+++ With a product onslaught set to begin with the debut of the XT4 compact crossover, CADILLAC is analyzing its long-term plans and viability. CEO Johan de Nysschen said the brand is “actively working” on what it wants to accomplish through 2035. “We are in fact busy reimagining Cadillac, what the brand will look like in 2035, in terms of the customer experience, in terms of the brand position, and candidly, the products and the technologies deployed”, he said. Part of those plans, he said, will include a renewed push to become a bigger player in Europe, which parent General Motors essentially abandoned last year with the sale of its European Opel business to the PSA Group. De Nysschen said Cadillac’s attention will likely turn to Europe after 2025. The brand first needs to get its products right and operations in order in the U.S. and China. “If we want to go to Europe, we better make sure we have the financial wherewithal and the products”, he said, adding the strategy would include electric vehicles, not diesels. “It’s going to be a tough battle and we better be ready to fight it”. Vehicles Cadillac doesn’t expect to add to its lineup anytime soon, according to de Nysschen, are another large halo sedan or an ultraluxury vehicle with pricing comparable to Rolls-Royce, a segment in which it has tried to compete in the past. “I do not think that the world needs yet another large, 3-box conventional sedan”, he said. “We are going to produce a halo vehicle for Cadillac. When it comes, it will stun the world”. Cadillac’s global sales tallied 356,467 last year, a 16 percent increase over 2016 and just shy of the brand’s global sales peak of 360,825 in 1978. China, which overtook the U.S. as the brand’s top market in 2017, led the way with a 51 percent increase in sales, to 175,489 vehicles, followed by a 10 percent increase in other international markets. In the U.S., volume dropped 8 percent to 156,440 last year. De Nysschen previously laid out Cadillac’s plans through 2021, which include shifting the brand’s focus to crossovers. Cadillac’s lineup comprises the Escalade large SUV and 4 sedan nameplates but only one crossover, the midsize XT5. U.S. sales of the XT5 through the first 2 months of this year are just 70 behind those of the 4 sedans combined. By 2022, Cadillac is expected to have 4 crossovers and only 3 sedans, in addition to the next-generation Escalade. De Nysschen noted that many of the cars “are approaching the end of their life cycle”. He said the XT4 is the beginning of a product onslaught with a “new launch every few months” through 2021. “The brand is preparing, our dealers are preparing, and the cars are coming”, he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, I can assure you that things are about to get very interesting at Cadillac”. +++

+++ Officials in Daimler and Volvo appeared skeptical over the viability and reasoning of GEELY ’s plan to form a new huge alliance between their companies. Geely’s founder and CEO announced last month that he built an almost 10 percent stake in Daimler, which made him the largest single shareholder of the German company, in a bid to gain access to their electric vehicle and autonomous technologies. Executives from both Daimler and Volvo Cars at the Geneva Motor Show however questioned how a deal could work out without resulting in compromises over their own independence and leadership in key areas. “Ideally we want a win-win alliance. Handing Volvo and Geely our Mercedes technology is not win-win”, one Mercedes-Benz executive, who didn’t want to be named. Geely’s plan also raises another challenge for the Germans, as Mercedes-Benz already has established an alliance with Renault-Nissan. It also has an existing deal to build normal and electric cars in China with BAIC. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche welcomed his new shareholder with caution at the Geneva Motor Show, expressing his admiration for Li and Geely but also said that any alliance would depend on keeping BAIC happy. “We will examine everything if it is in keeping with the wishes of our partner”, said Zetsche. That skepticism was also apparent with Volvo’s executives. Carmakers will always be unwilling to share in areas of expertise where they have a competitive advantage, said Volvo Cars Chief Executive Håkan Samuelsson. For Volvo this would be autonomous driving technologies. “If you believe you can do it better yourself, you have no interest to share it with somebody else”, he said. Sharing other, more basic parts like brakes, shock absorbers and gearboxes is tricky too, as these can already be bought from suppliers, making it hard to have a meaningful alliance, Samuelsson added. +++

+++ HYUNDAI ‘s union is apparently predicting a potential employment crisis as General Motors’ Korean division threatens bankruptcy and electric cars loom over the horizon. GM earlier this year announced plans to close a factory in South Korea. The company is now pressuring its union to negotiate a new contract to reduce labor costs at its remaining 3 factories. Hyundai union chief Ha Bu-young says workers at his company are “feeling a sense of crisis” as GM winds down its local operations. The labor leader is more concerned about the future, however, as electric cars are predicted to stretch vehicle lifecycles and reduce initial production labor requirements. “Electric cars are disasters. They are evil”, he said. “We are very nervous”. The union predicts that Hyundai could lose 70 percent of its manufacturing jobs in an era dominated by electric vehicles. +++

+++ JAGUAR and Waymo have announced a partnership to develop an autonomous driving version of the I-Pace. The current Waymo fleet is populated with the Lexus RX450h and the Chrysler Pacifica. The company so far has declined to establish an exclusive deal with any automaker, however, leaving the door open for the Jaguar tie-up and similar ventures involving other vehicles. “Imagine a world where you can take a self-driving MPV to the baseball game with family, and a self-driving I-Pace home after a night out; in both cases, a car perfectly suited for your needs”, Waymo says. The I-Pace is billed as a natural fit for a premium taxi service with its sleek appearance and fast-charge battery. The companies will add up to 20,000 autonomous units of the I-Pace in the next 2 years. The full fleet is estimated to support around a million trips in a typical day. Testing will begin later this year. Waymo suggests it will continue establishing more partnerships with automakers, focusing on expanding rider experiences. “That means riders will be able to choose from a broad array of options that will match their very specific needs: one for working remotely as you commute, one for dining with friends, even one designed for napping!” the company adds. +++

+++ The boss of new car brand LYNK&CO says the company’s main competition are ride-sharing firms such as Uber rather than other car makers. Lynk&Co, which is owned by China’s Geely, will launch in Europe in 2019 targeting a young urban audience. It will do so by offering electrified cars through a subscription-based service and by combining online sales with city-based stores and pop-up shops as opposed to traditional dealerships. Speaking at an event in Amsterdam to launch its European sales push and unveil the new 02 crossover, company boss Alain Visser said Lynk&Co’s target audience was “people who don’t want to own cars”, adding: “Plenty of people love cars, but don’t want to own one”. Asked about meeting the challenge of selling cars to that audience, Visser told: “We’ve done so much research to see that this will work and that people will go for this model. All the information is that it’s a pretty resounding yes. We don’t see our competitors as Toyota, Volkswagen and Audi; we see them as the likes of Uber. We are going to be competitive for a millennial that takes an Uber every day to go into the city to work. Of course, if you ask our engineers they’ll say our competitors are Lexus and Audi, from a technology point of view. But from a brand point of view, it’s beyond the car industry”. In a similar manner to Volvo’s electrified sub-brand Polestar, Lynk&Co will offer subscriptions ranging from one to 36 months at fixed costs. The subscriptions will run in cycles, with cars refettled and then offered again at a lower cost. Subscribers will also be able to utilise an app-based sharing service. A button in their car will enable it to be ‘shared’ by other Lynk&Co subscribers (who will pay the main subscriber). Lynk&Co keys will feature technology that enables drivers to unlock shared cars. Visser explained that, for instance, a subscriber could share their car when they’re travelling,  lowering their cost of ownership, and can also find Lynk&Co cars to drive while they’re away. Lynk&Co began sales in China last year, with the first cars due on European roads in 2020 and the US following sooner after. The firm aims to have rolled out its full portfolio of models in all markets by 2023. Asked about sales targets, Visser said: “When we have global reach and a full portfolio, we plan to sell half a million cars per year. We anticipate half of that will be in China, with the other half split more or less evenly between Europe and the US”. +++

+++ The MERCEDES C-Class will not go electric in the future, with the firm instead launching a similar-sized, zero-emission sedanmodel as part of its EQ range. C-Class chief engineer Christian Frueh comfirmed the news and said that the electric saloon would have a different design to the C-Class. An EQ compact sedan will add to the already confirmed line-up of the EQ A hatchback and EQ C SUV. Mercedes officials told last year that it was also planning a similar strategy for a large electric saloon, with an EQ model instead of a zero-emission S-Class. Overall, Mercedes has revealed it will launch 10 new electric models by 2025. They will all share the same platform: the Modular Electric Architecture (MRA). Like most electric cars it features a ‘skateboard’ chassis, which offers benefits for packing, particularly for interior space. Due on sale by 2022, the electric sedan won’t be called the EQ C, since that designation is already being used by its planned electric SUV. Mercedes is instead focusing on offering hybrids in its C-Class. The revised model features both diesel and petrol plug-in hybrids, plus a  mild-hybrid variant which uses 48v and a belt-driven starter generator. This is different to the mild hybrid system recently launched on the new CLS, which uses 48v and an integrated starter generator. The latter is a more expensive system, so lower-end models such as the C-Class and A-Class get the belt-driven option. +++

+++ NISSAN and RENAULT are in talks about merging to create one new company. The Japanese and French car makers have been in an alliance since 1999, with Mitsubishi joining in 2016, helping the trio to overtake the Volkswagen Group as the largest car company in the world. But the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is now seeking to further boost synergies and create a new, single company that would trade as one stock. Carlos Ghosn, the chairman of the alliance, is said to be pushing for the change. Both Renault and Nissan declined to comment when contacted, with a spokesman from each brand stating that they do not comment on “speculative rumours”. Nevertheless, the brands of the alliance have become increasingly integrated in recent months, as evident from a joint 10 billion euro investment in electrification and autonomous driving technology. Announced late last year by Ghosn, each of the brands will produce their future models using shared platforms and technology, as part of the Alliance 2022 plan, which will see cost savings from synergies double to 10 billion euro. “To achieve this target, on one side Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi will accelerate collaboration on common platforms, powertrains and next-generation electric, autonomous and connected technologies”, Ghosn said last year. “From the other side, synergies will be enhanced by our growing scale. Our total annual sales are forecast to exceed 14 million units, generating revenues expected at 200 billion euro by the end of the plan”. Professor of Strategic Management at Warwick Business School, Christian Stadler, said a merger may help with business reporting, but that it isn’t essential for the brands’ success. “The 2 firms have a long established and successful alliance. The integration should be much more straight forward than in mergers such as Daimler and Chrysler”, he said. “But there is also a downside: It is hard to see how a merger can bring substantial new synergies. They already co-ordinate well, for example sharing engines and sharing platforms. Of course further co-ordination is possible but a merger is not necessary for this. What the markets would get, and like, is more transparency as the reporting lines would be more straight forward. There is no guarantee that this actually improves performance. All it does for sure is make it easier for analysts and investors to understand what’s going on. In other words it makes their job easier. They like that and reward it”. At present, Renault owns 43% of Nissan and Nissan owns 15% of Renault. +++

+++ SEAT bosses have revealed a jacked-up coupe will join the firm’s expanding model range in 2020, sitting alongside the Ateca and below the forthcoming Tarraco SUVs. The yet-to-be-named crossover will initially launch with Seat badging, though a Cupra version is in the pipeline, too. Seat describes the addition as a Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV). However, research and development boss Matthias Rabe revealed: “Our CUV will be Leon-sized. Quite high, coupe-like and quite sporty. That car as a Cupra works very well, too”, he added. “It fits perfectly”. The coupe SUV is likely to take much of its styling inspiration from the 20v20 concept, first revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in 2015. While that car was much larger than the Leon hatchback, we expect the CUV to inherit the 20v20’s sloping roofline and steeply raked rear screen, as well as its raised ride height and big wheels. It’ll also share similarities with the next-generation Leon, due in 2019. It’s expected to launch with a variety of tried and tested petrol and diesel engines, while hybrid versions are also likely. Seat boss Luca de Meo hinted that the forthcoming Cupra version would be a good base for the firm’s PHEV technology, insisting plug-in was a “good option for performance cars”. However, while it was initially understood that a coupe-SUV would be the first Cupra product, a difficult financial climate has forced bosses to launch the CUV as a Seat first. De Meo told: “Cupra will not justify the product. We don’t have the money to develop a specific model”. He went on to compare Cupra with sister brand Audi Sport: “It doesn’t mean we can’t launch a standalone Cupra model later. Audi did it with the R8, but it took 15 years”. Seat’s 20v20 concept set out the brand’s SUV vision back in 2015; a path that later lead to the launch of the now-popular Ateca and Arona. The larger Tarraco will arrive towards the end of this year, with the CUV joining proceedings in 2020. +++

+++ Volkswagen Group subsidiary SKODA will decide by mid-year whether to develop a low-cost version of the group’s small-car platform, CEO Bernhard Maier said. The architecture would underpin VW Group cars aimed at budget-constrained markets such as India. Maier, who has led Skoda since late 2015, said that if the project is approved, the first cars based on the new version of VW Group’s MQB A0 platform would go on sale around 2021. Skoda and the VW brand both plan to sell versions of the budget car. The VW Group has struggled for years to find the right product to boost sales in India, where low-cost cars from Suzuki and Hyundai dominate. Passenger car sales grew 8.8 percent last year to 3.61 million, making India the world’s 5th-largest market just behind Germany, figures from market researcher JATO Dynamics show. Skoda’s 2017 sales in India rose 31 percent to 17,113. Skoda had initially planned to co-develop a low-cost platform for India with leading local automaker Tata Motors. The deal, however, fell apart last year. Skoda said it was concerned that it would cost too much to upgrade Tata’s AMP architecture to meet tougher emissions and safety standards. Instead, Skoda is now studying how to remove costs from the MQB A0 platform, which is used for cars such as the VW Polo and Skoda Fabia, to make it suitable for emerging markets. Skoda has taken the lead in developing the MQB A0 platform for all VW Group brands globally. Renault proved that automakers can successfully break the duopoly of Suzuki and Hyundai in the country when it launched the Kwid small SUV in 2015. The Kwid has helped Renault push its annual sales in India above 100,000 for the first time. A future small Skoda or VW for India, however, would be more expensive than the Kwid, Skoda’s head of finance and IT, Klaus-Dieter Schürmann, said. “The Kwid is not really our competitor vehicle. We see ours as a bit more sophisticated”, he told. “Renault has found their own way, but that wouldn’t be quite the standard we’re looking at”. He added that VW and Skoda would both develop their own small vehicle on the platform, if the plan is approved. He said that a real key to success in India is sourcing parts and materials locally. “To launch a vehicle in this class, you have to have very high localization because import taxes are too high”, Schürmann said. The company is currently involved in “intense” conversations with suppliers to ensure costs are as low as possible. “It’s not just what we are buying from suppliers, but also what the suppliers are importing. You really have to look through all the tiers of your supplier system”, Schürmann said. Skoda has 2 car factories in India, where it also assembles vehicle for its VW and Audi sister brands. The Czech firm’s biggest seller in India is the Rapid. Skoda increased production of the compact by 23 percent to 11,800 units last year, company figures show. The car is built on a lower-cost version of VW Group’s PQ platform that has been optimized for emerging markets including India and China. The VW Group previously tried to break into India by partnering with Suzuki in 2009, but the deal broke up in acrimony in 2015, prompting a prolonged legal dispute. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will launch at least 12 SUVs for the Chinese market by 2020, and says China will play a “decisive” role in its future success. The ambitious strategy was confirmed at the launch of the new Touareg in Beijing. 3 new China-only SUVs were also revealed, including 2 developed purely in that country. VW’s various partnerships, including with SAIC and FAW, sold 3.2 million vehicles in China last year, equating to a market share of more than 13 percent. That total included 400,000 SUVs; VW expects the category to account for a third of its Chinese sales by 2020. The company currently offers 3 SUVs in China: the Tiguan, Touareg and a Chinese version of the Atlas (the Teramont). The market has seen rapid growth in demand, with SUVs skyrocketing from accounting for 8 percent of the market to 45 percent between 2007 and 2017. VW CEO Herbert Diess said: “China will have a decisive effect on the success of our future strategy. We intend to and will justify the trust placed in us by Chinese customers. We will orient our product range even more closely to the wishes and expectations of Chinese customers”. The firm is also refreshing its entire range in the country and plans to launch a total of 38 new or revamped cars in China by 2020. These will include the T-Roc and an “advanced mid-sized SUV” that will feature a “touch of coupé” in its design. VW will roll out nine new Chinese market models this year, including a Tiguan PHEV and an electric Bora. It will launch 10 electrified PHEV or EV cars by 2020, before the first ID model launches on the MEB platform. +++

+++ VOLVOhas picked up the award for World Car of the Year (WCOTY) with the XC60, marking the first time the brand has won the overall title. The Swedish model beat 33 other vehicles to the top spot, finishing ahead of the finalists, the Mazda CX-5 and Range Rover Velar, to complete a podium of SUVs. “I am pleased to see our company’s product investments paying off”, said Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson. “We are up against some tough competition, but this award for the XC60 shows that Volvo has the right combination of design, connectivity and safety that appeals to customers across the world”. Volvo picked up the European Car of the Year awards for the smaller XC40 earlier this year, illustrating growing success for the brand, which has turned around its fortunes since being acquired by Chinese automotive giant Geely in 2010. Also awarded in New York was the Nissan Leaf, which was announced as the World Green Car, while the Audi A8 took top spot in the World Luxury Car category. Overall runner-up, the Velar, won the World Car Design award, the BMW M5 was named World Performance Car and the Volkswagen Polo topped the Urban Car class. Last year’s overall winner was the Jaguar F-Pace, while the Mazda MX-5 won the year before that. +++

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