+++ The new BMW 1 Series looks unlikely to go after the likes of the upcoming, 421 hp Mercedes-AMG A 45 S and the next-generation Audi RS3, which arrives in 2020. That’s according to BMW M product boss Carsten Pries, who hinted that the M brand needed to target creating performance cars with ‘global’ relevance and proven popular models. “If you look at the relevance of performance hatchbacks, they are not global things”, explained Pries. Hot versions of the 1 Series have always occupied a unique spot in the hot hatchback world, using revvy 6-cylinder engines and rear-wheel-drive to carve out a niche and ducking the need to beat rivals on pure performance alone to appeal to enthusiasts. However, with the launch of the new third-generation 1 Series, BMW has adopted the front-wheel-drive platform underpinning the likes of the Mini Cooper Hatch and the X1 / X2. It means that the new, already revealed M135i uses a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine sending power to an all-wheel-drive system, and will now face off directly with the Volkswagen Golf R and the Mercedes-AMG A 35. Asked if BMW could push the M135i further up into the ranks of upcoming mega-hatches from other German brands, Pries said: If you put something like an ‘M1’ on top of it, working title of course, you would have to increase the price again because you put more substance into it. But whether this would then be a smart business proposition is not something I would answer with an immediate yes”. Pries confirmed that hits like the M2 Coupe and traditional M-cars like the M3 and M5 would remain the brand’s core, global performance cars, while more SUVs look in line for M-division treatment, including the new, full-size X7. “We had a customer from the United States I had lunch with recently, and I asked him ‘to your eyes, what is the size of the X7?’ For us it is huge in Europe. He said ‘it’s normal’. That shows you it is always dependent on the perspective that you look at things from”, he explained. +++

+++ Authorities in CHINA have ordered a number of car manufacturers to conduct safety checks on their electric vehicles following a recent spate of fires involving Tesla and NIO vehicles. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued a directive requiring companies to check vehicles in inventories and those which have been sold for possible safety flaws related to battery boxes, waterproof protection, high-voltage wiring harnesses, and onboard charging devices. Car manufacturers are required to submit their findings by the end of October. In April, video emerged showing a Tesla Model S explode and catch fire while sitting in an underground parking lot in Shanghai. This immediately triggered an investigation from the Californian car manufacturer, but findings have yet to be published. Less than one month later, another Model S caught fire while sitting in a parking lot in Hong Kong, prompting Tesla to introduce an over-the-air battery software update to adjust battery settings. More recently, a NIO ES8 caught fire while undergoing routine maintenance at an authorized repair facility. An investigation from the electric automaker revealed that the fire was triggered by a battery short circuit. Last year there were more than 40 fire-related incidents involving new-energy vehicles in China and more than 130,000 cars were recalled as a result. Not even Audi is immune to fire risks with its brand new e-Tron, as it recently announced a voluntary recall due to a risk that moisture can seep into the battery cell through a wiring harness glitch and spark a fire. +++

+++ Germany’s largest union IG Metall is calling for a fund of at least €10 billion to help COMPONENT MAKERS that supply the auto industry to cope with a switch to electric vehicles, a top union representative said. Half of the money would come from the government and the rest from the car manufacturers. “We’re proposing a transformation fund in the double-digit billion euro range for suppliers that are profitable and strong but have difficulties in getting capital or need particularly large funds to manage the switch to electric mobility”, Frank Iwer, head of coordination and political planning at IG Metall, told. Iwer, who also sits on the supervisory board of car parts supplier ZF Friedrichshafen, said the fund could make loans of 6 to 8 years. “The government should guarantee a basis interest rate of about 1.5 %. But because it’s mostly strong companies that are being funded the fund should generate a significant higher return and the government would no longer be on the hook”, he said. Struggling suppliers, however, might need short-term emergency funding, Iwer said. IG Metall will make the proposal at a meeting of top car executives and leading politicians scheduled for June 24 at the Chancellery. Germany’s big automotive suppliers include Bosch and Continental. Leoni, another supplier, said it was exploring all options to secure its future financing after posting a €132 million net loss in the first quarter. Iwer also said it would be possible to restructure failing suppliers by setting up a rescue fund, similar to one that exists in Denmark, with the backing of trade unions and the government. +++ 

+++ A new British consortium aims to design and develop a global-use, world-leading fully ELECTRIC POWERTRAIN with funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC). GKN Automotive, a tier one electric vehicle driveline supplier, has joined up with Drive System Design and the University of Nottingham as part of the £8 million project, doubled by the APC’s match-funding scheme.  The project, called ACeDrive, intends to produce “the world’s lightest and most efficient electric vehicle powertrain suitable for the volume market”. GKN claims it will adopt “groundbreaking concepts in cooling and system integration” to reduce the size and cost by 25 %, reduce the weight by 20 % and increase efficiency by 10 % compared with current equivalent EV systems. The system will combine the electric motor, transmission and inverter in one compact unit. GKN claims development is currently in the simulation analysis phase, with the final design to be commenced later this year and prototype testing in 2020. The project is based in GKN’s Innovation Centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Gordon Day, general manager at GKN Automotive Innovation Centre, said: “We are developing a truly advanced eDrive system, more compact and cost-effective than other technologies on the horizon. Our ambition is to help the UK take the lead in electric powertrain design and manufacturing capability”. +++ 

+++ GERMANY will award to 3 consortiums €1 billion in funding it earmarked last year to support domestic battery cell production, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told; part of a bid to cut carmakers’ reliance on Asian supply. Securing a regional supply chain for electric vehicles (EVs) would help Germany achieve European Union goals to lower carbon emissions and cut fossil fuel consumption. It would also strengthen the ability of the continent’s automakers and battery makers to compete with Asian rivals CATL, LG Chem and Samsung. “We’ve now reached a point where we can say that there is likely to be not only 1 battery cell consortium, but probably 3”, Altmaier said. The Economy Ministry will submit all necessary state aid documents to the European Commission once it has completed its selection process, Altmaier said. He declined to comment on which companies have the best chances of getting the earmarked funds. Carmakers Volkswagen and BMW, German battery maker Varta and Swedish battery manufacturing startup Northvolt are among the more than 30 companies that applied for state funding from the German Economy Ministry. France and Germany have already asked the European Commission to approve joint state subsidies for a cross-border battery cell consortium including carmaker PSA, its German subsidiary Opel and French battery maker Saft. The European Union allows state aid under certain conditions under its rules for Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI). Europe’s Energy Commissioners Maros Sefcovic and Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager have signalled support for the battery cell initiative. “We hope that by the end of the year we will have clarity from Brussels”, Altmaier said, adding that the industry’s growing interest in the scheme showed Berlin was right to push ahead with its new industrial policy plan. Northvolt has made 2 applications for German funding, one to set up its second gigafactory in Germany and another to fund its battery research project with customer Volkswagen. Northvolt and Volkswagen also said this year that they are planning to set up a joint venture to build a battery plant in Salzgitter, Germany, but did not specify how they would fund the venture. German carmakers have hesitated for years to build up their own production capabilities for EV battery cells. This has increased Asian suppliers’ pricing power over European clients. Stricter European emission rules and shifting consumer tastes have changed automakers’ calculations, meaning demand for e-cars and batteries is expected to soar in the coming years. The projected battery demand from EVs produced in Europe is more than 5 times the volume of currently confirmed projects in the region, business consultancy McKinsey said in a research note. Battery demand from EVs produced in Europe will reach a total of 1,200 gigawatt hours per year by 2040, it said. This would be enough for 80 gigafactories with an average capacity of 15 gigawatt-hours per year, it added. The German government is also funding a research facility to offer firms in Germany knowhow to develop battery cells for electric cars. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen defended its decision to launch a higher-priced ID.3 aimed at early adopters before bringing to market the entry version of its first mass-market full-electric car. VW has started taking orders for a launch-edition ID.3 that will be priced at below €40,000 in Germany, excluding government incentives. One of the biggest hurdles to a higher uptake in electric vehicles has been the high cost due to their expensive traction batteries. Volkswagen has said the ID.3 would be a car “for the millions and not the millionaires”, repeatedly emphasizing the affordability of the car for the everyday buyer. But the ID3 will not be immediately become a car for the masses because VW chose to launch first a small-series launch edition of the Golf-sized car with a price tag higher than the cost of the entry version of its Passat midsize sedan. This was due in part to VW executives deciding that the company had to spark interest in the ID.3’s technology first, before the mass-market customers would feel comfortable purchasing a car with a different powertrain than a gasoline or diesel unit. Last month, VW brand marketing chief Jochen Sengpiehl said the automaker is focusing initial marketing for the ID.3 on “early adopters” of EV technology. At a press briefing in Berlin, Silke Bagschik, head of sales and marketing for VW brand’s electric vehicle line, said there had been internal discussions over which versions to launch first because “we said it would start with €30,000 and we went first with one for just under €40,000”. Bagschik said it would have been “wrong to go with a version with a shorter range and the lower equipment level”. VW said at the ID.3 concept’s debut at the 2016 Paris auto show that the 170 hp electric car would cost roughly as much as a comparably equipped Golf with the same performance. Early adopters want features such as augmented reality heads-up display, Bagschik said. VW brand aims to topple Tesla as the world’s top-selling EV maker by 2025 selling 1 million EVs a year with more than 20 battery-powered cars in its lineup. Tesla generated 400,000 orders for its Model 3 in part because they claimed in the first quarter of 2016 that it would sell for $35,000. The first deliveries were made in July the following year, but it was not until February that Tesla announced the Model 3 would be available at this price. To do so, however, CEO Elon Musk said he would be closing stores to focus more on online sales. Only weeks later, he reversed course to keep a number open but at the same time ceased advertising the entry price. Excluding federal tax credits and other government subsidies, U.S. customers shopping Tesla’s website can order the Model 3 Standard Plus for no less than $39,900. Bagschik said VW customers would not have to wait anywhere near that long for the ID3 entry version to arrive. After the ID.3 debuts at the Frankfurt auto show in September, orders will begin in earnest for the 58 kWh version that like the launch edition will be able to travel 480 km on one charge under WLTP. Then comes the base 47 kWh version Pure with 330 km. “Customers can order the base version next year; by the middle of next year at the latest”. Bagschik said. The 77 kWh Range S with a 550 km range will go on sale last at a date yet to be announced. Since pre-booking began on May 8, prospective customers making a non-binding deposit of €1,000 have reserved over twothirds of the 30,000 units of the ID3 launch edition. Volkswagen expects to have the series sold out before the public even has a chance to see it in September. Bagschik said dealer feedback indicated that those reserving a production slot had done their research on the car and were likely to follow through with a purchase once orders are taken after its unveiling. The automaker said it will guarantee that the batteries will retain at least 70 % of their usable capacity after 8 years or 160,000 km of use. +++ 

+++ Shortcomings in the UK charging infrastructure are increasingly holding back drivers from switching to electric vehicles (EVs), according to JAGUAR ‘s UK managing director, Rawdon Glover. In particular, Glover highlighted the number of different charging suppliers, the variability of the service these provide and the variety of methods of payment as needing simpler solutions to boost public confidence. “I’d like to see a faster roll-out of infrastructure in terms of scale, of course, especially in light of the government’s stated Road to Zero ambitions, but I also think there need to be steps to make what we have today more usable,” said Glover. “I’m not finger-pointing: it’s clear that we have a role to play in that, as well as the Government and the incumbent suppliers. But we have to make it easier to live with electric cars, from ensuring geographical coverage to raising standards so that charge points always work to introducing a system where you can have one card (ideally your credit card) to pay wherever you are. “Having so many providers, each with their own payment systems that you need to sign up to in their own unique way, presents an unnecessary hurdle. There needs to be leadership from the Government that we can all get behind”. Growing interest among new car buyers in EVs has led to Jaguar I-Pace sales doubling year-on-year and enquiry levels continuing to out-index those of combustion-engined models. Glover credited that in part to an increasingly flexible approach from Jaguar’s retail network. “There are things we can do to ensure that the I-Pace becomes more desirable to customers”, he said. “If a customer comes in and says that electric would suit them for 50 weeks of the year, but for the other 2 they need to drive 1.500 kilometres to go skiing or whatever, we will find a way to build that into the sale. “We’re enjoying our position of leadership with the product and flexible to finding ways to get our customers in the car. But once they have made the leap, it’s critical the infrastructure around them supports the experience”. +++

+++ BMW introduced the M2 Competition last year, but the fans still have to wait a little longer to get their hands on the highly-anticipated M2 CS . The M2 CS promises to be the ultimate driving machin. Its twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 has been tuned to 450 hp; a noticeable improvement over the 410 hp M2 Competition, which can run from 0-100 km/h in 4.4 seconds. The extra power will also be accompanied by less weight. This will be achieved thanks to a number of carbon fiber components including a power dome hood, roof and mirror caps. We can also expect a carbon fiber rear spoiler, a four-tailpipe sports exhaust system and lightweight alloy wheels along with a high-performance braking system. Speaking of performance, the M Division will also fit a retuned suspension which should make the M2 CS an entertaining partner on the track. Details are limited at the moment, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the model has a stiffer chassis and number of lightweight components to reduce mass and improve agility. Naturally, the interior largely carries over from the Competition. While it isn’t as high-tech as the 3-Series, the M2 CS will have heavily bolstered sports seats with contrast stitching and special embroidery on the headrests. We can also see a meaty, Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel that will reportedly be optional. Speaking of options, this particular prototype has been equipped with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission but a 6-speed manual should be standard. The M2 CS is expected to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show this fall and production will reportedly be limited to 2,200 units. +++

+++ We’ve seen MERCEDES-AMG testing the upcoming GT R Black Series for the past few months, with the company’s engineers once again putting a camouflaged test car through its paces on the Nurburgring. The upcoming variant of the AMG GT R will sit at the top of the range, offering even better performance than the Pro version; in fact, AMG’s boss Tobias Moers went as far as saying a few months ago that this will be their fastest-accelerating model ever, at least until the AMG One hypercar arrives in mid-2020. For months, we’ve been hearing that AMG will slap the ‘Black Series’ badge in the baddest AMG GT ever but there are some rumors that the Germans might use the ‘Evo’ moniker instead. In any case, AMG’s new range-topper will employ the same twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 with its siblings, only here it will be tuned to produce around 639 hp; the same with the AMG GT 4-Door Coupe. Both the existing AMG GT R and GT R Pro models offer just 585 hp, along with a 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 318 km/h. The biggest visual difference is obviously the even more aggressive aero kit, with the test car featuring bespoke canards up front, a bigger wing and a more prominent diffuser. Together with a reworked suspension and more powerful brakes, the upcoming AMG GT R Black Series is expected to offer one of the rawest and most special driving experiences in the market. It’s been a long time since AMG gave us a new Black Series model, a designation reserved only for the most hardcore of their vehicles. Last time we got one was back in 2013 with the SLS Black Series. Mercedes is expected to unveil the AMG GT R Black Series early next year, targeting wealthy purist drivers with an unhealthy appetite for track days, which is essentially the same audience Porsche attracts with its GT cars. +++ 

+++ RENAULT ’s alliance with Japanese partner Nissan remains French finance minister Bruno Le Maire’s priority ahead of any further consolidation with the likes of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, he said. “It is not in our interest at all to weaken this alliance”, Le Maire told. The French government is Renault’s biggest shareholder with a 15 % stake. Asked to comment on media reports that Fiat’s top executive had been in Paris over the weekend, Le Maire replied: “It poses me no problems at all if the head of Fiat were to spend his time in Paris”. +++ 

+++ ROMANIA is re-opening mines for rare earth minerals to lure investments in battery plants for electric cars, joining a Europe-wide initiative that aims for a bigger share of the global market. The government is renewing operations at 3 mines that produce rare metals, including europium and dysprosium, for the first time in 3 decades, economy minister Niculae Badalau said in an interview in Bucharest. Talks with battery manufacturers are ongoing for an investment of more than €50 million, he said. “We want to become a member of the European Battery Alliance”, Badalau said. “That will ensure that at least one of the factories to produce electric batteries currently planned by several companies will be located here”, he said, without naming the potential investors. Romania is hoping to join the European battery network through Radioactiv Mineral Magurele, a company that traces its roots to uranium production and later rare metals during the communist era. Among international companies expanding battery production in the region or searching for its raw materials, Daimler and Johnson Matthey have announced plans to build plants in Poland, while Rio Tinto has been exploring lithium extraction in Serbia. The European Commission set up the battery alliance in 2017 as part of its push toward cleaner industries and to support investments in the market whose value is estimated at over €250 billion per year from 2025. That offers an opportunity for Romania to tap mines that have been shuttered due to outdated technologies and financial losses. +++

+++ Volkswagen said it would put 5,000 digital experts into a new unit called ‘Car.Software’ by 2025 as the German carmaker aims to develop at least 60 % of its SOFTWARE in-house by then, up from less than 10 % currently. Volkswagen said all of its new models would use the same software platform (consisting of its vehicle operating system known as ‘vw.os’ and the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud) by 2025. +++

+++ TESLA has, apparently, axed the Long Range Rear-Wheel Drive version of its Model 3. This variant was the one the Model 3 debuted with in mid-2017 but, last year, was removed from the automaker’s online ordering system. However, it was still available up until mid-June if customers ordered one over the phone or by visiting a Tesla store. The electric car manufacturer said production of this model was “immediately halted by the plant”. “This means that this version is no longer available”, the message continued. “Current offers are no longer delivered. We are currently examining the extent to which the plant has always produced your previously placed orders. Next week, we will inform you of the orders we can no longer deliver and the alternative we can offer”. This means that Model 3 customers will have to either downgrade to the Standard Range Plus or upgrade to the Long Range AWD. Which is not necessarily good news for them, as the RWD had a more than adequate 523 km range and was just 0.5 seconds slower to 100 km/h) than the AWD, at 5.1 seconds. Although Tesla did not provide an explanation about this decision, the most likely reason is that it is trying to streamline the Model 3’s range by cutting down on variants, which should help speed up the production and, probably, earn some extra money by making customers opt for the higher-profit margin AWD if they don’t want to compromise on performance. +++ 

+++ German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her transport minister would look at how to proceed after the EU’s top court rejected plans to introduce a German highway TOLL . Germany’s transport minister Andreas Scheuer said the ruling implied the toll in its current form was off the table, but he had already put in place a task force to find alternative solutions. The European Court of Justice backed a challenge from Austria, which said Berlin’s plan to put the economic burden of the toll on drivers from EU countries while giving German car owners a tax relief over the same amount, was discrimination. The ruling is a blow to Scheuer’s Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU), which had been the main backer of the toll. +++

+++ Workers at VOLKSWAGEN ‘s Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory have once again voted against union representation. The latest vote ended with 833 against joining the United Auto Workers and 776 in favor, an even narrower margin than the UAW’s loss in the initial 2014 election. “Pending certification of the results by the National Labor Relations Board and a legal review of the election, Volkswagen will respect the decision of the majority”, said VW Chattanooga chief Frank Fischer. The United Auto Workers’ ongoing federal corruption investigation almost certainly played a role in discouraging support despite an onslaught of pro-union local advertising leading up to the vote. The UAW has now pivoted its strategy after the second loss, apparently focusing on lobbying to change labor laws. “Clearly Volkswagen was able to delay bargaining with maintenance workers and ultimately this vote among all production and maintenance workers through legal games until they could undermine the vote”, said UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg. The unionization push in Chattanooga represented a broader interest in foreign-owned automotive factories that have traditionally stayed non-union despite the UAW’s foothold in Detroit Big Three plants. +++

+++ Automakers who want to dominate the World Rally Championship ( WRC ) will need to go hybrid starting in 2022. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) announced the regulations that will come into effect at the beginning of the 2022 season will force teams to compete with gasoline-electric race cars. The message is clear: go hybrid, or go home. While full technical specifications haven’t been released yet, the FIA issued a statement to explain rally cars will need to run exclusively on electricity when they’re competing in cities. These stages will become eerily quiet. The hybrid system will work alongside the gasoline-powered engine on ice, gravel, dirt, or any terrain outside of urban areas, so the aural thrill of watching a WRC event won’t be completely lost. Manufacturers won’t be able to fully use hybrid technology to their advantage right away. To keep costs in check, every car will be fitted with the exact same hardware and software for three years after the next set of regulations comes into effect. Teams will be allowed to race using components designed in-house starting in 2025; I expect that’s when the real competition will begin. The hybrids built to compete in WRC will continue to look like production models. Manufacturers will have the option of using a production body, or to build one from scratch while retaining key visual elements, like headlights, that make the racer instantly recognizable. Interestingly, the FIA will give manufacturers the option of scaling down a design to comply with the size regulations. For example, Toyota could theoretically build a Yaris-sized Land Cruiser for WRC events. There’s no word on how much more expensive a hybrid rally car will be to develop and build than one that runs solely on gasoline, and I don’t know how much weight the components will add. Automakers haven’t publicly reacted to the FIA’s announcement yet; time will tell whether the hybrid regulations attract new manufacturers and/or drive away the few remaining ones. As of 2019, only Toyota, Hyundai, Ford, and Citroën are left in WRC, and the 2 latter brands reduced their commitment to the series before the start of the season. +++

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