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+++ BMW said it was the biggest U.S. automotive exporter by value for the 5th consecutive year, with exports totaling over $8.4 billion in 2018. The company said it exported 234,689 units of its X models from its Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant during 2018. “Despite the ongoing uncertainty regarding trade and tariffs, plant Spartanburg is still positively contributing to the U.S. balance of trade”, a spokesman said. BMW’s U.S. export report comes at a time when president Donald Trump has threatened to saddle imported cars and auto parts with steep tariffs of up to 25 %. Automakers, however, warn that such tariff on imported cars and parts would add thousands of dollars to vehicle costs and potentially devastate the U.S. economy as auto companies cut jobs to maintain profits. “The remarkable partnership between BMW and South Carolina continues to thrive, and this is evident by the fact that our state remains the nation’s leader in the export sales of completed passenger vehicles”, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said. +++ 

+++ Automobile production in BRAZIL rose 29.9 % in February from January, while sales slipped 0.6 %, the national automakers’ association said. Automakers in Brazil produced around 257,200 new cars and trucks last month, while sales totaled about 198,600 vehicles. Compared with a year ago, auto output rose 20.5 % and sales grew by 26.6 %. Production grew even though Ford’s plant in Sao Bernardo do Campo was shut for several days last month due to workers’ protests after the company announced it would exit its truck business in South America and close its plant in the town. Exports, which have been falling due to the economic crisis in neighboring Argentina, slumped 38.9 % compared to last year, but rose 61.8 % compared to January. Antonio Megale, Anfavea’s president, said that a tax incentive plan announced by the state of Sao Paulo in response to Ford’s announcement was positive for the industry, although he cautioned that its potentially positive impact would not come in the short term. “Anything that will reduce taxes is positive”, he told. Brazil was 1 of the world’s 5 biggest auto markets until a recent downturn and remains a major base of operations for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford. +++ 

+++ CHINA ’s automobile sales fell 13.8 % in February from the same month a year earlier, marking the 8th consecutive month of decline in the world’s largest auto market. Sales fell to 1.48 million vehicles last month, after declines of 16 % in January and 13 % in December. Sales of new energy vehicles, such as electric cars, rose 53.6 % year-on-year in February. “The trend experienced last year has continued into this year, and the economic situation has also been weak. This has dragged down consumption”, an analist told. “Consumers are also waiting for more government policies”, he said. China plans billions of dollars in tax cuts and infrastructure spending to support an economy growing at its slowest pace in almost 30 years due to softer domestic demand and a trade war with the United States. It has promised subsidies to boost rural sales of some vehicles as well as demand for new energy vehicles, after China’s auto market contracted last year for the first time in more than 2 decades. The major task for dealers in the first half of 2019 is to reduce vehicle inventories amid rising funding pressures. The sales performance for some Chinese automakers has been mixed so far. Great Wall reported 18 % growth in February compared to the same month last year, while Geely said sales fell 24 % in the same period. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES chief Mike Manley has confirmed the carmaker is “very open” to working with other manufacturers in essentially any form, as he looks for “any deal that would make Fiat stronger”. “I want to find areas where cooperation (whether it is partnerships, whether it’s joint ventures or whether it is deeper levels of equity cooperation that makes sense for us and whoever that is) will give better vehicles to our customers and a better return to our shareholders”, Manley said. When informed about Manley’s comments, Carlos Tavares, head of the PSA Group told his company would “love to discuss with people who are looking for deals”. The PSA Group owns the Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall brands, and has successfully returned Opel / Vauxhall to profit after almost 2 decades of bleeding red ink under GM’s stewardship. FCA is currently in process of spinning off its parts unit, Magneti Marelli, and merging it with Japanese rival Calsonic Kansei. Thanks to slowing demand in key global markets, especially China, and the need to invest in electric car technology and self-driving vehicle systems, automakers have been eager to partner up. Ford and Volkswagen recently announced they would share delivery van and pick-up platforms, and are currently discussing co-operation in the EV and autonomous vehicle spheres. Elsewhere BMW and Daimler have merged their mobility divisions, while BMW and Toyota are collaborating on hydrogen fuel cell technology. +++ 

+++ When the 3 leaders of the world’s top car-making alliance gather in Japan, they will be looking to secure a partnership that was built by former Nissan boss Carlos GHOSN and then possibly imperilled by his ouster. A Tokyo court rejected Ghosn’s request to attend Nissan’s board meeting, denying him a seat at the table even as the car maker looks set to bolster the alliance with France’s Renault and Mitsubishi that Ghosn drove for over 2 decades. Released on a $9 million bail last week after spending more than 100 days in a Tokyo detention center, Ghosn faces charges of under-reporting his salary at Nissan by about $82 million over nearly a decade; charges he has called “meritless”. In the wake of the scandal, Renault has started its own review of payments to Ghosn. French prosecutors have opened a preliminary inquiry into how he financed his 2016 wedding at the Chateau de Versailles, French media have reported. His dramatic arrest in November and the detention have exposed tensions between Nissan and its top shareholder Renault, muddying the outlook for the future of the alliance; the world’s largest maker of automobiles, excluding heavy trucks. “Mr. Ghosn is disappointed that the court denied his request to attend the Nissan board of directors meeting”, his spokesman said. “As an elected member of the board, Mr. Ghosn stands ready to fulfill his professional duties to the shareholders who elected him”, the statement said. “It is unfortunate that the meritless and unsubstantiated accusations against him have blocked his ideas and perspective from being deployed in service of the company he served for the past 20 years”. Some at Nissan had been unhappy with Ghosn’s push for a deeper tie-up with Renault, which was seen as possibly including a full merger. Smaller Renault owns 43 % of Nissan after rescuing the Japanese company from near-bankruptcy in 1999. Nissan holds a 15 %, non-voting stake in Renault, whose top shareholder is the French government. While Ghosn himself has cast the charges against him as a boardroom coup, there are clear signs emerging that the alliance looks set to continue. Renault confirmed it was in talks with Nissan and Mitsubishi about setting up a new alliance body to improve their collaboration. “The proposed arrangement will have no impact on the existence of the alliance agreement and the cross-shareholding structure, which will both remain in place”, Renault said. Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi plan to set up a joint board meeting structure under which Renault’s new chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, is likely to take the chair, people with direct knowledge of the matter have told. That would replace Dutch-based companies currently linking Nissan and Renault and, separately, Nissan and Mitsubishi, the people said. +++ 

+++ HONDA has made it crystal clear that it won’t sell the production version of the E Prototype in the United States. The car is too small for the American market, according to its top executives. Its platform might come here under a different car, however. “This new EV platform is homologated for North America. It does meet safety standards”, said Kohei Hitomi, the E Prototype’s project leader, in an interview. He again reminded that the final version of the E Prototype won’t come to America. “We have received a big reaction from the United States for the E Prototype, but it was not designed for that market. There are other plans for the U.S.”, he added without going into additional details. The platform was developed to underpin relatively small cars. An America-bound model underpinned by the new architecture would have to compete in the subcompact segment. I know the E Prototype’s technology will trickle down to an entire family of models, and one of them could be a production version of the Sports EV concept unveiled during the 2017 Tokyo auto show. Could this be the model Hitomi alluded to? Another, more likely option is that the platform will underpin a crossover in the vein of the HR-V. Entering this segment would make sense from a profitability and scalability point of view. Nothing is official yet, however. I expect to learn more about what Honda’s electric car offensive will bring when the final E Prototype (a name that won’t be retained) makes its debut at the end of 2019. +++

+++ INFINITI ’s forthcoming electric production cars will present a chance to reset the brand in Europe and make a “compelling statement” to help it grow, according to its design director. Nissan’s luxury arm, which was launched 30 years ago, has become an established firm in the US and Japan, but has failed to make major inroads against rivals in Europe. The firm is gearing up to electrify its range from 2021 onwards, including its first full electric cars; previewed with the near-production-ready QX Inspiration concept car showcased at the Detroit motor show in January. Design boss Karim Habib said the design changes enabled by electric cars (particularly the lack of need for a front grille and the greater interior space) present an opportunity for the brand to reinvent itself. Calling the QX Inspiration a “brand-defining step”, Habib said: “The Infiniti brand is fairly established, but we need to distil it and be clearer about who we are and what we stand for. Electric cars give us a lot of opportunity to do that: we’re able to conceive the brand as a whole, to see a whole ‘world’ of Infiniti become a statement”. The QX Inspiration is a compact crossover-style vehicle, with a number of new design features, including the Infiniti name written out in LEDs where the grille would traditionally be placed. Asked if the design changes for electric cars presented an opportunity for Infiniti to refashion itself in Europe, Habib said: “I would hope so. I think the European market will be very open to a performance, high-quality Japanese electric car. Our first electric car will be a compelling statement: it’s the chance for us to present something unique. The performance side of EVs will be very important and, since performance is part of Infiniti’s identity, we want to push it as much as possible. We also need to develop the human side of the brand in a stronger way. These cars are made for people, and they need to emanate warmth as well”. Nissan, Infiniti’s parent company, is one of the market leaders in EVs with the ultra-successful Leaf, and Habib said the firm wanted to use those ‘assets’ as the basis for its machines, but would also add extra Infiniti touches. +++ 

+++ JEEP ’s growth is set to continue at pace with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) boss (and still Jeep head) Mike Manley confirming that a new 7-seat model will be launched as well as the often-rumoured, bigger, Wagoneer model. “We’ve made some announcements for investments in our US plants, which are really important for us because that brings 2 additional products to our Jeep portfolio; segments that frankly I’ve wanted to be in for a long time”, said Manley. “One is the large SUV segment. There are relatively few competitors in there, but it could be a great segment for Jeep and we’ll bring back the Grand Wagoneer at that time. Then the second is a 3-row Jeep, which will technically play in the same segment as Grand Cherokee. Roughly 60 % of that segment is 3-row, so Grand Cherokee has really only played in 40 %. That will open up that part of the segment for us”. The new 3-row SUV will sit alongside a new Grand Cherokee model, but is unlikely to wear the iconic nameplate. “We’ll have the choice of Grand Cherokee or a different model”, said Manley. “For me, the Grand Cherokee is such an icon, so that’s why I talk about the new model as a 3-row Jeep. “It’s like if I dramatically changed what Wrangler looked like: I’d be crucified! Grand Cherokee, interestingly, has a customer base that loves it because it’s got rear-wheel drive, well-positioned stance, and dimensionally it’s perfect”. All 3 new models are expected to appear some time in 2019, after Jeep has launched its Gladiator pick-up. And with plug-in power for the Renegade and Compass models starring for Jeep at the Geneva Motor Show, expect hybrid power to feature in Wagoneer, Grand Cherokee and the new three-row model, too. +++ 

+++ KIA ’s family of electrified models is set to grow with the introduction of 2 plug-in hybrids within the Ceed family by the end of this year. The news was confirmed by Kia Chief Operating Officer Emilio Herrera. “We are looking at getting electrification into the Ceed family”, said Herrera. “In November we will start of the production, in Europe, of the plug-in hybrid Ceed Sports Wagon, and we will also have a plug-in hybrid of the crossover version we will show at Frankfurt in September”. That crossover version refers to the XCeed: a crossover based on the Ceed platform, which has not yet been revealed. In a move to enable the overall CO2 emissions to reach ever more stringent targets, further electrification of the Kia range will be vital. While Herrera wouldn’t confirm the precise details of the powertrain, it’s more than likely that the XCeed and Ceed Sports Wagon will share a similar drivetrain to that used by the current Kia Niro PHEV. That would mean a circa 55 kilometre electric-only range from its 8.9 kWh battery, and CO2 emissions somewhere in the region of 31 gram/km. Those figures are achieved by pairing a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for a combined 141 hp. The Niro sends its power to the front wheels through a dual clutch automatic gearbox. +++ 

+++ It’s safe to say LAMBORGHINI is doing great when you look at their sales numbers. Last year, the company from Sant’Agata Bolognese shipped a total of 5,750 vehicles or a whopping 51 % more than the year before. 2018 was its 8th consecutive year of growth, and 2019 is already shaping up quite nicely considering the Urus will be enjoying its first full year on sale. CEO Stefano Domenicali would like to reach 8,000 annual sales. This number is “the sweet spot for the time being”, taking into account the 3-model lineup and the markets where Lamborghini is present. Should sales continue to increase until the middle of the next decade, the Huracan, Aventador and Urus might be joined by a 4th model. Domenicali admitted work has already started on a grand tourer with a 2+2 seating arrangement, but cautioned the model has not been signed off just yet. The way things are at the time being, Lamborghini is “not strong or stable enough to invest in a 4th model”. If green-lighted for production, the new model is estimated to increase annual sales to 10,000 units or more than the 9,251 cars delivered by archrivals at Ferrari in 2018. On a related note, Domenicali reiterated Lamborghini’s plans to keep the V10 and V12 naturally aspirated for as long as possible, but with a hybrid twist to comply with more stringent emissions legislation. Talking about the Aventador, the CEO said it’s still in high demand despite being around for 8 years, with the plan to keep it on sale for another 2. +++

+++ MAZDA remains one of the few automotive manufacturers still publicly committed to the internal combustion engine, despite the trend towards electrification. With that in mind, it’s working to extract every last drop of potential from bang-suck-blow engines. The company says its next generation of SkyActiv engines will be able to extract at least an additional 30 % thermal efficiency over the just-launched SkyActiv X unit. Ichiro Hirose, the company’s managing executive officer of powertrain development, said he’s aiming for peak efficiency from internal combustion in the next generation. “If we call this SkyActiv series generation 2 and the next generation 3, and if you compare it with SkyActiv X engine that we have so far, there is a potential 30 % more improvement in thermal efficiency”, Hirose said. “We are already endeavouring technical development that will allow us to reach that goal. If you go to a textbook for engineers about engine efficiency there are only 2 factors that we have to consider for improving thermal efficiency”, he continued. “One is improving compression ratio and second is increasing the specific heat ratio, meaning that trying to combust in a lean situation as much as possible”. According to Hirose, the generation 1 SkyActiv engines improved on compression ratio, the soon-to-be-launched generation 2 (dubbed X) improved heat ratio, and the third generation will push all boundaries further as Mazda looks to “limit and suppress the heat loss that you can get, which means that if you can suppress heat loss you can increase compression ratio even further. If we take the current architecture that is available to us and try and raise the compression ratio, even more, you can see that the air-fuel mixture is going under severe compression but that leads to heat generation, and that is being lost in the combustion chamber walls with the current architecture”, he went on. “If we can limit the heat loss through the chamber walls that means that we can increase compression ratio even more which means increased efficiency”. That seems to also apply to future SkyActiv diesel engines, although they’ve actually dropped their compression ratio recently due to NOX emission requirements. Mazda expects its next generation of engines to be the peak of efficiency and, if that’s the case, likely the last major update to the internal combustion before it pushes hard into EVs. “We believe that even in 2030 the internal combustion engines will remain and that’s the basis for why we are continuing”, Hirose explained. “And I mentioned that for petrol engine we are looking into generation 3. It sounds like a stepwise development but in actual fact, it continues development and then we release it in a stepwise fashion. If we are not able to achieve ultimate level efficiency by generation 3 then we will look into generation 4, but we set ourselves the goal that we want the ultimate combustion by generation 3”. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN made a surprise announcement at the Geneva motor show, revealing plans to launch a new, bespoke grand tourer. CEO Mike Flewitt said the new car “combines competition levels of performance with continent-crossing capability”. Flewitt said of the upcoming GT that he isn’t about to design a rival to the Bentley Continental GT. He said: “It would still be a carbonfibre, mid-engined car and, without doubt, the most sporting GT on the market. The 570GT was a clear derivative of the 570S, and I loved it, but to be honest the differences were quite small. So we will do another car in that place but more differentiated, with a more dedicated focus on the characteristics you want in a GT and a more distinct bodystyle”. When asked whether a GT would create its own model line alongside the existing Super Series and Sport Series lines, Flewitt replied: “That would be an opportunity for us. I would like to pitch it uniquely. I’ve thought about it a lot, so watch this space”. Flewitt’s thoughts on the 2+2 are less clearly defined and he confirmed it’s not part of the existing Track 25 plan to deliver 18 new models by 2025. But he said: “I wouldn’t rule out one day doing at least a 2+2. It’s doable, so we’ll look at it”. The biggest headache is likely to be packaging rear seats and the engine all within the wheelbase. “The car can’t have an enormous wheelbase. It has to stay agile”, said Flewitt. However, he is open about future plans to downsize McLaren’s internal combustion engines as electrification plays an ever more important role. A move to solid-state batteries (“2023 if I’m being optimistic, 2025 being realistic”) is described by Flewitt as “a game changer” that will likely make the packaging of such a car dramatically easier. McLaren’s first series-production hybrid (after the limited-run P1 and Speedtail) will be launched in 2021, with the electrics working with the engine to power the rear axle. Flewitt said he has no choice but to adopt hybrids, because global emissions legislation means a company with no small cars to help reduce the average fleet CO2 would simply be banned from sale in large parts of the world without it. “That said, while I don’t like the 40 kg weight gain, it does allow us more power, better response and more linear performance response”, he said. “What’s more, you will be staggered by the CO2 output. I can’t give you numbers, but think of a supercar with the same CO2 as a Ford Fiesta”. In time, McLaren will also introduce an electrically driven front axle at a likely weight penalty of 120 kg, but this will massively improve traction and therefore performance, especially in the wet, as well as provide a huge boost in energy regeneration, meaning it should be able to maintain peak performance even when electricity stored while plugged in has been used. Flewitt has also spoken of the LT version of the 720S, which he said will come to market at the end of 2020. He confirmed the power gain will be “at least” as much as that which turned the 570S into the 600LT, so expect a minimum of 750 hp. However, he said his engineers are struggling to lose the 100 kg now expected of LT models “because we made the 720S as light as we could in the first place”. He reckoned they’ll get close to the 3-figure weight drop but perhaps not all the way. McLaren is also battling to find an aesthetically pleasing way to incorporate the 600LT’s trademark top-exit exhausts with the active rear aerodynamics the car will use (“I’ve seen 3 proposals so far and rejected them all”). Nor has he decided whether to specify a production limit as he did with the 675LT. “Part of me wants to keep it open as Porsche does with its GT models”, Flewitt said, “but we may limit it to something like 750 of each (Coupé and Spider)”. +++ 

+++ A new trademark filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office suggests MERCEDES-AMG could be considering a revival of one of its most iconic supercars. Earlier this month, Mercedes filed paperwork to protect the SLR name for use on “land vehicles and structural parts thereof”. For those that need a quicker refresher, Mercedes last used the SLR name on a front-engined supercar that was co-developed with McLaren and sold from 2003-2010. Of course it’s difficult to make any direct conclusions from Mercedes’ trademark filing. Automakers routinely protect past nameplates even if they have no plans to resurrect them. And in this particular case, Mercedes’ claim to the SLR name was set to expire next year. But there is some speculation that Mercedes will use the SLR for its AMG GT successor. The AMG GT is entering its fourth model year, which means its like on the back nine in terms of its lifecycle. The SLR name is still well known and would make for a logical GT replacement. +++ 

+++ PEUGEOT has confirmed that the days of its combustion engined performance cars are coming to an end. Peugeot Sport boss Bruno Famin stated that from now on, “there will be no more pure combustion engined performance cars”. This has significant bearing on the future of the hot hatch market, with confirmation that both the 208 GTI and 308 GTI will not be replaced; at least in their current petrol-powered form. Instead, Peugeot Sport will develop a range of fast plug-in hybrids and, though still in the feasibility study stage, full-EV variants, too. “This new line of electrified performance vehicles can be also pure EV, but it’s not yet finalised”, said Famin, who confirmed that Peugeot Sport is considering a hot version of the battery-powered e-208. “We are working on a project on our new EV. We are still working on technical feasibility and cost profitability”. Peugeot Sport is looking to use a former disadvantage against its rivals; the fact that the largest combustion engine at its disposal within the PSA group measured a modest 1.6 litres in capacity. The firm sees its small petrol engine as an opportunity to snatch a lead when it comes to selling low-emission performance cars. The 1.6-litre turbo, which in its most powerful iteration produces 263 hp in the 308 GTI, will form a part of a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It will feature (albeit in a less powerful form) in the production version of the 508 PSE concept shown in Geneva. While the car could handle the engine in its highest state of tune, Famin explains that enabling the car to drop below 49 g/km of CO2 emissions had a bearing on the decision. As Bruno Famin explains, “Electrification will bring this power which is missing. Even if we stuck the 263 engine in the 508, it’s not a big engine, but thanks to the hybridisation, we are going to reach a good level of performance”. Of course, all of the car’s extra batteries add weight, which means that, should it go into production, an all-electric 208 GTi will lack the handling delicacy of its predecessor. “We are talking about ‘new performance’ rather than ‘pure performance’ like the 208 GTi or 205 GTi”, says Famin, who goes on to explain that, in general, buyers today want the speed without making any concessions to comfort or refinement. “We are not chasing the weight just now; it is not a priority. There’s not much benefit to saving 20-30 kilos when the weight of the battery adds much more”. +++ 

+++ POLESTAR unveiled the 2, its second model, during the 2019 Geneva auto show. The company has started working on its third model, which will be called 3, and it shed a little bit of insight into what we can expect from it. “We’ve produced the 2 bookends. You’ve already got the top end and the bottom end, and all of the Polestar models that we launch thereafter will be positioned in between those 2. The one that comes after the Polestar 2 is the Polestar 3. It’s a coupe-style SUV, and we will release it in the back end of 2021”, affirmed Jonathan Goodman, Polestar’s chief operating officer. He added that, unlike the plug-in hybrid 1, the 2 and the 3 will come exclusively with battery-powered drivetrains. The company was born to make electric cars, and the 1 will be its only gasoline-powered model. The executive didn’t reveal which segment the 3 will compete in, but we wouldn’t be surprised to learn it’s built on the same modular, Volvo-derived platform as the next generation XC90. Goodman’s comments confirm Polestar will not go below the 2, a model which will start between €39,900 and €59,900 in its cheapest configuration. In other words, don’t expect an electric alternative to the Mini Hatch S E or Honda e-Prototype. +++ 

+++ It was back in 2011 when PORSCHE toyed around with the idea of a fully electric Boxster by introducing a prototype that lacked an internal combustion engine. Aptly called the Boxster E, the zero-emissions, all-wheel-drive sports car had dual electric motors each developing 122 hp and an instant torque of 300 Nm for a combined output of 245 hp and 530 Nm. The electric Boxster was 185 kilograms heavier than the conventionally powered convertible and needed 5.5 seconds to reach 100 km/h from a standstill. An electronic top speed limiter kicked in at 200 km/h to protect the integrity of the battery. Speaking of which, the lithium-ion, liquid-cooled pack with a capacity of 29 kWh sat underneath the cargo area at the back and had enough juice for 170 kilometres. Porsche also engineered 2 prototypes with a rear-wheel-drive layout without the front-mounted electric motor, so half the power of the dual-motor Boxster E. The 2 tail-happy prototypes completed the sprint in 9.8 seconds and maxed out at a limited 145 km/h. Far from delivering jaw-dropping specs, the Boxster E was a shy attempt towards electrification. Thankfully, EV technology has greatly evolved since 2011 and the Taycan coming later this year will demonstrate once and for all that electric vehicles don’t necessarily have to be boring. Porsche is confident that EVs are the way to go, with a Taycan Cross Turismo rugged estate and a future Macan already confirmed to come without an internal combustion engine. As for the Boxster, it too might lose its petrol-fed engines in the future. Porsche’s boss Oliver Blume told that thanks to its mid-engined nature, the convertible is suitable to receive the EV treatment. However, it all comes down to whether there would be enough demand to justify the efforts required to put an electric Boxster on sale. For this reason, the Stuttgart-based marque hasn’t made up its mind whether its entry-level sports car will go down the electric route in the foreseeable future, but says a decision will be made later this year. If green-lighted for production, the electric Boxster will ride on a dedicated EV platform rather than on a modified version of the current architecture. Porsche argues the body of a conventionally powered model is not suitable for an electric car, which has to be designed from the ground up specifically for a sports car equipped with electric motors. Blume reconfirmed Porsche’s plan to make an all-electric Macan, adding that a decision regarding the model’s name has not been taken. He also revealed the eco-friendly crossover (due at the beginning of the next decade) will look substantially different than the normal Macan, which will peacefully co-exist with its EV cousin for an unspecified amount of time. +++ 

+++ TESLA is in discussions with Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) for ordering rechargeable batteries to power its Model 3. CATL has been in talks with Tesla officials about the required specifications for the batteries. In January, Tesla has signed a preliminary agreement with China’s Tianjin Lishen to supply batteries for its new Shanghai car factory. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED STATES , the adoption of new technology is usually a slow process, and the electric vehicle is no exception. But if the Trump administration gets its way, EV sales could come to a screeching halt. The Trump White House issued a budget proposal for 2020 that includes the elimination of federal tax credits for electric vehicle buyers. Currently, EV buyers are eligible for up to $7,500 in tax credits. The Trump administration says slashing the incentive program will save the federal government $2.5 billion over the next decade. Data for the most recent year isn’t available, but 57,000 EV buyer claimed $375 million worth of tax credits in 2016. The Trump budget proposal also eliminates subsidies for renewable energy sources. “As a matter of our policy, we want to end all of those subsidies”, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told. “And by the way, other subsidies that were imposed during the Obama administration, we are ending, whether it’s for renewables and so forth”. Automakers are expected to disapprove of the budget proposal. In fact, automakers have been pressuring Congress to expand the EV tax credit program. Under current law, the first 200,000 electric vehicles sold by an automaker are eligible for a $7,500 tax credit. Once that milestone is hit, the federal tax credit falls to $3,750 for a period of 6-months. The rebate then falls to $1,875 for another 6-months before falling off entirely. To date, only Tesla and General Motors have hit the 200,000 unit threshold. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN said it will launch almost 70 new electric models by 2028, accelerating its rollout of zero-emission cars as earnings revealed the operating margin at its core brand had taken a hit from new emissions tests. The profit margin at its core VW brand slipped to 3.8 % last year, down from 4.2 %, as higher investments into electric cars and challenges getting combustion-engined vehicles certified ate into profits, VW said. Volkswagen released full earnings after pre-releasing earnings in February, when it said its 2018 group operating profit came in at €13.92 billion; 0.7 % higher than the prior year and below €14.53 billion forecasted in a poll. The carmaker’s Audi and Porsche brands made up the lion’s share of VW Group’s operating profit. Before special items, Audi’s operating profit accounted for €4.7 billion and Porsche’s €4.1 billion. Its VW brand delivered €3.2 billion in operating profit before special items, the carmaker said. As a result of the electric cars model ramp up, Volkswagen expects to build 22 million cars on its electric vehicles platforms PPE and MEB by 2028, up from the carmaker’s previous estimate of 15 million cars. Volkswagen stuck to its outlook, reiterating that it expects revenues to grow up to 5 %, and to deliver an operating return on sales at group level of between 6.5 % and 7.5 % in 2019. +++

+++ Alphabet’s self-driving car division, WAYMO , has been seeking financing from outside investors such as European automakers Volkswagen. Aside from Volkswagen, other potential investors could include automakers that now make cars for Waymo, such as Chrysler and Jaguar. Volkswagen and Ford have also been in discussions over how much the German automaker will invest in the No. 2 U.S. automaker’s self-driving vehicle unit. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen’s effort to get its fleet of cars certified according to the new WLTP emissions standard have cost the carmaker up to €3.6 billion in 2018. The estimate came to light after VW’s works council boss Bernd Osterloh demanded that the carmaker take action to hold managers to account. “It cannot be that billions are wasted and this has no consequences”, Osterloh told. +++

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