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+++ Long accused of protectionist tactics that make it a difficult place for foreign firms to operate, CHINA is trying to reverse that narrative amid an escalating trade war with the United States, green-lighting huge investments and portraying itself as a champion of openness. But critics argue that despite its attempt to claim the moral high ground as U.S. President Donald Trump threatens to apply more tariffs on Chinese imports, Beijing’s recent moves to make it easier for foreign businesses to set up operations also effectively acknowledges that it has had discriminatory market barriers. Last week, China approved a huge new wholly-owned Shanghai factory for U.S. electric car maker Tesla. Responding to the Trump administration’s latest plan to slap 10 % tariffs on an extra $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, Assistant Commerce Minister Li Chenggang said that China would not close itself to U.S. business. “I want to stress that the Chinese government’s attitude to support business cooperation between the two countries will not change, its determination to push forward reforms and improve the business environment will not change, and its stance of opposing unilateralism and supporting multilateralism will not change”, Li said. “They go low, we go high”, he said, in an apparent jab at Trump as he borrowed a phrase used by former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama in the 2016 U.S. election campaign. The recent investment announcements came as Premier Li Keqiang visited Germany this week. The 2 countries signed commercial accords worth 20 billion euros. Chinese state media framed such cooperation in the context of the increasingly bitter trade dispute with Washington. +++ 

+++ CITROEN is seeking to repeat the success of its C3 Aircross with the European introduction of the C5 Aircross. The automaker hopes the C5 Aircross will stand out in the surging, and crowded, compact SUV sector by emphasizing the vehicle’s driver and passenger comfort. To that end, the C5 Aircross is fitted with Citroen’s hydraulic suspension, redesigned seats with thicker padding, double-glazed windows for sound deadening as well as 20 driver aids and convenience features. Citroen CEO Linda Jackson says the C5 Aircross is the brand’s new “standard-bearer”, with the C5 midsize car on hiatus. The automaker says the SUV will be its most international model, with sales in 92 countries. The company has not announced prices. The front-end styling includes the brand’s new 2-tiered light signature, as seen on the C3 Aircross, and chevrons that stretch across the width of the vehicle. Colored inserts in the lower front fascia are echoed in the graphic shapes of the so-called “air bumps” on the rocker panels. Other exterior features are blacked-out pillars that give the impression of a “floating” roof and chrome C-shaped trim at the rear. PSA Group engineers have given the C5 Aircross the automaker’s latest driver-assistance technologies. Among them are active emergency braking, a blind-spot warning that can take over steering to keep the vehicle in its lane, active lane-keeping, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go driving capability. The features can combine to allow semi-autonomous driving on highways. Other driving and safety aids include a “coffee break” alert for tired drivers, headlights that automatically switch between high and low beams, and parking assistance. Infotainment features include an 8-inch central touchscreen, wireless phone charging and a camera built into the rearview mirror that takes pictures that can be transferred to a smartphone or social networks. The camera also continuously films the road ahead and saves video in the event of an accident. Citroen wants to appeal to MPV buyers with a modular and flexible interior, one that the company says offers the largest cargo volume in the segment at up to 1,630 liters with the second-row seats folded down. The C5 Aircross, first shown at the Shanghai auto show last year, went on sale in China last autumn. European sales will begin at the end of 2018. PSA Group’s EMP2 architecture underpins the C5 Aircross as well as its sibling models, the Peugeot 3008, DS 7 Crossback and Opel Grandland X. +++

+++ The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the United States for decades, but the Blue Oval has lost its truck sales crown. GENERAL MOTORS truck sales climbed 12 % during the first half of the year and this put their share of the American truck market at 34 %. Ford sales also climbed, by 5 %, but the company only captured 32 % of the market. The news is a bit surprising considering GM hasn’t launched the new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra yet. However, those models play an important role in the sales growth as the company is clearing out inventory of 2018 models to make way for the redesigned pickups. Another key factor is that General Motors is in the mid-size truck market and Ford isn’t. 18 % of trucks sold in the United States during the first half of the year were of the mid-size variety and that’s a 2 % increase from 2017. Chevrolet Colorado sales were also up 19,574 units, while the GMC Canyon is doing better as well. While the Colorado was the second best-selling mid-size truck, there is a lot of competition on the horizon. The Ford Ranger will go on sale early next year and it will be joined by the Jeep Wrangler pickup which could revive the Scrambler moniker. Nissan has also announced plans for an all-new Frontier but there’s no word on when the model will arrive. The full-size truck market is also about to get a lot more interesting as the redesigned Silverado and Sierra will face off against the all-new Ram 1500 and the recently updated Ford F-150. The F-150 still has the sales advance but its competitors are eager to catch up. +++

+++ The HONDA Civic Type R may have only launched 12 months ago but the Japanese firm appears to be working on an updated version of the hot hatch. On first sight, the facelift is limited to rather changes to the bumpers. Closer inspection reveals a new set of winglets which are added to the air intakes at the front and extra plastic cladding beneath the rear lamps. Of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t further changes beneath the skin. Renault has openly admitted to chasing the Type R’s Nurburgring lap record with the new Megane RS, and Honda could be using the mild update as an opportunity to add some more power and make some chassis tweaks to help the Type R maintain its title as the world’s fastest front-wheel drive car. Aside from those minor visual changes little else appears to have been changed over the existing model, however the sighting of the updated Type R is tell tale sign that a range of updates for the standard Civic range is on the way. The latest hatchback launched back in 2016, and with Honda’s particularly short lifecycles that model is due a mid-life facelift. +++

+++ HYUNDAI has partnered with Israeli technology company Autotalks to accelerate the development and deployment of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication chipsets. V2X incorporates both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, allowing a vehicle to communicate with all manner of connected items, including traffic lights, other road infrastructure, buildings, cars, homes, and more. The South Korean automaker believes vehicle-to-everything technology will be extremely important in the future for autonomous vehicles. Unlike traditional sensors, which can be fooled in certain environments and weather conditions, V2X can inform a driver about what is happening no matter the situation. For example, it could inform the driver of a change to the road surface or a crash that just occurred. “In autonomous vehicles, V2X complements existing sensors, allowing them to make more informed decisions as well as easing their interaction with other road users”, Hyundai says. Like virtually all its rivals, Hyundai is rapidly developing self-driving technology and intends on launching a Level 4 autonomous vehicle in 2021. Its direct investment in Autotalks represents its latest step in making this a reality. “Connectivity is one of the core technologies that can be applied to smart city business models, as well as autonomous driving and infotainment”, director of open innovation business group, Hyundai Motor Company, Yunseong Hwang said. “Hyundai Motor will continue to invest in disruptive technologies that are in line with Hyundai’s current and future strategic pillars”. Obviously, vehicle-to-everything technology requires much more than Hyundai’s initiative to work properly. To create connected roadways and traffic lights, governments around the world will also have to embrace the technology and invest in it; and that might take some time. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR has recently secured the J-Type moniker with the European Intellectual Property Office. The trademark refers to just about everything, from new cars to repairs and servicing, and even autonomous vehicles. But it appears that in this case, the J-Pace will likely be used on a new car. Given the ‘Type’ suffix, we could be looking at a potential replacement for the current F-Type. The brand’s challenger to the likes of the Porsche 911, which is being offered in coupe and roadster body styles, has been around since 2013. Okay, so why not keep the F-Type moniker and call it all-new? That’s a tough one to answer right now, but the explanation could lie in a statement made by the brand’s design chief, Ian Callum, 2 years ago: “I think we’ve got more permission to break the mold. Our F-Type, before the one that became the production car, the previous design concept was mid-engine. It never happened. It would have been very different. But I think we’ve got permission to do that, because we’re a sports car company”, said Callum. “We’ve had a discussion: will the next F-Type be mid-engine of front-engine? We’ve had that discussion. We haven’t decided yet”. Another possibility is the launch of a 2+2 Grand Tourer as a indirect successor of the XK8, offered alongside the second-generation F-Type, as also hinted by Ian Callum. “The F-Type has been a huge success. We love sports cars, and I use the plural quite deliberately. Whether that is delivered by a body variant or something else remains to be seen, but for now, let’s just say that the body type is very important to us”. The ‘J-Type’ isn’t the only moniker trademarked by Jaguar recently, as they have also secured the ‘C-Pace’ name, hinting probably either at a small crossover or a coupe derivative of an existing model. +++ 

+++ Both a 4-door, front-engined GT car and a third mid-engined supercar remain under consideration to become LAMBORGHINI ’s fourth model line, according to company boss Stefano Domenicali, but neither is likely to enter production until the middle of the next decade. As such, Domenicali told that the Italian firm won’t take the decision about which to commit to until later, after more market research is done. Reports have lately circulated that the company’s executives are split over whether its fourth model should be a front-engined GT car in the mould of the 2008 Estoque concept, or a third mid-engined model whose volume might allow Lamborghini to invest in its own all-new, carbonfibre-rich platform to use under future replacements for the Huracán and Aventador as well. The latter option has gathered support after Audi’s reported decision to kill the R8 supercar, which shares the current Huracán’s platform, in 2020. But Domenicali’s view is that, considering the transformative effect that the Urus super-SUV is about to have on Lamborghini, now is not the time to be aggressively expansive. “We have doubled our volumes over the last 5 years”, he told. “It’s a great time for us, and this is without the effect of Urus, which we have only just started to deliver to customers. It shows that the choices we take in terms of strategy and growth are the right ones, and we are very pleased for that. At the end of next year, we can be really close to 8.000 units of annual volume. And we should not underestimate what that means for a company that was so small not so many years ago. We have to pause to understand who we will be. In this case, we are not worried about the product too much; we need to be focused on our business, and the change it’s going through. We are not any more in a garage; we are playing a different game, and we need a new mentality as a company. We need stability next”. “There is a saying in Italy that if you take a step that’s longer than 4 leg, you’re sure to fall. We don’t have to be too hungry; we should keep our feet on the ground, and not think too short-term”. Domenicali confirmed that work has been done to propose certain models to broaden Lamborghini’s showroom range, but that none of them would figure as production cars for some time. “It is good to plan for the future,” he said, “but on the other hand we need to understand that we’re about to double the dimensions of our company. You cannot triple it in 2 years. When the time is right, we have several ideas as to what might be the model to add, for sure. But this is about making the right decision at the right time, and we can’t make it now. As Urus shows us, we need to be what the customer wants; it takes time to know, you can’t just smell it in the air. So I don’t see a 4th model coming before 2024 or 2025”. Domenicali also confirmed that, while work is already under way on hybridised replacements for both the Aventador and Huracán, neither will appear for at least 2 years. +++ 

+++ It looks like a next-generation LEXUS IS is in development, and set to debut sometime in 2020 for the 2021 model year. It has been rumored that both the IS and GS would be unceremoniously axed in an effort to feed the world’s insatiable appetite for crossovers. However, it appears that Lexus does have plans beyond the current generation for the IS. The post details Lexus’s plans through 2020, including the production plans for the ES, and mentions an upcoming redesign for the NX. It goes on to say that the 4th-generation Lexus IS has been in development stages since 2015, with completion of the first production example set for July 2020. Likely a design freeze will happen early in 2018, to allow 27-30 months of lead time. A final styling proposal for what is nicknamed as the ‘4IS’, will be chosen this year before that point of development is reached in 2018. The car could have a twin-turbo V6, the same unit found in the new Lexus LS 500, producing around 400 horsepower. In the meantime, a minor secondary update might occur to the current IS for model year 2019 in late 2018, tiding the current model along until 2020. Notably absent in the plans is any mention of the GS, further leading leading one to think that the GS is destined for the chopping block. But it seems the IS will live on. +++ 

+++ It took NISSAN 8 years to produce the 1 millionth Juke at its Sunderland factory in the UK. The British factory builds a new Juke every 105 seconds. The 2018 Nissan Juke, one of the first sub-compact crossovers, is available with a very wide interior and exterior personalisation options, offering more than 23,000 different combinations. The 1 millionth example was a Tekna grade model finished in Vivid Blue, which is the latest color option available in the Juke’s range. “8 years ago we had never seen anything like the Juke before; it created an entirely new segment and brought a distinctive never-seen-before look to the market”, said Kevin Fitzpatrick, senior vice-president Manufacturing at Nissan Europe. “Fast forward to today and we have 1 million customers and Juke remains the segment leader. It’s terrific to see that the 2018 model, with all its improvements and personalisation options, is as popular as the version that rolled off the line for the first time in 2010”. The Juke was the second Nissan crossover to be produced at the UK plant, following the bigger Qashqai which first entered production in 2006. Despite being on the market since 2010, the Nissan Juke remains a big hit in the market, hitting sales of 95,000 units in 2017 in Europe. The latest refresh introduced more premium features, including the company’s dark chrome V-motion grille, new wheel designs and vivid color options both inside and out. +++

+++ PININFARINA is planning on launching much more than its Bugatti Chiron-rivalling electric hypercar. In fact, the famous Italian design studio and coachbuilder has adopted a top-down strategy and will launch vehicles accordingly, starting with the hypercar and funneling down to more affordable models. Company executives said there are plans to launch 4 new electric cars between 2020 and 2025 and they won’t all be multi-million dollar hypercars promising break-neck performance. Pininfarina said its second model will be a “lifestyle” vehicle or crossover that aims to attract similar customers to the upcoming Lucid Air and Faraday Future. Of those two, the Lucid Air certainly looks the best, but like the Faraday, it is coming from a startup with no experience in building production vehicles. While Pininfarina is also a newcomer to building its own cars, it does have more experience in the automotive world thanks to its work with automakers throughout the decades. Being a Pininfarina, a breathtaking design for this vehicle is almost a certainty. Recent teaser shots of the upcoming PF0 hypercar showed off an intriguing single headlight design. According to the Italian company, this look will be passed down to the rest of the range, helping to give their models a unique look. Pininfarina got the impetus to launch its own line of cars after growing frustrated at having its designs being at the mercy of automakers as to whether or not radical concept cars would see the light of day. +++

+++ POLESTAR is a brand reborn and it doesn’t plan on wasting any time securing a place as a major player in the burgeoning global electric car market. From racing team and fettler of hot Volvos to standalone electric vehicle performance brand in its own right, Polestar has evolved quickly and its first production car, the 600 hp 1 coupe, is set to be followed in typically prompt fashion by the 2 saloon; a genuine Tesla Model 3 rival. The Polestar 2 mid-size 4-door is gearing up for launch at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show before going on sale in 2020. It’s a far more mainstream proposition than the 160.000 euro Polestar 1 halo car as Thomas Ingenlath, Polestar’s chief executive officer, explained: “Polestar 2 will join the competition with Tesla Model 3, so people should have an understanding of the size and the price tag as well. It will start around 45,000 euro in The Netherlands”. That price range will top out at around 55,000 euro and for the money buyers will be getting a performance saloon built on Volvo’s new CMA platform. Although the Polestar 1 is a hybrid, utilizing a bespoke version of the Volvo’s plug-in hybrid technology, Polestar 2 and every Polestar thereafter will be pure electric. Also, unlike the Polestar 1, the 2 will be available in right-hand drive. The brand is targeting a 500 kilometer range for the Polestar 2, and the Polestar 3 coupe-SUV that will follow, which would be competitive with the Tesla Model 3. But Ingenlath was keen to play down any plans to usurp Tesla. “We are not saying it’s a Tesla killer, we are here to vividly compete with them in the market. We will launch Polestar 2 in the second half of 2019 and production will begin around the start of 2020”. The other area where the Polestar 2 is expected to diverge from the Polestar 1 is in the design department. Polestar’s chief operating officer Jonathan Goodman acknowledged that the 1 uses similar design themes to current Volvo models, before indicating that the 2 would begin to establish Polestar’s own look; “On this car (the Polestar 1) yes, but bear with us, you’ll see things gradually”. Polestar will also underline its difference from Volvo in the way customers access its cars. As well as being able to buy the cars outright online or through one of Polestar’s 80 planned ‘Polestar Spaces’ in town centres and shopping hubs, the company will also sell its models through a subscription service. Buyers will pay a flat monthly fee that covers the cost of the car, servicing and insurance over a 2 or 3 year period. Once the contact is up the car is simply handed back to Polestar. Ingenlath said: “In generations to come I can see they will not be happy to pay 60,000 euro on an object they have to sell again. The modern way is not to do that; there are better ways. The way you own a Polestar, we believe is appealing to people, as you have a much more precise idea of what it actually costs to own. It is a very clear and committed price per month and is hassle free”. Once the car has been returned to Polestar the car is then sent out on a second subscription service, likely to be at a discounted price. “What happens after a second subscription is an open question. But even then they are not at their end, they still have a value; the cars are very easy to monitor where they are in their lifetime”, Ingenlath explained. +++

+++ Customers have begun ordering the PORSCHE Taycan, the firm’s first all-electric vehicle, despite the production version of the car not even being revealed yet. Order books opened earlier this month, and customers are keen to reserve early cars despite the car only being revealed as a concept, called Mission E. The production car is expected to be revealed for the first time in 2019, ahead of hitting roads in 2020. “The reaction from customers has been fantastic, from the moment we announced the car to now, when we have asked customers to register their interest for the first cars”, a spokesman said Pollich of the Tesla Model S rival. “The history of Porsche began with an electric car in 1898 and that provides some inspiration and motivation for us. Of course there was a big gap, but we have led with the introduction of hybrids and now we will use our heritage and learnings to offer a class-leading electric car. The next 18 months will be fascinating, as we develop and reveal the car, but what is already clear is that customers are keen. They are talking to our dealers asking how to get to the top of the priority lists and asking to access more information”. The Porsche spokesman acknowledged rival Tesla’s importance in moving the market, saying: “They have been the pioneers and they have set a big challenge. What’s clear is that at Porsche we are planning to rise to that challenge, not just with our car, but in providing owners with the full 360 degree view to allow seamless ownership, including creating a supercharger network”. Porsche is a partner with BMW, Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagen Group in a scheme to develop a high-powered charging network in Europe, called Ionity, that will be usable by all their respective electric vehicles. The car makers have pledged to install 400 chargers across Europe by 2020, and the scheme is expected to work in a way that Tesla’s unique Supercharger network does now. Each charger will initially have a capacity of up to 350 kW. The Taycan’s 4-seat interior suggests it will be more closely aligned, in terms of character, with the Panamera than pure sports cars such as the 911. But its floor-mounted batteries should give it an extremely low centre of gravity to allow for hunkered-down handling that’s comparable to more focused performance machines. The Taycan sits on a new architecture, named J1 by Porsche. The brand’s first EV will feature 800 Volt charging technology that is intended to future-proof the car for several years after it hits the market, and company officials have already confirmed it is designed to enable fast-charging to 80% of the car’s range in just 15 minutes. The J1 structure is one of three new electric car platforms being developed within Porsche’s parent company, the Volkswagen Group. It is described as being different in construction to the C-BEV platform planned to underpin sister brand Audi’s forthcoming E-tron SUV, which is due for reveal later this year. Porsche chairman Oliver Blume told: “​The J1 has a low floor, while the C-BEV is constructed differently with a higher floor that suits an SUV”. Despite the differences in construction, Blume also confirmed that production versions of the Taycan and E-tron will feature similar lithium ion battery technology. The central location of the batteries and twin-motor set-up will also give the Taycan’s technical architecture a better front-rear weight balance than combustion-engined cars, potentially allowing Porsche’s engineers to soften the car’s anti-roll bars to aid ride without hindering handling. ​Blume also confirmed that Porsche plans for the Taycan to have Level 4 autonomous driving technology (self-driving in nearly all situations, with driver attention not required), but denied that it would allow fully autonomous driving over longer distances. “There are situations in traffic jams where you will be able to read a newspaper, but our customers take pleasure from driving and this will remain”, he said. Additionally, Porsche is working on providing the Taycan with software that will allow over-the-air updates such as those pioneered by Tesla with the Model S. +++ 

+++ For the last few years, TESLA has had the premium EV market all to itself and played a significant part in accelerating the industry’s shift towards electrification. In the not too distant future, however, it could very well be knocked off its perch. According to a study by PA Consulting, Tesla will remain number 1 in the EV market throughout 2019. However, as established car manufacturers begin introducing electric models over the next 2 years, Elon Musk’s company could fall as low as 7th in global EV sales. The study suggests that Daimler will take the lead in 2021, followed by BMW, Renault Nissan Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Volvo, Toyota, and Tesla. The predictions were made based on car manufacturer strategy, battery technology, culture, supplier networks, partnerships and financial performance. Unlike Tesla, all of the aforementioned car manufacturers have established supply chains to accelerate the development and production of electric vehicles. What’s more, they all have decades worth of experience of building multiple models on a mass scale. Crucially, that’s something Tesla continues to struggle with, as is evident with the production issues impacting deliveries of the entry-level Model 3. While sales of the Model S and Model X have been strong in recent years when compared to other EVs, the truth is that both models are built in very limited numbers when compared to the millions of ICE vehicles built annually by the world’s largest automakers. It could conceivably take Tesla five years or more to perfect the art of mass production of various models, and by the time that happens, it may have already lost the electric vehicle crown. +++

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