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+++ ASTON MARTIN ’s new factory in St. Athan, Wales, has started pre-production of the DBX, the firm’s first SUV. While this is a routine milestone in the life of a new model, getting to this point was easier said than done for the British firm. Announced in 2016, the St. Athan factory is built on a former Ministry of Defense site that closed in 2012. If you visit it today, you’ll see an ultra-modern factory where humans and machines work hand-in-hand to manufacture pre-production units of the DBX. If you visited it in 2015, however, you would have stood on an abandoned airfield once used by the Royal Air Force as a maintenance base for several types of aircrafts. Aston Martin’s decision to manufacture the DBX solely in Wales has already boosted the local economy. So far, the factory has created 200 jobs, and the company expects to recruit 550 additional employees. 3,000 more jobs will be created across the supply chain and local businesses. The facility is proof of Aston Martin’s commitment to invest in the United Kingdom rather than send production abroad, or outsource it entirely. The DBX will make its official debut during the last quarter of 2019, and I expect it will carry a base price in the vicinity of €300,000. When it arrives in showrooms, it will compete in the same segment as the Bentley Bentayga, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, and the Lamborghini Urus. Fully-loaded examples might venture into Rolls-Royce Cullinan territory. Aston Martin also designated its St. Athan facility as its home of electrification. While the DBX will be the only model built there when production starts, it will be joined by electrified, Lagonda-badged luxury models during the early 2020s. These yet-unnamed vehicles will be aimed directly at Rolls-Royce, so they will put less of an emphasis on all-out performance than, say, the DB11. Aston Martin previewed 2 of them with a pair of futuristic concepts shown in 2018 and 2019, respectively. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY ’s third-generation Flying Spur will grow in size and will offer additional safety technology as the British ultraluxury brand looks to compete better with Mercedes-Benz’s retooled AMG S-class and Maybach lineup. The new Flying Spur follows the redesign of the Continental GT coupe and convertible, to which the sedan is closely related. The Flying Spur has been engineered on the same Porsche-developed MSB platform as the Continental GT, with a more athletic and sporty appearance. The wheelbase has been extended 127 mm to 3.200 mm over the second-generation. The Flying Spur is equipped with one set of headlights that are larger, while the outward pair become smaller, supplemental units, mirroring what Bentley first did with the Continental GT. Another notable exterior change is the available Flying B hood ornament, which can be raised or lowered into the hood electronically. It retains wraparound, rectangular taillights though the name Bentley is now spelled on the rear decklid under the badge. The sedan is powered by a 6.0-liter turbocharged W12 engine, with 635 hp and 900 Nm. It’s paired with a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. Instead of permanent allwheel drive found on the previous generation, the redesigned Flying Spur gets a clutched system that sends power to the rear axle and, when needed depending on road conditions and wheel slip, will send power to the front axle for active awd. The sedan also receives electronic allwheel steering with the redesign. At low speed, the system steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction from the front wheels. The feature “has the effect of shortening the wheelbase, reducing the turning circle, increasing agility and making parking noticeably easier”, Bentley said. Standard safety equipment includes the automaker’s Traffic Assist, City Assist and blind spot warning. Inside, Bentley’s 3-way rotating dashboard display is now available. As the name implies, the display sits in the center of the dashboard and can rotate at the touch of a button between a 12.3 inch high-resolution touch screen, a trio of analog gauges embedded into the wood veneers or nothing at all. There are new seats and, in what Bentley says is a first, 3D diamond quilted leather door inserts. The inserts were inspired by Bentley’s EXP 10 Speed 6 concept. Customers can also opt for a panoramic sunroof that runs the full length of the roof. Bentley says orders for Flying Spurs will open in the fall with deliveries beginning in early 2020. Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark said the automaker is positioning the latest Flying Spur above the outgoing model to create more differentiation with the AMG and Maybach versions of the Mercedes-Benz S class. The current generation Flying Spur has lost out to Mercedes in particular, he said. Hallmark said Bentley also wants to get a lot more volume. “We’ve positioned it so you get a lot more for your money”, Hallmark said. The biggest market for the Flying Spur is the United States, followed by China, continental Europe and then the United Kingdom, Hallmark said. +++ 

+++ If you’ve worked on a car, you have probably found yourself in the unenviable position of having to look up information right while you’re in the middle of doing something. It’s a common problem, but one that BMW North America is trying to eliminate thanks to the help of new Tsara Vision Smart Glasses. Set to be used by all BMW and Mini dealers in the United States, the smart glasses will allow service technicians to communicate with experts from BMW North America and show them live video of what they’re looking at. Experts from BMW can also send schematics and step-by-step instructions to the glasses to help make repairs faster and easier. Technicians will also be able to open and view documents via voice commands while working on a car. Besides the smart glasses, dealers will use the company’s new Technical Information System TIS 2.0. It’s billed a multimedia platform that was developed with feedback from service techs. The system will allow dealership employees to access technical information for all BMW and Mini models on any mobile device. This means employees can whip out their smartphone and look something up quickly, rather than having to stop work and log into a desktop. Last but certainly not least, dealers will use a new online case-reporting system called Tsara. BMW says it’s intuitive and user-friendly interfaces will help to “speed repair and maintenance processes by an average of 70 to 75 %”. That’s the ultimate goal of all 3 technologies as BMW wants to increase efficiency as well as reduce repair and maintenance times. As BMW North America’s head of technical service, Neal Guthrie, explained “Vehicle technology is becoming more complex, which only highlights the need for excellent technicians”. He also said providing techs with the best tools and systems are “critical to our success”. +++ 

+++ CHINA reported the worst-ever monthly sales drop in the world’s largest vehicle market, exacerbating concerns over the country’s economic slowdown and growing impact of an ongoing trade war with the United States. Sales tumbled 16.4 % in May from the same month a year prior, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said. That marked the 11th consecutive month of decline and followed falls of 14.6 % in April and 5.2 % in March. Xu Haidong, CAAM’s assistant secretary general, said one key reason for the drop was provinces implementing “China VI” vehicle emission standards earlier than the central government’s 2020 deadline, stoking uncertainty among manufacturers. “We gave the manufacturers too little time to prepare”, he said, adding that the industry’s supply chain was finding it difficult to keep up with market changes. Automotive sales in China contracted for the first time last year since the 1990s as a slowing economy and tit-for-tat import tariffs between Beijing and Washington affected consumer sentiment. Industry executives have said they believe the market will return to growth in the second half of this year due to government support. Xu said May demand also suffered from a decline in purchasing power in the low-to-middle income groups as well as expectations of government stimulus to encourage purchases. Earlier in June, the government announced measures to revive sales, including stopping local authorities from imposing new restrictions on purchases and eliminating restrictions on NEVs. Contrary to market expectations, the measures did not include the relaxation of controls over the issuance of licenses for petrol-powered cars in major cities. Xu also noted that the measures did not include subsidies, but said it was unrealistic to continue expecting such support. “This is a perfectly competitive industry and doesn’t need the government to intervene day in and out”, said Shi Jianhua, a senior CAAM official. Growth in the new energy vehicle segment, usually a bright spot for the sector, also slowed sharply in May. Sales grew just 1.8 % versus 18.1 % in April. For all of last year, NEV sales jumped almost 62 % even though the broader market shrank. NEVs include petrol-electric hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids, battery-only electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. China, blighted by air pollution, has been a keen supporter of NEVs, requiring automakers to meet sales quotas. Xu said NEV growth had been dragged down by a fall in sales of commercial vehicles like buses, and that sharp discounting on traditional petrol-powered cars (prompted by increasingly stringent emission standards) had also lured buyers away from NEVs. In May, most automakers reported a decline in China sales, except Toyota and Honda which logged double-digit growth. +++ 

+++ DE TOMASO , the Italian performance brand that’s been dormant since its founder died in 2003, is coming back. The new owners of the brand’s name will celebrate its 60th anniversary by launching an all-new car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July. Images of a disguised prototype posted on social media shows that the new model bears a striking resemblance to the Pantera, a mid-engined sports car powered by a Ford V8 and produced from 1971 to 1993. It looks low-slung and wedge-shaped, with similar angular lines to the original. The Project P codename suggests the brand is intending to use the Pantera title once more, though this has yet to be confirmed. The relaunch of De Tomaso is being conducted by Ideal Team Venture, a Hong Kong-based company that brought defunct brand Gumpert back as Apollo. It bought the rights to the De Tomaso name in 2014 for just €1.05 million. The Project P car is said to have been co-developed by the Apollo team and “world-renowned technical partners” that have yet to be named. After moving to Italy to become a Formula 1 racing driver, Argentinian-born Alejandro De Tomaso founded his eponymous firm in 1959. The company’s long history includes developing F1 cars for Frank Williams and owning Maserati from 1975 to 1993. New general manager Ryan Berris claims “Alejandro’s journey was never properly told and we feel his name should be commonly recognised among greats such as Enzo Ferrari and Ferruccio Lamborghini”. The new venture isn’t the first time a De Tomaso revival has been attempted. Back in 2009, a former Fiat executive bought the naming rights and planned to put a range of cars (including an SUV, a luxury saloon and a coupé) into production by 2011. However, by the middle of 2012, the maker was in the process of liquidation, leaving 900 unpaid employees and a former Pininfarina factory to be rescued by a new buyer. Dramatically, the former chairman was then dragged into court and charged with misusing Italian public funds allocated for De Tomaso’s revival. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) has withdrawn their merger proposal with Renault last week, but it appears the company originally had eyes on Ford. Ford’s executive chairman revealed the 2 companies looked into the possibility of a merger. As Bill Ford explained, he and the late Sergio Marchionne “had a number of dinners together talking about whether Ford and FCA would be a good fit”. The Blue Oval decided against the move as Ford said “We had our own issues and challenges ahead of us. I felt like the merger wasn’t going to help us solve those problems”. He added, if anything, the merger would have “slowed us down”. While Ford ultimately decided against a merger with FCA, the company isn’t opposed to partnerships. In the last year alone, they’ve struck deals with Volkswagen, Mahindra and Rivian. Ford says he expects this trend to continue as “There will be winners and losers in our business like you’ve never seen before”. He went on to say “I think you will see companies looking for scale, because some technologies need to scale to be effective”. That certainly appears to be the case as partnerships are becoming increasingly common in the industry. In particular, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover have joined forces to develop next-generation electric drive units. Likewise, GM and Honda have teamed up to build a purpose-built autonomous vehicle for Cruise Automation. Even Hyundai and Audi are working together on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Given the importance and cost of electrification and autonomous driving technology, it seems like automakers are looking to team up more than ever before. +++ 

+++ Former Ford boss Mark FIELDS says the auto industry needs to tap the brakes on its expectations for electrification. “I think the industry is going to be under a reckoning over the next 2 to 3 years”, Fields said. “My view is that yes, electrification is going to grow over the years, but it’s not going to grow to the extent all the experts are telling you”. Fields, senior adviser at TPG, a global asset management firm, said automakers must grapple with high development costs and a lack of demand, despite promises from most major companies to electrify their lineups. “They are going to have to first restructure the margins of the business and on top of it you’re going to have to incentivize demand”, Fields said. “If you throw in, during that time period, a recession that’s going to happen at some point, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on the OEMs”. While at Ford, Fields tried to position the automaker as a leader in electrification. Under his watch, Ford began plans for a long-range, battery-electric vehicle, although his successor, Jim Hackett, ordered a redesign of the vehicle shortly after taking over. Fields also led Ford to invest $4.5 billion in electrification through 2020, although those plans have since been expanded. He noted the U.S. is likely to lag other countries in embracing electrified vehicles. “China is setting the tempo and the pace for electrification around the world”, Fields said. “The Chinese government has said: ‘We missed being the leader in internal combustion engines. Now is our opportunity to lead in a 21st-century propulsion system’. They’ve crafted their industrial policy along those lines”. Fields offered a cautious outlook on autonomous vehicles, saying he didn’t expect a proliferation until the “back end of next decade”. Even then, he said the vehicles would focus mainly on certain areas, such as cities, and would be used for specific purposes such as package delivery. +++ 

+++ FORD and Volkswagen are said to be on the verge of announcing their second partnership of the year; after inking a deal to co-produce vans and pickups in January, the 2 automakers are said to be zeroing in on a deal to jointly develop autonomous vehicles. According to those familiar with the negotiations, Ford and VW could be ready to announced an autonomous vehicle deal as soon as next month. The partnership would also include Argo AI, a self-driving startup already backed by Ford. “Discussions have been productive across a number of areas. We’ll share updates as details become more firm”, Ford said of the discussion with VW in a statement. Ford has faced claims that its autonomous tech is lagging behind rivals, but a partnership with VW would all but eliminate those criticisms. The Ford – VW partnership will reportedly match the efforts by Waymo in both ambition and scope. Argo AI had launched its new fleet of self-driving test vehicles (Ford Fusion (Mondeo) Hybrid) in Detroit, expanding its presence to 5 U.S. cities. The new cars are equipped with upgraded sensors, including radars and cameras with higher resolution and range, the company said. General Motors’ majority owned Cruise robotaxi business, Aurora, recently announced a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, while Alphabet and Uber are also investing in their self-driving projects. Argo already operates vehicles in Pittsburgh, Palo Alto, Miami and Washington D.C. Ford opened a research center in Tel Aviv, joining a growing number of major automakers and suppliers setting up shop in the Israeli tech hub as they race to develop self-driving cars. With spiraling development costs for autonomous and connected cars in recent years, Ford and other carmakers have sought alliances and outside investors. “No company can do it alone. No company should try and do it alone. We’re going to need partnerships”, chairman Bill Ford said during his first visit to Israel. “Partnerships with companies big, companies medium and especially start-ups. The ecosystem of start-ups that I’ve seen here is just incredible”. The Tel Aviv lab will focus on technologies in connectivity, sensors, automated-systems research, in-vehicle monitoring and cyber security. “I’m going to be back very frequently because this really becomes the lifeblood of what Ford will become in the future”, Ford said at the center’s launch. Renault and Nissan opened a joint innovation lab in Tel Aviv earlier in the week, enabling their alliance to also collaborate with Israeli start-ups. U.S. chipmaker Intel, German auto supplier Continental, Samsung Electronics, Daimler and General Motors also bought start-ups or set up their own development centers in Israel. Ford reiterated his call for “clarity and certainty” regarding trade tensions between the United States and China and said he was delivering the same message to both sides in the dispute. Last week, China levied a $24 million fine on Ford’s main joint venture in China for antitrust violations. “There’s always risk everywhere we operate”, Ford said. “Part of our job is to try and minimize those risks. But we’re talking to both sides. Not just the Chinese, we’re talking to the Americans as well. They hear us loud and clear. By the way, obviously, we’re not the only ones delivering the message”. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI ’s future autonomous cars could be able to predict what injuries their occupants may have sustained in a crash and inform the emergency services within 7 seconds. The South Korean manufacturer has teamed up with medical AI (artificial intelligence) start-up MDGo to develop a raft of advanced vehicle safety systems. MDGo has created an intelligent injury analysis system that is able to monitor vehicle occupants in real time and alert medical services of any potential injuries in the event of a road traffic collision. Combining this system with an array of sensors in its future cars, Hyundai will be able to provide emergency services with various pieces of information, such as how badly passengers have been injured and which vehicle safety systems have been activated, all within 7 seconds of an accident occurring. The system will enable the emergency services to better determine in advance what the scale of their response should be and how quickly they need to reach the scene of the accident. Meanwhile, Hyundai will be able to use any new data obtained to improve the active and passive safety capabilities of its vehicles by bolstering crash structures and integrating new technology. Youngcho Chi, president and chief innovation officer at Hyundai, said: “MDGo possesses exceptional AI analysis technology optimized for driver safety. Through this technology, we expect a significant improvement in the emergency medical services of vehicles in the short-term, while our long-term goal is to provide innovations in the passenger experience of vehicle safety, utilising new technology that enables real-time physical monitoring”. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER ’s Castle Bromwich plant could be moved to a 4-day working week. The 2500 workers at the factory, where production of the XJ is soon to end, are set to vote on the proposals, which would potentially reduce any risk of further redundancies. The plans, which would see the plant in operation from Monday to Thursday, were detailed to workers in a document titled “The Merlin Gateway Agreement”. The briefing states: “We are proposing a new 37 hours a week, 4-day shift pattern”. “For those employees working this pattern”, it continues, “the benefit will be more days away from work to spend how they choose while also reducing travel and childcare requirements. When working a shift pattern there may be times when we need to deliver extra volume or recover unplanned losses”. The move is the latest in a series of disruptions for Castle Bromwich workers; last year it was reported that they would be moved to a 3-day week, and recent uncertainty surrounding Britain’s departure from the EU prompted a 4-day shutdown in April. Production of the brand’s 10-year-old flagship XJ will end on 5 July, with details of its successor’s arrival date and production remaining scarce. Earlier this year, Jaguar Land Rover confirmed it would cut 4500 jobs from its UK workforce, as the company embarked on an ambitious drive to save costs in the wake of a £90 million loss in the third quarter of 2018. +++ 

+++ JEEP is set to renew its flagship model, the 8 year old Grand Cherokee, within the next 2 years. The Volkswagen Touareg rival will grow in size, offering a longer wheelbase and chunkier rear overhang. The latter feature would suggest the Grand Cherokee could be offered as a 3-row model, but Jeep’s product plan outline shows otherwise. I know that the new Grand Cherokee will make use of an enlarged, adapted version of Alfa Romeo’s Giorgio platform, a fact confirmed by the late Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) boss Sergio Marchionne in 2017. While the car maker’s product plan is shifting slightly as his replacement, former Jeep boss Mike Manley, makes his mark, it is understood that this is still the case. The Giorgio platform won’t just grow in size, it will also be revised to suit the Grand Cherokee’s off-road focus. Independent suspension all-round can be seen on this prototype, but the platform also allows the fitment of electrified powertrains for the first time. Expect to see mild hybrid variants as a matter of course, with plug-in hybrid options available soon after the car’s launch. Whether the base engine for Europe will remain a V6, or Jeep will look towards a turbocharged 4-cylinder option, remains to be seen. There’s also a further question mark over a diesel option: Marchionne claimed FCA would begin to phase out the fuel in 2022, but it’s still the majority seller for the Grand Cherokee in Europe. Jeep also plans to introduce Level 3 autonomy (under which a driver is still required to monitor the vehicle but it can operate entirely by itself in certain road conditions) just before the Grand Cherokee’s arrival, so that’ll likely be available on high-spec variants. Jeep’s product plan has the Grand Cherokee as a 2022 model year car, so the current model is still expected to live on for a while yet. Expect to see the new car unveiled in 2021 and on sale before the end of that year. +++ 

+++ 2 leading proxy advisory firms have urged NISSAN shareholders to vote against reappointing its chief executive as a director, heaping more pressure on Hiroto Saikawa as he struggles to find accord with alliance partner Renault. The move marks a rare public rebuke by international proxy firms against the leader of a top-tier Japanese firm, and comes just as the scandal-hit automaker struggles to move on from the legacy of Carlos Ghosn, its ousted chairman who stands accused of financial misconduct. It also underscores the precarious position of Saikawa, who was groomed for leadership by Ghosn but appears unable to mend a relationship with Renault that one source said appeared to be in jeopardy. Institutional Shareholder Services recommended shareholders vote against Saikawa as director at Nissan’s annual general meeting this month, to ensure a “clean break” from the Carlos Ghosn era. Ghosn, first arrested in November, is awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges. He denies all the charges against him. “When the company needs to break from the past and build a strong board with fresh members, the reelection of Hiroto Saikawa, who has been on the board for 14 years and worked closely with Carlos Ghosn, does not appear appropriate”, Institutional Shareholder Services said in a research note. The firm also advised shareholders to vote against the nomination of Moto Nagai to Nissan’s board, saying the former executive of Mizuho Financial Group served as an independent auditor at Nissan during Ghosn’s tenure, and “shares responsibility” for failing to exercise oversight of Ghosn’s alleged wrongdoing. Another proxy adviser, Glass Lewis, similarly told shareholders not to vote for Saikawa, who needs the support of at least half of voting shareholders at the June 25 meeting to be reappointed. “We cannot confidently support the nomination of Mr. Saikawa who, as the representative director and president of the company, should have taken greater steps in performing its oversight responsibilities in the misconduct of the board members”, it said in a report to clients. A recent push by Renault to block a governance overhaul at Nissan has put the Franco-Japanese automaking alliance in jeopardy, a person familiar with Nissan’s thinking told. The 2-decade-old partnership was plunged into fresh crisis this week after Renault signaled it would block its partner from adopting planned governance reforms unless the French automaker received more say in the new system. Nissan has publicly called that demand “most regrettable”. “I have to say that they are endangering the alliance. They have to be very careful not to antagonize Japanese people and shareholders”, the person said, referring to Renault. “Renault has been saying the alliance is important and irreversible but what they are trying to do is to break the alliance”, the person said, declining to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. By abstaining from the governance vote, Renault would effectively block the new governance system (which includes 3 committees) as adoption requires two-thirds approval. The rift lays bare the deep strain between the 2 automakers, whose alliance has been under pressure since Ghosn’s arrest. What’s at stake now may be even bigger than their vast alliance, which includes Mitsubishi. Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) are looking for ways to resuscitate a collapsed merger plan and secure Nissan’s approval for that deal. Nissan is, therefore, poised to urge Renault to significantly cut its 43.4 % stake in Nissan. Nissan recently said it would abstain from voting on the FCA – Renault merger, although both FCA and Renault later blamed the failure of that deal squarely on the French government. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen and BMW are among investors in Europe’s biggest lithium-ion battery plant, Sweden’s NORTHVOLT said after it raised $1 billion in equity capital to complete funding for the facility. Volkswagen said separately it was buying about 20 % of the shares in Northvolt, which is also setting up a joint venture with VW to build a battery cell factory in Salzgitter, Germany. Northvolt said construction of the Swedish plant in Skelleftea would begin in August, to provide an initial 16 GWh of cell manufacturing capacity. The company said it had already sold a significant part of planned production volumes at a combined order value of more than $13 billion through 2030. “Today is not only a great milestone for Northvolt, it also marks a key moment for Europe that clearly shows that we are ready to compete in the coming wave of electrification”, Northvolt CEO and former Tesla executive Peter Carlsson said. Swedish pension fund firms AMF and Folksam and IKEA-linked IMAS Foundation also contributed to the equity capital raising, which was led by Goldman Sachs and VW, Northvolt said. The European Investment Bank is among the project’s lenders and will provide a 350 million euro loan, its largest ever direct financing of battery technology. VW said the 16 GWh joint venture plant in Salzgitter is slated to begin production around the end of 2023/beginning of 2024. VW said it will have a seat on Northvolt’s board, subject to approval under antitrust legislation. “With Northvolt, we have now found a European partner whose know-how and sustainable, CO2-optimized battery cell production processes will enable us to advance cell production here in Germany”, VW’s procurement chief, Stefan Sommer, said. +++ 

+++ German prosecutors said they were investigating the chairman of Volkswagen’s powerful works council as part of a inquiry into whether some of its members were paid excessively, turning him from a witness into a suspect. Bernd OSTERLOH is being investigated over an allegation that he “contributed to the conclusion of the remuneration agreement that is suspected of being unlawful”, a spokesman for the public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig said. Osterloh has not yet been questioned and has requested, via his lawyer, access to relevant files and will respond to any allegations, a spokesman for the Volkswagen works council said, adding that its chairman was “beyond reproach”. Prosecutors have been investigating 4 people since 2016 on suspicion of preferential treatment of works council members and, on the basis of those investigations, prosecutors decided to investigate Osterloh, who had previously been a witness. Volkswagen said in November 2017 it had obeyed the law in its payment of Osterloh, a day after prosecutors and tax authorities raided the offices of several senior officials at the carmaker in an inquiry into whether he had been overpaid. A newspaper reported in May that prosecutors were investigating the chief executive of Volkswagen’s Porsche business, Oliver Blume, over a possible breach of fiduciary trust linked to payments made to a Porsche works council member. +++ 

+++ French president Emmanuel Macron has turned down a request to meet RENAULT chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, who is furious over the government’s interference at the carmaker, sources told, raising questions over Senard’s future. News of the rebuff came as Renault shareholders met to endorse Senard’s January appointment to replace Carlos Ghosn, the ousted leader of the Renault-Nissan alliance. Senard, whose bid to merge with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) over Nissan’s reservations was scuppered by French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, unsuccessfully sought a meeting with Macron to secure his backing, 4 government and company sources said. 7 months after Ghosn’s arrest on financial misconduct charges (which he denies) the alliance he forged is on life support. Nissan refused to study a full Renault tie-up proposed by Senard, and wants to weaken its 43.4 % shareholder’s grip. Instead, Senard then tabled an FCA-Renault deal proposal developed without Nissan’s knowledge. But FCA Chairman John Elkann withdrew the offer after France, Renault’s biggest shareholder, blocked the June 5 board vote and demanded more time to secure Nissan’s endorsement. Days later, in a third risky move that caused outrage in Japan, Senard vowed to block governance reforms introduced by Nissan after the Ghosn scandal unless Renault gets more seats on the Japanese firm’s powerful new board committees. Renault sources say Senard’s exasperation deepened when Le Maire, seeking to smooth tensions from the sidelines of a weekend G20 meeting in Japan, publicly discussed a possible cut to France’s 15 % Renault stake or even Renault’s Nissan holding. Senard felt further undermined by Le Maire’s surprise pronouncements and told colleagues he expected to be “backed up from the highest level of government”, according to one. But Macron’s office declined a proposed sit-down, the sources said. “There is no meeting with Senard on the president’s agenda”, an Elysee official said. Renault declined to comment. But sources close to the chairman played down the rebuffed meeting request and said he was determined to stay put. Senard and Macron “communicate regularly by text message”, one said, and the French head of state is extremely busy with other matters. “Senard is on top form for his shareholders’ meeting and is resolved to continue”. France is not seeking to replace Senard, another government source said. “He may have taken some bad advice, and he should clearly have made more personnel changes for Renault to move on from the Ghosn era”, he added. Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and Renault CEO Thierry Bollore, Ghosn’s former second-in-command who was promoted in January, barely speak and are now seen as clear irritants to the relationship, French official and company sources say. “Senard has become well aware of this”, said a person familiar with his thinking. “So we’ll see how things evolve after the shareholder meeting”. Saikawa’s position also appears more fragile, after 2 leading investment advisory firms recommended a vote against his reappointment at the Japanese carmaker’s June 25 shareholder gathering. The recommendations may boost the chances of Saikawa’s exit, although a vote against him remains unlikely. Under a 2015 amendment to alliance shareholder pacts, Renault is required to support the Nissan board’s proposal to renew his mandate. +++ 

+++ Global deliveries for SKODA dropped by 6.6 % to 104,900 vehicles in May, pulled down by a weaker overall market in China, its biggest sales destination, the company said. Deliveries in China alone, which accounted for about a fifth of May deliveries, fell 31.5 % year-on-year while the Czech carmaker said its European markets increased in the month. +++

+++ SWEDEN ’s ambitious plan to drastically cut emissions from transport by bringing millions of electric cars onto the road could be derailed by a lack of power capacity for new charging stations in major cities. An increase in government grants sent sales of electric cars surging by 253 % in the first 5 months, but the rally could be over before it has really started. Demand for electricity in Stockholm and other cities is outgrowing capacity in local grids, forcing new charging networks to compete with other projects from housing to subway lines to get hooked up. To reach a government target of becoming carbon neutral by 2045, the industry group Power Circle says Sweden needs to add about 2.5 million plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles by the end of the next decade. While many of these will be charged at home for shorter journeys, a network of stations for longer trips and professional drivers from taxis to delivery vans is also needed. “To get people to take the plunge and want to buy an electric car they should not be forced to take long detours to find a charging station”, said Tobias Henmark, head of the Swedish unit of Fortum Charge and Drive, which operates 740 fast chargers in the Nordic region. “Right now there is a tendency to cover up the deficiency by increasing the cost of capacity, and that would make it impossible to build a charging infrastructure”. For the rise in electric vehicles to be manageable despite the lack of power capacity, Power Circle suggests that owners should get incentives not to charge and even send power back to the grid during morning and afternoon peak hours. If enough cars in the future are connected and willing to share their batteries with the grid, more electric vehicles would lessen the capacity problem instead of making it worse. “Electric cars can make or break the grid”, said Johanna Lakso, who heads the group. “When we are about to roll out the infrastructure why not be smart about it and use it to support the power networks?” Despite the big jump in sales this year, Sweden is behind its neighbor Norway when it comes to total numbers of electric cars. The oil-rich nation had more than 10 times as many such vehicles registered by the end of May, making it one of the biggest markets in the world. Lower taxes and other perks such as free parking and a special permit to drive in bus lanes have boosted sales. Sweden’s total EV sales of 6,694 through May are tiny on a European scale. About 500,000 electric vehicles are expected to be sold in the region this year. Shipments rose by 40 % in the first quarter, mainly driven by Germany with a third of all new cars. Still, less than 4 % of all new cars sold in Germany and the rest of Europe was solely powered by batteries, compared with more than a fifth in Sweden and as many as 56 % in Norway. In Norway, an electric car will cost about the same as similar gasoline versions as taxes are set up to level out price differences in favor of the more expensive battery-powered cars. In Sweden, even with a 60,0000-krona ($6,355) subsidy introduced last year, electric cars will still cost almost twice as much as the the gasoline version as general vehicle taxes are much lower. While Sweden was still exporting more than 10 % of its electricity output last year, its aging grid is struggling to ship the commodity to where it is most needed. Demand in the main cities has grown a lot quicker than expected. It can take as long as ten years to build new cables and that means Stockholm is not expected to be able to significantly boost power use until 2030, according to local grid manager Ellevio. +++ 

+++ TESLA shares rose almost 3 % in early trade with analysts still divided on the electric-car maker’s chances of meeting delivery and production targets in the months ahead, after comments by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk. Musk told shareholders that Tesla was on track to hit its volume production goal for the end of this year and had “a decent shot at a record quarter on every level”. A 31 % fall in first-quarter deliveries stirred concern among investors over the appetite for Tesla’s Model 3 and its cashflow as it invests to ramp-up output and get cars out to customers on time. Tesla has said previously it plans to deliver 90,000 to 100,000 vehicles to customers in the second quarter, up from 63,000 vehicles in the first. Musk said it was on course to deliver a targeted 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles in 2019. Baird analyst Ben Kallo, rated 4 out of 5 stars for his accuracy on estimates for Tesla, believes “bear arguments will be disproven in the coming weeks and months”. He also expects the carmaker, which witnessed steady demand over the past few weeks, to be cash flow positive in the second quarter. At least 8 Wall Street brokerages cut their price target for Tesla in May to an average of $280.31 a share. Shares of the company have fallen by around $120 so far this year and were trading at around $222. Of the 31 analysts who cover the stock, only 12 now recommend buying Tesla shares, while another 12 have a “sell” rating. Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said that achieving the “aggressive target” for 2019 was a Herculean task. He rates the stock “neutral”, with a price target of $230. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has ended its partnership with Aurora, an autonomous-driving developer supported by Amazon, thus opening the way to collaborate with Ford and Argo AI instead. A VW spokesperson confirmed the split, but declined to add details on the matter, simply stating “the activities under our parameters have been concluded in regard to Aurora” and that talks with Ford “are progressing very well”. Aurora and VW entered a partnership in early 2018, with Chris Urmson, the company’s founder and Waymo’s ex-technical lead, saying that the “deep collaboration” of the 2 companies would “bring self-driving vehicles to market at scale”. After a trial run that lasted many months, the German automaker eventually declined to renew the contract. Johann Jungwirth, the VW executive that oversaw the partnership with Aurora, has also departed the German car maker as of June 1. Aurora announced this week a partnership with FCA, who will use their automated-driving software in its vehicles, with prototypes to be tested on the road in the next 3 to 5 years. VW is reportedly after a deal with Ford, which could be finalized this summer. This partnership makes sense for both car makers as they are after cutting costs but, at the same time, want to keep control over both the hardware and software. Another source said that Wolfsburg was simply underwhelmed by Aurora’s technology. When it came on the scene, the start-up promised to have highly-autonomous cars on the roads by early to mid-2020s, but during their time together, VW saw that Aurora’s timeline would not be feasible. “The worry at VW was that some companies are doing the impossible”, this source said. “The reality was nobody is doing the impossible and Aurora wasn’t particularly special”. +++ 

+++ Electric truck manufacturer WORKHORSE has secured $25 million in new funding from investors. The Cincinnati-based company has encountered some financial difficulties in recent times and it recently emerged that it was in talks with General Motors to buy the car manufacturer’s idled factory in Ohio. In a statement, Workhorse revealed that its latest round of funds came from an unnamed group of institutional investors and isn’t intended to go towards the purchase of the plant. Workhorse’s former chief executive Steve Burns told that the truck maker plans on taking a minority stake in a company he has formed to buy the GM factory. However, buying and restarting production at the site will require a much larger investment: $300 million, to be more precise. “This funding provides Workhorse with sufficient capital to fully deliver on our existing backlog and will enable us to make significant strides in our strategic vision of being a leader in the electric last mile delivery space”, current Workhorse chief executive Duane Hughes said. “We now have all necessary pieces in place to bridge Workhorse into full-scale N-GEN production and are looking forward to commencing the manufacturing process, in earnest, during the fourth quarter of this year”. Workhorse unveiled a prototype of its W-15 electric pickup truck a couple of years ago, but has yet to commence production. It is believed they will initially focus on building battery-powered lightweight vans for customers including UPS, DHL, and others before rolling out the W-15. +++

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