+++ Fully AUTONOMOUS cars that can drive in any conditions and on any road without human input will never exist, according to the boss of a leading driverless vehicle firm. Waymo CEO John Krafcik told: “autonomy will always have constraints”. Krafcik explained how it will not only take decades for cars with advanced levels of self-driving capability to become common on roads, but even when they do they will not be able to drive themselves without any form of “user interaction”. One of the key reasons for this is the fact autonomous vehicle sensors may not function properly in rainy or snowy conditions, an issue that Krafcik admits he can’t envision being resolved. Krafcik described the development of autonomous vehicle technology as being “really, really hard”. Waymo, which will turn 10 years old this year, took 7 years to put its first driverless cars on the road, followed by a further 2 years to deploy a small fleet and then another year to send out 100 cars in what it calls fully autonomous mode. The company’s fleet is now 600-strong and has covered more than 16 million kilometres on public roads in the vicinity of 25 cities in the United States. In December, the firm began the gradual rollout of a paid autonomous taxi service called Waymo One. It works in a similar way to Uber, with customers using an app to summon a car that will then drive them to their chosen destination in exchange for a fee paid via a credit or debit card. At present, Waymo One is only available to a few hundred selected customers in Arizona. Due to the experimental nature of the technology, the cars still have human drivers behind the wheel to intervene in an emergency. +++

+++ BENTLEY has slowly expanded the Bentayga line-up with additional variants. The firm’s first SUV made its debut in 2015 with a W12 under the hood. It then got a V8 diesel, a gasoline-powered V8 and a gasoline-electric hybrid. Soon, a new version will break cover with an even more powerful W12. Bentley will present the Bentayga Speed during the first half of 2019. It will use an evolution of the standard Bentayga’s 6.0 liter 12-cylinder engine tuned to generate a Lamborghini Urus-baiting 660 horsepower. The 52-horse increase will come from “a mixture of hardware and software changes”. The extra power should give the Bentayga Speed an edge in the statistics war that luxury SUV makers are engaged in. The Speed will boast a top speed of at least 306 km/h (Urus: 305 km/h), and it will reach 100 km/h from a stop in 3,5 seconds (Urus: 3,6 seconds). Chassis tweaks will make the Speed more agile around a bend; the standard Bentayga impressed us with its 48-volt active anti-roll technology, so we’re looking forward to seeing what the British firm has in store. Bentley hasn’t commented on what the future holds for the Bentayga range, though it has hinted at a more powerful model several times before. expects to see the Bentley Bentayga Speed reach showrooms in 2020. +++ 

+++ BMW ’s group sales went up 1.1 % worldwide in 2018 to 2,490,664 vehicles, the company said, adding that it expected a slight increase this year despite challenging market conditions. BMW brand sales increased by 1.8 % worldwide in 2018 to 2,125,026 vehicles, the company said, with December sales rising 1.3 %. The group’s December sales fell 0.7 % compared with the previous year, affected by a 11.3 % drop in the Mini brand sales. The company’s portfolio of electrified BMW and Mini vehicles grew sales by 38.4 % compared with the previous year. Looking ahead to the next 12 months, the BMW Group believes its ongoing model offensive will result in continuing sales growth. “While we expect market conditions to remain challenging this year, new models like the all-new X7 and the 7th generation of the 3 Series mean we at the BMW Group will continue on our successful course. We expect to grow sales slightly in 2019, while maintaining our clear focus on profitability”, said Pieter Nota, member of the Board of Management and responsible for Sales and the BMW brand. The BMW brand’s biggest growth drivers were the X vehicles: Thanks to the introduction of the X2 early in 2018 and the extension of X3 production to China and South Africa, in addition to the USA, total X family sales increased by 12.1% to 792,590. This means these popular premium SUVs accounted for 37.3% of total BMW sales in 2018 (33.8% in 2017). Another significant growth driver for the brand was the 5 Series, which was fully available in all markets throughout 2018. Sales of the world’s most popular premium large sedan increased by 12.7% in 2018 with a total of 328,997 delivered to customers around the world. “We are proud to have achieved our best-ever annual sales result, despite a number of important model-changeovers and significant, ongoing headwinds in several major markets”, commented Nota. “2018 saw the introduction of several exciting brand new models including the 8 Series, as well as the launch of the new generation X4 and 5 and the long-awaited Z4. I am confident the momentum generated by these new models will continue through 2019”, Nota continued. The plug-in hybrid 530e was the company’s top-selling electrified vehicle in 2018. In total, 40,260 were sold around the world, accounting for 12.2 % of global 5 Series sedan sales. It was also the year’s best-selling luxury plug-in hybrid vehicle in the USA. Meanwhile the Mini Countryman Cooper S E ALL4 was delivered to 13,219 customers around the world, accounting for 13.3 % of all Countryman sales. 2018 was the 5th consecutive year of increased annual i3 sales. The introduction of an optional new, more powerful battery helped grow i3 sales by 10.6 % in 2018 with a total of 34,829 delivered worldwide. Since launching the i3 in 2013, the company has significantly increased both its electrified portfolio and its sales of these innovative products. “We are delighted to have clearly surpassed our stated target of selling 140,000 electrified vehicles in 2018 and believe that by the end of 2019, there will be half a million electrified BMW Group vehicles on the roads. By 2025, we will have at least 25 electrified vehicles in its model line-up, 12 of which will be fully-electric”, Nota commented. The performance cars of BMW M GmbH also achieved a new sales record with more than 100,000 (102,780 / +27.2 %) of these thrilling vehicles delivered to customers around the world in 2018, meaning that ambitious milestone has been reached 2 years ahead of schedule. Topsellers include the X3 M40i (19,670), the M2 (13,731) and the M5 (7,823). Asia drove much of the company’s sales growth in 2018, with Mainland China achieving solid growth thanks in part to full availability of the 5 Series and the popularity of the locally-produced 1 Series Sedan. Meanwhile the Americas also contributed to the group’s overall sales increase, with BMW being the only established premium manufacturer to achieve sales growth in the USA in 2018. Ongoing political and economic uncertainty in several markets mean that combined groupsales in Europe are at the same high level as last year. The BMW Group was the leading premium manufacturer in the United Kingdom, where the company also increased its share of the market. Increased market share was also achieved in Germany, where total groupsales in 2018 were greater than in the previous year. +++ 

+++ CADILLAC will lead General Motors’ (GM) new EV strategy, becoming the first brand within the company to offer a new electric model based on the forthcoming BEV3 platform. Cadillac will introduce the first model based on GM’s all-new EV-specific architecture, codenamed BEV3, which will eventually become the foundation of at least 20 all-electric model by 2023. Cadillac’s next-gen electric model is expected to reach the market in 2021. GM President Mark Reuss said that their new platform will be exclusive to Cadillac for an undisclosed amount of time. However, he didn’t reveal if the future electric Cadillac will be an SUV or a sedan. Reuss added that Cadillac is now destined to become the luxury brand it has always meant to be. The new BEV3 modular platform will offer great flexibility to GM, as it will be able to be used for up to 11 different types of vehicles, ranging from a compact cross-over and car to full-size 7-seat SUVs and vans. However there was no mention if it’s capable of forming the basis for an electric pickup truck. GM repeated its claim that the next-generation EVs will be profitable for the company. GM will also double the resources allocated to electric vehicles and autonomous driving technologies in the next 2 years, as announced in the previous weeks. The news marks a departure from GM’s previous strategy, that focused on offering EVs and electrified models under the Chevrolet brand, including the plug-in hybrid Volt and the all-electric Bolt (Opel Ampera-e). GM has already announced the end of production for the Volt as well as the plug-in hybrid Cadillac CT6. Mary Barra, GM’s CEO, said this week that the company aims to sell 1 million electric vehicles per year by 2026. She has vowed to take on Tesla by re-casting its luxury Cadillac brand as an electric nameplate. In future, the premium marque will be the company’s “lead electric vehicle brand and will introduce the first model from the company’s all-new battery electric vehicle architecture”. GM said its electric components were being designed to work across an array of models, allowing the same technology to be used in large vehicles and smaller cars. A similar platform (called MEB) is being developed by Volkswagen, which wants its electric architecture to become the standard underlying technology used by the industry. +++ 

+++ Global automakers are planning a $300 billion surge in spending on electric vehicle technology over the next 5 to 10 years, with nearly half of the money targeted at CHINA , accelerating the industry’s transition from fossil fuels and shifting power to Asian battery and electric vehicle technology suppliers. The unprecedented level of spending, much of it by Volkswagen, is driven in large measure by government policies adopted to cut carbon dioxide emissions, and will extend technological advances that have improved battery cost, range and charging time to make electric vehicles more appealing to consumers. China for decades played catch-up to German, Japanese and American automakers, which dominated internal combustion vehicle technology. Now, China is positioned to lead electric vehicle development, industry executives say. “The future of Volkswagen will be decided in the Chinese market”, said chief executive Herbert Diess of VW, which has decades-old joint ventures with 2 of China’s largest automakers, SAIC Motor and FAW Car. Speaking earlier this week to a small group of reporters in Beijing, Diess said China “will become one of the automotive powerhouses in the world. What we find in China is really the right environment to develop the next generation of cars and we find the right skills, which we only partially have in Europe or other places”, he said. Diess added: “We have very clear policies established here in China. Policymakers and regulators are requiring” a shift to electric vehicles. As China and other countries place more restrictions on conventional gasoline and diesel engines, auto companies have accelerated the shift to electrification. A year ago global automakers said they planned to spend $90 billion on electric vehicle development. The $300 billion that automakers have earmarked to put electric vehicles into mass production in China, Europe and North America is greater than the economies of Egypt or Chile. Almost one-third of the industry’s EV spending total, about $91 billion, is being committed by the Volkswagen Group, which is aggressively trying to distance itself from the Dieselgate scandal, which has cost it billions in penalties and legal settlements. VW’s sweeping electrification plan envisions capacity on three continents to build up to 15 million electric vehicles by 2025, including 50 pure electric and 30 hybrid electric models. Eventually, VW plans to offer electrified versions of all 300 models in its 12-brand global portfolio, which includes Audi, Porsche, Seat and Skoda. VW’s staggering EV budget dwarfs that of its closest competitor, Daimler, which has committed $42 billion. In comparison, General Motors, the No 1 U.S. automaker, has said it plans to spend a combined $8 billion on electric and self-driving vehicles. Roughly 45 % of the global industry’s planned EV investment and procurement spending, more than $135 billion, will occur in China, which is heavily promoting the production and sale of electric vehicles through a system of government-mandated quotas, credits and incentives. As a result, EV spending by major Chinese automakers from SAIC to Great Wall Motor could be matched or even exceeded by multinational joint-venture partners such VW, Daimler and GM, as they dramatically expand their electric vehicle portfolios in China and ramp up battery purchases from Chinese suppliers. “There has been a rush” to invest in electric vehicles and batteries, said Alexandre Marian, AlixPartners managing director and co-author of a 2018 study that forecast total EV spending of $255 billion through 2023 by global automakers and suppliers. Marian said the industry has increased spending budgets on electric vehicles and batteries, while seeking more alliances and partnerships to help spread the higher investment costs. Alliances, such as those between VW and its Chinese partners, will be among the greatest spurs to innovation, especially in the global rollout of electric vehicles. CEO Diess said VW is “evolving from the model where we have been developing and bringing European technology into this market to a new phase where we will co-develop part of the automotive technology in China for the rest of the world. I think this is a significant step change”. +++ 

+++ FORD is set to introduce its third-generation Kuga in 2020. The Kuga, along with the Edge, Explorer and the Fiesta-based crossover Puma replacing the Ecosport, will play a crucial part in Ford’s wide-reaching European restructure. A more targeted focus on more profitable SUVs, the main growth sector in Europe, is listed as a priority. Ford sold 151,000 Kugas in 2017 across Europe and slightly fewer in 2018, both years more than double the volume shifted in 2013 when the second-generation car was first launched. The new Kuga takes clear inspiration from the new Focus externally, with a curvier shape and wider stance. In the cabin, we can see the familiar dashtop-mounted touchscreen from the brand’s latest models, too. Expect similarities in terms of equipment and increased passenger space, too. The engine range should largely mimic that of the Focus, too, albeit with only the highest powered variant of Ford’s entry-level 1.0-litre Ecoboost motor carried over. A 1.5-litre petrol and 1.5 and 2.0-litre diesels are likely to feature, too. As part of the brand’s plan to introduce electrification in some form across all models, mild hybrid and even full hybrids could be seen soon after launch. +++ 

+++ China’s most globally high-profile and successful carmaker, GEELY , is forecasting flat sales this year, a sharp slowdown from 2018 as the country’s giant auto market struggles with slowing economic growth and more cautious consumers. Geely, the main listed unit of the Geely empire which owns Volvo and Proton, posted sales growth of 20 % in 2018. That was despite a slide in sales at a host of other carmakers and forecasts that last year was the first in decades to see a fall in sales in China’s overall car market. The gloomy forecast for 2019 highlights how the year is likely to be tough for all carmakers. Geely said in a filing that despite its growth last year, it had missed a sales target of 1.58 million cars by around 5 %. Its sales started to slow in the last quarter of 2018, with a 44 % drop in December alone. Some other domestic and international firms have flagged a sharp drop in demand in China at the end of last year, including Apple, which cut its global sales forecast due to Chinese weakness. Geely’s chairman Li Shufu said in a new year’s address that the year ahead was pivotal. “We must lay the foundation for our survival, otherwise we may soon face a period of demise”, he said in the address posted on Geely’s social media last year. China’s auto market likely contracted last year for the first time since at least 1990, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said last month, citing economic shifts, weakness in smaller cities and “international reasons” which could refer to the Sino-U.S trade war. The industry body expects around 28 million vehicle sales in 2019, roughly level with 2018. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS (GM) executives bucked gloomy forecasts for growth and sent the automaker’s shares soaring, promising investors stronger 2019 earnings and outlining ambitious plans for its Cadillac brand to challenge Tesla in the growing electric vehicle market.GM said that despite forecasts of decline in U.S. and China passenger car sales, the company expects 2018 profit to exceed Wall Street expectations, and promised higher earnings per share in 2019. Chief Executive Mary Barra stood her ground on cost-cutting actions that have provoked threats of retribution from U.S. President Donald Trump and outrage from unions and elected officials in the affected states. “Because of the actions we have been taking for several years, General Motors enters 2019 leaner, more agile and positioned to win”, Barra told. The market cheered GM’s forecast, sending the company’s stock up nearly 8 %. “We’re very much looking forward to the execution of what they’ve announced”, said Tim Piechowski, portfolio manager with ACR Alpine Capital Research, which owns GM shares. Piechowski said GM’s core business, its stake in ride services company Lyft and its Cruise self-driving car unit are together worth more than the company’s recent share price indicates. Barra also said proposals from Ohio officials that GM sell its Lordstown (Ohio) small car factory to Tesla are “moot” because Tesla is “not interested in our GM workforce represented by the United Auto Workers union. Barra’s bullish outlook coincided with new cost-slashing actions by rival Ford, which outlined plans to cut thousands of jobs in its European operations and kill an experiment in providing van rides. Barra and her lieutenants have spent the last 2 years pushing a strategy to exit unprofitable markets in Europe and developing markets, restructuring money-losing operations in South Korea, and killing unprofitable car lines in North America. In November it put 5 North American factories, including 4 in the United States, on notice for closure, and cut almost 15,000 jobs. “We are no longer investing in things that don’t make money”, GM President Mark Reuss told. “The future is coming fast. We are doing everything we need to do as fast as we can”. That includes making the Cadillac brand “the tip of the corporate spear” on electrification, Reuss said. He outlined plans to launch a new generation of electric vehicles that would be “profitable and attainable”. The automaker said Cadillac will become GM’s lead electric vehicle brand as the largest U.S. automaker gears up to introduce a new model under that luxury brand to challenge Tesla. Tesla’s market capitalization is higher than GM’s, even though the electric carmaker has never posted a full-year profit. GM is relying on profit from sales of large pick-ups and SUVs in North America to fund its electrification push. The battle in that lucrative market is intensifying among the Detroit Three automakers as sales of small cars in the United States shrivel. Both GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) have launched revamped pick-ups in a bid to take more share in the U.S. auto industry’s most profitable segment. Still, GM Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara emphasized to investors that the large pickup market is a 3-company oligopoly protected by “competitive moats”. Those include a 25 % U.S. tariff on imported trucks that predates the Trump administration’s trade actions. GM’s biggest market by vehicle sales volume is China, and the economic slowdown in the world’s largest auto market has rattled investors across industries. GM’s China president, Matt Tsien, told that industry-wide auto sales in that country should stay roughly flat in 2019 after the 2018 decline. GM is taking actions to cut costs, including increasing automation in its Chinese plants and pushing down purchasing costs, he said. Cost-cutting coupled with 20 new or redesigned vehicles that will launch in China this year will sustain the company’s profit, he said. “Overall, GM is in a good position to mitigate the headwinds” in China, Tsien said. Kyle Martin, research analyst with Westwood management in Dallas, Texas, which owns GM shares, said GM’s macroeconomic assumptions are “not conservative, for sure. For China to be flat, you’re going to need some stimulus”. GM, with its Chinese partners, sells more vehicles in China than in the United States. The automaker builds locally most of the vehicles it sells in China. +++

+++ Former Nissan chairman Carlos GHOSN has been indicted on further charges in Japan, days after he issued a public statement claiming that he has been “wrongly accused” of serious financial misconduct. Prosecutors have further indicted him for aggravated breach of trust and a separate charge of understating his income for another 3 years, after already facing a charge of doing the latter between 2010 and 2015. +++ 

+++ HONDA has said it will shut down its Swindon factory for 6 days in April as part of its preparations for any disruption caused post-Brexit. The Japanese-owned car giant said the move was to ensure it could adjust to “all possible outcomes caused by logistics and border issues”. The firm said it would help in recovering lost production if shipments of parts were held up at borders. Honda employs about 3,400 people at its Swindon plant. In a statement, the company said: “We are planning 6 non-production days in April 2019. This is to facilitate production recovery activity following any delays at borders on parts. These contingency provisions have been put in place to best mitigate the risk of disruption to production operations at the Swindon factory”. Meanwhile, Japanese car giant Toyota said it had “no contingency for no deal”. A Toyota spokesperson said: “We need a deal. We will have peak production in March because we have a new model, the Corolla. There is no planned production stop. No deal is not an option for us. We operate lean manufacturing and hold hours of inventory at the plant”. The spokesperson added that the firm could “increase this by hours or perhaps a few days but there is no contingency that can offset no deal and production lines would start or stop”. Last year, the senior vice-president of Honda Europe warned that if the UK left the EU without a deal, it would cost his company tens of millions of pounds. The spokesman told that quitting the bloc without an agreement would affect the carmaker’s competitiveness in Europe. He said the Japanese firm was preparing for a no-deal outcome, but had not discussed relocating its Swindon plant. Honda builds its Civic model in the UK for the global market. +++ 

+++ Now, more than ever, JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) could do with a major new model line, following last year’s sales slump and the news today of thousands of job losses. According to official figures, Jaguar’s saloon range (made in Castle Bromwich) is the main issue. In the 3 months from July to September last year, just 7.700 XEs and 7.400 XFs were sold, along with only 900 of the ageing XJ, while the F-Type is selling around 700 units a month. That equates to just over 6.000 cars per month. An annualised output of just 72,000 cars a year explains why Castle Bromwich. which got more than €100 million in investment just 2 years ago, was recently on a 3-day week. More worryingly, Jaguar’s well-received F-Pace (made in Solihull) saw year-on-year sales between July and September fall by 5.800, compared with the same period in 2017, to 10,300. E-Pace sales are climbing and the I-Pace appears to be doing well, but it’s a fair bet that Jaguar’s saloon range is not about to undergo a second coming, even with the upcoming XE and XF facelifts. The much-rumoured next-generation electric XJ is thought to be due next year but is unlikely to patch the Jaguar-shaped hole in JLR’s production plans. Which is where the new Defender could come in. Although it’s at least a year away from the showroom, it could well underpin JLR’s future growth. According to financial documents released last autumn, the future Defender family is regarded as Land Rover’s third ‘brand pillar’ alongside the Range Rover and Discovery. The Defender’s brief is to mix ‘off-road expertise’ with ‘practicality, functionality and durability’. A quarter of a century after Ford kicked things off with the Aston Martin DB7, the Defender is perhaps the last of a long line of great British automotive revivals on which much hope is placed. Sources have said the styling of the new car references the original model but it is a long way from a slavish copy. Prices will start at €70,000-€75,000 in The Netherlands and it’s the first model based on JLR’s all-new MLA aluminium platform. So far, so good. But there must also be risks with an entirely new retro-facing family of vehicles, sales of which are likely to have been pencilled in for 100,000 units per year by 2022. Firstly, the original Defender was never durable in the way that Toyota’s Land Cruiser is known for. Will serious off-road drivers be tempted to make the switch? Will those ‘adventure-minded’ families who have been less than impressed with the Discovery (Sport) switch to the new Defender instead? And will another family of vehicles prove a step too far for a smallish car maker which already has 13 different model families? If, as expected, Defender production is destined for JLR’s new Slovakian factory, there is likely to be a considerable row in the West Midlands. Castle Bromwich is running at less than 60 % capacity, job losses look likely and, adding insult to injury, the E-Pace and I-Pace are also made abroad. There’s no doubt JLR is on the rack and the Defender is something of a light at the end of the tunnel. But it would be a mistake to expect the last of the revived British icons to be a guaranteed fix for JLR’s problems. +++

+++ In 2018, deliveries of MINI brand vehicles were down 2.8 % (361,531) compared to the record sales achieved in 2017. 2019 is set to be an exciting year for the brand, with the battery-driven Mini Hatch Cooper S E set to make its first appearance towards the end of the year. “Despite challenging market conditions, Mini is a brand which continues to enthuse and excite its customers; I am confident that the introduction of the hotly anticipated Hatch Cooper S E will generate even more enthusiasm”, said Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW board member responsible for Mini and Rolls-Royce. +++

+++ Jose Munoz, NISSAN ’s hard-charging chief performance officer and the man who drove the company’s U.S. sales to record highs, is leaving the Japanese carmaker as the scandal swirling around the suspected financial misconduct of ousted former chairman Carlos Ghosn widens. Munoz’s departure comes just days after Nissan said the executive had taken a leave of absence to focus on “special tasks” relating to the ongoing investigation of Ghosn, who was arrested in Japan on Nov. 19 and now faces 3 indictments. Munoz, 53, said he had decided to leave the company after “some period of serious contemplation”. He promised to help Nissan with its probe. “Unfortunately, Nissan is currently involved in matters that have and will continue to divert its focus”, Munoz said. “As I have repeatedly and recently made clear to the company, I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations”. A Nissan spokesman confirmed Munoz’s resignation, saying it was effective immediately. The developments underscore how the deepening Ghosn scandal is spilling over to operations worldwide. Munoz was a high-profile leader at the company who was often tipped to be the successor to current CEO Hiroto Saikawa. Also on leave of absence is Senior Vice President Arun Bajaj, who heads human resources at Nissan as well as talent development at the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. Bajaj is cooperating with Japanese prosecutors in their investigation of Ghosn, a person familiar with the matter said. One Nissan insider called the sidelining of Munoz and Bajaj a “purge” of Ghosn-era executives. The reasons for Munoz’s leave and ensuing departure are unclear. 2 people familiar with the matter said he was not sufficiently cooperating with Nissan’s probe against Ghosn. One source said Nissan was also questioning Munoz’s role in awarding supplier contracts, including one with a parts maker in Mexico. Munoz, a native of Spain, is believed to have not been back to Japan since leaving the country in late November, shortly after Ghosn’s arrest. Munoz had been scheduled to unveil the new extended-range Leaf. That appearance was scrubbed. Munoz has been asked by Nissan to stay away from the office, one person familiar with his status said. Another source close to Munoz said the former Nissan executive heard only very recently that sources inside the company were claiming he hadn’t been cooperative with the Ghosn investigation. Munoz told the source it was “disappointing to hear the allegations”, the source said. Munoz also believes that the claim “doesn’t square with the generous compensation package” Munoz left on the table, the source said. Munoz was chairman of Nissan’s North American operations from 2014 until last year, when he was named chairman of the carmaker’s important China operations. That appointment, to what is now Nissan’s biggest market, was seen as part of his grooming for the top post. Munoz led the push to achieve the Power 88 midterm plan unveiled in 2011 by Ghosn, who was then CEO and chairman. The namesake targets were 8 % operating profit margin and 8 % global market share. Nissan missed those, but Munoz briefly delivered another top goal: 10 % U.S. market share, a gain of more than 3 percentage points from the plan’s starting point. In 2017, the year Power 88 ended, Nissan and Infiniti combined to book record U.S. sales of 1.59 million vehicles and record market share of 9.2 %. Munoz’s exit leaves a “big vacuum” in the organization”, said Nissan National Dealer Advisory Board member Ray Brandt. “You hate to see a person of that ability and knowledge who’s worked so hard, leave”, Brandt said. “Nissan has a lot invested in him and he had a lot invested in Nissan”. Munoz was one of the “most impressive guys I’ve ever worked with”, Brandt said. “He was smart, honest, hardworking, committed to excellence”. Munoz’s push for growth relied heavily on incentives and fleet sales. It was a controversial strategy that split the U.S. dealer community. Big dealers who learned to work Nissan’s complicated incentive system flourished. But smaller dealers felt squeezed by unrealistic targets. Some say Munoz’s approach relied on arbitrary spiff spending that made it difficult to plan long term and that Nissan used its control over zoning dealer territory to cudgel its critics. “It was a race to the bottom”, said Steve Kalafer, who was so jaded by the approach that he sold his Nissan franchise. “Standards of traditional proper reporting, in many cases, were abandoned”, he said. Kalafer still sells the manufacturer’s luxury Infiniti brand. Saikawa also saw the reliance on incentives and fleet sales as eroding profitability and brand value in the long term. After Saikawa took over from Ghosn as solo CEO in 2017, he shifted away from the approach, saying Nissan wouldn’t chase volume at the expense of brand value. Last year, he tried to dial back fleet sales and incentives. It was a bumpy transition, with U.S. sales falling drastically in some months as Nissan fine-tuned the incentives system for some kind of balance. In December, it introduced a new incentives program for that month and January to help buoy sales. Nissan Group’s U.S. sales last year fell 6.3 % to 1.49 million vehicles in an overall market down 0.6 %. The combined market share for the Nissan and Infiniti brands shrank to 8.6 % from 9.2 % the year before. Munoz is considered by many in the company to be a close ally of Ghosn, whose arrest has rocked the auto industry and strained Nissan’s ties with French partner Renault, where he still remains chairman and chief executive. It has prompted some soul-searching at the Japanese automaker, which has acknowledged that too much power was concentrated with Ghosn after he oversaw the turnaround of the struggling automaker 2 decades ago following its rescue from the brink by Renault. After stripping Ghosn of his chairman position following his arrest, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa has called for changes to weaken the clout of controlling shareholder Renault. +++

+++ Bose has outlined its latest automotive technology, Quiet Comfort ROAD NOISE CONTROL (RNC), that aims to help minimize road noise via active cancellation. The company points out that conventional road-noise mitigation methods focus on adding thick insulation to the vehicle body or using special tires that trade performance for lower noise. “For years, we’ve been asked why we can’t simply adapt our noise cancelling headphone technology to vehicle cabins for a quieter driving experience”, says Bose Automotive active sound management solutions manager John Feng. “But we know it’s much more difficult to control noise in a large space like a car cabin compared to the relatively small area around your ears”. Typical noise cancellation systems work using microphones and speakers alone. The automotive RNC tech adds accelerometers to continuously monitor vibrations that create noise. Microphones monitor residual noise levels to help adapt the signal for different road surfaces and automatically adjust over time as the vehicle ages. The company will collaborate with automakers during the vehicle development process to custom-engineer Quiet Comfort RNC into future cars, with production expected to begin by the end of 2021. RNC joins several other Bose technologies focused on either canceling or ‘enhancing’ engine noise. +++

+++ In 2018, ROLLS-ROYCE achieved annual sales of 4,107 units (+22.2 %), the highest in the marque’s 115-year history. The Americas maintained its position as the company’s most important market, while sales in all regions grew year-on-year. “Customer demand for all model families has remained buoyant, with Phantom a major growth driver and Ghost the best-selling model”, commented Peter Schwarzenbauer. “We are also delighted by the exceptional response to the all-terrain Cullinan, with the first of these having been delivered to customers in time for Christmas, and a very strong order book filled into the third quarter of this year”, Schwarzenbauer continued. 2018 also saw record numbers of Bespoke commissions, further reinforcing Rolls-Royce’s position as a true Luxury House. +++

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , registrations fell almost 7 % year-on-year to 2.37 million units in 2018, with a near 30 % drop in diesel registrations accounting for the most marked decline in the market. Despite the drop (down from a 21st century peak of 2.69 million in 2016) the number of registrations is still in line with the UK’s 10-year sales average, and maintains the UK’s position as the second largest new car market in Europe, behind Germany. December’s figures confirmed diesel registrations have now fallen for 21 consecutive months. By contrast, petrol registrations rose 8.7 % for the year, while plug-in hybrid and electric registrations rose 20.9 %. Underlining the impact of the diesel collapse, the 30 % fall on registrations in 2018 compared to 2017 equates to 316,000 registrations; more than the drop in total 2018 registrations from the 2017 figure of 2.54 million. Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) boss Mike Hawes also highlighted other factors that impacted the UK car market, including falling consumer confidence in big ticket purchases as a result of economic uncertainty, issues arising from the Brexit negotiations and the supply shortage in the wake of WLTP economy certification, which lowered some manufacturers’ registrations by almost 50 % in September. “The belief is that consistent messaging and ongoing demonstration of the benefits of the latest diesels could unlock some of the market”, said Hawes. “The evidence is clear: some diesel owners are holding on to their cars rather than replacing them, and if we can bring the facts home to them, then we would hope they will replace them with confidence”. Large fleet purchases accounted for the greatest drop in registrations, falling 7.1 %, followed by private retail purchases, down 6.4 % and business purchases, down 5.6 %. The most robust sector was the light commercial market, which fell just 1.3 %. Hawes also stressed the impact of the decline in diesel sales on CO2 output. Diesel engines typically produce significantly less CO2 than petrol engines, but more NOx and particulates. The average CO2 output of a car sold in 2018 rose 2.9 gram/km compared to 2017’s figure, to 124.5 gram/km. This figure was also impacted by the rise in sales of less efficient vehicles, notably SUVs, and the shift to WLTP measurement techniques, which added around 5 % to a car’s official CO2 output. Under EU law, car manufacturers must hit a 95 gram/km fleet average by 2021, based on European sales, or face fines of €95 per gram per kilometre per car. Hawes described the situation as “increasingly worrying”, with potential fines based on the current situation reaching hundreds of millions of euros for some car makers. To hit the target car makes must now achieve an average reduction of 8.6 % a year. When the target was set of, the average reduction needed was 4 % a year. While UK sales are unlikely to count towards the EU averages post-Brexit, the British government has already indicated that it will either mirror the EU rules or impose tougher targets in the event of Brexit being completed by that date. That situation is further complicated by the lower rate of uptake of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles in the UK compared to other leading European nations. Despite the sharp rise in demand in 2018, total registrations for both accounted for 2.5 % of the total market, with pure electric vehicles accounting for 0.7 % of the total; around half the EU average. Last October, the British government announced it was dropping grants for plug-in hybrid purchases and reduced the allowance for electric cars and registrations have subsequently dropped dramatically, although the availability of plug-in hybrid vehicles has been severely impacted since WLTP was introduced in September. Hawes pointed to inconsistent messaging being at the root of a perfect storm of issues causing consumer confusion: “The best way to introduce newer technologies, be they lower emission ones or ones relating to autonomy and safety and other steps forward, is to get people into newer vehicles. I say that in full acceptance that the car industry has a vested interest, but we need to get some clear direction. The government has now acknowledged that the latest diesels on sale today are the right choice for many motorists, and said they won’t be banned from city centres because they clean enough – yet they are still penalised by a VED tax band. The government has laid out a glidepath to zero emissions sales only, yet it has removed or reduced the incentive that was driving people towards those vehicles. Car buyers are quite reasonably confused and we all have a job to do in order to present a consistent, fact-based argument to persuade people of the right vehicles to buy for their needs”. The SMMT is predicting a further 2 % fall in registrations in 2019, although Hawes cautioned that the figure was based on “known issues” and that it could swing dramatically. He highlighted a potential post-Brexit deal economic upswing as a potential positive, and a potential no-deal Brexit slump as “potentially huge”. However, he added that the retail market would eventually recover from any shocks, saying: “The market may fall, and this could be a very tough year, but the outlook is that it would eventually normalise; the rise in leasing should help insulate against a dramatic fall such as we saw in 2007 and 2008 with the last recession”. Hawes also reiterated the SMMT’s belief that a no-deal Brexit would deliver a hammer blow to the UK manufacturing industry: “Frictionless trade is what this industry relies on; we have 1.100 trucks a day going straight to the manufacturing lines, and warehousing isn’t a long-term option. Tariffs would depress the market. It would certainly have an impact on the industry, including jobs. No deal would be catastrophic”. In 2018, the most registered cars were: 1. Ford Fiesta (95,892); 2. Volkswagen Golf (64,829); 3. Vauxhall Corsa (52,915); 4. Nissan Qashqai (50,546); 5. Ford Focus (50,492); 6. Volkswagen Polo (45,149); 7. Mini Hatch (44,904); 8. Mercedes A-Class (43,527); 9. Ford Kuga (40,398 registered) and 10. Kia Sportage (35,567 registered). Manufacturers which recording the greatest growth were: MG +100 %; Mitsubishi +31 %; Abarth +27 %; Subaru +17 %; Seat +12 %; McLaren +10 %; Volvo +9 %; Jaguar +4 % and Kia +3 %. Manufacturers recording the largest falls were: Infiniti -79 %; DS -45 %; Nissan -32 %; Maserati -24 %; Fiat -20 %; Audi – 18 %; Alfa Romeo -17 % and Ford -12 %. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN Group’s deliveries rose 0.9 % to a record 10.83 million last year, the German company said, putting it neck-and-neck with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi in the race to be the world’s biggest vehicle manufacturer. Rivals Toyota and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi have not released 2018 registration figures, but the Franco-Japanese alliance sold 10.6 million vehicles in 2017 and racked up sales of 5.54 million in the first half of 2018. Toyota last month released a forecast for total global sales of 10.55 million vehicles last year, but has yet to confirm official numbers. “If we assume that the 10.8 million sales VW have reported is confirmed, it is very likely to be enough to place Volkswagen Group in the number one spot”, said David Oakley, an analyst at LMC Automotive. That would be the 5th consecutive year Volkswagen Group has held the position, Oakley said, adding it was too early to say whether Toyota or Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi would be in second place, also because registration figures have not yet been published for all markets. Volkswagen Group’s figures include sales of light vehicles and trucks. Measured by passenger cars alone, registrations last year would have accounted for 10.1 million, it said. “If we looked at passenger cars only, the picture would be roughly similar. Volkswagen Group would still be ahead, although by a wider margin, as it is relatively less reliant on light commercial vehicles than the other two”, Oakley said. Only around 4 % of Volkswagen Group’s sales were light commercial vehicles in 2018 compared with 12 to 15 % for Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and Toyota, according to LMC. If heavy goods vehicles were included in addition to light trucks and passenger cars, Volkswagen would still be ahead and Toyota would be in second place, Oakley said. Volkswagen said the VW brand delivered 6.24 million vehicles last year, while premium brands Audi and Porsche posted registrations of 1.81 million and 256,000 respectively. This makes Audi the third biggest selling premium brand behind BMW, which delivered 2,125,026 cars and leader Mercedes-Benz, which sold 2.31 million passenger cars. Volkswagen said the ongoing trade dispute with the United States had dampened the business climate in China, its most important market, over the second half of 2018. Volkswagen’s head of sales, Christian Dahlheim, said that he expected demand in China to remain stable in 2019, although the first quarter would be challenging. Separately, Dahlheim said the German carmaker did not foresee a significant financial impact in 2019 from the implementation of the new WLTP emissions standard, which cost the company €1 billion euros in 2018. Volkswagen Group said December deliveries fell 8.4 %, to 916,200 vehicles, from 999,900 a year earlier. December group deliveries to China dropped by 12.5 % year-on-year, the Wolsburg-based carmaker said, adding deliveries also fell by 5.6 % in Europe and by 3.4 % in the United States. +++

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