+++ A few technical details of ASTON MARTIN ‘s AM-RB 003 hypercar appear to have slipped ahead of schedule. The concept’s recent debut confirmed the 003 will be the first model powered by Aston Martin’s new hybrid turbo V6 engine. An official dealer brochure suggests the company is hoping to achieve a combined output of at least 1,000 horsepower. The hybrid system will use electric motors to drive the front wheels, enabling all-wheel drive and slashing the expected 0-to-100 km/h benchmark to around 2.5 seconds. Top speed is said to be north of 350 km/h. The document also indicates the Valkyrie’s unique suspension features will trickle down to the 003, which boasts a full carbon monocoque chassis and composite body panels for a curb weight just shy of 1,350 kilos. The first of just 500 planned production units are expected to arrive in 2021 with a price tag equivalent to €1.0 million (taxes not included). +++ 

+++ SK Innovation Co is in talks to set up separate BATTERY making joint ventures with Volkswagen and Chinese partners, as the South Korean petrochemicals producer aggressively expands its involvement in electric vehicles (EVs). The company confirmed talks with Germany’s Volkswagen for the first time, telling the pair were discussing building a factory together. It also said it was on the cusp of agreeing to build a plant in China with undisclosed partners. The talks come as EV battery makers boost capacity to cope with fast-growing demand, as automakers race to develop vehicles powered by means other than petrol to meet increasingly stringent emissions regulations worldwide. SK Innovation, South Korea’s biggest oil refiner, is a latecomer to a market led by compatriots LG Chem and Samsung SDI plus Japan’s Panasonic. Since starting mass production in 2012, customers have included Germany’s Daimler as well as Volkswagen. “Compared with rivals, we’ve been matching or exceeding investment in the area since last year”, YS Yoon, president of SK Innovation’s battery business, said in an interview. “We tried to find the right moment for massive investment”. The broader SK Group, South Korea’s third-biggest conglomerate, has increased focus on EV batteries as demand slows at memory chip-making unit SK Hynix. By 2022, SK Innovation plans to spend $3.95 billion to boost EV battery capacity. Last month, it broke ground on a $1.7 billion plant in the United States to primarily supply lithium-ion battery cells to Volkswagen. It is also building 2 factories in Hungary. “Our strategy is to keep up with technological advancement by having relationships with some of our key customers”, Yoon said, adding that “nothing has been decided” regarding a joint venture with Volkswagen. It would be the first in which Volkswagen, one of the world’s biggest automakers, will be co-investing in battery production, similar to the joint battery investment of Panasonic and Tesla. “We are considering an investment in a battery manufacturer in order to reinforce our electrification offensive and build up the necessary knowhow”, Volkswagen said in a statement. In March, Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess said the automaker was “taking a close look at possible participation in battery cell manufacturing facilities in Europe of our own”. Volkswagen’s other suppliers include LG Chem, Samsung SDI and China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology. “There are so many battery requirements from Volkswagen”, Yoon said. “So I think it is natural for Volkswagen to have multiple suppliers even if it has joint ventures with some”. Separately, SK Innovation plans to soon sign a deal to build its second EV battery factory in China, the world’s biggest EV market, Yoon said, without identifying the local partners. The firm broke ground in August on its first Chinese plant under a joint venture with Beijing Electronics Holding and BAIC Motor, with investment reaching $744.30 million by 2020. SK Innovation had aimed to begin construction in 2016, but postponed as EVs equipped with Korean batteries were not included on a government list of EVs eligible for subsidies. “We hope China’s market opens up in 2021, when the subsidies are phased out”, Jay Rhee, SK Innovation’s head of battery research and development, said in a separate interview. Meanwhile, SK Innovation is in the industry-wide race to reduce batteries’ cobalt content, with Panasonic in May saying it was working on a cobalt-free battery. The mineral is mined in harsh conditions and subject to significant price fluctuation. The firm plans to start production of batteries containing 5 % cobalt in 2022 from 10 % at present, Rhee said. Cobalt is primarily mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but SK Innovation is also sourcing cobalt from Australia and extracting the mineral from waste batteries, Yoon said. “I expect we won’t need to secure fresh cobalt after 2025”, Yoon said. +++ 

+++ Car industry supplier Robert Bosch sees a further downturn in CHINA this year after the country’s car market posted its first decline in almost 2 decades last year, the head of its core auto parts unit said. “The skid marks in the Chinese car market will be seen again this year”, Stefan Hartung said as he noted that China’s auto market saw a double-digit decline in the first quarter of 2019. Hartung said he was optimistic about sales in the company’s biggest foreign market in the medium and long term due to China’s still low saturation level of private vehicles, adding that a stabilization was possible. The executive said mobility services such as short-term-rental and shuttle-services would grow faster in China than in the U.S. or Europe. Bosch’s sales in China in 2018 rose by just 1 %, after a 25 % rise the year before. +++ 

+++ Think electrification is something for other drivers? Think again. Within 2 years, car makers may have to ration petrol car sales to hit CO2 TARGETS , or face multi-million-euro fines. This is why Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Tesla are working up a carbon swapping scheme, with Fiat paying the electric car maker millions of euros to dodge fines in Europe for missing carbon targets. Groups that have been slow to embrace plug-in cars (Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, Mazda, PSA Groupe) will almost certainly have to cap their own sales until their product range catches up with the regulations. The industry is furiously developing pure electric vehicles, and plug-in and mild hybrids: it needs them on the market as soon as possible, ahead of new emissions targets coming into force in 2021. FCA and Tesla have formed ‘an open pool’ of vehicles, basketing their combined sales for the purposes of European regulation. It based its story on declarations made with Brussels, ahead of the 2021 targets which specify group CO2 emissions must not surpass 95 g/km. This countdown is focusing minds big-time. European Union legislators have introduced the world’s toughest emissions regulation: new cars sold in the region must emit on average 95 g/km of CO2 in 3 years’ time. At the end of 2017, the industry’s cars were averaging 118.5g/km. Given that average actually went up on the 2016 figure, there is no doubt that some car makers will miss their individual targets, typically calculated on a group-wide basis and making allowances for vehicle weights. Any group that misses its target will be hit with swingeing financial penalties. “The fine for 1 gram over your target is €95 multiplied by all of your volume”, says Kia Europe’s Artur Martins. “For Kia that’s 500,000 cars. So almost a €50 million fine for 1 gram over the limit!” Clearly the bigger the miss, and the bigger the volume, the more a car maker will have to pay. PA Consulting has forecast the CO2 average in 2021 for Europe’s 13 biggest car groups, based on their projected sales mix, vehicle weights and electrification strategy. The consultants project that Ford and Fiat-Chrysler won’t hit their targets, calculating they face enormous fines equating to 10 % of their 2017 global earnings. However, Ford of Europe president Stuart Rowley said “we will be compliant”. Volkswagen Group is staring down the barrel of a €1.4 billion penalty. As for Kia, “If we keep the sales mix as it is today, we will be 5 gram above the target”, says Martins. “We have to increase the mix: we need to be 30 % electrified by year-end 2020”.  As a result, the Korean brand is ramping up its electrified range. The pure-electric e-Niro is on sale now and a zero-emissions Soul will follow, while a mild hybrid system is available on the Sportage now, shaving tailpipe carbon by 4 %. Mild hybrid (HEV) will be rolled out across the Ceed family too. “But HEV will not fix the problem; you need to get into plug-in vehicles as well”, warns Martins. Kia will launch 16 electrified products by 2025, including a hydrogen fuel-cell car. Opel is one of the biggest laggards on CO2, which wasn’t a big priority for its previous owner, General Motors. But now PSA Groupe is in charge an electric Corsa will be unveiled this year, with a battery-powered all-new Mokka X and zero-emissions Vivaro following in 2020. Electrification can only happen once Opel models switch to PSA architectures, so a plug-in Astra or Insignia will trail well behind the Peugeot 3008-based Grandland X PHEV, due in 2019. An Opel spokesman says: “If the demand we’re able to create for low-emission vehicles is below the required percentage of the predetermined mix, the consequence would be a limit to the number of vehicles we’re able to sell. If the amount of pure combustion engines goes up and we go beyond our CO2 target, the financial penalty is so great the company cannot afford to take that risk”. It’s an unenviable position for car makers, having to extend waiting lists or forbid customers from their choice of vehicle. And there’s a knock-on effect: if factories are forced to slow down, jobs may be at risk. “If you don’t have the powertrains, the only way to sell cars in Europe is to reduce your volumes”, explains Kia’s Martins. “And if you reduce your volume, there’s an impact on production”. The shockwave would travel across the value chain, with suppliers and dealers taking a hit too. An electric Corsa looks to be a hard sell, given the supermini is a budget-conscious battleground and Opel’s battery-powered flagship could conceivably cost €11,500 more than a mid-range VW Polo. Even at a high price point, Opel will struggle for profit until battery costs come down. But the pressure will be on brands to price EVs competitively to hit their CO2 obligations, which could cause carnage for the bottom line. The transformation of the European car fleet is going to accelerate markedly over the next few years. High-power, low-efficiency engines will become a hindrance, heavy SUVs may go out of favour, and mild hybrids will become the bare minimum on the road to pure electrification. Volvo sewed up the front page in a newspaper in 2017 when it announced that, from this year, it will never launch another purely combustion-engined car. “This is for the customer”, announced CEO Håkan Samuelsson. Partly. But it’s also to help Volvo defuse the CO2 timebomb of 2021 and beyond. +++ 

+++ FORD is nearing a deal with Mahindra to form a new joint-venture company in India, a move that will likely see the U.S. automaker cease independent operations in the country, 2sources with direct knowledge of the talks told. The deal would make Ford the latest automaker to pare back its interests in India. At the end of 2017, General Motors downsized its Indian operations and stopped selling cars locally, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strategy to encourage domestic manufacturing. Over 2 decades, Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford invested more than $2 billion in India but has consistently struggled: it currently has a market share of just 3 % in India, one of the world’s fastest-growing car markets. Under the terms of the deal being negotiated, Ford will form a new unit in India in which it will hold a 49 % stake, while Mahindra will own 51 %, the 2 sources said. The U.S. carmaker’s Indian unit will transfer most of its current automotive business to the new entity, including its assets and employees, according to 1 of the sources. “It’s like a partial exit for Ford from India”. The deal is expected to close within 90 days, the sources said, adding the value of the transaction was not yet clear. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Ford said it does not comment on speculation, but added both companies continue to work together “to develop avenues of strategic cooperation that help us achieve commercial, manufacturing and business efficiencies”. Mahindra too said it does not comment on speculation. It said in a statement it was “working together in identified areas” with Ford after a 2017 partnership arrangement, and “will announce further definitive agreements as we progress on some of the other areas”. Currently, Ford manufactures and sells its cars in India through its wholly-owned subsidiary. In 2017, it formed a strategic alliance with Mahindra under which, among other things, they will build new cars together, including SUVs and electric variants. Ford has been globally restructuring its businesses with an aim to save $11 billion over the next few years. Last month, its Russian joint venture said it would close 2 assembly plants and an engine factory in Russia, exiting the country’s passenger vehicle market. India has been a major growth area for global car manufacturers but growth has slowed of late: car sales grew by 3 % to just over 3.3 million units in the last fiscal year to March 31, compared with 8 % the previous year. Even so, India is set to become the world’s third-largest car market by 2023 with sales of over 5 million cars annually. Ford’s decision is a stark reminder of how most foreign automakers have struggled to make major inroads in India, a market dominated by players such as Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai. Ford sold close to 93,000 vehicles in India last fiscal year, a far cry from market leader Maruti Suzuki which commands a 51 % market share and sold more than 1.7 million cars. Automakers such as Maruti benefit in India from their vast dealership network and an autonomous local team that can quickly react to market changes. One of the sources said the Ford-Mahindra deal would lead to more affordable Ford cars in the country, as the company would not need to pay any royalty to its global parent, as the Indian unit has to now. The funds that accrue to Ford’s India unit because of the deal will also be used to clear some of its accumulated losses, the 2 sources said. Puneet Gupta, associate director at IHS Markit, said the deal would help Ford and Mahindra launch new models at a faster pace and lower development cost, which is critical to success in a price sensitive market like India. “It’s a win-win situation for both”, Gupta said. +++ 

+++ Carlos GHOSN has released a video statement protesting his innocence, days after he was rearrested in the ongoing investigation into his financial affairs. He blames Nissan senior executives for ‘playing a dirty game’ and blaming him instead of fixing the car maker’s worsening performance. The former Nissan chairman had pledged to hold a press conference on Thursday 11 April, but he was rearrested this week on a new line of inquiry. His latest arrest follows an alleged $5 million sent by a Nissan subsidiary to an overseas dealership ended up being diverted to a company controlled by Ghosn. “We now have a totally different case, and we are only doing what we think is right”, Shin Kukimoto, deputy chief prosecutor at the Tokyo District Prosecutor’s Office, told reporters in a press conference. “As a result of our investigation, we have a new case in which he must be detained, and we have appropriately obtained an arrest warrant from the court”. Ghosn hasn’t taken the charges lying down, though. “My arrest morning is outrageous and arbitrary”, he said. “It is part of another attempt by some individuals at Nissan to silence me by misleading the prosecutors. Why arrest me except to try to break me? I will not be broken. I am innocent of the groundless charges and accusations against me”. Ghosn repeated his claims he is being framed by Nissan executives and is innocent of the charges against him, including understating his income over 5 years by $40 million. It is reported that Ghosn originally named specific colleagues who have taken part in a campaign to ensure his arrest, but his lawyers have since edited the video to remove their names. In a further development, Renault’s Ethics and Compliance Department completed its report into Ghosn’s behaviour while heading the French firm. Renault has previously reported a number of ‘issues’ to French judicial authorities and its board of directors says it has now reported a number of “potential issues concerning payments made to one of Renault’s distributors in the Middle East”. The board has also recommended that Ghosn stops receiving his company pension. +++ 

+++ The first electric car for INFINITI will be a sporty sedan produced in China, the Japanese carmaker said in a statement. The vehicle would hit the market around 3 years and consumers would get a taste when the company unveils a concept car, dubbed the Qs Inspiration electric sedan, at the Shanghai auto show later this month, Nissan officials said. “China has the most growth potential for electric vehicles globally, especially in the premium segment”, Infiniti Chairman Christian Meunier said. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen is exploring purchasing a big stake in its Chinese electric vehicle joint venture partner JAC MOTOR and has tapped Goldman Sachs as an adviser on the plan, people with direct knowledge of the matter said. The move by VW, the largest foreign automaker in China, to buy into JAC Motor is the latest step by foreign automakers to increase their stakes in their Chinese joint venture partners or in the ventures themselves since Beijing relaxed ownership rules last year in the world’s biggest car market. Rival German automaker BMW agreed in October to buy control of its main joint venture in the country for €3.6 billion. Daimler also plans to increase its stake in local partner BAIC Motor. Foreigners were previously prevented from controlling any Chinese automaker or joint venture. Beijing last year removed such caps for firms making fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Limits on commercial vehicles makers ease in 2020 and by 2022 for the wider car market. VW, which has a market capitalization of €75 billion, is not currently a shareholder in Shanghai-listed JAC, which has a market value of about $1.7 billion. The German car giant’s plans are at an early stage but it is keen to take a big stake, said 3 of the people. 2 of them said it will seek to buy shares from JAC’s major shareholders, which are mainly state-backed firms owning over 40 %. JAC’s parent Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Holding holds a 24 % stake and is fully controlled by the local government. When contacted, VW said: “We are carefully watching what the implications are for our business and for our joint venture partners. In this regard we will explore all possible options together with all stakeholders to secure long-term success in China”. +++ 

+++ A 2-door JEEP Gladiator is under consideration to become an actual production model. Jeep brand head Tim Kuniskis cautioned that making a business case for the J6 would be “tough” but the Wrangler “sells pretty well” as a 2-door, potentially opening the door to a new niche in the pickup segment. Kuniskis ruled out the possibility of a Hellcat-powered Gladiator. The company already knows the massive V8 “fits like a glove” in the Gladiator engine bay. The configuration would not pass crash tests, however, as there is not enough buffer space between the engine and the vehicle structure. +++ 

+++ KIA could build full-electric cars in Europe to overcome supply constraints and to help reduce its carbon footprint. Kia Europe’s chief operating officer, Emilio Herrera, said the automaker is evaluating EV production in the region, without specifying which model could be built. Kia’s only European factory in Zilina, Slovakia, builds the Ceed, Sportage and Venga gasoline and diesel models. Building an EV in Europe would minimize the risks of supply disruption, Herrera said. “We know our suppliers LG Chemical and SK Innovation are looking to possible battery production in Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia”, he said. Herrera said he is not concerned about current low demand for electric vehicles because EV sales have “increased dramatically” in many EU markets, driven mainly by taxation. “Today, our problem is not whether we can sell these cars, but how many will I get from Korea”, he said. Kia hinted at a possible future full-electric car based on the Imagine concept unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March. Kia is adding plug-in hybrid versions of its Ceed SW and its upcoming Ceed-based crossover. They will be built in Zilina, Herrera said. The Ceed Hatchback will get mild-hybrid powertrains on all gasoline and diesel versions. The Sportage 1.6-liter diesel version will also get mild-hybrid technology. The moves will help Kia to reduce CO2 emissions as Europe’s lawmakers move to further cut greenhouse gas emissions from new cars sold in Europe. The EU has imposed an industrywide fleet CO2 average emissions target of 95 grams per km by 2021 with individual targets for auto groups and threats of fines for companies that miss their target. Kia likely will need to sell more full-electric and hybrid cars in Europe to reach its EU mandated target of 94 g/km in 2021, PA Consulting said in a report. Hyundai-Kia’s average is likely to fall to 96.1 g/km in 2021 from 122 g/km today. Herrera said Kia would have to sell 32,000 EVs annually by 2021 to reach its target and avoid paying an EU fine. +++ 

+++ The Zhejiang Geely Holding Group has started construction on a $1.3 billion assembly plant for high-end vehicles, including the LOTUS brand, in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province. Lotus cars are built in Norfolk, England. The Wuhan factory will be Lotus’ first production site outside the UK. The Wuhan plant will start production in 2 years. It will have the capacity to build 150,000 conventional and electrified vehicles annually, according to information from the Hubei provincial government. Aside from Lotus, it remains unknown what other vehicles the Wuhan factory will assemble from Geely. In 2017, Geely acquired a 49.9 % stake in troubled Proton Holdings, which makes cars under the Proton brand, from Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom. Under the same deal, the private Chinese automaker also purchased a 51 % interest in Lotus from Proton. Geely produces vehicles for the Geely mass-market brand and Lynk & Co, a premium marque it owns along with the Volvo brand, which it acquired from Ford in 2010. In the first 2 months, combined Geely and Lynk & Co brand sales fell 9 % to 241,945. Geely expects to sell 1.51 million vehicles in 2019 under the 2 brands, virtually unchanged from 2018. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ announced that it will use the upcoming New York auto show to introduce the next-generation of its GLS. The new GLS has been a long time in the making, with the current version of the SUV dating all the way back to 2012. Since then Audi, BMW and Volvo have introduced new large SUV designs of their own. Touted as the S-Class of SUVs, the new GLS will benefit from a roomier cabin provided by a 60 mm wheelbase stretch. As before, the new GLS will contain 3 rows of seating, with Mercedes promising “a generous amount of space and outstanding seating comfort” for all passengers. Ride and handling should also be improved thanks to the addition of the E-Active Body Control suspension that was introduced on the latest GLE. The adjustable suspension should also help the GLS’ off-road prowess. In addition to offering S-Class levels of luxury, the GLS will also match Mercedes’ flagship sedan in terms of tech. Prototypes have been roaming the street with Mercedes’ dual-screen cockpit setup and the automaker says we can also expect the latest semi-autonomous technologies. Look for the new GLS to arrive in dealer showrooms later this year. +++ 

+++ NISSAN ‘s shareholders ousted the automaker’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn from its board, seeking to shut the door on an era capped by scandal. More than 4,000 people gathered at a Tokyo hotel for a 3-hour extraordinary shareholders’ meeting and signaled their approval for dismissing Ghosn with applause. They also approved the appointment of French alliance partner Renault’s Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard to replace Ghosn. Renault owns 43 % of Nissan. “I will dedicate my energy to enhance the future of Nissan”, said Senard, who was introduced to the shareholders at the meeting’s end. He promised to do his best to keep the automaker’s performance on track. Nissan’s Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa and other top managers bowed low in apology to shareholders. “I deeply, deeply apologize for all the worries and troubles we have caused”, Saikawa said. “This is an unprecedented and unbelievable misconduct by a top executive”. At the meeting, which was closed except to stockholders but livestreamed, angry shareholders demanded an explanation for how wrongdoing on an allegedly massive scale had gone unchecked for years. One shareholder said Nissan’s entire management should resign immediately. Saikawa said he felt his responsibility lay in fixing the shoddy corporate governance at Nissan first, and continuing to lead its operations. Another shareholder asked if Nissan was prepared for a damage lawsuit from shareholders since its stock price has plunged. Nissan shareholder Ken Miyamoto said he was disappointed. “It is really such a pity as he was a brilliant manager”, Miyamoto said of Ghosn before heading into the meeting. “I guess he became complacent as people kept praising him too much”. Yokohama based Nissan was on the brink of bankruptcy when Renault sent Ghosn to turn it around 2 decades ago. The alliance, which now includes smaller automaker Mitsubishi, rivals auto giants Volkswagen and Toyota in global sales. But like other Japanese manufacturers it has been dogged by scandals over bogus inspections and other misconduct. The allegations of breach of trust involved having Nissan shoulder investment losses that Ghosn say caused the company no losses. He says payments to a Saudi businessman that prosecutors are questioning were for legitimate services. He says the compensation he allegedly underreported was never decided on or paid. Saikawa outlined the findings of an internal investigation, such as 13 years’ worth of consulting fee payments to Ghosn’s sister. He told shareholders the company will stick by the alliance, fix its governance problems and make Ghosn’s ouster “a turning point”. “We had allowed a system in which wrongdoing could be carried out without detection”, he said. The shareholders also gave a green light to removing from the board a former executive director, Greg Kelly, who has been charged with collaborating with Ghosn in the alleged misconduct. Ghosn’s wife Carole, who was with her husband in Tokyo when he was arrested, appealed to French President Emmanuel Macron for help. “I’m asking that we allow him the presumption of innocence like all French citizens, and France must do something”, she told France’s RTL radio. Carole described his arrest as humiliating. Japanese investigators confiscated her Lebanese passport, but she said she used her American passport to leave the country. “I’d never been so proud of him because he remained dignified. He held his head high and he was calm”, she said. +++ 

+++ Sales of new SKODA cars were held back by around 10 % last year because its factories were working flat-out and couldn’t produce more cars. “We would have been able last year to sell nearly more than 100,000 vehicles than we did because of a lack of production capacity”, says company chairman Bernhard Maier. Skoda was short of body building and final assembly capacity at its two main plants in the Czech Republic (Mlada Boleslav and Kvasiny) where it assembles around 800,000 cars a year. A third plant in Slovakia makes the Citigo. Models affected include the Fabia, Rapid, Octavia and Superb and the hot-selling Karoq and Kodiaq. The loss of 100,000 cars is not far off the total number of Karoqs built last year; an indication of how significant the lost volume is. Skoda had hoped to increase output at its Czech plants by adding weekend working, but unions vetoed the plans. Knowing that a crunch point might be coming in assembly capacity, Skoda is looking at opening a new plant, which would be “multi-brand”. A decision is imminent. “By the middle of this year we have to decide whether to push the button”, said Maier. Which models the plant would build has yet to be decided, although Maier describes it as “a completely different product line-up”. Although the new plant will take some years to come on stream, in return for creating more jobs in the Czech Republic, Skoda hopes unions will agree to weekend working as soon as possible. Skoda has also had to work around shortages of some petrol and diesel engines due to the difficulties re-homologating for the new WLTP regulations, but Maier pins the bulk of the lost capacity on a shortage of body and final assembly. +++ 

+++ TESLA boss Elon Musk has highlighted the significant jump in Autopilot processing capacity from the current hardware to the HW3 tech developed in-house. The company recently began rolling out its ‘seamless’ Navigate on Autopilot feature, allowing vehicles to change lanes and maneuver highway interchanges without first receiving driver confirmation. Musk says the HW3 computer “is at about 5 % compute load for these tasks or 10 % with full fail-over redundancy”, compared to the existing Nvidia-powered HW2.5 system that has been pushed to around 80 % of its processing capacity. “2 independent system-on-chip architecture, with each SoC having 2 NN accelerators that can perform simultaneous health-check calculations to protect against a soft error”, the executive added, referring to the Autopilot HW3 chip architecture. As Tesla begins to roll out even more Full Self Driving features that require HW3, existing cars will be retrofitted with the latest hardware to support the more advanced features. To be clear, however, “Full Self Driving” will initially be a bit of a misnomer as drivers will still be required to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. +++ 

+++ A near uncamouflaged prototype of the new VOLKSWAGEN Tiguan R has been snapped undergoing assessment. The German firm’s new performance SUV is set to use the same platform and running gear as the recently-released Cupra Ateca. Volkswagen’s new Tiguan R will be powered by the same 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine as its Cupra-badged sibling, likely producing the same 300 hp and 400 Nm. Like the Ateca, it will feed its power through a 7-speed DSG to all 4 wheels, allowing a 0–100 km/h time of around 6 seconds. The Tiguan R will get the same treatment as the sporty looking R-Line version of the SUV. It uses that model line’s front bumper, rear valance, and large rear spoiler, with the only visual difference a pair of twin-exit exhaust tips. Adaptive suspension, uprated performance brakes and a choice of alloy wheels will also likely feature, along with a sophisticated traction control system. Inside, expect a comparable level of equipment to a well-specced Tiguan R-Line, with a pair of leather-trimmed sports seats, a sports steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, a digital instrument cluster, an eight-inch infotainment screen and a premium audio system all coming as standard. Potential optional extras will include a tow-bar and 3-zone climate control. Volkswagen has steadily been expanding its performance SUV line-up, with this new Tiguan R following the recently-announced T-Roc R into the showrooms. The German firm’s baby performance SUV was unveiled at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, with the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, and a similar interior specification. The new Tiguan R looks almost certain to be revealed in 2019. As such, a debut at or before the Frankfurt Motor Show in September seems likely. +++

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