+++ BMW will build more of its popular SUVs models in China in order to skirt recently implemented tariffs, the German automaker confirmed. Following stiff tariffs imposed on China by the Trump administration, the Chinese government responded with a 40 % tax on cars imported from the U.S. That’s bad news for BMW as it builds the vast majority of its SUV models at a plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In order to skirt those tariffs, BMW will build more of its SUVs in China. The automaker says it will also be forced to raise the price of U.S.-made vehicles shipped to China, because it is “not in a position to completely absorb the tariff increases”. Although BMW will be building more SUVs in China, the company won’t be reducing output at its South Carolina plant, a spokesperson confirmed. BMW exports vehicles made in Spartanburg to 140 countries, and there is enough SUV demand to keep the plant cranking even if it’s making fewer vehicles for China. However, that could change if a full-blown trade war breaks out. Earlier this week BMW announced a deal with its China partner Brilliance Automotive to boost BMW production in China to 520,000 units annually by 2019. The German automaker will also build its iX3 electric SUV in China for the global market. +++

+++ DAIMLER and Bosch have partnered with Nvidia to build self-driving ‘robotaxi’ fleets. The German automaker and supplier will use Nvidia’s Drive Pegasus platform, which integrates dual Xavier chips and two next-generation GPUs optimized for AI and vision processing. The fleet will be populated with vehicles that meet Level 4 and 5 autonomy. Level 4 will enable the companies to launch driverless taxis in select cities before expanding to a wider rollout supported by Level 5 technology. Daimler Mobility Services will start as a pilot program with shuttle service in a ‘major’ Silicon Valley city. The project will initially focus on select routes in the Bay Area. “The pilot project will demonstrate how mobility services such as car sharing (car2go), ride-hailing (mytaxi) and multi-modal platforms (moovel) can be intelligently connected to shape the future of mobility”, Daimler says. The pilot project is expected to begin service by the second half of 2019. The companies have not yet announced an expected launch timeframe for commercial service. Like other established automakers, Waymo appears to be lagging far behind Waymo as the Alphabet-owned company prepares to transition from testing to public rides. +++

+++ Fully ELECTRIC car technology is not ready for mass adoption, and nor is the environmental impact fully understood, Lexus president Yoshihiro Sawa believes. Sawa confirmed that the firm, in conjunction with parent company Toyota, is working on all types of powertrain, including full EV and hydrogen, but said that it would not leap into the market until the customer and environmental benefits were clear. “Our philosophy is to provide freedom of movement, so we have to develop technology on all fronts”, said Sawa. “We understand that electric is very necessary (more than some, perhaps, with our early move to hybrid, but we can also see that full EV will not suit everyone. You can’t make an electric Land Cruiser work, for instance) and there are people in remote parts of the world whose lives depend on that car. “Pure EVs currently require a long charging time and batteries that have an environmental impact at manufacture and which degrade as they get older. And then, when cells need replacing, we have to consider plans for future use and recycling. It is a complex issue; much more complex than the current rhetoric perhaps suggests. I prefer to approach the future in a more honest way. If we are looking for the best solution it is my opinion that the best solution is not only EV; we must consider petrol, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell. If we focus on EV only we will not provide the answers people need”. +++

+++ HYUNDAI has joined other automakers in pushing for solid-state battery technology, promoted as a potential breakthrough for electric vehicles. The automaker’s venture capital arm has invested an undisclosed amount in Ionic Materials, a privately held Massachusetts-based startup developing a patented solid polymer material that could replace liquid electrolytes. Ionic claims its “breakthrough polymer” is the first solid electrolyte to fully function at room temperature and be compatible with lithium and alkaline based batteries. Solid-state batteries theoretically address several issues with current lithium-ion cells including safety, energy density and charge degradation. Researchers and startup companies have been working on solid-state battery tech for many years. None have demonstrated a viable solution for production at scale, however. +++

+++ LAMBORGHINI will embrace electrification in its next-generation flagship supercar due early in the next decade, and in the models that will follow. Plans are afoot not just for a V12 hybrid in the Aventador replacement that will come first but for a V10 hybrid in the next Huracan and a 4th Lamborghini model line could also be under consideration. The V12 hybrid Aventador replacement had already been confirmed by Lamborghini Research and Development boss Maurizio Reggiani back in January, but now CEO Stefano Domenicali has elaborated on the firm’s future plans. “The next Aventador will be hybrid, with a V12. A decision is made on that and this is something that will keep us different from the others and this is very important. The next step is that not only the Urus but Aventador and Huracan will be hybrid, that’s for sure. Then we need to see how the solution will evolve. With regard to the super sport car brand, it’s clear that we want to stay with the V12 to have with the top car. Then we can discuss what would be the right engine for the future for the Huracan. Of course, V10 would be the first priority but we have the time to discuss it”. Beyond that, the cash generated when sales of the new Urus ramp up to the limit of 4,500 to 5,000 a year that Lamborghini is initially setting itself could also fund a fourth Lamborghini model line. Domenicali and his team are considering, “when it would be right to have another model in our portfolio, to have an extended dimension. Sure, we can see the potential of it”. It’s unclear whether any new Lamborghini would be a 5-door rival for the Porsche Panamera influenced by the Lamborghini Estoque concept of 2009, with Domenicali only willing to say that: “We need to listen to the customers, we need to see how the market is evolving because this is very important for us”. It’s work on the replacement for the brand’s Aventador flagship, with that hybrid powertrain including the V12 at its centre, that is currently the most pressing for Lamborghini engineers and Maurizio Reggiani has no doubt that the end result will be true to the Lamborghini brand. “The value of our brand is based on our top end product. It must be really the pure interpretation of a supersport car. We are sure that one of things you must offer on a supersport car is a V12 naturally aspirated engine. The car needs to be engineered for hybrid or not for hybrid. The supersport car cannot be a compromise”, Reggiani added, confirming that the Aventador replacement will be offered as a hybrid only, with no pure combustion option. An all-electric Lamborghini isn’t part of the firm’s immediate plans, but an EV is an option beyond the next generation hybrid supercar. Domenicali explained that Lamborghini is looking at questions of when the super sport car will be ready for electrification but said: “I believe it’s to premature to say that we will see a full electric Lamborghini in the short term. I don’t see that”. The possibilities in this area were highlighted by the electric, futuristic Terzo Millennio concept car revealed in 2018, but battery technology needs to mature further before a Lamborghini EV becomes a more immediate possibility. Domenicali confirms that the firm is looking at alternatives to lithium ion batteries, including fuel cell technology, in a bid to reduce the weight of any future EV. “When we’re talking about performance, the killer of performance is weight. But the more you go for new technology the more you have to counterbalance to ensure you keep the weight under control”. And you can be certain that as technology develops and makes an electric car that is also a true Lamborghini more of a realistic possibility, such a project would move up the pecking order. As Maurizio Reggiani says: “For us, the super sport car must be able to do the fastest Nurburgring time, but it must be able to repeat this two or three times, it cannot be one shot”, he explained. “At the moment with a battery electric vehicle you can choose to have power for one lap at high speed, or energy for more laps but slower speed. This does not fit with the supersport brand. The next step in terms of our product range will be based on hybrid technology as the level of knowledge will be ready. Not for full electric vehicles, probably we need another loop of products. This will be next of next”. +++ 

+++ LEXUS may have to consider expanding its F performance sub-brand to include electrified powertrains as well as traditional petrol engines, and this could even extend to a bespoke F hybrid GT, the company’s president has revealed. Yoshihiro Sawa admits that creating a stronger emotional connection with buyers could be the next step in building Lexus’s position as a true rival to German premium manufacturers. And he says motorsport activities, such as Lexus’s GT3 sports car programme, and its F sub-brand can play key roles in this. The F models to date (IS F, RC F and GS F) have all used petrol V8 power. But Sawa believes the division will have to embrace different powertrain choices in the coming years. And intriguingly, he suggested that one possible home for a hybrid F powertrain could be a standalone F GT. “F is very important; with F we have to think of our own original way”, said Sawa. “One solution could be a pure F GT car, which could be a hybrid with an electric motor and a strong engine, giving a different kind of drive feel. We don’t stick to V8, V10, twin-turbocharged; they’re important but we’re looking at the future. We’d like to find a way to connect to the next era”. “I think that now, we’re in a transitional period. At this moment people say EVs are trendy but 3 years later, who knows? People like the sound and the dynamics of combustion engines. I think we cannot stick to the one solution when it comes to providing emotion”. Lexus’s latest creation, the urban-focused UX small SUV, could be considered a more natural candidate for a pure-electric version, Sawa admitted. But he added that this would be part of a range of powertrains, and said that Lexus is trying to work on. “We do think about it”, he said, “but Akio Toyoda (boss of Toyota) wants to provide the freedom of mobility everywhere, not just in the city but also in the jungle, or the desert. We can look to EV but also hybrid, plug-in hybrid, fuel cell and normal petrol engines also. We will introduce an EV but on top of that we’re searching to decide which kind of EV will be lovable. It needs to have a luxury feeling too, because that is expected by our customers”. Sawa said that Lexus’s ‘spindle grille’ front-end styling had helped to create more of an emotional response to the brand, even if that means splitting opinion. “Some people really love the spindle grille”, he said, “and some people don’t like it at all. That’s okay. The rate of our sales growth has gone up since we introduced the spindle grille so while we know that some potential buyers don’t like it, many more are coming into our brand”. The next generation of Toyota Supra will make its dynamic debut at Goodwood, but Sawa declined to say whether Lexus would have enough access to the project (a joint effort between Toyota and BMW) to consider using its underpinnings for a driver-focused model of its own. “I can’t speak about that”, he stated. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN will launch a P1 successor before 2025, the company has confirmed today at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Boss Mike Flewitt said the car will be “as shocking or surprising as the P1 was”, adding that it would take performance to another level and be the best driver’s car on track and on road. “A next-generation P1 was never going to be a halfway house model for us”, Flewitt said. “It will be the ultimate expression of McLaren’s technology and performance prowess”. The P1, which is considered by many as the ultimate modern-day hypercar, sits in McLaren’s Ultimate Series. Models in this range act as halo cars for the maker’s broader line-up. 2 Ultimate Series models have been announced since the P1 (the Senna and upcoming BP23 3-seater) but the model confirmed today will be a direct successor to the P1, according to the Woking-based firm. The original P1 used a petrol-hybrid powertrain, with the electric motor and the petrol engine producing a combined output of 915 hp and 880 Nm. For its successor, Flewitt confirmed that there are three powertrains under consideration. When asked whether the model could be McLaren’s first fully electric model, he said: “I’m sceptical that electric vehicle technology will be where it needs to be by then”, However, he did not rule out the possibility. McLaren confirmed in 2016 that it was running an electric vehicle for evaluation purposes. While there is no official word on progress, the company did announce today that it is developing a lighter, superfast-charging, high-power battery system for performance that is expected to have more than 30 minutes of electric range around a race track. This sort of development is crucial for McLaren to be able to embrace zero-emission models in the future. Flewitt also confirmed that the new model will not be called P1, and nor will it be P2. +++

+++ The ever-growing popularity of SUV s is partly responsible for rising emissions, according to the British government’s environmental watchdog. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says “the popularity of SUVs is cancelling out emissions savings from improvements in technology, with potentially serious implications for meeting the carbon budgets”. The CCC’s condemnation of SUVs comes in response to the British government’s recently-published Road to Zero strategy, which sets out how new cars sold in the UK from 2040 will become “effectively” zero emission. While the CCC praises Road to Zero for its focus on ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) capable of emitting under 75 grams per kilometre (g/km) of carbon dioxide (CO2), it says the policy contains “an absence of measures to address the fast-growing market higher emitting vehicles, including SUVs”. Figures previously released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show SUVs, which tend to be bigger and heavier than more established types of car, have average CO2 emissions of 141.3g/km. A typical small family car, such as the Volkswagen Golf, emits 115.8g/km, and an average executive car, such as the Mercedes C-Class, emits 121.6g/km. Chris Stark, the CCC’s chief executive, said: “We are buying more cars in the UK and a greater proportion of these are larger and more polluting”, adding: “there needs to be a rebalancing away from the highest polluting vehicles. So far, the market has not delivered this”. Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, defended SUVs, telling the Times the market was driven by consumer tastes: “SUVs are an increasingly popular choice, valued for their style, practicality, higher ride and commanding view of the road”. Hawes added that SUVs have become cleaner in recent years, too, citing “massive investment into advanced engine and battery technology, lightweight materials and aero-dynamics”, which have seen “average CO2 emissions from new dual-purpose cars the industry name for SUVs cut by 20 % over the last 5 years; the biggest reduction of any segment”. +++

+++ TESLA boss Elon Musk has vowed to take a different approach to future development projects, promising the Model 3 will be the last “bet-the-company situation”. During an interview, the embattled executive shed more light on his personal struggles and Tesla’s many challenges that occurred during the extremely ambitious Model 3 production ramp-up process. Musk admits that the company’s entire future hinges on its ability to meet Model 3 output targets, which finally exceeded 5,000 units for a single work week. “The number of people who thought we would actually make it is very tiny, like vanishingly small”, he acknowledged. “There was suddenly the credibility of the company, my credibility, you know, the credibility of the whole team”. The executive has been on the front lines, sleeping under a desk at times and spending long shifts on the factory floor alongside workers to help resolve problems. The approach is said to have been successful in motivating employees. “At General Motors they’ve got a special elevator for executives, so they don’t have to mingle with anyone else”, Musk said. “The reason people in the paint shop were working their ass off is because I was in the paint oven with them. I’m not in some ivory tower”. Tesla has faced several “bet-the-company” moments in its history, starting with the Roadster that was its only product in the early stages of the company’s history. The second such situation was the Model S, requiring a leap from a few hundred cars annually to 20,000 units and in-house development of a more sophisticated car. Now, with the Model 3, output targets have jumped into the hundreds of thousands. “But I do not see us doing another thing where we go 5 times bigger”, Musk explained. “Once we break through to mass market cars, where mass market is on the order of a quarter million vehicles per year, I cannot see us doing a 1.2 million-vehicle program of one particular model”. The more cautious thinking has already extended forward to the Model Y. The Model 3’s high-riding sibling was initially expected to ride on an entirely new platform, but Musk later decided it would be a better idea to share underpinnings with the Model 3 to avoid another production fiasco. Despite switching many newly automated processes back to manual assembly during Model 3 ramp-up, Tesla is still committed to a longer-term transition to extremely high-speed robotic manufacturing of automobiles. The company has almost finished the design of the Model Y, with a tentative prototype debut target of March 2019. +++

+++ TOYOTA has launched a Honolulu car-sharing service that allows customers to use smartphones to unlock and start rental cars available by the hour or day. It’s the latest service offered by an automaker that competes with ride-hailing and rental-car companies. The service is called Hui, pronounced “hooey”, which means “group” in Hawaiian. Developed with local distributor Servco Pacific, it uses a Toyota platform that tracks and analyzes who uses car-sharing and when. Toyota says it will use the data to better manage its supply of cars. Starting at $9.95 an hour or $79.60 a day (including gasoline and insurance) customers can reserve and rent a Toyota Prius, Lexus RX 350 or other model at one of 25 parking stations for round-trip use. Toyota joins rivals such as Daimler’s Car2Go and General Motors’ Maven in offering a service that competes with traditional taxis, ride-hailing services like Uber and rental-car companies like Hertz. “The program is simple to use and more convenient than a traditional car-rental service”, Zack Hicks, CEO of Toyota Connected North America, said in a statement. Toyota also acquired a small stake in Uber in 2016, and last month it invested $1 billion in Grab Holdings Inc., Southeast Asia’s top ride-hailing company. Wedged between ocean and mountains, Honolulu is the midst of a building boom, and car-sharing has been suggested as a way to ease congestion, though results thus far have been mixed. Servco CEO Mark Fukunaga told reporters on a conference call that he expects the service to expand throughout the state of Hawaii and eventually to the dealerships his company owns in Australia. Hicks hinted at broader car-sharing efforts for Toyota but didn’t provide any details. “Hui is just the beginning for us”. +++ 

+++ UBER ’s ambitious autonomous vehicle plans took another hit this week as the ride hailing firm terminated its staff of self-driving car operators in Pittsburgh. The move was influenced by a fatal crash involving an Uber test car and a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona earlier this year. Pittsburgh has served as one of Uber’s main testing hubs for the last few years, but the company’s operations there have been on hold since the fatal March accident. Uber was hopeful that it would be able to restart its self-driving program in Pittsburgh this summer, but the company’s latest announcement casts doubt on that goal. Uber’s self-driving car operators were tasked with the job of sitting behind the wheel of autonomous test vehicles in case human intervention was required, but the company confirmed on Wednesday that it has laid off 100 operators and eliminated the position entirely. Uber says it plans to replace those displaced employees with 55 so-called “mission specialists” that are trained in both on-road and test-track driving. The self-driving car operators weren’t required to have that level of technical training. “Our team remains committed to building safe self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the coming months”, an Uber spokesperson said. Uber says it will allow its former self-driving car operators to apply to the new position of mission specialist. There is no timeframe for when Uber’s self-driving test cars might be back on public roads. +++ 

+++ VOLVO is on a roll after winning the European Car of the Year title a few months back. Although he’s too modest to admit it, Volvo isn’t unlike Audi was 20 years ago: taking on established premium firms, before matching or beating them. A spokesman seems flattered by comparisons with the still-great company from Ingolstadt. Yet he insists Volvo is still warming up and there is much work to do. One area is convincing the public that Volvo is now a proper, fully-fledged premium outfit that deserves a place in the same league as Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus and Mercedes. Some believe Volvo still isn’t quite there as a premium marque. The spokesman doesn’t dismiss the assertion, but he’s not agreeing with it, either. He reminds me that Mercedes has been leasing its high-end cars for hundreds of euros per month, while charging around 200 euro a month for the A-Class. In that sense, the firm seems firmly ensconced in the premium and ‘pile ’em high, lease em ’cheap’ markets. Maybe that’s where it and Volvo need to be. Volvo’s only one member of the giant Geely clan, which is to China what the Volkswagen Group is to Germany. Volvo has many new siblings, including the London Electric Vehicle Company, Lotus, Lynk & Co, Polestar, Proton and Terrafugia. Also, Geely owns a large and intriguing slice of the Daimler/Mercedes pie. So with all this in mind, could Geely’s strategy be to pitch Volvo as a mass-market brand (albeit a high-quality one) that’d be in the same mould as Volkswagen, rather than taking the final step of trying to turn it into a full-blown premium marque such as Audi? Possibly. We’ll see in the very near future. And we’ll also be seeing how Volvo intends to educate and win over buyers who remain confused by cars powered in full or part by electricity. It’s started the ball rolling with the ‘Twin Engine’ tag it has slapped on its XC60 T8, which has a petrol-powered motor backed up by an electric unit. Much responsibility rests on the Swedish manufacturer’s corporate shoulders, because the brand has been more anti-diesel and pro-electric (or petrol-electric) than all of its obvious rivals. Volvo, the hottest car company on the planet in 2018? Probably. +++

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