+++ Belgian-born Pierre Leclercq has been working as CITROEN ’s design chief since November, succeeding Alexandre Malval who went on to work for Daimler. Before Citroën, Leclercq lent his talents to Ford, BMW, Great Wall Motors, and Kia. Recently, the 46-year old spoke at the VivaTech technology show in Paris regarding his vision for the French automaker, the newly-unveiled 19_19 concept, the Ami One concept and more. When asked why he chose to show off the 19_19 concept at VivaTech instead of a traditional car show, Leclercq said that it was a matter of finding the right fit. “Viva Tech seems to be right for this car. It’s not only about design, it’s also about a vision for the company. In the car industry, we’re facing big decisions because of new technologies that might change the industry completely. We will create amazing services, solve problems for people, give you the possibility of using hours lost in traffic every day for something else. And we will still make exciting, emotional cars. I truly believe this”. He went on to say that both the 19_19 concept and the Ami One concept express Citroen’s values in a way that hasn’t changed over the years; specifically the way the brand has always been able to create polar opposite models, where in one corner you have popularity, and in the other exclusivity. When asked why mechanical components have been emphasized (like the way passengers can see the road through the lower part of the 19_19 doors), the Citroen exec had this to say: “It’s much more interesting to me to show the details of technology. If you have to have radar on the roof: don’t try to hide them, or raise the roof, make the roof the way you want it, as dynamic as possible, and turn the radar into a beautiful detail”. Leclercq also touched on the importance of global products and Citroen’s upcoming car for India, saying that it was created with Indian engineers and modelers, but that it still features a global identity. “Of course, if we have strong negative feedback from Indian customers we’ll correct certain things, but it’s important to make global cars”. Finally, the exec spoke about autonomous technology and electrification, saying that automakers are at a crucial point where they need to make key decisions about future designs. “There are 2 ways to think about autonomous driving. In the first, you have an ecosystem that doesn’t really change. Basically, you are lifting your hands off the steering wheel. Maybe at the most extreme you go in the back and watch a movie. It’s interesting but doesn’t really change the design so much. Now if you think about something that was never meant to have a steering wheel (a robot, that is) then you could create something completely different. We’re at a point where every company has to make decisions about the future. For me, that’s super-exciting because there are so many possibilities to create a revolution in the car industry”. +++

+++ DAIMLER Trucks has formed a new division dedicated to autonomous trucking. Aiming to be the market leader, the new unit will have $570 million in funding dedicated to bringing level 4 autonomous trucks to market within a decade. The group will be tasked with forming an overall strategy and technology roadmap, managing R&D and setting up the necessary infrastructure network. “In commercial trucking, level 4 is the logical next step after level 2 to increase safety as well as efficiency and productivity”, says Daimler’s trucks and buses head, Martin Daum. The first step involves collaborating with customers and developing automated technology that works within defined areas and between logistics hubs in the US. The German automaker recently acquired Blacksburg-based Torc Robotics to help achieve the autonomous trucking goals. +++ 

+++ The mega-merger of FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) and Renault, poised to create the world’s biggest car group, has been welcomed by analysts. But the threat of factory closures, cost savings that struggle to emerge and the complications of making an unwieldy conglomerate workable are just 3 of the major risks. Last week, Renault agreed to “examine the proposal” received from FCA to merge the 2 into a new company jointly owned 50/50, based in The Netherlands and with annual sales of 7.95 million units. Add in Renault’s alliance partners, Nissan and Mitsubishi, and the combined group output will be 15 million units per year, which is 5 million more than either the Volkswagen Group or Toyota. The merger, known internally as Project Newton, promises to fix any number of problems for both FCA and Renault. But it also raises serious questions about Renault’s continuing alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi, which is already under strain from Japan’s reluctance to further integrate and the incarceration of former alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn. Advantages for Fiat include access to platforms that would enable it to return a full range of models to its diminished lineup, a chance to fill its empty factories and access to electric car expertise. Renault, in turn, would be able to enter the premium market through Alfa Romeo and Maserati, the US through Jeep and Dodge and self-driving through FCA’s Waymo. “Potentially, there is a good fit and a lot of synergies, but it would be natural to be sceptical that big mergers like this have failed in the past”, said professor David Bailey of Aston University. FCA released a document setting out the merger’s potential financial benefits, which, it stressed, are “not predicated on plant closures, but achieved though more capital-efficient investment in common global vehicle platforms”. Up to €5 billion is forecast to be saved every year through cuts in purchasing (40 %), R&D (30 %) and manufacturing (20 %), although FCA predicts that first-year “cumulative implementation costs” of up to €4 billion will delay savings until year 2. Some analysts remain unconvinced that such savings can be made solely by shaving budgets. Bailey said: “Achieving €5 billion in savings without significant plant closures may be difficult”. Felipe Munoz of analysts Jato Dynamics said: “It’s hard to see how these savings can be made to last without factory closures”. Fiat’s factories certainly need an injection of new models that sell in bigger volumes (sales have dropped to about half those of Renault) and Fiat’s plants are said to be operating at an average 50 % capacity, a ruinously inefficient level well below the 80 % required to break even. Italian and French politicians have already raised reservations about the longterm threat to jobs. For Fiat, the merger could actually be the saviour of its Italian plants, by boosting its diminished model range currently centred on 5 models: the 500, Panda, Tipo, 500X and 500L; only 2 of which are Italian-built. A more convincing Tipo could be co-developed alongside the Renault Mégane, the Punto restored to the range as a Clio sibling and a compact SUV shared with the Kadjar. “But the challenge is dealing with the Fiat brand”, Munoz said. “The revival is very difficult and to fix it could take very long”. This could be a lifeline for dying brand Lancia, though, and investment for a new wave of models for Alfa Romeo and Maserati may be easier to find. Renault will see the chance to finally grab some revenue from the US as irresistible, especially as French rival PSA eyes a return to North America. FCA and Renault both see electrification and autonomous driving technology as the new battleground for investment. FCA has a lead in self-driving, Renault in electrification. Fiat is trying to catch up in electrification. It has committed to build this year’s Centoventi concept for a new Panda as an EV from 2021/22 and it will reveal the production car in March next year. Whether there’s time to switch production to the next-generation Renault Zoe platform is unclear. Execs on the Chrysler side may also have bad memories of the merger with Daimler, which failed in 2007. While such hurdles illustrate the day-to-day complexity of a mega-merger, the pressure to find extra buying power in R&D budgets to pay for electrification and self-driving technologies was repeatedly stressed by FCA’s late boss Sergio Marchionne and Ghosn constantly strived for cost savings in the alliance. Problems or not, Renault may just not be able to say no to FCA. It’s hard to believe, but Renault once owned Jeep. Head back to 1979 and Renault expanded in the US with a $350 million investment for a 47 % stake in American Motors Company (AMC), best known for its Pacer. Jeep had been owned by AMC since 1970, but the new French owner saw 4x4s as a specialist niche. Renault was more interested in AMC’s car factories in the US and Canada. AMC and Renault started with a marketing agreement for the Renault 5 (sold as the Le Car) but expanded the range in the mid-1980s with locally built versions of the 9 ,11, 21 and 25. However, by 1987, quality problems hit sales and AMC was rescued by Chrysler with a $600 million buyout led by flamboyant boss Lee Iacocca. Iacocca wanted Jeep and especially the Cherokee ‘XJ’, developed under Renault ownership, launched in 1983 and whose 3-door bodyshell was selling well. For many, the Cherokee was the first SUV and 36 years later, Renault may be back in the Jeep action. +++ 

+++ New-car registrations in FRANCE rose 1.2 % in May to 193,948, with Citroën, Seat and Toyota recording the strongest gains, industry association CCFA said. There were 20 selling days for the month, compared with 19 in May 2018. Sales fell 3.9 % on an adjusted basis. Sales for the year are flat at 935,478, but down 1 % on an adjusted basis to account for an extra selling day in 2019, CCFA said. Diesel market share rose to 36 % in May from 33 % in April and stands at 34 % for the year, compared with 40 % in the first 5 months of 2018. Sales of electric vehicles rose by 50 % through May compared with the same period last year, to 16,510 from 11,215. Citroën led all volume automakers with a gain of 23 %, as the PSA Group brand benefited from the introduction last year of 2 new SUVs, the C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross. Seat, VW Group’s Spanish brand, gained 18 % and Toyota sales rose 16 %. Sales at PSA increased by 9.2 % with Peugeot sales up 5.3 %; DS down 0.8 % and Opel falling by 2.9 %. Renault Group sales were steady, down by 0.4 % as Renault brand dropped by 0.6 % and budget brand Dacia slipped 1.3 %. Through the first 5 months of the year, Alpine recorded 1,499 registrations of its A110 sports car outselling Porsche, which recorded 1,441 registrations in the same time period. At the VW Group, the largest foreign automaker in France, sales were flat, at minus 0.1 %. Volkswagen brand sales fell by 9.3 %, Skoda increased by 4.4 % and Audi sales rose 11 %. Sales at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles fell by 11 % with a 2.9 % gain at Fiat offset by a 45 % drop at Jeep, although volumes at the SUV brand remain small. +++ 

+++ Carlos GHOSN ’s lawyer Takashi Takano claims that the bail conditions the former Nissan chairman is being held under constitute a breach of human rights. Ghosn is forbidden from seeing wife Carole, including in the presence of lawyers, and can’t even talk to her on the phone. Prosecutors claim this measure was necessary to prevent evidence tampering. “This is unfair”, Takano recently said. “It’s cruel and unusual”. Takano has been fighting to remove this condition of Ghosn’s bail and has had appeals rejected by district and appeals courts. The Supreme Court also turned down his request last month but the lawyer says he will continue to file new petitions, asserting that the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the constitutionality or the human rights aspects of Ghosn’s bail. Lawyers recently filed a petition with the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, asserting that restricting Ghosn from seeing his wife represents a deprivation of fundamental human rights. Ghosn was recently seen in court as part of a pre-trial session where both sides hand in evidence. Preparations for trials in Japan typically take months, and a trial date has yet to be set. The former industry executive was arrested in November and charged with falsifying financial documents in reporting retirement compensation. He has also been charged with breach of trust in diverting Nissan funds towards personal investment losses. Ghosn has long protested his innocence on all charges and attributed them to a coup by his former Nissan colleagues, but faces an uphill battle in being exonerated as the conviction rate in Japan is higher than 99 %. +++

+++ HYUNDAI has extended its Kona range range with a new Hybrid variant, joining the already available petrol, diesel and fully electric models. As part of the brand’s desire to offer the widest powertrain choice of any competitor, the Kona Hybrid borrows its petrol-electric system from Kia’s larger Niro. That means it uses a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, making 105 hp on its own, mated to a 43 hp electric motor also powering the front wheels. Both are linked through a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and a small (1.56 kWh) lithium/ion battery that recharges through coasting and braking. Total system output is 141 hp, with a combined torque figure of 265 Nm. That’s sufficient for a 0-100 km/h time of 11.2 seconds on the smallest wheel size, and a maximum speed of just under 160 km/h. More importantly, the hybrid is considerably more frugal on paper than the normal petrol equivalents and CO2 emissions are 90 g/km (99 g/km on 18 inch wheels). Hyundai has also added some new equipment to the Kona Hybrid, including the app-based Blue Link system and a larger instrument display for hybrid-specific driving information. The optional 10.3 inch infotainment system also gets an Eco-driving assist function, notifying the driver when it’s best to coast or brake for minimal fuel consumption. Wireless smartphone charging is also included, as are hybrid-specific interior colours and trims and upgrades to the safety assist package. The exterior looks largely identical to the standard petrol or diesel Kona, save from a new Blue Lagoon launch colour and the new 16 inch or 18 inch alloy wheels. The Kona Hybrid will be available to order in August. No price has been revealed, but expect it to be slightly pricier, trim for trim, than the equivalent petrol version while being significantly cheaper and less supply-restricted than the Kona Electric. Optional equipment include electrically-adjustable front seats, LED headlights, a wireless smartphone charger and a heated steering wheel. The Kona hybrid also comes with Hyundai’s SmartSense technology package as standard, which includes front collision warning, lane keeping assist, a driver fatigue warning, high beam assist and avoidance assist with pedestrian and cyclist detection ability. Optional safety kit includes a blind-spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic collision warning. Buyers can also spec Hyundai’s Intelligent Speed Limit warning and Lane Following Assist systems as optional extras. The former system uses the car’s front camera to identify changes to speed limits and notify the driver, while the latter works with the Kona’s automatic cruise control to keep the car in the centre of the lane with minimal driver input. The hybrid Kona also gets several interior styling revisions over its all-electric and conventionally powered siblings, with gloss black accents on the door handles and the steering wheel, white accents on the air vents and gear lever and a grey headlining. +++

+++ ITALY ’s right-wing League party criticized France over its handling of a proposed merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Renault and said the way negotiations were proceeding showed the European Commission was unfair to Rome. Italian-American FCA is engaged in intensive discussions with Renault and the French government over the $35 billion merger proposal it pitched to create the world’s third-biggest carmaker. Claudio Borghi, the League’s economics spokesman, said France should sell its stake in Renault to reduce a budget deficit which exceeds EU limits, rather than negotiate board positions in a predominantly private company. “Doesn’t the European Commission have anything to say about this?” Borghi said in an interview. +++ 

+++ One of ex- MERCEDES-BENZ chairman Dieter Zetsche’s final acts in power was to sign off on the firm’s 6th electric model: the EQ E. The new upmarket saloon is scheduled to go on sale in 2022 and will compete directly with the Tesla Model S in terms of price. Details of the EQ E have been cited in documents recently made public by the Chinese Ministry of Information and Technology in which the EQ E is referred to under its internal codename, V295. The EQ E is one of 10 new electric models destined for sale from Mercedes under its EQ sub-brand by the end of 2025 in a development programme already budgeted to cost up to €10 billion. On top of this, the German car maker has announced the investment of a further €20bn in battery cell technology. Electric models are expected to account for more than a quarter of all Mercedes’ sales by the middle of the next decade. Zetsche said: “Our electric offensive continues to gain momentum. We are now taking the next step”. The EQ E will follow the recently introduced EQ C, next year’s new EQ A and EQ V, the flagship EQ S and the recently confirmed EQ B into Mercedes showrooms. A sibling model to the larger and more luxurious EQ S due out in 2021, the EQ E will also be the second Mercedes to be based on the company’s new MEA electric car platform. Set to make extensive use of aluminium, it is designed to give future EQ electric models a flat floor structure for added packaging flexibility and what Mercedes insiders have described as “class-leading interior space”. One source said: “The EQ E will be shorter in length than today’s E-Class but offer space comparable to the existing S-Class”. The EQ E will evolve the shape of the upcoming facelifted E-Class with a focus on aerodynamic efficiency. It will adopt a face inspired by the rest of the EQ line-up, and is expected to sit lower to the ground with a ride height adjusting depending on the road conditions. The EQ C, EQ A, EQ V and EQ B are based around existing platform structures that are shared with, respectively, the GL C, A-Class, V-Class and upcoming GL B. Like the EQ S, the EQ E will be sold from the outset with 4-wheeldrive, with power coming from 2 electric motors: one mounted up front providing drive to the front wheels and a second driving the rear wheels. To broaden the car’s appeal, Mercedes is also considering a rear-wheel-drive version of its new EQ model, although it is unlikely to be made available until 2022, according to sources familiar with the company’s electric car strategy. Although it is still early days, power and torque are expected to eclipse the 408 hp and 750 Nm of the new EQ C. Among the features being touted for the EQ E are active air suspension and 4-wheelsteering, as well as safety features incorporated into Mercedes’ new ESF experimental research vehicle, including level 3 autonomous driving functions. Developments in battery cell technology are expected to provide the EQ E with a range of close to 600 km. Production of the EQ E is scheduled to take place at Mercedes’ new Factory 56 in Germany; the same site earmarked to produce the EQ S. The EQ E will also be produced at a new €1.5 billion site being constructed by Mercedes in partnership with its Chinese joint-venture partner in Beijing at the rate of up to 70,000 units per year from 2022. +++ 

+++ Global auto and parts manufacturers scrambled on Friday to make contingency plans and look at ways of speeding some deliveries after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened new tariffs on all imports from MEXICO starting early next month. Companies based in North America, Asia and Europe were holding conference calls and meetings to explore if they could move up certain shipments of parts and vehicles to mitigate tariffs on Mexican goods, auto executives and trade group officials said. Those tariffs were set to begin at 5 % on June 10 and rise from there (to 10 % on July 1 and ultimately hitting 25 % on Oct. 1) “unless Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory”, Trump said Thursday. Trump said on Twitter the tariffs were aimed at Mexico’s insufficient response to migrants crossing the border illegally. The tweets blindsided business executives, who 2 hours earlier had learned from trade officials the administration hoped to push Congress to hasten a vote to approve a revised North American free trade deal, auto executives said. Shares in auto companies slumped on Friday. Deutsche Bank warned that a 25 % tariff on vehicles and parts imported from Mexico would result in $23 billion hit that “could cripple the industry and cause major uncertainty”. Some companies still hope Trump will reverse course, auto executives said. The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association warned U.S. governors, members of Congress and the White House that the tariffs “will only serve as an additional tax on the American people by increasing the cost of goods and putting jobs and investment in the U.S. at risk. In short, this action will undermine U.S. economic stability”. The industry has taken a series of trade hits since Trump took office in January 2017. “It isn’t just this one thing; it is the cumulative impact of trade policies that are challenging the industry right now”, said John Bozzella, who heads an auto trade group representing major foreign automakers. RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak said in a research note the Mexican tariffs could be “devastating to the entire auto value chain” and a 5 % tariff could result a $300 per vehicle hit. Autos are at the heart of U.S. trade talks with Japan and the European Union. “If Trump will put these tariffs on Mexico, there will be no hesitance to tariff Europe”, he wrote. Already, Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs have added billions of dollars to the cost of assembling U.S. vehicles, and tariffs on Chinese-made parts have also hiked costs. Companies like General Motors (GM), Tesla, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and dozens of parts suppliers have petitioned for relief. GM and Ford have laid off thousands of workers in recent months, citing a rapidly changing industry. Other companies have cut hundreds of jobs. Major suppliers like Delphi Technologies, Lear and Visteon all derive at least 22 % of their global revenue from Mexico with a “meaningful portion” that crosses the U.S. border, Deutsche Bank said. The industry also faces additional tariffs on Chinese-made goods. UBS warned that these, along with Mexican tariffs could push the U.S. economy into recession. The industry has spent more than a year fighting to convince Trump not to carry through on a threat to impose up to 25 % tariffs on all imported cars and parts on national security grounds. That decision has been delayed to allow for more trade talks with the European Union and Japan. Trump, who has frequently boasted of a strong economy and stock market, believes the tariffs could actually boost U.S. growth. He said Friday that to avoid tariffs “companies will leave Mexico, which has taken 30 % of our Auto Industry, and come back home to the USA”. Industry officials say it takes years and billions of dollars to shift production, and that lower-margin vehicles cannot be built profitably in the United States. +++ 

+++ Tesla has decided not to build the upcoming MODEL Y at its Nevada Gigafactory as originally planned. Speaking to “Ride the Lightning” podcaster Ryan McCaffrey, Tesla CEO Elon Musk admitted that he had been talked into building the Model Y at the existing Fremont, California, assembly site. “I was skeptical about whether this made sense at first but my team convinced me the fastest way to get to volume production is to do the Y at Fremont”, he said. The company initially struggled to bring Model 3 production volume up to speed, requiring temporary soft-wall buildings to be constructed outside the walls of the main factory. The so-called ‘tent’ production suggested the site was at capacity building the Model S, X and 3. A recent unofficial report claimed that Tesla is reconfiguring its Fremont factory to build the Model S and X on the same line. The Model Y borrows its architecture from the Model 3, suggesting Tesla may follow the same shared-line strategy for the mass-market sedan and crossover. Tesla is currently aiming to begin Model Y production by the end of next year. +++

+++ NISSAN is optimistic about partnering with a combined Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), as long as it can protect the ownership of technology developed over 2 decades of working with Renault, a senior executive told. The executive, who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said he was cautiously optimistic about the possibility of generating “synergies” by sharing Nissan’s autonomous drive know-how, electrification and greenhouse-gas-scrubbing technologies for powertrains. But he said the possible $35 billion merger of Renault and FCA would not give FCA the automatic right to use those technologies, which it needs to meet stringent emissions regulations and better compete in a industry being transformed by electric vehicles. He also floated the possibility that Nissan could look at boosting its stake in Renault, or a merged Renault-FCA, to gain more say in shaping the future of the alliance. “We would go ahead with partnering or cooperating with FCA only if we can guarantee tangible benefits from sharing technologies with FCA and only if we can work out conditions that are satisfactory to us”, the Yokohama-based executive said. “If Renault wants to pursue this deal, we feel we need to look seriously at supporting them”, he said. The executive’s comments highlight how Nissan could look to leverage its advanced technology to gain greater bargaining power with a merged Renault-FCA. Renault is Nissan’s top shareholder with a 43.4 % shareholding, while Nissan holds a 15 % non-voting stake in the French automaker. That unequal partnership has long rankled Nissan, which is the bigger company by far. A Nissan spokesman referred to a statement issued on Monday, where Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa said: “I believe that the potential addition of FCA as a new member of the alliance could expand the playing field for collaboration and create new opportunities for further synergies”. “That said, the proposal currently being discussed is a full merger which, if realized, would significantly alter the structure of our partner Renault. This would require a fundamental review of the existing relationship between Nissan and Renault”, Saikawa said, adding that Nissan would analyze and consider its “existing contractual relationships”. If technology alone doesn’t give Nissan enough leverage in negotiating with Renault and FCA, the executive said Nissan could consider boosting its stake in Renault or the merged FCA-Renault to gain more influence. The executive said Nissan has enough financial and other resources to pursue such an option, but declined to comment further. More than a year ago, Nissan started an early study about possible benefits of adding FCA to the Renault-Nissan alliance, one begun at the instruction of ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn, the executive said. “There is no doubt there are potentially many opportunities for Nissan to share technology with FCA”, the executive said, referring to the study. As examples, he pointed to the full-size pickup truck business in the United States between FCA’s Dodge and Nissan brands, as well as the possibility of sharing with the Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands the advanced gasoline engine technology Nissan is now using for Infiniti, its premium brand. FCA is discussing a Renault special dividend and stronger job guarantees in a bid to persuade the French government to back its proposed merger between the car makers. The deal would create the world’s third-largest automaker, but it also raises difficult questions about how Nissan would fit into a radically changed alliance. Despite being long-time alliance partners, the executive noted that Nissan was completely blindsided by news of the FCA deal. “Renault did not give us the proper heads-up, and that should not have been like that”. Still, he was optimistic that an enlarged alliance could work, at least from Nissan’s perspective of sharing its technology.
“Cooking a meal for 3 or 4 isn’t all that different”, he said. +++

+++ With the Volkswagen e-Up on sale for a few years now and the Skoda Citigo-e iV joining it a couple of weeks ago, it was only logical that SEAT would follow the same route with a zero-emission version of its own city car. Aptly called the Mii Electric, it is the Spanish brand’s first-ever EV and will be shown to the world in Oslo, Norway, which is considered the electric vehicle capital of Europe. The car will be presented as part of the ‘Seat on Tour’ roadshow, will officially enter the market before the end of 2019 and will become available for pre-order in September. “Accessibility is one of the most outstanding Seat values and the ‘Seat on Tour’ initiative reinforces it by bringing our novelties close to some of the key countries for the brand”, said president Luca de Meo. “As a world reference in electric mobility, it makes complete sense to take the Mii Electric as a world premiere to Norway and showcase Seat’s latest technology with two products that will shake the market in 2020, the Seat el-Born and Cupra Formentor. Now is the right time and Oslo is the right place”. The specs of the Mii Electric haven’t been announced yet, but since it’s a sister-car to the e-Up and Citigo-e iV, I know what to expect; namely, an electric motor that produces 83 hp and 210 Nm. The battery is bigger in the zero-emission Skoda and has a 36.8 kWh capacity, allowing it to travel for up to 265 km on a single charge in the WLTP cycle. In terms of performance, the Citigo-e iV can accelerate to 100 km/h in 12.5 seconds and max out at 130 km/h. I also expect similar levels of equipment, with the electric Skoda getting a redesigned instrument panel, climate control, smartphone docking station, leather trim in upper grades and several safety assistance items. Subsequent to unveiling the Mii Electric and displaying the el-Born and Cupra Formentor in Oslo, Seat and Cupra will take their models to Liverpool on June 18, where they will also display some classic models. After that, they will stop at the Frankfurt Motor Show and in Paris in September, before ending the trip in Milan 2 months later. The tour might be extended to Latin America, but no official decision has been taken yet. +++ 

+++ Aluminum and carbon fiber used to limited to high-end automobiles, but the materials have now trickled down to trucks such as the Ford F-150 and GMC Sierra. Bloomberg notes the shift to aluminum and carbon fiber has been driven by increasing fuel economy standards and the desire to make vehicles lighter. This has driven down demand for STEEL in the automotive sector and the publication spoke to analyst Akihito Fujita who believes steel will only account for 62 % of the weight of an average new vehicle in 2025, down from 70 % in 2015. This is bad news for steelmakers as some are heavily reliant on the automotive industry. As a result, they’re fighting back with lighter steels and new construction techniques. In particular, Bloomberg highlighted Nippon Steel which showed its NSafe Auto concept earlier this year. Billed as a “next-generation automotive structural concept”, the structure used 6 different grades of steel. Some of the steel was significantly stronger than what is typically used in automobiles, but this allowed Nippon to save weight in other areas. Thanks to this approach, the concept was approximately 30 % lighter than a traditional steel vehicle and this put it on par with an aluminum bodied model. There’s no word on if the NSafe approach would be cheaper than going with aluminum or carbon fiber, but Nippon Steel is also experimenting with other ways to make steel lighter. One involves mixing steel with “small amounts of plastics”, but it’s just an experiment at this point. It remains unclear if the new materials and techniques will eventually find their way into future automobiles, but it’s possible as automakers continue to look for ways to cut costs and lighten their vehicles. +++ 

+++ TESLA apparently intends to sell its upcoming all-electric pickup for less than $50,000, according to CEO Elon Musk. The executive shed more light on the project, pointing out that both the semi and pickup will be critical high-volume vehicles for the company. “We don’t want it to be really expensive”, he said. “It’s got to be like $49,000 starting price max. Ideally less. It just can’t be unaffordable”. The pickup is also claimed to be “a better truck” than a Ford F-150 and a “better sports car” than a Porsche 911. It won’t look like a traditional pickup, however, with a Blade Runner-inspired sci-fi aesthetic. For now, Tesla has only posted a few teaser images for its pickup as the company continues to focus on bringing the important Model Y to market. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED STATES , major automakers posted higher U.S. new vehicle sales for May, the first increase for 2019 as a strong economy and upbeat consumer sentiment fueled demand. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Toyota and Nissan all posted sales gains for May compared with the same month in 2018. U.S. new vehicle sales through April had fallen 3 %, fueling expectations of a weaker year for automakers in 2019 than last year. Concerns of a downturn have been further heightened by recent threats from U.S. president Donald Trump that he will impose new tariffs on all Mexican imports. FCA reported a 2.1 % rise in sales, as demand for both light and heavy duty pickups remained strong. The Ram pickup, a major profit-driver for FCA, had a 33 % gain in sales versus May 2018. FCA and General Motors (GM) have both launched redesigned pickups. Ford has for decades built the single best-selling truck brand in its F-Series trucks, with the Chevrolet brand a solid No. 2 and Ram a distant third. But in the first quarter of this year, the Ram brand outsold Chevrolet. Both GM and Ford report sales quarterly instead of on a monthly basis. Toyota posted a 3.2 % sales increase, boosted by strong demand for its Camry. Nissan said its sales rose 0.1 %, driven by SUV and pickup sales. The Japanese automaker’s sales in the first 4th months of the year had fallen more than the industry average. Nissan has been heavily reliant on consumer discounts and low-margin fleet sales to boost U.S. demand, but has seen its market share drop since 2016. Honda reported a 4.9 % drop in sales for May, driven by declining sedan sales. Passenger car sales in the United States have fallen steadily in the last few years as Americans abandon sedans in favor of larger, more comfortable pickups and SUVs, which are also far more profitable for automakers. U.S. auto sales are expected to be about 16.9 million units in 2019, a 2.5 % fall from 2018, according to industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. +++

+++ VOLVO is working with Swedish sports brand POC to develop a new crash test to evaluate bike helmets’ performance in a collision with a car. The 2 brands are pooling their safety knowledge in order to collaborate on advancing and refining the existing crash tests for bike helmets, which are relatively basic (involving helmets being dropped from a certain height on to a flat or angled surface) and do not take collisions between bicycles and cars into account. When it comes to the safety of cyclists, Volvo’s main aim is to prevent them from colliding with its cars in the first place with the use of active safety technology. The firm’s cyclist detection system uses the car’s cameras and radars to detect cyclists, before warning the driver and, if necessary, applying the brakes. The new Volvo-POC project (part of a wider research scheme into the long-term injuries inflicted on cyclists) seeks to address the safety of cyclists in cases where a collision cannot be avoided. At the Volvo Cars Safety Centre in Gothenburg, crash test dummies wearing bike helmets are mounted on a testing rig, from which they are launched towards different areas of the bonnet of a static car at a range of speeds and angles. This method is based on the existing regulatory tests for pedestrian head protection in a collision with a car, which allows Volvo and POC to draw a direct comparison between the amount of damage suffered when wearing a helmet and when not. POC will use the findings of the project to make its helmets more effective at protecting cyclists in the event of a collision between a cyclist and a car, while Volvo will take them into account in the future development of its cars. Volvo and POC have previously worked together on a different project, which looked at wirelessly connecting bike helmets with cars in order to prevent accidents. Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre, said the brand wanted to “go beyond ratings, using real traffic situations to develop technology that further improves safety”. +++

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