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+++ Earlier in 2019, AUDI announced the TT’s future looked murky at best. The company explained the model was unlikely to be replaced by another 2-door coupe powered by a gasoline-burning engine because it competes in a segment of the market that’s shrinking. Company boss Bram Schot clarified what he meant (and, significantly, what he didn’t mean) when he said the TT wouldn’t return for a 4th generation. Schot told that he was tired of hearing people whine about the TT’s demise, which he announced in May. He candidly said that every second question he has been asked during interviews held since the announcement were about the TT, and what’s next for the model. He shared more information about what enthusiasts can expect for the TT during the 2020s. “I am a person of flesh and blood, and I also like beautiful things”, he said. “Of course, there will be a successor!” He conceded the TT’s successor will likely cost more money to develop than it will generate, and he added his team hasn’t decided whether the model will come with a 4-cylinder engine, or with a battery-electric powertrain as previously announced. He didn’t comment on the earlier reports suggesting it will take the form of a 4-door fastback (a “4-door coupe” in marketing-speak) instead of a 2-door coupe. Audi has time to answer all of these questions, because the TT’s successor (regardless of what it looks like and what it’s powered by) won’t make its debut until the early 2020s. What’s certain, however, is that the company plans to keep a design icon in its line-up in the foreseeable future. +++ 

+++ A potential AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE partnership between Ford and Volkswagen would cement the pair as leaders and validate Ford’s under-the-radar efforts in the uncertain market. Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess this month confirmed the 2 sides are nearing a deal on robocar development, telling a group of company executives talks are “progressing well.” In February, Diess praised Ford as “one of the pioneers on autonomous”. The partnership is likely to include an investment in Ford affiliate Argo AI, and a deal could be announced as early as July. Although details remained unclear, experts say a deal would enable Ford and Volkswagen to scale the technology more quickly and secure footholds in markets around the world. An investment by a second major automaker would help Argo continue its high-cost development. As a sign of its intentions, Volkswagen split with its former autonomous-vehicle partner, Aurora Innovation, a startup founded by an all-star cast including former Google engineer Chris Urmson and former Tesla Autopilot program director Sterling Anderson. “It’s a vote of confidence in the work the team at Argo is doing”, Sam Abuelsamid, a principal research analyst at Navigant Research, told. “They see it as being further along and closer to being production-ready than what they were seeing from Aurora”. A partnership would continue a trend of rivals teaming up in the self-driving market. Honda last year said it would invest $2.75 billion in General Motors’ Cruise autonomous-vehicle unit, and Waymo last week teamed with Renault and Nissan. “They would make a formidable team”, Abuelsamid said of Ford and Volkswagen. Argo, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been methodical in its approach to developing and testing autonomous vehicles since Ford in 2017 said it would invest $1 billion in the startup over 5 years. Argo’s goals, much like Ford’s, revolve around safety and a clear, human-centered design. “I think we’re still in horse-and-carriage days of AVs”, Argo CEO Bryan Salesky said during a presentation last month in Los Angeles. “I’m extremely bullish about the future, but we all have to sort of be true to a vision and be sure we’re doing this in the right way. We all have to be honest with folks about how quickly this can get out there. Otherwise we’re going to increase expectations and it’s going to hurt us in the long run”. Although Ford and Argo have been perceived as laggards in the market compared with General Motors and Waymo, they have been working to launch a Level 4 autonomous vehicle at scale for commercial purposes in 2021. “Argo is a company that’s very committed to developing a really safe, robust system that can work in different conditions”, Abuelsamid said. “They’re getting a lot of experience in different environments”. Argo this month said it would begin testing in Detroit, its fifth U.S. market. It also tests in Pittsburgh, Miami, Washington and Palo Alto, California. Abuelsamid said Ford is probably not worried about sharing with Volkswagen proprietary technology that it has been developing with Argo. “It’s going to be difficult to get product differentiation in AV driving systems; they’re ultimately probably going to feel all the same”, he said. “Giving some of that proprietary ownership to Volkswagen, I think, is less of a threat from a product standpoint, and it gives Ford the ability to spread out the cost and leverage some scale sooner than they would on their own”. +++ 

+++ CHINA has scrapped its list of recommended battery suppliers, the industry ministry said; a decision foreign companies said could open up the world’s biggest market for electric vehicle batteries. China, the world’s largest new energy vehicle (NEV) market, has seen increased investment from South Korean battery makers LG Chem and Samsung SDI amid expectations for a gradual change in policy. The list, which did not include foreign firms when it was first published in 2015 to spur a domestic battery sector, was abolished as part of government management reforms, the ministry said on its website. It gave no further details. Foreign makers complained the list discouraged competition and became linked to generous subsidies for recommended domestic companies such as Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) and BYD. “We are relieved that these lists are going away, but we cannot be certain if the Chinese government is committed to abolish subsidies until they actually remove all subsidy policies”, said an official at one foreign battery maker who declined to be named. China has raised its standards for new energy vehicles (NEV) that qualify for subsidies and reduced the amount it is willing to provide to relevant companies, as it looks to wean the sector off government support. Growth in NEV sales has slowed in recent months after growing rapidly in past years. +++ 

+++ Citroen has taken a surprising approach when it comes to the successor of the C4 CACTUS . The put it in as few words as possible, it won’t get a direct replacement, and the ‘Cactus’ moniker might reportedly die with it, at least in the foreseeable future. The information has been brought forward by the company’s product chief, Xavier Peugeot. “For the time being, this car is our C-segment hatch offer. Our next C-segment car to come will replace the C4 Cactus. This will be the end of the Cactus. For the name, I don’t know yet, but for the car, yes”. Could this mean that a new generation C4 hatchback is coming? Perhaps, and it sure seems like a very good time to consider it, given that the second-generation Peugeot 308 is in for a major makeover. The 308 was launched back in 2013, and it’s in dying need of a new generation to rival the likes of the latest Ford Focus, upcoming Volkswagen Golf and refreshed Renault Mégane. In turn, a new Citroen compact hatchback will challenge the likes of the same cars, as well as others in Europe’s competitive segment. However, it might not be limited to the Old Continent, as everyone knows that Peugeot will relaunch in the U.S. market next decade, so there’s a (small) possibility that sister-brand Citroen might follow in its footsteps. If the C4 Cactus still seems appealing, even after the facelift that has made it less funky, then you can still get one. In The Netherlands, the comfort-focused crossover kicks off at €21,990. +++ 

+++ CITROEN ’s product planning boss says the firm is committed to offering ‘traditional’ car styles in the future, despite its recent focus on SUVs, but adds that it will approach future models “in an unconventional way”. The French firm is currently undergoing a major range renewal, which has focused on introducing new and updated SUV models, because of their rapidly rising popularity. That has involved dropping largely traditional cars from its line-up, for example, with the C4 replaced by the higher-riding C4 Cactus. But Xavier Peugeot says that, with key models such as the C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross in place, attention will now switch to other body shapes. “There are not only SUVs in the world: there are hatches, saloons and estates, and there are lots of markets in which these other types of car play a role”, Peugeot told. “That means we have to give an answer to meet that demand and we will. “But there is one thing connected to our DNA: we will not consider additional silhouettes in a classical way. Citroën’s DNA is rooted in a bold capacity to shake the rules and move the standards”. With large saloons still popular in the key Chinese market, Citroën is developing a replacement for the C5 and C6, which will be based on the C-xperience concept seen at the 2016 Paris motor show. Peugeot said that any such car would be based on the PSA Group’s LMP2 platform used for the recent Peugeot 508. Peugeot admitted a bold design could prove divisive, but noted the same was true of the firm’s ‘airbumps’ and said: “A Citroën has to be easily identified. I love it when people go ‘wow, I love it’, while others go ‘mmm, not sure’. We just need to get the balance right. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER shares fell after the German automaker cut its profit forecast for the third time in 12 months, saying it was setting aside hundreds of millions of euros to cover a regulatory crackdown on diesel emissions. The warning, that group operating profit would be flat this year compared with previous expectations for a slight increase, was the first under new chief executive Ola Källenius and led some analysts to call for a fresh approach from his team. “Best execution and accountability remain core areas of improvement that need to be addressed by the new management”, Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said in a research note. “The endless array of so-called one-time effects raises questions regarding process, management information systems and ultimately accountability of management”.  Carmakers have been grappling with a crackdown on diesel emissions since 2015, when German rival Volkswagen admitted to cheating U.S. pollution tests on diesel engines. The pressure has come at a time when the industry is also having to invest heavily in electric and self-driving vehicles, cope with slowing growth in China, weak markets in Europe and a rise in global trade tensions. In May, German competitor BMW warned on profits, citing higher than expected investments, while Volkswagen said the return on sales at its passenger cars division would come in at the lower end of its target. Daimler declined to give details on the diesel problems it is facing, and did not say precisely how much money it was setting aside. It cited “various ongoing governmental proceedings and measures” related to Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles, and said provisions were likely to reach “a high 3-digit million euro amount”. However, the profit warning followed news that Daimler must recall 60,000 Mercedes diesel cars in Germany after regulators found they were fitted with software aimed at distorting emissions tests. The transport ministry said it was expanding its investigation to more models. Stuttgart-based Daimler is being investigated over diesel emissions in Europe and the United States. It issued a similar profit warning on diesel issues in October. In April, EU antitrust regulators charged BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler with colluding to block the rollout of clean emissions technology. While Daimler was a whistleblower in that case and said at the time it expected to avoid fines, BMW booked a provision of more than €1 billion. Daimler also said it was reducing its forecast for the return on sales for Mercedes-Benz vans. It now sees a return between minus 2 % and minus 4 %, below its previous forecast of 0 % to 2 %. Car executives are due to meet with government officials and experts in Berlin to talk about the future of the car industry, a major employer and source of export income in Europe’s largest economy. +++

+++ You have to feel a bit sorry for poor ol’ EUISUN Chung at the minute. Okay, he’s not that poor (personal wealth around $3 billion) and he’s comparatively young (in his forties). But he’s a bit like Prince Charles in that, although he’s chugging along quite comfortably, he can’t yet inherit the top job, full responsibility, plus mega-salary package until his much-loved elderly parent abdicates or dies. You see, Euisun’s dad is Mong-Koo Chung, who’s the closest thing that South Korea’s got to a king. The 81-year old is the hard-as-nails chairman and CEO of Hyundai, Kia and Genesis and has even more billions than his boy, who’s merely the group’s chief vice-chairman. This is despite the fact that the heir apparent has, in effect, just taken over the day-to-day running of the colossal organisation, while his old man spends more (but not all) days at home. Yet even before Euisun is crowned and allowed to sit formally on the Hyundai-Kia-Genesis throne, he’s making waves, doing a great job by bravely taking the group into areas it hasn’t previously occupied. Only last month he plonked almost $100 million into the coffers of Croatian hypercar manufacturer Rimac, because he correctly concludes it usually takes decades to turn a car brand from zero to hero. Although he believes he’s just about done that with Hyundai and Kia (less so with Genesis), it’s wiser to simply buy into an existing hypercar brand. Chung Jr knows better than anyone that he must soon possess a premium 4×4/SUV line-up(s). This explains his alleged interest in buying financially troubled Jaguar Land Rover, which his rapidly expanding clan could easily afford to adopt and nurture. More certain, though, is that Euisun will not enter into a mega-merger with a giant corporation such as Ford or Mercedes-Benz, who his dad and other family members had unsatisfactory dealings with in the past. The days of Hyundai-Kia needing help from supposedly superior US and German-based mainstream car makers are gone. But he’s willing to and is actively recruiting the world’s top car designers from Europe and elsewhere. And, in recent days, Chung Jr has done an extraordinary deal with an Israeli company, which paves the way for ambulance services and other health professionals to receive the condition of drivers and passengers just seconds after they’ve been involved in accidents on the road. Away from cars but still within his remit, Euisun Chung has set up a secret building for extreme blue-sky thinking from his in-house creatives. Rumour has it he fancies moving further into the communications industry to challenge arch-rival Samsung, and last week he vowed to have a high-speed hydrogen train up and running by 2020. Honest. If Chung Jr is doing all this genuinely game-changing stuff before he’s crowned king of the Hyundai-Kia-Genesis castle, imagine how ridiculously free-thinking and productive he’ll be when he is permitted to sit on the throne and wear that crown. The most significant and powerful car bloke of the next decade or 2? Probably. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) and Renault – Nissan are reportedly still open to a potential merger but executives are wary of conditions imposed by both sides that could hinder the efforts for restarting talks. Renault officials remain optimistic, expecting that the outcome of Nissan’s shareholder meeting this week will enable them to restart the merger negotiations with FCA. Nissan has also not rejected the possibility of an eventual deal but wants to reshape the alliance’s structure in order for them to be flexible and independent from each other. Renault CEO Thierry Bollore said previously that there are no talks between them and FCA after the latter withdrew its proposal. FCA took their merger proposal off the table after the French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, sought to further delay the talks in order to persuade Nissan to get on board with the deal. FCA officially put the blame on “political conditions in France” for its decision, and in order for the merger talks to restart, the French government must give up its sway over Renault according to people with knowledge of the situation. Renault’s priority right now is to repair the relationship with Nissan, with the French government deeming it critical for the success of an FCA – Renault marriage. A potential deal between Renault – Nissan and FCA could create the world’s third largest automaker, offering big cost savings to all involved as the development of Electric Vehicles and autonomous-driving technologies ramps up. +++

+++ FORD has released the final performance figures for the new Focus ST hot hatch, which are pretty impressive to say the least. The new Focus ST is powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost petrol engine with 280 hp and 420 Nm sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual or an optional seven-speed automatic transmission. Now Ford confirms that the most powerful version of the new Focus ST is capable of a 0-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds, the same exact figure with the Honda Civic Type R, and a 250 km/h top speed. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that Ford claims that the new Focus ST offers faster in-gear acceleration than the previous-gen Focus RS. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost unit comes with a twin-scroll turbocharger, which helps produce more power and deliver boost pressure faster. There’s also an innovative anti-lag system that can hold the throttle open for up to 3 seconds after the driver backs off the accelerator, a flat-shift capability and a launch control system. “The all-new Focus ST is about more than just straight-line speed, but the ability to go toe-to-toe with the now legendary Focus RS over a quarter-mile sprint shows just how much the Ford Performance team has moved the game on in the last 4 years”, said Leo Roeks, Ford Performance director, Europe. “We’ve drawn inspiration from the Ford GT supercar, F-150 Raptor pick-up, Ford Mustang and Fiesta ST to develop a Focus ST capable of punching you in the back the moment you hit the throttle”. And because the new Focus ST isn’t just about straight line speed, the new hot hatch comes with Ford’s first electronic limited-slip differential for a front-wheel drive model. According to the company, the new limited-slip differential offers greater precision than a mechanical one and can apply differential locking gradually. This is paired with Continuously Controlled Damping technology, offering the driver three pre-set levels: one for Slippery/Wet and Normal modes, one for Sport mode, and finally one for Track mode -which delivers up to twice the vertical load resistance of Sport mode. The new Ford Focus ST will be available in both Hatchback and Wagon bodystyles, featuring either the 280 hp 2.3-liter EcoBoost or the 190 hp 2.0-liter EcoBlue diesel. The 7-speed automatic transmission for the 2.3-liter ST models will be introduced this autumn. +++

+++ The French fiscal administration has launched an in-depth probe into the wealth of former Renault-Nissan Chairman Carlos GHOSN , French daily Liberation reported, citing sources. Ghosn, who holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, is facing financial misconduct charges, which he denies. He was freed in April from jail in Japan on $4.5 million bail. Suspect expenses Ghosn made when he chaired carmakers Renault and Nissan amounted to about €11 million, Renault’s board said in a statement on June 4. A notification on the investigation was sent to Ghosn and his wife. Francois Zimeray, one of the lawyers for Ghosn, said he had not been informed. +++

+++ Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has revealed an assortment of details about their future product lineup. During a presentation earlier this month, the company said their new Modular Longitudinal Architecture will be launched on a “large SUV and a large premium sedan”. The company didn’t go into specifics, but the models are believed to be the next-generation Range Rover and Jaguar XJ. The next XJ will be launched as an electric vehicle, with a V6-powered variant arriving sometime afterwards. That remains unconfirmed, but JLR’s presentation confirmed there were be mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric versions of their upcoming X-Series sedans. More specifically, Jaguar Land Rover’s presentation revealed that electric vehicles based on the MLA platform will have a 90.2 kWh battery pack which will give them a range of up to 470 km. The presentation also revealed plug-in hybrid variants based on the architecture will have a 13.1 kWh battery and an electric-only range of up to 50 km. Speaking of JAGUAR , future Pace models will gain mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains. The company also revealed the future F-Type will have mild-hybrid and conventional powertrains. More interestingly, the company alluded to a possible electric variant by putting a question mark next to their EV logo. On the Land Rover side of things, both the Range Rover and Discovery families will offer mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric variants. However, the upcoming Defender won’t follow this trend. Despite rumors of an electric model, JLR’s presentation only confirmed mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. +++ 

+++ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has revealed Uconnect Market, a digital commerce platform for infotainment systems. The marketplace allows drivers to use their touchscreen for finding gas stations and paying for fuel, making restaurant reservations, ordering pizza, or securing a parking spot. The platform will also provide an easy way to locate a certified Mopar service center and schedule an appointment. The Uconnect Market meshes with FCA’s goal of having all new vehicles connected to cloud-based features by 2022. The automaker plans to begin rolling out Uconnect Market via an over-the-air update in the second half of the year for 2019 and 2020 Chrysler, Dodge, JEEP , and Ram models. +++

+++ LOTUS ’ upcoming hypercar could be called the Evija, after the British sports car manufacturer filed to trademark the name. Currently known as the Type 130, the electric hypercar will be revealed in the coming weeks. The firm has applied to registered the Evija name under a variety of different trademark classes, ranging from toys to vehicle development. This suggests the British firm is more than just ring-fencing the name for possible future use. However, Lotus declined to comment. The Type 130 will be officially revealed on 16 July at a special event in London. The proximity of the launch is another indicator that Evija is, in fact, the name Lotus has decided on for the vehicle. The all-electric Type 130 will be Lotus’s first all-new model in over a decade and marks the firm’s rebirth under its new owner, the Chinese auto giant Geely. Other than its limited production run of just 130 units, little has been confirmed about the new model. Much like Aston Martin’s ‘V-badged’ cars (such as the Vantage, Vanquish and Virage), Lotus’s Evija nameplate follows the brand’s long lineage of ‘E-badged’ range of vehicles. Since 1956, and the birth of the Lotus Eleven racer, the British manufacturer has issued its cars with ten names starting with the letter “E,” including Elite, Elan, Esprit, Evora and Exige. +++

+++ The new MINI John Cooper Works GP will make its official debut towards the end of this year, with sales starting in 2020. Production will be limited to just 3,000 units when it reaches the global market next year. The John Cooper Works GP III will be a cut above the standard John Cooper Works. It will feature far more aggressive bodywork, with a new splitter, a reworked diffuser, a huge rear wing and a set of wildly flared wheel arches; necessary to accommodate the car’s wider front and rear track. The squared-off wheel arches will be lifted from the GP Concept revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2017. The production version will get the GP’s trademark 4-spoke alloys. It’ll feature a range of chassis upgrades over the current John Cooper Works range-topper, including a reworked suspension set-up, bigger brakes and a new differential. Development is still underway, but Mini claims the new model is capable of a sub-8 minute Nurburgring lap-time, placing it within the territory of the Honda Civic Type R. Mini has also confirmed that it’ll be powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with “more than 300 hp.” The engine will likely be a highly tuned version of the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit from the standard JCW, outfitted with a larger turbocharger, a new intercooler system and a reworked exhaust. The showroom model probably won’t go to the same weight-saving extremes as the GP Concept, but it is expected to shed a few kilogrammes over the standard John Cooper Works. The rear seat will likely be removed, along with a considerable amount of sound deadening. +++ 

+++ Someone posed the question the other day whether Gordon MURRAY ’s new McLaren F1 successor, the T.50, was a step backwards to simpler times. In fact, the new supercar achieves the objective of high efficiency in every department without resorting to complex technology but by returning to basic principles. The T.50 is so light, at 980 kg, that Murray can get away with a naturally aspirated engine without being forced to use turbochargers and downsizing for efficiency reasons. The weight saving triggers the virtuous circle that is generally so elusive because the spiralling size and weight of cars usually prevents it. Murray’s bespoke 3.9-litre V12 engine needs less low-down torque than it would for a much heavier car so the focus can be on power. Power is essentially torque multiplied by engine revs. Up to a point, the faster an engine goes, the more torque-generating combustion events happen per minute, so the engine does more work. The T.50 engine revs to more than 12,000 rpm, said to be the highest revving to date in a production car, and on the way will peak at 650 hp. The engine will have variable valve timing (VVT) to overcome the problem all combustion engines have of working well at both low and high revs. Most modern engines have it, but it’s essential if very high-performance engines like this are to remain drivable at all speeds. Valves are opened and closed by camshafts (shafts running at half engine speed) with carefully shaped knobs set along the length (cams), one for each valve. The shape or ‘profile’ of the cams controls how much a valve opens, at what rate (suddenly or more slowly) and, crucially, when it starts to open and close. By opening valves for longer, there’s time to get more fuel and air in and exhaust out at high revs, where the big horsepower lives. The problem is that at low revs, the engine won’t run properly, because with so much time on its hands, fuel and air goes in one end and straight out of the other. Time is of the essence for a combustion engine: time to draw air into a cylinder, time to mix the fuel with the air and, surprisingly, the time it takes for the fuel to burn completely in the combustion chamber. That part might seem instantaneous but it isn’t. Petrol engine combustion is a fire, not a detonation. It was virtually impossible to have the best of both worlds until the arrival of Honda’s VTEC system, which switches between two different camshaft profiles, for high-revving power and low-down flexibility. The simplest and most common form of VVT is cam phasing, which progressively rotates a camshaft forwards or backwards in relation to the crankshaft, varying the timing of valves opening and closing but not the amount the valves open (valve lift). Exactly what sort of VVT the T.50 engine has is yet to be revealed, but whatever system it uses, it will exploit the basic need for VVT to achieve a successful marriage between drivability and outright, brutal power. +++ 

+++ NISSAN shareholders are widely expected to back chief executive Hiroto Saikawa at an annual general meeting, extending his tumultuous tenure at an automaker shaken by scandal and the loss of trust with alliance partner Renault. Japan’s second-largest carmaker will hold its first annual shareholders meeting since the ouster of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn last year, and just days after Saikawa resolved a highly publicized tussle with top shareholder Renault over Nissan’s corporate governance reforms. Although that maneuvering helped pull the Nissan – Renault alliance back from the brink of crisis, the former Ghosn lieutenant is now faced with the unenviable task of trying to shore up a 2 decade old partnership that many in Japan see as lopsided, deeply inequitable and shot through with mistrust on both sides. “The most important thing is how to mitigate the damage; how to strengthen the alliance. I think both companies need to make their best efforts to overcome the mistrust”, said a person familiar with Nissan’s thinking. The partnership hit a new low this month when Renault demanded that its chairman and chief executive be appointed to newly formed governance committees at Nissan. If not, Renault signaled it would block Nissan from adopting its new governance structure; effectively ruining months of work by an outside body. Renault, by far the smaller of the 2, owns 43.4 % of Nissan after rescuing it from the brink of bankruptcy in 1999. Nissan owns 15 % of the French company, but without voting rights. That unequal relationship has long been a source of friction. There has been wide speculation that Renault’s governance move was a reprisal after Nissan had abstained from endorsing Renault’s planned merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The stand-off was averted when Nissan agreed to appoint Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard and Chief Executive Thierry Bollore to its audit and nominations committees, even as Nissan itself will not be represented on those committees. “Almost a week was spent in negotiations on the committees and clearly that would damage trust toward Renault and probably between the 2 companies”, said the person familiar with Nissan’s thinking. By agreeing to Renault’s demand, Saikawa has dialed down tensions and likely won a reprieve on his 2 year tenure. The embattled CEO will be re-appointed as a director if shareholders vote to approve a new 11 member board, a widely expected outcome with Renault’s backing. “If Renault abstained on the governance reform proposals, it would put a big question mark on Saikawa’s ability to manage Nissan as its chief executive”, one Nissan source said. Instead, Saikawa appears to have quelled internal concerns, at least for now, about his ability to manage the automaker’s relationship with Renault just as he also faces pressure to resuscitate Nissan’s flagging financial performance. Reappointment would also see him defy opposition by proxy advisors brought about by concerns that with Saikawa in charge, the automaker would be unable to make a “clean break” from the Ghosn era. Renault CEO Bollore is also a former Ghosn ally. In a rare public rebuke by international proxy firms against the leader of a top-tier Japanese firm, International Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis earlier this month urged Nissan shareholders to vote against reappointing Saikawa as a director. But people at both automakers said the recent tussle has dissolved the image of unity the companies promoted only months ago, and raised questions about whether Senard and Saikawa are the right people to shake the alliance free from Ghosn’s legacy in the longer term. “Senard has been a disappointment for us. Trust in him has fallen quite a bit”, said a second person familiar with Nissan’s thinking. Industry experts acknowledge that a break-up of the alliance is unlikely given that operations at Nissan and Renault are so deeply intertwined: the automakers have joined forces on research and development, procurement and production, leveraging their combined scale to lower costs. “Maybe the alliance can be salvaged, but maybe not by this group of people”, said Chris Richter, senior research analyst at brokerage CLSA. “It seems like both of these companies have a lot to offer, but the current players just can’t get along”. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN does not expect to have problems with supplies of battery cells for its new wave of full-electric cars. Other automakers, including Audi and Hyundai, have suffered bottlenecks in battery supplies. By 2021, the Volkswagen Group plans to build 330,000 electric vehicles a year for its VW, Audi and Seat brands at its plant in Zwickau, Germany. The first is the ID.3, which starts series production later this year after its debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September. The ID.3, the first of a new family of purpose-built VW brand EVs, will be delivered to the first customers in mid-2020. “I can confirm that for the first years of our plan, a sufficient supply of cells has been contractually secured”, said Thomas Ulbrich, VW brand management board member in charge of electric mobility, adding this was the case until 2023. Ulbrich refuted speculation in the German press that VW’s current battery cell suppliers may cancel contracts after VW’s decision to invest €1 billion in a battery cell plant in Salzgitter, Germany, with Swedish partner Northvolt. “They probably hoped to maintain an oligopoly for a very long time”, Ulbirch said. “We have the contracts so no one is going to stand there and tell us ‘we are not going to supply you any more, help yourselves if you want to build them anyway’; that’s not possible”. VW’s electric rollout translates into battery demand of more than 300 gigawatt hours in Europe and Asia alone in the next 10 years, outstripping current market capacities. VW has picked LG Chem, Samsung and SK Innovation as battery suppliers for Europe along with Contemporary Amperex Technology for China. It later added SK Innovation as partner for North America as well, starting in 2022. VW is making changes to its battery-purchasing plan over concerns that supply deal with Samsung, might unravel, Bloomberg reported in May.  VW could now only source fewer than 5 gigawatt hours of cells from Samsung SDI rather than the 20 GWh initially planned, sources told. Ulbrich did not deny the news about Samsung, saying that the automaker is and will be looking for future supply to cover its growing demand. “Our procurement needs continue after that first wave however”, he told reporters in Berlin. “You will likely see us permanently in negotiations for cells for the next 3 to 5 years”. Reports have suggested that VW Group’s Audi brand is having difficulty with production bottlenecks for EV batteries. Audi has revised downward planned production for its first Electric Vehicle, the e-Tron at its Brussels factory. Audi planned to build 55,830 units this year but the number has been revised to 45,242. Audi launched sales of the e-Tron in Europe in March. In addition, Audi has been forced to push back its plans to start production of the e-Tron Sportback to 2020 from the end of this year. The reason is a shortage of supply of battery cells from LG Chem, a factory insider told. Audi has added Samsung SDI as a battery cell supplier for the e-Tron. When Hyundai launched a battery-powered version of its Kona in Europe last year, the waiting list for the car was up to a year because of a constraints in the availability of the batteries, Lee Ki-sang, head of Hyundai’s eco-technology development center, told in October. VW brand aims to build more than 1 million electric cars a year in factories in Europe, China and the U.S. by 2025. +++

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