market to grow to 30 trillion won ($26.7 billion) by 2025, the demand for OBCs will rise sharply, the company said. It cited data from U.S. consulting firm Grand View Research. V2X communication is the passing of information from a vehicle to any entity that may affect the vehicle, and vice versa. “Demand for OBCs on electric cars will go up in the next 10 to 15 years”, the spokesman said. Globally, V2G technology is being tested in countries such as Japan, Denmark, China and the United States, the statement said. +++

+++ The LAND ROVER Defender is one of the most highly-anticipated vehicles in the company’s history but we haven’t heard much about the model since the automaker introduced the DC100 concepts back in 2011. That changes today as it is reported that the Defender is continuing its slow march to production with an unveiling scheduled for 2019. That’s still a ways off, but the report suggests the company could unveil a new concept sometime next year. Little is known about the Defender but officials have previously said it will be instantly recognizable and available in a variety of different configurations. Choices are expected to include everything from a two-door soft top to a traditional four-door model. The vehicle is slated to ride on a unibody platform and speculation suggests it could be built at the company’s plant in Slovakia. The vehicle is expected to use a variety of aluminum components and will likely be powered by an assortment of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. Besides talking about the Defender, the report suggests an updated Discovery Sport will be introduced in 2020 alongside a redesigned Range Rover Evoque. A year later, the next-generation Range Rover is expected to debut as a larger and more luxurious off-roader with improved performance and capability. The model could also come equipped with a new 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder Ingenium engine as well as a hybrid powertrain. +++

+++ TESLA ’s in-house salespeople are allegedly borrowing a few notorious tricks from traditional franchise dealers. The forthcoming Model 3 is viewed as critical for the Tesla’s growth plans, but the company has been actively attempting to steer buyers away from the mass-market sedan and into the driver seat of a more expensive Model S or Model X instead. Clicking on Tesla’s Model 3 page leads to a side-by-side comparison against the Model S, highlighting that the latter is available in days (vs 12-18 months), is much quicker, has longer range and boasts more cargo and passenger space, among other discrepancies. Some Model 3 reservation holders have encountered shady sales tactics as staff apparently face pressure to reduce the pre-order backlog by persuading buyers to grab a Model S or X. “The store reps were trying to sell an inventory model and said if I didn’t act quick I would miss out on the full tax incentives, which I knew was complete BS”, someone said. “They even said if I custom built a Model S with delivery of late September it also might be cutting it close and not guaranteed to get all credits”. The ‘BS’ is an apparent reference to the federal tax credits, which begin to scale back incentives after an automaker sells 200,000 electric cars. Credits are only cut in half a year after the benchmark is reached, however. An alleged Tesla staff member claims the company has distributed an internal e-mail to discourage such behavior on the sales floor. “This sales ‘tactic’ is unacceptable and is being discouraged by the company currently”, said someone else. “I can’t share the email of course but we have received emails from the company explaining that the tax credit will not run out before the end of the year and that employees telling customers that need to immediately stop”. +++

+++ General Motors chairman and CEO Mary Barra, who was the last remaining automotive industry executive advising US president Donald TRUMP on economic issues and employment growth, no longer has a role at the White House with the disbandment this week of key business advisory councils amid controversy surrounding the president’s reaction to racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The strategic and policy forum, on which Ms Barra was the lone car industry voice, and the manufacturing council, headed by Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris, and previously including Ford’s Mark Fields, Tesla’s Elon Musk and Uber’s Travis Kalanick, were both disbanded after several members resigned as a protest over the president’s refusal to fully condemn white extremists and saying that anti-racism protesters were equally to blame. Musk had resigned from the manufacturing council in June over the president’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, Kalanick left in February in response to the country’s immigration ban and Fields left the council when in May when he stepped down from his post at Ford. 7 other members left earlier this week in response to the latest controversy. President Trump reacted by tweeting that “for every CEO that drops out of the manufacturing council, I have many to take their place; grandstanders should not have gone on”. However, he later moved to dissolve both advisory groups, tweeting: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the manufacturing council and strategy and policy forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” In a statement to employees after the forum was disbanded, Barra said: “General Motors is about unity and inclusion and so am I. Recent events, particularly those in Charlottesville, Virginia, and its aftermath, require that we come together as a country and reinforce values and ideals that unite us (tolerance, inclusion and diversity) and speak against those which divide us: racism, bigotry and any politics based on ethnicity”, she said. Barra and other members of the strategic and policy forum met regularly with the president and were charged with providing “their individual views to the president, informed by their unique vantage points in the private sector, on how government policy impacts economic growth, job creation and productivity”. The forum was also “designed to provide direct input to the president from many of the best and brightest in the business world in a frank, non-bureaucratic and non-partisan manner”. According to Bloomberg, Barra chose not to resign from the council as she wanted a voice in policy decisions, and that leaving the council would prevent any chance of working with the Trump-led White House in the future. The Wall Street Journal reported that GM and other manufacturers had urged the Trump administration to ease the regulations put in place during Barack Obama’s tenure, which called upon car-makers to sell vehicles that average 40 miles per gallon (5.8 litres per 100 km) by 2025. Experts within the auto industry warned that enforcing the regulations would cost an estimated $200 billion and would threaten local jobs. Barra copped criticism for not following Musk’s lead in stepping down from her role as an adviser when the president withdrew from the Paris climate agreement. However, the US auto giant argued that that the forum provided “a seat at an important table to contribute to a constructive dialogue about key policy issues”. “GM will not waver from our commitment to the environment and our position on climate change has not changed. International agreements aside, we remain committed to creating a better environment”, the company said. +++

+++ Former Waymo and UBER engineer Anthony Levandowski apparently pitched a ‘faketesla’ rumor campaign to former CEO Travis Kalanick when Tesla boldly declared that its Autopilot system would not require lidar sensors. “We’ve got to start calling Elon on his s—. I’m not on social media but let’s start ‘faketesla’ and start give physics lessons about stupid s— Elon says like saying his cars don’t need lidar”, Levandowski wrote in a text message to his new boss at Uber, according to Waymo lawsuit documents spotted by IEEE Spectrum. Most automakers pursuing advanced autonomous systems have included lidar as an indispensable sensor, relying on infrared laser scans to create a detailed map of a vehicle’s surroundings. Lidar equipment has also remained prohibitively expensive for production cars in recent years, with price tags reaching tens of thousands of dollars for the complex rotating domes seen on many prototype vehicles. Tesla split from the crowd last year when it announced plans to forego lidar in favor of a more advanced radar system with improved signal processing, described by Elon Musk as capable of creating an “effective stereo” map via “temporal smoothing to create a coarse point cloud, like lidar”. Levandowski is credited with helping develop Waymo’s innovative lidar system, the proprietary technology at the center of the company’s lawsuit against Uber. In another text-message exchange, Kalanick asked Levandowski to estimate Tesla’s chances of achieving full Level 5 autonomous capabilities in 20 percent of a given city. “For easy city … He’s trippin’ but might/will blame regulatory as to why it’s not available,” the star engineer responded, though he did appear to praise Musk for helping make self-driving tech “not as big of a scary thing for the public … which should be good”. Uber has indicated openness to a potential settlement over Waymo’s allegation that Levandowski stole confidential lidar design files to replicate the seemingly important technology for the ride-hailing company. +++

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