+++ BMW is broadening its flagship model range with the launch of an 8-SERIES GRAN COUPE. The 4-door, 5-seater (a first for the 8 series) is a nod to changing consumer tastes and opens the 8-series lineup to a larger market than a 2-door offering does. Old-school coupes have lost favor in the market as buyers have moved to more practical 4-door models, said Sam Fiorani, vice president with AutoForecast Solutions. “Today’s 4-door coupes give buyers the sporty image and performance they want with a usable backseat that is traditionally lacking in these flagship models”, Fiorani said. The addition of the Gran Coupe body style will expand the 8-series’ reach into territory occupied almost solely by the Porsche Panamera, he said. It is also expected to go head-to-head with the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7. BMW will offer the 8-series Gran Coupe with 3 gasoline variants; 2 powered by the automaker’s TwinPower Turbo 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine and an M variant, powered by a TwinPower Turbo 4.4-liter, V8 turbo engine that delivers 530 hp and can sprint from 0-to-100 kph in 3.9 seconds, BMW said in a statement. A diesel model will also be available in Europe, the automaker said. The M850i xDrive performance variant is equipped with A new aluminum alloy provides a stronger engine block, BMW said. Both engines feature an updated 8-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission. The Gran Coupe is 229 mm longer, 30 mm wider and 56 mm taller than the 8-series Coupe, and feature a wheelbase that is 200 mm longer. With a rear track of 1.671 mm, which is 30 mm wider than the 8-series Coupe, the Gran Coupe stands on the widest rear track of any BMW. In fact, the assembly line at the Dingolfing plant in Germany, where the car is produced, had to be modified to accommodate the new, wider platform. In addition to the larger proportions, the exterior design allows for a roomier interior. The Gran Coupe windshield features less rake than in the Coupe to allow the roofline to raise to a higher point above the front seats, providing increased headroom. Rear legroom in the Gran Coupe increases by 180 mm, while rear headroom expands by 86 mm. The 8-series Gran Coupe also relies on lightweight materials to keep wight down and improve handling. Aluminum construction is used for the doors, hood, roof, front bulkhead, engine subframe and rear bumper support. The trunk lid is made from dent-resistant plastic while the cabin dashboard support is made from magnesium and parts of the center driveline tunnel are made from carbon-fiber reinforced plastic. The M850i xDrive offers an optional carbon fiber roof which replaces the glass moonroof and lowers the weight and center of gravity. The 8-series Gran Coupe features an array of sensors and technologies that take the drudgery out of driving. The optional Driving Assistance Professional package includes a semi-automated driving system that allows for hands-free and pedal-free driving on limited-access highways and at speeds slower than 64 kph. The Steptronic Sport transmission’s controller networks with the vehicle’s navigation system, enabling it to take the planned route into account. Navigation data is used to downshift early, for example, when approaching an intersection to use engine braking to slow the car down. The intelligent controller is also able to avoid unnecessary gear shifts between two corners that follow in quick succession, making it possible to drive through at a quicker pace. The model will go on sale in September. In Germany prices start at 91,500 euros. U.S. start at $85,895, including shipping. 

+++ The ALLIANCE between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi is falling apart in the wake of former CEO Carlos Ghosn’s arrest, according to numerous reports who claim to have spoken to “multiple current and former employees”. It is reported that some departments set up to oversee the joint projects within the alliance are being wound down, with one insider claiming employees haven’t been given any new work in months. The report also claims that the ‘CEO office’ (set up to oversee day-to-day running of the Alliance with a number of executives) is being disbanded, with other departments including the commercial vehicle arm seeing staff dismissals. For some time, Ghosn, who has been charged with financial misconduct and is awaiting trial next year, sought for Renault and Nissan to merge and create one of the world’s largest car making groups. He made a number of appointments and merged departments such as component purchasing, but since his arrest and dismissal from his roles the 2 firms’ management teams have drifted apart. The partnership was put under even more strain when Renault engaged in unsuccessful talks with FCA to merge. Earlier this month Renault’s new chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, wrote a letter threatening to block critical appointments at Nissan’s shareholders meeting. The relationship between the 2 companies has been imbalanced for years, with Nissans vehicle output much higher yet Renault exercising more control. In April, new leaders of the 2 firms (which have been joined at the hip since 1999) as well as relative newcomer Mitsubishi, proposed less integration. To add fuel to the fire, the engineering partnership between the alliance and Daimler could be ended under the German firm’s new CEO, Ola Källenius, as part of a cost cutting strategy. +++

+++ BENTLEY might be an old school luxury brand, but the company has dipped its toes in the electrification waters with the Bentayga plug-in hybrid. Roadshow reports the crosover will arrive in the United States late this year and kick off an electrification push for the automaker. Speaking of the latter, Bentley’s board member for sales and marketing said the company will “bring out hybrid versions of all our models by 2023”. Chris Craft also confirmed the brand’s first electric vehicle will be launched by 2025. Little is known about the upcoming EV, but Craft said electric vehicles are a “big part of our future”. While EV sales only represent a small faction of the overall automotive market, they’re growing in popularity and Craft noted “Over 30 % of luxury buyers are interested in electric cars”. In a separate interview, Craft revealed electric vehicles are good fit for Bentley as electric motors deliver instantaneous torque which is a hallmark of the brand. Electric vehicles are also quiet and that’s another aspect that is closely associated with ultra-luxury brands such as Bentley and Rolls-Royce. While Craft didn’t say much about the upcoming hybrids, they’ll presumably include the Continental GT and Flying Spur. It remains unclear what will power them, but they could use the same powertrain as the Bentayga Hybrid. As you may recall, the SUV has a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine, an electric motor and an undisclosed battery pack. The company has been coy on specifics, but has previously confirmed the model can be recharged in as little as 2.5 hours and travel over 50 km on electricity alone in the New European Driving Cycle. +++ 

+++ It looks like the 3-Series Gran Turismo isn’t the only BMW model getting the axe as a new report suggests the 2-Series Tourer lineup won’t be replaced after the current generation comes to an end. BMW’s senior vice president of product management said the 2-Series Active Tourer and 2-Series Gran Tourer have “done an excellent job in bringing new customers to our brand”. However, Peter Henrich added the models are no longer part of “what our brand today stands for”. While he didn’t specifically say the models will be phased out, he strongly implied that as he stated “We will see about moving Gran Tourer customers to our SUVs”. Originally created to battle the Mercedes B-Class, the 2-Series Active Tourer was introduced in 2014 and was criticized for being front-wheel drive. Despite some negative reactions, the model was quickly followed by the larger 2-Series Gran Tourer which offered seating for up to 7 people. They are relatively popular in Europe as the company moved over 100,000 units in 2016. However, sales have dropped off since then and BMW only sold 68,367 Tourers in Europe last year. 2019 is also off is a slow start as the automaker has only moved 19,459 units through April. Despite declining sales, those are still some pretty decent numbers. In fact, combined BMW Tourer sales outpaced the Mercedes B-Class by 7,345 units in 2018. Of course, sales have been falling for a number of years and that trend will likely continue as consumers continue to embrace crossovers. +++

+++ Last year, Wei Qing and his private equity investment team visited more than 20 electric vehicle manufacturing startups in CHINA . The end result? They decided not to invest in any. “There are too many uncertainties from when a company tells a story in the early stage, to when it produces a sample car and raises funds, to the eventual mass production”, said Wei, managing director at Shanghai-based Sailing Capital. Wei, who declined to name the EV makers his team visited, said he thinks only a few of them will survive. Sailing instead decided to invest in an EV parts supplier, he added. His concerns reflect what bankers describe as increasingly tough funding times for Chinese EV makers which must jostle for attention in a crowded sector and produce convincing arguments about future profitability despite government cuts to EV subsidies and plans to phase them out. Numerous setbacks plaguing Tesla Inc in its quest for sustained profitability as well as a dramatic slide in sales and problems with some cars at Chinese startup Nio have also put investors on their guard. This year, Chinese EV makers have raised just $783.1 million as of mid-June compared with $6 billion for the same period a year earlier and $7.7 billion for all of 2018. One Hong Kong-based banker said he had been approached by at least a dozen EV makers seeking new funds but had to pass on most of them as they were not able to set themselves apart from the crowd. Even fundraising efforts that have gotten off the ground are not moving as fast as EV makers would like. “It is challenging”, said the banker who began working on one fundraising this year. “If you can get a meeting with investors, you can always tell a story, but some don’t even reply to your requests for a meeting”. He declined to be identified as the negotiations were not public. Eager to curb smog and jump-start its own auto industry, China has said it wants so-called new energy vehicles (NEVs; which also include hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell cars) to account for 20 % of auto sales by 2025 compared with 5 % now. Those ambitions have spawned a plethora of EV startups competing not just with each other, but also global automakers and Tesla, which plans to start production in China this year. About 330 EV firms are registered for some sort of subsidy, government data shows, although the number of more well established startups is much smaller, at around 50. But amid criticism that some firms have become overly reliant on government funds, Beijing has reduced subsidies, raised the standards needed for vehicles to qualify and flagged they will end altogether after 2020. That has led to sharp slowdown as vehicle prices rise. Sales of NEVs in May rose just 1.8% from a year earlier compared with 18.1% in April and 62% growth for 2018. Surviving in the current funding environment, requires much cost discipline, Daniel Kirchert, CEO at Nanjing-based EV maker Byton, told. “Given the current situation, it is not enough for any startup to come up with good products and be fast to market. At least it’s equally important to manage cost. Not only fixed costs but variable cost”, he said. Byton, which is backed by state-owned automaker FAW Group and battery supplier Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL) is one of a few EV makers with a fundraising round in train, seeking $500 million. Others include Leap Motor, backed by state-owned Shanghai Electric Group Corp and Sequoia Capital China, which is seeking $372 million as well as CHJ Automotive, founded by serial entrepreneur Li Xiang, which wants to raise as much as $500 million. Those with successful funding under their belts this year include Baidu backed WM Motor Technology which closed a $446 million round in March. Some have obtained money outside private equity. E-Town Capital, a Beijing government investment firm, will invest 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) in a joint venture with Nio, which could help Nio build its own plant. But overall, industry funding prospects are much bleaker, particularly as Tesla and Nio struggle. Founder Elon Musk told Tesla employees last month the $2.7 billion the company recently raised would give it just 10 months to break even at the rate it burned cash in the first quarter. Shares in the industry pioneer have slid 32 % in the year to date. Nio’s shares have been hit harder, down 60 % this year on a cut to its delivery outlook, a halving in first-quarter sales from the previous quarter, increased competition and reduced subsidies. Its reputation has also been hurt after 3 vehicles caught on fire and by the inadvertent shutting down of a car on Beijing’s prestigious Changan Avenue after the driver initiated a software update. Nio declined to comment. “Some of the listed EV industry leaders are currently underperforming in the secondary trading market and that has created pressures for the sector’s short-term outlook”, said Brian Gu, president of EV startup Xpeng Motors and a former senior JP Morgan banker. “We are seeing investors become more cautious, selective and keenly focused on the frontrunners. I think this trend is likely to persist”, he said. An investor in WM Motor was more downbeat about the willingness of private equity investors to fund the industry. “Nio is probably the best among Chinese EV start-ups. Look where it stands now: how can that make us comfortable about writing cheques for other EV start-ups?”, said the investor who also held Nio shares but sold them this year. +++ 

+++ A  Prague district court has ruled that a number of Czech owners of Skoda and Volkswagen cars qualify for 533 million crowns ($23.30 million) in compensation linked to VW’s DIESEL EMISSIONS SCANDAL , the ruling said. The suit was filed by Safe Diesel on behalf of 2,435 people, the ruling said. Safe Diesel was set up to take on the case for the claimants. The decision, ordering Volkswagen to pay the full amount, is open to appeal but only on procedural grounds. Volkswagen said it would launch an appeal. The Prague district court spokesman was not immediately available to comment. “It is a breakthrough in the European branch of the affair”, Safe Diesel’s lawyer Frantisek Honsa said in a company statement. “We managed to push through the same compensation as in the United States”. Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 that it had cheated U.S. diesel emissions tests. The company has paid out more than €27 billion in penalties for using illegal software to disguise excessive levels of pollution from its diesel cars, triggering a global regulatory clampdown. The Prague ruling, dated March 22 but not previously released, said the compensation demand was upheld without a court hearing because Skoda parent Volkswagen failed to deliver any objections to the demands by a deadline set by the court. Volkswagen said it believed the ruling would be overruled and the action dismissed. “We consider the judgments to be defective in law and will appeal against them”, a spokesman said. Skoda was also part of the suit although it did provide its position and that part of the case has not been ruled upon, the ruling said. Skoda said it had rejected the claims and continued to maintain that owners of affected vehicles did not suffer any damage. Safe Diesel said it has been collecting demands from more owners of the affected cars. The ruling only covered the initial 2,435 claimants, but the firm said more than 7,000 people have made claims so far. It added there were 165,000 cars affected by the emissions scandal in the Czech Republic. +++ 

+++ Automakers will demand much more production flexibility from suppliers of parts for ELECTRIC cars to deal with unpredictable levels of demand, Francisco Riberas, CEO of Spanish metal parts supplier Gestamp said. “Probably none of our customers are absolutely sure how fast the market is going to move to EVs. in the future they’re going to demand much more flexibility in our investments to cope with this”, Riberas told. Gestamp will make the steel boxes to house the battery packs for Volkswagen Group cars built on the new MEB electric platform, starting later this year at its Bielefeld plant. VW Group recently doubled its original order from Gestamp to 570,000 boxes a year, indicating greater confidence that customers will switch to EVs as European laws tighten on CO2 emissions starting in 2020. Not all customers are confident, Riberas said. Automakers usually demand that Gestamp’s production of body-in-white and chassis parts can cope with a 10-15 % increase in demand. Riberas however predicts that will rise to 30-40 % in the future as automakers grapple with uncertain demand for EVs. “This is a big challenge and much more difficult for us”, he said. One way Gestamp will cope is by moving to new flexible robot cells that can quickly shift between making one part to another as demand. Riberas gave the example of its work with Audi on its new PPE premium electric vehicle platform. “The issue is they will keep on with the sister platform for combustion-engine cars and at the same time build the new platform for EVs, but they are not convinced how fast how it’s going to sell”, he told. “They award you a part that’s a similar part to the EV and say they want 80 % for the combustion-engine car and 20 % for the EVs, but they want to have the flexibility to move to 30 % EV in case that they are wrong”, he said. Gestamp will normally tool up production to match the ordered quantities but Riberas argues the old way of working will need to change. “I need a much more flexible idea. Maybe it’s less productive but it’s much more flexible”, he said. Gestamp is positioning itself to become a key supplier of EV-specific chassis parts and body parts. “Battery boxes are very important opportunity for us in terms of growth”, Riberas said. The market for metal battery boxes alone will reach €5-€7 billion globally by 2026, the company estimates. Battery boxes often need to be a structural part of the body in designs where the battery pack is sandwiched in the floor between the two axles. Only in lower-range urban electric cars is the pack small enough not to reach the sides, and therefore become subject to increasingly stringent crash tests. As well as Volkswagen’s MEB platform, Gestamp has orders to build battery boxes for Jaguar Land Rover and BMW. The company has more than 20 battery boxes in design for clients it said, without being specific. The inclusion of the battery box pushes the weight up of the body-in-white of a typical electric car by 60 kg, prompting car companies to looking for more weight-saving solutions. Lightweight aluminum is becoming one of the most popular metals to use for the boxes, Gestamp said. The company earlier this year established two joint ventures with aluminum extrusion specialist Etem Bulgaria, a division of Belgium-based Viohalco. Gestamp also makes chassis parts for EVs, including subframes for the VW Group’s MEB models. +++ 

+++ China’s GEELY has chosen Zenuity, a joint venture between its Volvo car marque and Swedish technology group Veoneer, as its preferred supplier for assisted and self driving software. Geely’s deal, encompassing car brands including Geely, Polestar, Lynk & Co and Lotus, provides a welcome boost for Zenuity. Regulatory challenges and soaring development costs mean carmakers have delayed forecasts for the mass adoption of self-driving cars, putting pressure on suppliers such as Zenuity, which declined to comment on financial terms. Veoneer said in April it was carrying out a review of Zenuity, which is focused on developing software for assisted driving features (ADAS) such as lane keeping and autonomous driving (AD), and seeking efficiencies from the venture. Chief Executive Dennis Nobelius said the Geely deal was a significant win as only 3-5 first generation self-driving software platforms would survive to the end of the next decade, compared to the more than 40 CB Insights estimates exist now. “Our plan is clear, that we want to be one of those”, he told journalists. “We have a number of RFQs (request for quotation) at this moment for ADAS and we’re discussing deeper relations when it comes to the AD part”. Nobelius said a German vehicle manufacturer would produce models with Zenuity ADAS features in the coming weeks. Gothenburg-based Zenuity was formed in 2017 by Volvo, which Geely bought from Ford in 2010, and former Veoneer parent Autoliv, which put 1.1 billion Swedish crown ($115 million) in the venture. It is competing with larger rivals in self-driving technology, where U.S. companies are leading the way, with Google’s Waymo last year winning the first approval to test cars without safety drivers on Californian roads. Zenuity, whose customers include Volvo and Geely Auto, employs more than 600 people and this year won approval to begin hands-free testing on Volvos on Swedish highways. Technology advisor Erik Cölingh said Zenuity’s edge came from the fact that it had products for both ADAS and AD. “Exactly when AD will come in large volume is relatively uncertain, but until cars drive themselves then you will have ADAS”, Cölingh said. “So the fact that we have both really is a very good position to be in this uncertain market”. +++ 

+++ INDIA has issued draft rules to exempt electric vehicles from paying registration fee, the government said in a statement, as it looks to cut its dependence on fossil fuels. The Indian government has been pushing to boost the adoption of electric vehicles, as it tries to bring down its oil imports and curb pollution so it can meet its commitments as part of the 2015 Paris climate change treaty. The proposed exemption will apply to all categories of electronic vehicles, including scooters, motorbikes, autorickshaws and cars, the government added. +++ 

+++ South Korean brands again demonstrated the best INITIAL QUALITY among 32 automotive brands sold in the United States, according to an annual ranking by researcher J.D. Power, with about half of the domestic brands better than average and all European brands below average. Genesis, Kia and Hyundai were the top 3 brands in the 2019 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), which measures problems in the first 90 days of vehicle ownership. Among those brands scoring below the industry average of 93 problems per 100 vehicles were Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Jeep and Cadillac. Anchoring the bottom of the rankings were Jaguar and Land Rover. J.D. Power said Tesla was not included in the latest IQS because its sample size was “unrepresentative”. The 2019 IQS brand rankings and scores are as follows: Genesis (63), Kia (70), Hyundai (71), Ford (83), Lincoln (84), Chevrolet (85), Nissan (86), Dodge (90), Lexus (90), Toyota (90), Buick (92), GMC (94), Mazda (94), Mercedes-Benz (94), Porsche (96), Honda (98), Cadillac (100), Jeep (100), Infiniti (101), BMW (102), Ram (105), Audi (106), Mini (107), Acura (110), Chrysler (113), Subaru (113), Volkswagen (113), Volvo (114), Alfa Romeo (118), Mitsubishi (121), Land Rover (123) and Jaguar (130). +++ 

+++ LEXUS is taking the illumination of the road ahead to new levels with a state-of-the-art technology that will be introduced later this year in the facelifted RX. Bound to make driving at night and in poor weather safer, the system is called BladeScan and improves the photometric control of the area in front of the car from 1.7 to 0.7 degrees. What this means is that drivers will be able to see areas otherwise difficult to check out with a conventional high-beam system, like road margins, pedestrians and possible obstacles. The road signs will also be illuminated earlier. Compared to the outgoing RX, which features automatic or adaptive high-beam LED lighting that’s part of the Lexus Safety System+ package, pedestrian recognition at night is said to have been improved by 24 meters; now covering 56 meters with the implementation of the new system. Furthermore, the technology doesn’t dazzle other drivers and keeps the number of LEDs to a minimum: 10 on each side of the vehicle, in this case. The LEDs are found in a compact module in the front corner of each headlight, casting light diagonally across the two blade-shaped mirrors that rotate at high speed. The LEDs automatically switch on and off and the layout retains its triple-eye light arrangement and integrated daytime running lights. +++ 

+++ French president Emmanuel MACRON will discuss the situation regarding the alliance between carmakers Renault and Nissan with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week, said an official at Macron’s Elysee office. “There will certainly be a discussion during the meeting with Prime Minister Abe about questions regarding the relationship between Renault and Nissan”, said the official. “It will be an opportunity for the President to reaffirm the strong attachment France has regarding the Renault-Nissan alliance, an attachment which was again emphasized during the recent talks that took place with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)”, added the official. The French state has a 15 % stake in Renault, and French ministers have consistently highlighted the importance of ensuring that the Renault-Nissan alliance remains strong, before planning any further consolidation with the likes of FCA. The official in Macron’s office added that Macron was not planning to discuss FCA with Abe. It was also not foreseen that they would discuss the possibility of the French state reducing its Renault stake, the official said. France’s finance minister raised the possibility of stake reduction in order to consolidate the partnership with Nissan. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ will add yet another model to its compact car line-up in the form of the new GLA with a mooted debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September. Sharing styling details with the A-Class upon which it’s based, it will be lower to the ground than the old GLA, but the swollen rear haunches and profile unique to its siblings remain. The second-generation GLA will join Mercedes’ MFA platform-based range alongside the A-Class hatchback, A-Class saloon, CLA 4-door coupé, CLA Shooting Brake and B-Class. It also now sits below the GLB, the largest car on that platform and a new, fully fledged rival to the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. That leaves the GLA to compete with smaller compact crossovers such as the Audi Q2 and Kia XCeed. Although no technical details of the GLA have been released yet, we know it will be closely linked to the A-Class in terms of interior design and technology, engines and gearboxes. That means it will adopt Mercedes’ latest touchpad and voice-controlled MBUX infotainment system, alongside more advanced safety features and increased material quality. The engine range will kick off with a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol unit developed in conjunction with the Renault-Nissan Alliance. This will likely be available in 2 states of tune, while a 2.0-litre engine will top out the range for the time being. A 1.5-litre diesel will also be offered. Later on in the GLA’s lifespan, we expect to see a return of the AMG-tuned GLA 45, putting out anything up to 421 hp through a performance-focused 4-wheel drive system. Before that arrives, there will be a 306 hp 35 variant, as is now available on the A-Class. The GLA will be produced alongside the A-Class at Mercedes’ factory in Rastatt, Germany. The A-Class will also serve as the basis of the EQ A, an electric hatchback that’s scheduled to arrive next year. +++ 

+++ PEUGEOT will add a battery-electric version of its new 2008 and a revised interior with more digital features in an effort to reach the top rung of the rapidly growing small crossover segment. The new generation 2008 is slightly larger than its predecessor, with an overall length of 4,300 mm compared with 4,159 mm for the current model. Its more-angular styling reflects Peugeot’s other 2 crossovers, the compact 3008 and midsize 5008, both of which have been sales successes. Inside, the 2008 offers many of the same upgrades as the 208, which had its public debut at the Geneva auto show in March. The 2008’s interior has been redesigned around Peugeot’s i-Cockpit, which positions a smaller steering wheel below the level of the instrument panel for better visibility. The instrument panel is now digital, with the option of having alerts appear as three-dimensional. The central touchscreen can be ordered in a 10-inch diagonal size, and many functions can be activated by voice command. Driving aids include Drive Assist, which combines active cruise control and lane positioning to allow nearly hands-free cruising. Park Assist manages the steering while parallel parking, provided there is at least 60 cm of extra space. Automatic emergency braking now distinguishes between pedestrians and cyclists, Peugeot says. The 2008’s internal-combustion powertrain options include a 3-cylinder 1.2-liter gasoline engine with 100 hp, 130 hp or 155 hp; and a 4-cylinder 1.5-liter diesel with 100 hp or 130 hp. The full-electric version will have a 136 hp motor. A 50 kilowatt-hour battery offers a range 310 km on Europe’s WLTP certification cycle, Peugeot says. As with the 208, which also has an electric version, the battery comes with an 8 year or 160,000 km guarantee. Charging time with an 11 kW wall box is between 5 hours and 15 minutes and 8 hours. Up to 80 percent power can be recovered in 30 minutes with a 100 kW high-output charging station, Peugeot says. The current 2008, introduced in 2013, has been a hit for Peugeot, with European sales ramping up to nearly 180,000 in 2017, and tapering off only slightly in 2018 and this year. The model was the 4th bestselling subcompact crossover in Europe through May, with 77,921 sales; down 5 % over the same period in 2018. The 2008 trailed the Dacia Duster, whose sales increased 20 % to 94,497; the Volkswagen T-Roc (93,710, up 72 %) and the Renault Captur (92,378, down 2 %). Other competitors include the Citroen C3 Aircross, Ford EcoSport, Opel Crossland X, Seat Arona and Hyundai Kona. The new 2008 joins a growing segment where competition is also growing. European sales in the small SUV/crossover segment will rise to 1.99 million this year and 2.16 million in 2020 from 1.83 million last year, LMC Automotive forecasts. The growth has prompted Ford to develop a second model, called Puma, which launches toward the end of the year and will be sold alongside the EcoSport. Skoda will be joining the segment next year with the Kamiq. Toyota is expected to add a small SUV positioned below the compact C-HR. Renault is expected to launch a new version of the Captur later this month. The 2008 is built on PSA Group’s CMP architecture, which it developed with Chinese partner Dongfeng. It is designed to accept both internal-combustion and electric powertrains. Other new models on CMP include the DS 3 Crossback, Opel Corsa and Peugeot 208, with a new version of the Opel Mokka expected next year. The 2008 will reach the market at the end of this year, with production at PSA Group’s factories in Vigo, Spain, and Wuhan, China. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE boss Klaus Zellmer has posted an op-ed outlining his optimistic forecast for electric-vehicle adoption, crediting Tesla for helping bring the automotive industry to a “turning point”. The piece points out the disagreement among experts in predicting the near-term and long-term impact of electric vehicles. International Monetary Fund researchers believe EVs could dominate the industry in as little as 15 years, while Deloitte argues that consumers show little interest and automakers will be sitting on 14 million unsold EVs in the next decade. “I see clear market indicators that American consumers are about to embrace EVs as their daily drive”, Zellmer writes. “First, Tesla has proven there is significant demand for cars that combine sustainability with performance and design. Last year, the Model 3 outsold any other premium sedan in the US”. The executive also points to the quick expansion of charging infrastructure across the country, built by several companies including ChargePoint, EVgo, and Volkswagen Group-funded Electrify America. Porsche has already reported strong demand for its first all-electric production car, the Taycan, which is scheduled to arrive on the market later this year. “We already have enough interest to account for all the Taycans we expect to deliver in the US in the first year, through late 2020”, Zellmer adds. “That’s powerful, given that the final production model has yet to be unveiled”. The German performance marque is so optimistic about EVs that it has committed to transitioning its best-selling model, the Macan, to an all-electric platform within the next few years. To be clear, however, the automaker expects to continue building internal combustion engines and hybrids alongside EVs for at least the next decade. +++

+++ Cutting its stake in alliance partner Nissan is not on RENAULT ’s agenda, the French carmaker’s chief executive Thierry Bollore said after a global vehicle launch in New Delhi. Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) are looking for ways to resuscitate a failed merger plan and secure Nissan’s approval. As part of the fallout of the collapse of talks, Nissan is poised to urge Renault to significantly cut its 43.4 % stake in the Japanese carmaker. “This is not at all our agenda”, Bollore told reporters in New Delhi when asked if Renault would reduce its stake in Nissan to get a deal with FCA. “For us it is so important that we continuously improve our alliance. Not only for now, but also for the future and this is the mindset which we are in, and these are the discussions we have with our partners”, Bollore said after the global launch of Renault’s Triber multi-purpose vehicle. Bollore said the alliance partners planned to meet in early July and while he declined to disclose the agenda, he added that it would be “massive”. The 20-year-old partnership between Nissan and Renault has been strained since the alliance’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested for suspected financial misconduct in November. Ghosn denies any wrongdoing. The alliance was plunged further into crisis this month as Renault’s demand for a greater say in Nissan’s governance drew rare public censure by the Japanese automaker. Nissan is due to hold a shareholder meeting to vote on its overhauled governance structure on June 25. Bollore said Renault would participate, but the talks were private. Renault and FCA were in $35 billion merger talks until the Italian-American carmaker withdrew after the French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, blocked a vote by its board and demanded more time to win Nissan’s backing. Bollore said there is no offer from FCA on the table and declined to comment on the role of the French government. +++

+++ SAUDI ARABIA began courting Toyota 2 years ago to build a large car plant as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s grand plan to wean the kingdom off oil revenues and create jobs for young Saudis. But the Japanese carmaker has rebuffed Riyadh’s overtures following talks that dragged on without tangible results because high labor costs, a small domestic market and a lack of local supplies gave Toyota pause for thought, 4 sources said. Securing a deal with a major automaker by 2020 for a car plant is a key target in the Gulf state’s national industrial strategy, part of a broader agenda to diversify the economy of the world’s largest oil exporter. Failure to do so would be a setback for Prince Mohammed, coming after the listing of oil giant Saudi Aramco was shelved and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi tarnished the kingdom’s image. “Nobody would say ‘No, full stop’, but they politely conveyed they’re not interested”, said an industry source familiar with the Toyota talks. Toyota said it could not comment on the current internal discussions and communication with the Saudi government. Saudi Arabia’s ministry of energy, industry and mineral resources and the government media office did not respond to requests for comment. As part of measures designed to create 1.6 million manufacturing and logistics jobs by 2030, Prince Mohammed wants to localize half the production of imported vehicles and weapons, which are expected to account for up to $100 billion in spending by Saudi government entities and consumers by 2030. Under the deal Toyota signed in March 2017, the Japanese company agreed to conduct a feasibility study for an industrial project to make vehicles and car parts in the kingdom. 2 sources familiar with the matter said Toyota concluded after the study and negotiations that Saudi Arabia would need to provide huge subsidies for the project to be viable. “They found that production costs will be similar to other countries only if there is a 50 % government incentive. But even then, they aren’t sure it will be profitable”, said one source with knowledge of the negotiations. When it comes to establishing manufacturing, Riyadh hopes to replicate its 1980s push into petrochemicals; the cornerstone of an industrial drive that turned Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC) into the world’s 4th biggest petrochemicals firm. Hundreds of thousands of Saudis work in petrochemicals, one of the biggest contributors to the economy outside oil. But it took decades to build up the industry, even with huge government funding and cheap raw materials. Saudi Arabian Military Industries, owned by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, is spearheading the drive to localize military spending. It aims to generate $10 billion in revenue over the next 5 years and hopes to generate 30 % of revenues from export markets by 2030. For cars, the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP) wants half the roughly 400,000 vehicles bought each year in Saudi Arabia to be made there by 2030, one source said. But Toyota, which has a 30 % market share, only proposed a small plant producing up to 10,000 vehicles using imported goods and the Saudis wanted a bigger factory, the industry source and the source familiar with the talks said. A strategy document posted on NIDLP’s website acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had a major competitive disadvantage and state incentives would be needed to create “substantial commercial justifications” to attract carmakers. It did not provide specifics about the disadvantages, nor the size and kind of state incentives required. At NIDLP’s launch in January, the state approved 45 billion riyals ($12 billion) of incentives to develop an auto sector, including duty rebates, human resources subsidies and tax holidays, but it wasn’t enough, the industry source said. The NIDLP is aiming to create 27,000 jobs in the automotive sector by 2030 by attracting so-called original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). One obstacle, though, is the absence of a local supply chain for car parts, 3 automotive industry executives said. Riyadh would need to build integrated economic districts producing components such as windows, batteries and wheels to lower costs, a senior executive at a Western auto firm said. “If I have to open a manufacturing process in Saudi and then import every single component from abroad, I do not have any economical plus”, he said. “The problem is not really setting up a plant, but having the entire value chain”. The local market is also relatively small. Demand for cars in Saudi Arabia has fallen by some 50 % over 3 years to about 450,000 cars in 2018, as a drop in oil prices and departure of expatriates hit consumption, said Subhash Joshi, director of mobility practice at research firm Frost & Sullivan. “Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries have been persistently disappointing in terms of sales in recent years, so it’s not as if OEMs would be entering a booming market”, said Justin Cox, director of global production at LMC Automotive. Cox said countries such as Egypt and Turkey had more advantages for carmakers. Toyota has a €1.2 billion plant with an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles in Turkey, which is in a customs union with Europe. A plant Nissan set up in Egypt in 2005 with a $200 million investment will produce 28,000 cars this year. Cars imported into the GCC customs union which includes Saudi Arabia only attract a 5% tariff, offering little protection against cheap imports for countries trying to get domestic car production off the ground. Turkey and Egypt also provide experienced, cheap manpower while Riyadh has been reducing the number of foreign laborers to create jobs for Saudis, who prefer higher-paying public jobs. Some 10 million foreigners have been doing the strenuous, lower-paid jobs largely shunned by the 20 million nationals. Khalid al-Salem, who oversees the development of industrial cities, said the authorities were working on incentives to lure Saudis to industrial jobs instead of retail, where entry requirements are easier and pay is higher. He did not elaborate. It’s not the first time Saudi Arabia has attempted to lure automakers. In 2012, Jaguar Land Rover signed a deal to explore producing 50,000 Land Rovers a year in the kingdom at a cost of 4.5 billion riyals ($1.2 billion), but it never moved forward. The industry source said the British luxury brand got a better offer from Slovakia. “We continually review our global manufacturing footprint. At this time, our focus remains on our manufacturing presence in the UK, China, Brazil and mainland Europe”, Jaguar Land Rover said in an emailed response when asked about the Saudi project. 2 of the sources said Riyadh has also approached Nissan in recent years. They said the Japanese firm considered contract manufacturing through a 75 % Saudi-owned venture (without the Nissan brand) but the arrest of former chairman Carlos Ghosn last year meant it was off the table for now. Nissan declined to comment. While Saudi Arabia is struggling to lure carmakers, it does have a truck assembly industry. But analysts say assembling vehicles imported in kit form requires less investment and doesn’t create as many jobs as building cars from scratch. Economists say, however, that Saudi Arabia does have the potential to build competitive industries and create jobs in the mining and pharmaceutical sectors. The state is looking to triple mining’s contribution to gross domestic product by 2030 by focusing on untapped reserves of bauxite, phosphate, gold, copper and uranium. Saudi authorities estimate the country holds 500 million tonnes of phosphate ore, about 7 % of global proven reserves and a new mining law to boost foreign investment is being drafted. Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, said investment in mining infrastructure would likely have the most direct impact on developing new manufacturing industries. Pharmaceuticals is another strategic sector for NIDLP. About 25 local manufacturing plants produce 30 % of prescription drugs consumed now and the government wants to double the sector’s contribution to non-oil gross domestic product to 1.97 % by 2020. Suhasini Molkuvan, program manager at Frost & Sullivan, said the target was almost close to reality though a lack of investment in research and development and intellectual property left local firms dependent on multinationals. “Diversity is easier said than done”, said a senior Riyadh banker. “It might be achievable in 15 to 20 years if they continue to make the push”. +++ 

+++ SKODA is set to update its Kodiaq after nearly 3 years on sale. A reveal is anticipated later this year, with a showroom introduction in the second trimester of 2020. Following in the footsteps of the recently updated Superb, the Nissan X-Trail rival is set to receive similarly subtle styling tweaks and an interior technology upgrade. The most obvious visual changes will come in the form of redesigned bumpers and light units, with Skoda’s trademark grille design carried over from the outgoing model. New features for the facelifted Kodiaq are likely to include the matrix LED headlights already seen on the new Superb, along with advanced driver aids such as predictive cruise control. The refreshed Superb was revealed last month and will be available for the first time with a plug-in hybrid option. That system is also expected to make its way into the Kodiaq in due course. With a 156 hp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated to a 115 hp electric motor, PHEV variants of the new Superb are capable of 50 kilometres of pure electric range and a likely 7.4 seconds 0-100 kph time. The Kodiaq would not be able to match these figures due to its extra weight, but it shouldn’t be too far off. The facelifted Kodiaq will also be available with the the revised 2.0 TDI Evo diesel engine first seen fitted to the new Volkswagen Passat. This new unit offers improved fuel economy courtesy of a high-efficiency crank, steel pistons and reduced friction throughout. Inside, I anticipate mid-range versions of the Kodiaq will receive Skoda’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument panel for the first time. The unit already appears as a standard fixture on the range-topping vRS model. Following convention, the Kodiaq’s dashboard trim, interior plastics and upholstery will also get a minor refresh. +++

+++ TOYOTA will be adding new safety features to several vehicles starting with the 2020 modelyear, as the automaker has already confirmed 2 such systems. The first one will basically be an upgraded version of the 17-year old function that warns the driver to turn off a long-idling engine. This feature will automatically shut off the power unit, while also issuing visual and audible warnings on the Smart Key, where available. Another warning will be added to the smartphone app. This system has been acclaimed by Safety Research & Strategies, a vehicle and product safety company that criticized Toyota a few days before for the CO2-related deaths in their vehicles, linked to the keyless ignition system. At least 37 deaths have been recorded nationwide related to the system, yet the company’s head, Sean Kane, believes the number is higher. “This is a positive announcement, and we’re glad to see it happen. But with that being said, they’re late to the game and there are no plans in that announcement to fix the vehicles that are already on the road”, Kane said. In response, a Toyota spokesperson commented: “The safety and security of our customers are top priorities, and we sympathize with anyone in an accident involving one of our vehicles. We are pleased to see the positive response to this proactive approach. We will continue to comply with all applicable standards now and in the future”. The second system will remove the rollaway risk. Called Automatic Park, the function will automatically shift the vehicle into Park or apply the electronic emergency brake if it senses unbuckling of the seatbelt, no pressure on the brake pedal and the opening of the driver’s door. +++

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