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+++ A concept version of AUDI ’s upcoming compact electric car will be revealed early next year, before going on sale at a similar time to the e-Tron GT. Based on the MEB platform, a Volkswagen Group-wide architecture that is being used for VW’s ID range of EVs, the zero-emission model will be an SUV sitting between the Q2 and Q3 in size. The small EV is likely to become Audi’s biggest-selling electric car when it arrives in 2021, thanks to being the most affordable EV in its line-up. It will sit alongside the already-launched e-Tron and upcoming e-Tron Sportback, as well as the flagship e-Tron GT, which was recently revealed in concept form. Some of the design cues of the e-Tron GT, such as the shoulder line, inverted grille and air intakes, are the same for the as-yet-unnamed model, Audi design boss Marc Lichte confirmed. Audi is using a number of different platforms for its electric models. The e-Tron and e-Tron Sportback are based on Audi’s modular longitudinal platform, called MLB, while the e-Tron GT is based on the same J1 architecture as the upcoming Porsche Taycan EV. Audi’s use of the MEB architecture for the small SUV will ensure the car is more affordable than its bigger electric siblings. The MEB platform is being used for many EVs across the VW Group, including VW, Skoda and Seat, meaning it will benefit from economies of scale. It’s likely that the model will start from around €40,000. Audi announced last year that it will launch 12 electric models by 2025. Alongside the aforementioned models, there will be 5 more SUVs. +++

+++ BMW and DAIMLER are considering joining forces on making key automotive components, a move that would tie the traditional luxury-car rivals more closely than ever before and reflect the fundamental changes sweeping the industry. The German manufacturers are exploring options such as joint vehicle platforms, batteries and autonomous-car technology, people familiar with the matter told. Collaboration would be restricted to technology that’s not brand-specific, but deliberations are in their early stages and the timing of any decisions are unclear, the people said. Daimler and BMW declined to comment. Under pressure to invest in self-driving, electric cars, automakers are increasingly reaching out to competitors in an effort to cut costs. Volkswagen is in negotiations with Ford to cooperate on vans and potentially autonomous vehicles. Partnerships are also a way to become more agile in the race to dominate digital services such as ride hailing to counter cash-rich technology giants like Alphabet. Strains have been evident, and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and BMW have both cut profit targets this year, blaming trade tensions as well as rising development investments. Daimler is adding a suite of 10 electric vehicles over the next 4 years, while BMW said it will offer 12 battery-only models by 2025. Joining forces on automotive technology would significantly deepen Daimler and BMW’s existing cooperation efforts. The German manufacturers already work on components purchasing and bought digital-mapping company Here Technologies for €2.5 billion in 2015 together with Audi. This year, the pair agreed to combine their respective car-sharing platforms Car2Go and DriveNow. The merger of their mobility operations includes plans to add other services and has boosted prospects for more initiatives, the people said. Relations had soured last year after allegations surfaced that German carmakers had potentially breached antitrust regulations in Europe. The ongoing probe into suspected collusion between BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen may complicate new cooperation projects, one of the people said. Given the complex nature of product and technology cycles, the eventual payoff from a partnership could take years to realize, the people said. Building new cars can involve decade-long planning, making cooperation notoriously difficult. In 2013, General Motors sold its stake in PSA Group after failing to find savings through joint purchasing and product development, while an alliance of Volkswagen and Suzuki broke down in 2016. BMW currently works with Toyota to jointly make the Z4 and Supra sports cars, as well as conduct research on hydrogen cars. Daimler, meanwhile, has a cross share-holding with Renault and Nissan involving engine sharing and joint vehicle production. +++ 

+++ A Tokyo court decided not to extend the detention of ousted Nissan chairman Carlos GHOSN , meaning he may soon be released from jail where he has been since his arrest for alleged financial misconduct. The Tokyo District Court said it also decided against extending detention for Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive who was arrested along with Ghosn on Nov. 19. Ghosn led Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault. He was indicted on Dec. 10 for allegedly understating his income by about half over a 5-year period from 2010, and re-arrested the same day for the same alleged crime covering the past 3 years. Both he and Kelly have denied wrongdoing. The court had widely been expected to extend the detention for at least another 10 days, as granting bail to suspects who insist on their innocence has until recently been unusual in Japan. It did not disclose reasons for its decision. The high-profile case has put Japan’s criminal justice system under international scrutiny and sparked criticism for some of its practices, including keeping suspects in detention for long periods and prohibiting defense lawyers from being present during interrogations, which can last 8 hours a day. The court’s decision could reflect sensitivity to that criticism as well as changing attitudes in the courts, said Masashi Akita, a defense lawyer in Osaka with more than 30 years’ experience. “They are very nervous about criticism of their lenient approach toward detention. This is a typical case of such changing, I suppose”, Akita said. “I think this case has a big impact and effect on the Japanese justice practice, and such a move is favorable for the defense side”. Public broadcaster NHK said Ghosn could be released soon if any appeal by prosecutors is rejected by the court and bail is granted. However, Akita said it could take until the middle of next week for all procedures to run their course; if indeed the men are freed. Ghosn’s arrest marked a dramatic fall for a leader once hailed for rescuing Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy. Accustomed to a globe-trotting lifestyle, Ghosn has been treated like others in detention, held in a small room without a heater and a toilet in the corner. Authorities have limited his opportunities to shower and shave. It was not immediately clear how much bail would be, meaning it was still uncertain whether Ghosn would indeed be released. Activist fund manager Yoshiaki Murakami, arrested in 2006 for insider trading, paid an initial $4.47 million in bail. At the center of allegations against Ghosn is his Nissan income, with Tokyo prosecutors charging the executive for failing to disclose compensation that he had arranged to receive later. Nissan has said a whistleblower investigation also uncovered personal use of company funds and other misconduct. The scandal has shaken the Nissan-Mitsubishi-Renault alliance, with Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa calling for changes to weaken the clout of Renault, which owns a controlling stake in Nissan. Renault has so far not replaced Ghosn as its head, saying his compensation had been in compliance with law and governance guidelines. Documents showed that executives at both Nissan and Renault were involved in discussions about compensating Ghosn out of the public eye. Nissan said Saikawa earlier this week held a one-on-one meeting with Renault acting boss Thierry Bollore, which Saikawa described as “positive”. Details of the discussions were not disclosed. A Nissan spokesman declined to comment on the court’s decision, saying he could only speak about the company’s investigations or executive misconduct. +++ 

+++ Fingerprints have unlocked phones for a few years now, but HYUNDAI has bigger plans for cars. The company had revealed the upgraded Santa Fe at the Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition with fingerprint access technology. The technology will be offered on the new SUV in China. Fingerprint scanners in the door handles and on the ignition button will be available on the SUV. Hyundai isn’t the first to incorporate a fingerprint scanner to start the car, but it will be the first to install such technology for the door handles. Security and durability concerns have discouraged other automakers from installing the technology. Obviously, the tech needs to withstand hot and sunny days, freezing temperatures, snow, and rain. Hyundai said the reader has a 1 in 50,000 chance of failing and it uses human capacitance to ensure tip-top reads of a fingerprint. Basically, the scanner reads electricity levels in other parts of the finger to prevent forged entry. Multiple people can register their fingerprints for the specific car, and the vehicle can adjust various elements based on the fingerprint. Upon scanning, the car will move the seats and mirrors to suit the driver it recognized. The technology is an effort to boost Hyundai’s perception in China, the world’s largest new-car auto market. The brand has struggled there, but the new tech is an effort to improve its reputation and hopefully shore up SUV sales. +++

+++ LAMBORGHINI is readying a replacement for the Aventador for 2020, and is set to adopt a hybridised version of its iconic V12 engine. It will be one of two 2020 series-production Lamborghinis to use electrification, along with a plug-in hybrid Urus, and will be previewed by a low-volume, €2 million hypercar due to be revealed next year. Codenamed LB48H, the limited-run hypercar was shown to prospective buyers in model form in June. The biggest news is the powertrain, with the car serving as a prelude for the next Aventador’s set-up by featuring a naturally aspirated V12 engine mated to an electric motor to boost performance and efficiency. At the launch of the Aventador SVJ earlier this year, chief technical officer Maurizio Reggiani threw more light on what to expect when the new car arrives in 2020. Hybridisation has come from necessity, rather than choice. “The law will determine what level of pure-electric driving you need”, Reggiani told. “There are several discussions ongoing. Some say 20 km, some say 30 km and China is suggesting 50 km; and normally we only develop one car worldwide”. Using a hybrid system will add weight, with Reggiani estimating that even a lightweight solution will add 150 kg to 200 kg. Even with savings made elsewhere, that means the next-generation car is likely to be heavier. “I always say that I prefer to have 10 kg less rather than 1hp more, even if the power-to-weight ratio remains the same”, Reggiani said. “But I imagine the starting point of the car will be heavier, no doubt. What will be the end game? We don’t know. Improvements will happen”. One side effect of the switch to hybrid powertrains is that Nürburgring Nordschleife records will become substantially harder. Reggiani thinks the Aventador SVJ’s 6 minutes and 45 seconds production car lap record could stand for some while. But it also means Lamborghini is considering using a split hybrid system with an electrically powered front axle rather than a blended set-up with electrical power sent through a conventional transmission. “My personal idea is that this is the best concept, to give the best control and management of the chassis”, he said. “It would be easy to have full torque vectoring at the front, to help compensate again for the increase in weight with more agility”.  The challenge with direct electric drive is that it becomes less effective as speeds increase (a clear problem for a Lamborghini) but Reggiani admits that using a transmission (as BMW has done with the i8) is a workable solution. “I think yes, you could have a gearbox in the front. This is my vision”, he said. “It can be much more manageable to have an electric motor in the front because you don’t need any kind of propeller shaft. I think it can be the best solution”. The naturally aspirated hybrid powertrain will give the Aventador an edge over rivals that have achieved similar performance through turbocharging or downsizing. “For me, turbo engines have a reduction of emotion”, Reggiani said. It is not yet clear what the Aventador replacement will be called, although a bull-related name for each new model is usual. But there will be another leap in straight-line pace, with 4-wheel drive retained, and a dramatic body design. +++

+++ On Dec. 6, Uber Technologies filed paperwork confidentially with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. According to sources familiar with the filing, Uber’s likely investment bankers (Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group) believe the company could be valued at $120 billion. The news of the IPO was the latest achievement for Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi after a series of scandals, lawsuits, and embarrassments involving the previous CEO, Travis Kalanick. The biggest threat to Khosrowshahi’s turnaround effort: LYFT , Uber’s smaller, friendlier, annoyingly persistent ride-hailing competitor. At times, Lyft had seemed like a long shot just to survive. In 2014, Kalanick tried to buy the smaller company, proposing to give Lyft’s shareholders a little less than a 10 % stake in Uber, according to two people familiar with the negotiation. When Lyft founders Logan Green and John Zimmer refused, Kalanick set out to crush them instead. But Lyft hung around, raising additional capital, winning market share, and, mere hours before Uber filed to go public, stealing the spotlight with its own IPO filing. Lyft intends to go public in either April or May, according to people familiar with its plans. “Uber thought they’ll just kind of grow their business and these guys will go away”, says Santosh Rao, head of research at Manhattan Venture Partners LLC. Now, “Lyft is in a strong competitive position”. Revenue at Lyft, which like Uber is based in San Francisco, reached $563 million in the third quarter of this year. That’s a lot less than the $3 billion Uber took in during the same period. But while Uber has grown mostly by entering markets outside North America, Lyft has yet to expand globally and is increasing its market share at home. The company has about 28 % of the U.S. market, twice what it had in early 2016, according to researcher Second Measure. In February, it recruited one of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s deputies as its chief operating officer. Lyft’s resilience has been attributed to consumer outrage over Uber’s stumbles. Riders boycotted the larger service in early 2017 after reports detailed the company’s treatment of female employees and its use of ethically questionable tactics to evade regulatory scrutiny, among other things. Meanwhile, Lyft presented itself as the “better boyfriend”, as Zimmer put it in 2017. A less appreciated aspect of Lyft’s rise has been its relationship with its drivers. Under Kalanick, Uber embraced the idea that drivers were more or less disposable cogs who would eventually be replaced by self-driving cars. Among the scandals Kalanick confronted: a widely circulated video published by Bloomberg News in which he berated a driver. About twothirds of Uber drivers quit within 6 months of joining, according to a June paper co-written by the company’s chief economist. Lyft was well-positioned to take advantage of this discontent. It allowed tipping, which Uber didn’t introduce until mid-2017, and encouraged passengers to treat their drivers as peers rather than service providers. As Khosrowshahi tries to make amends, Lyft is trying to press its advantage. That effort has been led by Jon McNeill, the Tesla alum who joined as COO in February. Lyft has to “do as much for drivers as we can”, he says. “This is our differentiation”, One easy way to please drivers would be to pay them more. The average Uber driver earns just $10 an hour, according to a recent study by Ridester, an industry trade publication, and Lyft drivers are widely thought to have similar pay. With both companies locked in a price war that only adds to their enormous losses, offering higher wages isn’t really an option for either. Instead, Lyft has focused on helping drivers cut costs, including a recently expanded partnership with Shell gas stations, to provide discounted gas. McNeill says Lyft may eventually operate its own gas stations or deploy a fleet of fuel trucks to meet drivers in the field and fill up their vehicles at a discount. Another obvious way to win over drivers, many of whom have poor credit and meager savings, is to give them cars. Uber tried providing loans to drivers starting in 2013, but it backed away from the effort in 2017 amid huge losses and criticism from drivers that the program amounted to indentured servitude. (Drivers’ payments were deducted directly from their paychecks at an interest rate of around 20 %, according to a 2017 Federal Trade Commission complaint). At the same time, Lyft has expanded its weekly car rental program, Express Drive. Unlike the Uber program, rates (generally $180 to $250 a week) include car insurance. Lyft’s also helping drivers who already own vehicles. With the encouragement of McNeill, who founded a chain of auto body repair shops and previously ran Tesla’s sales and service division, the company has been building service centers where Lyft drivers will get a deal on repairs. Shortly after joining the company, McNeill mandated that Lyft’s driver centers, which offer drivers technical support and help with insurance if they get in an accident, expand from normal business hours to stay open until 8 p.m. The adjustment was important because the evening rush hour tends to be one of the busiest times for drivers. In May, McNeill announced plans to spend $100 million on driver “hubs”: each includes a service center, car wash, car rental counter, and a WeWork-like “community space” where drivers can hang out. Uber says it, too, is committed to drivers’ well-being. In November it announced a partnership to cover tuition for some drivers for online courses at Arizona State University. But unlike McNeill, Khosrowshahi remains open to the possibility that ride-hailing is a commodity business. “That’s actually a pretty good position to be in”, he says. Uber, as the bigger company, can reach more customers, and drivers will go where the customers are, he figures. “We have more data than anyone else”, Khosrowshahi says. “We have multiples of the numbers of product folks, designers, and developers working on our technology”. Good intentions, in other words, may go only so far. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is the latest major automaker to secure long-term supply contracts for batteries, committing €20 billion to buy enough cells for its electric vehicle onslaught through 2030. The German automaker plans to offer 130 electrified variants by 2022, including more than 10 all-electric vehicles. Additional electric vans, buses and trucks will be sold through other group brands. The company is investing €10 billion to expand the Mercedes-Benz electric fleet and another €1 billion to build battery modules in-house. The first of 8 battery assembly factories will begin series production by early 2019. Like the Volkswagen Group, Mercedes-Benz expects battery-electric vehicles to account for up to 25 % of its overall sales volume by 2025. +++

+++ Tesla’s Elon MUSK took the wraps off Boring Co.’s first completed test tunnel with a lot of razzle-dazzle and a surprise twist in the underlying technology. At an event on the fringes of Space Exploration Technologies headquarters in Hawthorne, California, Musk stood in front of a large hole in the ground that led to a mile-long tunnel and pronounced it officially open. “This is incredibly profound”, he told reporters, calling his first ride in the tunnel “epic”. Guests (including officials from other cities that might one day hire Boring Co. to build longer versions of the tunnel, plus Tesla owners and various other party-goers) quaffed cocktails named after tunnel-boring machines, noshed on hot dogs and stood in line to take rides. The actual means of transit in the tunnel, once envisioned as tube-encased skates that individual vehicles would drive off and on, was simpler at the launch than it was at conception. The skates are gone, and instead, individual Teslas were driving along fixed guideways. That change will allow more electric cars, not just Teslas, to travel through the tunnel, with the addition of specialized wheels; a modification which Musk said might cost from $200 to $300 per vehicle. The Boring Co. says the company has spent $40 million so far. At the event, Musk said that he had spent $40 million, but a spokesman later clarified that not all the money came directly from Musk. The tunnel itself cost $10 million. “This is not some walled garden”, Musk said, adding that the vehicles needed to be electric to avoid noxious gases filling the tunnels, and autonomous so braking systems could kick in quickly if needed. The modified wheels keep the cars on track even if the driver loses control, stopping them from hitting the sides. Throughout the night, people hopped into the modified Tesla vehicles, which ferried them back and forth from the entrance to the tunnel’s terminus about a mile away. Some said the bumpy ride made them feel sick, but most pronounced the journey exciting. At the event, the cars traveled at speeds of about 60 km/h. In a completed system, Boring Co. envisions them running at about 240 km/h, officials said. Each week, up to 20 municipalities request information about the company’s technology, which could be used not just for transportation but for water and utility pipes, Musk said. Musk’s tunnel company grew out of a 2013 white paper where he outlined plans for a hyperloop, a tube-encased tunnel aimed at transporting people between cities at airline-like speeds. Although he said he still plans a hyperloop system, the opening highlighted a slower intra-city version called a Loop. He announced his tunneling venture 2 years ago via Twitter. Musk said that the advances his team has made in tunneling technology would increase the speed of boring underground by up to 15 times. The company will do that largely through tripling the power of the drill itself, he said, and through logistical interventions such as building segmented reinforcements in the tunnel walls while continuing to drill. Boring Co. is currently in exclusive negotiations with the city of Chicago to build a Loop connecting that city’s downtown with O’Hare  International Airport. He also said that Boring had started a hyperloop connecting Washington to Baltimore. He didn’t specifically say whether the regulatory process for that project was underway, or if  drilling had commenced. A spokeswoman said she wasn’t sure which he meant. Lessons from the tunnel projects could have applications well beyond the U.S., including for Musk’s rocket company SpaceX, which is planning an eventual mission to Mars. On the Red Planet, tunnels will one day come in handy for building underground cities, he said, as well as for mining for supplies. +++ 

+++ The American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has implemented stricter qualification criteria for the 2019 Top Safety Pick program, narrowing the field down to just 57 vehicles. To qualify for the top-tier Top Safety Pick Plus honor roll, vehicles must now have a ‘good’ rating in the passenger-side small overlap test, versus an ‘acceptable’ rating for the 2018 model year. An ‘acceptable’ or ‘good’ passenger small-overlap rating is now required to enter the lesser Top Safety Pick category. The 2019 awards currently include 30 TSP+ winners and 27 TSP awards, though both groups will presumably expand as the IIHS continues to test more cars and automakers make changes to vehicles. The SUBARU brand leads with 7 TSP+ honorees including the Ascent, XV/Crosstrek, Impreza Sedan and Wagon, Legacy, Outback and WRX. Hyundai has also earned 7 TSP+ across its brands, which include Kia and Genesis. Mercedes-Benz and Toyota and its Lexus brand have both earned 3 TSP+ awards, while BMW and Honda/ Acura both have 2 top-tier awards. The IIHS says 17 models missed out on the top award because of headlight performance, while 4 were rejected due to passenger-side small overlap performance. “Absent from the winner’s circle are Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. All failed to qualify for either award”, the report notes. +++ 

+++ The wait time for SUZUKI ’s popular new Jimny off-roader has stretched to 1 year in the UK due to restricted supply, the company has told. Demand has been so strong for the 1.200 cars Suzuki UK has been allocated for 2019 that some dealers are no longer taking deposits, but are instead registering ‘expressions of interest’. Suzuki says the bottleneck is at its factory in Kosai, Japan, where the Jimny is built for local and global markets. Japanese demand is also strong due to the fact that without its wheel arch extensions, the Jimny is narrow enough to satisfy the low-tax Kei car rules. However Suzuki is reportedly also restricting sales in Europe because it doesn’t want to push up its average CO2 levels, according to a dealer. The Jimny’s relative poor fuel economy means it emits high CO2 levels. Too many Jimny sales compared to the more frugal Ignis or Swift models will push up Suzuki’s average CO2, leading to fines from the European Union if it goes above its target. Suzuki has a bespoke agreement similar to that of Jaguar Land Rover, meaning it’s target is higher than the 95 g/km fleet average set for 2020/21, but the maker can’t currently call upon electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles to compensate for its petrol-only sales. Suzuki decided not to offer the Jimny with its lower-CO2 Boosterjet 1.0-litre turbo engine or the expensive mild-hybrid SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) system that cuts CO2 for the Baleno supermini to 94 g/km. Theoretically then, the UK could see a greater allocation of cars if the country no longer chooses to participate in the EU’s scheme to reduce CO2 from new cars after it leaves the trading bloc. Suzuki has said it will increase the UK allocation of cars to 2.000 for 2020, either because it’s planning to fit more frugal engines or it because it will build the car at a second plant, possibly in India. The first customer Suzuki Jimnys will be delivered to the UK in January. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA ’s decision to team up with BMW for the Supra/Z4 joint project raised quite a few eyebrows when it was announced many years ago. The road to the car’s official reveal has been painstakingly long and we are still a few weeks away from the A90’s debut in Detroit. When it will arrive at NAIAS, under the bonnet of the 5th generation Supra there’s going to be a BMW engine. Chief engineer Tetsuya Tada explained the reasoning behind the decision to source the heart of the Supra from another automaker. When Toyota decided to dust off the legendary “Supra” moniker by approving a new sports car, the first order of business was to secure a straight-6 engine. Why? Because customer surveys showed that was a must considering all 4 previous generations of the car had an inline-6. The easiest way to obtain one was to ink a deal with BMW and grab their 3.0-litre you’ll find in the Z4 M40i as well as in the new M340i. Toyota decided against developing its own straight-6, which although did upset purists, it’s a business move that makes sense considering the Supra won’t be a high-volume car. The engine of Bavarian origins has been tuned by Toyota’s engineers specifically for the Supra, as it’s the case with other BMW-sourced vital hardware, such as the 8-speed transmission and the chassis. Despite sharing more than a few parts, the 2 companies have promised distinct identities for their sports cars that will go well beyond the different body style. Having seen the new Z4 and a revealing image of the Supra, we know for sure their exterior designs won’t have anything in common. Tada hinted future Gazoo Racing models will use engines developed by Toyota’s go-faster division. These will be all-new engines rather than more powerful configurations of existing units, and will likely support electrification for extra boost and lower emissions. +++ 

+++ The German engineering firm IAV GmbH has been hit with a $35 million fine from the US Department of Justice for the company’s role in the VOLKSWAGEN emissions scandal. IAV allegedly collaborated with VW to design, test and implement software that would cheat the US emissions certification process. The company was also aware that VW concealed facts about the cheating from federal and state regulators and US customers. Specifically, VW is said to have delegated certain tasks to IAV during development of the illegal emissions system. In 2016, a VW employee requested that an IAV worker “assist in the design of defeat device software” for use in the diesel engine. The IAV worker completed the assignment and then prepared documentation for a software design change that would recognize whether a vehicle was undergoing standard US emissions testing on a dynamometer or was being driven on the road under normal driving conditions. The settlement agreement forces IAV to plead guilty to the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States. “IAV’s $35 million fine was set according to the company’s inability to pay a higher fine amount without jeopardizing its continued viability”, the DoJ said in its announcement. Notably, the settlement agreement also requires the company to continue cooperating in the DoJ’s online investigation and prosecution of individuals responsible for the scandal, suggesting more heads may roll more than four years after the defeat devices first came to light. The announcement does not identify the worker who allegedly made the illegal software change or the manager that allegedly was aware of the purpose of the software and directed further development. “IAV designed the software that allowed VW to cheat US air emissions standards”, said Susan Bodine, assistant administrator of the EPA’s office of enforcement and compliance assurance. “EPA and its law enforcement partners will not tolerate actions like this that put profit above public health and environmental protection”. +++

+++ Volkswagen is buying a controlling stake in VOLVO ’s WirelessCar, a digital service developer specializing in connected driving, for $122 million, the companies said. VW said WirelessCar technology would further its goal of developing value-added services for customers by enabling safe and stable data exchange between operating systems in its cars and a cloud platform it is developing with Microsoft. The German carmaker will buy 75.1 % of WirelessCar in the deal, which will allow Volvo to focus on commercial vehicles, its core business since it sold Volvo Cars in 1999. Volkswagen has said it aims to invest more than €11 billion in electric vehicles, digitalization, autonomous driving and mobility services by 2023, with the bulk earmarked for electric cars. WirelessCar has its own technology platform and develops digital services like billing and safety and emergency breakdown services for customers including Jaguar Land Rover, Daimler, Nissan and Volvo Cars. The company has more than 3 million active connected cars across the globe and is expected to report revenues of about 500 million crowns in 2018, Volvo said in its statement. Volkswagen said it targets sales of more than 1 billion euros from 2025 through the WirelessCar platform, excluding possible vehicle sales via the digital platform, which will be accessible on mobile phones or on in-car devices in some models starting next April. Volkswagen’s digital shop will offer services such as its parking app We park, its car trunk delivery service We deliver and its car sharing services We Share or Moia. Customers will also be able to book functions on demand, such as map data for specific countries or auxiliary heating in winter months, VW said. The platform for registered Volkswagen customers will also be open for third-party vendors, such as suppliers of music, movies and other infotainment. The WirelessCar deal still has to be approved by cartel authorities and is expected to close during the first half of 2019. On closing, the divestment would result in a positive impact on Volvo’s operating income of about 1.5 billion crowns and on cash flow of 1.1 billion crowns, Volvo said. Volkswagen has an option to buy the remaining share in WirelessCar, it said, adding that it can also imagine keeping Volvo as a shareholder. +++

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