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+++ ASTON MARTIN and James Bond have a long history together and it appears that connection will continue in the 25th Bond film tentatively known as Shatterhand. Little is known about the upcoming movie, but it will feature a special Aston Martin. However, it’s won’t be a one-off model like the DB10 which was created for Spectre. Instead, director Cary Joji Fukunaga (a “total tree-hugger”) is working directly with Aston Martin to get one of their electric cars ready for its big close-up. The limited edition Rapide E which is slated to be delivered to customers in the 4th quarter of this year. That could be a bit of an issue as Shatterhand reportedly begins filming next month. Aston Martin will presumably have to rush to get a car ready in time, but it appears the director has big plans for the model. The car will be at the “center of an incredible action sequence” and come equipped with a number of “high-tech gadgets”. The Rapide E will become Aston Martin’s first electric vehicle and it will have a 65 kWh lithium/ion battery park. It will power 2 electric motors that develop a combined output in excess of 610 hp and 950 Nm. The company believes this setup will enable the car to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4 seconds, before hitting a top speed of approximately 250 km/h. Production will be limited to 155 units and Aston Martin expects the Rapide E will be able to travel more than 320 km on a single charge under WLTP. +++ 

+++ The new CADILLAC XT6 unveiled during the 2019 Detroit auto show will inaugurate a torque-based naming system that will later spread to most other members of the company’s line-up. A majority of future Cadillac models will wear a 3-digit nameplate that corresponds to the their torque rating in newton meters. The number will be rounded up to the nearest 50. For example, the XT6’s 3.6-liter V6 makes 367 Nm. The crossover will consequently receive a 400 emblem. The new naming system will display “the balance between fuel economy and performance”, Carlisle told. Every Cadillac will receive a 3-digit emblem (rather than one that states the engine’s displacement) for the 2020 model year, with the exception of V-badged models. There’s no word yet on how Cadillac will badge its high-performance models. Cadillac follows a path blazed by Audi and Jaguar. Audi bases its 2-digit naming system on horsepower. Jaguar uses a letter to denote the powertrain type (petrol, diesel, or electric) and three digits that refer to the horsepower. +++

+++ Among the many important reveals and announcements at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, finding myself sitting in front of Mercedes’ research and development boss (and soon-to-be CEO) Ola Källenius and his BMW R&D counterpart Klaus Fröhlich was a real pinch-yourself moment. Here were 2 giants of the industry, working for rival firms, talking about COOPERATING on future technologies. Yes, working together: BMW and Mercedes. The 2 companies will be developing autonomous vehicle technology, combining expertise, sharing costs and, according to Källenius, “bringing more power, speed and quality to what we’re trying to develop”. “Some of the new technologies in avenues like this are hugely exciting and will bring huge benefits to our customers we couldn’t dream about 10 years ago”, he said. Car companies have been developing complicated technologies in parallel for years, though. It’s often puzzled me why every major brand produces its own versions of same-sized, same-power output engines, for example. It wouldn’t happen in the tech world. So why now? “We’re in a transformational era of the automotive industry; you could say a disruptive era of the auto industry”, Källenius told me. “So as we go through this transformational era of very high investment (and of course you know what’s going on with electrification and reducing CO2, and many other areas) if you find the right partner or in this case the right partners, you can share investment”. In addition to their technical collaboration, Mercedes and BMW will be working together to provide sustainable urban mobility services. “We have to invent new fields of revenue besides the classic automotive business to sell or lease cars”, explained Fröhlich. However, it was his stark warning about the future of the car industry that reveals just how much things are going to have to change. “Partnering will be essential to survive”, he said. It’s always made sense, but rarely happened in the past. A change in mindset at some car makers is desperately needed. +++ 

+++ For years, there have been lots of ELECTRIC cars proudly rolled out at auto shows but few on the streets or at dealers. That could be about to change. The electric cars under the lights at the Geneva International Motor Show promise to be the leading edge of more affordable, longer-range vehicles that start to move battery cars out of their niche, as a product for environmentalists willing to put up with limited range and wealthy enthusiasts of new technology willing to pay for buzz and the robust but silent acceleration the cars offer. Several broad underlying trends are converging to increase the likelihood that larger numbers of battery cars will be on the roads in the next several years. Prices are falling for batteries, consumers are turning away from diesel engines after Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, and governments in Europe and China are enforcing tougher emissions rules. As more electric cars roll off assembly lines, the trick will be getting more people to buy them. A key factor will be price: of the battery to the manufacturer, and consequently of the car to the customer. Volvo Car Group’s Polestar 2 and Peugeot’s new e-208 are electric offerings aimed at bringing battery-powered cars within reach of more people. The Polestar 2 launch version, expected in 2020, starts at €59,000. A less expensive model (€39,000) is envisioned after the first year. Polestar says the model is aimed at the same potential customers as the Model 3 from California carmaker Tesla. Tesla said last week it will close many of its stores and move to online sales only so it can cut costs and reach its goal of selling the Model 3 for $35,000. Before the announcement the lowest price was $42,900. Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath says the takeoff for e-cars “is something that’s pretty close”. “You need a decent offer of a premium electric car that makes it accessible”, he said. “There are a lot of brands pitching into the region above €80,000, so the offer there is getting broader, but below, in the area between €40,000 and €60,000, it’s still relatively limited and I think Polestar coming in there will help accelerate things”. And then there’s Volkswagen. The world’s largest car maker, which sold 10.83 million cars last year across 12 brands including Audi and Porsche, is refitting its plant in Zwickau, Germany, to produce electric vehicles, the first of eight battery vehicle plants worldwide. Zwickau is to produce 100,000 ID model vehicles next year on what the company says will be a carbon-neutral basis, boosting Volkswagen’s output of electric earlier models to 150,000. Overall, the division aims to sell a million electric cars a year, or about a fifth of the Volkswagen brand’s sales, by 2025. “We want to bring electrification to a breakthrough”, chief operating officer Ralf Brandstaetter told. He said the company can do that through efficient, large-scale production. The ID compact heads into production in November and should go on sale in spring 2020, with a base model available for under €30,000 euros. The company is spending €11 billion euros on new technology through 2023, the bulk of that on developing electric cars. “This is Volkswagen’s typical DNA”, Brandstaetter said. “Making cars for millions, not e-mobility for millionaires”. According to Mark C. Newman, managing director and senior analyst at research firm Bernstein, falling battery prices are bringing the day closer when electric cars become as cheap as gasoline and diesel models. The estimate for 2018 battery pack prices is below $130 per kilowatt hour for the most efficient manufacturers. That is down from $1,000 per kilowatt hour in 2010, and closing in on the $120 per kwh level that the International Energy Agency estimates will make a compact battery car cheaper to own and operate than its internal combustion cousins at Europe’s high gasoline prices. Bernstein foresees cost parity by 2022-23 and estimates that global market share of battery and hybrid cars will rise to between 9.6 % and 17.7 % by 2025. Last year it was 2.1 %. Regulation is playing a key role. European carmakers will need a growing share of zero local emission vehicles to meeting European Union requirements for lower emissions of carbon dioxide by 2021, and even lower emissions thresholds in 2025 and 2030. If they don’t, they could pay thousands of euros in fines per vehicle. China is requiring carmakers to increase the share of alternative energy vehicles through a points system that gives more credit to low-emission, longer-range electric vehicles. Things may change more slowly in the United States, where the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is moving to ease higher mileage requirements from the Obama administration. Still, California is pushing for more battery-powered vehicles and hybrids, which use both batteries and internal combustion engines. It says 8 % of new car sales could be electrics, hybrids or other low emission vehicles by 2025. An example of how regulation can promote electrics is Norway, where a raft of incentives has pushed the market share of plug-in vehicles to 39 % last year. By contrast, China was at 4 %, Germany at 1.8 % and the U.S. at 2.1 %. Gil Tal, director of the Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California-Davis, says “you will see larger numbers 3 years from now”, largely driven by subsidies and incentives at the outset. “There’s a huge gap between the number of electric cars you see at an auto show and how many cars the dealer will offer you”, he said. “It’s kind of hard to ask the market for huge demand when there is no supply. You need to stock the shelves first”. +++ 

+++ It looks like the new Chevrolet Corvette isn’t the only model suffering from technical setbacks. Bugs have pushed Volkswagen to delay the introduction of the next GOLF . Volkswagen told that there are some technical issues that still need to be sorted out. However, the company denied the problems were responsible for their decision not to introduce the Golf at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Instead, Volkswagen’s sales and marketing boss said the automaker decided to delay the introduction of the Golf to avoid launching the model right before Christmas. As Jürgen Stackmann explained, “It doesn’t have anything to do with production. It’s a sales decision since you don’t try to put cars under the Christmas tree when no one is paying attention”. In essence, Volkswagen is afraid that a pre-Christmas launch would result in disappointing sales as many consumers will be focused on buying presents rather than buying cars. While the delay won’t appease fans, the Golf will now be introduced sometime after the Frankfurt Motor Show. Stackmann suggested the change will be beneficial as the Golf won’t have to compete for attention with all the other vehicles making their debut at the show. To help fill the Frankfurt gap, Volkswagen is reporting moving up the introduction of the ID Neo. That particular model was originally slated to be unveiled a few weeks after the show. The unveiling of the Golf is still months away, but we have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Spy photographers have already caught lightly camouflaged prototypes and they show the 2020 Golf will have an evolutionary design which is instantly recognizable. Among the biggest styling changes are new headlights, a more pronounced shoulder line and curvier bodywork. The model is expected to ride on the MQB Evo platform and weigh up to 45 kg less than its predecessor. We can also expect an assortment of 3 and 4 cylinder engines as well as hybrid technology. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER will recall more than 44,000 cars after regulators found that they may emit “excessive” levels of CO2 emission. The recall will apply to 10 Jaguar and Land Rover models fitted with either a 2.0-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel engine, and which emit more CO2 than their initial certification. It affects certain versions of the Jaguar E-Pace, F-Pace, F-Type, XE and XF, and the Land Rover Discovery, Discovery Sport, Range Sport Sport, Evoque and Velar. The vehicles were made between 2016 and 2019, and Jaguar Land Rover is contacting owners whose cars are affected. The issue was discovered by the UK Vehicle Certification Agency, which informed Jaguar Land Rover. In turn, the car maker reported the issued to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which handles recalls, and an alert was issued via the European Commission’s rapid alert system. The EU recall note says that the vehicles affected “may emit excessive levels of CO2 and may not conform with the certified condition”. In a statement, Jaguar Land Rover said: “Affected vehicles are being rectified to ensure the correct CO2 performance is dependably achieved. The modifications made to affected vehicles will be made free of charge and every effort will be made to minimise inconvenience to the customer during the short time required for the work to be carried out”. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-AMG will develop a plug-in hybrid version of every model in its line-up in the future, featuring a performance-tuned version of Mercedes-Benz’s EQ Power system. The move is part of a major push of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology being undertaken by Mercedes as a key element of its €10 billion electrification programme to dramatically reduce fleet CO2 emissions. The first Mercedes-AMG PHEVs are expected in 2020. Mercedes-AMG currently offers a number of mild-hybrid models, including the CLS 53 and E53. These feature the firm’s EQ Boost-branded 48V starter/generator, which can deliver an additional 23 hp and 250 Nm. However, the need to meet increasingly tight EU fleet emissions targets means that these are likely to be an intermediary step. “All the AMG vehicles will be available in the future with plug-in hybrids as an option”, said Mercedes’ head of external affairs for emissions, Frank Overmeyer. “Mild hybrid is not the strategy of AMG, because the emissions savings are too small”. Mercedes currently offers PHEV variants of the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class under the EQ Power badge, with GLC and GLE versions coming soon. The firm will launch 20 PHEV variants by the end of 2020, with an A-Class using a new plug-in powertrain developed specifically for compact cars due imminently. The models all feature the firm’s third-generation PHEV system. This uses an electric motor that produces 122 hp and 430 Nm and offers around 50 kilometres of electric-only range. Mercedes is working to extend that range with the next S-Class, due in 2020, which is expected to use a system that offers 100 kilometres of zero-emission power. The Mercedes-AMG models are likely to use a version of that system but it will be branded EQ Power+ (matching the team’s Formula 1 car) and tuned for extra performance at the expense of some range. “The battery itself and the application, including the electric motor, will be the same, and you can have a significant boost in performance that will reduce the range, but the experience will be better”, said Overmeyer. “Same battery, same drivetrain, different application. In an SUV, it might offer 100 km. It might only be 60 km or 70 km in an AMG”. Although the need to reduce average fleet emissions is pushing manufacturers towards electric and other highly efficient tech, Overmeyer said high-performance AMG models will remain a key part of the Mercedes line-up. “They are the technical icons of our brand”, he said. “We should also never forget that the new world, these electric vehicles, need to be funded, and it’s being funded by our existing high-profit vehicles”. +++ 

+++ NISSAN announced that company Senior Vice President José Luis Valls will become the new chairman of the automaker’s U.S. operation, replacing Denis Le Vot. Le Vot himself took over as chairman in January of 2018 little more than a year ago. The move doesn’t come as a surprise given Nissan’s performance in the U.S. market through 2018 and the early months of this year. An already-weak 2018 is being undercut this year by a further drop of more than 11 % through February. Under Le Vot (and at the direction of Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa), Nissan has backed away from heavy incentive spending, hoping to increase per-unit margins rather than relying on volume alone. It was perfectly reasonable to expect sales numbers to drop as a result, but it’s unlikely that Nissan is happy with the severity of the decline in what is becoming an increasingly challenging market. The news also comes on the heels of an announcement by Nissan that its luxury subsidiary Infiniti will undergo a restructuring which will result in slower-selling models being discontinued and an end to operations completely in Europe, where the brand’s sales have plummeted in recent years. Infiniti was only just introduced to Europe in 2008 and sales there peaked in 2015. The past year has also seen some serious executive shake-ups at Nissan. Former CEO Carlos Ghosn was ousted from the Renault-Nissan alliance entirely in the wake of a financial scandal which has since taken on the air of a coup as Ghosn has accused Nissan executives of arranging his arrest and subsequent dismissal as a plot to keep him from merging the two companies completely. Le Vot will take over the role of senior vice president for partner Renault’s light commercial vehicle unit, which means a return to France. A replacement for Valls (who also served as the leader for Nissan’s American marketing and sales operations) has not yet been announced. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has overhauled its executive committee as it maps out a future without longtime leader Carlos Ghosn. The change will sideline Mouna Sepehri, a senior executive close to Ghosn, while expanding the number of board members to 12, with 7 new appointees. Sepehri will lose her place on the board. Also leaving the board are Bruno Ancelin, head of product planning, who is retiring, and Jean-Christophe Kugler, head of Europe, who is leaving Renault. Sepehri was among a group of Ghosn loyalists who explored legal ways to pay him undisclosed income via the Dutch Renault-Nissan BV venture. She had herself received extra pay from the subsidiary. Sepehri will move to an advisory position, ending her oversight of corporate governance, communications, legal and public affairs. Kugler, a 35-year Renault veteran, will not be replaced as head of the automaker’s European business, according to reports. He was once seen as a successor to Ghosn and has clashed with new CEO Thierry Bolloré. The shakeup underscores the unwinding of a power structure built up during almost 2 decades by Ghosn, who is on bail in Japan awaiting trial on accusations of falsifying financial records and breach of trust at alliance partner Nissan. The new board members are: 1) Ali Kassai, who is promoted to head of product planning and programs to succeed Ancelin. Kassei is currently senior vice president, product planning and has worked at Renault since 1990 in research, engineering and management positions. 2) Laurens van den Acker, head of design. Van den Acker joined Renault in 2009 after working at Audi, Ford and Mazda. 3) Veronique Sarlat-Depotte, alliance head of purchasing. She joined Renault in 1989 and moved to Nissan in 2003, where she was executive assistant to Ghosn, CEO at the time. In 2009 she moved to management of the alliance’s combined purchasing organization, and became head of alliance purchasing in 2016, a role that now also covers Mitsubishi. 4) Philippe Guerin-Boutaud, head of quality and customer satisfaction. Guerin-Boutaud returned to Renault 2 years ago after a stint with Nissan as program director for small and compact models, and kei cars. He later directed Nissan’s light-commercial vehicles business unit. He joined Renault in 1989. 5) Francois Renard, head of global marketing. He joined Renault last November after holding management positions at Unilever and Kate Somerville, a cosmetics brand. 6) Francois Roger, head of human resources. Roger worked in management at the executive search firm Korn Ferry, the cleaning products company SC Johnson, Novartis, General Electric Healthcare and BIC before joining Renault in June 2018. 7) Frederic Vincent, chairman of Renault Digital and head of group information systems. Vincent began his career at Bouygues Telecom and worked in multimedia-focused positions at TF1 and Canal Plus. He joined Renault in 2016 as chief information officer. Other executives who have left the board since last spring include: Marie-Francoise Damesin (former head of human resources, who left her position last August. An internal investigation in the wake of Ghosn’s arrest has reportedly found large monthly payments to Damesin. in exchange for a noncompete agreement. Her exit package was said to be under review) and Thierry Koskas (former head of sales and marketing, who left the automaker). Ghosn resigned as Renault chairman and CEO in January while he was in detention in Japan awaiting his trial, which could be months away. He was replaced as chairman by former Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard. Bolloré, Ghosn’s former deputy, was promoted to CEO at the same time, creating a dual leadership. Ghosn had already been stripped off his leadership roles at Nissan and Mitsubishi following his arrest in Tokyo in November. Renault and Nissan announced a new 4-member Alliance Operating Board to oversee all operations at the partnership. +++ 

+++ TESLA went from “production hell” to “delivery logistics hell”, but it appears the company is doing something about the latter. According to a lengthy Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Tesla is set to give California’s Central Valley Auto Transport up to 49,967 shares of common stock in exchange for the “acquisition of certain car-hauling trucks and trailers”. The filing doesn’t say how many car haulers the company is looking to purchase, but the publication noted the stock had a value of $13.8 million. Central Valley Auto Transport’s website says they have a “diversified fleet of 100 trucks and 1-9 car carriers. The company also noted all their trucks are equipped with GPS tracking systems which enable them to be monitored and “dispatched efficiently”. It’s believed the trucks and car haulers will be used to help alleviate Tesla’s highly publicized delivery problems. The Shorty Air Force, which consists of people shorting Tesla stock, has documented thousands of Tesla vehicles waiting to be delivered and customers have been pretty vocal about repeated delivery delays. While Tesla appears to be tackling the issue, the company admitted “there remains room for more improvement” in regards to their delivery and logistics systems. As part of Tesla’s Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2018 Update, the automaker said “We have purchased and are continuing to purchase our own car-hauling truck capacity for vehicle shipments”. Tesla said this gives them “far more control” over deliveries while also “lowering costs and improving customer satisfaction”. +++ 

+++ A group of investors led by SoftBank Group and TOYOTA is in talks to invest $1 billion or more into Uber Technologies’ self-driving vehicle unit, which would value the unit at $5 billion to $10 billion, said 2 people familiar with the talks. The investment would provide a cash injection for Uber’s self-driving program that is costing the money-losing startup hundreds of millions of dollars without generating revenue. It could also help underscore Uber’s value as the ride-hailing firm prepares for a stock market debut in which its value could top $100 billion. Uber and SoftBank declined to comment. A Toyota spokesman said the automaker “constantly reviews and considers various options for investment” but does not have anything to announce. A deal could be reached next month. Japan’s largest automaker Toyota injected $500 million into Uber last year to work on self-driving cars, where both companies are seen as lagging rivals like Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo. Uber, which last year lost about $3.3 billion, is betting on a transition to self-driving cars to eliminate the need to pay drivers. The nascent technology came under greater scrutiny last year after one of Uber’s self-driving cars struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona last year. Prosecutors last week declined to pursue criminal charges. The challenge of developing the technology is leading to previously unlikely alliances, with SoftBank and Toyota partnering up in Japan. SoftBank has invested $2.25 billion in General Motors’ self-driving unit Cruise, which has also received funds from Honda. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group will develop a family of entry-level electric models based on its forthcoming sub-€30,000 ID.3 ‘people’s car’. During a financial presentation recently, the Group detailed plans for an ‘MEB entry family’ among the initial wave of electric vehicles planned to be introduced under the sub-brand before the end of 2025. The family was listed alongside a number of models already confirmed for production by Volkswagen, including the ID.3 that’s due to be revealed later this year and the ID Buzz MPV, as well as upcoming offerings from sister companies, Audi, Porsche and Skoda. Volkswagen Group chairman Herbert Diess said the MEB platform would spawn “small city cars” as part of its expanded electrification plan. Official confirmation of the so-called MEB entry family follows the confirmation of an ID model, known to insiders as the EV people’s car, for around €26,000, as previously reported by Autointernationaal.nl . Volkswagen’s head of strategy, Michael Jost, told the company is aiming to build the cheapest in a range of new ID vehicles and confirmed it was planned to be built in Germany. The company expects each model to be constructed in less than 10 hours. “Electric cars can be built faster than ICE models, at much less man hours”, Jost said. “But you have greater material costs. That means labour costs are not such a critical component in the overall production cost as they are today”. Jost indicated the new entry-level model would go on sale in 2023 with a number of different battery options, the smallest of which would provide a range of  around 200 kilometres. Although Volkswagen is holding back on just what form the new cheap ID model will take, insiders suggest it will be a small crossover-style vehicle in the mould of the recently introduced T-Cross. The reference to the MEB entry family suggests that fellow Volkswagen Group brands Seat and Skoda are likely to offer their own takes on the new model. +++

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