+++ “You have to shoot me first”, said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ CEO Sergio Marchionne a couple of years ago, when asked whether FERRARI would ever build an SUV. In the meantime, things have changed, and Marchionne told journalists that Ferrari’s plans now include an SUV, or FUV (Ferrari Utility Vehicle) as he referred to it. The CEO didn’t go into specific details, but made it clear that “it will look like whatever a Ferrari SUV needs to look like”, adding that “it has to drive like a Ferrari”, too. By the end of this year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will be debt-free, and so an SUV will bring in more profit for the Italian automaker, mostly from Asian markets, including China, while also helping them sell more than 10,000 units annually. From the Porsche Cayenne to the Bentley Bentayga, the upcoming Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Lamborghini’s Urus, the Ferrari SUV has enough rivals to tackle. However, the Prancing Horse’s future vehicle “has not been made to compete with Porsche”, according to Marchionne, which means its main competitor will be the Urus. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLERAutomobiles (FCA) is set to unveil a new 5-year plan later this year and outspoken CEO Sergio Marchionne has provided a few hints at what we can expect. He confirmed the company still has plans to introduce a cross-over that is based on the same platform that underpins the Chrysler Pacifica (the succcessor of the Voyager). The executive said the design work has already been completed and everything is ready to go so “We can probably get it up and running in 18 months”. Little is known about the model but the company’s original plan called for the full-size crossover to be launched in 2017. It would have be sold as a Chrysler and offered with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. When asked about the long-awaited Wrangler pickup, Marchionne said: “The product is done” but they are focused on building the regular model, so the Scrambler successor will arrive in early 2019. One of the major unveilings at the North American International Auto Show is the Ford Ranger and that naturally sparked questions about a Ram Dakota successor. Marchionne suggested the company will reexamine the possibility of creating a mid-size pickup but he said FCA hasn’t found an “economic way to get this done”. That’s a bit disappointing but the Wrangler pickup could help to offset the lack of something smaller than the Ram 1500. +++

+++ HYUNDAI has revealed more information about the Nexo fuel cell car shown at CES earlier in the month. The Nexo will go on sale early in 2019. The FCEV is based on Hyundai’s new FUV (Future Utility Vehicle) platform and represents a step up in technical sophistication from the previous ix35, as well as a clean-sheet design, both inside and out. Fuel cell system efficiency has been improved and now stands at 60%, which Hyundai claims is the best ever achieved for a fuel cell vehicle. Fuel cells don’t burn hydrogen but split the molecules to produce electricity with only water and heat as by-products. The system incorporates a small lithium ion buffer battery to provide the fast response needed for acceleration. Hydrogen capacity has been upped from 144 to 156 litres and the compressed gas is now stored at 700 bar in 3 tanks rather than 2, one behind the right-hand rear wheel and the other two beneath the floor. The distribution and size of the tanks frees up space inside the car and there’s a generous flat-floor load space. The range has increased from 500 kilometers to 800 kilometers on the NEDC cycle and this is partly due to the increased efficiency of the fuel cell system as well as the extra fuel. The Nexo can be started in temperatures as low as -30 degrees C. Instruments are displayed on a 7 inch screen with a central 12.3 inch screen for navigation and system information including fuel cell and storage information. The floating centre console is based on an array of conventional buttons rather than following the largely screen-based ‘glass cockpit’ philosophy. Buttons are of different sizes and shapes, which should make them easy enough to locate by touch when on the move. European head of eco car and mobility, Frank Meijer, won’t be drawn on how quickly he expects the market for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to develop. “Public awareness of hydrogen is not there yet”, he said, but hopes trials of fuel cell cars will help accelerate the process. 75 ix35 taxis are being run in Paris and 50 in Munich. “These projects are allowing thousands of people to experience fuel cell cars first hand”, he added. Hydrogen filling stations are still scarce. Meijer doesn’t believe governments will fund the hydrogen infrastructure but will be prepared to continue supporting the purchase of fuel cell vehicles through grant schemes. Manufacturing fuel cell cars remains an expensive business but Meijer hopes costs will come down as the company continues to develop electrified cars and the components are used across different platforms. Hyundai sold 501 ix35 fuel cell cars in 15 European countries and has a network of 52 dealerships. Meijer says he expects the Nexo to cost more than the ix35 because “it is better looking and bigger”. +++

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER has announced an investment of $3 million into U.S.-based self-driving vehicle startup Voyage. Voyage remains a minor player in the world of autonomous vehicles and has so far acquired approximately $20 million in funding. Despite its small size, the company has already deployed self-driving prototypes in large retirement villages in the U.S. and has been licensed to test self-driving vehicles on Californian roads this year. Voyage is using feedback from residents at select retirement villages in San Jose, California and Orlando, Florida, to refine its technology. By investing in Voyage, Jaguar Land Rover joins an ever-increasing list of established auto manufactures that are investing in self-driving startups while also developing its own autonomous technologies in-house. In fact, the British carmaker has been testing Level 4 autonomous vehicles in the United Kingdom since November 2017. One of the most notable examples of this trend is General Motors and Cruise Automation. Founded in 2013, Cruise Automation was developing a fully-autonomous Nissan Leaf when it was purchased by General Motors in March 2016 for a figure exceeding $500 million. Since then, Cruise has been brought in-house by GM and become the heart of GM’s autonomous vehicle department but remains responsible for both the technology and the commercialization of it. +++

+++ Alongside the launch of the Niro EV Concept at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, KIA revealed that it will commercialize Level 4 autonomous vehicles in smart cities by 2021. In a statement, the South Korean carmaker said it will operate a large-scale test fleet for autonomous technology on public roads from 2019 before rolling out Level 4 self-driving vehicles in select cities just 2 years later. The brand has failed to reveal what cities it intends on launching these autonomous vehicles in but asserts it will form part of a ‘Smart City pilot project’. Speaking about the plans, vice chairman and head of Kia research and development center Woong-chul Yang said the autonomous plans will come a few years before the company introduces connected car technologies to its vehicles from 2025. “Kia’s connected cars will be both boundless and connected and offer a new kind of mobility experience. Virtual reality, self-driving cars, and ‘vehicle-to-everything’ connectivity were all once considered technologies of the distant future. As they rapidly become a reality, Kia is exploring how to deploy these new technologies for its customers. Our strategy and vision for future mobility is demonstrated by a range of interactive displays, showing what our customers can look forward to”, he said. +++

+++ LYNK & CO only just launched in China, but the new brand is already seeking for new manufacturing locations in a bid to become truly global. And one of the first regions Lynk & CO is reportedly considering for an assembly plant is North America, despite the company currently not selling its models here yet. According to a Lynk & CO senior executive, the odds-on favorite is Ridgeville, South Carolina, which is where Volvo, also owned by Geely, is planning to open this year its first U.S. assembly plant. Back in November, the company’s senior VP Alain Visser said that the South Carolina location is under consideration. However, and unlike other car manufacturers, Lynk & CO is opting for a different supply chain that the industry’s norm. The company wants to produce its models as custom orders, enabling its customers to build their desired spec by piecing together options online and order their cars directly from the factory. This sort of strategy will require a different, more flexible model under which to operate, and Lynk & CO will have to find new approaches to things like parts production, delivery schedules, factory-to-factory communications and local warehousing. +++

+++ MCLAREN Automotive’s new 55 million euro carbonfibre manufacturing centre in South Yorkshire moved a significant step closer to operational readiness. The sports car manufacturer hosted a modest inauguration ceremony to celebrate its nameplate being hoisted above the main entrance of the McLaren Composites Technology Centre (MCTC). McLaren Automotive chief executive officer Mike Flewitt was on hand to illuminate the sign for the first time. Inside the building, a new McLaren Senna hypercar performed doughnuts to ‘christen’ the newly laid factory floor. The shell of the building (which is located in the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Catcliffe, between Sheffield and Rotherham) is completed and the interior is being readied for the installation of the machines that will enable McLaren to build the one-piece carbonfibre ‘MonoCell’ tubs that form the basis of its cars. Currently that task is sub-contracted to a Salzburg-based company named Carbo Tech. Production of tubs will begin at the MCTC in 2019, although McLaren already has 40 employees based in South Yorkshire as it ramps up for the facility’s full opening. Those employees are currently embedded within the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which is a partner in McLaren’s new facility. Using the university’s facilities, McLaren’s team is already making pre-production versions of the MonoCell to build up experience of the build processes, which are said to embrace some new techniques and more automation. Additionally McLaren apprentices who will work in the new facility are being trained. The British content of McLaren’s cars will increase from 50% to 58% when the Sheffield-made tubs are used. When the MCTC is fully operational, it is anticipated that about 200 people will work there. The completed tubs will be shipped from Sheffield to the McLaren Production Centre in Woking, Surrey, for assembly into the finished cars. Ken Smart, project director for the MCTC, said: “The factory is being finished off at the moment and will be handed over to us in mid-April. From then through to about September we will be fitting it out with some of the infrastructure and then the manufacturing technology. There are 2 key reasons why we are developing this facility. First, taking control of the manufacture of the tub enables us to build in more design flexibility. So as we develop the vehicles we will be able to design the tubs to meet the features of those vehicles; things that matter to the customer such as vehicle dynamics, ergonomics, space in the cabin, the driving position, visibility, ingress and egress. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it gives us the opportunity to continually learn from the development process. Every time we solve a problem, we learn something new. That gives us the ability to modify the design for its structural integrity and gives us the ability to optimise the manufacturing processes yet further. Taking this technology in-house is giving us the opportunity to increase the pace of the design and development of the carbonfibre tub”. The new facility will also lead to a cost saving in the region of 11 million euro, according to McLaren chiefs, and there is potential for the MCTC to supply carbonfibre components for other companies, because McLaren’s production targets for the foreseeable future will leave the Sheffield plant with surplus capacity when it is fully operational. +++

+++ MERCEDES replaced the GLK with the new GLC in 2015. That’s now 3 years behind us, which means that it’s hardly still fresh, but not quite ready for replacement just yet. So the German automaker is working on a bit of an update to keep it current. Mercedes is preparing to fit a larger infotainment display in the middle of the dashboard, along with a new touch pad and a fresh steering wheel. As with the C-Class alongside which it’s aligned, the new GLC-Class will be offered in conventional style with mechanical dials, as well as a fully digital version. Expect updated powertrains to be fitted under the hood as well, including the new 2.0-liter diesel that’s rated at 194 horsepower in the E 220d. The versions we’re looking forward to seeing more, of course, are the high-powered AMG performance models. But those are still yet to come. +++

+++ PEUGEOT boss Jean-Philippe Imparato believes his company is well placed to capitalise on the electric and SUV “revolutions” following a year of strong global growth. Imparato said that the brand’s 600,000 SUV sales in 2017, which represented 60% growth on the year before, was an example of its improving image and diversifying strengths. “You could say that in many markets in 2010 the brand was not so well respected, but now, the volumes show we are gaining respect all the time”, he said. “We have some very interesting SUV projects coming to take advantage of this growth”. Peugeot sold 2,119,845 cars in 2017, equating to a 10.4% growth on 2016 and accounting for more than two-thirds of the PSA Group’s overall result. By contrast, PSA sibling Citroën’s sales shrank by 7.5%, while premium brand DS was down a significant 38.5% on 2016. Vauxhall/Opel, the purchase of which by PSA was completed in November, sold just over 403,933 units in 2017, although that number wasn’t included in the PSA total due to the pairing’s late arrival. Imparato said that Peugeot’s results came largely thanks to “strong demand for our SUV and light commercial vehicle line-up”, as well as “solid performances” for the 208 and 308. Boss of PSA sibling Citroën, Linda Jackson, highlighted her brand’s success in its most significant market, Europe, where it sold 3% more cars than in 2016. She explained that, “excluding China”, where sales reflected the wider market and were down by 47.3%, Citroën’s sales rose by 7.5%. Yves Bonnefont, CEO of DS, said that despite his brand’s struggles, the company is delivering on its global strategic roadmap. He said that the launch of the DS 7 Crossback and independent DS dealerships were “crucial milestones” in a longer-term plan. The contrastingly positive news for Peugeot is, according to Imparato, only the beginning of his brand’s ambitions. He explained that his priority for 2018 is to “work on profitability and market share”, while also readying the brand for the launch of a new wave of pure electric models, which will start with a new version of its electric Partner van in the second half of 2018 and then electric 208 next year. “The electric transition is not in the future, it is now”, he said. “So between 2019 and 2020, 8% of my line-up will be electrified. And between 2019 and 2020, I will have 50% electrified”. Rather than launching a purpose-built EV, like Volkswagen with its upcoming ID platform, Imparato said Peugeot plans to produce electric variants of existing cars in order to “cater to all regions”. He said that using modular PSA platforms will enable buyers to choose the best powertrain from their lifestyle, because the line-up will feature electric, petrol, diesel and hybrids so the buyer is “given a choice”. “We must have the maximum coverage of all the markets, so we will give you the 4 energy sources”, Imparato explained. “That is the key point for us. We have so many other issues to deal with, like the autonomous cars, but at Peugeot we will always want to give the buyer the choice to choose what they want with a range of different variants”. As for the challenges caused by a recent decrease in sales for diesel vehicles, which has seen diesel’s market share plummet by a third in Britain and CO2 levels rise as a result, Imparato expects Peugeot to remain unaffected. “We will absolutely hit our CO2 targets for 2021”, he said. “Not just 2021, but 2025 and 2030 as well. I don’t need to launch an electric car and make a loss to hit my CO2 targets; I will ensure that Peugeot is profitable and consistent in the proper way”. +++

+++ The Welsh Government has contributed 550,000 euro worth of investment to TVR , acquiring a 3% stake in the reborn car brand. The government has also provided a 2.2 million euro loan to the company and has purchased the Ebbw Vale site where TVR’s cars will be made. TVR boss Les Edgar told that the investment actually took place almost 2 years ago. He said: “The government invested in TVR on the 22 March 2016, and last month, they announced that they’d acquired the Ebbw Vale factory where we will build the car”. The reason it has come to light in 2018 is due to calls from the Welsh Conservative party, which is in opposition to the country’s leading Labour party, for assurance that the public money would be safeguarded. “It’s an unusual thing for the Welsh Government to invest in a company like this (in fact, I don’t think it’s ever happened before) so I see it as a sign of their faith in TVR”, said Edgar. The relaunched TVR brand revealed its first car, which will return the Griffith name to production, at the 2017 Goodwood Revival. Edgar said the brand is now working to produce the first pilot builds of its 500 hp V8-engined Porsche 911 rival, with production of customer cars scheduled to begin next year. While progress at TVR continues to be made, the firm’s potential neighbour, the Circuit of Wales, has experienced less fluid development. The new track complex was planned to use 336 hectares of land just north of Ebbw Vale, but the project has suffered ongoing financial issues. Its biggest blow came in June 2017 when the Welsh Government refused to guarantee funding for the project. Edgar told that while he was in support of the circuit’s construction, it had no effect on TVR’s progress. He said: “I actually knew nothing about the Circuit of Wales when the Welsh Government first got involved, so the changes there have had no impact. A potential resurrection of the plan would be good and very beneficial to the economy, but it’s not something that’s built into our plan”. +++

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