Newsflash II

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+++ More information on the upcoming CHEVROLET Corvette C8 has been leaked, including the engine range which apparently will feature three options to choose from. The new Corvette C8 will come with 2 new DOHC V8 options, as well as the existing 6.2-liter V8. Of the 2 new engines, the smaller will be a 4.2-liter and the other will be a 5.5-liter unit. The new engines will be built at the Tonawanda plant and the existing 6.2-liter V8 will be the main choice for the C8 with an average of 14,000 engines per year, from 2019 to 2021. The smaller 4.2-liter follows on their list with a projected production run of more than 7,000 engines per year, with the 5.5-liter having the smallest production numbers, at around 5,000 units per year. Both the 4.2-liter and the 5.5-liter V8s are expected to be twin-turbocharged, also mentioning a “Cadillac Sports Car” which is going to use the smaller of the 2 engines. As for the actual power figures, the 5.5-liter V8 is expected to produce as much as 850 hp and 1.100 Nm, which sounds exciting to say the least. The current C7 Corvette will soldier on for at least 3 more years to 2021, which means the 2 cars will be available at the same time. +++

+++ For the second month running, all cars in the latest EURO NCAP crash-test batch have been awarded a 5-star rating. The BMW X3, DS 7 Crossback, Honda Civic, Jaguar E-Pace, Mercedes-Benz X-Class, Porsche Cayenne, Subaru Impreza and Subaru XV all scored top ratings on their first, most basic attempt of the 2-tier Euro NCAP testing system. The best-performing car in the latest batch for adult occupant protection is the Cayenne, with a 95 percent score. For child occupant protection, it was the Impreza and XV, both with an 89 percent score. The XV also came top for pedestrian protection, while the Civic triumphed on driver assistance systems. The Civic was being reassessed after a tweak to improve the effectiveness of its side curtain airbag for child occupants. The Citroën E-Méhari was the only car in the batch to score below 5 stars, achieving a 3-star rating in its standard specification. Euro NCAP explained that it performed poorly in some areas of impact testing, while “protection provided by the bonnet to the head of a struck pedestrian was no better than adequate and was poor in many test areas”, and that the only driver assistance feature is a seatbelt reminder. Euro NCAP’s secretary general, Michiel van Ratingen, said: “As we approach the end of the year, Euro NCAP is preparing for the new tests in 2018, in which auto brake systems that can detect and mitigate cyclists will be put to the test for the first time. “These new tests and other planned updates will reflect the surge in automated vehicle functions that we expect to see on the market in the next years. Our mission is to help consumers understand how these systems operate, to show what they are capable of and to explain how one day these might save your life”. Autointernationaal.nl is awaiting a response from Citroën. +++

+++ Daimler has turned down an offer from China’s GEELY to take a stake of up to 5 percent via a discounted share placement, as the German automaker has long been reluctant to see existing shareholdings diluted, sources with knowledge of the talks said. A stake of that size would be worth 4.5 billion dollar at current market prices. Although Daimler declined the offer, it told Geely it was welcome to buy shares in the open market, the sources added. Carmakers in China have embarked on a flurry of dealmaking, as they scramble to boost production of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles ahead of tough new quotas to be imposed by Beijing, which wants to reduce urban smog and lower the country’s reliance on oil. People with knowledge of Geely’s thinking said the company was keen to access Daimler’s electric car battery technology and wanted to establish an electric car joint venture in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. Geely, which also owns Swedish car maker Volvo, is still hopeful it can secure a deal in some form over the coming weeks, they added. The 2 automakers met in Beijing in recent weeks at Geely’s behest. There, the Chinese firm, formally known as Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, offered to take a stake of between 3 percent and 5 percent if Daimler would issue new shares at a discount, the sources said. It was not immediately clear what kind of discount for the shares Geely had in mind or whether Geely was interested in buying the shares on the open market. A spokesman for Geely declined to comment. A spokesman for Daimler said the company was “very happy with our shareholder structure at present”, but added that it would welcome new investors with a long-term interest in the company. Geely, which has a market value of some $32 billion, is the leading domestic brand in China with a 5 percent market share, according to an analysis by Nomura Securities. A stake of 5 percent would establish it as Daimler’s third-largest shareholder behind the Kuwait Investment Authority and BlackRock, who hold 6.8 percent and 6 percent respectively. Daimler, however, has a long-established joint venture with Chinese carmaker BAIC Motor, which its spokesman described as “our most important partner in China”. This month it announced plans to invest at least 5 billion yuan (757 million dollar) in electric battery and vehicle production with BAIC in China. It also has another tie-up with BYD, a Chinese automaker backed by Warren Buffett. The maker of Mercedes-Benz cars has previously held similar discussions about an investment from BAIC. But Daimler has consistently refused to issue new shares out of concern for existing shareholders. Other recent potential deals involving global and Chinese automakers include Ford’s announcement in August that it is looking at setting up an electric car venture with Chinese firm Zotye Automobile Co. Any deal involving an equity stake in Daimler would be Geely’s largest since it bought Volvo for 1.8 billion dollar in 2010. This week, Geely and Volvo launched the first car in China under their new brand, Lynk & Co, which the Chinese group intends to eventually take global. +++

+++ HYUNDAI workers in South Korea have stopped building the Kona as a protest against the company, with the labor union claiming there are plans to lay off people working on the assembly line. This protest comes a week ahead of Hyundai’s scheduled U.S. launch, with the union warning the carmaker for a wider strike. Hyundai workers are also in annual talks with the management over pay. Hyundai has been negotiating with its labor union since October over Kona’s production plans. The Korean company’s new sub-compact SUV is a key model to their plans to reverse a U.S. sales slump. The union labor argues that Hyundai wants to add more automation and outsource more of the assembly of key sections. Hyundai on the other hand says that the union is making “irrelevant demands”, such as adding extra windows in the factory as part of the discussions. Union leader Ha Boo-young said that the carmaker’s decision to start production of the Kona on a new assembly line was made without consultation from the union and that’s unacceptable. He also added that a wider strike is still on the cards “should there be another provocation by the management”. Hyundai Motor president Yoon Kap-han said that it was regrettable that the labor union is disrupting the production of a high-demand model at a time when most of their plants are “suffering from the worst sales slowdown”. So far, the assembly line remained closed for 2 days this week which is equivalent to 1,230 units, according to Hyundai. +++

+++ LAND ROVER is working on the next generation Evoque which will apparently borrow a few things from its bigger sibling, the Velar. The British carmaker has decided to not mess too much with the successful recipe of the Evoque, which makes sense since it’s been one of their best-selling models since its original debut. Land Rover’s design boss Gerry McGovern said that the new Evoque doesn’t have to be reinvented; instead the smaller Range Rover will be designed with the intention of making it “more relevant”. He then added that the company was looking at “how to make the vehicle more modern, precise, more comfortable, more luxurious, those things; not just pure aesthetics”. The exterior design will be heavily influenced by the new Velar, which has already served as an inspiration to the recently facelifted Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models. The new Evoque will also feature most of the Velar’s interior tech, including the dashboard’s dual-touchscreen layout and digital instrument cluster. Under the fresh new bodywork, the new Evoque will use on a re-engineered version of the current model’s D8 platform, which is also used in slightly different versions on cars like the Discovery Sport and Jaguar E-Pace. These platform updates are focused on making the new Evoque more comfortable and refined as Land Rover wants it to offer a true “mini Range Rover” feel in terms of luxury and refinement. That also gives Jaguar the chance to distance themselves with the sportier E-Pace. The size of the second generation Evoque will be slightly bigger, compared to the current model. The wheelbase will be stretched by 21 mm to 2.681 mm while the tracks will also be wider and the rear trailing arm suspension will be redesigned for more cabin space. The Ingenium engine range will carry over from the existing Evoque, meaning a 2,0-liter petrol unit offered in different power outputs between 240 hp and 300 hp and a 2.0-liter diesel ranging from 150 hp to 240 hp. All engines will be paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission and will be retuned for better fuel economy and CO2 emissions. A mild hybrid version will reportedly be available after 2020. Base models will be offered with front-wheel drive with Land Rover offering all-wheel drive on more expensive versions. The new Range Rover Evoque is expected to make its official debut at the 2018 Paris Motor Show, with European sales set to begin in early 2019. +++

+++ The LYNK & CO 01 has attracted 6.000 orders in 137 seconds; a new world record for the fastest-selling car in the world, according to the brand. A 3-day period was set out in the brand’s pre-sales event, with an allocation of 6.000 units for sale to early customers in China ahead of the car’s official sales launch. The car made its public debut at the Shanghai motor show, as the company launches into China, with the small SUV priced from around the equivalent of 36,000 euro in The Netherlands. The 01 is the first model to come from Lynk & Co, the all-new Chinese-owned and Volvo-backed car brand from Geely. It’s a mid-sized tech-laden SUV that’s claimed to be “the most connected car to date”. Its maker says the 01 will be the first Chinese-made car to be sold in volume in Europe, once the company spreads here. The model has been designed and engineered in Sweden. It has an electrified powertrain and be built on modular architecture shared with Volvo’s forthcoming XC40. The 01 is claimed to have a premium specification and to “address the needs and preferences of the new global and connected generation”. Lynk & Co’s 01s will always be connected to the internet and to their own cloud. A standard ‘share’ button will let owners control, monitor and share their cars via a smartphone or from the car. The new marque’s design philosophy has been developed at Geely Design in Sweden, led by group executive vice president and former Volvo design boss Peter Horbury. Designers say their aim was to create a strong personality that captures both European and Chinese genes. “The design brief was simple”, said Andreas Nilsson, head of design. “Our car needed to stand out from the crowd and appeal to a global audience. Our users will be extremely tech-savvy. Our interior design reflects this and feels familiar in the context of new technology”. The 01 is likely to have a range of transverse, front-mounted engines from Volvo’s family of 2.0-litre 4-cylinder and 1.5-litre triples. Member of the board of directors for Geely and Volvo Carl-Peter Forster confirmed that a plug-in hybrid version will follow soon after, with electric drive for both axles. This suggests the drive systems will be derived from Volvo hybrid models, of which the XC40 sends electric drive to the front wheels and the larger XC90 to the rear wheels. Transmissions are either 6-speed manuals or 7-speed dual-clutch automatics. The car measures 4,6 meter long. Lynk & Co said its wheelbase is comparably long, given the SUV’s overall length, because the Chinese market really cares about rear cabin space and less about boot capacity. As with all Lynk & Co models that will follow (and 02 and 03 models are already being mentioned) the 01’s creators say they aim to challenge current preferences within the motor industry. “Our industry has been refining design and engineering successfully for decades”, said senior vice president Alain Visser, “but not so much the distribution and ownership model. Our customers’ values and preferences have evolved dramatically. It is time for us to step into the future”. Eventually, Lynk & Co will offer “a premium, state-of-the-art range of cars at the most accessible price points”, said Visser, who has held top-level European sales positions at Opel and Ford. “We will challenge and redesign every link in the chain”. The Lynk & Co range will be closely related to Volvo’s in order to improve Volvo’s economies of scale. Geely and Volvo believe the platform underpinning it will have the versatility of Volkswagen’s MQB architecture but be more affordable. Rather than offering traditional trim levels, Lynk & Co will have fixed-price equipment collections that draw inspiration from contemporary fashion and technology sectors. The new 01 will have an open API (application programming interface), which will essentially allow outside developers to “enrich the automotive experience” of the 01 with new ideas of their own. An important part of the Lynk & Co challenge, said Visser, is to offer customers a new route to market that features direct contact with the manufacturer, along with personalised services and hassle-free-ownership. “Our aim is to enrich and simplify ownership by redefining how cars are bought, owned, connected, serviced and used”, he said. Lynk & Co believes the subsequent arrival of the 02 and 03 will build towards “a full range” whose straightforward model names reflect the brand’s idea of simplifying and challenging industry conventions. The new models won’t neglect dynamic qualities, according to R&D boss Mats Fagerhag, who runs a shared Geely-Volvo R&D centre called CEVT (China Euro Vehicle Technology). The 01 has been benchmarked against good SUV competitors. “We have developed state-of-the-art cars that are strong, lightweight, efficient, fun to drive”, Fagerhag said. +++

+++ MERCEDES – AMG will introduce a new petrol-electric hybrid line-up to sit below its 63 range, starting with a CLS 53 version that’s due at the 2018 Detroit motor show. The model arrives as part of the next-generation CLS range that’s set for reveal at the Los Angeles motor show. It will use AMG’s 3.0-litre straight-6 engine, as used by 43 models, in conjunction with a 50 kW electric motor to produce a total of 435 hp. Along with the power output, AMG boss Tobias Moers confirmed that the 53 nomenclature will feature exclusively on AMG models which only use petrol-electric hybrid powertrains. He hinted that an E-Class 53 variant could follow the CLS. Despite falling short of the current V8-engined CLS 63 S’s 585 hp, the hybrid 6-pot model’s electric torque-filling ability should ensure performance is much closer. This would clear space for the AMG GT 4-door that’s due in 2018 as an entirely different model, inspired by the GT Concept of the 2017 Geneva motor show. The GT 4-door will use a twin-turbocharged V8 engine, borrowed from either the AMG GT or E63, with a hybrid range-topper producing around 800 hp. The hybrid CLS is expected to come with regenerative braking technology to help replenish its lithium ion batteries when on the move. This technology is already in use elsewhere in Mercedes’ range, and would come as part of 48v electric architecture. For the AMG E53, sources have suggested that the electric and 6-cylinder hybrid system will be the only drivetrain available on AMG coupé and convertible E-Classes, while larger saloon and estate models will remain as E63s with V8 engines. +++

+++ The PSA Group, which paid General Motors 1.3 billion euros for OPEL , now wants about half of the money back after discovering the full extent of its CO2 emissions challenges and exposure to European fines, sources told. PSA, which completed the acquisition in late July, said earlier this month it will need to move Opel models onto its own more fuel-efficient technology faster than planned, in order to cut carbon dioxide emissions before new EU limits are phased in from 2020-21, backed by hefty penalties. The French carmaker has told GM it believes it is owed more than half a billion euros and intends to pursue a legal claim on the grounds that it was misled about Opel’s emissions strategy, 2 people familiar with the matter said. PSA is seeking 600-800 million euros, according to one. The companies have discussed the grievances raised by PSA, which has yet to initiate a formal claim, sources close to both manufacturers said. “We are not aware of any claim submitted by PSA regarding future CO2 targets and we cannot speculate on issues that have not been raised with us”, GM spokesman David Caldwell said. He declined to say whether Opel emissions had been discussed. “PSA undertook a robust due diligence process including their employees and many experts and lawyers”, Caldwell said. “We provided them with substantial information”. PSA spokesman Bertrand Blaise declined to comment. Carmakers are scrambling to reduce carbon emissions by the 2021 deadline, when their individual EU-imposed limits will fall to an average 95 grammes per kilometer from 130 grammes today. A decline in diesel sales is complicating their task, as consumers switch to less fuel-efficient gasoline cars. The challenge is sparking big investments in smaller engines and new powertrain technologies, from battery-powered cars to rechargeable hybrids. For those who miss their targets, fines of 95 euros per vehicle, per excess gramme of CO2, could add up to hundreds of millions of euros annually. PSA believes GM misrepresented Opel’s CO2 challenges and emissions trajectory during negotiations and due diligence prior to the March acquisition deal and its formal closing on July 31. Chief Executive Carlos Tavares has publicly hinted as much. “We became aware a few weeks after we finalised the closing that the company was going to the wall on CO2 emissions”, the PSA boss told reporters on Nov. 9, after presenting a heavily revised turnaround plan at Opel headquarters near Frankfurt. PSA shares have since fallen 13.5 percent, underperforming peers. “We put our teams to work to completely rebuild the product and technology strategies”, Tavares said. “If you fail to comply with EU rules the weight of fines you are hit with can threaten the company’s existence”. Among the unpleasant surprises was a CO2 compliance plan that relied on significant sales of the Opel Ampera-e electric car, a U.S. import based on GM’s Chevrolet Bolt, at a loss approaching 10,000 euros per vehicle, 2 sources said. “Their technical solution was economically unviable and would have led to enormous losses”, said one. “So the first thing you do is drop that product line, but then the fleet emissions explode”. Under PSA, Opel has already suspended Norwegian sales of the Ampera-e which account for most of the model’s 1,500 deliveries to date, and increased European pricing by as much as 5,700 euros. Paris-based PSA may struggle to convince GM’s lawyers (and ultimately an arbitration panel) that it was not already well aware of Opel’s weak emissions track record and outlook. Presenting the deal alongside Tavares almost 5 months before it closed, GM boss Mary Barra cited “increasing regulatory and compliance costs” as a key reason to offload Opel and its Vauxhall sister brand. “The Opel/Vauxhall business model has become more difficult”, she said. Prior to the sale, Opel was on course to miss its CO2 target by 3.7 grammes, according to a PA Consulting study published in November 2016. Stripping out the Ampera-e, then projected to reach 20,000 annual sales, the overshoot rose to 6 grammes. “We’ve been reporting for years that Opel/Vauxhall would have significant problems meeting the CO2 targets as GM brands in Europe”, said Thomas Goettle, the firm’s head of automotive. “Opel is 5 to 7 years behind with their engine lineup”, Goettle said. “We haven’t seen any big GM investments in Opel to develop plug-in hybrids or zero-emissions cars”. But Opel’s real situation turned out to be even worse, PSA sources said, with the company on course to miss its CO2 goal by more than 10 grammes; a multiple of the “slight overshoot” discussed in deal negotiations. A margin that large would incur EU fines approaching 1 billion euros. The gap partly reflects GM’s unrealistically high diesel sales assumptions and reliance on the Ampera-e, they said. “People who had worked on the closing realized quite quickly that there were these big discrepancies”, said one. “They had been swept under the rug”. PSA is now rushing out electric or plug-in hybrid versions of Opel’s next generation Corsa, Grandland X and Crossland X models that were not part of the original plan it presented in March. The entire Opel lineup will be redeveloped with the French carmaker’s vehicle architectures and engines by 2024, which is 3 years earlier than initially planned, Tavares said on Nov. 9. “Given comments about the need to accelerate the transition of Opel vehicles to PSA technology, we assume PSA will write down the value of its investment in Opel”, Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said afterwards, predicting more than 1 billion euros in writedowns over the next 5 years. The company paid for Opel with 650 million euros in cash and another 670 million in warrants that later convert to PSA stock. PSA and BNP Paribas also bought Opel’s sales financing arm in a separate 900 million euro transaction. The acquisition deal, published in GM regulatory filings, provides for compensation payments if either party has been misled. Claims not settled by negotiation are referred for arbitration. For tax purposes, a GM payment to PSA would be treated as a deduction from the purchase price. It would also add to a European exit bill already exceeding 6 billion dollar for GM, net of sale proceeds. That reflects a 5.5 billion dollar charge and 3 billion euro contribution to Opel pensions, while excluding billions more in pension liabilities it kept. During the deal negotiations, GM barred Opel staff from talking to PSA and insisted the French carmaker’s due diligence requests be handled by its Detroit headquarters, sources said. “One question that was asked was whether Opel could meet its 2021 emissions target”, said one French participant. “And the answer was ‘yes’ ”. +++

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