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+++ AUDI has revised the management structure at the head of its Sport performance car division. Effective from tomorrow, the BMW M and Mercedes-AMG rival will be jointly managed by Oliver Hoffmann and Julius Seebach. The move follows the retirement of its existing Audi Sport chairman, Michael-Julius Renz. Hoffmann, 42, was previously head of quality management at Lamborghini and Audi’s Győr plant in Hungary and was heavily involved in the development of the V10 petrol engine. He will take on a double role in the new management. As well as continuing to head technical development at Audi Sport, he takes on similar responsibilities for Audi’s Neckarsulm plant in Germany. The move hints at a greater future role for Audi Sport at the plant, which is currently undergoing restructuring as part of the cost cutting initiative announced by Audi chairman Bram Schot at the Geneva motor show back in March. Seebach, 35, has been head of strategy and powertrain control within Audi Sport’s technical department, and will be responsible for business and commercial functions in its new management structure. An industrial engineer, he previously held positions at Porsche, where he was involved in various projects including the Panamera.
Commenting on the new management positions at the head of Audi Sport, Audi R&D boss, Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler, said: “Transformation means becoming even more effective and innovative. By combining both positions we are strengthening Neckarsulm as a technology location and at the same time securing its future viability”. Among the new models planned by Audi Sport in 2019 are successor models to the RS6 and RS7; both of which are set to make their public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September. Also under development is the new RS Q5, RS Q7 and RS Q8 as well as a follow-up to the first generation RS Q3 in a major SUV offensive planned by Audi Sport. Other models figuring in its future include a production version of the electric Audi E-tron GT, which is being developed by Audi Sport in close co-operation with Porsche. +++
 

+++ The challenge to equip a new-generation of BRITISH BUILT ELECTRIC CARS with high-tech batteries also made in the UK has received a £4.8 billion boost from the chemical industry. A report into the capability of the UK chemical industry to supply essential components (anodes, cathodes and electrolytes) for the cells that will power the next-gen EVs has found a strong network of companies capable of supplying these basic building blocks, already established in the UK. “The UK boasts some of the largest suppliers of materials to produce cathodes, anodes and electrolytes and is well-placed to capitalise on this”, said the report from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC). At least 60 % of the value of a BEV battery pack is in the chemicals and materials, says the report, and a “strong foundation of UK-based companies are already embedded within many global battery supply chains”. Given the forecast demand for BEVs by 2030 (the date the British government has set for up to half of all new car sales to be electrified) the APC estimates that the business could be worth up £4.8 billion a year for UK-built cars alone. Export to European car assembly plants would add further business. “Today’s report highlights the opportunities available for the automotive and chemical sectors to come together and collaborate to make the UK the go-to place for battery cell manufacturing”, said the head of the APC Ian Constance. Given that substantial sum of potential business, the APC is stepping up efforts to secure government support to work with suppliers to develop a UK battery supply chain. Experts are already working on the next-generation of more energy-dense and lightweight batteries, which will require new materials. “High value opportunities exist for advanced materials supplied in bulk and at very high quality”, said Dave Greenwood, professor advanced propulsion at University of Warwick, “and the supply chain to provide them is in its infancy”. Government and industry is already working towards a UK battery cell manufacturing facility through the Faraday Challenge, supported with £246 million of funding, and the Battery Industrialisation Centre being set-up in Coventry. “A lot now hangs on receiving clear demand signals in the form of a major battery plant investment in the UK”, said Adam Chase, director of E4tech, a sustainable energy consultancy. +++ 

+++ CADILLAC re-affirmed its commitment to making continuous upgrades to its Super Cruise technology. It will improve the feature, which is one of the most advanced semi-autonomous systems on the market, while making it available on more cars. When the right conditions are met, Super Cruise lets drivers take their hands off the steering wheel and their feet off the pedals. They need to remain 100% alert at all times, however, and a driver-facing camera makes sure they’re watching the road ahead, not Netflix. Cadillac refused to go into specific details, but it announced it will add more functionalities to Super Cruise in 2020. “The system that we have today, we continue to upgrade. We have over-the-air re-flash capability and you’ll continue to see us add features and capabilities to Super Cruise going forward”, said Brandon Vivian, Cadillac’s executive chief engineer. He added it won’t be an entirely new generation of technology; the firm will release “more like a half step in between”. Vivian hinted the team of engineers he leads is working on making Super Cruise work in a wider array of driving and road conditions. Researchers are also teaching the technology how to read road signs and traffic signals, how to drive through intersections and how to handle construction zones. As of writing, the only Cadillac available with Super Cruise is the CT6. The CT5 introduced during the 2019 New York auto show will also offer the technology as an extra-cost option, but it’s not expected to arrive in showrooms until later this year. Pricing information hasn’t been released yet, either. 4 additional Cadillac models (including some that haven’t been unveiled yet, like its upcoming EV) will be available with Super Cruise by the end of 2021. +++ 

+++ Not to be outdone by cross-town rival Ford, General Motors has announced plans to build a full-size ELECTRIC PICKUP . Ford has publicly stated that it intends to build a battery-powered version of its best-selling F-150 pickup. GM boss Mary Barra broke the news on a conference call with investors. Despite the confirmation, Barra was short on other details, saying only that the company would release more information on the project “when competitively appropriate”. “GM has an industry-leading truck franchise and industry-leading electrification capabilities. I assure you we will not cede our leadership on either front”, Barra said. “We intend to create an all-electric future that includes a complete range of EVs, including full-size pickups”. Barra’s announcement comes not long after GM called off talks with up-start electric vehicle maker Rivian. Michigan-based Rivian plans to begin selling an electric pickup truck next year that could have served as the basis for a GM-branded plug-in truck. Ford, meanwhile, succeeded in forging a partnership with Rivian, announcing last week a $500 million investment deal with the Plymouth-based firm. Ford says it will build at least one future vehicle on Rivian’s electric vehicle architecture. GM didn’t release timing for the electric truck. However, the company plans to launch 20 new electric vehicles by 2023. +++ 

+++ Chinese electric vehicle developer FARADAY FUTURE said that it had obtained up to $225 million in bridge financing from a U.S. merchant bank to allow it to complete the development of its flagship FF91 model. Faraday, which has ambitions to overtake Tesla, said in November that it was exploring strategic options, including debt and equity financing, amid a legal fight with Evergrande Health Industry Group, which has since ended. The company said that it had signed the agreement with Birch Lake Associates, with parts of the financing also set to be used to pay around 60 % of the suppliers to which it owes money. The company also said it had launched a $1.25 billion equity capital-raising program with Stifel Nicolaus & Co as advisor. Faraday Future was founded by Chinese entrepreneur Jia Yueting, who is currently also its chief executive. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES has detailed its roadmap for a new connected ‘ecosystem,’ launching an Android-based infotainment system and cloud features later this year. The automaker will use Samsung-owned Harman’s cloud-based platform to power remote maintenance checks, charging station lookup, live traffic alerts, live customer assistance, and over-the-air software updates. The system will also be designed to interact with vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technologies and household devices via Samsung’s Smart Things platform. Inside the car, drivers will benefit from a new Uconnect system that runs Google’s automotive Android operating system. “The trusted and secure system will offer owners continuous innovation and will feature updates through a built-in cellular network, allowing for new capabilities in autonomous driving initiatives, electrification and connected services”, FCA says. The platforms will allow FCA to roll out additional mobility services with pay-by-the-mile options, usage-based insurance, peer-to-peer car sharing, and vehicle rentals. The technology will begin arriving in phases starting in the second half of the year, eventually encompassing all of FCA’s new vehicles by 2022. +++

+++ FORD has announced plans to begin supporting Amazon’s In-Car delivery service. The program will allow supported Ford and Lincoln vehicles to be used for Amazon Prime deliveries. Rather than having a package placed on a doorstep or in a mailbox, the deliveries are securely placed in the recipient’s vehicle. Eligible Ford models start with select 2017-model-year vehicles equipped with FordPass Connect, while Lincoln starts with the 2018 model year and requires Lincoln Connect. “In-Car delivery will be available virtually anywhere that Amazon offers the service, which is currently in several US ciities and surrounding areas”, Ford says. To enable the service, vehicle owners must download the FordPass or Lincoln Way app and link to their Prime account via the Amazon Key app. The service provides multiple alerts, including a notification before the delivery takes place and a confirmation when the package has been placed in the car. The delivery driver is required to double check that the vehicle has been locked. Ford is also collaborating with several car-wash companies that will be able to use the remote access feature to wash a car while it is in someone’s driveway or parked at work. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit, lifted by revaluations of shares it holds in ride-hailing company Lyft and PSA. Excluding the benefits of those revaluations, GM delivered results in line with analyst predictions, driven mostly by highly lucrative pickup sales in the U.S. market. The earnings came after a 7 % decline in U.S. new-vehicle sales in the first quarter, in which smaller rival FCA’ pickups outsold GM’s. “We remain concerned with the U.S. auto cycle, both from a pricing and volume perspective”, Buckingham Research analyst Joseph Amaturo wrote in a client note. “Moreover, specific to GM, we are concerned about recently monthly pick-up and market share stats”. GM’s sales in China also dropped almost 20 % and profit there declined 37 %. Auto sales in China industrywide fell 2.8 % last year and were down again in the first quarter. GM Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara told that the Chinese market remains “volatile”. “From an economic standpoint, there are green shoots”, she said. “But we have yet to see that translate to vehicle demand”. GM will launch 20 new models in China in 2019, most of them in the second half of the year. In the United States, the automaker had around 4 months supply of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup on the ground as of the beginning of April; a high level in an auto market that overall is expected to decline in 2019. CFO Suryadevara said that the company’s inventory would be brought down over the course of the year without use of heavy consumer discounts. She said that tariffs and higher commodity prices would cost GM around $1 billion in 2019. As recently as late last year, GM executives insisted the automaker’s Cruise self-driving unit would launch a commercial ride-hailing service by the end of 2019. However, when asked several times when that service would launch, neither CFO Suryadevara nor chief executive Mary Barra would provide a date, repeatedly responding that GM’s efforts would be “gated by safety”. GM said it is “bullish” on pickup sales for the rest of 2019 as more versions of its new Silverado hit dealer showrooms and its heavy-duty trucks launch in the second half of the year. Last week, rival Ford reported a higher-than-expected first-quarter profit on strong pickup sales in its core U.S. market and said it was confident its 2019 results would be better than those of last year. Ford said last week it will invest $500 million in U.S. electric vehicle startup Rivian, joining Amazon.com in backing the potential rival to Tesla. According to sources, GM had previously been in talks with Rivian about a possible investment. GM boss Barra told analysts the automaker will produce a full range of electric vehicles, including an all-electric pickup truck, but she did not provide details. GM has preferred shares in PSA from when it sold its German Opel unit to the Paris-based automaker in 2017. Lyft completed an initial public offering at the end of the first quarter and the value of GM’s stake rose $300 million. The company’s revenue for the quarter fell to $34.9 billion from $36.1 billion a year earlier. +++ 

+++ KIA is apparently planning to add a small crossover with all-wheel drive to its US lineup. Kia America boss Michael Cole confirmed that a new AWD model is in the company’s future product roadmap. The company has not identified which model leads the pack of potential candidates. Speculation points to a Kia badged adaptation of the new Venue, an AWD Soul variant, or a US launch for the Stonic. With the redesigned Soul, the company is already targeting a more ‘rugged’ off-road styling with the X-Line package. Adding all-wheel drive seems like a potentially viable option, as the Soul shares its platform with the Kona crossover that is already available with AWD. The company has not publicly pinned down a launch window for its mystery small SUV. +++

+++ Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) will move the assembly of its LAND ROVER Defender to its plant in Slovakia to make room for newer models at its factory in Britain, the company said. The Defender, which is designed and engineered in Britain, will be unveiled later this year, JLR said. “This decision is in parallel with plans for significant investment at the company’s Solihull plant in the UK to support the production of the next generation of flagship Range Rover and Land Rover models”, JLR said. This is the second model to be built at the Slovakia plant, which was officially launched in October, where JLR expects to hit annual production of 100,000 cars by 2020. The plant was built with an initial capacity of 150,000 vehicles and started by taking over production of the carmaker’s Discovery model. The British government has been wary of carmakers moving production outside the country after the industry warned that it would face possible risks if Britain’s impending exit from the European Union is disorderly. The risks, including delays to the supply of parts and finished models, new customs bureaucracy, the need to re-certify cars and an up to 10 % tariff on finished vehicles, have forced carmakers to draw up contingency plans and even briefly shut production at their plants. Together JLR, Mini, Rolls-Royce and Peugeot’s Vauxhall (branded as Opel in the rest of Europe) built over 750,000 of Britain’s 1.52 million cars last year. +++ 

+++ LEXUS is developing a new entry-level compact model to replace the ageing CT 200h, according to the firm’s European boss. Plans to release a model that is smaller in size than the new UX were confirmed by Pascal Ruch at the 2019 Geneva motor show, after UK boss Ewan Shepherd first hinted at such a car earlier this year. Despite being introduced back in 2011, the CT 200h is set to remain on sale for another 2 years. The new model is therefore expected to arrive in 2021 and will almost certainly be based on Toyota’s new TNGA platform, which should offer significantly better interior packaging than today’s car. What’s not clear yet, however, is whether Lexus will retain the CT 200h’s hatchback bodystyle or move to something more crossover-shaped. We know it will be offered with some form of electrification, and it’s possible that such a car could be Lexus’s long-awaited first EV. Ruch also claimed that Lexus is well-placed for the upcoming hybrid revolution, while at the same time revealing that petrol-electric models remain a significant minority of the brand’s global output. Despite Lexus being known in Europe as a hybrid brand, Ruch said that only 182,000 of its record global 2018 sales of 698,000 vehicles were petrol-electric. One reason for that was some restrictions on battery supply; another is that the big US market has a Lexus hybrid share of just 10 %. The longer-term plan is for Lexus to move to a 50 % hybrid production share globally, Ruch added. Europe is the biggest market for Lexus hybrid models, with petrol-electric cars accounting for more than 75 % of the 76,000 sales. The plan is for European sales to continue 5 years of growth and expand to 90,000 units in 2019 and then 100,000 units in 2020. “Europe has a great strategic importance for Lexus because it’s seen as a leading region for technology and design”, Ruch said. “Our hybrid sales are highest in Europe, China and Japan will electrify internal combustion engines and the wider US market is really now starting with hybrids”. Ruch told that the Toyota Group is leading the European market in terms of fleet CO2 and is “well on the way” to meeting the upcoming 2020/21 EU CO2 regulations. “We will be focusing on a core strategy of plug-in hybrids, some EVs and, eventually, fuel cell vehicles”, he said. Indeed, new figures from automotive analyst Jato Dynamics show that the Toyota brand posted a fleet average of 99 g/km CO2 in 2018, beaten only by Tesla and Smart (89.9 g/km). +++

+++ MERCEDES-AMG is currently testing the GLS 63. The German brand appears to be listening closely to the demands of its customers, as Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers hinted at the potential demand for the model. The GLS 63 will be treated to the usual Mercedes-AMG cosmetic overhaul, with more aggressive front and rear bumpers, larger alloy wheels, a redesigned tailgate and a pair of square, twin-exit exhaust pipes. We can also expect an updated front and rear lights. Autointernationaal.nl expects the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 to be powered by the same 4.0-litre V8 biturbo that features under the bonnet of the S Class AMG 63 Coupe. If so, power and torque figures should stand at 612 hp and 900Nm respectively, while the SUV should be able to achieve an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h. Much like the rest of the Mercedes-AMG range, the new GLS 63 will also benefit from a host of chassis upgrades to cope with the extra grunt. Revisions should include a reworked traction control system, larger brakes, uprated performance suspension and a beefier four-wheel-drive set-up. A production deadline has yet to be set for the new Mercedes-AMG GLS 63. Andreas Zygan, head of SUV development for Mercedes, said: “We have a lot of customers for AMG, so it would make sense to make an AMG version of the GLS. We cannot talk about the timeline or market introduction of this car, but there will be one, of course”. A luxury Mercedes-Maybach version of the GLS is also on the cards, with Zygan telling me: “There is no decision we have taken, but what you see in the exquisite GLS is that we’ve developed a lot of things (the comfort and surroundings we’ve focused on) so the car has the possibility of a further project, but it’s not official. We’re looking closely and if we’re convinced, it would not take so long to make a decision”. He did reveal that the GLS-based Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept, first displayed at the Beijing Motor Show in 2018, could still become reality. “Why not?” he said. “At the end it is clear that it’s down to the demands of customers; such a car is driven by customer demand and we need enough numbers. We have a very intensive discussion about this, but right now in the near future there won’t be such a concept”. What Zygan did definitely rule out, though, was an electrified version of the GLS, telling us that the platform was not designed for electrification and that demand would be too small to support the initial financial outlay. +++

+++ A U.S. Securities and Exchange commissioner criticized a settlement between the regulator and Tesla boss Elon MUSK over his use of Twitter. The head of the electric car maker reached a deal with the SEC, agreeing to submit his public statements about the company’s finances and other topics to vetting by its legal counsel. However, SEC commissioner Robert Jackson registered his dissent after the deal was approved by a federal judge. “Given Musk’s conduct, I cannot support a settlement in which he does not admit what is crystal clear to anyone who has followed this bizarre series of events”, Jackson said in a statement. “Musk breached the agreement he made last year with the Commission and with American investors”, he added. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan approved the deal worked out on Friday that settled the dispute in which the SEC had sought to find Musk in contempt of a securities fraud settlement last year. Earlier this month, Nathan had ordered the parties to work out an arrangement between themselves. The new deal lays out in more detail what types of statements by Musk must be reviewed by Tesla’s legal counsel before publication, such as financial statements, previously unreported production or delivery numbers, and other topics. Regulators had claimed that a February tweet by Musk about Tesla’s production numbers violated the earlier settlement, as it had not been vetted by the company’s attorneys. Musk countered that the tweet was not material. The SEC sued Musk last year for making fraudulent statements after he tweeted on Aug. 7 that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 per share. The parties eventually settled, and the deal called for Tesla’s lawyers to pre-approve written communications, including tweets with material information about the company. +++ 

+++ Italian automotive design house PININFARINA will continue to expand its team in China despite the market slowdown, chief executive Silvio Pietro Angori said. Pininfarina has more than 700 employees globally, including 50 in China. It plans to increase its China head count to 80 this year. “Although it is declining, the market is so large and there are still a lot of new cars being developed. So I don’t expect any decline in our business”, Angori told. Local automakers are driving the firm’s business growth in China. In the last 2 years, Pininfarina has doubled its number of auto design clients in China. The clients include traditional Chinese automakers such as Chery, Changan, GAC, Jianghuai and Southeast Motor, as well as electric vehicle startups such as Hybrid Kinetic Group. At the auto show, Pininfarina presented 2 new concept cars: an electric luxury sedan prototype for Chinese-backed California EV maker Karma Automotive and a concept car for Chinese fuel cell vehicle startup Grove Hydrogen Automotive. Pininfarina opened a studio in Shanghai in 2010. “We design 8 to 14 new cars for Chinese clients a year, with half of them designed in China and the other half in Italy”, Angori said. In contrast to the slumping sales of gasoline-powered vehicles, deliveries of electrified vehicles have stayed robust in China. Sales of EVs, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles across the country soared 110 % year on year to approach 300,000 in the first quarter of this year. As a result, the new vehicles Pininfarina has designed for Chinese customers lately are almost all electrified, Angori said. Pininfarina started designing vehicles for Chinese automakers in the 1990s. Over the years, Angori said, Chinese automakers’ understanding of car design has matured. He added: “10 years ago, they would like us to design an Audi or a BMW look-alike, but now they want designs that express their identity or character”. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE design boss Michael Mauer is deciding whether the firm’s new hypercar, due around 2025 as a successor to the 918 Spyder, should be styled futuristically or with a retrospective nod to some of the greatest cars from the company’s past. The firm recently released a Porsche 917 Concept design study to mark the 50th anniversary of its 1970 Le Mans victory, with Mauer saying it reflected ongoing discussions over the next-generation hypercar. “If you launch a new hypercar then you can go extremely modern in your thinking or maybe just go back to our sports car roots and take inspiration from some of the many icons in our history”, he said. “When you look at the 917 Concept then, personally, I love it. You look at it and you immediately make the connections. But as a designer who believes that the next hypercar should point to the future, I’m not so sure. There is always the option to look into history, but sometimes you can also take the option to create some history”. Porsche boss Oliver Blume confirmed that plans for a next-generation hypercar are under way, but said its future hung on a decision on its powertrain: “If we want it to be electric then we must wait, because battery performance is not where we need it to be yet in order to meet our performance targets. It is not decided though that the car will be fully electric. There are opportunities with hybrid, too. We will make a decision when the time is right”. +++

+++ RENAULT and Nissan have set up an innovation lab in Shanghai to conduct R&D on autonomous driving, connected cars and electric vehicles. The Alliance Innovation Lab Shanghai will be equally owned by Renault and Nissan. Technologies developed by the lab will be adopted for Renault and Nissan vehicles sold in and outside China, Renault said. The lab, launched this month, is the second joint automotive project Renault and Nissan have jointly launched in China in the past 3 years. In 2017, the alliance formed an engineering joint venture, eGT New Energy Automotive, with local partner Dongfeng in the central China city of Shiyan. The eGT venture is a 50-25-25 partnership among Dongfeng, Renault and Nissan. It is responsible for designing a new EV based off the Renault Kwid crossover’s platform. The electric crossover was unveiled as the Renault City K-ZE at the Shanghai auto show this month. It will be produced at Dongfeng’s plant in Shiyan, which can build up to 120,000 vehicles a year. It is scheduled to go on sale in the second half of the year, according to Renault. +++

+++ The tiny, 2-person SMART cars once pitched as the next big thing in urban mobility will be discontinued in the United States and Canada at the end of the current model year, Daimler said. Smart cars, with their unique styling and ability to fit in half a parking space, found an audience in densely populated U.S. and Canadian cities. But that audience was small and rapidly declining. Smart reported just 90 cars sold in the United States during March, down 18 % from the year before. U.S. sales of a wide range of small cars have collapsed over the past several years as relatively cheap gasoline and a strong economy have encouraged consumers to buy larger pickups and SUVs. The Smart brand’s electric cars offered just 93 km of driving range. Competing models such as the ‘mid-range’ Tesla Model 3, with an estimated range of 420 kilometres, offered more range and more room for passengers and cargo. The range figures are from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand, in a statement, cited “a number of factors” for the decision to end Smart’s run in the United States and Canada, “including a declining micro-car market in the U.S. and Canada, combined with high homologation costs for a low volume model”. Homologation refers to the changes required to bring the European-designed Smart in line with U.S. regulations. Daimler ended sales of gasoline-fueled Smart cars in 2017. Mercedes plans to bring new, larger electric vehicles to the United States, starting with the launch of the EQ C next year. Those vehicles will help Mercedes meet zero emission vehicle quotas in California and other states. Mercedes dealers will still offer parts and repairs for Smart cars, the company said. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , the number of cars produced fell 14.4 % year-on-year in March. Some 126,195 cars rolled off production lines in the UK last month, compared with 147,505 in March 2018, representing the 10th consecutive month of decline. Production for the home market took the biggest hit, falling 18.1 % year-on-year from 32,808 to 26,873. Meanwhile, exports (which currently make up of 77.8 % of UK-manufactured cars) saw a 13.4 % drop from 114,697 to 99,322. Overall year-to-date manufacturing is currently down 15.9 % from 440,530 to 370,289. The continued decline has been blamed on softening sales in the European and Asian markets, as well as model changes and shifting global car segment preferences. Analysts say that if the ongoing Brexit negotiations have a “positive result” (which they describe as a “favourable deal and transition period maintaining the status quo”). UK car production could stand 1.36 million units for the whole 2019, down from 1.52 million in 2018, before rising back up to 1.42 million by 2021. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, though, and conducts business on WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms, the analysts predicts manufacturing will fall by around 30 % from current levels to as low as 1.07 million units by 2021. The latest figures from 2019 follow a “deeply depressing” decline of 9.1 % in 2018, the same year investment in the UK automotive industry fell by a “disturbing” 46.5 %. Some 1.52 million cars were built in the UK in 2018; a 9.1 % decline on the previous year, when 1.67 million left factories. While production at Mini plants rose by 7 %, Vauxhall saw a 15.9 % fall in the number of cars it produced in the UK, with Nissan down 10.7 %, Toyota down 10.4 % and Jaguar  Land Rover witnessing a 15.6 % production reduction. Brexit-related uncertainty, diesel downturn, regulatory changes, model cycles, market stagnation in Europe, and slowdown in China have been cited amongst the reasons for the manufacturing slump. The biggest concern for UK automotive, however, which employs around 856,000 people across the wider industry, is the fall in investment witnessed last year. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN plans to start series production of the 8th generation Golf at the car’s home factory of Wolfsburg by the end of the third quarter. The latest iteration of Europe’s No. 1-selling car is scheduled to debut in October. VW originally planned to debut the Golf at the Frankfurt auto show in September. That plan was changed to let the automaker focus the spotlight at Frankfurt on the public premier of the ID.3 full-electric compact hatchback, which is the first member of VW’s ID family of battery-driven vehicles. In addition, the new Golf has been stung by an array of software-related glitches. To make the new Golf stand out from rivals such as the Ford Focus and Opel Astra in Europe’s highly competitive compact segment, VW wants the car to set the benchmark for connectivity. VW, for example, will offer Golf owners the opportunity to unlock the car via a smartphone that utilizes a digital key. This single function, however, is hooked up to more than 10 different vehicle subsystems, engineers say. “The navigational and infotainment system alone has between 10 to 20 million lines of code, which is more than an entire car had 10 years ago”, said a senior executive at the carmaker. Standard features of the Golf VIII will include lane-keeping assist, LED headlights, a multifunction steering wheel and a fully digital cockpit that includes a touchscreen display in the middle console that will be a minimum of 8.25 inches. In-car “Volkswagen We” apps can be integrated, using an ethernet connection to swiftly transfer data. The new Golf will also be able to talk to other cars and intelligent transportation infrastructure. Packing all of these features into the new Golf has been a challenge. Engineers are currently working the software bugs out of the system during testing of the pre-production series. When a problem is found, a ticket is opened and workers begin by trying to localize which system’s electronic control unit is causing the problem. There are dozens of ECUs in the car. If they cannot fix the problem, the supplier of the component and its requisite ECU is contacted to determine where in the software code a problem has arisen. To ensure all problems are addressed, a ticket cannot be closed by anyone other than the individual who opened it. “Sometimes when you solve one, 2 more appear in its place”, said one senior electrical engineer involved in diagnosing the Golf’s problems. This is in part due to the dozens of different ECUs that all have their own software: “We have to become world champions in integration”. Since the Golf first launched in 1974, more than 35 million units of the iconic car and its derivatives, such as the Golf Variant and Golf Sportsvan, have been sold worldwide. +++

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