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+++ AUDI is promising a “big time” change in the design of its next-generation A3 when it arrives next year, according to exterior design boss Andreas Mindt. The new Mercedes A-Class rival is due to be revealed next year and will be built on the second-generation Volkswagen Group MQB architecture being readied first for the new Golf next summer, Mindt said that the company “had some really good ideas” for its new staple hatchback, promising “it’ll change, big time”. The new A3 is one of two new compact Audis in development, the other being an electric car built on the new VW Group MEB architecture. As before, the A3 will spawn a whole range of variants, including a new 5-door liftback version to rival the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLA and upcoming BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe. Mindt believes that compact cars have a big future still despite the rise of SUVs. “I can see growth of compact cars and a future, absolutely”, he said. “We have really good ideas for that segment and to push it”. The 5-door hatchback will be the first new A3 to arrive next year, replacing the model that was introduced at the 2012 Geneva motor show. The final new A3 variant to arrive will be the 5-door liftback, which isn’t expected until 2021; the third year of the 4th generation A3’s lifespan. The regular hatchback will be longer and wider than the current car. It has the same track width, but wider wheel arches and carriers to give extra width. Facing fresh competition from the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon, the A3 Limousine will be introduced in 2020. The new A3’s engine range will include 1.0-litre, 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre TFSI petrol units, as well a 2.0-litre TDI unit in 3 different states of tune. An e-Tron plug-in hybrid model will continue, but it will be upgraded to use the same driveline as the Volkswagen Passat GTE. There won’t be an electric version, though; Audi is saving the EV hatchback market for a dedicated model, which it will release in 2021. The A3 Cabriolet, a small-seller within the Audi range, is the least certain for replacement, given the state of the convertible market and the discontinuation of C-segment Volkswagen Group products following the Beetle’s axing. +++ 

+++ BMW wants to move away from the so-called Russian doll approach to styling that influenced its current crop of models. Looking ahead, designers will make sure that each model line has its own identity without completely breaking ties with BMW’s design ethos. “You will see here X5, 8 Series, Z4, 3 Series; I think you begin to see that while they are part of the same generation of cars, the same form language, they each have a stronger character and identity of their own, while cleaning up significantly also inside and out”, Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s design boss, told. BMW executives enthusiastically support the new direction. Van Hooydonk added his higher-ups wanted the new 3 Series to evolve, and they wanted it to represent a significant leap ahead of its predecessor. Consequently, the design team could go in just about any direction it wanted as long as it remained loyal to the 4-door sedan body style; making the 3 Series a MPV or a crossover wasn’t an option, of course. The new design direction will, in theory, add more degrees of separation between the 3 Series and the 4 Series, due at the end of 2019. Van Hooydonk’s comments suggest that, from a design standpoint, the 4 might not simply be a 2-door 3-series and the Gran Coupe might not arrive as just a liftback 3-series. “The task for the 4-series is to be even more elegant, even more sporty. But I think we will manage”, he concluded. +++ 

+++ The BUGATTI Chiron won’t spawn as many variants as the Veyron, its immediate predecessor. For starters, the company’s chief executive has confirmed the 1,500 horsepower hypercar won’t be available with a removable top. “We decided in the Chiron project not to do an open-top version”, said company boss Stephan Winkelmann in an interview. He didn’t explain his team’s decision, but he pointed out Bugatti will have no trouble selling the 500 examples of the Chiron it plans on making. Demand is so high that customers who order one in late 2018 will need to wait until the second part of 2021 to take delivery. Winkelmann also ruled out testing the Chiron’s top speed to use the figure as fodder for a marketing campaign. “To me, a top speed run is not on the agenda”, he affirmed. “When I read in the past about the car and what we communicated about it, we were missing a big part of what the car is all about. In this world, to talk only top speed is not a priority for me”, he said. Bugatti is ready to expand its line-up beyond a single model. Winkelmann pointed out company founder Ettore Bugatti dabbled in many segments. He built 4-door cars, 2-door cars and convertibles, so the French company can take several paths to a broader line-up without severing ties with its heritage, but whatever it releases after the Chiron needs to make sense from a business point of view and sell well globally, not just in 1 or 2 regions. Of course, an SUV comes to mind; after all, what sells better globally than a high-riding model? We’ve heard rumors of a Bugatti SUV before. Winkelmann didn’t rule it out, but he didn’t confirm that’s the direction he’s taking Bugatti in. “I never said we are building a Bugatti SUV. The press said it because I pushed for the Urus at Lamborghini. Coming from my background, what I said is that we are looking into every segment, body style, and region”, he clarified. +++

+++ ‘The future starts here’ reads the headline of a magazine news story when CHEVROLET first revealed the Volt almost a decade ago. The range-extender hybrid was a pioneer and seen as the future of the car, yet now it’s been axed from the General Motors line-up as part of sweeping cuts designed to future-proof the company and ensure its long-term survival, and relevance. There’s an irony in the Volt being part of the GM cuts, the official line of which is that sedans simply don’t sell anymore, particularly small ones. And being a small, compact sedan, the Volt has not been spared the axe, no matter how relevant its drivetrain might be to the future of the motor car. For the Volt, in its ethos and what it stands for, remains absolutely relevant. Now in its second generation, it is clever and efficient, and exactly the kind of car GM should be making. The buzz around the Volt was huge. In the build-up to its launch in 2010 after its reveal a year or so earlier, there was a constant drip-feed of information on it, and an excitement surrounding its arrival. It was the car to not only save General Motors at a time when it was being bailed out by the US government, but also to save Detroit. It was proof the city’s Big Three could still lead the world in new technology and relevant products. It should have been a Toyota Prius or Tesla moment for GM. Yet clearly GM got the execution wrong with the Volt. While efficient, the drivetrain, and the range-extender concept, now feels like a bit of a halfway house in carrying so much ‘old’ technology. So while the ethos is great, the execution is what’s lacking; the drivetrain lacked refinement when the battery power ran out (and it quickly did), leaving an engine whirring away noisily. Plug-in hybrids do it better in not needing the engine to allow the batteries to work, and full, big-range electric cars better yet still, which is why GM is keeping its own big-range electric car in the Chevrolet Bolt. GM wasn’t global enough in its thinking on the Volt. While sold in Europe as a Volt, and also as a rebadged Opel Ampera, it was the US where it was aimed. But the US wasn’t really ready for such a car as it didn’t yet want one, with petrol prices still cheap and the Volt too small for most buyers at the start of the boom away from sedans to any size to SUVs. The Volt wasn’t different enough, in the way a Tesla was. The badge on the bonnet didn’t have the cachet to carry it around the world, too, even if GM had gone on the offensive with the Volt elsewhere. The surprise in the decision on the Volt is less that it has been taken, but more that it has been taken now. The new, second-generation model is only a couple of years old, and has not been a sales success. GM could have switched the Volt from being a range-extender to a more conventional plug-in hybrid, or better yet a full electric car of its own for the second-generation when it saw that the market simply wasn’t going the way of range-extenders. But now the Volt will be consigned to history, something that’s likely to be viewed as a footnote in the development of the electrified car, rather than the pioneer we all thought it would be. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER Automobiles (FCA) is reportedly planning to open a new assembly plant in Detroit. Rather than construct an entirely new facility, the company is said to be planning to repurpose its Mack Avenue Engine II plant, shut down since 2012, to serve as a vehicle assembly site. When retooling and renovations are complete, the new assembly plant is said to be used for building the 3-row Jeep Grand Cherokee for the 2021 model year. FCA currently builds the 2-row Grand Cherokee at its Jefferson North plant, across the street from the idled Mack Avenue engine plant. The latest report suggests building the 3-row SUV at the second assembly plant will allow the company to retool Jefferson North to build the next-generation of the 2- and 3-row Grand Cherokee. +++ 

+++ On the face of it, GENERAL MOTORS (GM) looks to be in dire straits. At the end of last month, the US giant announced it was stopping production at 5 North American plants, 3 for car assembly and 2 for engines. Also on the chopping block are once mainstay family cars such as the Chevrolet Cruze and the larger Chevrolet Impala. The pioneering plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, the replacement for the old Opel Ampera, joins them on the executioner’s platform. 2 unnamed international plants are also to be shut. It’s the continuation of a withdrawal that started when GM began leaving major global markets, including Europe, after selling the Opel and Vauxhall brands to the PSA Group in 2017. At the Los Angeles motor show last week, the GM stand gave the impression of difficult times ahead. With no new models to draw the media on press day, the stand cleaners diligently wiped away footprints that had never been laid. But don’t cry for GM just yet. This is still one of the most profitable car companies globally, and the latest round of cost cuts will make it more profitable still. The company made $12.8 billion profit in 2017, most of it from North America and most of that from selling pick-ups and SUVs. General Motors’ CEO, Mary Barra, is famously unsentimental when it comes to holding on to markets, brands and car lines that aren’t making money. In the US right now, it’s hard to make a business case for keeping traditional saloons when everyone wants SUVs or pick-ups. GM is the third largest car company in the US after Ford and Toyota based on 2018 sales, but of the 1.67 million vehicles it sold to the end of October, less than half a million were cars. Of its mainstream Chevrolet sedans, only the mid-sized Malibu survives the cull. Also gone is the Opel Insignia-based Buick Lacrosse and Cadillac’s flagship saloon, the CT6. GM reckons its cost-cutting will save $6 billion annually and that’s just what shareholders want to hear, even if it has angered US president Donald Trump. “The most aggressive car companies are looked upon most favourably by the markets”, Tim Urquhart, principal analyst for IHS Markit, told. One commentator on the Seeking Alpha investor website approvingly described the move as creating a “fortress balance sheet”; building a wall of money to defend itself against the myriad uncertainties facing car companies right now. “We are taking these actions now while the company and the economy are strong”, Barra said. It also needs the cash to invest in high-tech, cash-burning ventures such as its Cruise autonomous driving division, its Maven car-share scheme and future electric cars. If GM’s actions seem drastic, then just wait for whatever Ford is planning. GM reckons the cost it’ll have to pay to shut down the 7 factories, and other restructuring will run to $3bn-$3.8bn. Ford has said its as yet unannounced restructuring will cost up to $11bn, mostly outside the US. The car world is in upheaval. What looks like capitulation could end up being the cost of survival. +++ 

+++ Former Renault – Nissan Alliance chief Carlos GHOSN has finally been formally charged by Japanese prosecutors for allegedly underreporting his income. The superstar auto executive was initially arrested last month but not officially charged until now. Prosecutors have also filed charges against former executive Greg Kelly and Nissan itself for their respective roles in the alleged scandal. Ghosn and Kelly have reportedly denied the allegations, though they have not yet made any public statements. “Making false disclosures in annual securities reports greatly harms the integrity of Nissan’s public disclosures in the securities markets, and the company expresses its deepest regret”, Nissan said in a statement. Ghosn is said to face up to 10 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. +++

+++ A team of HONDA scientists has developed a new battery technology that could one day displace lithium/ion chemistry as the go-to battery of choice for electric vehicles. Scientists from Honda Research, along with researchers from the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, announced that they’ve developed a more temperature-stable fluoride/ion battery technology. The breakthrough could net batteries that are not only 10 times more energy dense than today’s lithium/ion batteries, but also better for the environment. Fluoride-based battery (or FIB for short) technology itself is nothing new, but Honda and its partners were able to develop a more stable version of the promising battery tech. Previous FIBs required an operating temperature in excess of 300 degrees; the batteries Honda showed today are able to operate efficiently at room temperature. And, as a bonus, the materials required for an FIB can be extracted from the earth with little environmental impact. “Fluoride/ion batteries offer a promising new battery chemistry with up to 10 times more energy density than currently available Lithium batteries”, said Christopher Brooks, chief scientist at the Honda Research Institute. “Unlike Li-ion batteries, FIBs do not pose a safety risk due to overheating, and obtaining the source materials for FIBs creates considerably less environmental impact than the extraction process for lithium and cobalt”. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but Honda believes that FIBs could be the future of electric vehicles, as well as smaller power products. +++

+++ HYUNDAI will launch a pick-up truck based on the 2015 Santa Cruz concept “as soon as possible”, with a Kia version expected to arrive not long after. The Korean carmaking group has been keen to enter the truck market, which is particularly lucrative and essential for the US, but other car launches and a growing focus on electrification have pushed the launch of the car back a few years. Luc Donckerwolke, the new chief design officer at Hyundai, said: “You’ve seen the Santa Cruz pick-up from the 2015 Detroit show, that car is under development at Hyundai”. When asked how soon it will arrive, Donckerwolke said “as soon as possible. From my side (design) it is finished, the process to put it into production is now under way”. With a 2020 launch looking likely, it remains to be seen whether Hyundai will target the American ‘compact’ truck market, dominated by models such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma, or instead look to take on the hugely successful Ford F-150 in the full-size segment. A truck in the former category would give it a broader global market appeal. If Hyundai does launch a Ford Ranger rival, it could come to Europe to compete in the ever-expanding pick-up market, recently joined by Mercedes, Fiat and Renault competitors. Donckerwolke also confirmed that a Kia version of the pick-up, with exterior and interior design differences, is also under consideration, but would arrive later. Kia’s new US chief operating officer, Michael Cole, claimed a pick-up is “something we could look at” but not until the firm’s range of SUVs was up to full strength. Next year the brand will launch a production version of the Telluride large SUV, completing the firm’s US range. Donckerwolke was recently promoted from being design chief at the group’s luxury brand, Genesis, to heading up all 3 brands. The former Bentley, Lamborghini and Audi design director supersedes Peter Schreyer, who after 12 years as head of design has moved to an advisory capacity. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR will launch a facelifted version of its XE next year. The BMW 3 Series rival will receive an update 4 years after the model launched. Jaguar will be hoping to turn around dwindling sales of its XE, which hasn’t been able to compete with models such as the 3 Series and Audi A4 in the business car market. A spokesman said the updated XE is “critical to maintaining its market place”. However, he admitted that CO2 emissions won’t be reduced in the facelifted XE, an important factor in business car buying decisions. “CO2 won’t change, we have what we have”, he said. The fact that CO2 emissions won’t change suggests a plug-in hybrid powertrain won’t be introduced into the XE, despite the technology coming on board imminently at sibling brand Land Rover. It will introduce a plug-in hybrid version of its new Evoque in the next 18 months. However, the facelifted XE is expected to employ a 48V mild hybrid, boosting the efficiency of the four-cylinder petrol and diesel line-up. It is thought that the new, more stringent WLTP emissions tests mean that CO2 with the mild hybrids will remain the same as the existing line-up. The recently introduced range-topper, the 4-wheeldrive 300 Sport, is expected to carry over largely unchanged. The facelifted XE will receive a series of tweaks to the exterior design, which is expected to take cues from the XE SV Project 8, while the interior will be inspired by the I-Pace, including a Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. Alongside this, we can expect improvements to the cabin, centring on boosting material quality and general fit and finish. Technology is also an area in which the XE is starting to fall behind some key rivals, so alongside infotainment and connectivity upgrades, we’re likely to see the introduction of some semi-autonomous driving features. Minor upgrades to improve refinement should feature, too, while tweaks to the suspension would ensure the XE balances ride comfort and handling with even more aplomb than the current car. The updated model is due to go on sale in April. +++

+++ MAZDA ’s first electric vehicle, due to arrive in 2020, will be a standalone model rather than a variant of an existing car in the Japanese firm’s line-up. Mazda announced its plans for a zero-emissions model back in October. A rotary-engined range-extender version of the same car will also arrive around the same time, followed in 2021 by Mazda’s first plug-in hybrid. There’s no word on which bodystyle the electric vehicle will have, but it could well be an SUV, given their widespread popularity and the greater ease packaging of batteries in high-riding vehicles. Mazda design chief Ikuo Maeda said that he doesn’t want upcoming electric vehicles “to look digital”, meaning that he wants them to have the same design-led style as the brand’s current range. European design boss Jo Stenuit added: “We don’t want an EV to look like a fridge like some other car makers”. While Mazda announced a tie-up with Toyota last year for the development of electric vehicles, its first such model will not be borne from that alliance, Mazda Europe boss Jeff Guyton confirmed. He explained that the car had been in development before the tie-up had begun. Mazda has been slow to react to the growing trend for electric vehicles, instead choosing to develop combustion engines further to improve efficiency. For example, the new 3 uses a compression-ignition petrol engine that is predicted to reduce fuel consumption by up to 30 %, and all of its petrol units employ mild hybrid tech. Mazda has committed to reducing its ‘well-to-wheel’ CO2 output, meaning emissions produced in the manufacturing process as well those coming from the tailpipe by 50 % from 2010 levels by 2030 and by 90 % by 2050. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is several months away from revealing its new GLE Coupe. The sloping roof version of Mercedes’ latest GLE isn’t due to make its debut until mid-2019, with deliveries towards the end of the year. The new GLE Coupe will feature an evolutionary profile and similar shape to the outgoing model, but with front- and rear-end designs adapted from the latest GLE and a more steeply raked roofline. The GLE Coupe sits on the same MHA (Modular High Architecture) platform introduced with its straight SUV sibling, introducing more space for rear-seat passengers and the capability of offering hybrid variants across the line-up. A selection of 4 and 6 cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engines will power the GLE Coupe’s standard line-up. The range will be topped initially by an AMG-tuned GLE 53, using the same 435 hp 3.0-litre inline-6 petrol unit as the CLS 53 four-door coupé. That makes use of a mild-hybrid system featuring an integrated starter/generator adding up to 250 Nm of torque when needed. The engine, also expected to arrive on the normal GLE next year, should make the GLE Coupe capable of 0-100 km/h in just under 5 seconds, while offering improved official economy over the old GLE 43 AMG equivalent. It will be mated to a 9-speed automatic gearbox and Mercedes’ 4Matic 4-wheeldrive system. In 2020, Mercedes is expected to top out both GLE ranges with full-fat AMG 63 variants, offering around 612 hp from the now-familiar 4.0-litre ‘hot vee’ twin-turbocharged V8. That engine could potentially see a hybrid system integrated into it, improving roll-on performance and official economy. +++ 

+++ The January 2019 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is shaping up to be a big one for the automotive industry. NISSAN will allegedly travel to Las Vegas to introduce the long-awaited Leaf E-Plus with more range thanks to a bigger battery pack. The model will receive a 60 kWh lithium/ion battery pack. To add context, the second-generation Leaf is currently only offered with a 40 kWh pack that delivers up to 240 kilometres of range. The additional capacity should bump the Leaf’s range above the 320 kilometre mark, which would help it better compete against newcomers like the Hyundai Kona Electric, while giving it about 200 horsepower. The pack still won’t be liquid-cooled. And, it won’t be accompanied by major visual changes. The E-Plus will most likely receive specific badges, but don’t expect to see it wear a new-look design. Nissan originally planned to release the Leaf E-Plus in November, but it delayed the launch in the wake of former chairman Carlos Ghosn’s arrest. The model is scheduled to go on sale across Europe in May of 2019. Pricing won’t be announced until closer to its on-sale date. +++ 

+++ Automobili PININFARINA will follow its electric hypercar, the PF0, with 3 SUVs, of which the most powerful one (codenamed PF1) will rival the Lamborghini Urus. Development work on the PF1 SUV has already begun back in the Mahindra-owned car maker’s headquarters in Munich. “Work has started on the PF1 and right now, we are in the process of finalising the design, which again is being done by Pininfarina”, said Pawan Goenka, MD of the Mahindra Group. Pininfarina had previously confirmed that it will use powertrain and battery technology supplied by electric hypercar maker Rimac in the PF0. However, Automobili Pininfarina is instead looking to partner with Rivian, an electric vehicle maker and automotive technology company based in the US, for the underpinnings of its SUVs. Rivian Automotive will provide the ‘skateboard’ platform for the company’s all-electric SUV models that will follow the PF0. Rivian, which has been developing EV platforms for several years without going public, recently launched its first production models at the LA motor show: the R1S SUV and R1T pick-up truck. Rivian officials at the show did not confirm the news about its partnership with Pininfarina but did state that the company had been in talks with Mahindra. Since this news broke, Rivian sources have said that while it is in discussions with several partners about using its technology, it has yet to enter into any formal business arrangement with another company. The Rivian R1S and R1T are designed to be capable on- and off-road and develop around 750 hp from electric motors at each wheel. The company says the vehicles will be semi-autonomous and will be offered with 3 battery packs delivering differing driving ranges, with the maximum being around 640 km. Rivian’s skateboard platform is developed to offer electric vehicle technology that combines brisk pace and long range along with off-road capability. The platform combines features such as Dynamic Roll Control and air suspension with a battery with maximised energy density. Both Rivian models will be capable of a 0-100 km/h time of around 3 seconds. While it is not known if the PF1 will have the same off-road credentials as the Rivian SUV, the Pininfarina model is being developed to be blisteringly quick. It will be equipped with a 135 kWh battery pack (larger than the PF0’s 120 kWh) and will have an 800V system for fast charging. With 275 hp at each wheel, the PF1 might weigh around 2,300-2,400 kg and could produce up to 1.100 hp. Founded in 2009 by RJ Scaringe, Rivian recently secured $200 million from Standard Chartered, bringing its overall financing to $450 million, having already secured funds from the investment arm of Saudi Arabia-based Abdul Latif Jameel and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas. +++

+++ The next PORSCHE 911 GT3 will be innovative with its suspension system but retain rear-wheel drive and most likely a naturally aspirated engine without any hybrid assistance, according to Porsche GT boss Frank Walliser. Speaking at the Los Angeles motor show, where the new 992-generation 911 has been revealed, Walliser said that his department “has some really cool ideas on the GT side for suspension. There’s more potential again, and it will be very much a GT3”, he said. The next GT3 will arrive around a year after the launch of the standard 911, meaning a 2020 on-sale date is likely. Walliser hinted that it would retain a naturally aspirated engine and not adopt 4-wheeldrive, giving Porsche a key point of difference still when rivals have gone with one or both of those technologies. “We’ve discussed four-wheel drive, but with a rear-engined concept it has a different impact than on a front-engined or mid-engined car”, said Walliser. “Part of the GT cars is that they’re raw, they’re lightweight; 4-wheeldrive gives you something in the wet but adds 50 kg and you lose some of the fuel capacity of our 90 litre tank. We’ve discussed it, but came to the conclusion 2-wheel drive on the 911 layout is best. It can handle the power, no problem, with the chassis and tyre technology all helping”. Another topic of discussion at GT has been hybrid technology for the 911, but the conversation “has not gone from the tea kitchen to meeting rooms” yet. “With the performance hybrid knowledge we have, what will the future GT car be like?” Walliser said. “With a GT car, it’s really simplified as giving perfect feedback and a very light design. It’s more than engine power; it’s other refinements that make a good car. It’s in a niche market, but it’s a big niche, and we have an asset that we don’t want to give up. To that end, hybrid power remains a long way off, but don’t expect to see a turbocharged GT3, either”, Walliser hinted, contrary to the claims of some. “Turbo adds another 40 kg, a hybrid more so”, said Walliser. “Normally aspirated and hybrid fits together very, very well. The 918 Spyder was hybrid and normally aspirated. It’s the most emotional thing we have, and we have to stay emotional”. A manual gearbox is also set to be retained, after it was retuned to the Mk2 version of the 991 GT3. Around 25 % of all GT3s are sold with that option and as many as 75 % in the US. Walliser also believes that the upcoming Taycan electric car has more in common with Porsche’s sports cars than its saloon and SUV models, opening the possibility of a GT version one day. He’s also part of the wider R&D team at Porsche and has driven development cars. “In doing so, I think it is very, very close to the sports cars, closer than I was expecting”, he said. However, the GT division has no plans yet at present to develop a version of the Taycan. +++

+++ The car industry expands into new SEGMENTS frequently, with new bodystyles popping up all over the place. What’s the best-selling in each one, though? I’ve got the latest data from market analyst JATO Dynamics to bring you the best-selling cars in Europe, sorted by bodystyle. City car: Fiat 500 – 167,708 sales. Supermini: Renault Clio – 284,241 sales. Family hatchback: Volkswagen Golf – 378,167 sales. Mid-size saloon: Volkswagen Passat – 137,794 sales. Executive: Mercedes-Benz E-Class – 101,334 sales. Luxury: Mercedes-Benz S-Class – 12,723 sales. Small SUV: Renault Captur – 186,220 sales. Mid-size SUV: Nissan Qashqai – 206,636 sales. Large SUV: Peugeot 5008 – 67,913 sales. Small premium SUV: BMW X1 – 93,164 sales. Mid-size premium SUV: Mercedes-Benz GLC – 108,323 sales. Large premium SUV: BMW X5 – 26,733 sales. Small MPV: Fiat 500L – 47,343 sales. Mid-size MPV: Renault Scenic – 82,702 sales. Large MPV: Mercedes-Benz V-Class – 24,432 sales. Small sports car: Mazda MX-5 – 12,590 sales. Mid-size sports car: Audi TT – 10,273 sales. Large sports car: Porsche 911 – 16,936 sales. +++ 

+++ Porsche has already increased its production volume targets for the TAYCAN , anticipating stronger demand for the all-electric sports car. The company had initially planned to build just 20,000 units annually, below Tesla’s Model S sales for the US market alone. “However, due to the positive response, we will adjust this number upwards”, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume told in a recent interview. “Especially since the Cross Turismo as the first derivative of the Taycan got a green light for the series”. The executive says nearly 3,000 Norwegians have placed €2,500 deposits for a place on the waiting list, in a country that normally only accounts for around 600 sales from the Porsche brand. The Taycan is scheduled to arrive on the market by the end of next year. +++ 

+++ TESLA is already testing another wave of advanced Autopilot features to narrow the gap between highway assistance and full self-driving capability. “Already testing traffic lights, stop signs & roundabouts in development software”, CEO Elon Musk announced. “Your Tesla will soon be able to go from your garage at home to parking at work with no driver input at all”. The feature will require Tesla’s upcoming Autopilot Hardware v3, which integrates much more powerful chips (developed in-house) to achieve a 10-fold increase in image processing ability. The v3 module will be drop-in compatible for any Tesla vehicles built with Autopilot v2 hardware. Although the upcoming capabilities move Autopilot toward true self-driving, drivers presumably will still be advised to remain attentive to the road while the vehicle steers itself. Autopilot v3 is expected to be ready next year. In the meantime, Musk is encouraging owners to try out the new Navigate on Autopilot feature that recently began rolling out via an over-the-air software update. “It will blow your mind”, he promises. “Automatically passes slow cars & takes highway interchanges & off-ramps”. +++

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , the new car market registered a modest decline in November as sales of new diesels continued to suffer. Diesel vehicles now make up less than a third of the new car market at 31.8 % year-to-date, with November’s figures down 16.7 % on the same period last year. A 3.5 % increase in petrol car sales and a substantial 24.6 % rise in that of alternative vehicles failed to offset diesel’s decline. A total of 158,639 cars were registered last month, down 3 % on the same period last year. The figures are described by analysts as “in line with industry expectations given current challenging conditions. Model and regulatory changes, combined with falling consumer confidence, conspired to affect supply and demand in November. The good news is that, as supply constraints ease, and new exciting models come on sale in the months ahead, buyers can look forward to a wide choice of cutting-edge petrol, diesel and electrified cars”. Ford again topped the car model charts in November with 5193 Fiestas registered, while the Volkswagen Golf took second place with 4.678 examples registered for use on Britain’s roads. Next came the Mercedes-Benz A-Class (4.104), the Nissan Qashqua (3.195), the Mini Hatch (3.170), the Volkswagen Polo (3.115), the Ford Focus (3.068), the Vauxhall Mokka X (2.778), the Kia Sportage (2.731) and the Vauxhall Corsa (2.594). +++

+++ In the UNITED STATES , November appears to have been another lackluster sales month, though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has not been held back. FCA reported a 17 % increase in November, driven by pick-up and SUV sales. Ram was the shining star for the month with a 44 % jump in sales, while Jeep deliveries increased by 12 %. Ford did not experience the same jump in pick-up sales, driving the brand down by more than 7 %. Japanese automakers posted mixed results for their mainstream brands, with Nissan down by more than 21 % and Subaru gaining nearly 10 %. Acura, Infiniti and Lincoln managed to achieve growth among luxury marques as Lexus inched backward from November 2017. Big winners in November were: Acura (up 10.5 % to 14,053), Alfa Romeo (up 36 % to 1,957), Dodge (up 15 % to 33,196), Jeep (up 12 % to 73,784), Land Rover (up 25.7 % to 8,547), Ram (up 44 % to 57,970) and Tesla (up 525 % to 32,000). The biggest losers in November were: Audi (down 11 % to 17,082), Bentley (down 33.2 % to 165), Chrysler (down 21 % to 13,094), Fiat (down 24 % to 1,309), Genesis (down 77 % to 417), Honda (down 11.6 % to 106,481), Maserati (down 16.7 % to 950), Mini (down 12.6 % to 3,528), Mitsubishi (down 10.7 % to 7,688), Nissan (down 21.6 % to 96,427) and Smart (down 23.1 % to 100). +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is developing a spacious all-electric SUV with enough room for 7 occupants. Known internally as the ID Lounge, the 3-row SUV is said to be roughly similar to the third-generation Touareg in terms of exterior dimensions and interior space. The German automaker engineered its MEB platform architecture to easily support a wide range of body styles and vehicles, ranging from a Golf-like hatchback (ID Neo) to the ID Buzz van and its commercial cargo-hauling counterpart. The ID Lounge is expected to deliver a combined output of nearly 370 horsepower via 2 electric motors, with a range of up to 600 kilometres according to the EU test cycle. Volkswagen will waste little time building out a family of all-electric SUVs, starting with the ID Crozz in 2021. The Lounge is expected to arrive on 2022 along with a sportier ID Crozz variant with a coupe silhouette. +++

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