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+++ AUDI will make its full-electric cars as profitable as the rest of its lineup by utilizing the economies of scale offered by parent Volkswagen Group, Audi’s finance chief Alexander Seitz said. The brand is working with Volkswagen Group sibling Porsche to develop a new EV platform called PPE (Premium Platform Electric) platform for electric cars. By jointly developing the PPE architecture with Porsche, Seitz said development costs and capital expenditure could be reduced by more than 30 percent versus a go-it-alone strategy. “I would not be able to sleep well at night if we did not have a path that takes us to a level of profitability on these cars that is comparable with those of a well-equipped diesel”, he said. “And you can assume that I am sleeping well”, Seitz said at a press event in Abu Dhabi for Audi’s e-Tron battery-powered SUV, which the automaker will start delivering to European customers in March. Audi is counting on the e-Tron’s 400-plus-km range to entice buyers to switch to the EV from internal combustion engines. Customers will be able to begin configuring their e-tron at the end of this month, an Audi spokeswoman said. It starts at €84.100 in The Netherlands. Citing competitive reasons, Seitz would not comment on profitability levels for the e-Tron. The e-Tron shares some features with VW Group’s MLB Evo platform that underpins models such as the Audi A8 and Q8, Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus but is largely a separate development. The e-Tron is not only Audi’s first purpose-built volume electric vehicle, it is also the first throughout the VW Group that will offer functionality on demand. “This will have a positive effect on the residual values of the vehicle”, Seitz said, “since it will mean the vehicle can be kept fresh by software upgrades over the air”. Lower maintenance and repair costs due to the simpler mechanics of the vehicle also would ensure its resale values will at least match those of a combustion engine car, regardless of concerns over the life cycle of the high-voltage traction battery. +++

+++ BMW has released updated specs for the Z4 M40i, specifically its 0-100 km/h time, curb weight and gross vehicle weight. This comes on the heels of this morning’s introduction of its platform-mate, the Toyota GR Supra. You might have seen something about that today. BMW says the Z4 M40i now goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.1 seconds, a half-second improvement from the 4.6 seconds time it originally provided. It also bests the Supra’s 4.3 seconds time. So, what’s the deal with the sudden change in 0-100 time? Logically, this seems like the result of the Z4 and Supra being developed together by 2 companies with differing 0-100 testing and reporting methodologies. Specifically, BMW has notoriously been conservative over the years when it comes to performance estimates. Toyota has not. When Toyota came up with its number, which was quicker despite the aforementioned power disadvantage, it’s safe to assume BMW had to reconsider that conservatism; at least in this unique circumstance. Otherwise, it would be dealing with endless questions of why the Supra was quicker. The Z4 sDrive30i does not get an updated time, with its 0-100 estimate holding firm at 5.4 seconds. In the end, let this be yet another reminder to not take 0-100 times too seriously. Differing methodologies, be it between car companies or testing publications, mean that the exact same car producing the exact same acceleration can be reported differently. +++ 

+++ Although CADILLAC will cull all of its current sedans after 2019, General Motors’ luxury division remains committed to passenger cars. And there’s a new V8 powered V-Series sedan on the horizon. The news first came to light during GM’s investor conference, where executives showed attendees video of a sport sedan that distinctively featured the sound of a V8 with some form of forced induction. It’s unclear if the engine employs turbocharging or supercharging, however. A Cadillac spokesperson confirmed the vehicle shown to investors was a sportsedan, and that its development underscored the division will not abandon traditional cars. That gives me 2 likely options for what Cadillac has cooking. I know the brand will replace the ATS, CTS, XTS, and now also the CT6, with 2 new sedans: a small CT4 and a mid-size CT5. Of these, a CT5-V seems most likely to receive a blown V8 to carry on the spirit of the soon-to-be-discontinued CTS-V and only-for-2019 CT6-V. Cadillac doesn’t have a track record for plopping a V8 in a smaller sport sedan, since the current ATS-V features a 3.6 liter twin-turbo V6. The raucous 6.2-liter supercharged V8 Cadillac offers has so far been reserved for the CTS-V. What powertrain a potential CT5-V has under the hood remains a mystery, but it could be the brand-exclusive 4.2 liter twin-turbo V8 known as the Blackwing that debuts in the CT6 range. It’s unlikely we’ll see the mystery sportsedan debut this year, but I do expect Cadillac to pull the wraps off the regular CT5 at some point in 2019, or early 2020. I peg the sedan as a 2020 model, and Cadillac has confirmed it plans to launch at least 1 new vehicle every 6 months through 2021. The first this year is the 2020 Cadillac XT6. Cadillac also has a redesigned Escalade and an electric crossover SUV on the way, too. +++ 

+++ Europe-wide performance for CITROEN was strong in 2018: sales rose 5 % to 825,000 units, just under 80 % of its “stable” worldwide sales total of 1.05 million units, that overall number held back slightly by a sharp fall in Chinese sales that affected all PSA marques. The European rise is Citroen’s 5th in succession and the highest total for 7 years. European market share was 4.5 % compared with 4.3 % the previous year and the company now has its eye on a 5 % share for 2019. Jackson said the improvements stress the continuing importance of Europe to Citroen’s overall business, and believes the policy of launching a range of new SUV models, most recent of which is the C5 Aircross, is “proof that we are on the right road”. Citroen plans to launch a special collection of centenary models this year, and will show 2 concepts (an urban mobility proposal at Geneva in March, and a “ultra comfort” concept later in the year), presumably at the Frankfurt Show. +++ 

+++ FORD has announced what models it will reveal over the next 24 months. 3 of those vehicles are models the company has been a bit quiet about including the next-generation Escape / Kuga, the new F-Series Super Duty heavy-duty pickup truck and even a new Transit. The other 2 are vehicles that the company has been teasing, chief among them being the Bronco. Teaser photos show that it will have a classic, boxy profile, and Ford previously announced it will be available with 2 or 4 doors. It appears it will share the Ranger platform with both hybrid and conventional powertrain choices. On the topic of electrified Fords, the 5th model that will be shown is the mysterious Mach E electric crossover. It was initially called the Mach 1, which was likely meant to emphasize its connection to the Mustang. Despite the name change, teaser images show the crossover will continue to lean on the Mustang for inspiration, down to the traditional 3-bar taillights. It’s expected to have a 500 kilometres range. +++

+++ The Tokyo District Court denied former Nissan chairman Carlos GHOSN ’s request for release on bail after his indictment last week on 2 new charges, making it likely the once-feted executive remains jailed for months. Lawyers for Ghosn have appealed the decision and could receive a response within the next day. Ghosn awaits a lengthy criminal trial that could be as long as 6 months away, his lawyers have said. It is rare in Japan for defendants who deny their charges to be granted bail ahead of trial. The executive has remained in a detention center in Tokyo since Nov. 19, when he was first arrested on allegations of under-reporting his salary for 5 years through 2015. The court did not give a reason for denying bail. At a hearing last week, when his lawyers asked for reasons for his continued detention, the court cited concerns that Ghosn would try to flee or tamper with evidence. Ghosn was indicted on charges of aggravated breach of trust for temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008, and understating his salary for 3 additional years through March 2018. He has denied the charges. His arrest sent shockwaves through the auto industry and rocked Nissan’s alliance with Renault. Ghosn, who masterminded Nissan’s financial turnaround 2 decades ago, has since been removed from chairmanship positions at Nissan and Mitsubishi, but remains chairman and chief executive at Renault. The French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, said it supports Renault’s decision to keep Ghosn at its helm unless it becomes clear he will be “chronically incapacitated” by the Japanese investigation, officials said. The prospect of a lengthy detention could increase pressure on the Renault board and shareholders including France’s government to appoint permanent new leadership for the carmaker. The case has also 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. Ghosn’s wife, Carole Ghosn, has complained about her husband’s “harsh treatment” in detention, including being held in a small, unheated room and being pressured by prosecutors to confess, according to a letter she wrote to Human Rights Watch’s Japan director Kanae Doi. She urged the group to “shine a light on the harsh treatment of my husband and the human rights-related inequities inflicted upon him by the Japanese justice system”. Doi said in an e-mail that the country’s justice system “certainly warrants the international pressure and attention it is getting now”. Doi also forwarded a comment from Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams, who in an opinion piece published in the Diplomat magazine said: “Ghosn’s case is emblematic of serious and longstanding problems in Japan’s criminal justice system, which affect ordinary Japanese citizens on a daily basis”. Japan’s Ministry of Justice was unreachable for comment outside of business hours. +++

+++ Ford and Volkswagen have confirmed the first details of their broad ‘ GLOBAL ALLIANCE ’, which will begin with the 2 pairing up to deliver commercial vehicles but could expand to include electric and autonomous cars. The 2 companies will initially team up to develop vans and medium-size trucks for global markets, with the first products of the alliance likely to be mid-size pick-ups in 2022. The agreement is likely to involve Volkswagen developing a van based on Ford’s Transit platform and could involve joint development of the next-generation Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok pick-ups. The 2 have also signed a memorandum of understanding to “investigate collaboration” on electric and autonomous vehicles and mobility services, plus they say they’re open to considering “additional vehicle programmes” in the future. Ford boss Jim Hackett said the alliance will “help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society” and “give us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility”. Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess added that the alliance “will be a cornerstone for our drive to improve competitiveness”. The alliance will be governed by a joint committee headed by Hackett and Diess and does not involve any cross-ownership between the 2 firms. The news follows an announcement in June that the companies were looking to collaborate on the development of future commercial vehicles, among other projects. Ford’s president of global markets, Jim Farley, called this move an example of Ford’s commitment to “leveraging adaptive business models”. Both Volkswagen and Ford are keen to introduce new electric vehicles to the European market, where strict regulations are being imposed on the development and sale of petrol and diesel vehicles. Volkswagen has previously stated its intention to produce 2 to 3 million electric cars by 2025. Ford and Volkswagen, alongside BMW and Daimler, are co-owners of the Ionity scheme, which is developing a network of ultra-fast charging stations across Europe. The alliance is not the first of its kind; last year, Honda invested $2.75 billion in General Motors’ self-driving division. The Japanese and American companies plan to challenge tech giants Apple and Google with a new range of driverless taxis. Established car makers around the world are beginning to shift their focus entirely to researching and developing zero-emissions and self-driving vehicles as global legislation aims to reduce pollution. +++

+++ Carlos Ghosn’s criminal prosecution in Japan might be creating strain inside the Renault – NISSAN – Mitsubishi alliance. But that situation is not slowing the automakers’ plans to bring their vehicle platforms closer together, declared Nissan’s head of global planning, Philippe Klein. “I am going to be damn clear”, Klein told when asked whether Ghosn’s legal trouble is causing a reconsideration of shared platforms: “What is taking place is not changing, is not challenging, is not questioning the alliance. There is frankly no willingness to change that”. Klein said the 3 automakers recently met to hammer out a new level of shared product development activity, which extends to a range of global vehicles. Of the Nissan vehicles expected to hit the market over the next 5 years, “all but one will be heavily sharing platforms and components” with alliance partners, said Klein, Nissan’s chief planning officer. “We are not changing our product planning process at all”. Weaving together the product development efforts of the alliance had been a passionate mission for Ghosn in recent years. The alliance has announced plans to share global platforms across a large number of vehicle segments. But on Nov. 19, police in Tokyo arrested Ghosn on charges of complex financial improprieties, and he was quickly removed as chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi. Ghosn remains in jail in Japan without bond, but is arguing that he has been falsely accused. He remains CEO of Renault with his duties being handled by other senior executives. Klein declined to discuss Ghosn’s situation during an interview at the Detroit auto show, but he reacted strongly to the question that has hovered over the alliance since the arrest: whether Ghosn’s departure might cause the three automakers to drift away from their alliance efforts. “There is a lot of things moving, and it’s going to require readjustment”, Klein said of the crisis. “But, we are going to manage to go through that”. Disrupting the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi tie-up might not be an option. The alliance now intertwines manufacturing, sourcing and product planning among the three automakers. Ghosn contended that the cooperation is critical to tackling industrywide challenges, such as tightening environmental regulations, powertrain transitions, the development of autonomous driving and the emergence of new transportation models. The automakers are stitched together in a complex web of cross-shareholdings. Renault has a controlling 43 % of Nissan. Nissan, the bigger, more profitable partner, owns just 15 % of Renault and has no voting rights. Nissan also has a controlling, 34 % stake in Mitsubishi. +++ 

+++ PEUGEOT recorded a sharp decline in global sales volume in 2018, despite a 5 % increase in Europe due to being one of very few brands fully ready for the WLTP emission regulation changes. The brand’s sales dropped 17.9 % year-on-year, shifting just over 1.7 million vehicles compared to 2.1 million vehicles in 2017. Boss Jean Phillipe Imparato cited the decision to suspend its joint venture operation in Iran as the most prominent factor, as Peugeot sold 445,000 cars there in 2017. Operations were halted in June after the U.S. government withdrew from the international nuclear deal, imposing sanctions on companies operating within Iran. Alongside that significant loss, Peugeot joined other brands in recording a significant drop in demand from China. The PSA decline was measured at 32 % in the region, with Peugeot itself selling “around 150,000 less cars” than it expected to. Imparato said he is “looking for stability in China”. He talked of an overstock situation in the Chinese car market, claiming there are 800,000 cars that have left the factory and are yet to find a home. “This is huge”, said Imparato. “You will see many big discounts as brands try to shift these cars. Instead of cutting our prices, we will be modifying our commercial strategy as we did in Europe”. He also claimed that thanks to the influx of finance deals, the used car market in China will jump from 10 million vehicles to around 40 million vehicles within the next decade. Imparato also mentioned plans for a return to the North American market were “on track”, but that it will likely be “a 10-year operation”. The firm will shortly be launching there as a mobility services provider, but will be analysing the market to see when the right time is to launch standalone models. +++ 

+++ Sales of new cars in RUSSIA are expected to rise 3.6 % this year to 1.87 million, marking a slowdown from last year’s surge of 13 % to 1.80 million, according to the Association of European Businesses (AEB) lobby group. New-car sales in December rose 5.6 % to 175,240, the AEB said. The market is unlikely to keep up last year’s double-digit growth because of uncertainties stemming from this year’s VAT hike to 20 % and the threat of the U.S. imposing new sanctions on Russia, the group said. “The outlook for 2019 is not so straightforward.  Consumer tax increases and a possible tightening of US sanctions create significant risks and uncertainties for the market performance especially in the first quarter of the year”, said Jörg Schreiber, chairman of the AEB automobile manufacturers committee. Automakers warned last year that the plan to raise VAT would hit car sales, which had started to recover from 4 years of stagnation. AEB said that strong prior year sales would hamper a strong start in 2019, while it was also unclear what kind of support measures, if any, the government might pursue. The group said it saw “better chances for growth again in the second half, as fundamental market demand should be robust enough to offset uncertainty. Nearly all major brands showed significant rises in 2018, with market leader Lada increasing volume 16 %. Sales by No. 2 Kia rose 25 %. Third-placed Hyundai gained 13 %, while No. 4 Toyota was up 15 %. VW completed the top 5 with a 19 % rise. Mitsubishi saw the biggest gain with sales up 87 %. Sales at Mini rose 47 %, Jeep gained 39 % and Skoda registrations increased 31 %. Losers in 2018 included Fiat, down 51 %; Citroen down 15 %; and Audi, whose sales dropped 4 %. +++ 

+++ The long-awaited, 5th generation TOYOTA Supra has stormed into the 2019 Detroit Motor Show, with first deliveries due in the summer for Toyota’s reborn icon. Toyota claims the GR (Gazoo Racing) Supra has been conceived as “a sports car in its purest form” with “no compromise that would diminish the driving experience”. For now here in Europe all versions get a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six, developing 340 hp. Every model is rear-wheel drive and has an 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox; there is no manual version. Every version of the GR Supra sold in Europe will come with an active differential, which is operated by a dedicated ECU. The system monitors everything from steering, throttle and brake inputs to engine speed and yaw rate, for maximum grip. As was confirmed last year in a suite of revealing spy shots, the new Supra has been developed extensively at the Nürburgring in Germany. This, Toyota claims, was done to achieve “the most agile, stable and rewarding handling”. Toyota has revealed that two 4-cylinder Supra variants have been developed for the Japanese market, but has yet to confirm if they’ll come to Europe beyond the launch of the 3.0-litre car. In Japan, the Supra SZ-R and SZ both use a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, also developed by BMW and also sending power to the rear wheels through an 8-speed ZF gearbox. Japan’s basic Supra SZ develops 197 hp, making it ever so slightly less powerful than Toyota’s other sports car, the GT 86. It does boast 320 Nm of torque, however, and 0-100 km/h is claimed in 6.5 seconds. The SZ-R uses a more powerful version of the 2.0-litre engine and has 258 hp and 400 Nm on board. 0-100 km/h drops to 5.2 seconds. Measuring 4,379 mm long, 1,292 mm tall and 1,854 mm wide, the Supra is longer, lower and wider than a Toyota GT86. The Supra’s wheelbase is shorter, however, but the wider tyres and favourable stance should make it even sharper to drive. With the 3.0-litre powertrain on board, it tips the scales at 1,520 kg. The 2.0-litre variants for Japan are lighter, with the base SZ Supra weighing in at 1,410 kg. Design-wise, the production car stays almost completely true to the GR Supra Racing concept revealed at last year’s Geneva Motor Show. Of course, many of the body panels have been toned down for the new road car, and the concept’s huge rear wing has been removed completely. Inspired by the legendary (and now very collectable) 2000GT from the sixties, the Supra retains a long bonnet and double-bubble roof. The various vents and creases are all functional, I’m told, precisely calculated to achieve optimum drag and lift characteristics, as well as perfect front/rear weight distribution. The Supra has been developed with BMW alongside the latter’s new convertible Z4, and the German firm’s influence is most apparent inside. The cockpit is designed around a set of race-inspired seats, with extra side bolstering, high back support and integrated head restraints. Every car gets a set of digital dials, and the infotainment screen, iDrive-style click wheel, climate controls and gearlever look like they’ve been lifted unashamedly from the BMW parts bin. All models will come with 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, as well as a choice of bold colour options. Toyota says customers will be offered white, red, yellow and blue shades, as well as a matt-grey finish. Just 900 cars will come to Europe in the car’s first full year on sale. In addition, just 90 examples of the exclusive Supra A90 Edition will be built, finished in matt Storm Grey, with matt-black 19-inch wheels and red leather seats. +++

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