+++ AUDI ‘s production hiccups with the e-Tron have sparked frustration among buyers, some of whom are complaining of steep cancellation penalties. The e-Tron is finally making its way to customers after months of delays, forcing some reservation holders to wait an extra 6 months to receive their purchase. One Norwegian customer claims to have been warned of the 6-month delay and provided with 2 other options, either upgrade to the “Fast Track” variant that costs an extra $11,000 or pay an 8 % cancellation fee that amounts to around $6,800. Echoing one of the issues Tesla faced in ramping up Model 3 output, Audi is reportedly experiencing trouble with battery supplies for the e-Tron. Tesla initially offered a fully refundable deposit program for the Model 3, until last year when output volume increased and the company switched to a non-refundable $2,500 deposit. Now, Tesla buyers can get a full refund for up to 7 days or 1,600 kilometres after taking delivery of the vehicle. +++

+++ BMW has firmly ruled out following rival Mercedes-Benz into the pickup segment. The company argued it doesn’t have the necessary hardware or expertise to build a credible truck, and it doesn’t want to resort to badge-engineering. “We have no plans for it. Currently, in our product portfolio, there is no pickup, and we don’t intend to plan for that either”, said Vikram Pawah, the head of BMW’s Australian division. His comments are significant; Australia would undoubtedly be one of the model’s largest markets. Pawah’s comments echo statements made by Klaus Frölich, the head of BMW’s research and development division. He explained that designing a proper pickup would require using a body-on-frame architecture, which the Munich-based firm would need to develop from scratch. While pickup sales are healthy in key markets like the United States, Australia, and South Africa, the luxury pickup segment is too small for BMW to justify designing one from scratch. Option 2 would be to put BMW emblems on a pickup made by another automaker. Mercedes-Benz followed that route, the X-Class is a re-badged Nissan Navara, but Frölich isn’t open to the idea of resorting to badge-engineering. “We will never do badge-engineering”, he told. +++ 

+++ Vehicles sales in CHINA , the world’s largest auto market, fell 14.6 % in April from the same month a year earlier, the country’s biggest auto industry association said, marking the 10th consecutive month of decline. Sales fell to 1.98 million vehicles. That followed declines of 5.2 % in March and 14 % in February, as well as the first annual contraction last year since the 1990s against a backdrop of slowing economic growth and a crippling trade war with the United States. Automakers have been lowering prices in China after the government introduced tax cuts to spur consumer spending. Officials said customers were nevertheless holding off purchases in the hope of more favorable policies, hurting sales. April’s sales also suffered from some Chinese provinces implementing new vehicle emission standards earlier than expected, which stoked uncertainty among manufacturers, dealers and consumers. The government will require all light vehicles to adhere to tougher “China VI” emission standards by 2020 as part of efforts to combat pollution. In line with that, sales of new energy vehicles (NEV) have been a bright spot, rising 18.1% in April to 97,000 vehicles. NEV sales jumped almost 62 % last year even as the broader auto market contracted. While overall auto sales are declining, Toyota reported around 20 % growth last month with the help of revamped models of both its own and Lexus-branded models. Conversely, SAIC Motor, a Chinese partner of Volkswagen and General Motors, said group sales fell 16.8 % last month. “Japanese car makers have products that are better prepared for a switch in emission standard. At the same time they are offering more affordable products”, an analyst said. He said recent escalation in the trade war between China and the United States, which has seen the U.S. raise import tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, is likely to have significant impact on China’s exports of car parts. Senior automotive executives attending the Shanghai autoshow last month said China’s auto market will likely return to growth in the second half of this year due to government support. They nevertheless said the days of high single- or double-digit growth were over and that industry consolidation was likely. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER will cut development costs of new Mercedes-Benz cars by a significant amount by 2025 and will intensify alliances with rivals as a way to improve margins, Ola Källenius, the future chief executive, said. “The cost structure of the electric car is above that of the combustion engine car. We are working hard on lowering this”, said Källenius, who is due to take over from Dieter Zetsche after the company’s annual general meeting on May 22. “We need to work on the cost of vehicle architectures. From where we are now, we need to make a significant step by 2025 in terms of cost”, Källenius said, declining to provide specific figures. The 49-year-old CEO designate said he would continue to rely on alliances to drive down development and procurement costs for Mercedes-Benz. “The intensity of cooperations will increase. The alliances will be not only with other carmakers and suppliers, but also with technology companies”, Källenius said. Daimler has struck alliances with Renault, Nissan and BMW to share development and procurement costs of pickups, trucks, buses and passenger cars. Daimler is also relying on increasing economies of scale for electric car batteries as a way to drive down costs. It is also working to cut the use of expensive raw materials from electric car batteries. The carmaker wants to reduce the use of cobalt in electric car batteries. Källenius said carmakers had also tried to increase the operating range of electric cars by experimenting with the ratio and mix of nickel cobalt and manganese in batteries. Each electric car battery uses between 8-12 kilograms of cobalt. More than half of annual mined supply of cobalt is sourced from Democratic Republic of Congo. Källenius said Daimler had moved from using an equal amount of nickel, cobalt and manganese in its electric car batteries, towards a new ratio of 8:1:1. “Some suppliers are even talking about 9:05:05”, Källenius said, referring to the nickel, manganese and cobalt composition. Daimler is pushing to develop a raft of electric and hybrid cars as a way to reach its aim of having a car fleet which is carbon neutral by 2039. Mercedes-Benz wants to have a passenger car fleet which is carbon neutral in 20 years, the carmaker said. To achieve this goal, Daimler wants at least half of its new car sales to be electric and hybrid cars by 2030 and wants to have carbon neutral production process by 2022, the carmaker said. Daimler’s Chinese joint venture partner BAIC was seeking to buy a stake of between 4% to 5%. On being asked whether he would welcome BAIC as a shareholder, Källenius said: “We welcome investors who see the future of mobility in Daimler and are invested for the long run”. +++ 

+++ 2 out of 5 British drivers are considering an ELECTRIC car as their next purchase, according to new research. Although electric car sales figures have remained in the low thousands each month in recent years, data from Close Brothers Motor Finance’s annual Britain Under the Bonnet report (which surveyed 2,000 UK drivers) suggests around 12 million motorists are now considering going electric when they make their next purchase; an increase of 7.5 million in 2 years. The survey data is backed up by online data, which show the number of searches for electric cars has doubled in the last 2 years, while 1 in 5 of the 200 UK dealers surveyed by Close Brothers has seen a rise in the number of customers expressing an interest in electric cars. As a result, 1 in 8 dealers has sourced more alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) for their showrooms in preparation for an increase in demand, while 1 in 7 reported an increase in their AFV sales in 2018. Of the 2,000 drivers surveyed, just 24 % were concerned about the purchase price of an electric vehicle, compared with 47 % in 2018’s survey. Meanwhile, the proportion of respondents worried about electric car charging times dropped from 36 % to 17 % and those suffering range anxiety fell from 43 % to 24 %. Sean Kemple, director of sales at Close Brothers Motor Finance, commented: “While electric car sales are still relatively low in real terms, the speed of growth is accelerating, and it looks like we’re months, not years, from the tipping point. Consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits of AFVs or an electric vehicle (from environmental protection to lower costs of running a car after the initial outlay) and manufacturers are responding to this demand”. +++ 

+++ FORD will cut as many as 550 jobs in the UK as part of a revamp announced in January of its money-losing European business, according to a person familiar with the matter. Ford, which has said it will reduce its German workforce by 5,000 positions, will cut jobs in its salaried non-manufacturing areas in the UK, the person said. “The total number of positions impacted in the UK is still to be determined”, Ford said in an emailed statement. The company has offered voluntary separation packages to employees in Germany and the UK “to help accelerate the plan and return to sustainable profitability”. Ford said in January it would overhaul its European business and cut thousands of jobs across the region, where it employs about 54,000 workers. Ford has specified its plans for Germany and for Russia, where 3 factories will close, in March, after announcing last year it would stop making transmissions at a plant in Bordeaux, France. In the UK, Ford’s Bridgend plant in Wales will lose 350 to 400 jobs as part of a previously announced plan, while the company said in November it would merge its UK offices. Ford has also warned that a no-exit departure from European Union would be a disaster for the company and the auto industry in the UK. +++ 

+++ Global automotive supplier Bosch expects platinum to play only a minor role in its new FUEL CELLS , giving precious metal markets scant benefit even as the technology gains momentum for pollution-free transport. Bosch would only need a tenth of the platinum used in current fuel cell vehicles. Hopes of reviving demand and prices of platinum increasingly hinges on widespread uptake of fuel cells in vehicles, ships and trains to make up for dwindling amounts used in each device, analysts say. The spot price of platinum has shed more than 40 % in the last 5 years, burdened by persistent oversupply, before rebounding slightly in recent months. But hopes that fuel cells will boost long-term demand may be dampened after Bosch told that platinum was expected to play only a “minor role” in its plans to mass produce fuel cells. Bosch, which last month signed a deal with Powercell Sweden to mass produce fuel cells, said its fuel cell design was not finalised, but it expects them to use only as much platinum as a diesel catalytic converter. A catalytic converter in a diesel passengervehicle typically uses 3 to 7 grams of platinum compared with around 30 to 60 grams currently needed for a fuel cell for the same vehicle, according to analysts. “There has been lots of optimization work concerning platinum in fuel cells”, Achim Moritz, product manager for mobile fuel cells at Bosch, told. “If you look at a diesel catalytic system, there is about the same amount of platinum content you need for a fuel cell”, he added. He declined to give specific estimated figures for the S3 fuel cell system it is developing with Powercell and expects to launch by 2022, citing commercial sensitivities. Bosch’s fuel cell deal with Powercell, announced last month, was another signal that the technology is poised to be rolled out more widely as governments toughen emissions regulations. China is leading the way, targeting 2 million fuel cell vehicles by 2030. Fuel cells generate electricity through a chemical reaction using hydrogen as a fuel and platinum as a catalyst, but comprise only a fraction of the electric vehicle (EV) market even though they allow vehicles to travel much longer distances between charges than battery powered cars. For years, fuel cells were expected to boost platinum demand dramatically, but doubts have increased due to reports that scientists have found ways to cut the amount of platinum they contain. The bestselling fuel cell vehicle, Toyota’s Mirai, is expected to cut platinum by two-thirds to around 10 grams per vehicle in its next version, down from 30 grams in the current model, according David Hart, director of E4tech consultancy, based in Lausanne. “They (fuel cell makers) all have a pathway of using less platinum, which is fairly clear”, Hart said. Hyundai has cut the amount of platinum needed for the fuel cell stack in the Nexo, released last year, to 56 grams from 78 grams previously, a company spokesman told. Hyundai plans to invest over €6 billion to make 700,000 fuel cell systems annually by 2030. Fuel cells give EVs longer ranges and recharging takes a matter of minutes, a fraction of what is needed for batteries. Hyundai’s Nexo has a range of 610 kilometres compared to 360 kilometres for the best-selling battery electric vehicle, Nissan’s Leaf E+. That is especially useful for heavy goods vehicles and buses, which are expected to be the primary market for fuel cells initially. “The heavy duty truck side is the biggest initial opportunity for fuel cells because they are very hard to electrify with batteries”, said Mårten Wikforss, a consultant for Sweden’s Powercell. Batteries would take up more space in a heavy goods truck and would take hours to recharge. Once costs come down, fuel cells may also appeal to car buyers who do not want to worry about frequent and time-consuming recharging. If fuel cells catch on in ships and trains as well as road vehicles, platinum demand may get a boost despite the lower loadings due to the sheer numbers, some analysts said. Global demand for platinum for all fuel cells from vehicles is forecast rise to 366,000 ounces by 2030 but to surge to 965,000 ounces when including other fuel cell and hydrogen uses, said Jonathan Butler, head of business development at Mitsubishi. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS ‘ announcement that it was in talks to sell its shuttered Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant to electric vehicle maker Workhorse was hailed as “great news”, but it appears as though that optimism might have been a bit premature. Workhorse raised more than a few eyebrows when it was named by GM as the lead suitor for the Lordstown plant. After all, Workhorse is a little known maker of electric trucks and vans, and the Lordstown plant is a massive 6.2 million square foot facility with the capacity to build 410,000 vehicles per year. And the deal looks even more implausible on paper. Workhorse posted a net loss of $36.5 million in 2018, and the company ended the first quarter of 2019 with just $2.8 million in cash, most of which is borrowed. “I think we’re missing some of the story”, Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting at LMC Automotive, told. “Obviously, they’re an extremely small player, and there are a lot of questions”. Financial concerns aside, the UAW union is pushing back on a sale of the Lordstown plant to Workhorse. The union is steadfast in its opinion that GM should build a new vehicle at the Ohio plant rather than sell it to a company that, at best, will only use a tiny percentage of the plant’s 4,500 person workforce. GM’s track record for selling off assets is also less than stellar. A decade ago the automaker struck deals to sell its Saturn and Hummer divisions, but both of those sell-offs ultimately fell apart. +++

+++ HONDA reported a loss for January-March, despite growing sales, as an unfavorable exchange rate, income tax expenses and other costs hurt results. Honda reported a 13 billion yen ($118 million) loss for the fiscal 4th quarter; a reversal from a 107.7 billion yen profit the previous fiscal year. Quarterly sales rose 3 % to 4.05 trillion yen ($37 billion). For the fiscal year through March, Honda recorded a 610.3 billion yen ($5.5 billion) profit, down 42 % on year because of an absence of a U.S. tax break, which boosted earnings the previous year. Chief Executive Takahiro Hachigo announced Honda will streamline its product offerings, consolidating model variations, and increase parts-sharing to cut costs, with the first model developed under the new “architecture” launching next year. Inter-regional cooperation will reduce manpower needs by a third, which will instead be used for research and development, he said. In North America, a critical market for the Japanese automakers, Honda will reduce model options to realize growth, he added. For the fiscal year through March 2020, Honda expects a 665 billion yen ($6 billion) profit, up 9 %. +++ 

+++ LAND ROVER will this autumn kick off an extremely significant 2-year period of consolidation and expansion, following a turbulent 18 months, that will define the brand for the next decade. A great deal of the activity will relate not just to the launch of 4 new vehicles but also increased electrification within its line-up. Although the marque’s pure-electric vehicles are still some years away (with sibling brand Jaguar leading the group in this market segment) all new Land Rover models from late 2019 will be offered with the option of mild-hybrid or plug-in hybrid drivetrains, allowing it to leave its diesel difficulties behind. Perhaps the most important addition during that time will be the all-new Mk5 Range Rover, which is expected to be unveiled in 2021. The mainstream version of the new flagship will be a plug-in hybrid based on an all-new aluminium platform, dubbed MLA. It has been designed to be much lighter than the current Jaguar Land Rover aluminium architecture, as well as accommodating conventional engines and/or electric drive. It is understood that there will be an all-electric Range Rover Mk5, but it will be targeted at city users, particularly in east Asia. The vast majority of sales, however, are expected to be of the plug-in hybrid version, which will combine the new straight-6 Ingenium engine with 2 electric motors; 1 assisting the front wheels and 1 driving the rear axle. Land Rover engineers hope that the combination of the new architecture and downsizing the engine will offset the weight of the battery pack, which will offer around 65 kilometres of pure-electric driving. A mild-hybrid Range Rover Mk5 will use a very similar set-up to the upcoming Range Rover Sport, so expect 300-400 hp versions of the new straight-6 Ingenium engine assisted by both a 48V electric supercharger and a twin-scroll turbocharger. Kinetic energy that would otherwise be wasted is harvested and stored in a small battery that, in turn, powers the engine’s electric supercharger. The upshot of this electrification push is that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) should easily meet its 132 g/ km EU CO2 target in 2021. This target is less stringent than the 103 g/km applied to its Volvo rival because JLR is a smaller-scale manufacturer of large cars selling fewer than 300,000 vehicles in the EU. As such, the UK government successfully argued, it needs more leeway in meeting fuel economy targets. However, the EU fleet CO2 targets for 2025 (15 % lower than 2021) and 2030 (31 % lower) are far more onerous, and it’s possible an expanding JLR will lose its derogation, making large-scale sales of plug-in hybrids essential from 2024 onwards. And here, for once, JLR is confidently on the front foot, as its prepares to roll out the new MLA architecture. Elsewhere in the line-up, the Range Rover Sport is getting a significant mid-life hybrid makeover now as a vote of confidence in its enduring appeal. Sales continue to be very strong and a replacement is thought to be at least 3 years away. Further out, it’s thought that the first globally targeted Land Rover EV will be the so-called ‘Road Rover’, which will be much lower and more aerodynamic than other Range Rovers. Despite JLR’s new ‘Project Charge’ cost-cutting efforts, the Road Rover is still on the company’s model cycle plan and will most closely compete with Porsche’s next-generation electric Macan and be twinned with the next-generation Jaguar XJ. The future, MLA-based Velar could also be offered in pure-electric form, but that next-generation model is thought to be more than 4 years away from launch, and remains at the planning stage. In the shorter term, the long-awaited Defender will be revealed to the public this year. It will be sold in mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms. Fears that a plug-in Defender, with an electrically powered rear axle, would be compromised off road are misplaced. An electric motor offers maximum torque from step-off and the torque delivery is far more controllable than with a conventionally driven rear axle, greatly improving off-road performance. There’s no firm news on a pure-electric version of the Defender, but it remains a possibility. However, a plug-in hybrid with 60 kilometres of silent and emission-free electric range could be as useful off road as in a city centre. In the immediate future, the new Range Rover Evoque, which rolls on a completely re-engineered platform and has received praise for its refinement and poise, is already available with a mild-hybrid set-up, assisted by a belt-driven starter/generator. Early next year, though, the Evoque plug-in hybrid will arrive using a 3-cylinder engine, a 48V hybrid system and an electrically driven rear axle. The 3-cylinder engine alone develops a healthy 200 hp and 200 Nm from 1.5 litres. In addition, the electric motor on the rear axle generates 109 hp and 260 Nm. The vehicle’s electric range is expected to be about 50 kilometres. The Discovery Sport, until recently Land Rover’s best-selling model, has been suffering against some strong competition, from Volvo especially. Judging by the reception for the new Evoque, however, its imminent reinvention as a more luxurious car with both mild-hybrid engines and plug-in capability should significantly revitalise sales in 2020. +++ 

+++ LOTUS is hiring 200 additional engineers as it looks to accelerate a turnaround plan bankroled by China’s Geely. Under a strategy to triple production to 5,000 cars a year, Lotus is also opening an engineering center in central England, the first time it has expanded beyond its home in Norfolk, eastern England. The Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which also owns Volvo, took a controlling stake in Lotus in 2017 in a $130 million deal. Geely has started construction of a $1.3 billion assembly plant for high-end vehicles, including the Lotus brand, in Wuhan, China. It will be Lotus’s first production site outside of the UK. Under new CEO Phil Popham, a Jaguar Land Rover veteran, Lotus is investing in a new platform that will allow it to break out of the sports car niche it has occupied since Colin Chapman founded the company 70 years ago. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN has announced that its production plant in Woking, Surrey, has built its 20,000th vehicle. It took McLaren less than 8 years to hit the 20,000 unit mark; the facility opened in July 2011 to build McLaren’s first modern supercar, the MP4-12C. The plant now builds several different McLaren models and employs over 2,300 people. Thanks to a business plan intended to preserve McLaren’s exclusivity, you can mark your calendar for 2024 for the automaker’s 40,000th vehicle. McLaren built 4,800 car last year and the company plans to keep output around the 5,000 unit mark for the next decade. “Achieving our 20,000th car built is an important milestone for McLaren “, said Mike Flewitt, chief executive officer. “Last year we hand-assembled just over 4,800 cars and we plan to maintain around 5,000 cars a year for the immediate future. While demand for our products continues to grow, we aim to balance that to maintain exclusivity for our brand and our customers”. The milestone-setting car was a right-hand drive 600LT Spider finished in Chicane Grey. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ has announced a series of new CO2 reduction targets it aims to hit over the next 20 years, which will see the brand move towards the creation of a carbon-neutral line-up of new passenger cars by 2039. Presenting the ‘Ambition2039’ strategy at the company’s lead factory in Sindelfingen, Stuttgart, incoming Daimler CEO Ola Källenius said that the company’s CO2 footprint was “one of the key questions” the firm must address in the coming years. Källenius will take over from Dieter Zetsche as CEO of Daimler later this month, at the conclusion of Daimler’s 2019 Annual General Meeting. The incoming boss explained that alongside new fully-electric and fuel cell vehicles, Mercedes would aim to transform its production lines into carbon-neutral facilities and pressure suppliers into doing the same. “We aim to have a carbon-neutral new passenger car fleet in 20 years. Let’s be clear what this means for us: a fundamental transformation of our company within less than 3 product cycles”, explained Källenius. While there is no suggestion as to how the Mercedes line-up will look like in 2039 (and what percentage of new cars on sale by then would be fully-electric models) Mercedes predicts that more than 50 % of its car sales by 2030 will be full EV or plug-in hybrid. The group has announced that all European car plants will have a CO2-neutral energy supply by 2022, and that new factories worldwide will be constructed with CO2-neutrality at the core of their operation. One such facility is ‘Factory 56’, which will open in Sindelfingen early next decade. Mercedes has confirmed that the 220,000 m2 new facility will be the build location for “upper and luxury class cars with combustion engines, hybrid drives, and purely battery-electric drives”. A new S-Class will be built there from 2021. A new engine and battery production facility in Jawar, Poland, will be supplied with CO2-neutral energy, while electricity from renewable sources is being used at the Bremen plant where the new EQ C is being built. Regarding CO2 in the firm’s supply chain, Källenius has revealed that Daimler is “conducting workshops” with suppliers to identify and implement new CO2 reduction measures. CO2 targets will become an important criteria for the group when it comes to selecting future suppliers. Daimler is not the first German carmaking giant to announce far-reaching CO2 reduction targets. The Volkswagen Group has outlined similar plans for fleet and production wide carbon neutrality across all brands by 2050. +++

+++ MOUNTUNE , a performance upgrade company traditionally specialising in Fords, is expanding its operation by launching a new brand dedicated to tuning Volkswagen Group vehicles. Called M52, the new aftermarket brand is formed in collaboration with alloy wheel maker fifteen52. Mountune claims it “will offer VW enthusiasts the same level of service, car and performance that Mountune’s customers have enjoyed for over a decade”. M52 will first offer a number of upgrade parts and packages for the Mk7/7.5 Golf GTI and Golf R models. These include a stage 1 ECU retune and induction system upgrade, with more hardware and software upgrades to be offered throughout 2019. Customers with DSG gearboxes are also offered a free transmission calibration to provide quicker changes and better low-speed response. Mountune, based in Brentwood, Essex, just down the road from Ford UK’s headquarters, is well known for being the only company to offer manufacturer-approved modifications to Fords without voiding the warranty. But it also has a history with the VW Group, supplying tuned-up 1.8-litre Audi engines to the Formula 2 racing series for 4 seasons. It’s not yet clear if the new products will void a VW Group warranty, however. +++

+++ A U.S. judge said Elon MUSK must face a defamation lawsuit by a British diver who said he was falsely branded a pedophile and child rapist by the chief executive of electric car company Tesla. U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson in Los Angeles said a reasonable jury could conclude that Musk’s comments were more than merely opinions, and scheduled a trial for Oct. 22. The judge had on April 26 denied Musk’s bid to dismiss the lawsuit brought by diver Vernon Unsworth, without explaining his reasoning. Unsworth, who said in his lawsuit he shared a house in the Thailand countryside with a 40-year-old woman who owned a nail salon, was part of a team that helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a Thailand cave last July 10. He said he became a target for Musk after saying on CNN that a mini-submarine offered for the rescue by Musk from his company SpaceX, where he is also chief executive, was a “PR stunt” and that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts”. Musk later called Unsworth “pedo guy” on Twitter, a comment for which he apologized. He also urged a BuzzFeed News reporter by email to investigate Unsworth and “stop defending child rapists”. Unsworth has denied those allegations. In seeking a dismissal, Musk’s lawyers said such comments were “imaginative” or “over-the-top” insults that constituted protected opinion under the U.S. First Amendment. But the judge said Musk was not communicating in “heated and volatile” settings that might explain any excesses. “Considering the totality of the circumstances (including the general context of defendant’s statements, the specific context of the statements, and the statements’ susceptibility of being proved true or false) a reasonable factfinder could easily conclude that defendant’s statements, as pleaded in the complaint, implied assertions of objective fact”, Wilson wrote. Wilson said in a footnote he has not found that reasonable jurors would “necessarily” view Musk’s comments as factual. “The significance of the ruling is clear: publication of accusations on Twitter does not provide a safe harbor for defamatory statements that are false and convey that they are factual”, Unsworth’s lawyer L. Lin Wood said. He is seeking at least $75,000 in compensatory damages plus punitive damages in his Sept. 2018 lawsuit. On April 30, a Manhattan federal judge approved Musk’s revised settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission setting out when Musk must obtain advance approval from a Tesla securities lawyer before posting on Twitter or other social media. +++ 

+++ Carlos Ghosn’s arrest threw NISSAN into a corporate tailspin with allegations of self-dealing, profligate spending and filing false statements. Now the automaker’s profits are falling off a cliff, and successor Hiroto Saikawa may go down with them. Troubled by slumping U.S. sales, aging models and a product cycle that is out of sync, Nissan is on track to announce its lowest annual operating profit in a decade, raising the possibility of a dividend cut. The outlook for the current fiscal year to March 2020 probably will not be any more promising. CEO Saikawa has yet to announce a turnaround plan since the arrest of former chairman Ghosn in November, and people familiar with the matter say there’s internal strife over whether he is the right executive to fix Nissan. Alliance partner Renault may not look too favorably on Saikawa’s reappointment if he continues to oppose a merger said to be backed by its own Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, who is also a Nissan director. In addition, alliance partner Renault said it would block Saikawa’s reappointment if he did not agree to a merger; a request made by Renault’s new chairman that Saikawa batted away. “A new management team and strategy may be the answer”, said Michael Dean, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. Nissan spokesman Nicholas Maxfield said: “We do not comment on rumors or speculation. The company’s focus is on stabilizing operations and strengthening its management structure, while addressing the weaknesses in governance that enabled this misconduct”. The surprise jailing of Ghosn, who led both automakers for 2 decades, exposed rifts over control and decision-making. Since then, Ghosn was released and detained once again. Currently out on bail, Ghosn has denied all charges against him, saying his arrest was due to a “dirty game” played by some Nissan executives. He is now preparing for his trial, which may start later this year or next year. A pending litmus test for Saikawa’s job security will come next month, when Nissan’s directors are set to formally adopt new corporate governance rules that include creating a more independent board. In an extraordinary shareholders meeting held last month to remove Ghosn from the board, Saikawa was peppered with questions as to why he was not stepping down to take responsibility for Nissan’s poor governance. Saikawa said there are many ways to take responsibility and he believed the right thing for him to do now is to help Nissan rebuild, signaling his intention to stay on. Even so, Saikawa needs Renault’s vote from its 43 % stake to back his reappointment, especially given that roughly half of minority shareholders have voted against his appointment since 2017. While the French automaker agreed in 2015 not to interfere in the appointment of top Nissan managers, Nissan’s financial weakness could give Renault an opening to push harder for a merger. The list of potential replacements include chief operating officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi, who sits on the board of Renault. His recent promotion preserves management ties between the automakers, who along with Mitsubishi form the world’s biggest car alliance. A recent management shuffle also put the spotlight on executives who may also be in a position to lead the company. Hideyuki Sakamoto, in charge of manufacturing and supply-chain management, joined Nissan in 1980 as an engineer and has worked around the world, including the Nissan Technical Center in North America, Nissan’s largest affiliate supplier in Japan and Renault in Brazil. Jun Seki, formerly Nissan’s China chief, is now senior vice president overseeing “performance recovery”. “Nissan clearly had very bad corporate governance and an atmosphere where few felt they could question Mr. Ghosn”, said Janet Lewis, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Securities. “His departure will enable them to reboot, but it will take time to put a strong management team in place”. Nissan last month warned investors of bad times ahead as it cut preliminary profit for the year ended March to 318 billion yen ($2.8 billion), a 30 % decline from the previous guidance, which itself had been lowered. That would mark the first time the Japanese automaker earned less than Renault in a decade. An out-of-sync product cycle, aging lineup and poor consumer reviews “will take years, not months to fix”, Lewis said. +++

+++ A French probe into alleged emissions cheating by RENAULT is a step closer to possible court action, after a technical report confirmed that some of its diesel engines were configured to emit more pollutants outside official test conditions. Following Volkswagen’s 2015 admission that it had rigged engine software with “defeat devices” to cheat U.S. diesel tests, several European states launched investigations. They found on-the-road nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions more than 10 times above regulatory limits for some Opel, Renault and Fiat Chrysler models, and widespread use of devices that reduce or shut down exhaust treatment during normal use. French prosecutors opened criminal probes into Volkswagen, Renault, PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler in 2016-17 that remain ongoing. A Renault spokesman said the company could not comment on the latest report because it had not seen its findings. “Renault vehicles are not equipped with defeat devices and are homologated in conformity with the regulations in force”, the spokesman said. The study by ISAT, a French transport research institute, confirmed earlier findings that engine software in Renault’s Clio and Captur models shut down one form of emissions control outside a range of air temperatures covering official tests but not everyday use. Another anti-pollution technology, the “NOx trap”, did not run cleaning cycles below speeds of 50 km/h. Without such periodic purges, the filters become clogged and ineffective. +++

+++ Panasonic is apparently worried that TESLA ‘s ambitious growth plans do not consider constraints in battery supplies. Recent ‘leaks’ suggest Panasonic’s battery production operations at Tesla’s Gigafactory have failed to keep up with demand for the Model 3, with alleged yield problems persisting into this year. Speaking following Panasonic’s recent earnings release, CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga acknowledged the battery output issue and shed more light on the strategic conflict between both companies. “Batteries will run out if Tesla starts to sell the Model Y and expands its business next year”, he said. “What will we do then? It’s one of a few topics to discuss with Tesla, including battery production in China”. Tesla is quickly building its next Gigafactory in China, potentially straining the battery production collaboration with Panasonic. Tsuga’s comments suggest the automaker may be seeking additional partners out of necessity. The California-based automaker has followed a unique strategy for other components, relying on multiple suppliers for some parts to hedge against production difficulties when relying solely on one supplier for critical pieces. +++ 

+++ More than 10,000 people have paid €1,000 each to be the first to own a limited-edition version of the VOLKSWAGEN ID.3 electric hatchback. The company’s IT systems were at times overloaded by the number of requests during the first day of reservations, Volkswagen said, with orders far exceeding expectations. However, when rival Tesla started taking $1,000 deposits for the Model 3, more than 115,000 requests were made within the first 24 hours. Customers who ordered one of Volkswagen’s 30,000 special edition cars will also get a year’s worth of free charging at stations connected to the company’s WeCharge app. Deliveries will start in the middle of next year. The ID3 is Volkswagen’s first in a new range of battery-powered electric cars built on the company’s modular production platform, and at an entry-level price of less than €30,000 is meant to go head-to-head with models like Tesla’s Model 3 sedan. It will be the first of more than 20 electric models coming from Volkswagen in the next few years. The special version of the car (which VW hopes will be the electric-car successor to the iconic Beetle and Golf) is being sold for just below €40,000 and have a range of 420 kilometers, with the base €30,000 version coming later with a lower range of 330 kilometers. +++

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