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+++ CHRYSLER has bucked industry fears that it would be axed amid Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne’s momentous mid-term plan, and will continue as a brand focused upon mobility, and the vessel for Fiat Chrysler’s autonomous development with self-driving brand Waymo. FCA confirmed that a further 62,000 Chrysler Pacificas will be used for its partnership with Waymo, as the Alphabet-owned brand gears up to launch its Uber-rivalling ride-hailing app by the end of the year. Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne clarified Chrysler’s place in the industry at today’s mid-term plan presentation to investors, saying: “Dodge needs to continue the particular space as a performance brand, and we need to continue to build on that core skill. The MPV business space will be filled by Chrysler, filling the mobility solution in the US market. Those 2 brands are not in question but they’re local NAFTA brands, and need to be developed for local market conditions. Our view is that 70 % of the US market is already non-sedan, so to try and build traditional sedans is not helpful. Brands like Dodge can play a role there because of their performance heritage”. Chrysler today is made up of only the 300 and Pacifica, although it was revealed that another model line would be introduced, likely an MPV or SUV given the move away from the saloon market. It was also announced that talks are under way to negotiate the sale of Waymo driverless tech-equipped Chrysler Pacificas to the public. The brand’s increasing involvement with the Waymo ride-sharing service aligns it more with up and coming ride-sharing services like Volkswagen’s Moia brand, as well as Geely’s sharing-friendly Lynk&Co brand. +++

+++ German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer has threatened to fine DAIMLER 3.75 billion euros over a diesel emissions scandal. Scheuer questioned Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche in a closed-door meeting over how many Mercedes-Benz vans and cars need to be fixed after a regulator found illegal software in one of its models. Scheuer expressed concerns that a total of 750,000 Mercedes vehicles could be affected and that the ministry could impose fines of up to 5,000 euros per car. A spokesman for the transport ministry said that the carmaker and the transport ministry had agreed to clear up highly complex technical issues related to diesel emissions.  He said concrete steps were agreed. Last month Daimler was ordered by motor vehicle authority KBA to recall Vito vans fitted with 1.6 liter diesel engines because it said they breached emissions rules. Daimler has said it will appeal against KBA’s decision to classify its software as illegal and contest the findings in court if necessary, although it said it was cooperating fully. There was considerable evidence that diesel engines of the Mercedes C-Class models were also affected and that Daimler representatives would be summoned to the ministry ahead of a planned follow-up meeting of Zetsche and Scheuer later this month. At least a further 80,000 vehicles might have to be recalled as a result. A spokesman for Daimler said the group had committed to keeping the nature of its discussions with the Transport Ministry confidential and would not comment. +++

+++ A week ago, I covered a rumor that claimed DODGE would launch a brand-new Viper around the turn of the decade. But company boss Sergio Marchionne now says the nameplate isn’t going to make a comeback anytime soon. He said the a born-again Viper isn’t in Dodge’s future because the model never sold in high enough volumes to make money. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles didn’t include Dodge in its presentation so I don’t know what future holds for the brand. But while Marchionne will stop down from his position next year, he’ll continue to keep a close eye on the auto-maker he saved from collapse and he added he would be happy if his successor finds a way to make another Viper. +++

+++ DS has killed off both the 4 and 5 in its ongoing attempts to boost global sales with a fleet of all-new models. Production of both models has ended and the French company is now only selling the remaining inventory of the 2 cars. Last year, a mere 11,746 units of the DS 4 were sold throughout Europe. The DS 5 proved even less successful as just 5,738 vehicles were sold across the same 12 months. “It was always planned that DS 4 and DS 5 production would end in 2018 as part of this new plan. This will also see the reveal of a new all-electric compact model at the Paris motor show that will get our electrification plans going”, a PSA Group spokesman said. PSA’s luxury brand commenced its latest product plan last year with the introduction of the 7 Crossback, which is the its new flagship. The all-electric compact model mentioned is tipped to be an electric version of the new 3 Crossback. It will be the automaker’s second electrified model, arriving after the 7 Crossback E-Tense Plug-in hybrid. Alongside this electric model, the DS 3 will be sold with petrol engines but not offered with any diesels. The subcompact crossover will target rivals like the Audi Q2. Further down the road, DS intends on launching a flagship saloon to slot above the 7 Crossback. It will target the Audi A6 and play an important role in the company’s ambitions to grow in China. +++

+++ An electric FIAT 500 city car will launch in 2020, alongside an estate version, badged 500 Giardiniera, a spokesman has confirmed. The plans are part of Fiat’s strategy to focus on its 500 and Panda model line-ups, creating a niche for itself with predominantly electrified city cars, which are growing in popularity thanks to stricter emission regulations in cities worldwide. Ahead of the electric Fiat 500 arriving, a mild-hybrid variant will launch next year. The aim is to consolidate the brand’s dominance of the city car segment (the 500 and Panda hold a third of this market) while developing technologies that allow these models to satisfy emission regulations. This focus also means other, less successful Fiat models will be axed. These include the Punto (axed after a 13-year production run) and while unconfirmed, the Tipo. Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne said: “The Fiat 500 green concept extends beyond just the 500. We plan to leverage the iconic status and technology of the 500, extending the line-up to introduce a small car with best in-class interior roominess and unmistakable design, the Fiat 500 Giardiniera”. He added that Fiat “is very well-placed to exploit battery-electric city car opportunities in jurisdictions where access for internal combustion vehicles will be increasingly restricted”. FCA reckons that it will be able to exploit the premium prices paid for the 500 to enable it to profitably offer both electric and mild hybrid versions. The 500 typically sells for prices 20 % above the segment average, said Marchionne. “We are also planning to build on our proven success with the Fiat Panda. Since its introduction in 1980, the Panda has managed to evolve while staying true to its iconic image of the real ‘no fuss’ city car. We believe we can continue to leverage its strong heritage with affordable eco-friendly combustion engines. The new 500 electric and mild-hybrid models will be based on a completely redesigned 500 that will debut within the next 2 years and include the estate. The 500 Giardiniera, which references the tiny 1960 car, will offer the best space efficiency in its class said Fiat, and “unmistakable design”. It, too, will have mild hybrid and electric variants.
The 500’s new platform architecture will also spawn the new Panda, which will be available with a mild hybrid drivetrain. The mild hybrid consists of a belt driven, 12 volt starter generator; little detail has been provided on the electric drivetrain to be used in the 500. Lower emission petrol engines will also be offered in the 500 and Panda. Given the limited space for batteries and the 500’s urban appeal, range of the 500e is likely to be less than EVs such as the Nissan Leaf which offers around 400 kilometres. The 500e will be a rival to a growing number of small EVs: Mini’s first electric car is due in 2019, at the same time as Honda’s Urban EV. The 500e will be one of four electric powertrains offered by FCA. It will sit use a ‘City Car’ powertrain, while a ‘Mainstream’ powertrain will be launched in the Jeep Grand Commander. A ‘Performance’ powertrain will feature in the 2020 Maserati Alfieri and a ‘Premium’ EV powertrain will power the 2022 Maserati Quattroporte. The push for electrification comes as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) anamid Fiat Chrysler’s abandonment of diesel by 2022, there will be no diesel options in the FCA catalogue. These will be replaced by numerous hybrids, both full and plug-in, the first of which will be the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, landing in 2020. The production capacity released by the deletion of the Punto and other unspecified Fiat models (such as Tipo) will be used to build more Alfa Romeos and Maseratis, whose premium prices can withstand the electrification costs. Some Italian capacity will be used to build some plug-in hybrid models, including certain Jeeps for global sale. +++

+++ JAGUAR is considering adding new derivatives of the electric I-Pace, including a high-performance SVR version. Jaguar Land Rover officials point out that such a version would not focus on offering a headline-grabbing 0-100 time alone, but a properly engineered model with class-leading handling. “We have asked ourselves how you would ‘SVR’ an electric car”, said product planning boss Hanno Kirner. “Yes, we can make it do 0-100 km/h in 1.9 seconds. It’s a good headline, but once you’ve done it once or twice, and lost your eyes in the back of their sockets, you might not want to do it again”. Kimer added that the regular I-Pace’s 50/50 weight distribution and dynamic chassis setup could be taken as indications of what can be done with future versions but also cautioned that an electric powertrain would need to be treated with respect. “You also have to make sure you can’t go too fast”, he said. “I do worry that the instant torque and performance might be too much for untrained drivers. It may be that we have to impose some kind of restriction, so that the performance is limited until they have gone on a driving course or something”. +++ 

+++ MAZDA will reinvent its Volkswagen Golf-rivalling 3 later this year with new engine tech that could eventually spell the end of diesel power in its cars. The 4th-generation car will make its debut at November’s LA Motor Show, before going on sale in Europe in 2019. Another big focus point for Mazda will be an improvement in quality aimed at moving the hatchback further upmarket to better compete against premium rivals such as the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class. The design of the new 3 will play a role in that shift; the production car will be heavily inspired by the Kai concept seen at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show. Mazda Europe design director Kevin Rice told that the concept had been penned with production techniques in mind. “We have a recent history of not just producing concepts for concepts’ sake”, he said. “So yes, manufacturing tolerances and techniques have been incorporated into this project since the very beginning”. Big changes are set to take place under the skin, too; the next 3 will be the first production model based on Mazda’s SkyActiv Vehicle Architecture; an all-new platform. Improved refinement has been targeted, and the architecture is also said to support a low, sporty seating position. However, the platform’s real party trick is the radical new engine technology that will make its debut. Mazda is pinning its internal combustion hopes on SkyActiv-X: a new petrol engine featuring what the firm calls Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SCCI). In simple terms, SCCI means that the SkyActiv-X units can operate in 2 separate states. Spark plugs are retained for conventional petrol engine-style combustion, but the unit can seamlessly switch to diesel-style compression ignition, too, using the spark plugs as a controlling factor for consistent combustion. As such, Mazda claims SkyActiv-X will deliver petrol-like performance with diesel fuel economy, as the engine can run on a leaner air-fuel mixture. When the technology becomes a production reality next year, Mazda is targeting 192 hp and 230 Nm of torque from a supercharged 2.0-litre SkyActiv-X unit. 2 more engines will be offered on the next 3: a cheaper, entry-level 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G petrol and a 1.8-litre SkyActiv-D diesel option. +++  

+++ TESLA is burning through cash and having problems hitting production targets but it appears the Model 3 is pretty profitable for the company. Speaking with engineers who tore down a handful of Model 3s for German automakers, the team discovered the car costs around $28,000 to build. This includes $10,000 in production costs as well as $18,000 in materials as well as other expenses. Considering the $35,000 base model isn’t available yet, Tesla appears to be making a pretty hefty profit on every Model 3 they sell. Part of this profitability is due to the car’s advanced battery pack which uses significantly less cobalt than competitors. This is important as electric vehicle demand has reportedly caused the price of cobalt to triple in the last year and a half. How this was achieved remains unclear but the publication says Tesla and Panasonic have figured out a way to use about two thirds less cobalt than traditional batteries. This significantly reduces costs and will help aid profitability. One of the engineers echoed this sentiment as he told: “If Tesla manages to build the planned 10,000 pieces a week, the Model 3 will deliver a significant positive contribution to earnings”. While it appears the Model 3 is profitable, not everyone is convinced the margins are good enough. Quartz spoke to Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, who suggested Tesla isn’t actually making much money on the car when other expenses (such as dealership costs and planned factory expansions) are factored in. He contends if Tesla isn’t selling the Model 3 for at least $50,000 then “I don’t think it’s a good business”. +++ 

+++ VOLVO introduced the all-new V60 at the Geneva Motor Show and it appears the company is already working on a high-performance variant. Set to replace the V60 Polestar, the wagon will be equipped with an upgraded braking system that features larger calipers up front. Since Polestar has been transformed into its own brand, the model could be called the V60 R. That’s unconfirmed at the moment but Volvo has previously used the R moniker on sporty versions of the S60 and V70. Performance specifications remain a mystery but previous reports have suggested the S60 and V60 Polestar replacements will be electrified. This isn’t too surprising as the V60 T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid is more powerful than the previous V60 Polestar. Speaking of the latter, the V60 T8 Twin Engine has a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 303 hp and 400 Nm. The wagon also has a 117 hp electric motor and a 10.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This setup enables the car to produce a combined output of 390 hp and 640 Nm. In terms of performance, the all-wheel drive wagon can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 5.1 seconds before hitting a limited top speed of 250 km/h. While little is known about the V60 R at this point, it’s likely that the car will be even more powerful than the V60 T8 Twin Engine. How the company will achieve this remains unclear but it’s possible the car could be equipped with an upgraded petrol engine or a more powerful electric motor; possibly even both. +++

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