+++ AUDI is in the process of adding more SUVs to its line-up. The German company will introduced a swoopier evolution of the Q3 designed with a fastback-like roof line during the summer of 2019, but it won’t join the standard model in American showrooms. An Audi spokesperson confirmed that the model, which is tentatively called Q3 Sportback, will not be sold in the United States. The representative didn’t explain why it won’t be sold there, but we expect to learn more when it makes its official debut in the coming months. The Q3 Sportback is to the second-generation Q3 what the A5 Sportback is to the A4. Had it gone on sale in the US, it would have competed against other form-over-function crossovers like the BMW X2, which is a more stylish evolution of the X1. The standard Q3 will return to American showrooms before the end of 2019 and it will spawn a hot-rodded, 400 hp RS Q3. +++ 

+++ CADILLAC has confirmed that it will unveil the CT5-V and CT4-V models on May 30. A report from a couple of weeks ago indicated that these 2 new V-Series models were just around the corner and Cadillac has now confirmed them in an announcement regarding the 15th anniversary of the V brand. We’ve known that the CT5 would receive a performance-focused V model ever since it was unveiled back in March. However, news that a CT4-V is arriving next week is a little bit of a surprise as Cadillac has yet to unveil the CT4 in standard form just yet. Powertrain details for the two models are unclear. It is possible that Cadillac will decide to power the CT5-V with a supercharged V8 engine but there is also a possibility that the 550 hp, twin-turbocharged 4.2-liter V8 Blackwing V8 engine of the larger CT6-V could be used, albeit detuned to around the 500 hp mark. The Cadillac CT4 is expected to be built off the same Alpha platform as the CT5 and Camaro and if that’s the case, General Motors will have a number of powertrains to choose from. The most likely choice would be the firm’s 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine pumping out approximately 450 hp. The new CT4 will also be sold in a number of more approachable guises, including one with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 237 hp and 350 Nm. A single-turbo V6 version with roughly 335 hp and 542 Nm is also a possibility. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) and Renault are in talks on a comprehensive global tie-up that could address some of the main weaknesses of both carmakers, 2 sources with knowledge of the discussions told. The talks are at an advanced stage, the sources said. Earlier, there already were rumours that FCA and Renault were discussing a deal to forge “extensive ties” to tackle structural challenges facing the global auto industry. Pressure for consolidation among carmakers has grown with the challenges posed by electrification, tightening emissions regulations and investment-thirsty technologies for connected and autonomous vehicles. FCA and Renault have a combined market capitalization approaching €33 billion and total global sales of 8.7 million vehicles. Besides bringing greater scale, a tie-up could help patch flaws on both sides. FCA has a highly profitable North American RAM trucks business and Jeep brand but has been losing money in Europe, where it may also struggle to keep pace with looming carbon dioxide emissions curbs. Renault, by contrast, is an electric-car pioneer with relatively fuel-efficient engine technologies and a strong presence in emerging markets, but no U.S. business. Any tie-up would likely face political and workforce hurdles, particularly in Italy. Most of FCA’s European plants are running below 50 % capacity. It was unclear whether the FCA-Renault deal talks would conclude successfully, the sources said. The plan under consideration could involve some transfer of equity, one source said. “This isn’t just another partnership, it’s more than that”. Both carmakers have also been exploring tie-ups with other partners. While FCA has recently revived discussions with PSA Group (which have been recurrent over the years), Renault is seeking a merger with Nissan, its partner in a troubled 20-year-old alliance. A tie-up between FCA and Renault would not preclude a consolidation of the alliance with Nissan, one of the sources said. The Renault-Nissan partnership, underpinned by crossed shareholdings, has been strained by the scandal surrounding former chairman Carlos Ghosn, who was ousted in the wake of a Nissan internal investigation. A tie-up that included Nissan would vault the ensemble to the rank of global No.1 carmaker with 13.8 million annual sales. It would also maintain a foothold in China, where both FCA and Renault are marginal players. The discussions follow weakening U.S. auto demand that has prompted cutbacks at several carmakers. FCA reported a 29 % decline in first-quarter operating profit as sales and margins weakened in its North American profit centre. Sales dropped 5 % to €24.48 billion. +++ 

+++ Future HYUNDAI , Genesis and Kia designs will become more differentiated from one another, and their models within each segment will become more individual. That’s the strategy being pushed by the design chief of all three brands, Luc Donckerwolke, who said that “our core task is to differentiate the design philosophy of the 3 brands, not least because we have a big (around 70 %) share in Korea. We need to differentiate each model, otherwise the landscape is too homogeneous”. Donckerwolke told that he believes Kias and Hyundais must become more distinctive not only in the Korean roadscape that they dominate but also around the world, “by segment and by region. We will not have a global design language because otherwise it’s too rigid. The alternative is more work, but it’s more flexible”. This does not mean that the brands’ designs will diverge completely across continents. “There will be some unifying themes, with varying treatments”, said Donckerwolke, who likened the approach not to “Russian dolls but to chess pieces, with a look that reveals its own charismatic character. For example, Kia used to be about the tiger nose grille, separate headlights and the lower intake. Now it’s going to be more of a mask that will deliver sportiness and a presence”. Kia design head Byungchul Juh said that Kia will be “young, challenging and cool; cooler than before. There will be a distinct version of tiger face for each segment, and we’ll keep the tiger nose grille. In principle it’s the same, but there’s a different interpretation for each segment, and more of a 3D feeling. We’re moving from a nose to a face”. He added: “The next Optima is the first step. It’s not extreme but progressive, with a strong brand identity. There will be even greater separation between Kia and Hyundai. Kia is more innovative, young, challenging, iconic and cool. There will be unexpected details, and influences from general product design, cars, architecture and fine art”. Because Kias have had a more distinctive look for longer than Hyundais, Donckerwolke and SangYup Lee, former Bentley colleague and now head of Hyundai design, determined that the Sonata represented the heart of the range and would be the design flag-bearer. The saloon is a model built over 35 years and 8 generations but no longer sold in Europe. Hyundai’s new look be “sexy, seductive and sensuous, sporty, eager and stylish”, said Donckerwolke. “Hyundai is good on value for money, but we need to add emotion”. He likened the new philosophy to that of fashion house Prêt à Porter, which ‘democratises haute couture’. Kia, meanwhile, is about “streetwear: bold, fresh and young”, Donckerwolke said. “The next Sportage is even bolder than the new Tucson”, he added. A flash reveal of this model in sketch form promises something excitingly fresh. “Genesis is haute couture”, Donckerwolke said, promising “a great new show car”. Expect to see more of Genesis, which has been mooted for a Europe launch for some time and is expected to arrive by next year. “We had Europe in mind from the beginning”, said Donckerwolke. “We need a dealer network, and for that you need a palette of cars, not just 2 models”. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen is focusing initial marketing efforts for its ID.3 battery-powered compact hatchback on “early adopters” of EV technology, VW brand marketing chief Jochen Sengpiehl said. VW has started a pre-booking marketing campaign for an ID3 launch edition but deliveries will not start until the middle of next year. The long lead time will be used to learn from customers why they want to buy the car and how VW can improve its marketing to prepare the “right product for the right people at the right time,” Sengpiehl said. “We have to make it right”, he said. Potential customers can register for an early production slot by paying a €1,000 registration deposit, fully refundable until a binding order is placed, VW said in a statement earlier this month. The Golf-sized ID.3, which for now will be sold only in Europe, is the first model from VW Group’s MEB platform for mass-market electric cars, which is a key component in the automaker’s goal to become the global EV leader, ousting Tesla. Other models including SUVs will follow for the VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat brands. Volkswagen aims to sell up to 150,000 electric vehicles on the MEB platform by the end of 2020. Production of the launch edition will start at the end of this year at VW’s revamped EV factory in Zwickau, Germany. VW has plans to sell electric cars based on the MEB platform in China and the U.S., but it has not been decided yet which product goes where and when, Sengpiehl told. VW’s goal is to “democratize e-mobility”, he said. The ID range also will be an important lever for VW to quickly burnish its environmental credibility, Sengpiehl said. Sengpiehl is leading a wide-ranging redefinition of the VW brand identity, which he described as “the biggest transformation of our company”. It will include a new logo and a new digital hub that will “bundle all touch points”. The customer will have his/her own Volkswagen identity in the same way he/she has an Apple profile. Through this profile the company will offer services to the car owner and gather data. Traditional dealers will be connected to the hub and keep their role as “physical touchpoints”, Sengpiehl said. +++

+++ According to JAGUAR design boss Ian Callum, his company’s entry into the electric vehicle segment with the I-Pace was the perfect opportunity for him to create a special design before EVs began looking too much alike to each other. “There is certainly an opportunity in the near-future and mid-future because ultimately electric cars will look very similar since their underpinnings are very similar”, said the Jaguar exec. The British carmaker then has no intention of letting this advantage slip away and will press on trying to make future models stand out visually. Callum continued to say that with EVs, “you have to package the electric motor, inverter and the battery but they are joined by wires and not bits of metal so there are opportunities”, which means that you can still get creative and design something less traditional. One example is that having no internal combustion engine means occupants can be moved further towards the front of the car, giving the vehicle a similar look to what you see with some mid-engined supercars. Yet, the I-Pace’s styling advantage will probably be short-lived as designs will inevitably be dictated by the battery layout, Callum conceded. Future models will feature longer wheelbases in order to accommodate extra batteries. “We know that because we are doing more of them”, he said about electric cars without getting into specifics. The thickness of the battery pack also partially dictated the styling of Jag’s electric crossover. “We picked an SUV because we have 125 mm and 130 mm of battery”, Callum went on to say that future models will still have to hold up the company’s values in terms of design. “When you design a Jaguar the first function is performance and then beauty. I see beauty as a function. I don’t buy into the notion that electric cars have to look strange and funky, or different for the sake of it. The I-Pace looks different for the right reasons; because of the way it is designed. Innovation should always leave 10 % that people still recognize, and we did that with the I-Pace front end. Go 100 % percent you’ll lose people too quickly”, he concluded, while also reportedly praising Tesla for recognizing this issue while designing the Model S. +++

+++ Honda has already revived one legend in its NSX sports car, and it appears as though another legend remake could be in the works: the LEGEND sedan. For reasons unknown, Honda has trademarked the Legend name for automotive use in Europe. It could be that Honda is just protecting this nameplate, even if it has been off the market since 1995, or perhaps the automaker is planning a Legend revival. If that revival does happen, it would make the most sense to rebrand the next-generation of its Acura RLX flagship sedan, which is due for replacement, as the Legend. After all, the Legend was the Japanese company’s pinnacle sedan model until it was replaced by the Acura RL, which was eventually replaced by the RLX. And given how little name recognition the RLX has, a switch to Legend could actually have a positive impact on sales. Of course we now live in a very different world than the one the Legend existed in 2 decades ago. Sedans have taken a backseat to SUVs, so it’s possible Honda could attach its top nameplate to a fully electric liftback to fight the Tesla Model S. +++

+++ MERCEDES-AMG has kicked off testing of the new GLB 45 4Matic on public roads some 12 months before its planned showroom debut. The new Audi RS Q3 rival is differentiated from standard versions of the upcoming GLB by its reduced ride height, larger brake discs, multi-pot callipers and four tail-pipes at the rear, as opposed to the twin-exit arrangement of GLB 35 4Matic prototypes we’ve seen previously. The GLB 45 is among a number of new Mercedes-AMG models set to run a newly developed 4-cylinder engine based on Mercedes-Benz’s turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder ‘M260’ unit. Also planned to appear in the A45 4Matic, CLA 45, CLA 45 Shooting Brake and GLA 45, the new powerplant is claimed to develop 388 hp in standard guise and 421 hp in a higher state of tune. In the GLB 45, the new engine will be mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and a new 4-wheeldrive system developed in a partnership between AMG and Austrian engineering specialist Magna Powertrain. It uses electrohydraulic actuation instead of the electromechanical operation of the four-wheel drive system by transverse engine models built by AMG up to now. Among the developments incorporated on the new 4-wheeldrive system is a rear differential featuring 2 separate clutches. They allow it to apportion up to 100 % of power to each of the individual rear wheels in a so-called drift mode that will feature on all upcoming 45-badged models. The GLB 45 is set to crown the upcoming GLB line-up when it goes on sale in 2020. It will be positioned above the GLB 35, which runs a milder 306 hp turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine and is set to form part of the initial GLB line-up that’s planned to be in early June. The GLB will become the 8th member of Mercedes-Benz’s compact car line-up. Previewed at last month’s Shanghai motor show by the Concept GLB, it measures 4634 mm in length, making it just 18 mm shorter than the recently facelifted GLC. In standard guise, it will offer the choice of either 5 or 7 seats. +++

+++ While in the United Kingdom MG recently unveiled the ZS EV, the automaker will enter the Indian market next month with a new SUV called Hector. Awkward name aside, the Hector is not exactly an MG. It is actually a Baojun 530, a model that recently launched as Chevrolet Captiva in Thailand and Colombia and as Wuling Almaz in Indonesia. So how did MG get a shot at a vehicle partially developed by General Motors? Well, it’s a classic case of it leveraging the resources of parent company SAIC. The Chinese carmaker has a joint venture with GM in China that builds the Baojun 530. Apparently, GM has nothing against MG selling the SUV under its own badge in India. The Hector will launch in June in the south Asian country as the market’s first 48 volt mild hybrid SUV and “India’s first internet car”. That’s a reference to its i-Smart internet-based technology that offers more than 50 connected features and the biggest HD touch screen in its segment at 10.4 inches. The SUV will be sold in India with both gasoline and diesel engines. The range will include a 1.5-liter turbocharged gasoline unit rated at 143 PS hp / 250 Nm and a 2.0-liter diesel producing 170 hp and 350 Nm. Both units will be available with manual and automatic (6-speed DCT) transmissions. Select petrol manual trims will come with a 48-volt mild hybrid technology, which promises best-in-class fuel efficiency thanks to a lithium-ion battery. The latter helps store energy and provide extra torque assistance of up to 20 Nm when required. These models will be badged Hybrid and will offer three key functions: Engine Auto Start-Stop, Regenerative Braking, and E-Boost. “The MG Hector, as India’s first internet car, has been built with a high level of localization and comes power-packed with features, inside-out. As MG’s first offering in India, the Hector demonstrates our commitment to provide the best cars to Indian customers, that they love and appreciate”, said Rajeev Chaba, President & Managing Director, MG Motor India. The Hector has entered production earlier this month at a plant in Halol, Gujarat that has an annual production capacity of 80,000 units. Pre-orders of the new SUV will begin in June. +++ 

+++ The world’s second-ranked automaker alliance Renault – Nissan – Mitsubishi should give priority to boosting its profitability, rather than simply changing its management structure. NISSAN has selected a list of 11 candidates for its board of directors, which will be presented to a general shareholders meeting in late June. Nissan president and chief executive officer Hiroto Saikawa will retain his posts. Given that Nissan is bracing for tough negotiations with its French alliance partner and largest shareholder Renault, which holds a stake of more than 43 % in Nissan, the Japanese automaker probably decided it had no option but to keep Saikawa in place. However, many shareholders likely will harbor doubts about Saikawa’s reappointment, as he overlooked alleged wrongdoing by former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn. Saikawa’s accountability over this situation will be questioned. 7 of the 11 nominated board candidates (a majority) would be independent outside directors. A string of alleged financial misconduct cases involving Ghosn clearly exposed Nissan’s inability to maintain good corporate governance practices. Nissan’s aim of bringing in outside directors to closely watch over the automaker and increase the transparency of its management is understandable. To ensure steps to monitor the automaker are effective, it also will be essential that directors from inside the company listen carefully to the views of the outside directors. All eyes will be on how Renault executives sitting on the Nissan board are treated. In April, Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard was appointed to the Nissan board. Nissan will newly appoint Renault CEO Thierry Bollore to its board. Locking in both of these heavyweights as directors could strengthen Renault’s say over how Nissan operates. During talks in April, Senard reportedly sounded out Saikawa about the possibility of a business merger. The Nissan side, which wants to retain its independence, rejected this overture. However, it is difficult to conceive that Renault and its largest shareholder, the French government, will change their position anytime soon. Saikawa will need to tenaciously negotiate with Renault. If Renault attempts to charge ahead with a merger based on the “logic of capital” (the decision-making power of a major shareholder) a backlash from Nissan would be a certainty. This could create cracks in their relationship of trust and disrupt their cooperation. The Renault side also must understand this point. Nissan’s recent business performance is a concern. Following disappointing results in its important North American operations, Nissan’s consolidated net profit in the business year that ended in March plummeted 57 % from the previous year to ¥319.1 billion. Although Nissan will change from its path of expanding sales by giving dealers incentives in order to offer consumers discounts, its consolidated net profit is forecast to fall further, to ¥170.0 billion in the year ending in March 2020. Nissan’s brand image has deteriorated so much that it cannot sell vehicles unless it slashes their prices. It likely will take some time until Nissan’s reputation regains its luster. Nissan’s profits have eclipsed those of Renault, which has enabled the Japanese automaker to retain its clout in the alliance. But if the recovery in Nissan’s business performance takes too long, Renault will not quietly sit by. For Nissan, it is important to produce satisfactory results for Renault and the French government. There is fierce competition within the auto industry over the development of self-driving technologies and the spread of car-sharing services, among other issues. Nissan must work closely with Renault and focus on making attractive cars. +++ 

+++ In one of Tesla’s biggest markets, NORWAY , the automaker been stung by its own success. The company has struggled to build up operations to match sales in Norway, which leads the world in electric vehicles per inhabitant. As a result, customers have started to complain about bad service. Norway is closely watched for signs of how the transportation industry is adapting to the energy transition. After Tesla rolled out an unprecedented wave of its new Model 3 in the Nordic country earlier this year, customers and observers are keen to see how it’s scaling up already stretched local operations. The boom is proving troublesome and Tesla is struggling to cope with its meteoric rise in Norway with the most consumer disputes per unit of any automaker. The total number of complaints is likely to rise this year due to issues with Model 3s, including dents and sloppy paint jobs, according to Norway’s consumer watchdog. But the good news is that the ratio of complaints per vehicle is set to drop after the number of Teslas in Norway surged by more than 25 % to almost 40,000 so far this year. Measures to improve service capacity are having an impact, according to Thomas Iversen, a senior legal adviser at the Norwegian Consumer Council. “Tesla is working hard to get there, but they have an extreme growth rate”, he said by phone on Tuesday. “That makes it hard to keep up”. Tesla acknowledged its problems, but also pointed to a recent survey showing its customers are satisfied as well as its unmissable presence on the roads as a sign of popularity. The company has fulfilled a promise in Norway by doubling its customer service staff and is opening new service centers, running double shifts and offering mobile services, according to a local Tesla spokesman. The council has this year taken on 51 cases mediating between customers and Tesla, meaning the annual total is likely to exceed the 86 registered last year. Tesla’s complaints per unit in 2018 were more than three times higher than the average both for electric cars and cars in total. While Tesla retained 4 out of 5 stars in the BI Norwegian Business School’s consumer-satisfaction survey published earlier this month, its service woes led it to plunge to 51st from 4th position a year earlier. Most of this year’s complaints are related to minor issues on the new Model 3s, which account for 87 % of the 7,835 Teslas registered in Norway through April. That shows the company still has capacity problems even after doubling service staff last year, the consumer council’s Iversen said. “There’s a lot of small things that Tesla isn’t able to resolve and that creates frustration”, he said. After Tesla’s global deliveries in the first quarter suffered a record decline, the company is under pressure to deliver on targets for the year as a whole. That urgency could be to blame for poor paint jobs, scratches and dents on some Model 3s, said Satheesh Varadharajan, president of the Tesla Owners Club Norway, which has about 1,500 members. “There might have been some haste in completion and inspections from Tesla’s side”, he said in a phone interview. “They’re very focused on meeting their delivery targets. But that can unfortunately come at the expense of quality”. +++ 

+++ OPEL has revealed photos of the 6th generation Corsa, which will be available in battery-electric, gasoline or diesel variants. Orders will open in several weeks, Opel said, starting with electric versions, then for gasoline and diesel versions. The Corsa, Opel’s best-selling model, is the third car launched this year on PSA Group’s CMP architecture, which was developed with PSA’s Chinese joint venture partner Dongfeng. Designed from the start to accept internal combustion as well as electric power, the CMP debuted earlier this year with the DS 3 Crossback SUV, followed by the Peugeot 208. The new Corsa was originally scheduled to be built on a GM platform, but PSA quickly changed course soon after buying Opel / Vauxhall in 2017 and developed the Corsa on the CMP architecture to take advantage of group synergies and, as well, to gain an emissions benefit. Deliveries of gasoline and electric versions will start toward the end of this year, with the first electric versions appearing in spring 2020, Opel executives said. The automaker did not disclose prices for the car. All versions of the Corsa will be built at PSA Group’s factory in Zaragoza, Spain. The Corsa-e, as the electric version will be known, has a range of 330 km under Europe’s new WLTP procedure. An electric motor produces 136 hp and will enable the Corsa to reach 100 km/h in 8.1 seconds. Its 50 kWh battery can be charged to 80 % of its capacity in 50 minutes. Drivers can choose from 3 modes (Normal, Eco and Sport) which will affect performance, but also battery range, Opel said. The Corsa-e is distinguished from the internal combustion variants only by subtle badging and modified, more aerodynamic wheels. PSA uses a similar design differentiation of the electric and internal combustion engine versions of the Peugeot 208. Under GM ownership, Opel had sold versions of the Chevrolet Bolt full-electric car in Europe as the Ampera-E, but sales were small. Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller said he expected having an electric version of Opel’s most popular car would bring higher sales. The pure electric Corsa will be an “important entry” to the electric vehicle market, he told. “This is the biggest segment of the market”. The Corsa’s length is nearly unchanged, at 4.060 mm, but it is 48 mm lower and the driver sits 28 mm lower than the current version, Opel said, adding that “handling and dynamics benefit from the lower center of gravity”. The Corsa will be available only in 5-door versions. Opel says it has given the Corsa features normally found on higher-end cars, including LED matrix headlights with 8 elements that adapt to traffic and surroundings. Drive-assistance systems include a more-sensitive front camera, radar-supported adaptive cruise control and a variety of parking aids. 7 or 10 inch multimedia touch screens are available. The Corsa will be competing in the mainstream small car segment in Europe, which has been losing ground to SUVs and crossovers (1.2 % in 2018), although it still remains the largest in Europe. Corsa’s European sales fell by 6.8 % in 2018, leaving it in 6th place behind the Renault Clio, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208 and the Toyota Yaris. It will face competition from an all-new Clio, as well as the Peugeot 208, although PSA Group has said that Opel / Vauxhall and Peugeot appeal to different groups of buyers. +++

+++ For years, Germany’s luxury brands have been a model of automotive success and the envy of rivals because of their combination of prestige, global reach and profitability. Their heyday may be over, a London-based analyst says. Sales of PREMIUM cars probably have peaked globally, threatening the business model of BMW, Mercedes and Audi, according to Philippe Houchois, managing director of Jefferies Group. “The premium business model as we have seen it, of model proliferation and people paying more because of the social status of those cars, is probably reaching a peak”, Houchois told. “We think the German premium business model is at risk” of no longer continuing to grow, Houchois said. In the first quarter, BMW Group reported its first loss in a decade in the main automotive division after booking a €1.4 billion provision for potential European Union fines over collusion. Even excluding this charge, the unit’s return on sales dropped to its lowest point in 10 years. The problems at BMW, which has been beaten to the top premium spot by Mercedes-Benz for the past 3 years, threaten to unseat CEO Harold Krüger. Mercedes increased sales last year by 0.9 % to 2.3 million cars globally, while BMW sales grew 1.8 % to 2.1 million. Audi sales fell 3.5 % to 1.8 million. Behind the top 3 from Germany, the UK’s Jaguar Land Rover sales slipped 4.6 % to 592,708 in 2018 as the brand struggled in China. Jaguar Land Rover suffered a $4.5 billion loss for the full financial year ending in March after a large write-down in the third quarter. Premium automakers need to rethink their strategy, Houchois said. “If I’m right that premium demand has reached a peak, then there must be a reinvention of the premium business model”, he said. Houchois praised Volvo for moving in that direction with an early push into electrification through plug-in hybrids, along with new subscription models. However, Houchois said, a stock market listing didn’t make sense for the Swedish automaker. “There was an attempt to list Volvo last year, but the price didn’t make sense to investors, and conditions haven’t changed today”, he said. The investment community has long feted premium automakers for successfully expanding their reach into segments traditionally dominated by mainstream automakers, such as small cars, and delivering big profits in the process. But the challenges of electrification and the additional cost of delivering vehicles that reduce carbon dioxide have damaged their business model. The premium automakers also have been threatened by the growth of Tesla. At BMW’s recent annual shareholders meeting, CEO Krüger was criticized for his caution when expanding BMW’s electric-car range. “Where is this model offensive?” German shareholder association vice president Daniela Bergdolt said in a speech that generated loud applause from shareholders. “Sure, you’ve got the iNext, but I was expecting something that blows Tesla out of the water”. +++ 

+++ Car makers RENAULT , Nissan and Mitsubishi may discuss a merger later in the future, Jean-Dominique Senard, the CEO of the French car manufacturer said. “These discussions over a capitalistic merger have been carried out for a while and they were brought out in a dramatic way recently”, Senard said in an interview. “I think that later on, as events unfold, Renault, Nissan and Mistubishi will think about that with serenity”. For now, the companies are working on ways to optimize their alliance, said Senard, who heads of it. Talks about a possible merger over the past days “have scared out everybody”, Senard said. The removal of Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, credited with rescuing Nissan from near-bankruptcy in 1999, from the head of the alliance has raised a cloud of uncertainty about its future. As Nissan ponders its future without Ghosn, who is charged with financial misconduct, French partner Renault has been quietly maneuvering for merger talks, sources at both automakers have recently told. Ghosn has denied all charges against him. +++

+++ TATA MOTORS gave an uninspiring outlook for its luxury brand Jaguar Land Rover and forecast weak demand in the Indian automaker’s home market, sending its shares 6 % lower. Mumbai-based Tata Motors has been struggling with its JLR arm for months due to a slump in China sales, while also dealing with a weak industry. 3 months ago, Tata Motors announced plans to revamp JLR, after reporting the biggest loss of about $4 billion in Indian corporate history due to an impairment at JLR. “It would be tough for JLR to come out of the negative free cash flow trajectory so easily in the near term, despite cutting planned capex”, analysts at Ambit Insights said in a report. They said the company’s forecast of negative free cash flow seemed to show “lack of conviction in terms of volume growth”. Tata Motors said it expects JLR to eventually return to profitability after a loss in April-June, helped by cost cuts and a recovery in Chinese demand but cash flow for JLR would be negative till fiscal 2021. Finance chief P.B. Balaji told reporters he expected Chinese sales of its Jaguars and Land Rovers to return to growth “a quarter from now” but many analysts were not convinced of a quick turnaround. “Our recent channel checks with dealers in China indicated that progress on the ground has been slow with dealers still incurring losses on JLR sales and relatively low traction in retails despite a recovery in the overall market”, Jefferies analyst Arya Sen said in a report. Tata Motors, India’s biggest automaker by revenue, earned 11.17 billion rupees ($15.7 million) in net profit in January-March, beating the 3.38 billion rupees average estimate of 10 analysts, according to data from Refinitiv IBES. The reported profit nearly halved from a year earlier. Revenue at JLR, which brings in most of Tata Motor’s revenue, fell 5 % to 651.46 billion rupees ($9.34 billion). “In India we expect to see next 3 to 6 months of tepid demand; the near term performance is likely to be definitely impacted due to continued slowdown in the market”, Balaji said. Sales of private cars have been hit by the growing use of app-based cab services such as those from Ola and Uber Technologies, tighter credit and a slowing economy. +++

+++ A leaked email from TESLA boss Elon Musk to its staff suggests the electric car maker could be poised for record deliveries during the second quarter. In the email, Musk said Tesla is currently on pace to set a new company record for quarterly sales. That means Tesla’s second quarter deliveries could top the record-setting 90,700 cars the company sold during the fourth quarter of last year. Musk cited an increase in Model 3 production for his optimism about a record-setting quarter. Tesla struggled with the initial ramp-up of Model 3 production, but Musk says the company is now building about 900 cars per day. Tesla would need to boost production to 1,000 Model 3s per day (or 7,000 per week) to achieve a record quarter, but Musk says that target is within reach. “In order to achieve this, we need sustained output of 1,000 Model 3’s per day”, Musk wrote. “Almost all parts of the Model 3 production system have exceeded 1000 units on multiple days (congratulations!!) and we’ve averaged about 900/day this week, so we’re only about 10 % away from 7.000/week”. The leaked email couldn’t have come at a better time for Tesla. The automaker’s stock price has tumbled by nearly 40 % this year as investors worried about Tesla’s cash burn and weakening demand for its electric vehicles. However, Tesla’s outlook is much rosier after the leaked email. +++ 

+++ The R8 is credited with boosting Audi’s image, but that transformation started 8 years earlier when the company introduced the original TT . Previewed in 1995 by the TT and TTS Roadster concepts, the model was named after the Isle of Man’s Tourist Trophy and was an instant hit thanks to its retro-inspired styling which was designed to recall the “rounded shapes of the pre-War racing cars and post-War sedans of Auto Union”. Looking far sportier than any of Audi’s sedans, buyers snapped up TTs at an impressive rate. During its first year on sale in Europe, the company sold 36,836 units. The model was also popular on the other side of the Atlantic as buyers purchased 12,027 units in 2000 and 12,523 units in 2001. While some critics dismissed the TT as a ‘hairdressers car’, it was available with an assortment of engines producing between 150 hp to 250 hp. The TT was could also be equipped with Quattro all-wheel drive and the company’s new S tronic dual-clutch transmission. Encouraged by the popularity of the original model, Audi approved a second-generation coupe and roadster. It arrived in 2006 with a sleeker design which was criticized for not being as charismatic as its predecessor. The redesign got a mixed reaction, but Audi focused on making the TT a legit sports car. As part of this effort, the company introduced an S variant with 272 hp and an RS model with 340 hp. A TT RS plus arrived later with 360 hp. The third and final generation of TT was introduced in 2014 and given a facelift in 2018. The redesign helped to reinvigorate sales, but the boost was short lived. Audi only sold 1,289 TT cars in the United States last year and 9,943 units in Europe. Given the declining sales, it’s not surprising that Audi has decided to phase out the model. Mercedes made a similar decision about the SLC earlier this year and that’s unfortunate as we’ll lose 2 sporty Germans at roughly the same time. The news isn’t entirely bad as Audi chairman Bram Schot has confirmed the TT will effectively be replaced by a “new emotive model in the same price range”. It will be an electric vehicle, but there’s no word on whether or not the will be offered as a coupe and roadster like the TT. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is intensifying talks with Swedish startup Northvolt on plans to jointly build up battery cell production in Salzgitter, near its headquarters in Lower Saxony, one of its board members told. Volkswagen earlier this month pledged to spend €1 billion on the project, which it says depends on certain economic pre-conditions, such as subsidized electricity. In an interview, Volkswagen board member Stefan Sommer told he was confident that battery cell production in Salzgitter would be realised. “We will intensify our talks over the next weeks with regard to a more detailed planning”, he was quoted as saying, adding Volkswagen was also looking at other locations in Europe for potential battery cell production, not specifying further. +++

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