+++ The car industry in 2017 has been tumultuous, especially in Europe. Despite the uncertainty, though, registrations across the continent are up by 5.2 percent and, unsurprisingly, SUVs have gained a record market share of 31.9 percent. SUVs will grow even further next year, according to analysts LMC Automotive. They’re the fastest-growing segment, behind only the much-smaller-volume F-segment (luxury saloon) market. Across Europe, smaller-volume segments all grew, while the largest-volume B and C-segments, as well as MPVs and D-segment saloon and estate cars, all shrunk. Luxury, executive and sports cars all grew, as did the city car segment. Market analyst JATO Dynamics has compiled figures from across Europe for individual models, and the BESTSELLERS are in: 1) Volkswagen Golf – 445,206 units; 2) Renault Clio – 298,990 units; 3) Volkswagen Polo – 255,370 units; 4) Ford Fiesta – 237,770 units; 5) Nissan Qashqai – 230,860 units; 6) Peugeot 208 – 225,198 units; 7) Opel/Vauxhall Corsa – 221,497 units; 8) Volkswagen Tiguan – 218,238 units; 9) Skoda Octavia – 214,329 units; 10) Opel/Vauxhall Astra – 204,742 units. +++

+++ Electric car company FARADAY FUTURE has secured $1 billion worth of funding by selling off shares, in a move that newly appointed chief executive Jia Yueting claims will ensure its FF 91 model makes production before 2018’s close. According to Shanghai’s Securities News, Yueting, who is the founder of Faraday Future and struggling Chinese technology firm LeEco, announced the results of the equity funding at an employee meeting. He also said that he would move into Faraday Future’s leading position, filling a role that has been vacant for 4 years. The news may come as a relief for Faraday Future’s employees, most of whom are in the US, with their future having been cast into uncertainty with recent funding issues and the departure of high-level executives. Only last month reports suggested Faraday Future had received 900 million dollar in investment from Indian conglomerate Tata, but the company said: “the news is not true and hence we do not have any comment”. US-based Faraday Future is supposedly worth about $9 billion, meaning the claims for Tata’s investment would have bought it 10 percent of the company. Prior to that, former Faraday Future chief financial officer Stefan Krause resigned in October and chief technology officer Ulrich Kranz’s contract was terminated. However, Faraday Future said that this had not impacted upon its ongoing research and development process. The company has, at least, received more than 64,000 orders for its first model, the FF 91, which is a Tesla Model S rival. Faraday Future was building a battery factory in Nevada, Texas, to handle the FF 91’s production, but plans took a hit when construction contractor AECOM claimed a payment of 21 million dollar was late. The company is now planning to refubish an existing plant in Hanford, California. Despite these various issues, Yueting has maintained that his company will deliver its first customer FF 91 by the end of 2018. The FF 91 is powered by a 130 kWh battery and uses Faraday Future’s patented Echelon Inverter, which the company claims can transform more energy while using less space. The FF 91 can gain 800 kilometers worth of charge per hour and comes with a home charger that can fill the battery to 50 percent in less than 4.5 hours at 240V. Faraday Future says it predicts the car will offer a range of more than 700 kilometers in New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) tests. +++

+++ Drivers of diesel FIAT CHRYSLER Automobiles (FCA) cars in the US are seeking settlement over excess diesel emissions. In May, the US Department of Justice accused FCA of using software on some diesel models that led to excess emissions. Talks have now begun between FCA and lawyers representing the owners of the affected vehicles, and between FCA and the Department of Justice. A total of 104,000 cars are believed to be affected in the US, sold from 2014 onwards. The number of owners represented in the talks has not been disclosed. Documents containing proposed settlements have been exchanged between the 2 parties, according to court settlement master Ken Feinberg. Parts supplier Bosch is also implicated in the lawsuits. The settlement could be reached as early as March 2018, when testing on the vehicles is due to be completed. This testing will investigate the results of a fix proposed by FCA, with a review of the results expected to be disclosed by May. Since the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal first broke cover in late 2015, FCA has been mentioned frequently as having also used cheat devices. It was accused of having dodged the proper emissions tests in Italy, despite the company always maintaining that this wasn’t the case. +++

+++ The new FORD Focus will usher in an evolutionary design rather than introducing a whole new design language, similar in vein to the new Fiesta. A simpler interior with a less cluttered centre console is planned, alongside a prominent centrally mounted touchscreen infotainment system sprouting from the dashboard. The current third generation of the Focus has faced ever-tougher competition during its lifetime, not just from the likes of its age-old rival, the Astra, which has shed weight to rediscover a handling sweetness it has lacked for years, but also from the boom of ‘lifestyle’ vehicles, like baby SUVs and larger crossovers. The Mk3 Focus moved away from the ultra-crisp handling of its predecessors because it was, at least in part, a global model designed and engineered as part of the ‘One Ford’ program, catering to all needs. The new model will be sold globally, too, but Ford appears to be prioritising European tastes in its development. Under the skin, the Focus is likely to retain the existing version’s Global C-car platform. However, the designteam has been given a brief to make sure the set-up retains suspension comfort, while rediscovering more of the handling agility that made the Mk1 and Mk2 cars so popular. Ford is likely to increase its wheelbase very sligtly in a bid to improve interior packaging, especially for rear-seat occupants. As such, the engineers will turn to elements like the power-steering set-up, the front suspension geometry and tricks like stiffer rear suspension bushes in a bid to increase handling verve. At the same time, expect greater use of high-tensile steel in the car’s construction, to help it lose a few kilos. Significantly, the Focus range will be split into the same ‘differentiators’ as the new Fiesta line-up. Cheaper editions could be dropped altogether; a reflection of the fact that the Fiesta range now extends to higher price points than before. The remaining models will include the sport-focused ST-Line and the more luxurious Vignale, which also brings perks on the customer service side. There will also be an Active version of the car, giving Ford a competitor for the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, and supplementing the EcoSport and Kuga in the brand’s line-up. The Focus Active will feature slightly raised ride height and additional body cladding, in the same fashion as the Fiesta. Ford Europe boss Jim Farley told: “The Fiesta is going to be step one, but I think we’ll continue to look at these Active editions”. Unlike the Fiesta variant, the Focus Active could be offered with four-wheel drive, although it will be front-wheel drive by default. +++

+++ INFINITI will introduce a new concept car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month, one that the company is billing as “the first manifestation of Infiniti’s new form language”. The concept is intended to showcase the design direction of a whole generation of new cars from Nissan’s premium brand. We can expect a new grille shape and sharp, thin headlights. According to Infiniti Executive Design Director Karim Habib, the new concept car will “take the traditional sedan architecture to its next stage of evolution”. Habib hints that it could be a rakish 4-door coupe, thanks to the car’s “long cabin, balanced proportions and muscular stance”. The concept is the first major project overseen by Habib at Infiniti. The firm’s new lead designer joined the Japanese luxury marque from BMW earlier this year. Infiniti has let little else slip about the concept, but it has been hinted that it will feature an all-electric powertrain. “Our Detroit concept car heralds a new generation of Infiniti. A seamless and stunning new design philosophy demonstrating Infiniti artistry in the new age of autonomy and breakthrough drivetrains”, said Alfonso Albaisa, Senior Vice President of Global Design at Infiniti. The car sits on a new platform, and will not share this with the Nissan Leaf. The production version is expected to go on sale in 2019, alongside a raft of EVs from across the industry. +++

+++ MCLARENhas maintained its intention to build an all-electric supercar, but its engineers have been telling more about the scale of the task ahead of them. “We’ve got a pure EV [electric vehicle] mule and part of the reason for that is to ask how we can deliver driver engagement in a fully electric world”, said Dan Parry-Williams, McLaren’s engineering design director. “But there’s still quite a journey from here to there in terms of our products”. The biggest issue is still battery technology. “Let’s say you want to drive on track for half an hour”, said Parry-Williams. “If that was an EV, that car would have over 800 kilometers of road EV range, and it would be flat as a pancake at the end. The energy required to do really high performance on track is staggering. And then you have to recharge it”. The pace of change, though, is promising. “It’s definitely on the up still”, said Parry-Williams, “but which direction is it going? There’s a lot more investment going into energy-dense batteries (which are good for providing long range) rather than power density (necessary to provide supercar levels of performance)”. A full EV is still a way off, then. In the meantime, hybrid McLarens (50 percent of all McLarens sold by 2022 will have hybrid powertrains) will provide performance without the performance drain. “You can potentially manage a flat battery with a niche car”, said Parry- Williams. “If you exhaust the battery but then have to do one recharging lap, that strikes me as being okay. But if you haven’t got an on-board generator and you’ve got a full EV, you haven’t got the luxury of doing that”. +++

+++ The second-generation NISSAN Leaf electric car has already been ordered by 10,000 customers across Europe, illustrating the region’s growing appetite for electric vehicles. Available for order online, as well as through dealerships, the new Leaf is priced from 34,490 euro in The Netherlands. The first 1.500 models are being produced as ‘2.Zero’ limited editions. Deliveries start in February. The Leaf is already the world’s best-selling all-electric car, with the previous model having been produced in more than 283,000 units. But Nissan has heavily reworked its new model to take on increasing competition in the fast-growing EV sector. It is powered by a 150 hp motor (41 hp more than the outgoing car) that produces 280 Nm. It can achieve 0-100 km/h in around 8 seconds, just over 3 seconds faster than the current car. The new Leaf is fitted with a floor-mounted 40 kWh lithium/ion battery, compared with a choice of 24 kWh and 30 kWh in the old car, and Nissan says it has a New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) range of 378 kilometer on a single charge. That’s 130 kilometers more than the outgoing range-topping 30 kWh battery and 180 kilometers more than the entry-level Leaf. Due to feedback that the old Leaf’s distinctive style wasn’t popular with some buyers, Nissan has given the latest model a substantial makeover that echoes the new Micra. The exterior design has been refined in a wind tunnel to reduce wind resistance and increase efficiency. The new Leaf is the first model sold in Europe with Nissan’s ProPilot semi-autonomous driver assistance system, which can steer, accelerate and brake on highways and in single-lane low-speed traffic. In addition, the car features an autonomous parking system. There is also a new e-Pedal that automatically combines the resistance of the front-axle regeneration system and brakes to slow the car when the driver lifts off the pedal. The interior features a new 7.0 inch infotainment system that is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 2.Zero launch edition comes with 17in alloy wheels, privacy glass, LED daytime running lights and a leather steering wheel. +++

+++ Despite reports of quality issues with the Model S and X, Tesla has continued to hold the top score in Consumer Reports’ annual owner SATISFACTION survey. The rankings reflect owner sentiment after living with vehicles for 3 years. Tesla received a leading score of 90 points out of an ideal 100. Porsche maintained its strong ranking in the second spot, while Genesis enters the list in the 3rd position as Hyundai’s new dedicated luxury brand. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ brands have all increased their respective scores by 3-5 points, elevating Chrysler to the 4th seat and placing Ram above Chevrolet and Ford. Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati were excluded from the list, however, for a lack of sufficient data. Mitsubishi, Nissan and Acura tied at the bottom of the pile with scores of 58. Individual model scores placed the Tesla Model S at the top, followed by the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette. Despite FCA’s overall decent brand standings, the company also produced the least-satisfying models: the Dodge Grand Caravan and Fiat 500. +++

+++ This is the season of goodwill and only the most hard-hearted among you will fail to raise a flicker of interest at the news the SAAB 9-3 has been reborn as an all-electric model being built in Tianjin, China under the NEVS brand. There are plenty of Saab aficionados still around, and any story that conjures up even the faintest of hopes that their much missed favourite company is on its way back is generally lapped up. Let’s be clear, though: this is not the return of Saab, as was trumpeted by some media outlets. It’s NEVS using familiar tech to create new models for emerging markets. Turkey could follow China. In many ways, though, the story summed up an alarming trend we’ve seen in 2017: misleading reporting. Donald Trump has ensured “fake news” has become part of the popular lexicon, and while automotive reporting isn’t quite at that stage yet, it’s been disturbing to see how some stories have become strangely skewed over the past 12 months. We’ve seen misinterpretation, when Volvo’s announcement of its electrification strategy from 2019 onwards was assumed in some quarters to mean it was ditching combustion engines. Not so. We’ve seen opportunistic manipulation, not least when some media operations used the proposed 2040 ‘combustion engine ban’ to ram home their current vociferous anti-diesel agenda. And in this most recent Saab story, we’ve seen titillation, where cunningly crafted headlines are designed to create the sort of story some people want to read rather than one based in truth. As with the car industry, the media landscape is changing fast. But amid all the confusion and misinformation, you have our word that will always try to get the heart of the story to ensure you know what’s really going on. +++

+++ SUBARU is to be relaunched in Europe after a number of lean years for the Japanese brand. 2 all-new models based on the company’s new Global Platform (the XV crossover and the Impreza hatchback) have recently arrived in the showrooms and an all-new Forester is expected to arrive in 2019. Subaru’s European annual sales had slipped to around 34.000 units in recent years. Last year, Subaru sold 1.1 million vehicles globally. One of Subaru’s strongest suits will be ‘real-world’ safety. Its new platform has already been proven to be capable of taking a high-speed frontal impact from a 2.5-tonne vehicle and containing the damage ahead of the windscreen and front doors. Subaru’s failure to prosper during a period of huge growth in the cross-over market has puzzled many in the industry, particularly as the brand was one of the originators of the genre, launching the Forester and Legacy Outback more than 20 years ago. +++

+++ TESLA is apparently working on a significant update to its navigation platform. Responding to an owner complaint claiming the company’s navigation charts are outdated and rarely updated, CEO Elon Musk promised a new system is already under development. “Major navigation overhaul coming in early 2018”, he said. “Will be light-years ahead of current system, but we are testing it rigorously before rolling out”. Tesla’s fleet is currently laden with multiple cameras and other sensors necessary for driving automation systems. The cars are also connected wirelessly to the company’s servers, providing a method for capturing extensive real-world data that can be converted into highly detailed maps that are quickly updated to reflect any changes on the ground. Several startups and established companies are also working toward “crowd-sourced” mapping platforms. Lvl5, founded by former Tesla employees, offers an app that turns a cellphone into a dashcam that gathers mapping data. To be clear, Tesla has not explicitly detailed its navigation upgrade or detailed any partner companies that may be involved in the project. +++

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