+++ There’s a new arrival in the compact premium SUV market in the form of the ALFA ROMEO Tonale. The Italian car manufacturer unwrapped a concept version of the new model at the Geneva Motor Show, which will slot into its range below the Stelvio. I’m expecting to see a production version in the next 18 months, before the Tonale reaches dealers in the final quarter of 2020. Underneath, the Tonale is based on the same platform as the Jeep Renegade, albeit with a range of chassis revisions, such as new suspension, upgraded brakes and a new plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Tonale will be Alfa Romeo’s first PHEV, debuting the technology ahead of its appearance on the Giulia and Stelvio. Alfa Romeo is yet to reveal an official statement on the Tonale’s engines and specs but speaking from the Geneva Motor Show, European boss Roberta Zerbi told me: “Clearly we are working on the plug-in technology for the range. Tonale will be the first”. I expect the Tonale’s drivetrains will be pulled from elsewhere within the FCA Group, with likely options including the latest Firefly petrol engines from the mechanically similar Fiat 500X. Given how sharp the Stelvio is, the Tonale will need to be one of the better models to drive in its class. It will be fitted with Alfa Romeo’s D.N.A. drive mode selector, updated to suit the car’s hybrid powertrain. ‘Dynamic’ mode becomes ‘Dual Power’ mode, which forces the petrol engine and electric motor to deliver maximum performance. ‘Natural’ mode maintains a compromise between efficiency and outright power, while ‘Advanced Efficiency’ mode will morph into ‘Advanced E’ mode, allowing all-electric running. When it does go on sale, the Tonale will enter an exceedingly crowded SUV market at the very closely-fought small SUV end. The newcomer’s size pitches it alongside cars such as the BMW X2, Jaguar E-Pace an Mercedes-Benz GLA, as well as being a premium alternative to more mainstream models such as the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar. The ‘Tonale’ moniker follows on from Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio nameplate, being also borrowed from a mountain pass in the Alps. At 1,883m the Tonale pass in Northern Italy is lower than the famous Stelvio; a suitable fit for Alfa’s more diminutive SUV model. The mountain pass is also a popular route to ski resorts in the region, further emphasising the car’s lifestyle aspirations. +++

+++ AUDI ‘s global vehicle sales fell 13 % in April adding urgency to a plan to reignite momentum due later this month from new boss Bram Schot. Monthly deliveries dropped to 140,300 on a challenging market environment and a number of model changeovers. Sales since the start of the year have declined 5.9 %, likely pushing VW’s biggest profit generator to fall further behind rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Audi has been struggling to put fallout from the 2015 diesel-emissions scandal behind it, with a tumultuous 2018 that involved the arrest of former boss Rupert Stadler and an €800 million fine. Schot plans to map out a revamp at the automaker’s May 23 annual meeting, usually a sedate affair, with a stronger focus on China and €15 billion in savings globally. Cost cuts will account for about two-thirds of this push, including trimming back Audi’s bloated management ranks. Audi faced a “tough year” of improving operations, chief financial officer Alexander Seitz said in March. The brand, soundly beating luxury rivals in China for decades, reported a 12 % drop in the world’s largest car market as changeovers of high-volume cars like the long version of the A6 weighed on April deliveries, Audi said. Audi sold just over 663,000 vehicles in China last year to narrowly hold on to the lead. Mercedes and BMW will report monthly sales in the coming days. “The renewal of our product range still requires a major effort”, said Martin Sander, vice president of Audi’s global marketing. +++ 

+++ 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. +++ 

+++ China ‘s Geely made headlines in early 2018 when it purchased a nearly 10 % stake in Mercedes-Benz parent company DAIMLER . Over a year later, another Chinese automaker wants to buy into the German giant. State-owned automaker Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company (BAIC) is seeking to purchase a 5 % stake in Daimler. The 2 companies aren’t strangers; they operate a joint-venture named Beijing Benz, and BAIC wants a stake in Daimler to protect its investment, the sources added. BAIC informed Daimler it wanted a 4 to 5 % stake earlier this year. Daimler executives refused to issue new shares, but BAIC isn’t asking for preferential treatment; it has simply started buying the shares it wants on the open market. All told, it will need to spend nearly €3 billion to secure a five-percent stake, and a little bit less for a four-percent stake. “Daimler’s share price is currently being underpinned by a buyer who appears to be building a stake”, a source told. Neither party has commented on the report, though BAIC has publicly manifested its intent to buy Daimler shares before. If the rumor is accurate, and if BAIC manages to raise over €3 billion, we won’t have to wait long to learn how much of Daimler it owns. German regulators require companies or individuals who purchase over three percent of a firm to file a regulatory disclosure. +++

+++ After raising tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports, U.S. President Donald Trump could turn the heat up on EUROPE as soon as next week when he is due to make a decision about its cars. For now, the EU, the world’s biggest trade bloc, is a bystander in the battle between the other two global trade super powers. That is worrying enough for an economy that is slowing. European leaders and officials had long said they would not discuss trade arrangements under threat of action from Trump, which some likened to negotiating with a gun to the head. But the prospect of a U.S. decision affecting some €47 billion worth of car and auto part exports has brought them to the table. Trump received a ‘Section 232’ investigation report in February, widely believed to have concluded that car and auto part imports pose a risk to national security. The president’s 90-day deliberation period is due to end on May 18. Automakers expect Trump to extend the deadline by up to 6 months, although he could still give a date to impose new duties if no deals with the EU and Japan are reached. Some European officials think Trump will conclude that car tariffs are not worth the domestic pain. “I predict President Trump will realize that the threat of auto tariffs is better than actual tariffs, which would have a huge domestic impact”, said an EU official who has been closely involved in transatlantic discussion. EU countries agreed last month to start formal trade negotiations with the United States, notably on a deal to cut duties on industrial goods. If Washington imposes new trade-restrictive measures, those talks would be suspended and the European Commission would impose duties on €20 billion of U.S. goods. The decision to hold talks even at this point has not been easy, with Germany (responsible for 57 % of EU auto exports to the United States) in favor of a quick start and France against. Johan Bjerkem, an analyst at Brussels-based European Policy Center, thinks a Trump decision to impose car tariffs would end that division. “European countries may be more divided now, because some of them feel the pressure more than other. But once Trump goes ahead then he doesn’t have the same leverage”, he said. Any announcement by Trump would also come at a time when European politicians are under greater pressure than usual to fight their corner, ahead of May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament. Trump is unpopular in Europe, and mainstream parties are fending off challenges from nationalists. Trump agreed last July not to impose punitive tariffs on imports of EU cars as both sides looked to improve economic ties. EU trade officials were in Washington this week discussing a possible launch of negotiations, although Brussels has said it will not meet a U.S. demand to include farm products. Meanwhile, EU steel and aluminum makers remain subject to punitive U.S. import tariffs. The measures, also based on national security, prompted EU counter-measures, with increased tariffs on motorbikes, whisky and other U.S. product. So far, there has been no tit-for-tat battle, although Trump warned in an April tweet that he would reciprocate for tariffs on Harley-Davidsons. The European Central Bank has long said protectionism is the single biggest threat to the euro zone economy, with fading confidence outweighing any boost in exports to countries other than the United States. Europe has also engaged in talks with the United States and Japan to rewrite global trading rules to limit state subsidies and forced technology transfer, with eyes clearly on China. Car tariffs would not send the EU rushing to Beijing, but would undermine these efforts, according to Guntram Wolff, director of the Bruegel think-tank. “So Trump would be shooting himself in the foot by making it more difficult for the Europeans to be supportive than now”, he said. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) plans to spend €1.8 billion in the next 3 years to buy so-called regulatory credits to minimize the amount of emission-related fines it will pay in Europe and the U.S. The figure was revealed by Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer on May 3 during a conference call with analysts to discuss FCA’s first-quarter results. Including €600 million spent in 2018, FCA is poised to spend at least €2.4 billion from 2018 through 2021 on emission fines and regulatory-credit purchases. Based on what Palmer told analysts on the conference call, this is the complete picture: After various deals with Tesla and other carmakers, FCA has committed €1.8 billion euros to buy regulatory credits over 3 years (2019-2021). This year FCA will bear compliance costs of €120 million in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Those costs will be higher next year, although the pooling agreement with Tesla is expected to significantly mitigate the increase. FCA boss Mike Manley told analysts that without that agreement with Tesla, the compliance costs would have been close to €390 million in 2019. Last year FCA had cash outlays, between credits and compliance payments, of about €600 million. That figure, which includes the U.S., will rise “moderately” this year. According to analysts from PA Consulting Group, FCA’s carbon dioxide emissions in Europe will fall to 98.5 g/km by 2021 from 120 g/km now, meaning the automaker will miss its regulatory target of 91.8 g/km. This leaves FCA at risk of an European Union fine of €700 million penalty in 2021, PA Consulting said in a report. The agreement signed with Tesla on pooling CO2 emissions in Europe significantly reduces this risk. The final result for FCA, though, will depend on how successful Tesla will be in Europe. FCA sold 21,446 cars in Europe in the first quarter, according to JATO Dynamics. Sales more than tripled from 6,228 in 2018, thanks to the successful launch of the Model 3. According to Chrysler reports, FCA had already spent more than €1 billion in regulatory credits through 2017, mainly buying from Tesla within the U.S. regulatory credit-trading system managed by the Environmental Protection Agency. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, Tesla booked $200.6 million in revenue from the sale of regulatory credits. The sum spent by FCA in fines and credit purchases compares with €9 billion that it has promised to invest in the electrification of its product range within the 2018-22 business plan. Manley told analysts that the credit purchases “are designed to minimize FCA’s cost of compliance and provide it with a strong hedge against a potential for a lower price recovery in the market than the cost of the technology”. Following the strategy worked out by the late Sergio Marchionne, Manley thinks carmakers will initially have to sell electric vehicles at a loss, making the strategy of buying credits and paying the residual fines financially more viable. Manley told analysts that the purchase of CO2 credits “is a complementary action to our investment and deployment of our electrified fleet, which will reach 17 nameplates by 2022. And it will bridge the period until we see the market acceptance, technology cost and infrastructure development reaching the point that may make the sale of heavily electrified vehicles more financially rational”. As for the Europe, Middle East and Afica region, Manley said the Jeep Renegade and Compass plug-in hybrids will start production in early 2020, to be followed by the new Fiat 500 Electric and 10 additional launches of EVs over the following 2 years. No mention was made of mild hybrids (gasoline engines with a starter/alternator powered by a 48 volt battery), which had a relevant role in the plan presented last June in Balocco, Italy. The first of those vehicles, the Ram 1500 pickup, was launched last year in the U.S. How will the new technologies and purchases of regulatory credits split the burden of reaching CO2 compliance levels in Europe? This year, Manley said, most of the burden will fall on purchasing credits (80 %) and the rest on  technological improvements to the current product range. As electrified vehicles are launched in 2020, their role will grow. By 2021, Manley said, 40 % of the compliance will come from conventional technology, 45 % from electrification and 15 % from purchased credits. By 2022, he said, the need for pooling deals will be “very, very small”. +++

+++ The Transport Ministry in GERMANY wants to increase and prolong subsidies for buying electric vehicles. Sources said the government wanted to double to €4,000 its contribution to subsidies for electric cars with a value of up to €30,000. For electric cars worth up to €60,000, the government wants to raise its subsidy contribution to €2,500 from €2,000, the sources said. They said the subsidies would run until the mid-2020s. +++ 

+++ Prosecutors have decided not to indict 2 former close aides to ousted Nissan chairman Carlos GHOSN after they agreed to a plea bargain in relation to alleged financial misconduct, sources close to the matter said. The former aides, a foreign executive at Nissan and a former executive at the automaker’s secretariat, have cooperated with investigators by providing documents relevant to allegations that Ghosn had underreported his remuneration for years. They reached the agreement between October and November, according to the sources, in what appears to be the second such deal since Japan introduced the plea bargaining system in June last year. They could still be examined in court as witnesses, as Ghosn’s lawyers are expected to argue that their confession statements should not be admitted as evidence. Ghosn, 65, along with Greg Kelly, 62, a former Nissan director, has been indicted for allegedly underreporting his remuneration between fiscal 2010 and 2017 as around ¥7.8 billion ($71 million) when it was actually ¥17 billion. Ghosn has been indicted 4 times since his initial arrest in November. He is also suspected of transferring private investment losses to Nissan’s books, among other allegations. Ghosn has denied all the allegations against him. +++ 

+++ HONDA ’s N-Box minivehicle topped Japan’s new-vehicle sales rankings for the 20th consecutive month in April, industry data showed. The N-Box, however, saw sales fall 2.5 % from a year before to 19,396 units. The top 3 in the listing were all minivehicles, with engine displacements of up to 660 cc. Ranked second was Suzuki’s Spacia, with sales of 14,529 units, up 18.7 %, followed by Daihatsu’s Tanto, with sales of 11,628 units, up 13.2 %. Toyota’s Prius, which was partially revamped late last year, rose to the 4th spot from 8th place the preceding month, with sales of 11,059 units, up 31.9 %. +++ 

+++ The owner of JAGUAR LAND ROVER has denied reports that he is close to finalising a deal to sell the car firm to the PSA Group. The Press Association has reported seeing a ‘post-sale integration document’ that has been circulated within JLR, highlighting the benefits of the company being sold by Tata Motors to PSA, which comprises Citroën, DS, Peugeot and Opel / Vauxhall. A source also told the PA that “things are moving quickly behind closed doors”. In reponse, Tata Motors re-affirmed a previous statement saying that “there was no truth to rumours that Tata Motors is looking to divest its stake in JLR”. A PSA Group spokesperson told PA that it was in “no hurry” to make any acquisitions, but added it would “consider” any oportunities that came along. PSA boss Carlos Tavares has been open in recent months about his desire to expand the group, either through acquisitions or partnerships with other car firms. Tavares led PSA’s purchase of Opel / Vauxhall from GM in 2017. The Peugeot family, which owns the largest stake in the PSA Group, also recently said it would back future mergers or acquisitions, including with the FCA Group. Tavares was asked about the firm’s interest in Jaguar Land Rover. He said that it would be good for PSA to have a luxury brand, and that the company was “considering all opportunities”, adding he would be interested “as long as it’s not a distraction”. Tavares said that there had been no discussions with Tata Motors about Jaguar Land Rover yet. He also said that “we don’t have a specific target but if there are opportunities, of course, we will consider it”. Asked further about adding a luxury brand that would sit about DS, Tavares said: “Why not? Why shouldn’t we discuss it? It depends on what kind of value creation we could generate”. Jaguar Land Rover has struggled in recent months, hit by falling demand for diesels and the decline of the Chinese market. Recent heavy losses, including an asset writedown, also caused the Tata Group to post a quarterly loss. Tavares cited PSA’s success in turning around Opel / Vauxhall, which posted its first profit in 20 years recently, suggesting it could have a similar impact on the strugging British firm: “With Opel, we have demonstrated that we can turn around a company that was in the red for 20 years, in 12 months. So this is something we know how to do”. Tavares said the group’s current focus was on its ‘Push to Pass’ strategic growth strategy to expand the company’s global presence, including expansion into the US, Russian and Indian markets. In a statement following its interview with Tavares, Tata Motors said that Jaguar Land Rover was not for sale. Following Jaguar Land Rover’s 2018 losses, Tata’s boss had previously affirmed its commitment to the company. +++

+++ The striking Imagine concept by KIA that starred at March’s Geneva Motor Show will closely inform an upcoming “emotional flagship”. So says the Korean brand’s chief designer, Luc Donkerwolke. “I believe we will see a completely new diversification of typologies”, he told. “This car hybridises between a typical fastback 5-door coupe architecture and an SUV, finding its own identity”. Donkerwolke confirmed that the Imagine is underpinned by a brand new all-electric platform, yet the firm is keeping the technical details and capabilities of the architecture a secret for now. But it’s scalable and designed for production, plus it’s a platform Kia and sister brand Hyundai will promote relentlessly over the coming months, with new show cars based on it due at further events in 2019. “We are imagining it. We are creating it as we speak. This is the start of a process, but you will see soon the result”, Donkerwolke added. “It’s not a free exercise. It’s not just a last-minute car for Geneva. It has a purpose. This is more business than show. We are definitely not entertaining here, but actually communicating with our customers”. He explained it usually takes 3 years to transform a show car into a production model, and while there was no suggestion that this would not be the case with the Imagine, the Korean company still has plenty to iron out; the car’s prospective customer base, for one. However, in a best-case scenario, Kia would have to change only a surprisingly small amount. “I don’t see anything that’s really not feasible”, Donkerwolke said. “There are some cost-related issues that have to be validated; it hasn’t been done by designers who don’t understand how to build a car for production”. But the newcomer wouldn’t become an outright flagship model. The Telluride SUV and K9 limousine, 2 cars we don’t get in Europe, are indicative of a global firm with different requirements for various markets. While keen to refer to the car as an “emotional flagship”, Donkerwolke added that some of the Imagine’s design DNA is already seen in 2 of Kia’s European saloons: the rakish Stinger and more traditional 3-box Optima. Kia chief operating officer Emillio Herrera told: “3-box is a little old-fashioned. We see the market shifting towards crossovers and SUVs everywhere in Europe, and the fastback is a modern interpretation of what a saloon could be in the future”. +++ 

+++ Up to 230 engineering and design jobs at MG Motor are at risk as the Chinese car company plans to radically downsize its technical centre in Birmingham at the site of the former Longbridge factory. News of the plan leaked out after a consultation with the workforce, with one source suggesting that 140 full-time jobs and 90 contractor positions are at risk out of a total workforce of around 300, whose main function is designing and engineering new models for MG. MG Motor, which is owned by SAIC, wouldn’t comment on the numbers, instead it issued a statement confirming that talks were underway with the workforce at the SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre (SMTC). “SMTC is conducting an operational review at its Birmingham base”, it said, “and is currently consulting with its staff to find the most appropriate solution and further updates will be issued in due course”. UK sales have been on a steep climb and doubled last year to 9.049 units compared to 4.440 in 2017. While sales in China improved considerably last year as well, hitting 134k against 80k in 2017. A fresh sales push is being built around a expanding UK dealer network that currently numbers 91 sites, but is planned to grow to 120 by the end of 2020. MG Motor has made the UK design and engineering of its cars part of its marketing message and at motor shows in the Chinese home market has featured Union Jack graphics and branding on its stands. When SAIC took control of the rump of the defunct Rover Group in 2007, it moved the production lines and tooling for the Rover 75 and its K-Series engine to China, where it went into production as the Roewe 75. To keep the MG brand alive, its re-launch plan featured UK design and engineering alongside local production and it set up a new plant to assemble the MG 6 on a small portion of the former Longbridge site in 2011. However, 5 years later manufacturing stopped and output was shifted to China. Since then MG has opened a new sales and marketing HQ in London’s fashionable Marylebone, sharing space with an advanced design studio. Around 50 staff are employed at Marylebone, with about a further 100 supporting the national dealer network. +++

+++ NISSAN is planning to lower its midterm sales goal, in an apparent pivot from former Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s expansionary policy, sources with knowledge of the matter said. The automaker is expected to announce the downward revision soon, when it is scheduled to release financial results for the year that ended in March. In its midterm business plan, which was released in November 2017 when Ghosn was at the helm, Nissan set a goal of boosting sales by 30 % to ¥16.5 trillion in the year ending in March 2023. The firm had sought to increase sales in emerging economies under the business plan, such as South American nations and India, as well as major markets including China and North America. In February, following Ghosn’s arrest in November last year, Nissan President and Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa signaled a departure from the former chairman’s excessive focus on expansion. Nissan has twice cut its earnings projections for the year ended in March due to falling vehicle sales globally. The alliance, which also includes Mitsubishi, plans to re-examine its goal of boosting its global vehicle sales to 14 million units in 2022 from some 10.75 million sold last year. +++

+++ The OPEL Astra will get a range of cosmetic and engineering revisions before the end of the year, to keep it competitive with its fresher-faced rivals from Ford, Volkswagen and Kia. The facelift is set to stretch to a series of design tweaks and a revised engine range. The modernised Astra will be one of the last models from Opel based on the underpinnings from its previous owner, GM. This revised model will act as a stop-gap until the next-generation Astra, based on the PSA Group’s EMP2 platform, is revealed at the end of 2021. Revisions are limited to a mildly-tweaked front bumper, new headlamps and a fresh pair of side skirts. A minor update is also expected for the rear, with a fresh bumper and modified tail lights. Despite Opel’s recent acquisition by the PSA Group, the facelifted Astra will continue to use the existing GM-developed engine range, as developing the tooling and hardware to mount the PSA engines in the old GM platform would require too much investment. This means the latest Astra will be available with a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder petrol, a 1.4-litre 4-cylinder petrol, or a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine; all of which will be turbocharged and all of which are likely to feature a minor bump in performance. Opel could also produce a warmed-up GSi version, to join the brand’s existing Insignia and Corsa GSi models. If Opel does build an Astra GSi, it’s likely to feature a detuned version of the Insignia GSi’s turbocharged 260 hp 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol. Opel is keen to stress that the flagship OPC model will return to the line-up at some point in the future, but not on this facelifted variant. A pure-electric version of the current generation Astra has been developed for the Chinese market, where it will go on sale badged as the Buick Verano. It’s highly unlikely that Vauxhall will use the Verano-badged EV in Europe, although a pure-electric version of the next-generation model, based on PSA’s EMP architecture, is a distinct possibility. The Astra will undergo a more dramatic overhaul when the 8th generation model reaches showrooms early in 2022, with it’s platform, engines, software and hardware, all switching from GM to PSA parts. The car will use a new mild-hybrid powertrain which is being developed by Opel for the entire PSA family; including Peugeot, Citroen and DS. There’s also the possibility of plug-in hybrid alongside that fully-electric variant, using tech from the new Grandland X Hybrid4 and DS 7 Crossback E-Tense. Some uncertainty still remains over whether the new car’s production will persist at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port in Cheshire or move to an Opel facility in Germany. Currently, Ellesmere Port accounts for 75 % of the Astra’s global production. PSA is still debating whether it should leave the Astra’s production sites untouched or move Astra’s main production site to Rüsselsheim, Germany, allowing the Ellesmere Port facility to only produce cars for the UK and South Africa. To date, there have been 2 rounds of job losses at Ellesmere Port. So far, around 650 employees have already taken voluntary redundancy as the site moved from 2 shifts to one earlier in the year. A decision on the future of Ellesmere Port will be made next year, a couple of years before the next-generation models goes on sale. This current Astra facelift will buy Opel enough time to organise the logistics of the new model’s production. +++ 

+++ The new PORSCHE 911 Speedster’s heavily revised 4.0-litre flat-6 engine will be carried over to future GT models as Porsche’s GT division persists with naturally aspirated engines. GT boss Andreas Preuninger said: “We’ve invested in the future with this engine. I can’t comment on future projects but we would be stupid not to re-use this engine somewhere. Our philosophy in GT cars is to stay naturally aspirated. We want to keep that engine for the future and that’s why we’ve made such a tremendous effort to get the engine right without taking emotion and performance away”. Preuninger declined to reveal which models would use the updated engine, but a strong likelihood is the next-generation GT3. Recently spied prototypes at the Nürburgring Nordschleife emitted the telltale wail of a high-revving engine free from turbocharging, adding further weight to the speculation. The Speedster, a swansong for the 991 generation of the 911, uses the same powertrain as the outgoing GT3 but receives a host of updates. Chief among the updates, and in order to extend the regulatory life of this big-capacity direct-injection flat-6, Porsche has fitted 2 sizeable petrol particulate filters; 1 integrated into the exhaust tract that exits each side of the block. And yet owing to the use of thinner steel, nickel and soldering techniques rather than welding, the exhaust system now weighs 10 kg less than before, despite the additional hardware. Power has also increased, from 400 hp to 510 hp, and continues to arrive at 8.400 rpm. To achieve this with an engine that is not only cleaner but also suffers from an increase in exhaust back-pressure owing to the new filters is no mean feat. The fuel-injection system now operates at 250 bar rather than 200 for improved propagation, and each of the engine’s 6 cylinders now gets a dedicated throttle-body. The combined effect, but particularly due to the new throttle-bodies, is even sharper throttle response, says Porsche. +++ 

+++ SKODA ‘s Superb will become the brand’s the first plug-in hybrid as part of a facelift for the midsize model. The Superb’s plug-in hybrid version is expected to combine parent Volkswagen Group’s 1.5-liter TSI gasoline engine with an electric motor to give a power output of more than 200 hp. An electric range of around 55 km should cut CO2 emissions below 50 grams per km, which would qualify the plug-in hybrid for subsidies in some European countries and help Skoda reduce its CO2 burden ahead of upcoming tougher EU CO2 reduction targets for new cars. Other engine changes for the facelifted Superb could include the addition of Volkswagen Group’s new 2.0-liter TDI diesel engine already fitted to the revised Passat that cleans emissions to the point it passes the Euro6d regulations not due until 2021. The 150 hp diesel powerplant has 2 separate selective catalytic reduction converters to reduce NOx emissions. Some countries, for example the UK, reward early adopters of Euro6d with lower taxation. The Superb plug-in hybrid will get the letters iV to differentiate it from the internal combustion engines. VW brand had a similar strategy with the previous generation of the midsize Passat plug-in hybrid, which was badged GTE. All Skoda’s future electric and hybrid cars will have the iV suffix, CEO Bernhard Maier told. The Superb is the second-biggest selling car in Europe’s non-premium midsize segment behind the related VW Passat. The segment is declining as customers switch to SUV/crossovers. The Superb’s European sales dropped 8 % to 75,966 last year. The facelifted Superb will be unveiled during the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, which takes place in Bratislava, Skoda said in a statement. Skoda has sponsored the event since 1993 and is using the event for a product presentation for the first time. The Superb is Skoda’s largest car as measured by interior volume and length. The current generation model has been on sale since 2015 and the revised Superb will continue in production until 2023, when it will be replaced by a new model to be built alongside the VW Passat in Skoda’s Kvasiny plant in the Czech Republic. Last year the plant built 91,487 Superbs, of which 50,912 were wagon versions, Skoda figures show. The Superb was first launched in 2001 and is now on its third version. The car is also built in China and India, and last year Skoda produced 136,985 units in the Superb’s three production plants. +++

+++ SUBARU forecasts its profit to jump about a third this year on a projected recovery in vehicle sales, bouncing back from last year when earnings halved due to production delays and mounting product recalls. Japan’s 7th-biggest automaker inadvertently uploaded its financial report on its website hours ahead of schedule. It initially withdrew the material, but not before social media noticed. The report comes after a year in which output stopped for 2 weeks at Subaru’s sole assembly plant in Japan due to a defective steering component. Output also slowed to improve testing processes after Subaru said it cheated on domestic inspections. Together, the issues cut 6.3 % from global vehicle sales last year to 999,900 cars and bumped up costs, compounded by the cost of recalls in Japan prompted by the inspection cheating. “Quality and production issues slowed output, which led to the drop in sales”, said chief financial officer Toshiaki Okada. Domestic output will remain curbed during the first half of the current financial year while Subaru improves inspection and production processes, and then return to normal at “some” of its three production lines, said Chief Executive Tomomi Nakamura. The report showed an operating profit forecast for the year through March 2020 of 260 billion yen ($2.37 billion). That would be 33 % higher than the year prior under international accounting standards adopted from this year. Under the previous Japanese accounting standards, the forecast would be 250 billion yen, up 28 %, Subaru said. The Japanese automaker attributed the rise in part to a 5.8 % rise in vehicle sales to 1.058 million cars. In the just-ended year, Subaru met analyst expectations, saying profit fell 48.5 % to its lowest since 2013. Subaru’s recent production- and quality-related issues are side effects of rapid growth following increased output in recent years, to keep up with booming U.S. demand from for its rugged-looking, all-wheel-drive cars, such as its Legacy and Forester. The automaker for years raked in higher sales in the United States, its biggest market accounting for more than 60 % of overall sales. However sales have plateaued in the past year, snapping a 5-year winning streak. As the smallest of Japan’s major automakers, Subaru is also struggling to invest in and develop lower-emission vehicles and on-demand transportation services widely seen as necessary to survive technological upheaval in the global auto industry. As a result, it has formed a partnership with Toyota under which it will use technology developed by its deeper-pocketed rival, including lower-emission plug-in hybrid systems. +++

+++ SUZUKI forecasts a 1.7% rise in profit for this year, anticipating limited growth due to an expected sales tax rise in Japan as well as uncertainty in the economic outlook in India, its biggest market. Japan’s 4th largest automaker expects operating profit of 330 billion yen ($3.01 billion) in the year through March 2020, lower than the 362.2 billion yen average of 22 analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv. In the year just ended, profit fell 13.3 % to 324.4 billion yen from the previous year’s record high. The compact car maker took a hit from a weaker Indian rupee, while costs related to a domestic vehicle recall stemming from improper vehicle inspections also weighed on its bottom line. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA will invest over $2.2 billion in China to boost eco-friendly vehicle and engine production with a local partner to meet growing demand. Toyota plans to add 400,000 units to its annual production capacity for eco-friendly cars at GAC Toyota Motor in Guangzhou, southern China, its Chinese partner Guangzhou Automobile Group said. The target for additional units is equivalent to two-thirds of last year’s output. GAC Toyota Motor, owned equally by Toyota and the Chinese partner, will invest $1.6 billion to expand production capacity in two phases scheduled to complete in 2022, Guangzhou Automobile said in a statement. Toyota says the output of Toyota brand cars, including hybrid Camry sedans, at the Guangzhou manufacturing unit totaled 599,000 units last year. Toyota and its Chinese partner will also step up engine production at GAC Toyota Engine in the capital of Guangdong province. They are earmarking $605 million to add 432,000 engines to annual output capacity by 2021 as part of efforts under Toyota New Global Architecture, a program to enhance production quality and reduce costs with the introduction of a new vehicle platform, the statement said. Toyota has not made public the engine production capacity of GAC Toyota Engine, which is 70 % owned by Toyota and the remainder by the Chinese automaker. “We will implement various measures to accelerate business in China”, said a spokesman. In China, 2018 sales of new-energy vehicles, like electric vehicles and hybrid cars, surged 61.7 % to 1,256,000 units. Those sales are expected to grow further this year, increasing at least 400,000 units to 1.6 million. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has outlined plans to begin recycling electric vehicle batteries in the coming years. The company expects to build 1 million EVs per year by 2025. With an expected battery pack life of 10-15 years before replacement, and potentially limited supplies of battery materials as EVs increase in popularity, the automaker hopes to use recycling to bring down costs. “As electric vehicles become more commonplace, digging those metals out of discarded batteries can be cheaper than digging ores from the Earth”, the company says. Some retired EV batteries will simply be repurposed for other uses, such as remote charging stations or home energy storage. VW’s portable quick-charging station will hold 360 kWh or energy, capable of simultaneously charging up to four vehicles at a time at up to 100 kW. Volkswagen Group’s Salzgitter component factory will serve as the home of the company’s battery recycling operations. By next year, the plant will be able to recycle 1,200 tons of EV batteries, equivalent to approximately 3,000 vehicles annually. “In the long term, Volkswagen wants to recycle about 97 % of all raw materials in the battery packs”, the German automaker says. “Today, it’s roughly 53 %, and the plant in Salzgitter expects to raise it further to about 72 %”. +++ 

+++ VOLVO is cutting several hundred jobs. The carmaker, whose number of employees has more than doubled over the past decade to about 43,000, confirmed it was reviewing staff and other costs to ensure its business had the “right skills”. “As a growing company, Volvo is constantly reviewing its cost base. This becomes even more important in light of the headwinds the industry is facing and Volvo is now increasing its focus on costs related to staffing and bought services”, the company said in an emailed statement. The jobs primarily affected were those of consultants and staff involved in factory production will not be affected, a Volvo spokesman said. He declined to specify the number of job cuts and savings expected from the layoffs. Volvo’s fortunes have come under renewed threat with the car sector facing one of its most challenging periods due to trade conflicts, hefty bills to develop electric and driverless cars, and an overall downturn in the industry. The company, which has put its listing plans on ice due to the tariff wars and auto stock downturn, has reported lower first-quarter profit and warned that margins will remain under pressure this year. +++

+++ The European Commission’s plan for a WIFI based standard for cars endorsed by Volkswagen faces a 2-month delay as EU countries wait for legal advice on the proposal, giving a glimmer of hope to backers of the rival 5G technology. Envoys from the 28 EU countries agreed to extend their review of the Commission’s plan by 2 months after 15 countries asked for more time to allow the EU Council’s lawyers to examine the issue, people familiar with the matter said. The extension will kick in on May 13 following formal approval by EU countries on that day. The delay is not expected to derail the Commission’s proposal, with only Spain and Finland expressing concerns. Internet connected cars are expected to generate billions of euros in revenue for carmakers, telecoms operators and equipment makers once the market takes off. Last month EU lawmakers gave the thumbs up to a wifi-based standard, which primarily connects cars to other cars. Supporters include Renault and Toyota. Daimler, Ford and PSA are lobbying for the 5G standard which hooks up to both cars and devices in the surrounding environment, and has a bigger range of applications. Mobile telecoms operators lobbying group GSMA said there were a number of disputed points in the Commission’s proposal. “We expect the Council legal service (CLS) to be critical about this piece of legislation as it lays down a de facto mandate for wifi whereas the Commission should remain technology neutral”, Joop Hazenberg, GSMA’s director, said. “There are also other strong doubts of the CLS on the Delegated Act, such as the Commission giving itself powers it does not have”. The Commission’s proposal can only be overturned with a blocking majority of EU countries. +++

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