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+++ AUDI is celebrating a milestone as the A4 has been on the market for 25 years. Since the ‘B5′ generation first rolled off the assembly line in Ingolstadt, the company has produced more than 7.5 million units. Now in its 5th generation, the latest A4 achieved sales of more than 344,500 units in 2018. Sales have been strong for years, with more than 272,000 units sold in the A4’s first full year of production. Despite the growing popularity of crossovers and SUVs that tend to dominate sales for other brands, the A4 remains Audi’s most popular model. “For a quarter of a century now, the A4 has symbolized the Four Rings like no other model”, says Ingolstadt plant director Albert Mayer. “It stands for cuttingedge technology in the premium midrange, as well as for innovative production technologies at the highest level”. +++

+++ BMW and Microsoft have announced new joint projects that could improve voice interaction with vehicle infotainment systems. One project involves a new open-source platform that focuses on making conversations with the BMW Personal Assistant more personalized, natural-sounding and multimodal. BMW envisions a future in which drivers can naturally interact with the vehicle by having a simple conversation. For example, the vehicle could remind the owner that service is due and start a voice dialogue that leads to an appointment to visit a service center. Drivers would also be able to manage their personal emails and calendar appointments during a journey. The open-source platform is one of several projects that aim to enable BMW drivers to have a natural conversation with their vehicle. +++ 

+++ BMW’s Chief Executive said the carmaker has increased production of its X3 offroader model in Spartanburg, South Carolina, as well as in China, a step which reduces exposure to trade tariffs between China and the United States. “We have increased production of the BMW X3 for the U.S. market”, Harald Krüger told. BMW has started building its X3 in China, ending the need for exports of this vehicle from the United States and increased production in Spartanburg to meet demand from customers in North America, Krüger said. “We are less sensitive compared to other companies if trade conflicts appear”. President Trump said he will raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 % from 10 %, escalating a trade dispute which has hit profits of global carmakers including BMW. +++ 

+++ Introduced at the 2019 New York auto show, the 2020 CT5 proves CADILLAC hasn’t given up on the sedan segment. It will pick up where the CTS left off. But while the firm is still able to make a case for sedans in spite of decreasing sales, a recent report suggests coupes and station wagons are much more difficult to vouch for. “As far as additional body styles, we can’t announce anything right now”, said Mike Bride, the CT5’s chief engineer. While that’s not a flat-out denial, it seems that coupe and wagon variants of the model aren’t planned. Americans don’t buy wagons, and the coupe segment is shrinking, so I’m not surprised by Cadillac’s decision not to spend money to develop cars people won’t buy. The 2-door variant of the ATS will retire in the not-too-distant future, meaning the Cadillac line-up will be coupe-less. I know the company is planning a smaller sedan (tentatively called CT4) to replace the ATS, but whether it will spawn a sedan in the vein of the Audi A4 and the BMW 4 Series remains to be seen. Interestingly, Bride revealed his team considered launching the CT5 with a large hatch instead of a conventional trunk lid. Its sloping roof line would lend itself well to the hatchback body style, but expanding the trunk opening would have added made the car heavier while raising its center of gravity. His comments suggest that, ultimately, a CT5 hatchback wouldn’t handle as well as a CT5 sedan. +++ 

+++ General Motors’ CRUISE division has raised another $1.15 billion in funding as it attempts to commercialize its self-driving taxis. The new money is said to come from existing investors including GM, SoftBank, and Honda, along with new institutional investors. The unit has received more than $7 billion in funding over the past year. “Developing and deploying self-driving vehicles at massive scale is the engineering challenge of our generation”, says Cruise chief Dan Ammann. “Having deep resources to draw on as we pursue our mission is a critical competitive advantage”. The Cruise division is now valued at $19 billion, compared to GM’s market cap of around $54 billion. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER ’s next CEO will have a tough job to restore margins at Mercedes-Benz, current boss Dieter Zetsche said, as Mercedes launched a new luxury electric car to rival Tesla. Zetsche said Mercedes needed to find a way to rebuild margins after research and development costs at Mercedes-Benz ballooned. Zetsche will be succeeded as Daimler’s CEO on May 22 by Ola Kallenius, who is already considering ways to cut billions in costs. Zetsche said: “There are many challenges ahead. We are in a situation of an economic slowdown. It is not going to be easier going forward”. Pressure to develop electric and autonomous cars has led R&D costs at Mercedes-Benz passenger cars to rise to €14 billion from around €8 billion 4 years ago, Zetsche said. At the same time, China, the world’s largest car market, has seen sales momentum slowing for 9 months in a row, with a 5.2 % fall in sales in March. Mercedes-Benz’s EQ C electric crossover will hit showrooms this summer, years after Tesla launched its Model S sedan in 2012.  The EQ C will go up against Tesla’s Model X. Daimler has been cautious about embracing mass production of electric vehicles at Mercedes-Benz amid concerns about operating range and customer acceptance. The company took a 9.1 % stake in Tesla for around $50 million in May 2009 to learn about battery technology, but sold its stake for a $780 million profit in 2014. Daimler launched an electric car under the Smart brand in 2010, but waited until 2014 to build an electric Mercedes B class. Daimler, like other automakers, has struggled to make electric cars profitable, although the cost of battery packs is expected to fall as they invest in ramping up battery cell production. ING analysts say the total cost of ownership, including fuel prices, could reach parity between electric and combustion engined vehicles by 2025. In an effort to make a profit with electric cars, Daimler has opted to build the Mercedes EQ C in a way that enables it to be built on the same production line as a combustion engined car, retooling existing plants. The EQ C is being built in Bremen, Germany, on the same line as the C-class and the GLC. Daimler is investing more than €10 billion to expand the electric EQ model range and is building battery cell production facilities. The EQ C will have an operating range of 445 to 471 km under Europe’s outgoing NEDC test cycle, with a base version costing below €60,000 to make it eligible for Germany’s electric car environmental bonus. Asked whether Daimler was too late to the electric vehicle trend, Zetsche said: “For the past 40 years I have heard that German manufacturers have missed all the important trends. But apparently customers still like cars from manufacturers that have missed the boat”. Zetsche took over as CEO of DaimlerChrysler in 2006 and took the decision to sell Chrysler, returning Mercedes to the top selling luxury brand globally in 2016 and defending the title ever since. Zetsche said Daimler’s future hinged on making electric cars profitably. “We need to prove that we can earn adequate margins, and the capital market wants to proof points. We are working on making this a reality”. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS has announced that its decommissioned Lordstown, Ohio, factory may be sold to Workhorse Group, a company that builds electric vehicles and aircraft. “We remain committed to growing manufacturing jobs in the US, including in Ohio, and we see this development as a potential win-win for everyone”, said GM chief Mary Barra. If executed, the move could help alleviate some political pressure after GM decided to shutter the Lordstown plant. Reversing his critical comments over the closure, President Donald Trump today celebrated the Workhorse news as “great news for Ohio!” Cincinnati-based Workhorse currently focuses on electric utility and delivery vehicles, including vans and a small pickup. Notably, the company’s first products were based on a GM chassis. The upcoming W-15 pickup has an electric range of 130 kilometres and a gasoline range extender. The company has also shown prototypes of electric VTOL aircraft. “The first vehicle we would plan to build if we were to purchase the Lordstown Complex would be a commercial electric pickup, blending Workhorse’s technology with Lordstown’s manufacturing expertise”, said Workhorse founder Steve Burns. +++ 

+++ Following a quiet 2 years, HYUNDAI ’s N Performance division appears to be readying its second model, the i20 N, which will be the Korean firm’s rival for the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI. The hot N supermini may not arrive until the launch of the next-generation car. The i20 was facelifted last year, and as such, is now well beyond halfway through its life. Albert Biermann, Hyundai’s N division chief, is enthusiastic about the idea of fast superminis. Back in 2017, when quizzed about whether the N line-up could expand to include cars smaller than the i30, he said: “Of course. Why would we limit ourselves to C-segment? There are tons of hot superminis out there: Polo GTI, Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 and even Toyota now is doing one (the Yaris GRMN). There’s a good market out there”. Hyundai’s engine choice for the i20 N remains a mystery. Biermann, has previously confirmed that the planned Kona N will use the i30 N’s 250 hp turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, meaning there’s potential for it to be bolted into the i20 N in a lower state of tune. Given the i20’s smaller dimensions and lower price point, though, a more likely option would be a tuned version of the car’s existing turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. The i20 N will likely produce around 200 hp, giving it comparable performance to the Fiesta ST, while not treading too heavily on the toes of the more expensive i30 N. All i20 N’s will be front-wheel-drive and some versions are likely to feature an electronic limited-slip differential. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER is not about to be sold to PSA Group, JLR owner Tata Motors and PSA said, denying a UK press agency report. PSA is not in any hurry for “any acquisition and can stand alone”, the French automaker said in a statement. “We are generating the cashflow necessary to pay for our future. If an opportunity comes, like Opel-Vauxhall, we will consider it”. Tata Motors said: “As a matter of policy, we do not comment on media speculation. But we can confirm there is no truth to these rumors”. The UK-based Press Association said PSA and Tata Motors are exploring details of cost savings after a tie-up nd a “post-sale integration” document outlines specific areas. Negotiations are moving quickly, according to an unidentified person at JLR, PA said. PA said leaked information suggested a sale could be imminent, citing the integration document, which outlines the benefits of the 2 companies joining forces. PSA CEO Carlos Tavares is seeking a deal that will expand the automaker’s footprint outside of Europe, Bloomberg reported in March, citing people familiar with the matter. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is attractive to PSA for its exposure to the U.S. and its premium Jeep brand, but Tavares also sees General Motors as a good fit and Jaguar Land Rover as a possibility, the people said. PSA bought Opel/Vauxhall from General Motors in 2017 and has since restored the unit to profit after years of losses under GM. Speculation has been mounting over JLR’s future under Tata Motors, which bought the automaker from Ford Motor in 2008. Jaguar Land Rover has been hit hard by slumping sales in China, the shift away from combustion and diesel engines, and strong historic links to the UK, where concern over a disruptive Brexit has weighed on demand and prompted some brands to move production. Jaguar Land Rover needs to raise $1 billion within 14 months to replace maturing bonds, while feeding an investment program for electric vehicles that is burning through cash. Tata posted a record $4 billion loss for its fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31, and warned that JLR would swing to an operating loss in the full year to March. +++ 

+++ 2 top automakers from JAPAN said they planned to tighten their belts in the years ahead to free up cash to develop electric cars and ride-sharing services, underscoring the hard task ahead as traditional automakers face a rapidly changing industry. Toyota, the country’s top automaker, said that higher costs to develop new technologies like connected cars was ramping up pressure to generate savings wherever possible, while Honda said it would strip down its vehicle lineup to cut production costs. “We still weren’t able to improve our costs enough last year”, Toyota CFO Koji Kobayashi told reporters, adding that mounting investment required for new technologies and other R&D costs was making cost-cutting efforts more challenging. “We need to work to find new ways to reduce costs this year”, he said, adding that penny pinching would apply to all aspects of the business, from producing lower-cost prototypes to limiting the number of pencils employees use at any given time. Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said Japan’s No. 3 automaker would cut the number of car model variations to a third of current offerings by 2025, reducing global production costs by 10 percent and redirecting those savings toward advanced research and development. “We recognize that the number of models and variations at the trim and option level have increased and our efficiency has declined”, he told reporters at a briefing. Toyota expects cost reduction efforts will help to lift operating profit by 3.3 % to 2.55 trillion yen ($23.20 billion) in the year to March 2020. In the year just ended, Toyota posted an operating profit of 2.47 trillion yen. The profit outlook for one of the world’s biggest car makers was slightly lower than the 2.61 trillion yen average of 23 analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv. Toyota also announced a 300 billion yen share buyback. Honda forecast cost reductions would help boost operating profit by 6 % to 770 billion yen in the year to March. That is less than the 834 billion yen average of 22 analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv. Profit fell 13 % to 726 billion yen in the year ended March due to currency fluctuations and costs related to Honda’s plan to shutter production plants in the UK and Turkey in 2021. Toyota expects to sell a record 10.74 million vehicles globally in the current year, up 1.3 % on the year and lifted by higher sales in Asia as it continues to grow sales in China despite an overall slowdown in the world’s biggest auto market. But sales in North America are expected to struggle for another year due to weak U.S. demand for its sedan models such as the Corolla and the Camry as drivers continue to shift to larger, higher-margin trucks and SUVs. Toyota expects sales in the region to slide 1.6 %. Kobayashi said Toyota wanted to raise its operating margin in North America to 8 % in 2020, in line with the global margin, from around 1 %, but acknowledged it was not confident of meeting the target. To do so, the automaker would need to further ramp up its sales ratio of SUVs and trucks from around 60 % of total vehicle sales in 2018 and slash discounting, he said. Toyota, Honda and their rivals are facing stiff competition as ride-sharing technology and the race to develop self-driving cars has caused rapid – and costly – disruption to the auto industry. These new technologies have opened the industry to tech firms and other players, forcing traditional automakers to rethink their strategy of selling gasoline-powered passenger cars to individual drivers, a business model which has been essentially unchallenged for the past century. “From here on will be an age in which the difference between victory and defeat will be decided by the last one mile, which will be our contact point with customers”, Toyota President Akio Toyoda told reporters. “Merely depending on the business model of the past will not lead to the future”. +++ 

+++ Owners of diesel-powered JEEP and Ram vehicles may be entitled to more than $3,000 from a lawsuit over improper emissions software. Negotiated earlier this year and finalized this week, the class-action settlement is said to be worth up to $3,075 in compensation per eligible vehicle, along with a software fix and extended warranty, according to Consumer Reports. The lawsuit covers 2014-2016 Ram 1500 pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs powered by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ 3.0-liter ‘EcoDiesel’ engine. “This agreement accomplishes our goals of holding FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and Bosch accountable for their diesel emissions cheating, and of compensating consumers while protecting our environment”, lead plaintiff attorney Elizabeth Cabraser said in a statement. Eligible owners have 21 months to submit a claim and 2 years to complete the related software update. +++

+++ MAZDA said operating profit slumped 43 % in the latest fiscal year, with results broadsided by falling global sales, increased marketing expenses, foreign exchange losses and spiraling costs for increased investment in its U.S. retail network reforms. Mazda operating profit dropped to 83.01 billion yen ($748.9 million) in the full fiscal year ended March 31, the automaker said. Net income also slid 43 %, to 63.48 billion yen ($573.0 million) in the 12 months. Revenue increased 3 % to 3.56 trillion yen ($32.12 billion), as worldwide retail sales declined 4 % to 1.56 million units, losing ground in North America and China. Operating profit margin deteriorated to 2.3 % from 4.2 % the year before. In announcing the results, CEO Akira Marumoto outlined a new mid-term business plan that targets lifting operating profit margin to a sustainable 5 percent by the fiscal year ending March 31, 2025. The company also downgraded its long-term sales goal in line with tougher realities. Mazda now targets global sales of 1.8 million vehicles in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2025. It had earlier wanted to sell 2 million vehicles in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2024. Marumoto said he wanted to alleviate the pressure to use incentives to attain volume targets. He said he also wanted wiggle room to achieve goals if unexpected market conditions arrive. Financial results in the latest year were hammered by numerous factors. Declining sales were triggered partly by interrupted supply from Japan, where Mazda suspended production last year following heavy rains that caused flooding throughout the region of western Japan where Mazda is based. Mazda said last year it lost production of 44,000 complete vehicles and 23,000 knockdown kits for overseas assembly because of the rains. Incentives further dented profitability in the latest fiscal year. Mazda is trying to rein in incentive spending as part of a push to boost the brand image. In the first 3 months of 2019, Mazda scaled back incentives 23 %, according to figures from Autodata. But in the 2018 calendar year, spiffs increased 11 %. Meanwhile, the Japanese yen’s appreciation against the U.S. dollar and other currencies took another bite. Exchange rates cut 38.1 billion yen ($343.8 million) off the full-year profit. Mazda also cited higher outlays for overhauling its U.S. retailing network and for quality costs. Marumoto, who took office in June 2018, says his highest priority is spurring growth in the U.S., the automaker’s biggest market. To do that, he wants to focus on strengthening Mazda’s U.S. dealer network and making the most of its growing partnership with Toyota. Mazda is trying to upgrade its dealer network before it opens a new plant it is jointly building in Alabama with Toyota. Slated to open in 2021, the $1.6 billion plant will add 150,000 units of capacity to Mazda; all of which will be devoted to a new crossover for the U.S. Mazda expects U.S. sales to soar after that, with the plant eventually enabling the automaker to sell 2 million vehicles globally. Mazda forecast that operating profit will rebound 33 % in the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2020, while net income increases 26 %. The automaker sees global sales increasing 4 % to 1.62 million units. +++

+++ MITSUBISHI forecasts a 19 % fall in operating profit this year as it reins in aggressive growth amid slowing global car demand and charts a new course after the ouster of former chairman Carlos Ghosn. Japan’s 6th-largest automaker, in which Nissan holds a controlling stake, expects profit to fall to 90.0 billion yen ($821.02 million) in the year to March, after a 14 % rise to 111.8 billion yen in the year just ended. Mitsubishi said the need to invest heavily to develop and market new, on-demand transportation services and lower-emissions vehicles to comply with tighter regulations would put pressure on the automaker’s growth prospects in the coming years. It expects global sales to rise 4.9 % to 1.31 million vehicles in the current year, slowing from the 13 % growth seen in the year ended March as it sees sales growth slowing in Southeast Asia, a key market which has more than doubled in the past decade. Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko said that the automaker would accept slower sales growth by easing the pace of expansion in ASEAN countries and growth markets of China and the United States in the coming years to ensure sustained profitability. “We need to drastically revise our strategy even if we experience a temporary stall in performance”, Masuko told reporters at a briefing. “It’s not realistic to adopt a strategy based only on expansion. We need to prioritize healthy growth”. Masuko said that he would resist relying on discounting and fleet sales to grow overall sales, a strategy which has stung partner Nissan in the United States. Mitsubishi is contending with slowing demand for cars, ongoing global trade frictions and the need to develop new technologies just as it and its partners Nissan and Renault grapple with the fallout from the arrest of Ghosn, the group’s former chairman who is facing charges of financial misconduct in Japan. Ghosn has been accused of enriching himself at a cost of $5 million to Nissan. Since his initial arrest in November, he has also been charged with temporarily transferring personal financial losses to his employer’s books and understating his salary during his time at the helm of Japan’s No. 2 automaker. He has denied all charges against him. Masuko said he was unaware of plans by Renault to propose the creation of a joint holding company that would give the French automaker and Nissan equal footing, as media had reported late last month. He added that the 3 companies had not discussed management integration, an idea which Nissan has long opposed. +++

+++ The Spanish arm of Japanese carmaker NISSAN has reached an agreement with unions to cut 600 jobs at its plant in Barcelona, or almost 20 % of the plant’s workforce. The layoffs, a mixture of voluntary redundancies and early retirements over the next year, were a condition for a planned investment of €70 million in a new painting facility, Nissan said in a statement. Nissan, which has 5 plants and employs around 5,000 people in Spain, reached the agreement after more than a month of negotiations with unions. As part of the deal, any further changes to the workforce are to be negotiated separately with unions. +++

+++ The PSA Group, which is restructuring its European plants in preparation for the new OPEL Astra, will add van production at its factory in Poland. The change likely will have implications for PSA’s factory in Ellesmere Port, England, which currently builds the Astra, and Opel’s flagship plant in Rüsselsheim, Germany, which will be allocated some future Astra production. Currently Ellesmere Port and Opel’s factory in Gliwice, southern Poland, are the only 2 European factories building the Astra, which is Opel’s No. 2 seller in Europe after the Corsa. The decision to add production of large commercial vans in Gliwice by 2021 secures the plant’s future “for more than a decade”, PSA said in a statement. News of Gliwice’s switch to vans could be a cause for optimism at Ellesmere Port because it removes a rival for production of the next Astra. “No decision about the allocation of the future Astra has been taken”, PSA said. PSA has been axing jobs at Ellesmere Port in a bid to make the plant competitive and reduce production in the face of falling sales. The plant’s future has been questioned because the UK’s future trading status with the EU remains in the balance with Brexit still unresolved. Opel’s Rüsselsheim plant, near Frankfurt, could be picked to build left-hand-drive cars currently produced by Ellesmere Port. Gliwice will become the second European plant to build large vans for PSA brands alongside the SevelSud factory in southern Italy, a joint venture with FCA Group. PSA and FCA said in February that SevelSud plant would continue to make Peugeot Boxer, Citroen Jumper and Fiat Ducato vans until 2023. The addition of Gliwice will give PSA capacity of another 100,000 vehicles for large vans, on top of the 300,000 already available at the Italian plant. “The SevelSud plant has exceeded its manufacturing capacities over the last 3 years”, PSA said in a statement. Gliwice will build new versions of the Opel/Vauxhall Movano, which are currently built by Renault at its factory in Batilly, France. PSA is counting on higher light-commercial vehicle sales and profits as part of its Push to Pass 2021 strategic plan. Last year PSA sold 564,147 light commercial vehicles globally, up 18 % on the year before. PSA is the biggest seller of LCVs in Europe when all its brands are combined. Ford is the largest single LCV brand. The PSA Group currently produces midsize vans at Luton, England, and Hordain, northern France. The Hordain plant was part of the original Sevel agreement, but the PSA-Fiat partnership at the plant dissolved in 2012, with PSA taking over 100 % of operations. Gliwice started production in 1998 building the Astra Classic. More recently the plant also built the Cascada for Opel in Europe, for Buick in the US and for Holden in Australia. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE will update the Panamera (Sport Turismo) for its 2020 model year, and the first prototypes of the new car are hitting German roads. Expected to be revealed before the year is out, the Mercedes AMG GT 4-door rival will receive subtle revisions to the exterior look, including an altered tail-light design with an LED strip linking both units. The changes will bring it into line with newer Porsche models, such as the Cayenne and 992-generation 911. It won’t be just a cosmetic upgrade, however, as Autocar understands Porsche is planning to introduce its first mild-hybrid powertrains for the Panamera. The S and 4S models will make use of the same 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, but the 2 variants are likely to adopt a 48 volt electrical architecture. This allow the fitment of a mild-hybrid system, using the usual integrated motor generator to harvest electrical power to provide an efficiency boost and allow the start-stop system to activate sooner. Perhaps more important to Porsche buyers, however, will be the expected inclusion of Audi’s electric compressor system, filling in the gaps in torque delivery while the turbochargers spool up. With the interior already as up to date as its siblings, expect more technology upgrades than design changes inside. We’ll see more advanced infotainment and assist features, but nothing dramatic is predicted. +++ 

+++ The PSA Group said it is ready to consider potential tie-ups, after the French carmaker’s shares briefly rose on a report that it was in advanced talks with Tata Motors to acquire UK-based Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). The Peugeot maker declined to comment on a report that a deal was imminent. Tata denied the report, which cited sources referring to an internal “post-sale integration document” describing cost savings. “On principle we are open to opportunities that could create long-term value for PSA Group and its shareholders”, said Alain Le Gouguec, a spokesman for the Paris-based manufacturer. PSA is setting new profitability records even as it continues to integrate Opel/Vauxhall, acquired from General Motors in 2017, and has previously signaled openness to further acquisitions. The relative fuel-efficiency of its vehicle technologies is a valuable asset as carmakers battle to meet tougher European emissions targets and avoid huge fines. JLR, by contrast, faces one of the toughest challenges to comply with looming carbon dioxide goals, compounded by the uncertainty and disruption of Britain’s protracted departure from the European Union. Tata posted a record $4 billion loss for its fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31, and warned that JLR would swing to an operating loss in the full year to March. +++ 

+++ Automakers expect U.S. President Donald Trump to delay a decision on whether to impose steep TARIFFS on imported cars and auto parts on national security grounds for up to 6 months as talks continue with the European Union and Japan. In February, the Commerce Department submitted its “Section 232” national security report. Trump has until May 18 to act, but 4 auto executives who have spoken to administration officials say he is likely to extend that deadline by another 180 days. He may also announce a specific date to impose new duties if no deal is reached. Administration officials say Trump could still opt to impose the tariffs by May 18, but believe that after a series of investment announcements by automakers (including one by General Motors of $700 million in 3 Ohio plants) he will likely delay the tariffs amid a trade battle with China. The auto tariffs face wide opposition in Congress. The White House refuses to turn over the Commerce report to Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who has been demanding to see it. 159 House of Representatives members led by Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair Terri Sewell, wrote White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow to urge him to advise Trump against “imposing trade restrictions that could harm the auto sector and the American economy”. The letter from 79 Democrats and 81 Republicans warned that imposing tariffs on parts in cars “may overlap with motorcycles, recreational vehicles, construction equipment, heavy-duty trucks, farming equipment, powersports vehicles, and others”. The White House did not immediately comment. Administration officials have said tariff threats on autos are a way to win concessions from Japan and the EU. Last year, Trump agreed not to impose tariffs as long as talks with the 2 trading partners were proceeding in a productive manner. The industry says tariffs of up to 25 % on millions of imported cars and parts would add thousands of dollars to vehicle costs and potentially lead to hundreds of thousands of job losses throughout the U.S. economy. Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota and others, said automakers adamantly opposed new tariffs. “At the end of the day, you can either have tariffs or investments, but you can’t have both”, she said. The Commerce Department started its investigation in May 2018 at Trump’s request to determine the effects of imports on national security. U.S. light-duty vehicle prices would increase by $2,750 on average, including U.S.-built vehicles, reducing annual U.S. sales by 1.3 million units and forcing many consumers to the used-car market, according to a think tank report released last year. Major automaker groups said last year the cumulative effect for the United States would be an $83 billion annual price increase and argued there was no evidence auto imports posed a national security risk. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group is renewing efforts to sell minority stakes in non-core operations to streamline its business and focus on the main passenger-car brands, according to people familiar with the matter. The deliberations include MAN Energy Solutions, which makes engines for ships and power plants, as well as potentially other units, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks are private. VW has sounded out Cummins as a possible buyer, the people said. The company declined to comment. The VW Group, a sprawling 12-brand empire, announced an asset review 3 years ago after the diesel-emissions cheating scandal triggered the biggest crisis in the German industrial giant’s history, but hasn’t completed a deal so far. Key stakeholders shot down the sale of the Ducati motorbike brand, while a plan for a partial listing of the Traton heavy-trucks unit was shelved in March. “If the industrial logic is sound and disadvantages for the workforce can be ruled out, one can talk with us about everything”, VW’s influential works council said. “This can theoretically include mergers, partial sales, but also acquisitions”. The works council declined to comment on specific assets or specific talks over MAN Energy Solutions. VW Chief Financial Officer Frank Witter told analysts last week the automaker’s management remains committed to explore ways to unlock value and a separate listing of the trucks unit is still “a desired outcome”. He declined to elaborate on next steps or a possible time frame. VW boss Herbert Diess, at the helm since April 2018, is pushing for a revamp to make the automaker more agile and better able to respond to changing consumer tastes on car ownership. His efforts on deeper job reductions than planned so far and other efficiency gains have run into opposition from top labor representatives. +++ 

+++ WAYMO has decided to partner with Lyft as it continues to expand its self-driving taxi service in the Phoenix area. The pilot project will start small, deploying just 10 Waymo vehicles on Lyft over the next few months. When seeking an eligible ride within Waymo’s service area, Lyft users will be presented with the option to take a self-driving minivan rather than hailing a human driver. “We’re committed to continuously improving our customer experience, and our partnership with Lyft will also give our teams the opportunity to collect valuable feedback”, Waymo says. The announcement is significant for both companies, giving Waymo access to an established ride-hailing network and providing Lyft with an opportunity to engage the self-driving business model before its in-house technology is ready to begin giving rides to the public. +++

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