+++ AUDI has stepped up production ahead of a September deadline when it becomes harder to register vehicles in the EU as roadworthy. Starting next month, vehicles sold in Europe need to pass new pollution rules known as the Worldwide Harmonized Light Duty Vehicles Test procedure, or WLTP. Cars which are registered for sale ahead of this deadline can still be passed on to dealerships after September. Audi said it had ramped up production ahead of the deadline and therefore does not expect to see a drop in vehicle deliveries this year, even as it faces problems adjusting its portfolio. “The company expects significant fluctuations during the year in production, inventories and deliveries, as well as in its key financials”, Audi said in a statement accompanying its latest financial results. “In this context, the first half of the year featured a significant increase in production levels for anticipatory stockpiling”. Several automakers, including Audi parent Volkswagen and rival Daimler, have said margins may suffer because of delays getting their fleet ready for the new road certification standards. Audi said expects its research and development expenditure ratio to be slightly above the long-term target corridor of 6.0 to 6.5 % of sales. Audi also assumes that the capital expenditure ratio will be also be slightly above its target level of 5.0 to 5.5 %. +++

+++ BMW expects its China sales to rise between 5 % and 10 % this year, despite the introduction of 40 % import tariffs on vehicles imported from the U.S. Because BMW earlier this year stopped exporting its X3 from Spartanburg, South Carolina, to China it has been able to avoid a 40 % import tariff imposed since July. Demand for new models such as the large X7, built in Spartanburg, is so high that BMW is confident it can adjust prices to still make a profit on cars exported from the U.S. to China. It has already raised prices on its X5 and X6 models imported from Spartanburg and is building a “significant portion” of between 10,000 and 20,000 X5 models in Thailand so they can be exported to China. This is one action “to counteract tariffs”, CEO Harald Krüger said. BMW recently started building the X3 in China. “We now have more than 6 models built in China”, Krüger said. BMW recently hatched plans to significantly boost output in China over the next few years. The company still exports some X5 models from the U.S. to Asia, but it is reviewing ways to optimize its flexible production network to adapt to changes in the political landscape. +++

+++ The 6th-generation Opel CORSA , which will go on sale next year, will be fundamental to the success of the German company as the first car produced under its new owner, the PSA Group. The Corsa will set the tone for a new wave of Opel vehicles, each of which will be overhauled thanks to access to new platforms, engines and hardware also used across the group’s other car brands, Peugeot, Citroën and DS. Opel’s new supermini has been developed in an unusually fast time. When it is unveiled in 2019, less than 2 years will have elapsed since work began, just as the deal to buy Opel was being agreed between PSA and General Motors. The quick turnaround is due to PSA axing the original decision for the next Corsa to be based on GM’s architecture. Once PSA had taken over Opel, it would have been required to pay a licence fee to GM to use the platform, something boss Carlos Tavares is keen to avoid as he tries to return the brands to profitability by 2020. Opel boss Michael Lohscheller has previously told that the new Corsa “will not be compromised in any way. It’s true that we had a version ready to go, and you can’t just stretch a design to fit a new platform, but the teams have done a fantastic job in record time to ensure that the car is on schedule”. The new Corsa will be based on PSA’s Common Modular Platform (CMP), a front-engine, front-wheel-drive architecture that will also underpin cars such as the forthcoming new Peugeot 208. The Corsa will also dip into PSA’s engine line-up and is likely to adopt the 1.2-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder in a variety of power outputs. Despite the switch to a new platform, the Corsa VI dimensions are understood to closely match the outgoing model’s. Opel chose to launch the current Corsa in 2014 with near-identical dimensions to its predecessor because the company felt it was the perfect size wanted by customers. This strategy is expected to continue. The current Corsa is 4.021 mm long, 1.736 mm wide and 1.479 mm tall, dimensions that make it slightly longer and taller, but narrower, than the existing Peugeot 208. The design of the Corsa was set to be evolutionary before the plan for a GM-derived model was axed. Now, to mark a new era for the model under PSA ownership, the styling promises to mark a departure from what we expect the supermini to look like. The 3-door Corsa will be axed, reflecting an industry trend to discontinue such bodystyles, which are less popular with buyers. Producing only a 5-door Corsa will also help Opel’s drivefor greater efficiency and increased profitability. Inside, the Corsa will receive PSA’s familiar touchscreen infotainment system, but the overall feel of the interior is expected to be distinct from its French siblings. Not long after the debut of the standard Corsa next year, an electric version will be launched, named eCorsa. Although the Peugeot 208 will get an electric variant first, it and the Corsa will be among the select few in the supermini segment to adopt electrified powertrains. Key rivals such as the Ford Fiesta are not expected to go electric for many years yet. The electric range of the eCorsa is likely to be about 400 kilometres, in line with zero-emissions rivals such as the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf. +++ 

+++ FORD lowered its full-year earnings forecast due to slumping sales and trade tariffs in China and its struggling business in Europe, and said ongoing plans to revamp its business could lead to pre-tax charges of up to 11 billion dollar over the next 3 to 5 years. Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker, also postponed a meeting with investors that was scheduled for September. The company said it would be rescheduled when “more specifics can be shared on global redesign and restructuring”. “It’s clear that the redesign is going to be fundamental and it’s going to be deep and it’s going to really address these underperforming parts of the business”, the company’s chief financial officer, Bob Shanks, told analysts on a conference call. Shanks said Ford would improve the performance of underperforming units or dispose of them. Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett, asked directly by an analyst whether he would still be leading Ford when the company reschedules its investor day, responded: “Hell yes, I expect to be”. Ford reported its second-quarter net profit fell by almost half, missing analyst expectations, due to a fire at a parts supplier that disrupted production of its popular pickups, while falling sales and tariffs hurt the automaker’s business in China. Ford’s shares fell 3.7 % in after-hours trade. Tariffs, particularly those imposed on U.S. aluminum and steel imports by President Donald Trump’s administration, should cost Ford 1.6 billion dollar in North America in 2018, Shanks said. The automaker’s struggles to boost sales in China have showed no sign of ending despite its taking steps to bring new products to market. Through the first 5 months of 2018, Ford’s Chinese sales were down 22 %. Ford said earlier this month that for now it will not hike prices of imported Ford and higher-margin luxury Lincoln models in China, thus absorbing the additional cost of tariffs on U.S.-made vehicles. Ford reported a second-quarter pre-tax loss of 483 million dollar for its China operations. Ford’s declining sales, lower pricing and lower sales in the hot crossover and SUV market have created “a whole snowballing effect” in China, Shanks said. “It’s going to take us a while to get out of that issue”. Shanks said he sees improvement in China next year, but he did not provide a financial outlook for the region. Ford’s president of global markets, Jim Farley, said the company will not see a “real boost” in China until it begins rolling out new SUVs in 2019 and 2020. Ford said it was working to cut costs in its European unit, while trying to focus on profitable models. Shanks said the region required a major redesign that was already under way, though Farley said the company will report a loss there this year. Shanks also said Ford’s South American operations have not earned an appropriate return on investment since 2004, and said the company was focused on a “significant redesign”. Virtually all of Ford’s quarterly profit came from sales of high-margin pickups like the F-150 and SUVs in North America. The automaker has become increasingly reliant on the F-150 to drive results. In May, Ford said its quarterly profits would be hurt by shutdowns at 3 U.S. truck plants caused by a fire at a key parts supplier. On Wednesday, Ford reported a second-quarter net profit of 1.07 billion dollar, compared with 2.05 billion dollar a year earlier. +++ 

+++ Buyers looking to put a brand-new Nissan JUKE in their driveway might have missed their chance. Nissan has stopped producing the model for the North American market. The news doesn’t come as a surprise. The Juke faced an uncertain future due to slow sales. Annual volume peaked at 38,184 units in 2014 and dropped to 19,577 in 2016. The model registered a 48 % decline in 2017, dropping to 10,957 sales, and it has collapsed by 91 % during the first 6 months of the year. Nissan always positioned the Juke as a “not for everybody” product but sales have dropped too low for executives to justify keeping it around. American buyers shouldn’t look for a second-generation Juke. Nissan already replaced the model when it launched the Kicks in then United States. Both models are comparably sized and priced but the Kicks ditches the Juke’s wild design for a more conventional look that follows both recent design trends and Nissan’s latest design language. When I drove the Kicks, I concluded it ditched the Juke’s niche appeal for mainstream practicality. The story is different in Europe, where the Juke remains a relatively strong seller. Nissan sold 95,000 examples of the model last year. Buyers are drawn to its affordable price and its compact, city-friendly dimensions. The Juke is getting old across the pond, too, but it’s likely to get a true replacement in the coming years. Watch out; Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s former global design chief, told he wanted to make the second-generation Juke even more polarizing. +++ 

+++ The consistent family look that LEXUS has given its model range will help the company achieve its goal of breaking through the 100,000 sales barrier, according to new European boss Pascal Ruch. At the launch of the new UX compact SUV, Ruch said that Lexus now has a complete range of cars designed in the same style and suggested that the consistency would help broaden its appeal. “When we started the new era of Lexus, and especially Lexus design, in 2012, every new car became a milestone”, said Ruch. “Now we have a consistent line-up. We now have what we need”. Ruch has targeted growing European sales from 75,000 to at least 100,000 cars a year by 2020, but stressed that growth couldn’t come at the expense of traditional Lexus selling points such as good service, reliability and quality. “Quality in everything we do, from dealing with customers to delivering the best ownership experience, is in our DNA”, he said. “Growth must never come at the expense of that. But now customers know what to expect from Lexus. We have a consistent look and we have evolved as a brand. “If you look at the LF1- Limitless luxury SUV concept (revealed at the Detroit motor show in January), you’ll note that it is an evolution of what we have established today. Our customers like what they see and we are comfortable now with polarising opinion. Now our job is to evolve all our cars in that consistent way”. Talking about the upheaval of introducing the radically different styling in 2012, Ruch said: “What we did was different and necessarily so. We arrived in 1989 as a disruptor brand. We laid foundations in quality and we have now taken that facet and applied it to something different. Lexus has always pioneered, from the first luxury SUV, to the first hybrid premium car, to the grille in 2012 and more; we keep making new stories”. Asked if Lexus needed to do more to promote its pioneering successes, Ruch added: “Maybe we could do more, but what’s more important to me is that our customers understand it; that can be the only reason why we keep finishing in the top slot of customer surveys. There are no better accolades and advocates to have”. +++ 

+++ NISSAN will launch a range of hybrid models to supplement the fully electric Leaf and the showroom version of the IMx Kuro electric SUV as part of its electrification plans. The company has yet to provide details of which models will be hybridised and when, but conventional hybrids and plug-ins will be offered. Advanced product planning manager Warwick Daly said: “The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance is evaluating the best technologies available across the group for its hybrid programme” before revealing more about its strategy. Considerable hybrid expertise rests with new alliance member Mitsubishi, and Nissan and Renault have more than eight years’ experience apiece at making and selling pure electric vehicles. Daly said “not over-complicating” Nissan’s model line-up is a consideration. The addition of hybrids and plug-in hybrids will expand the brand’s powertrain choice from 3 today (petrol, diesel and electric) to 5. Day expects around 35 % of Nissan’s European sales to be electrified by 2025. The company is aiming for 20 % of its sales to be plug-ins by 2020. “We want to stay ahead of the curve,” said Daly. From 2025 onwards, Daly also expects that “the mild hybrid will start to become obsolete. Our electrification offer will change over time”. Daly expects the Leaf and electric SUV to become major sellers for the brand, alongside the Qashqai and Juke. “The Leaf will play a bigger role”, he said, pointing out that the latest version has 20,000 advance orders across Europe and the sales rate is 40 % higher than for the previous model. Nissan will have similar class-leading sales ambitions for the electric SUV, to maintain its position “as the number one crossover brand in Europe”, said Daly. Nissan can probably lay claim to having had the earliest impact in the growth of EVs with its Leaf. But we’ve been so busy focusing on that (and the success of the Qashqai and Juke) that, suddenly, Nissan risks falling behind its rivals with electrified progress. The electric IMx and hybrids must arrive soon or Nissan will be forgotten as a pioneer and remembered for losing its advantage. +++

+++ OPEL plans to slow production at 2 German sites after the summer to help cut costs in response to declining sales. The company will cut production to 42 vehicles per hour from 55 at its Rüsselsheim plant and to 30 vehicles from 37 in Eisenach. Output at Opel’s Polish site of Gliwice had already been slowed to 25 from 40 cars per hour. Opel declined to comment on the details of the internal planning. “Of course, we regularly adjust production planning in our plants”, an Opel spokeswoman said. The production throttling is sparking concern in the workforce that fewer cars could be built in the long term, the paper reported. But the management said the works council has agreed on its future plans for all European locations. Early last month, the management reached an agreement with workers on investments in German sites and job protection measures until July 2023. Opel builds the Insignia plus Zafira at Rüsselsheim and the Adam plus 3-door Corsa at Eisenach. The Astra is produced in Gliwice. Opel was sold to PSA Group by General Motors last year in a $2.6 billion deal. In July PSA reported that it had succeeded in bringing the Opel-Vauxhall business back into the black after 2 decades of losses. +++ 

+++ Sales growth at the Chinese joint venture between RENAULT and Dongfeng Motor has slowed this year without the introduction of new or redesigned models. In the first 6 months, Dongfeng-Renault deliveries edged up 1 % to 37,892 after surging 140 % in 2017. Nearly all of the sales volume was generated by 2 of the joint venture’s 3 locally produced vehicles: 24,182 Koleos and 12,854 Kadjars were sold in the first half. Dongfeng-Renault, which sells cars under the Renault brand only, did not disclose sales of the locally built Captur or imported vehicles. The joint venture plans to roll out 2 new models annually over the next 4 years. It aims to boost annual sales to 400,000 in 2022. Dongfeng-Renault was incorporated in 2013 in the central China city of Wuhan. Renault also established a commercial vehicle joint venture with Brilliance Jinbei Automobile in December in the northeast China city of Shenyang to assemble MPVs and vans. The new partnership, dubbed Renault-Brilliance Jinbei, builds and markets vehicles under the Jinbei brand. It won’t start producing Renault-badged models until 2020. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN Group chairman Herbert Diess predicts a grim future for the auto show as we know it. “Motor shows are dead. They are a product of the 1960s and they are not as relevant anymore. They’re not delivering what we want and they’re not delivering what car buyers want”, Diess told. Diess added the traditional auto show model (where a car is unveiled for the media and displayed under spotlights for the duration of the event) isn’t appealing to attendees anymore. “People need to see more interaction with the product. They expect it. Those days of relying on tradition are gone. It’s events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed that are showing us modern ways to show cars to people”, he explained. The entire Volkswagen Group recently confirmed plans to skip the biennial Paris auto show that will open its doors later this year. Jean-Claude Girot, the head of the company that organizes the event, told Volkswagen will return to the show in 2020. The brand hasn’t confirmed its participation yet. Other companies have come to the same conclusion. In May, Fiat- Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced its Fiat, Jeep, and Alfa Romeo brands will skip the Paris show. Maserati will attend, surprisingly. Ford, Opel, Mazda, and Volvo will also sit out the event. +++

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