+++ The star of ALFA ROMEO ‘s booth at the upcoming 2019 Geneva auto show will be a brand-new crossover. The high-riding model will rely on familiar hardware to take the Italian company into a lucrative new segment. The yet-unnamed model will slot below the Stelvio in the Alfa Romeo range. the crossover will ride on a model-specific version of the Giorgio platform found under the aforementioned Stelvio and the Giulia. That means it will come standard with rear-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive will undoubtedly be offered. Technical specifications are up in the air. The availability of a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is a given. Alfa Romeo included a sub-Stelvio crossover in the 5-year product plan it presented in June of 2018, and launching it as soon as possible would help it reach its goal of selling 400,000 cars annually in a timely manner. If done right, the crossover could become Alfa’s best-seller. The Italian company confirmed it will bring a new model to Geneva, but it hasn’t revealed whether it will be a crossover or something else entirely. +++ 

+++ AUDI is considering cutting night shifts at its Ingolstadt plant. “We were verbally informed about the plans”, the head of the luxury carmaker’s works council Peter Mosch says, adding “at the moment there is no substantial written demand”. An Audi spokesman tells that cutting one night shift at the Ingolstadt plant was one option among others, adding that there were talks on the issue with the company’s works council but no decision had been made. +++ 

+++ BMW and DAIMLER are set to finalise arrangements for the establishment of a new joint-owned urban mobility company. Called Jurbey, the venture will be formed by the 2 car makers merging their short-term rental schemes, Car2Go and DriveNow, in an effort to compete with ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. Initially announced last March, the delayed plan received the backing of the European Commission on 7 November and is now set to be launched on 22 February. The German manufacturers will each own a 50% stake in the venture. Combined, Car2Go and DriveNow currently provide 20,000 vehicles for use across 31 major cities globally. Aside from car rental, BMW and Daimler have spoken of a desire to improve electric vehicle charging, ride-sharing, parking and communications infrastructure in urban environments, and to enable users to access all these via a single smartphone app. BMW chairman Harald Krüger said the move “will create solutions for tomorrow’s urban mobility: intelligent, seamlessly connected and available at the tap of a finger”. He added: “We believe this will improve quality of life in major cities”. The announcement comes as several key global manufacturers are beginnig to embrace collaboration as a means of streamlining manufacturing processes and speeding up development. At last month’s Detroit motor show, Ford and Volkswagen detailed plans to launch a ‘global alliance’, with the development of electric and autonomous technology a future possibility. Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche said: “Our vision is to create a major global player for seamless and intelligent connected mobility services together”. Partnerships with companies such as ParkMobile, Moovel and ReachNow will allow the new mobility company to streamline access to each of the areas of its operation. BMW and Daimler have already entered into collaborative infrastructure enhancement projects; along with Ford and the Volkswagen Group; the 2 launched the Ionity European fast-charging network in 2017. +++ 

+++ The EUROPEAN UNION said that it will “react in a swift and adequate manner” if the United States decides to move forward with tariffs targeting automobiles exported from the bloc. The announcement is a direct response to reports that the Trump administration is considering a 25 % tax on vehicles imported to the United States from Europe. The tariffs are being pushed as a matter of national security. If president Trump follows through with the proposed tariffs, the EU says it will put into place tariffs totaling $23 billion on goods being imported to the region from the U.S. That would represent a significant escalation over the $3.2 billion in tariffs slapped on American-made goods following the United State’s decision to impose additional taxes on steel and aluminum products imported from the EU last year. According to the European Commission, a 25 % tariff would increase the cost of an EU-made vehicle in the United States by €10,000 euros. German carmakers would be the hardest hit by such tariffs, with exports to the U.S. predicted to tumble by 50 %. “Look, we’re proud of our cars. We’re allowed to be”, German chancellor Angela Merkel said. “And these cars are built in the United States of America. If these cars, which are no less a threat than those built in Bavaria, are suddenly a national security threat to the U.S., then that’s a shock to us”. Munich-based BMW’s largest auto production plant is located in South Carolina. Germany’s Mercedes-Benz also has a large manufacturing footprint in the southern United States. +++ 

+++ FORD said it will close its oldest factory in Brazil and exit its heavy commercial truck business in South America, a move that could cost more than 2,700 jobs as part of a restructuring meant to end losses around the world. Ford previously said the global reorganization, to impact thousands of jobs and possible plant closures in Europe, would result in $11 billion in charges. Following that announcement, analysts and investors had expected a similar restructuring in South America. Ford Chief Executive Jim Hackett said last month that investors would not have to wait long for the South American reorganization plan. The factory slated for closure is in Sao Bernardo do Campo, an industrial suburb of Sao Paulo that has operated since 1967. It first produced a number of auto models before being switched predominantly to trucks in 2001. It makes the F-4000 and F-350 trucks, as well as the Fiesta, a sales laggard. The factory closure may mean Ford is refocusing on the core of its car business in Latin America’s largest economy, based in a much newer factory in the northeastern state of Bahia. But the job cuts in Brazil’s industrial heartland represent a psychological blow for the new administration of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, which is battling an unemployment rate above 11 %. Ford’s latest cuts come as investors watch for signs of progress on the company’s alliance with Volkswagen, which already encompasses commercial vans and pickup trucks but may soon expand into electric and self-driving cars. The 2 automakers have also pledged to work together on other projects, which could include combining capacity in regions like South America. “You can’t cost cut your way to prosperity in the long term”, said David Kudla, who heads Michigan-based Mainstay Capital Management, a firm that previously owned Ford stock. “We want to hear about the future, what you’re doing for mobility services and autonomous vehicles”. The closure is also a blow to the industrial outskirts of Sao Paulo, where Brazil’s automotive industry was born and which long drove its industrial growth. It is also where imprisoned former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva came to fame as a union leader who organized massive strikes that helped harken the end of the military dictatorship. The union in Sao Bernardo did not have an immediate comment. But Sao Bernardo Mayor Orlando Morando complained angrily that Ford gave no warning and failed to discuss the closure with the workers. “The 2,800 families directly affected and another 2,000 indirectly affected deserved a chance to react. This is an act of cowardice”, Morando’s office said in a statement. A Ford spokesman declined to provide a precise figure for job cuts but acknowledged there would be “a significant impact” and said the automaker would work with unions and other affected parties on “next steps”. Ford South America president Lyle Watters said the automaker remains “committed” to South America, a region where it is not currently profitable. Sales of Ford cars and light trucks grew by 10 % between 2017 and 2018 in Brazil, lagging a 15 % post-recession increase for the industry as a whole. In the trucks business, it ranked 4th, with sales less than half those of Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen. Ford said in October it would stop building its Focus in Argentina in May 2019 as part of efforts to end its losses in the region. Kleiton Da Silva, an employee and union representative in Ford’s surviving Bahia plant, said the carmaker was in talks to cut 650 of its workforce there, which the automaker has said totals 4,604. The No. 2 U.S. automaker expects to record pre-tax special charges of about $460 million, with most of that recorded this year, it said in the statement. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS has admitted that China will play an increasingly bigger role in Buick’s future, including for US models. Buick and GMC marketing vice president Phil Brook noted that Buick is a “big, big player in China” and presents opportunities to develop models that can be sold in both markets. “It would be difficult to get a Buick electric vehicle program like that up and running just for the US market as we sit here today”, he said. “But certainly down the track we’ve got great options because of the need in China”. Buyers in the world’s largest automotive market are particularly fond of Buick, which outsells Chevrolet by a 2-to-1 margin. The company delivers around 5 Buick vehicles in China for every 1 Buick sold in the US. +++ 

+++ Carlos GHOSN ’s new lawyer took aim at Nissan, prosecutors and courts, dismissing the charges against the ousted chairman as an internal company matter and saying Japan was out of step with international norms by keeping his client in jail. “This should have been dealt with as an internal matter”, Junichiro Hironaka, nicknamed the Razor, said at his first press briefing. Ghosn, who was arrested in November over alleged financial misconduct and remains in detention in a Tokyo jail, picked a new team last week with long-time defense attorney Hironaka as a key member to replace Motonari Otsuru, a lawyer who once ran the prosecutor’s office investigating him. Hironaka’s combative style contrasts with the low-key approach adopted by a media-shy Otsuru. Ghosn’s switch to an aggressive legal strategy came after his attempts to win bail failed and just before lawyers were due to sit down with prosecutors and judges for the first time to hash out a schedule for pre-trial discovery meetings, where prosecutors will reveal evidence and submit a list of witnesses. Hironaka said he didn’t know why Ghosn picked him, but added that Ghosn probably wanted an experienced criminal lawyer as the case moved toward trial. The 73-year-old defense attorney is reputed for winning high profile cases, including the acquittal of a senior lawmaker, Ichiro Ozawa, on financial misconduct charges. He also helped free a senior bureaucrat Atsuko Muraki who was jailed for 4 months on corruption charges fabricated by prosecutors. Yet, even with greater legal firepower the former Nissan boss faces a criminal justice system where only 3 out of every 100 defendants pleading not guilty are acquitted. Neither does Japan have a plea deal mechanism that would allow Ghosn to agree to lesser charges for a lighter sentence. “The change in lawyers means a change in style, but the legal strategy will still be the same”. I don’t think it increases Ghosn’s chance of an acquittal”, said Masashi Akita, a defense lawyer at Shin-Yu Law Office in Osaka. Ghosn has lost his perch atop an automotive alliance trio of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. Attempts to win bail, including an offer to wear a GPS ankle bracelet and hire security guards to stop him trying to tamper with evidence, failed. Ghosn stands accused of underreporting compensation spanning 8 years to the tune of $82 million. He also faces breach of trust charges that he shifted personal losses to Nissan and improperly steered $14.7 million to a Saudi Arabian businessman’s company to help him navigate the problem. Ghosn denies all the charges. “He is innocent of all the charges”, Hironaka said. In January, former attorney Otsuru outlined some of the defense arguments in a lengthy statement prepared when the former executive requested a court hearing about his detention. Ghosn took the step, rare in Japanese legal proceedings, to profess his innocence and challenge his imprisonment. That hearing could end up backfiring, according to some Japanese legal experts because it established a legal strategy before his lawyers had looked at evidence gathered by prosecutors. Critics of that approach include defense lawyer Takashi Takano, a new member of Ghosn’s legal team. “They have shown their hand. That is not something they should have be doing at that stage”, Takano, who runs his own criminal law practice, said. “It’s like playing rock-paper-scissors and the defense lawyers lost”. “It is an unusual strategy”, said professor Colin Jones, a lawyer and expert in Japan’s legal system at Doshisha University in Kyoto. “There is no plus side to a client statement, all could be used as evidence”, he added. Wrangling over witnesses and evidence during pretrial discovery could take as long as a year with a subsequent trial stretching through 2020, the legal experts said. Ghosn’s best chance for bail may come about halfway through that process when evidence tampering concerns, the reason given by the court to keep him locked up, ease, they added. Hironaka said it was difficult to predict when Ghosn will be released. Hironaka and Takano will be joined by Hiroshi Kawatsu from Kasumigaseki Sogo Law Offices to defend Ghosn. “I have been called the Razor, but it is not a nickname I particularly like. I would rather be known as gentle Hironaka”, he said. +++ 

+++ HONDA ’s decision to shut its UK assembly and engine plant after more than 30 years of production poses the question: are other Japanese automakers manufacturing in the country planning to stage their own Brexit? Honda, Toyota and Nissan were persuaded to build plants in the UK in the 1980s after then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher realized that struggling British automakers were not going to be able to sustain a viable automotive industry on their own. Thatcher pitched the UK as the ideal location from which Japanese automakers could sell build cars and export to the European Economic Community, the precursor to today’s EU. Thatcher even told Nissan there was no chance that the UK would leave because we would be too dependent on the single market for exports. After the UK quits the EU on March 29, that will no longer be true. “Japanese investors came to the UK to access the single market and that was the deal with Thatcher”, Professor David Bailey of Aston University said. “Now that deal has ripped up, they are no longer obliged to stick to that agreement”. Honda said that it will shutter its plant in Swindon near London, along with its plant in Turkey by 2021 as part of a global restructuring. CEO Takahiro Hachigo said the decision was nothing to do with Brexit and was timed to the end of the current Civic’s lifecycle. However many industry commentators have said that uncertainty around Britain’s future trading conditions with the EU will have played a role in Honda’s thinking. Next among the Japanese to make that investment decision is Toyota, which has just started building the new Corolla at its plant in Burnaston, central England. “There are big doubts about that plant if we crash out without a deal”, Bailey said, adding that Toyota could well choose another location when that model comes to an end in 2024. Toyota has already warned at that a bad Brexit deal puts Burnaston and its UK engine plant under threat. “Next time we have to decide investment it would be a big question mark for us”, Toyota executive Didier Leroy said after the vote in 2016. Toyota has an additional reason to ditch its UK plant. Starting in 2021 it will take full control of a 300,000-capacity plant in Kolin, Czech Republic, that it set up jointly with the PSA Group to make small cars. Honda Swindon is the UK’s 4th biggest plant ranked on 2018 output at 161,000 units built, with Toyota 6th at 129,000. Both now make just a single model after shifting some production from the UK to Japan. Last year Honda moved the CR-V out, citing economies of scale available at its Japanese plants for making electrified versions. This year Toyota will import the Camry hybrid, a midsize sedan that replaces the non-hybrid Avensis that ended production at Burnaston last year. Nissan, the UK’s third Japanese automaker, operates the UK’s largest plant by far at Sunderland, which last year built 442,000 cars. Nissan is committed to the UK further into the future than either Honda or Toyota with a new Juke planned for launch this year and a new Qashqai, the UK’s No. 1 car based on output, expected in 2020. In January Nissan shocked the UK government by making a U-turn on its 2016 decision to move production of its X-Trail to Sunderland, despite state financial support. Instead, the SUV will continue to be built in Japan. The same economies of scale around electrification cited by Honda are likely to be behind the decision, which Nissan blamed partly on the UK’s uncertain trading status with the EU. Exporting from Japan to Europe will become cheaper in time thanks to the recent free trade agreement Japan signed with the EU that gradually lowers tariffs on cars to zero. This is an agreement that the UK co-signed as member of the EU and hopes to replicate as it leaves. The loyalty that the Japanese felt to the UK has evaporated and replaced by anger, said Paul Nieuwenhuis, former director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff University. “The feeling among Japanese business is that they have been let down by the UK government”, he said. “Japanese business is run on trust and the British have proven to be untrustworthy”. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI is planning to launch a new small crossover in the US market. The A-segment crossover will slot below the larger Kona with more traditional styling, Hyundai global design center head SangYup Lee told. “It’s smaller and it’s distinctively different than the Kona”, he added. “So imagine Kona as a really fast profile, distinctive, iconic character to it, but this one is almost very boxy, bold, bull-doggy character”. Adding a new entry-level crossover could help Hyundai reinvigorate sales in the US. The company set an all-time SUV sales record with more than 300,000 units last year; up 24 % over 2017. The smaller mystery model is said to be on track to debut in New York and land in showrooms before the end of the year. +++ 

+++ Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has revealed its new flagship engine from the INGENIUM family, in the form of a twin-charged (that’s supercharged and turbocharged) 6-cylinder petrol engine. Set to debut locally in 2020, the new Ingenium inline-6 will be available in both 360 hp and 400 hp tunes, with torque ranging from 495 Nm to 550 Nm. “It features a unique combination of an electric supercharger to deliver immediate response supported by a twin scroll turbocharger and Continuous Variable Valve Lift, which boosts power and help the engine to breathe with maximum efficiency”, JLR said in its press release. “These performance-boosting technologies, combined with Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) technology, optimises performance, fuel economy and reduces emissions. The MHEV 48V system uses a small integrated electric motor to harvest energy lost during deceleration, and then intelligently redeploys it to assist the engine to maximise efficiency”. JLR claims the new engine is 20 % more efficient than the current V6 petrol engine, and reduces particulate emissions by up to 75 % thanks to a gasoline particulate filter. The new engine was designed and developed in-house and will be produced at the company’s $1.81 billion facility in Wolverhampton alongside the current 4-cylinder petrol and diesel Ingenium units. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) is seeking $1 billion in funding after a disastrous 4th quarter of 2018, huge-write downs on the value of its investments, and continued sales struggles in China. The Indian-owned carmaker needs to raise this money within the next 14 months to replace “maturing bonds” and fund the brand’s expensive electric vehicle development program. Rather than borrowing from the bond market, the company is looking at bank financing, leasing its assets or tapping into export credit. Speaking with investors last week, Tata Motors revealed just how tough JLR is doing it, announcing sales in China were down 35 % in the final 3 quarters of 2018. Jaguar Land Rover treasurer Ben Birgbauer outlined some of the challenges facing his company. “Market conditions presently are less favourable in general and our bonds are trading below par, reflecting our recent financial performance”, he said. “We have always said we monitor the debt market and look to issue debt when market conditions are more favourable”. Last month, the company announced plans to slash around 10 % of its workforce. Tata Motors, Jaguar Land Rover owner, says the savings from the program would be reflected in results for the first quarter of 2019. CEO Ralf Speth earlier said the production slowdown was caused by something of a perfect storm. Along with the global decline in demand for diesel, uncertainty surrounding the US and Chinese trade war has played a role in the downturn as well. “We have 5 global regions around the world and we are more or less nicely balanced in terms of volume across these markets, but depending on the level of downturn in China, the impact is most likely heavily affect the premium car market as a whole, no ifs or buts”, Speth said. +++ 

+++ Things aren’t exactly going swimmingly for NISSAN at the moment. The company’s previous CEO, Carlos Ghosn, has been indicted in Japan for financial improprieties, and Nissan’s sales have been on the decline. And the automaker’s current CEO has warned that things will get worse before they get any better. Hiroto Saikawa, Ghosn’s successor, made those comments at Nissan’s quarterly earnings conference. Saikawa and his team are facing the monumental task of altering Nissan’s course in the United States, where sales have been prioritized over profits for the last several years. Because of that shift in strategy, Saikawa expects Nissan’s United States sales to fall in the short-term as the company weens itself off fleet sales and deep discounts to move product. “Unfortunately, a temporary decline in volume is unavoidable”, Saikawa told. “It will take time to deliver results. The top management should be patient enough to wait for this”. It remains to seen, however, just how long top management will have to wait for results. Nissan’s U.S. retail sales tumbled by 6.3 % in 2018, and the company started 2019 with a January sales decline of 18 %. Moreover, Nissan’s global operating profit margins have dwindled from 6.1 % about 2 years ago to a predicted 3.9 % for the fiscal year ending March 31. Saikawa blames the U.S. for that sharp decline. “The margin of Nissan is not something we are proud of”, Saikawa conceded. “The North American operation of Nissan is the major cause of that”. Despite a need to boost profitability in the U.S., Nissan is still heavily relying on incentives to drive sales. During the October-December stretch, Nissan’s average U.S. incentive inched up 1.5 % to $4,389. In contrast, industry-wide incentives fell 3.4 % during the period to an average of $3,714. Nissan is currently working to pare down its vehicle supply, which should eventually work to reduce the company’s need to spend on U.S. incentives. +++ 

+++ Amazon said it would lead a $700 million investment in U.S. electric pickup truck startup RIVIAN , in the e-commerce giant’s biggest bet on technologies with potential to reshape the automotive sector. The deal represents a major endorsement of Rivian’s electric vehicle technology by the world’s largest online retailer. Amazon is hoping Rivian will assist it in its development of delivery vehicles that will bolster its logistics network, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing the confidential strategy. Rivian could ultimately be valued at between $3 billion and $4 billion. The Rivian deal comes as its much larger electric car manufacturing rival, Tesla, struggles to stabilize production and deliver consistent profits as it ramps up its Model 3, with pricing ultimately aimed at giving it mass market appeal. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk told investors in August that an electric pickup is “probably my personal favorite for the next product” from the company. But he has spoken only in general about a potential launch, saying that it would happen “right after” Tesla’s Model Y, which the company has targeted to start production in 2020. Rivian unveiled its electric R1T pickup and R1S SUV for the first time at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November. But the company had piqued Amazon’s interest earlier. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos personally reached out to Rivian founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe last summer to express interest in an investment, the source said. Since then Amazon has stepped up its investment in the car sector, participating in a $530 million funding round announced last week in self-driving car startup Aurora Innovation. Amazon is looking for deals that can speed packages to shoppers’ doorsteps regardless of spikes in consumer demand or shortages of delivery personnel. Last year, Mercedes said Amazon had become the biggest customer of its Sprinter vans, securing 20,000 vehicles for delivery contractors. Amazon has sought to win customers inside the car as well. Working with BMW, Ford and Toyota, Amazon has enabled its Alexa virtual assistant to be installed in new models so drivers can dictate what music they want to hear and what tasks they want it to perform, hands-free. Rivian aspires to be the first to produce a mass market electric pickup. It intends to begin selling its R1T by the end of 2020. Scaringe has described the Rivian vehicle’s platform as a skateboard that packages the drive units, battery pack, suspension system, brakes and cooling system all below wheel height to allow for more storage space and greater stability due to a lower center of gravity. He has also said the company plans to partner with outside firms to develop advanced self-driving technology, rather than try to do so on its own. Rivian’s existing financial backers include Saudi auto distributor Abdul Latif Jameel, Sumitomo of Americas and Standard Chartered Bank. Some existing shareholders participated in the funding round, Rivian said, stressing that it will remain an independent company. +++ 

+++ The regime for assessing the safety of self-driving car systems is under scrutiny after consultants discovered errors in an analysis of TESLA crashes by a US government agency, which then delayed release of the data for 2 years in an apparent attempt to divert attention from the issue. Quality Control Systems Corp (QCSC) made a deep-dive into data that purported to back up an impressive claim by NHTSA, the powerful US road safety body, and Tesla that the Autosteer system in Autopilot had reduced serious accidents by 40 %; a game-changing improvement. Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted the results as NHTSA’s findings were released in January 2017. But QCSC found that the NHTSA analysis failed to take into account all the mileage driven by the 43,781 vehicles studied. In fact NHTSA only used mileage data for 14,791 vehicles. As a result, the crash rate before Autosteer was inflated, leading to the wrong conclusion, says QCSC. “The importance of this research goes well beyond the specific issues addressed in our statistical analyses”, said QCSC. “The larger question is whether the field experience of autonomous vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems will be fairly and transparently assessed by public officials”. When QCSC, which specialises in data analysis as a business tool, approached NHTSA for access to the publically-funded research, they were refused. The log-jam took 2 years to break, only after QCSC threatened court procedings to obtain the data via a freedom of information request. The Washington-based NHTSA released a limited statement: “The agency is reviewing the report released by Quality Control Systems Corp. with interest and will provide comment as appropriate”. QCSC’s report is titled “NHTSA’s Implausible Safety Claim For Tesla’s Autosteer Driver Assistance System” and looked at data for airbag deployments of 2014 – 2016 Model S and 2016 Model X models equipped with Tesla’s Autopilot. QCSC’s analysis of the data, contained in a 24-page report, found that airbag deployments actually increased from 0.76 million to 1.21 million, a 59% rise, rather than decreased. “Before and after comparisons of the resulting crash rates are unbiased by missing data for exposure mileage because there are no missing data in this subset of the data”, said QCSC in its report. When NHTSA analysed airbag deployment and mileage travelled data supplied by Tesla, NHTSA came to the conclusion that there were 1.3 deployments per million miles before Autosteer and 0.8 million after; a 40 % reduction. NHTSA’s findings were widely reported in January 2017, partly because of the fatal accident in Florida 6 months earlier when a Model S operating with Autopilot ploughed into a truck, having failed to detect the vehicle making a turn across the car’s path. Autopilot is a Level 2 advanced cruise-control self-driving system that allows the driver to temporarily relax their grip on the steering wheel. Autosteer is the lane-keeping part of the Autopilot system, which also facilitates lane changes when the indicator is operated. Introduced in 2014, Autosteer was enhanced in 2016 with an upgrade. Significantly, it means a lane change can be executed with less oversight by the driver. Ultimately Tesla aims for automatic lane-changing manoeuvres in Level 3 or 4 autonomy. +++ 

+++ The TOYOTA Land Cruiser will have a successor by 2021. The current chassis that underpins the vehicles, called the 200-series, has been in production since 2007, and Toyota’s flagship SUV has grown long in the tooth. A source at Toyota confirmed that a 300-series Land Cruiser is being developed, and will hit the market in 2021. We may see a prototype as early as this fall, at the biennial Tokyo Motor Show, which will take place in October. Predicted to make an appearance are a new infotainment system and modern safety technologies, such lane-keeping assistance or even a patented “transparent” A-pillar. It’s not clear what will power the Land Cruiser, but the current engine will have to be replaced with something smaller and more environmentally friendly. Another hint that a new Land Cruiser is impending comes in the form of the Land Cruiser Heritage Edition. Toyota has often created special editions of its Land Cruiser when the model is nearing its expiration date, and that edition is a 2020 model. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Jetta will spawn its own sub-brand in China, according to recent reports. The firm will make affordable (but not bargain-basement) cars aimed at younger buyers. In other words, it will occupy the space Seat and Skoda both play in on the European market. Volkswagen tried to establish the Seat firm in China but the offensive didn’t go well. Expanding Seat ‘s presence on the Chinese market was one of the options executives considered, but they decided not to because it has no brand image. On the other hand, the name Jetta is well-known in China, and the car’s popularity bodes well for the rest of the range. Sina added the Jetta brand will make its debut in 2019 with three products: a sedan (like the Jetta sold in North America), and 2 SUVs. They will all wear a new, Jetta-specific logo. Some will essentially be re-badged Seat products, like the Ateca. Jetta-branded cars will be positioned below Volkswagen-branded models. Seat is out due to its image issues, but isn’t that where Skoda plays? Skoda is present in China, and it does relatively well, but it’s represented by a joint-venture named SAIC Volkswagen. The company also manufactures and sells Volkswagen models, like the Phideon, the Lavida, the Gran Santana, and the Polo, among other models. Jetta would join a separate joint-venture called FAW Volkswagen that makes Volkswagen models (including the Golf and the Jetta) plus several Audi cars. Jetta, the brand, would let FAW expand downwards without overlapping with SAIC. We could learn more about Jetta as a sub-brand in April during the 2019 Shanghai auto show. +++

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