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+++ ASTON MARTIN ’s new manufacturing site in St Athan, Wales is nearing completion and will become the firm’s centre for electrification, the company has confirmed. The site is already home to a workforce of 100 people, which will rise to 700 by 2020. The finishing touches are being applied to the factory, which will begin producing prototypes of the DBX at the beginning of next year; the paint shop is fully installed and construction of the production line is under way. In addition Aston Martin has announced that along with the production version of the DBX, which is set for a reveal at the end of next year, the Rapide E and the reborn Lagonda brand (comprising zero-emissions vehicles only) will also be based at the ex-Ministry of Defence site. Andy Palmer, Aston Martin CEO said: “A second production facility is a critical step in delivering our Second Century Plan. The St Athan facility will initially commence with the production of our first SUV but will ultimately be a global centre of excellence for the production of luxury high performance EVs, including Lagonda: the world’s first luxury electric automotive brand”. The British brand is investing an additional £50 million in St Athan to make it its designated centre for electrification. The move suits the production DBX almost as much as the Rapide E, because Aston Martin’s debut SUV is likely to feature a hybrid petrol-electric powertrain. +++ 

+++ BMW will deepen cost cuts after higher development expenses contributed to a 27 % drop in third-quarter operating profit, falling short of analyst expectations as currency effects also took a toll. Investments to develop electric and self-driving cars, as well as spending to boost production of new X5, X7 and 8-series luxury models weighed on earnings when tariffs between China and the United States and a price war in Europe were already eroding margins. Capital expenditure will rise again in the 4th quarter, BMW said, owing to the start of production for a new version of its flagship model, the 3 series. “Additional measures will be needed to support our profitability targets”. Chief Financial Officer Nicolas Peter said in a call to discuss earnings, without giving details. “Despite the difficult conditions, we are still targeting a free cash flow of €3 billion for the full year”, Peter added. “In light of the current challenges, this will not be an easy task”. BMW’s earnings before interest and taxes of €1.75 billion came in below the €1.8 billion forecast in a poll as higher raw material prices, currency effects, and €679 million worth of provisions for vehicle recalls had an impact. BMW said that despite a slight rise in deliveries of luxury cars, its operating return on sales for the automotive division narrowed to 4.4 % from 8.6 % a year earlier, well below its targeted range of 8 to 10 %. BMW had warned in September that its pretax profit would fall this year, against earlier expectations for a flat outcome, and cut its profit margin guidance for cars, blaming intense price competition, trade and currency headwinds. “Compared with 2017, additional upfront expenditure of around €1 billion for the mobility of the future and a high three-digit million euro negative impact from exchange-rate and raw materials price developments had been factored into expected earnings for the year”, BMW said. While BMW had fewer problems than rivals Volkswagen and Daimler in selling cars that conform to the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test standards (WLTP), the onset of the rules has led to cutthroat competition, supply distortions and heavy discounting. Separately, BMW said it will purchase specific raw materials such as cobalt, and then make them available to battery cell suppliers as a way to secure a supply of electric car batteries. BMW is establishing a technology consortium with Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt and Belgium’s Umicore to develop a value chain for battery cells in Europe, including development, production and ultimately recycling. +++ 

+++ CITROEN is planning to launch an all-new C4 Cactus in 2020 with a fully electric powertrain option, alongside conventional engine choices. The compact crossover has recently received a midlife facelift, but that extends the current car, first launched in 2014, only until the end of the decade. An all-new version will move from the old PF1 platform to the PSA Group’s new Compact Modular Platform (CMP), shared with the DS 3 Crossback and the next Peugeot 208 / Opel Corsa. Like these cars, the platform is designed to integrate both internal combustion engines and an electric powertrain. Citroën’s senior vice president of global marketing and communications, Arnaud Belloni, confirmed that the C4 Cactus would be the first electric model to be launched by the brand since the C-Zero city car. The new models form part of the PSA Group’s wide-reaching electrification plans, which will see a plug-in hybrid or electric version of every Citroën, DS, Peugeot and Opel launched from next year onwards. Further details of the new C4 Cactus are thin on the ground, but I know it will usher in a new design language with inspiration from the Cxperience concept of 2016. It will also feature further developments of Citroën’s Advanced Comfort strategy, with more comfortable seats and better refinement. We can expect to see a familiar range of Puretech petrol and BlueHDI diesel engines alongside the electric version. Before that car’s launch, in 2019 Citroën will show 2 new concept cars, the first of which will debut at the Geneva motor show as the centrepiece of its centenary celebrations. Belloni describes it as being “as important to Citroën as the 2CV was” and showcasing a “revolution” for the brand. The concept will be small city-focused and previews an “affordable” production car. It will also be fully electric, and showcases what Belloni describes as a “new mobility system”. “It will keep the spirit of the 2CV, but instead of being a car for rural people it will be for city dwellers”, Belloni continued. During a press conference, Citroën revealed a detail image of the concept showing what looks like a pull chord instead of a door handle. In April, Citroën will showcase its take on what a driverless car future could look like with another concept at the Shanghai motor show. It, too, has been teased with what looks like hi-tech sensors on top of the car. It’s set to reveal a different and larger take on the future of autonomous driving. +++

+++ Sales of Hyundai ’s premium GENESIS marque have surpassed a cumulative 200,000 units 3 years after its official launch, industry data showed. The total sales of Genesis vehicles reached 206,882 as of the end of October, touching the 200,000 mark for the first time since November 2015, when Hyundai Motor launched the luxury brand. With global sales of 555 units of Genesis cars in the first year, 58,916 units were sold in the following year and 78,889 units in 2017. For the first 10 months of 2018, Hyundai saw sales of the brand rise 6.1 % on-year to 68,522 units. The executive G80 model was the most popular in the Genesis lineup, with a cumulative 127,283 units sold worldwide, followed by the flagship G90 with 52,417 units sold and the G70 sports sedan with 27,182 units. Hyundai said it will strengthen the Genesis lineup by upgrading popular models and adding new cars to help stimulate sales further. A fully changed model of the G80 will be unveiled next year, along with a new SUV, the GV80. Hyundai has been struggling with rising costs and diminishing sales at home and abroad. Its net profit plunged 43 % on-year in the January-September period, while its sales edged up 1.2 % to 3.32 million vehicles. Early this year, it set a sales target of 4.68 million units for 2018. +++ 

+++ Amid HYUNDAI ’s efforts to capitalize on its fuel cell electric vehicles, its Executive Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun zoomed in on hydrogen energy as a key economic and social solution for clean mobility at a forum in Singapore last week, the company said. As the global automotive industry and governments search for clean mobility, Hyundai has been trying to promote hydrogen cars as the ultimate eco-friendly transportation. After attending the forum, Chung flew to China, where he attended the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai and met with Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong. Hyundai took part in the exhibition to tap into the world’s biggest auto market with its Nexo FCEV and high performance N brand, the company said. “The report released by the UN warns us that we must decrease global greenhouse gas emissions 45 % below 2010 levels by 2030, in order to avoid a catastrophe. I sincerely believe without any shadow of doubt that hydrogen has a place as a central pillar to the clean energy transition”, Chung said at the opening speech of a discussion arranged by Hyundai at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum. Citing the transportation sector as the first industry the carmaker is likely to target, Chung added, “But our commitments go beyond transportation, and we will make sure to send out the message that hydrogen can deliver economically viable, financially attractive, and socially beneficial solutions”. The discussion dealt with creating an emissions-free society and sustainable development, led by President of the Royal Economic Society Nicholas Stern, and joined by Kim Sae-hoon, vice president of Hyundai’s fuel cell group, CEO of Macquarie Group Asia Ben Way, and founder and managing partner of FutureMap Parag Khanna as panelists. During the discussion, Macquarie Group Asia CEO Ben Way urged governments to adopt consistent policies for the market to gain confidence in renewable energy, ultimately to attract participation from members of society and engineers in the transition to clean energy. According to research firm IHS, the market size of hydrogen vehicles is projected to grow to 2.2 million units by 2030 from this year’s 50,000 units. To take lead in hydrogen fuel cell technology currently championed by Hyundai, Toyota and Honda, Hyundai launched the Nexo FCEV with 600 kilometers of driving distance at the CES 2018 in late January, offered test rides for the public to experience Nexo and the vehicle’s automation at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, signed the Hydrogen Energy Fund with China’s Tsinghua Industrial R&D Institute last month, and forged partnership with Audi in hydrogen technology in late June, among other moves. During President Moon Jae-in’s state visit to France last month, Hyundai inked a memorandum of understanding with French industrial gas supplier Air Liquide and French electric utility company Engie to increase the number of hydrogen chargers there and to ship 5,000 units of FCEVs by 2025, the company said. +++ 

+++ 4 of 7 major automakers in JAPAN logged year-on-year growth in both group sales and net profits in the first half of fiscal 2018, thanks in part to brisk sales mainly in Asia and the yen’s weakening, according to their earnings reports. Sales hit the highest levels on a fiscal first-half basis at Toyota, Honda and Suzuki, standing at ¥14,674 billion, ¥7,865.8 billion and ¥1,929.4 billion, respectively. In the April-September period, net profit rose 16.0 % to ¥1,242.3 billion at Toyota, 19.3 % to ¥455.1 billion at Honda and 30.7 % to ¥136.1 billion at Suzuki. The 3 companies revised up their earnings projections for the full year to March 2019. Mitsubishi saw its sales rise by 23.4 % to ¥1,169.3 billion and net profit by 7.2 % to ¥51.8 billion. But the firm left its full-year estimates unchanged. “We’re more cautious than usual about our business outlook as uncertainties over the global economy are growing on the back of U.S.-China trade friction”, Osamu Masuko, chief executive officer of Mitsubishi, said. Nissan, struggling with inventory adjustments in the United States, reported sales of ¥5,532.7 billion, down 2.1 %, and a net profit of ¥246.2 billion, down 10.9 %. Subaru’s net profit plunged 47.9 % to ¥44.3 billion, reflecting ¥55 billion in costs for recalling a large number of vehicles for free repairs due to engine problems. Mazda saw its net profit plummet 61.5 % to ¥24.3 billion because of production suspension caused by torrential rains that hit western Japan in July. Concerns are growing over the possibility of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump stepping up protectionist moves after the Republican Party lost its majority in the House of Representatives to the Democratic Party in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Nissan Chief Financial Officer Hiroshi Karube indicated the company’s stance of keeping a close eye on U.S. trade policies, saying, “A system in which we can conduct various activities freely is desirable”. +++

+++ MITSUBISHI says its plug-in hybrid technology is essential to meet increasingly tough CO2 emissions regulations, and the next-generation Outlander PHEV will have an electric-only range of 80-100 kilometres. The Outlander is currently the bestselling plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in Europe. While increasingly tough CO2 regulations are pushing several car firms towards pure-battery EV technology, Mitsubishi’s strategy boss, Vincent Cobee, says the limitations of full-electric tech mean PHEVs are key to meeting those requirements. “Battery EVs have a limitation in terms of range at the moment, and in some countries, that might not be the answer”, said Cobee. He added that the firm would add full-electric models to its range, alongside extending its PHEV powertrain to other models. “The Outlander PHEV currently has an electric-only range of 50 kilometres and we’ll extend that with the next-generation model: the aim is 80-100 km, which will be enough for most people to do the bulk of their journeys purely on electric power and live a largely EV lifestyle, but still be able to do longer trips when needed”. Cobee reiterated that the firm will not develop a bespoke range of EV-specific models in the future, instead offering battery EV, hybrid and PHEV versions of its models. He also ruled out a plug-in hybrid version of the current-generation L200 pick-up, which has just been launched, because the technology is not yet cost-effective or beneficial to commercial vehicles, but he said that was likely to change as the technology developed in the coming years. +++ 

+++ In the United Kingdom, company car drivers running PLUG-IN HYBRIDS are seeing average fuel consumption of just 40 mpg (around a third of official figures), leading experts to consider many PHEVs are not being plugged in at all, and are running on their internal combustion engines alone. The research was carried out by The Miles Consultancy, a specialist firm that helps companies interrogate their workers’ driving habits and fuel consumption figures. By analysing economy figures for around 1,500 cars, the consultants calculated average fuel economy for PHEVs at 39.27 mpg. Official figures indicate some of the more common PHEVs on the market should return around 140 mpg. And while drivers who regularly charge up their PHEVs’ batteries are actually likely to see a figure of around half that in the real world, The Miles Consultancy claims many drivers did not even bother unwrapping their cars’ charging cables from their cellophane packaging. Before the British government abolished the Plug-in Car Grant for PHEVs, buyers could save £2,500 off the list price of a new plug-in hybrid, while those who bought a PHEV before March 2016 could get a £5,000 discount. Around 70 % of PHEVs purchased so far in 2018 were said to have gone to company car fleets. As well as discounts on purchase prices for fleet buyers, those running a PHEV on a company car scheme have also enjoyed advantageous Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rates due to their cars’ low official carbon dioxide emissions. BiK rates for a car emitting 50 g/km of CO2 (typical on-paper emissions for  PHEV), for example, currently stand at just 16 %. A comparable petrol car would emit around 140 g/km, while a diesel might manage 110 g/km, leading to respective BiK rates of 29 and 27 % respectively. Paul Hollick, The Miles Consultancy’s managing director, told the BBC, which commissioned the research: “There are some examples where employees aren’t even charging these vehicles up. The charge cables are still in the boot, in a cellophane wrapper, while the company and the employee are going in and out of petrol stations, paying for all of this additional fuel”. The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), which represents a number of large fleets, told the BBC “a poorly designed tax regime is driving some poor behaviours”, adding: “We have got some situations where company drivers are choosing the vehicle based on their tax liability, rather than having the right vehicle for the right job”. Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “We need policies that encourage consumers and businesses to invest in the cleanest cars, however they are powered”. +++ 

+++ If you’re thinking of buying a new car there are plenty of things you should consider, such as performance, economy, styling and technology, but RELIABILITY is arguably the most important factor of all for car buyers. It’s not just individual models that need to be considered as it’s also worth looking to see how each brand as a whole performs in terms of the reliability of its products. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of the most and least reliable car manufacturers powered by the latest Driver Power customer satisfaction survey data. It’s easy to think that there is no such thing as an unreliable car in the modern world, but the 2018 Driver Power survey shows that there are vast differences between models and also between the different manufacturers. Each year the Driver Power survey asks British motorist to score your car on a number of different factors, reliability included. It gives a great idea of how the cars we test fare in the real world, and clearly shows that on the road some manufacturers simply make more reliable cars than others. It’s self-reported data and there are a couple of surprises in the results alongside more predictable placers, but it does give an impression which manufacturers are leaving customers satisfied, and which ones leave something to be desired. The 2018 list of the most reliable car manufacturers contains many names we’ve come to expect to see near the top as a result of their performance in previous surveys. Japanese brands are perhaps not as dominant as they once were, but still account for 4 of the top10, with runway table-toppers Lexus joined by Honda, Toyota and Mazda. Premium brands also feature heavily towards the top of the list with Jaguar taking second spot just ahead of Mercedes in third, while Volvo are also positioned well in 7th. They are also places in the top10 for Skoda, Hyundai and Mini: 1. Lexus – 95.12 %, 2. Jaguar – 91.81 %, 3. Mercedes – 90.77 %, 4. Honda – 90.44 %, 5. Skoda – 90.16 %, 6. Toyota – 90.11 %, 7. Volvo – 89.61 %, 8. Hyundai – 89.04 %, 9. Mini – 88.93 %, 10. Mazda – 88.87 %. And so we arrive at the 10 least reliable car manufacturers in 2018. Propping up the table by a considerable margin is Chevrolet, while Opel/Vauxhall will be disappointed to have finished just one place from the bottom. It’s a surprise to see Dacia so low having excelled in previous years, yet owners have spoken in Driver Power 2018 and they aren’t as happy as they have been in the past. Also finding a spot in the rogues gallery are Volkswagen and Audi, while it’s even more of a surprise to see Nissan languishing down there given the strong showing from its fellow Japanese marques: 18. Ford – 87.00 %, 19. Volkswagen – 86.96 %, 20. Audi – 86.09 %, 21. Citroen – 85.82 %, 22. Alfa Romeo – 85.58 %, 23. Peugeot – 85.36 %, 24. Nissan – 85.21 %, 25. Dacia – 85.10 %, 26. Opel/Vauxhall – 83.64 %, 27. Chevrolet – 79.20 %. +++

+++ RENAULT said it will build new Nissan and Mitsubishi vans at its domestic plants, raising investment in the country as it explores closer integration of the three-way carmaking alliance with government backing. The announcement, timed to coincide with a plant visit by President Emmanuel Macron, “underlines the importance of France for the alliance”, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi said. Renault will build a new Nissan NV250 delivery van at the northern Maubeuge factory, on an architecture shared with its own Kangoo model that includes an electric version, the alliance said in a statement. A larger Mitsubishi van will also be produced in Sandouville, western France, alongside Renault’s Trafic. The move raises Renault’s announced investment in France this year to €1.4 billion, the companies added. Under pressure from the French government, the carmaker’s biggest shareholder, Renault boss Carlos Ghosn agreed this year to pursue a closer tie-up with Nissan in what is likely to be his last 4-year stint as chief executive. Renault currently owns 43.4 % of Nissan, which in turn holds a non-voting 15 % stake in its French parent and 34 % of Mitsubishi. Ghosn has previously said a full merger is possible only if France gives up its 15 % Renault holding; a step the government has been reluctant to entertain without clearer safeguards on French jobs and other industrial interests. The investment will eventually boost Renault’s sales to partners (one measure of its financial benefit from the alliance) which fell by €358 million in the last quarter, partly reflecting Europe’s diesel sales decline. France was chosen for the vans investment because “the Maubeuge and Sandouville factories offered the most attractive solution, thanks to their competitiveness”, Ghosn said. “Within the alliance, Renault Group’s global expertise in light commercial vehicles generates synergies that benefit all of our customers”, he added. The new Mitsubishi van will be exported from Sandouville to Australia and New Zealand. The new Kangoo and Nissan NV250 will bring 200 new jobs and €400 million of additional investment to Maubeuge, in addition to €50 million previously announced for the electric version. +++

+++ As growing numbers of drivers in SOUTH KOREA choose foreign cars over local brands, more foreign car brands are expected to sell over 10,000 units this year, industry data showed. The 10,000-unit mark is a standard that measures whether foreign carmakers have made a safe landing. According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, 6 foreign carmakers (Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, Volkswagen, Land Rover and Audi) have each sold more than 10,000 units so far this year. With Ford and Lexus getting close to the threshold, 8 carmakers seem likely to sell more than 10,000 units this year, up from 7 last year. Last year, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, Lexus, Ford, Honda and Land Rover made the list. The number of registered import cars rose 14.4 % year-over-year to 217,868 units between January and October, data from the industry association showed, reflecting drivers’ increasing preference for foreign car brands. “The trend of drivers choosing to purchase from foreign carmakers will continue, because the younger generation sees cars as a form of property, more than a form of transportation”, said automotive professor Lee Ho-geun at Daeduk University. Between January and October, Mercedes-Benz sold 57,117 units and came in at No. 2 in terms of number of vehicles sold, while BMW sold 45,093 units, remaining a popular choice despite the recent spate of engine fires that may have been caused by defective EGR auto parts. Retaining their ranks as the 2 leading foreign auto brands, both German luxury brands surpassed the 10,000-unit mark for the 9th consecutive year. Toyota and Land Rover both made the list for 2 years in a row, respectively selling 13,268 units and 10,356 units in the cited period. Since the Japanese carmaker saw a sales hike last year (largely filling the void left by Volkswagen and Audi, which were absent from the market as a result of the emissions-fraud scandal called dieselgate) Toyota has introduced a slew of new models this year to retain demand. The carmaker released the 5th-generation Avalon hybrid large sedan, seeking to increase sales by bolstering its hybrid lineup, which consists of the Prius C, Prius, RAV4 and Camry. Its goals include selling 1,000 units of the Avalon hybrid annually and 350 units in presales, the company said. Last year, Toyota and Lexus combined accounted for 84 % of the imported hybrid car market. After 2 years of suspended sales as a result of dieselgate, Volkswagen and Audi made a successful comeback with new models and discounts, and went on to sell 12,294 units and 11,261 units, respectively, the data showed. Honda, which sold over 10,000 units last year for the first time in nine years, saw its sales slide to 6,166 units so far this year. It seems to have been hit badly as a result of rust found on the CR-V, released in March last year, as well as on the 2017 model. Honda Korea spent 26 billion won ($ 23.1 million) to repair the affected vehicles earlier this year, the company said. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN could build up to 50 million electric cars on its new electric vehicle platform and is looking at expanding its manufacturing footprint in the United States, Chief Executive Herbert Diess told. “We set up the plant in Chattanooga always with the idea to be able to grow it, to mirror it”, Diess was quoted as saying. “The plant is still too small, and we are considering different options: it might be electric cars, it might be a different derivative of the Atlas SUV. It’s still open”. Volkswagen and Ford are looking at expanding cooperation, mainly in commercial vehicles, Diess added. “What we’re talking about is sharing a few platforms and manufacturing sites there, which makes sense. And within the dialogue, we are also touching other options, but this will be the main focus if we come to a conclusion”. Ford could help VW develop a global successor to the Amarok pickup, or a unibody pickup, Diess said. VW is open to licensing its MEB electric car platform to third party manufacturers, he reiterated, explaining that was a way to ramp up economies of scale. “Today, we have hundreds of different drivetrains in our industry, and there’s a lot of differentiation in the drivetrain. I think this will become less, because the battery cells will become very similar on the basis of the same chemistry inside”, Diess said. He said VW could build 50 million electric vehicles globally across its brands, beginning in 2020, and had battery sourcing agreements for them. He said licensing MEB to other automakers would lead to further efficiency gains. “It will be more about the economies of scale. Still, the battery pack, for the foreseeable future, will be more expensive than a combustion powertrain, so I think it makes a lot of sense to make more volume”, Diess said. A VW spokesman said the number mentioned by Diess was a theoretical long-term goal for the MEB electric car platform. The Volkswagen Group’s current vehicle platform, MQB, has spawned around 50 million mainly combustion engine vehicles over several brands and many years, he said. Volkswagen Group sold 10.7 million vehicles in 2017. The German company is investing heavily in electric vehicles as it tries to rebuild its reputation following a scandal over rigged emissions tests of diesel engines in the United States that has cost it billions in fines and refits. +++ 

+++ ZOTYE Automobile, a Ford partner in China, said it planned to begin selling SUVs in the United States in 2020. Ford is not involved in those plans by the Chinese automaker, spokesmen for the companies said. Ford had tapped Zotye to provide lower-priced electric vehicles to some of its dealers in China. “There is no current plan for Zotye USA to sell EVs in the U.S. market”, Zotye spokesman Chris Hosford said. Zotye is setting up a U.S. sales and distribution arm in Lake Forest, California, and plans to sell vehicles in the United States through franchised dealers. +++

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