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+++ DYSON , the high-end household appliance company, may be developing an electric car, if a string of recent executive-level appointments are anything to go by. David Wyer recently joined Dyson as its new head of procurement after 22 years at Aston Martin, where he had spent most of his time in the procurement division, including the last 15 months as the head of purchasing for the entire company. As noted by Bloomberg, Wyer’s move follows on from Ian Minards, who quit Aston Martin after over 10 years as its director of product development in order to assume a similar role at Dyson. These latest executive appointments have added to the drumbeat of speculation about Dyson’s potential plans in the automotive sector. The business publication also understands the company has been hiring specialists in autonomous systems and machine learning, including Andrew Watson, Symantec’s former chief of machine learning. In 2015, Dyson purchased Sakti3, a solid state battery firm, for around 90 million pounds ($147 million), and has pledged to spend around one billion pounds ($1.6 billion) on battery-related research and development. Last year, the UK government published a document confirming it was “funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire”. This investment was touted as securing “174 million pounds ($284 million) of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering”. The document was later amended to read: “The Government is providing a grant of up to 16 million pounds ($26 million) to Dyson to support research and development for battery technology at their site in Malmesbury”. Needless to say, Dyson’s recruitment of high-level talent from outside its industry doesn’t necessarily indicate it’s planning to do anything in the automotive sector, with people with various skills and rank moving between industries all the time. For example, Opel, after the completion of its purchase by the PSA Group, appointed a procurement executive from Vodafone. Similarly, one of Ford’s most celebrated CEOs, Alan Mulally, was brought in from Boeing. In a statement, the company said: “We have historically recruited from a wide range of backgrounds, as we are a broad church and are developing a multitude of technologies. We plan to recruit an extra 3.000 engineers and scientists by 2020 and are working with more than 40 universities globally”. Even if Dyson is actively pursuing autonomous vehicle technology, it may end up in a similar spot to Apple and Google, where its end game is not to develop its own car, but to be a major force in the supply of technology and equipment required for self-driving vehicles. +++

+++ Chinese auto maker Great Wall Motor aims to acquire JEEP , the profitable U.S. sport-utility vehicle maker owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, a Great Wall representative said. The spokeswoman couldn’t confirm whether Great Wall had already submitted a bid to Fiat Chrysler, or whether an offer was being prepared. But she said the company would continue to pursue Jeep in hopes of doing a deal. Fiat Chrysler, which said it “has not been approached by Great Wall Motors in connection with the Jeep brand or any other matter relating to its business”, has a joint venture with a separate Chinese auto maker for its sales in China, GAC Group. Great Wall’s salvo represents one of the first demonstrations of public interest in a Fiat Chrysler deal since Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne began talking about finding a merger partner several years ago. Marchionne, long at the helm of Fiat, believes auto makers need to get bigger and consolidate in order to shoulder regulatory costs and to keep up on emerging technology. +++

+++ Multi-million euro bonuses to German car company executives are not fair given the sector’s tarnished image after the emissions scandal, Chancellor Angela MERKEL said. “No I don’t think this is fair. I don’t know how the automotive industry is going to respond”, Merkel told in an interview. She added: “They have supervisory boards on which union representatives sit and I think there should be a more sensitive approach to executive bonuses”. Merkel said it was not up to politicians to cap executive pay and bonuses. +++

+++ SUZUKI Australia has quietly discontinued its Celerio after the Thai-built city hatch failed to catch on with buyers. The Celerio was launched in Australia in February 2015 and received generally favourable reviews from the media, but its low sales have seen it pulled from the line-up, for now. Suzuki has a number of similarly positioned models in its Australian roster which may have also had an impact on Celerio sales (Baleno, Swift, Ignis). The Celerio replaced the Indian-sourced Alto that was Suzuki’s micro-car offering from 2009 to 2015. In its first year on sale, Suzuki sold 1.399 examples of the Celerio, falling by 47 percent to 742 units in 2016. So far this year, Suzuki has shifted just 141 Celerios, representing a 74.3 per cent drop over the first 7 months of 2016. Sales in Australia’s micro-car segment have been on the decline since the segment was officially recognised as part of the monthly VFACTS sales figures in 2013. In that year, 22,874 micro cars were sold Down Under, before dipping by a whopping 30.8 per cent in 2014. By 2015 it had slowed to 15,828 sales, a slide of 32.3 per cent over 2014. A number of new models launched last year into the segment ensured that sales remained relatively steady, dropping just 4.8 per cent compared with 2015. Holden’s new Spark (Opel Karl) and the Kia Picanto were almost exclusively responsible for the strong result last year, with the Holden picking up 1.760 sales , a 21.4 per cent lift, while the Kia hit 1.934 units. Mitsubishi’s Mirage (Space Star) remained the top seller in the segment in 2016 for the 4th consecutive year with 3.064 sales, a big drop from its first year on the market in 2013 when the current-generation car recorded 9.549 sales. The Picanto, that arrived in new-generation guise in May, is the only car in the segment to experience sales growth so far this year, with the Korean hatch up 200.5 per cent to 1.806 units, ensuring it is outselling the Mirage (1.015), Spark (628) and Fiat 500 (443). A number of manufacturers have pulled out of the micro-car segment in Australia, citing low sales and low dealer margins. Nissan’s Micra, the Fiat Panda and Volkswagen’s Up have all been discontinued in recent years and now with the Celerio gone, it leaves just 4 nameplates in the segment: the Fiat 500, Holden Spark, Kia Picanto and Mitsubishi Mirage. +++

+++ TATA Motors will invest more than 40 billion rupees ($625 million) to boost sales of its passenger and commercial vehicles, its chief executive said, as the Indian automaker looks to return to profit in its domestic business. The company has committed to invest 25 billion rupees in its car unit and will pump more than 15 billion rupees into its trucks and bus business this year and annually over coming years, CEO Guenter Butschek told reporters in Mumbai. Tata Motors, maker of the loss-making Nano small car, will focus on reducing costs, launching new products and ramping up production volumes over the next 6 to 9 months as part of its turnaround plan, Butschek said. “To return to overall profitability is what we have given ourselves as the ultimate objective for the year 2017/18”, Butschek said. Tata Motors, owner of British luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover, has been trying to turn around its loss-making domestic unit by modernising products, improving efficiency, cutting costs and streamlining its organisation and supplier base. The automaker, which has 5.5 percent share of the passenger vehicles market, has struggled to boost sales in a country where rivals Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai Motor have cornered two-thirds of the market. Earlier this month it ended talks with Germany’s Volkswagen Group to jointly develop a car for India and other emerging markets over technical issues. In February Tata Motors launched the Tamo sub-brand to test new technologies and help it become more responsive to changing market trends. But plans to launch the first Tamo-branded car have been put on the back burner as it focuses on turning around the business, Butschek said. +++

+++ No matter where you are in the world, if you jump into a TESLA , it’ll know who you are and what you like. Apparently. That’s according to Tesla boss Elon Musk, who tweeted overnight that the company is working to enhance its driver recognition technology, so that you can effectively tailor any Tesla model to your specific preferences. “We are going to move all info and settings to the ‘cloud’ (aka server) so any Tesla you drive in the world automatically adjusts to you”, Musk tweeted in response to a customer query over navigation setup. The infotainment system currently allows you to set a number of parameters based on your specific desires, assigning those to your driver profile, which you can select as you get into the driver’s seat. Musk also tweeted his congratulations to an Italian owner group that managed to become the first Tesla users anywhere in the world to achieve more than 1.000 kilometres on a single charge. Tesla Owners Italia tweeted that it achieved 1.078 km in a Model S 100D on a single charge. +++

+++ Long gone are the days of narrow roof pillars that not only looked good from the outside but provided optimal visibility from inside the cabin. Safety standards, while necessary, have enlarged car pillars to sizes that sometimes make it pretty difficult to check surroundings. TOYOTA may have something to counter the annoyance of massive pillars, per its latest U.S. patent. The Japanese automaker has detailed a device of sorts that makes a vehicle’s A-pillars completely transparent. No, it’s not wizardry, some James Bond gadget, or even video cameras. It actually involves mirrors. By carefully placing mirrors, Toyota’s patented cloaking device makes it possible to bend light around an object (in this case, a vehicle pillar) and see the other side of it. This sort of technology already exists today, but with the help of cameras and other expensive components. Therefore, Toyota felt a more practical and less expensive option was deemed necessary. It’s not clear if and when Toyota will implement the cloaking device solution, but the patent was filed by the company’s American arm. With that said, it’s likely the solution would be implemented on the automaker’s U.S. cars and trucks. We may not ever see a day when thin, creatively-crafted vehicle pillars return, but we suppose at least seeing around the massive structures is better than nothing. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is more focused on its multi-billion-euro shift towards electric vehicles and transport services than any potential sale of motorcycle brand Ducati or transmissions maker Renk, its head of strategy told. Analysts and bankers have been expecting Europe’s biggest carmaker to sell assets soon to help meet the cost of its diesel emissions test cheating scandal, which has already reached as much as $25 billion. But Thomas Sedran said the German company was in no hurry to make divestments, which are opposed by its powerful labor unions, pointing to the group’s strong financial performance despite the “dieselgate” scandal. “It’s much more important to discuss which new business fields the company will enter. Divestments are less relevant”, he said in an interview. “Big decisions like how to expand or optimize the business portfolio of a global company need time and have to be developed by consensus. For Volkswagen, the topic of the business portfolio is very important but not time critical”, he said. Volkswagen has asked banks to examine options for Ducati and Renk, including selling the 2 divisions, sources have said, as it reviews its businesses after announcing a major push into electric cars and services such as ride-hailing a year ago. 5 bidders have been short-listed for Ducati, including Italy’s Benetton family, with offers ranging from 1.3-1.5 billion euros, a separate source said last month. But the potential deal currently does not have the support of a majority on Volkswagen’s supervisory board, with labor leaders (who occupy half the board seats) resisting a sale unless there are compelling financial reasons. “Top management has a clear idea of what belongs to core business and what doesn’t”, Sedran said, without elaborating. “It is now a question of how the supervisory board will assess this and what one wants to do”. He said the range of possible changes was “far greater than just the things that are seized on in public discussion”, adding the money to pay for the emissions scandal had to be found somewhere. “So it’s perfectly plausible that we consider whether the time may have come to find a more suitable owner for certain business areas”, said Sedran, a former head of General Motors in Europe who joined Volkswagen 2 months after the scandal broke. Since then, Volkswagen management has had to deal with an ever-growing number of ‘dieselgate’ probes in Germany and abroad, as well as a new investigation into potential collusion among German carmakers. On the group’s long-running effort to produce a low-cost car for emerging markets, he said Czech brand Skoda would try to develop such a vehicle for India by 2020, one year later than planned after cooperation talks with Tata Motors collapsed. Skoda has developed “a series of ideas” for a cheap car for India that could then be used in other markets such as Brazil and Iran, Sedran said. The 52-year-old also poured cold water on union calls for production of a new model to be assigned to one of three German auto-making sites to boost plant utilization. “Short-term displacements of vehicles are always difficult at production peaks”, he said. “To take cars out of one plant for the short term and give production to another plant doesn’t achieve much”. +++

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