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+++ The BMW Group has warned that it expects profits to fall this year due to ‘challenging’ business conditions, but it has also said that it’s on course to help shape ‘premium mobility’ in the areas of electrification and autonomy. The German firm recorded a pre-tax profit of €10 billion in 2018; an 8.1% decline on 2017 despite a slight 1.1% increase in sales across its BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands. As with other car firms, it was hit by challenges including the market downturn in China, the introduction of the WLTP emission regulations, the threat of trade wars and political uncertainty including Brexit. BMW finance boss Nicolas Peter said the firm’s 2018 performance “did not meet our usual high standards” and warned that “significant currency and commodity headwind” mean BMW anticipates pre-tax profits will fall further this year. BMW is currently in the midst of implementing its ‘Number One Next’ strategy, designed to restructure the business for the future, including investment in electrification, autonomy and connectivity. BMW said the efficiencies introduced by the plan would lead to €12 billion of cost cuts, achieved through increased digitalisation of design and development. No jobs are due to be affected. The plan also involves a focus on new models and powertrains. BMW will launch 20 new and updated models this year, including plug-in hybrid versions of the 3 Series, 7 Series, X3 and X5. The electric Mini SE hatchback will also go on sale this year, with the iX3 following in 2020. The i4 and iNext will follow in 2021, with 12 electric cars due to launch by 2025. BMW is focusing on 2 new flexible vehicle platforms, and it says that will lead to it cutting up top 50 % of its current drivetrain variants, enabling it to “focus on the products most in demand”. The firm also says it will reduce the complexity of its portfolio, likely by trimming less profitable model lines. It has confirmed that it won’t replace the 3 Series Gran Turismo. BMW chairman Harald Krüger said: “We remain firmly on course, having established a strong position as one of the world’s top providers of e-mobility”, adding that BMW is “firmly setting its course for the future”. +++ 

+++ German prosecutors investigating the Volkswagen DIESELGATE case have unearthed recordings of private phone conversations about the scandal between former Volkswagen Group engine boss Wolfgang Hatz and other high-ranking managers. The recordings were made by Hatz’s wife over a hands-free car speaker. Prosecutors discovered them as an attachment to an email in a mobile phone belonging to her. They are said to include recordings between Hatz, who also served as Porsche research and development boss, and figures including former Volkswagen Group chairman Matthias Müller, current Porsche chairman Oliver Blume and Michael Steiner, who was initially selected by the Group to lead an investigation into Dieselgate. In one recording, Hatz is claimed to have asked Müller how his particular situation as part of the diesel emissions affair was likely to continue. Müller reportedly answered: “I don’t want to deceive you; I can’t do anything against the decision of the Volkswagen supervisory board”. Hatz replied by denying involvement with what he described as “cheat software”, suggesting it was “the crap of the parent company”. Müller is then reported to have replied: “I’m really trying to get you out, but as soon as my name appears somewhere, then it will be difficult. Keep your nerve”. During a recording of a conversation with Blume, Hatz is claimed to regularly lay blame for the inclusion of cheat software in diesel engines with the Volkswagen Group. He is also reported as saying the cheat software used by Audi was the result of “unhappy parameters” developed by “idiots”. Hatz is claimed to have exchanged engineering details with former Porsche research and development boss Steiner, who apparently said in relation to the US Environmental Protection Agency: “We haven’t tried to fool them a second time”. Hatz was arrested in Germany in September 2017 on suspicion of harbouring knowledge of the events leading to the decision to install illegal emissions manipulation software in various diesel engines used by the Volkswagen Group. He was released on bail in June 2018. +++ 

+++ FORD has outlined plans to expand its manufacturing operations in preparation for electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. The company has selected its Flat Rock Assembly plant in southeast Michigan to serve as its second manufacturing facility for all-electric vehicles, requiring more than $850 million and adding around 900 new jobs through 2023. The automaker will build its all-electric performance SUV in Mexico, starting next year. The company will also build its first autonomous vehicles in southeast Michigan. Workers will take standard production hybrid vehicles and install “unique self-driving technology and unique interiors”, suggesting the cars will serve a Ford-owned commercial fleet rather than shipping to the general public. The first autonomous Ford vehicles are expected to roll off the assembly line in 2021. Ford is apparently pulling out all the stops in its effort to launch a Mustang-inspired electric vehicle next year. Some automakers appear to be falling behind in their development schedules for upcoming electric vehicles. Ford’s president of the Americas, Joe Hinrichs, says the Blue Oval is moving quickly to bring its Tesla rival to market next year. Tesla expects its Model Y to outsell the Model S, X and 3 combined, reflecting consumer preference for high-riding models. Ford and established rivals are presumably scrambling to beat Tesla to market with long-range all-electric crossovers. Ford is working on at least 16 electrified models by 2022, requiring $11 billion in investment. The automaker plans to offer an all-electric pickup, engaging the company’s most popular and profitable segment. +++ 

+++ China’s GEELY said that it will invest more in new energy vehicles and higher-end models after forecasting flat sales in 2019 due to uncertainty about domestic demand. Geely, China’s highest profile car maker globally thanks to the investments in Volvo and Daimler, sold 1.5 million cars last year, 20 % higher than the figure for 2017. However, it is forecasting largely unchanged sales this year as the country’s giant auto market struggles with slowing economic growth and more cautious consumers. Last year, the overall market contracted for the first time since the 1990s. “We can’t say whether the target of 1.5 million in 2019 can be reached, because we don’t know the changes in the economic situation. We will manage the company based on market conditions” Zhao Yang, a senior Geely official, told, adding the company is facing record high car inventory. However, it remains hopeful on its export prospects. “The domestic market has some uncertainties, but the international market has good opportunities for Geely”, he added. The company said it is launching a series of new energy and electrified vehicles as well as some upscale models to achieve higher profit margins. Zhao said that a total of 6 new models will be introduced in 2019. “We will firmly advance electric vehicle and develop our own technology. Hybrid technology is also a key part of our research and development in the next 5 to 7 years” said An Conghui, Geely’s president, adding the carmaker is also promoting methanol fueled cars. Geely said that the deterioration of consumer confidence in China, the world’s biggest auto market, caused by increased political and economic uncertainties had affected demand, but that its sales had missed its own annual target for 2018 by only 5 %. It achieved a record net profit of 12.55 billion yuan ($1.88 billion) in 2018, an 18 % jump from the previous year. That compared with the 12.8 billion yuan average estimate of 34 analysts. Total revenue for the year was a record 106.60 billion yuan, up from 92.76 billion yuan in 2017. That slightly missed the 108.59 billion yuan estimated by analysts, according to Refinitiv data. Geely also in its results statement said the group plans to acquire an engine plant in Zhejiang’s Yiwu City from its parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding, without providing more details. +++ 

+++ A new safety rating has been designed to warn car buyers of the theft risk posed by models with insecure KEYLESS ENTRY systems. Security expert Thatcham Research announced the new ratings, which will label each car as either ‘superior’, ‘good’, ‘basic’, ‘poor’ or ‘unacceptable’ based on their vulnerability to thieves. However, the scheme has been questioned by car industry figures for confusing the issue, rather than simplifying it. Of the 11 cars the company has tested so far in 2019, 6 have received a ‘poor’ rating, including the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Nexo, Kia Proceed and Porsche Macan. While the affected models had other security features described as ‘good’, they had no way to prevent relay attack thefts that mimic the keyless entry system without having physical access to a key. Tested cars that earned a ‘superior’ rating include the Audi e-Tron, Jaguar XE, Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes B-Class, which all use more secure wireless technology for their keyless entry/start systems, or key fobs that go to sleep when idle. The most vulnerable car tested under the new system was the Suzuki Jimny, which received an ‘unacceptable’ rating. “This car falls short by a considerable distance”, Thatcham Research chief technical officer Richard Billyeald said. “This car scores consistently badly across all criteria, missing some fundamental security features that consumers might rightly expect should be fitted. We’ve seen too many examples of cars being stolen in seconds from driveways”, Billyeald added. “Most of the cars rated ‘poor’ would have achieved at least a ‘good’ rating had their keyless entry/start systems not been susceptible to the relay attack. “Security has come a long way since vehicle crime peaked in the early 1990s. But the layers of security added over the years count for nothing when they can be circumvented instantly by criminals using digital devices”. Any car that gets rated by Thatcham and has a vulnerable keyless entry or start system will now automatically earn a ‘poor’ rating; a ruling that has come under scrutiny by other industry groups. Thatcham is an independent group that has been testing vehicle security in the UK since the 1990s and rates the security of every new car launched in the UK. The group recommends owners of vulnerable models keep their car keys well away from household entry points when at home, and to consider investing in a Faraday shielding pouch to block signals between car and key. +++ 

+++ BMW will start production of an electric MINI model in the UK later this year even as automakers grapple with the implications of the latest twist to Britain’s exit from the European Union. The automaker has no plans for radical changes to its 4 UK plants and expects any disruption to just-in-time supply chains to normalize within 4 to 6 weeks even after an unnegotiated Brexit, production chief Oliver Zipse said. BMW anticipates tariffs of 0 to 5 % after no-deal split, a development that “won’t change Mini’s business model” or the future of other UK plants, Zipse told. “For us to consider fundamentally changing our production sites in the UK, there’d have to be significantly more severe developments”. BMW’s plans contrast with a retreat from the UK at other automakers, with Nissan abandoning a plan to make the X-Trail at Britain’s biggest plant and Honda saying it will cease manufacturing altogether in the country in 2021. BMW boss Harald Krüger said the company could still move Mini production to other countries, such as the Netherlands, should problems emerge. The comments came as Prime Minister Theresa May said she’d asked the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline until June 30, a move that increases the chances of the UK crashing out of the bloc after that date, though lawmakers have already voted against such a move. A delay would create a headache for automakers that have already elected to bring forward annual production stops to the weeks immediately after the existing March 29 Brexit deadline to minimize any disruption to component shipments crossing the UK border. BMW is sticking with its rescheduled halt at Mini’s Oxford plant for April and has “some flexibility” on measures to deal with a later Brexit, Krüger said. Aside from Minis, BMW makes Rolls-Royce cars in Goodwood, England. The automaker also has a pressing plant in Swindon that makes Mini body panels and an engine factory in Hams Hall. The UK is a large market for Mini, Zipse said, which would help mitigate future tariffs. +++ 

+++ The Renault – Nissan – Mitsubishi Alliance turned to Microsoft for help in developing its next-generation connected car platform. The technology will make its debut later in 2019 on 2 cars in two regions before spreading to other models in the group’s portfolio, and to additional markets. The electric NISSAN Leaf and the new, fifth-generation RENAULT Clio unveiled during the 2019 Geneva auto show will inaugurate the technology, which is called Alliance Intelligent Cloud (AIC). The Clio is one of the best-selling models in Europe. Nissan cars shipped to Europe and Japan will come with AIC; American-spec variants of the Leaf won’t get it right away. AIC leverages the cloud, artificial intelligence, and internet-of-things technologies provided by Microsoft’s Azure platform to keep cars permanently connected to the internet. According to the Alliance, this feature will make life easier for motorists by providing real-time navigation information, and by enabling over-the-air software updates. The group acknowledges that AIC also represents a big opportunity to generate revenue. “The Alliance is taking a unique approach to addressing the business opportunity provided by connected vehicles by owning, operating, and designing its own intelligent cloud platform on Azure”, it wrote in a statement. Cars equipped with the technology will notably send a tremendous amount of data back to the Alliance. It will be captured, managed, and analyzed, but the group hasn’t revealed precisely what it will do with it yet. The Alliance’s tie-up with Microsoft reflects a growing trend in the automotive industry. Car companies are increasingly turning to tech firms to help develop infotainment systems and other in-car technologies. Volvo and sister company Polestar notably joined forces with Google to design their next-generation infotainment system, which will make its debut in the Polestar 2. The Alliance has a similar partnership with the firm that will begin to bear fruits in 2021. “I think the days when we do our own navigation systems, and our own voice control systems, they’re gone. There are companies that do it much better than every car manufacturer”, Polestar chief Jonathan Goodman summed up. +++ 

+++ SKODA will launch 30 new models by 2023, at least 10 of which will be electrified, the Czech brand has announced at its annual conference. Its electrification strategy will kick off this year with the launch of the Superb plug-in hybrid and the electric Citigo city car. Its first model on the MEB electric platform, which was developed by parent firm the Volkswagen Group, will arrive in 2020. The MEB-based electric cross-over will be a production version of the Vision iV recently shown at Geneva motor show. Skoda has previously said it would have 10 electrified models by 2025, so this announcement suggests it has accelerated its plans to achieve this goal at least 2 years earlier. At that time, it was confirmed that 6 would be plug-in hybrids and four would be electric. More imminent arrivals in the broader model line-up include the recently revealed Scala and Kamiq, as well as a heavily updated, not-yet-seen Octavia, Skoda’s biggest selling model, later this year. Skoda’s plans for the next 3 years were outlined at the event following news of another record year for the brand. The car maker delivered 1,253,700 vehicles last year, an increase of 4.4 % over 2017. It has almost doubled sales from a decade ago; in 2009, Skoda sold 684,226 cars from 5 model lines. Skoda remains the third biggest brand in the VW Group, beaten by Volkswagen (6.2 million sales) and Audi (1.8 million). Sales revenue also increased by 4.4% to €16.8 billion but operating profit fell by 14.6 % year-on-year to €1.28 billion. This is largely thanks to major outlays in 2018, including a €485 million investment into improving its factories. Skoda said expenditure on research and development increased by 46.8 %. Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier said: “The upfront expenditures on the coming years will ensure the long-term future of our company”. Skoda’s profit margin in 2018 was 8 %; a fall from 2017’s 9.7 % but still remarkably better than its sibling Volkswagen, which achieved a 3.7 % profit margin last year. China remains, by far, Skoda’s biggest market with 341,000 deliveries last year, followed by Germany with 176,600. Third place went to its home of the Czech Republic trailed by the UK. Skoda delivered 74,500 vehicles here, slightly down on last year. Maier commented that 2018 was “a year of considerable challenge for Skoda. We assumed responsibility for several tasks within the Volkswagen Group: the regional management of India and Russia, the development and production of the Passat family at the Kvasiny site, and the expansion of production capacities at a multi-brand plant. The transition to the new WLTP cycle and the trade dispute between the US and China created uncertainty and reluctance to buy in some markets. Negative exchange rate effects, as well as increased personnel costs and high upfront expenditure for the future, are also reflected in the result”. Maier predicted that 2019 would also be a challenging year, but added that despite the difficult global economic conditions, Skoda would still gain momentum. Maier also said Skoda plans to make all its Czech production plants CO2-neutral in the second half of next decade. He added that it is endeavouring to make its cars as environmentally friendly as possible and flagged the new Scala as having 85 % reusable or recyclable materials. As well as the launch of its first electrified cars this year, described by Maier as “a very special moment in Skoda’s 124-year history”, the firm is also pursuing its plans to expand into new markets and focus on digitalisation. Last year, Skoda launched in Singapore, meaning it’s now present in 103 markets, and the firm said it was “pressing ahead with accessing new markets”. South Africa is expected to be next. Skoda said other key areas for progress included e-mobility, autonomous driving, connectivity and digitalisation, and added it “intends to increase its global vehicle sales by effectively implement these topics”. As part of this intention, Skoda has opened 2 so-called Digilabs in Prague and Tel Aviv, both of which work with start-ups to develop new solutions for transport in the future. The Digilabs are working on a number of vehicle-on-demand projects such as the private peer-to-peer car sharing app Hoppy Go and the student car-sharing platform Uniqway. The maker is also currently testing a delivery service, by which parcels are delivered directly to the boot of customers’ cars, similar to what Amazon and Volvo already offer in the States. It is also working with cities on smart cities. Last October, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Prague, said Maier. “It covers the optimisation of the flow of traffic. In Prague, 30 % of time in the car is spent finding a parking space. We are trying to expand our range of mobility services and of course we are trying to reduce our impact on the environment”. Skoda is also ramping up its roll-out in India, where a small SUV will be unveiled next year. Since taking over management of the region for the VW Group in 2018, Skoda has opened a technology centre in Pune, India, which it describes “as the first major step in the implementation of the project”. It will localise 95 % of production of the vehicles, which will be both Skoda and Volkswagen models. R&D boss Christian Strube said: “By opening the Technology Centre, we are underlining our determination to make the ‘India 2.0’ project a success. India has excellent universities and highly qualified staff; this state-of-the-art facility will help us to unlock that huge potential, especially with regard to design and development. Local development is the key to success”. +++ 

+++ SUZUKI and TOYOTA have announced a new wide-ranging collaboration, which will involve Toyota producing Suzuki-badged hybrid vehicles based on the RAV4 and Corolla estate for the European market. The deal will include Suzuki vehicles being built at Toyota’s Derbyshire plant. The 2 Japanese firms signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a partnership in 2017, and have now agreed ‘concrete details’ of the deal. The 2 firms say the agreement will bring together “Toyota’s strength in electrification technologies and Suzuki’s strength in technologies for compact vehicles”. The agreement is also designed to help both firms “grow in new fields”, and will include joint collaboration in production and electrified vehicles. Toyota and Suzuki say they will “continue to fairly and freely compete against each other”. Both firms have given details on a number of specific projects in which they will collaborate, split into 3 strands. Toyota will supply its hybrid powertrain system to Suzuki at a global level, and will supply Suzuki with two new electrified vehicles based on the RAV4 and Corolla Touring Sports for the European market. The 2 new models, both due on sale in late 2020, will be additions to Suzuki’s current range, rather than replacing any current model. The Corolla-based vehicle will be built at Toyota’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire alongside the new Corolla, with production starting in late 2020. The hybrid powertrains will be made at the firm’s Deeside engine plant. The addition of the new model is not expected to add to the 3.200 people employed across the 2 sites. Toyota has invested more than €3.2 billion in its UK operations, and the head of the firm’s UK manufacturing division, Marvin Cooke, said the move “demonstrates Toyota’s trust in the capability of our workforce to deliver the highler levels of superior quality products”. He added: “Seeking to produce additional volume for other manufacturers is one example of all the efforts we are making to keep our UK manufacturing operations as competitive as they can be”. Toyota will also adopt Suzuki’s newly developed compact vehicle engines in the European market. These engines will be manufactured at Toyota’s facility in Poland. Toyota said it was too early to determine which models would get the engines. The 2 firms will work to develop hybrid vehicles for the Indian market. Suzuki will also supply Toyota with 2 compact vehicles based on the Ciaz and Ertiga for the Indian market, and 4 vehicles in the African market. In addition, Toyota and Suzuki have agreed to collaborate on the development of a C-segment SUV for India, with Toyota taking on production of the Suzuki Vitara Brezza for that market. Toyota boss Akio Toyoda said: “We believe that the expansion of our business partnership with Suzuki, from the mutual supply of vehicles and powertrains to the domains of development and production, will help give us the competitive edge we need to survive this once-in-a-century period of profound transformation”. Suzuki boss Osamu Suzuki added: “We appreciate the kind offer from Toyota to let us make use of their hybrid technology”. +++ 

+++ TESLA filed a lawsuit against a former engineer at the company, claiming he copied the source code for its Autopilot technology before joining a Chinese self-driving car startup in January.  The engineer, Guangzhi Cao, copied more than 300,000 files related to Autopilot source code as he prepared to join China’s Xiaopeng Motors Technology Company, the Silicon Valley carmaker said in the lawsuit filed in a California court. Separately, Tesla lawyers filed a lawsuit against four former employees and U.S. self-driving car startup Zoox Inc, alleging the employees stole proprietary information and trade secrets for developing warehousing, logistics and inventory control operations. Cao, Xiaopeng and Zoox could not be immediately reached for comment. Tesla is building a vehicle assembly facility in Shanghai, putting it in direct competition with Xiaopeng and other Chinese companies in the world’s largest electric vehicle market. Its Autopilot is a driver assistance system that handles some driving tasks and allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel, although the company stresses it still requires driver supervision and does not make the vehicle autonomous. Cao’s LinkedIn profile shows he has been working with Xiaopeng since January as “head of perception”. Xiaopeng, which debuted an electric car in Las Vegas last year, counts Alibaba Group and Foxconn Technology among its investors. The company, also known as Xpeng Motors, employs at least 5 former Tesla employees, the U.S. carmaker alleged in the lawsuit. Apple last year accused one former employee of stealing trade secrets related to self-driving cars and joining Xiaopeng’s U.S. subsidiary. Several companies are racing to develop the technology required to make cars drive on their own and lawsuits against former employees have become common as firms strive to keep proprietary information in-house. Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving vehicle unit took Uber Technologies to court after a former employee stole thousands of confidential documents and became chief of Uber’s self-driving car project. Uber later paid $245 million to settle the case. +++ 

+++ The future can be exciting and daunting in equal measure. The promise of inevitable progress is appealing; you can be sure there will be advances in areas such as science, technology, recycling and downsizing, all bringing great benefits for the planet and everything on it. But what of the big challenges ahead, those we know about and those we don’t? VOLKSWAGEN has committed itself to a number of key targets, all of which are aimed at delivering better technology, more advanced products and a better environment for everyone. Cars like the e-Golf are the first steps towards those goals, but in truth they are baby steps; what is to follow will represent the most seismic shift that the automotive world has ever seen. The starting point is the Volkswagen ID.3, which is the first car the company has conceived from scratch to be all-electric. That means it will never be sold with a conventional combustion engine. This is a hugely significant step in itself, because it has allowed for a complete rethink on the car’s design, with no need to accommodate an engine and its related ancillaries. That means benefits in terms of space efficiency, but also in the technology it can offer: the ID.3 will bring high-level autonomous driving to the road within 6 years. The ID.3 is a revolutionary vehicle, not just for Volkswagen but for the automotive world as a whole. It is just one part of a much bigger picture, though; because of its all-electric operation, the ID.3 will contribute zero tailpipe emissions for its entire life, which will make a significant contribution to air quality. However, Volkswagen is taking that to the next level, as Thomas Ulbrich, member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Brand responsible for E-Mobility, explains. “At Volkswagen, we want to make a substantial contribution to climate protection. The ID. will take on a pioneering role in this regard; its production will balance out as CO2-neutral across the entire supply and production chain”. The size of this challenge and the wholesale changes that need to be made along the way are vast. 3 of Volkswagen’s manufacturing plants in Europe are undergoing radical redesigns in order to become ready for the production of electric vehicles, and by 2022 these plants will make only electric vehicles. The key plant at Zwickau in eastern Germany will be the first in the world to undergo the transformation from a conventional factory to one producing only electric vehicles. Arguably even more significant is the level of change required to decarbonise the entire production process. Volkswagen has implemented a dedicated index to measure this, from the carbon-neutral production process at Zwickau to the use of green electricity for the manufacture of battery cells. In the rare event that a supplier has unavoidable emissions during the process, it must offset them with investments into climate-protection projects with a view to eliminating them entirely as soon as possible. This vision follows right through to the owner, who can continue to be carbon-neutral by using green electricity, and the Volkswagen subsidiary Elli is growing a network of charging points and wall boxes to tie in with the launch of the ID.3 in 2020. Marco Philippi, Corporate Director, Strategy Group Procurement, says the vision for e-mobility starts from the very beginning of the process. “Sustainability standards are a binding selection criterion for our suppliers in the same way as quality or price,” he explains. The charging network, and the way it is used by the ID.3 and its sister models, is of course key to the success of the electric car concept as a viable means of transportation. But it’s also set to define any positive environmental aspects. “Charging will become fast, easy, convenient and, if the customer opts to use green electricity, clean”, says Martin Roemheld, Head of E-Mobility Services at the Volkswagen brand. “In 2020, the Volkswagen subsidiary Elli will also offer a broadly-based portfolio of wall boxes and charging solutions with sustainable electricity”. The new Elli network will use the latest technology to bring the highest levels of functionality and efficiency. Smart electricity tariffs will take into account user demand and wholesale prices to give the most cost-conscious green prices, while energy management systems will use significant IT infrastructures behind the scenes to ensure a reliable network with maximum uptime. Digital billing will make charging a breeze for owners and smart charging cards will allow maximum freedom across the network. Home wall boxes offering 11 kW to give a full charge within 5 to 8 hours are just the first step for an ID. owner; 22kW versions are set to follow, cutting the charging time to just 3 or 4 hours. The network of work-based chargers will grow, too, with the current 1,000 chargers set to expand to 5,000, while Volkswagen dealers will be a constant presence in providing fast and effective charging options for everyone. The ID.3 will be the vanguard of Volkswagen’s electric direction, but it will not have to lead the charge on its own. A whole family of vehicles will be right behind it, bringing the same innovative design and game-changing efficiency, but in layouts to suit all needs. The legendary Volkswagen Microbus will be reborn in the shape of the ID.Buzz, combining the spirit and flexibility of the classic original with all the innovation of the ID.3 hatchback. The ID.Crozz, meanwhile, will prove that electric cars can be dynamic and exciting as well as smart and efficient, crossing an SUV with a coupe aesthetic. And the ID.Vizzion is set to show the luxurious side of electrification, with impressive space, comfort and clever design for the ultimate electric express. +++ 

+++ VOLVO expects its margins on electric cars to match those of vehicles with combustion engines by 2025, the head of the Chinese-owned Swedish carmaker told. Global automakers are planning a $300 billion surge in spending on electric vehicle technology over the next 5 to 10 years but have admitted that higher component costs and limited take-up in initial years will hit margins. Volvo is investing about 5 % of its annual revenue, equating to a little more than $1 billion a year, in building driverless and electric cars and has promised to deliver 5 fully electric cars to market in the next few years. It showcased the first less than a month ago, made by its luxury performance brand Polestar to rival to Tesla’s Model 3. It also plans to launch a XC40 Electric this year in the company’s push to derive 50 % of its sales from fully electric cars by 2025.  “It’s very difficult to say if we’re going to have the same margins in 2025 as we had in 2015, because electric cars are very expensive”, chief executive Håkan Samuelsson told on the sidelines of a safety showcase by the company in Gothenburg. “But I would be absolute sure we will have the same margins with electric cars as we will with conventional combustion cars in 2025”. Samuelsson said the convergence would be helped by reducing costs for components such as batteries and declining margins on conventional cars. +++ 

+++ WAYMO has announced plans to establish a much bigger technical service center in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa. The planned space will have 85,000 square feet, more than doubling the company’s capacity to service and maintain a growing fleet of self-driving vehicles. “Our decision to keep expanding here is an easy one”, the company explains. “Metro Phoenix offers everything we need to continue building safe and reliable self-driving technology: a large area with broad, yet complex, city streets; a wide-spread suburban population that relies heavily on vehicle transport; and of course, lots of gorgeous sunny days for driving while we also invest in further weather testing”. The nearby Chandler full-service center already has 60,000 square feet of space, housing Waymo’s fleet support teams. The announcement highlights the company’s eagerness to scale up its operations. Riders will eventually be able to choose from a wide range of vehicles beyond the current fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans, including more stylish rides such as the Jaguar I-Pace. +++

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