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+++ The opening of ASTON MARTIN ’s new SUV plant in St Athan in Wales offers a potential jobs lifeline to workers at Ford’s engine plant in nearby Bridgend, which shuts next year. Aston Martin is about to start recruiting staff as it moves from the current pre-production phase of its new DBX to full production starting around April next year. The company estimates it will eventually hire 1,000 workers over the next 2 years as St Athan reaches its capacity of 7,500. “Obviously there will be a lot of interest from Bridgend to come here”, said Scott Ward, director of manufacturing at St Athan. “There will be some natural skill sets that we will want here, so they’re a step ahead in terms of opportunities”. This month, Ford announced it would shut its Bridgend gasoline-engine plant late next year after losing Jaguar Land Rover as a customer for its 6- and 8-cylinder engines and seeing demand fall for its 3-cylinder engines. The plant, which is 12 km from St Athan, currently employs around 1,700 people. Ford’s announcement dealt another blow to the UK car industry, which was already reeling from a decision by Honda to shut its Swindon plant in England, in 2021. Investment in the UK car industry has fallen dramatically since the country voted to leave the European Union in 2016, with Aston’s expansion one of the few recent bright spots for the industry. Aston Martin chose St Athan for its second UK plant in 2016 after the UK government offered the automaker empty hangars formerly used by the Britain’s defense ministry to maintain military aircraft on the St Athan air base. The company has since overhauled the buildings to include a paint shop, body shop and final-assembly area. The site has already built eight pre-production models of the DBX, which will rival the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus. The DBX will be unveiled in December. St Athan will also assemble Aston’s new Rapide-E electric sedan at a separate building next to the main plant. The limited-edition car is partly intended to give Aston development and production staff experience with electric cars ahead of the launch of the Lagonda range of all-electric ultraluxury vehicles. Those will also be built in St Athan, starting with an SUV in 2022. St Athan closely resembles the automaker’s main factory in Gaydon, England, in terms of technology used, but with more automation. “Anyone coming from Gaydon would be 70 % familiar with the facilities. They have just got to adapt to the new technology”, Ward said. Examples include more robots in the paint shop, which was installed by U.S. specialist Eisenmann, and body shop, installed by Comau of Italy. Unlike at Gaydon, Aston decided to outsource its seat and interior-trim shop to suppliers, partly because of the lack of skills in south Wales; a region with no historical carmaking experience. “There is not a whole skill level of trimming here so we would have to go out and train people, whereas there are suppliers who can do that and get the quality straight away”, Ward said. All other skills were available locally, he said, adding, “We have had a great success of getting engineering-type skills”. Competition for jobs advertised so far has been fierce. “The first time we announced jobs 3 years ago, we had 3,000 turn up at the door”, Ward said. St Athan impressed Bernstein analyst Max Warburton, who visited the plant. “We leave St Athan confident that the car is real, the plant is real and the opportunity in this stock is now real”, Warburton wrote. Aston Martin has struggled on the stock market since its initial listing in October last year, but Warburton thinks a successful DBX launch could reverse some of the stock’s losses and put Aston Martin on the path to profitability. “It’s a very good-looking SUV”, he said. “It’s certainly better-looking than its rivals, although that’s a low bar. If all goes to plan, 2020 and 2021 could be spectacular for Aston”. However, said Warburon,  Aston Martin “does not have the luxury of being late delivering DBX”. +++ 

+++ The new generation of the AUDI A3 is being prepared for launch. The new model will make its debut later this year, with a fresh range of conventional and plug-in hybrid powertrains. Sales are likely to start in early 2020. Audi will update the A3’s appearance to match the rest of the brand’s products, with a lighting design and front-end look inspired by the latest A4. I expect the cabin will also feature the brand’s 10.1-inch central infotainment unit and the Virtual Cockpit digital dash set-up seen in the Q3. However, the 3-door A3 will be dropped from the model’s line-up following poor sales. In 2017, Audi produced 7,818 examples of it, while 167,741 units of the 5-door A3 Sportbacks rolled off the production line at the brand’s Ingolstadt plant. The new A3 will borrow its mechanicals from the new Volkswagen Golf, including the plug-in hybrid powertrain that’s lined up for the next Golf GTE. The Audi will also share the latest-generation Golf’s line-up of regular petrol engines, many of which will feature 12-volt and 48-volt mild-hybrid systems. However, Audi is not planning an all-electric version of the new A3. The previous A3 e-tron hybrid was dropped last November as a result of new WLTP emissions rules, but it will return to the fold with the 4th generation model. It’ll be one of a new generation of VW Group plug-in hybrid models using the next evolution of the MQB platform, which could usher in plug-in hybrids with the battery capacity to unlock 70 kilometres of pure-electric running. Audi also plans to reveal 12 pure-electric models by 2025 and a car the size of the A3 has already been confirmed as one of those products. However, the vehicle will be a model in its own right, pitched as a more upmarket alternative to the Volkswagen ID.3 and underpinned by the VW Group’s new MEB EV platform. An A3 Cabriolet will arrive a few years into the new model’s lifespan, despite being a small seller. Another A3 Saloon looks likely, too, given its strong sales numbers, and Audi could even introduce a longer 5-door coupe version of the A3, rivalling the new Mercedes CLA. +++ 

+++ The United States is facing a shortage of professional truck drivers which, in a twist of irony, is having an impact on the AUTONOMOUS trucking industry. But 2 startups have launched new training programs intended to ensure they have the necessary manpower to make self-driving trucks a reality. Autonomous trucks have the potential to fill the shortage of qualified truck drivers in America (which currently stands a 50,000 and could grow to 175,000 by 2026 according to The American Trucking Associations) but today’s self-driving trucks still require at least 1 human behind the wheel. That means that even though autonomous startups are driving toward an autonomous future, they still need qualified humans today. In order to attract talent from a dwindling workforce, autonomous truck startups TuSimple and Starsky Robotics have announced new driver training programs intended to offer a career path into a driverless future. TuSimple, which recently completely a trial run with the United States Postal Service, has partnered with Pima Community College to offer a program that would give graduates the title of autonomous vehicle driver and operations specialist. According to Automotive News, TuSimples will give graduates of the program hiring preference. Starsky Robotics, meanwhile, announced its own 3-step program intended to train today’s over-the-road drivers to become safety drivers of autonomous trucks. Both programs are in their infancy, so there are no enrollment figures at this time. +++

+++ BMW teamed up with artist Thomas Demand to create teaser images that preview its Vision M Next concept. The forward-thinking model is scheduled to make its debut at the company’s headquarters in the coming days. Teaser images are rarely revealing, but BMW’s photos reveal absolutely nothing about the Vision M Next concept. That’s intentional, according to the brand. Technical specifications haven’t been released yet. However, considering it’s a look into the distant future of the brand, I don’t expect to find a twin-turbocharged straight-6 engine under the hood. Something electric is a safer bet. And, it could show how BMW plans to wed the autonomous technology it’s spending billions to develop with the pure, driver-focused ethos of its M-badged models. In a statement, BMW wrote that it will fully unveil the Vision M Next concept during an event take place in its home town of Münich, Germany, later this month. While a firm date wasn’t released, the company will likely release additional teaser images in the days leading up to the reveal. +++

+++ Audi, Nissan and other car makers are banking on talking cartoon characters and other virtual reality experiences to keep DRIVERS and other occupants of future autonomous vehicles entertained, auto industry executives said. Automakers have long focused on getting drivers to sit tight and pay attention to the road. Now, as the industry moves to self-driving cars and drivers become passengers, they face a new problem: how to tackle passengers’ boredom. “Once customers do not need to drive anymore, then the question is what kind of things can we offer to customers inside this car”, Boris Meiners, senior director of Audi China’s Digital Business and Customer Experience, told. Startup holoride, co-founded by an Audi subsidiary, for example, demonstrated at the show how it wants to turn road trips into virtual reality (VR) experiences, allowing passengers to swim with whales or through sunken ships in the deep sea while on a drive. As the car accelerates or steers sideways, the movements are logged by a computer installed in the car’s trunk which adjusts the passenger’s view in the VR goggles accordingly. It also prevents the passenger from experiencing motion sickness. Japanese car maker Nissan showcased a set of goggles for drivers and passengers which could deliver real-time information and project a talking cartoon character which communicates with the wearer. “We want to fulfill people’s emotional needs”, said Tetsuro Ueda, expert leader at the Nissan Research Center. “Rather than the driver, we want to focus on the riding experience for all passengers, including the driver. Because when it comes to the stage of autonomous driving, the driver’s control is less and less, and the interaction with the surrounding passengers is increasing”, Ueda said. Other global car makers, large technology companies and startups which are pouring capital into developing self-driving vehicles include Tesla, Waymo and Uber Technologies. While studies show that it will take time for the public to trust riding in fully autonomous vehicles, companies say they need to start investing in anticipation that the vehicles would eventually catch on. Audi’s Meiners and Nissan’s Ueda said the virtual experiences their firms are developing would likely only be deployed when the industry reaches Level 4, or almost fully autonomous standards, in which the car can handle all aspects of driving in most circumstances with no human intervention. “Many engineers are not confident about the rapid implementation of self-driving technology. So these virtual reality attempts may not come soon”, said Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight. Nonetheless, such innovations were popular with attendees at the CES Asia show, attracting the likes of Gao Liang, a 25-year-old engineer who played a game in a Mercedes Benz car that simulated a self-driving vehicle. “It is so exciting to play a car racing game in a running vehicle”, said Gao, who had just finished the game in the car that shot out air based on the speed and direction of his car’s placement in the game. +++ 

+++ The fifth generation Renault ESPACE was launched in late 2014 and, as is usual practice in the auto industry, it’s high-time it got a mid-life cycle makeover. Even in its fifth year on the market, the Espace looks fresh, a testimony of the work the design team put in this project. Blurring the lines between a conventional MPV and a crossover, it is arguably one of the most original designs in its category. Understandably, Renault won’t make radical changes. As previous sightings of test prototypes have already revealed, the camouflage only covers the front and rear ends, as those are the only areas of the exterior that will be redesigned. Both the headlights and taillights get new LED signatures: at the front and the DRLs are now fitted to each projector, while at the rear the change is more subtle. The facelifted Espace will follow the latest look of new Renault models, meaning it will get a new grille and a restyled front bumper with repositioned LED turn signals. The rear bumper will also see some modest updates. When it comes to the interior, you can expect small touches such as an updated infotainment system possibly with a bigger touchscreen display, as well as new driver assistance systems such as traffic jam assist. There won’t be any big news in the engine range, as Renault has already updated the range with the addition of a 225 PS 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline engine and the 1.6-liter dCi turbodiesel has been replaced with a 2.0-liter dCi available in 160 hp and 200 hp guises. The revamped Espace is expected to debut in September at the Frankfurt Motor Show. +++

 +++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) has signed an agreement with European utilities Enel and Engie to help offer its customers charging points for electric vehicles (EV) it is planning to roll out. FCA, which is lagging rivals in developing electrified vehicles, said last June it would invest €9 billion euros over the next 5 years to introduce hybrid and electric cars across all regions. Last month, the Italian-American carmaker proposed a merger with French rival Renault in part to share the costs of developing a new series of electric cars. Merger talks collapsed earlier this month. In a statement, FCA said the main aim of its partnerships with Enel and Engie was to be able to offer private and public charging stations to support the sales of its soon-to-be-launched fully electric Fiat 500 and plug-in hybrid Jeep Renegade. “We are assembling an eco-system of partners, products and services across multiple markets to meet and exceed the rapidly evolving expectations of our customers for electrified vehicles”, FCA chief executive Mike Manley said. The deal also includes developing services such as apps to allow clients to locate public charging points. Enel, through its Enel X unit, will work with FCA in Italy, Spain and Portugal, while Engie will work with the carmaker in 14 other European markets. +++

+++ FLORIDA governor Ron DeSantis signed into law new regulations that allow autonomous vehicles to operate on the state’s roads without a backup human driver. The law officially goes into effect on July 1. “Signing this legislation paves the way for Florida to continue as a national leader in transportation innovation and technological advancement”, said DeSantis. “I would like to thank the bill sponsors, senator Jeff Brandes and representative Jason Fischer, for their work in making Florida the most autonomous vehicle-friendly state in the country”. The law also states that passengers in autonomous vehicles will be exempt from rules relating to distracted driving. That means passengers in autonomous vehicles operating in Florida will be free to text, watch movies or even sleep. Autonomous vehicles and their operators will have to meet some minimum standards, however. Each autonomous vehicle will be required to carry $1 million in insurance coverage. Owners must also report any crashes immediately to police, or have a system in place for the vehicle to do so on its own. Florida is the third state in the nation to allow human-free cars on its roads, the other 2 being Michigan and Texas. +++ 

+++ China’s father of Electric Cars says HYDROGEN is the future. His vision to make China an electric-vehicle powerhouse revolutionized the global auto industry, cementing a move away from the combustion engine. Now, Wan Gang says get ready for the next game-changing moment. The world’s biggest car market is set to embrace hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles the way it did EVs, Wan, who’s been called the father of China’s electric-car movement, said in a rare interview in Beijing. A former Audi executive who went on to become China’s science-and-technology minister, Wan convinced leaders 2 decades ago to bet on the then-untested technology of vehicle electrification, selling it not only as a way to boost economic growth but also to tackle China’s dependence on oil imports and its mounting levels of pollution. His strategy (using government subsidies to bring carmakers and drivers on board) made China home to 1 of every 2 EVs sold globally today. And now it’s hydrogen’s turn, Wan said. “We should look into establishing a hydrogen society”, said Wan, 66, who’s now a vice chairman of China’s national advisory body for policy making, a role that ranks higher than a minister and gives him a voice in the nation’s future planning. “We need to move further toward fuel cells”. That means the government will commit resources to developing such vehicles, he said. While China plans to phase out the long-time subsidy program for the maturing EV industry next year, government funding for fuel-cell vehicles may stay in place to some extent, Wan said. Shares of some hydrogen-related companies rose. Jiangsu Huachang Chemical, which develops hydrogen pumping stations, advanced by the 10 % daily limit in Shenzhen. Shanghai Tongji Science & Technology Industrial and Lanzhou Great Wall Electrical, which are both invested in the fuel-cell vehicle industry, also rose in Shanghai. Despite the backing of industry giants such as Toyota and the benefits of fuel-cell vehicles (they refuel faster and are more suitable for driving long distances than all-electric vehicles) the technology hasn’t caught on amid expensive prices. But China has the muscle to change all that should it make hydrogen-powered vehicles a national priority; the type of turning point the industry has been waiting decades for. For Wan (a mechanical engineer trained in Germany) the shift toward hydrogen is a natural step in realizing a vision of having electric cars dominate inner-city traffic, while buses and trucks filled with hydrogen tanks roam the nation’s highways for long distance travel. The adoption of fuel-cell vehicles has been slow in spite of China having an abundant supply of hydrogen, Wan said. There are only about 1,500 such vehicles in use there today, compared with more than 2 million purely electric vehicles, he said. It’s not just China. Hydrogen fuel cells have struggled to gain traction worldwide not just because of high costs (one of the key components is platinum) but also because of the lack of infrastructure and the complexity of storing hydrogen. Then there’s the matter of hydrogen’s flammability, as evidenced by the recent fire at a refueling station in Norway. “We will sort out the factors that have been hindering the development of fuel-cell vehicles”, Wan said. Efforts are under way in Japan, which plans to increase the number of fuel-cell vehicles on its roads to 40,000 by 2020, though experts estimate sales so far aren’t close to that target. In Europe, Mercedes-Benz unit rolled out a fuel-cell version of its popular GLC. In the U.S., the California Fuel Cell Partnership is trying to promote the technology, with limited success. Back in China, buses appear to be particularly ripe for fuel cells, which use a chemical process to convert hydrogen into electricity, emitting only water vapor. China is by far the world leader in using electric buses (accounting for 99 % of them worldwide last year) but they’re mostly used in cities for short distances. Hydrogen buses are capable of driving beyond 500 kilometers on a full tank, versus about 200 kilometers for electric ones. That presents a big opportunity because there are 5 long-distance buses in China for every inner-city one, according to Wan. China is promoting the adoption of hydrogen vehicles in selected trial regions as it sets up an ecosystem that includes hydrogen production, storage, transportation and refueling, Wan said. Long-range commercial vehicles aren’t currently well-suited to run on batteries alone because of weight and range constraints. Fuel cells would be a good bet should the government ease restrictions on hydrogen-refueling infrastructure. Beyond hydrogen, Wan voiced skepticism about the notion that computers will completely replace the need for humans in the driver’s seat. “I believe that people still want to drive or have a sense of control”, Wan said. He also said he doesn’t envision China issuing a national ban on the sale of gasoline cars as provincial authorities will be left to make their own decisions. The current dual-credit system, which resembles the cap-and-trade systems being deployed worldwide for carbon emissions, will continue, but it will gradually be converted to a carbon trading system, he said. China requires all carmakers to meet minimum requirements for producing new-energy vehicles, including fuel-cell autos. Carmakers that don’t meet the quota can buy credits from rivals that exceed it. “We have a responsibility to reduce emissions”, Wan said. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ has established a new G-Class experience centre near Graz, Austria as part of the 40th-anniversary celebrations for the recently upgraded off-roader. Located close to the Magna manufacturing facility where the G-Class is produced, the new 100,000-square-metre site has been conceived to allow existing and prospective customers to familiarise themselves with the off-road capabilities of the traditional Mercedes-Benz model, which was first introduced as the G-Wagen in 1979 as a civilian version of the military vehicle commissioned by the Shah of Iran. Set to open to the public in November, the experience centre aims to replicate the extreme off-road conditions of Mercedes-Benz’s demanding 6 kilometre Schoeckl test track; a mountainous course with inclines of up to 60 % and roll angles up to 40 % on which the G-Class has been developed and honed over the past 4 decades. The new G-Class facility, situated on a former Austrian military aerodrome, includes 4 courses consisting of both naturally and artificially created conditions with gradients of up to 100 %, water obstacles, forest sections and an on-road circuit based on former aircraft taxiways. Customers will be able to register with Mercedes-Benz to take driving courses at the G-Class experience centre and tours of the G-Class production facilities from next month. +++

+++ MITSUBISHI appears to be working on a pumped-up version of the L200 which could turn it into a Ford Ranger Raptor rival. Earlier this year, the Japanese car manufacturer unveiled an aggressive off-road version in concept guise dubbed the L200 Absolute. Patent images indicate that this vehicle could reach the production line with limited alterations. A plethora of parts differentiated the L200 Absolute Concept from the current road-going model. There are new off-road wheels and tires, revised suspension, LED light bars, a roof rack, front and rear skid plates, flared wheel arches and a carbon fiber tailgate. These modifications made for a very aggressive piece of kit, possibly one with the right looks to tempt buyers away from the Ranger Raptor. While it appears as though the production version will feature largely identical exterior parts to the concept, it remains unclear how comprehensive the modifications will be under the skin. Powertrain modifications are unlikely and instead, mechanical upgrades will probably be limited to different suspension components to improve the vehicle’s off-road abilities. As always, it’s worth pointing out that design patents aren’t always an indication that a new vehicle is in the works and are often filed just to ensure a company’s intellectual property is protected. However, the L200 Absolute Concept has been touring dealerships so it is looking likely to hit the market at some stage. +++

+++ OPEL will meet its EU-mandated target for CO2 emissions reductions, helped by its upcoming electrified cars, CEO Michael Lohscheller said. Under previous owner General Motors, Opel and its UK sister brand Vauxhall, had no realistic roadmap for CO2 compliance and in 2017 Lohscheller warned that potential EU fines for non-compliance would pose “dramatic” risks to the future of the company. Opel’s position has now changed under new owner, PSA Group, which is providing Opel with platforms for new full-electric and plug-in hybrid models. “Naturally we will report CO2 results together with the rest of the PSA Group, but I consider it very important that the Opel brand makes its contribution by achieving the CO2 targets on our own. That’s why we are coming with all these new models”, Lohscheller said at the unveiling of the Corsa-e, a battery-powered version. Lohscheller declined to specify what Opel’s individual CO2 targets are under EU legislation aimed at tackling climate change. EU rules call for emissions from all new cars sold in Europe to be cut to a fleet average of 95 grams of CO2 per km by 2021, down from 120 g/km last year according to estimates from JATO Dynamics. Opel is now taking orders for the Corsa-e, with deliveries scheduled to start by the end of June next year. Prices start at 29,900 euros in Germany. The car will have a range of 330 km under the Europe’s WLTP test cycle. The Corsa-e is a sister model to the Peugeot e-208, which will also arrive in dealerships early next year. Opel also plans to launch full-electric versions of the new Mokka X and the Vivaro by the end of 2020. This month Opel opened order books for its first plug-in hybrid, the Grandland X Hybrid4, with prices starting at 49,940 euros in Germany. Opel said it would offer either a battery electric or plug-in hybrid version of every model by 2024. +++

+++ French carmaker PSA , owner of the Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Opel / Vauxhall brands, will start assembling batteries for its hybrid and electric cars at its plant in Trnava, Slovakia, and later at its plant in Vigo, Spain. The company also expects to assemble batteries at some of its other factories as sales of electric cars pick up, Peugeot’s industrial director Yann Vincent said at a plant in the town of Tremery in eastern France. The carmaker currently buys batteries from South Korean company LG and China’s CATL. Vincent added the company expected rising demand for electric and hybrid cars, as well as for vehicles with automatic gearboxes, to offset falling demand for diesel and manual gearbox cars. Peugeot expects output of engines at Tremery will fall to 1.7 million this year, down from 1.8 million last year due to falling demand for diesel cars. +++ 

+++ RENAULT will join brands such as Opel, Citroën, Suzuki and Ford by offering 2 similar-sized small crossover models in its future line-up. Rumoured as early as 2017, the the French brand is developing a sibling to the soon to be revealed Mk2 Captur and could reveal it in 2020. A Clio-based prototype has recently been spotted testing in Spain, where Renault builds the Captur in its Valladolid factory. The car featured a significantly raised body, larger-diameter wheels and tyres and an widened track, suggesting the outgoing Clio bodywork is covering an adapted platform. While unconfirmed, it’s expected Renault will employ the CMF-B platform used by the new Clio and Captur. The firm could offer a sportier, driver-focused alternative to the former, like Ford will with the Puma alongside the Ecosport. Like the new Captur, such a model would be offered with petrol, diesel and a plug-in hybrid E-Tech variant, offering zero-emissions driving and increased performance. Opel offers the practicality-focused Crossland X and style-oriented Mokka X in the same segment, while Citroën has the C3 Aircross and C4 Cactus occupying a similar market position but appealing to different audiences. Suzuki sells both the S-Cross and Vitara which are very close on price. B-SUVs, or compact SUVs, such as the Captur are the most popular category of SUVs, accounting for 41 % of the market last year. Offering multiple models would allow Renault to cover more of the market, with the Captur already one of the best-sellers in the class. +++

+++ TESLA boss Elon Musk has announced that the launch of the brand’s Semi electric lorry will be delayed until 2020, citing an already strained battery supply for production of its range of EVs. Musk said Tesla would strive to ramp up battery production as quickly as possible, going so far as to suggest a venture into metal mining could be a possibility. Despite the delay, customers are still able to reserve Semis. Existing customers include large companies such as Walmart, UPS and FedEx, but it is remains to be seen whether the delayed release will discourage further investment in the zero-emissions truck. Such bottlenecks are no new phenomenon for Tesla; for example, Model 3 production was brought to a halt in early 2018 by worker shortages and software issues. The brand’s 4th model, the Model Y, a Jaguar I-Pace rival, is due on the US market next year, with Musk aiming for an output of 2.000 examples per week by September 2020. The Semi will be capable of driving for up to 1.000 kilometres on a single charge, even when fully loaded, Musk has previously claimed. His claim followed the boss of Daimler’s lorry division, Martin Daum, suggesting that the Semi’s statistics “defied the laws of physics”. The Semi with the claimed range costs $180,000 in the US. A lower-spec variant with a 500 kilometre range will be priced from $150,000. Prices for diesel lorries start at about €120,000 by comparison. At the November 2017 event in Hawthorne, California, where Tesla also showed its new Roadster sports car, Musk said the Semi, which was previously referred to as the Tesla Truck, was capable of accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 5.0 seconds. He also said it was able to hit this speed in 20.0sec when the trailer is fully loaded with 36 tonnes of cargo. This beats the average sprint time for diesel-powered rivals by around 40 seconds. The Semi’s energy recovery systems are claimed to be capable of recovering 98 % of kinetic energy to the battery. For regular charging, the lorry can be connected to Tesla Megachargers (a new high-speed DC charging solution) that are said to add about 650 kilometres in 30 minutes and can be installed at origin or destination points, much like the existing Superchargers. Efficiency is boosted by a low wind resistance, with Tesla claiming the Semi has a drag coefficient of 0.36 Cd. It states that most of its competitors are closer to 0.65 Cd. Tesla has refrained from going into further detail about the lorry’s drivetrain and battery but has revealed that the vehicle features advanced autonomous technology to prevent jackknifing of the trailer. Onboard sensors are installed to detect instability and can adjust torque sent to each wheel and independently actuate all brakes to avoid jackknifing. Additionally, surround cameras provide autonomous object detection and reduce blindspots, alerting the driver to safety hazards and obstacles. The Semi also introduces a new Enhanced Autopilot system, with automatic emergency braking, automatic lane keeping, lane departure warning and even event recording. The Semi can travel in a convoy, allowing one or several examples to autonomously follow a leader. Alongside the claims for performance and safety, Musk said the Semi would provide users with massive savings. Figures produced by the company state that owners “can expect to save $200,000 or more over a million miles based on fuel costs alone”. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA has announced 2 new safety features that are designed to help forgetful drivers. The first is called “Auto Shut Off” and it will be equipped on most Toyota models in the United States. As the name suggests, the system will automatically turn off the engine after a pre-determined period of time. The system is designed to prevent owners from accidentally leaving their car idling for an extended time. This can be potentially dangerous if a driver parks a car in their garage and accidentally leaves it running. Besides the ability to automatically shut off the engine, Toyota says future enhancements to the system will include notifications which can be sent to a smartphone app. The second safety feature is called “Automatic Park”. It will begin rolling out on 2020 models which are equipped with an “electronic means of shifting and/or applying the parking brake”. The system will automatically shift the car into park or apply the electronic parking brake, if the driver accidentally exits the vehicle without putting the transmission into park. Toyota says the technology builds on their current audible and visual warnings which alert drivers if the vehicle isn’t in park. Toyota said the new features are part of their “relentless commitment to continuous improvement”. While owners shouldn’t rely on the systems, they’re nice features that will hopefully prevent clueless drivers from hurting themselves or other people. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN aims to raise up to €1.9 billion by listing truck unit Traton, scaling back earlier ambitions to list up to a quarter of the unit by opting to float a 10 % stake. The German carmaker said in a statement that the offering would be priced at €27 – €33 per share, which Jefferies analysts said valued Traton at a slight discount to industry peers but at a premium to Swedish competitor Volvo. Volkswagen plans to invest proceeds in transforming its auto production as it readies the launch of dozens of electric vehicles over the coming years and deepens an alliance with Ford. It is also seeking to capitalize on the premium that truck stocks command over automakers to create an acquisition currency, having earlier shown interest in U.S.-based truck maker Navistar. Management denies that a Navistar deal is in immediate prospect, but such a move would fit with a broader pivot by the leading European carmaker towards the United States to balance its reliance on China, where it sells half its cars. The stake size is at the bottom end of a range of 10 % – 20 % that sources had earlier indicated. If banks running the deal exercise an over-allotment option, the issue size could reach 11.5 % of Traton’s equity. At the offer range, the initial public offering values Traton at €13.5 – €16.5 billion. Analysts cautioned that Traton’s potential acquisitiveness could lead to the issue of fresh equity that would dilute existing shareholdings. Jefferies, in a note, said that Traton’s enterprise value as a multiple of core earnings (a measure of a company’s ability to support its equity and debt costs) of 8.2 times was slightly lower than the sector average but higher than Volvo’s, which it sees as offering better value. The carmaker is being more cautious about the volume of shares it will place after halting earlier listing plans in March, when it had planned to place a stake of up to 25 % on the stock market, citing market conditions. More shares could be sold subsequently if the IPO is successful, a person familiar with the matter said this month, adding VW would remain Traton’s majority shareholder for the foreseeable future. The offering will begin on Monday, with management holding a series of investor roadshows. It ends on June 27, with the first day of trading in Frankfurt and Stockholm set for June 28. +++

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