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+++ European Union states opened the way to competing technologies for 5G INTERNET connected cars, rejecting a European Commission push for a wifi-based standard backed by Volkswagen. The result represents a win for BMW and Qualcomm which support a rival 5G telecoms system. Germany, France and Italy, with powerful car industries, were among 21 countries to vote against the EC proposal at a Brussels meeting of EU representatives, an EU official said. This contrasted with EU lawmakers in April who endorsed the wifi plan over 5G technology. The auto and tech industries have been split over which technology works better and is safer. The European Commision, which wants to set benchmarks for a market that could generate billions of euros in revenues for carmakers, telecoms operators and equipment makers, has said wifi is available now, unlike 5G, and would help road safety. “We will therefore continue to work together with member states to address their concerns and find a suitable way forward”, European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in a statement. Other supporters of wifi technology, which primarily connects cars with other cars, include NXP, Renault and Toyota. Meanwhile the backers of fifth generation (5G) standard, which will hook up to both cars and devices in the surrounding environment, include Daimler, Ford, PSA, Huawei, Intel and Samsung. Supporters of 5G say it has a wider range of applications in areas such as entertainment, traffic data and navigation. The vote was welcomed by telecoms lobbying group ETNO, whose members have spent billions investing in 5G. “Mobile solutions and 5G are back in the road safety picture. The automotive industry is now free to choose the best technology to protect road users and drivers”, ETNO director general Lise Fuhr said. 5G supporter 5GAA said the vote represented “a strong signal to the Commission that technology neutrality should prevail”, chief technology officer Maxime Flament said. “Only a level-playing field between existing technologies will allow safer, more efficient mobility on European roads”. EU ministers are due to meet on July 8 when they are expected to formally reject the wifi proposal. +++ 

+++ The BMW X7 is one of the most luxurious and desirable SUVs on the market, but ALPINA is already working on improving it. Alpina chief executive Andreas Bovensiepen said about a spotted X7 prototype with Alpina wheels: “Like I said, we want to work with the big SUVs”. Bovensiepen added: “It’s too early to tell, but I think the Alpina X7 would be great for the U.S.” The company’s boss wouldn’t say anything else about the X7 which his company is working on. However, it is not hard to imagine what could distinguish the vehicle from lesser versions. For starters, Alpina will, in all likelihood, fit the vehicle with the same twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 found in other Alpina models, such as the 7-Series-based B7. That would mean a luxurious SUV with a cool 608 hp and 800 Nm of torque. We’re sure U.S. customers would be very appreciative of having an X7 with so much power under their right foot. Alpina would also work its magic on both the exterior and interior and fit new bumpers, wheels, and a bespoke exhaust, as well as a sportier suspension to keep the extra oomph in check. It’s unclear if the Alpina X7 has been given the go-ahead for production, but if it has, we will probably see it premiere sometime within the next 12-24 months. +++ 

+++ BMW has joined Ford in creating media events that try to deliver messages that go beyond a product launch and recognize the fading communication strength of traditional auto shows. On June 25, BMW gathered over 400 people (media, influencers and financial analysts) in its BMW Welt brand experience center in Munich to unveil many new products and provide an update on its electrification, autonomous-driving and connected-car programs. The event, called NextGen, is similar in format to Ford’s Go Further, a communication strategy that the U.S. automaker’s European division started in Amsterdam in September 2012 to unveil the new Mondeo. Since then, Ford has skipped several key European auto shows, replicating Go Further events in Barcelona in November 2013 to unveil the new Mustang, then in Cologne in November 2016 to unveil the new Fiesta and this past April, again in Amsterdam, to unveil the new Kuga, preview the new Puma and provide an update on electrification. BMW’s chief technical officer, Klaus Fröhlich, said NextGen is a “better format than motor shows, more intense, more dialogue”. During NextGen, BMW for the first time showed 6 models; the 8 series Gran Coupe, M8 Coupe and M8 Cabrio, the new 1 series, the 3 series Touring and revamped X1. But all these debuts were overshadowed by another animal not previewed before. The Vision M Next concept is a glimpse of future M top models, combining performance (600 hp) with a plug-in hybrid powertrain permitting up to 100 km of zero-emission driving. The head of sales and marketing for the BMW brand, Peter Nota, was not particularly worried that the Vision M Next could have overshadowed other model debuts: “What is important is that the world talks of BMW”, he told me. At the Munich event, I ran into Arndt Ellinghorst, a financial analyst at Evercore ISI in London, who said that he was impressed by the size of NextGen and that he sees how these types of events will replace auto shows over time, offering benefits in content, exclusivity and cost. BMW said it has not decided the frequency of its NextGen events (Ford lately has switched to a 3-year cadence for its Go Furthers) but does not consider this being a one-off. My take? Mixed. Events like this permit a deep dive into an automaker’s strategy that goes well beyond a product launch. These events also clearly show that some automakers want to build their own communication silos where they play their own music, without any external distraction. While I completely understand this view from the automaker’s side, I think the role of traditional auto shows should not be downplayed. Even if suffering, traditional shows remain the perfect place to see and talk with automakers and to generate a broader and more diverse view of the complete picture. And this is what really matters to me. +++ 

+++ The CADILLAC CTS , once GM’s premium sedan rival to the Germans, is no more, after the announcement that production at the Lansing Grand River plant in Michigan has ceased. Cadillac spokesperson Tara Kuhnen confirmed the news in a statement provided to Cadillac Society, bringing an end to a vehicle which has been a staple in Cadillac’s range for 16 years. The new CT5 will fill the void left behind by the CTS and shall be built at the same plant. Production of the CTS first started for the 2003 model year and, in standard form, depending on the year, the it was sold with a 3.2-liter V6 with 220 hp, a 3.6-liter V6 delivering 255 hp and, later, a 2.8-liter V6. In 2004, the high-performance CTS-V made its premiere and was outfitted with a 400 hp, 5.7-liter LS6 V8 engine. Cadillac introduced the second-generation CTS in 2008, underpinned by the Sigma II platform. With the new generation, a new-and-improved CTS-V launched, powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 556 hp to really put the Europeans on notice. Perhaps the most significant changes to the CTS were made in its third-generation, when it was “moved” to GM’s Alpha platform and shifted from being a BMW 3-Series rival to one targeting the 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It was in the vehicle’s third generation when things for the CTS-V were turned up to 11 and the car’s supercharged 6.2-liter V8 delivered 640 hp, making it the most powerful Cadillac ever. +++

+++ The EUROPEAN UNION is starting to act like China when it comes to building the batteries that will drive the next generation of electric vehicles. In the past few months, government officials led by European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic have joined with manufacturers, development banks and commercial lenders on measures that will channel more than €100 billion into a supply chain for the lithium ion packs that will power electric cars. Germany and France are prodding for action out of concern that China is racing ahead in new technologies sweeping the auto industry. With 13.8 million jobs representing 6.1 % of employment linked to traditional auto manufacturing in the EU, authorities want to ensure that manufacturers can pivot toward supplying electric cars and batteries. “We are walking the talk”, Sefcovic said in remarks to Bloomberg. “We have overcome an initial resignation that this battle would be a lost one for Europe”. A number of trends are catalyzing the program, starting with the determination by EU nations to rein in greenhouse gases and fight climate change. They are increasingly focused on reducing pollution from diesel engines and alarmed at the head start Chinese companies have in greener technologies. French president Emmanuel Macron in February said he “cannot be happy with a situation where 100 % of the batteries of my electric vehicles are produced in Asia”. So far, the EU’s program is starting to work and putting Europe on track to wrest market share away from China. By 2025, European companies that currently lack a single large battery maker will rival the U.S. in terms of capacity. Measures that will spur investment include: 1) France and Germany are working on measures to channel billions of euros into the battery industry. Sefcovic has said the European Commission may be able to embrace the state-aid proposal as a special project by the end of October. The 2 nations are seeking to draw in additional support from Spain, Sweden and Poland. 2) The European Investment Bank gave preliminary approval in May to a €350 million loan supporting NorthVolt’s bid to build a battery gigafactory in Sweden after the company completed a fund raising. 3) The EIB along with the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development are working on a “raw materials investment facility” that will help to build a supply chain for rare earth metals needed for batteries, according to Sefcovic who says he hopes the program will be launched by the end of the year. 4) The EU in May started a €100 million Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund with Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other investors to advance the energy transition, which is likely to include batteries. The EC has gathered at least 260 industrial companies including PSA Group, Total and Siemens in an alliance aimed at building capacity to make the energy storage devices in Europe. “A year or 2 ago, everyone was under the impression that it was already too late for Europe”, said James Frith, an energy storage analyst in London. “But they’ve made a commitment, and Europe is in a strong position now”. By 2025, Europe may control 11 % of global battery cell manufacturing capacity, up from 4 % now, according to Frith. That will pare back China’s market share and rival the U.S. command of the industry. The EC estimates the battery market may be worth €250 billion a year by then. It estimates at least €100 billion already has been committed to battery factories or their suppliers in Europe. The goal is to build enterprises in Europe that could supply the region’s automakers without requiring imports from the major battery manufacturing centers in Asia. Currently, Contemporary Amperex Technology, or CATL, and BYD dominate production in China. Elon Musk’s Tesla is also building battery gigafactories in the U.S. So far, Europe has no established battery supply chain, though it has drawn investment in local factories from Korean firms including LG Chem and Samsung SDI as well as CATL. The new ambition of the Commission is to stimulate companies big enough to supply the likes of BMW and Volkswagen Group, which plan a massive increase in electric-car production. Across the industry, the outlook is for a rising portion of cars to run on batteries in the coming years. No single company will get the lion’s share of the investment or aid. Instead, dozens will benefit in addition to PSA and Total, which are building a cell plant in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Funds will also trickle into suppliers of parts or raw materials including Siemens, Umicore, Solvay and Manz. Scarred by losing control of the solar industry in the last decade, Germany is leading the push. The nation was the biggest producer of solar cells in the early 2000s before Chinese companies backed by government loans took the lead. When it comes to batteries, Economy and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier is focused on the 800,000 jobs in Germany tied directly to car manufacturing. Batteries account for about a third of the value of an electric car, and without facilities to make those in Europe, more jobs will go to Asia, Altmaier has said. “There’s going to be huge demand in Europe for battery cells”, Altmaier said on Germany’s ARD Television in June. “We must have the ambition to build the best battery cells in the world in Europe and Germany”. Sefcovic envisions 10 or 20 “gigafactories” making battery cells across Europe and with his support the European Battery Alliance is seeking to coordinate research that will be the foundation of the plan. NorthVolt intends to be one of the major battery makers, supplying BMW and other major automakers. “If we want to be one of the major manufacturers in Europe by 2030 we need to build about 150 gigawatt-hours of capacity”, said NorthVolt CEO Peter Carlsson. “The customer demand is so strong that we are accelerating our plans. We have taken a huge step on the way to create a new Swedish industry that will have a big impact in cutting our dependence of fossil fuels”. +++ 

+++ FORD has re-filed to secure the Mach 1 trademark for use on “land motor vehicles, namely, automobiles and their engines” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The moniker dates back to the late 1960s, when it was used to denote a performance-oriented option package for the Mustang. It was subsequently used by the third- and fourth-generation Mustang models, but after that seemed to be consigned to history books and classic car auctions. However, in early 2018, Ford revealed that it would revive the Mach 1 name for an all-electric performance crossover inspired by the Mustang. This announcement didn’t sit particularly well with the Mustang faithful and Ford soon indicated that it would drop the Mach 1 name. It later went on to file trademark applications for the names Mach-E and Mustang Mach-E. The Dearborn car manufacturer re-filed to trademark the Mach 1 name on June 24 but for the moment, it is difficult to say what Ford’s new plans for the Mach 1 badge are. In all likelihood, it is looking to re-trademark the name simply to secure it and ensure other companies cannot snap it up. It is also possible that Ford is looking to appease Mustang enthusiasts by actually using the Mach 1 name on a future variant of the iconic pony car. +++ 

+++ GENESIS is gradually making its presence felt across the United States, largely thanks to the introduction of the exciting G70 sports sedan. In the first half of this year, the South Korean car manufacturer sold 10,007 vehicles across the country. That’s nothing compared to the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi, but it is a 37.8 % improvement on the 7,262 vehicles sold during the first half of 2018. Last month proved to be particularly successful for Genesis as it sold a total of 1,887 vehicles compared to the 796 it sold in June 2018. The main reason for this significant jump in sales is the introduction of the G70, the cousin to the Kia Stinger. A total of 5,715 units have been sold in the fast half of this year and in June, there were 1,193 examples sold. By comparison, 3,353 Genesis G80s have been sold this year while 939 Genesis G90s were sold over the same period. These figures represent a significant 40.6 % decrease in sales of the G80 over last year and a 41.9 % decline for the G90. Genesis hasn’t said why sales of the G80 and G90 have decreased so significantly, but we suspect some customers are opting for the smaller and sportier G70 rather than its larger siblings. “Our year-over-year sales growth represents far more than an uptick”, chief operating officer of Genesis Motor America Erwin Raphael said. “Over the last 3 years, Genesis has already earned a reputation for consumer loyalty and satisfaction, and we are now well along the way to having a retail network to begin to achieve the sales to match”. Genesis is currently hard at working developing an all-new electric vehicle that’s set to take the fight to Tesla. Hyundai’s premium brand will base its future electric vehicles around a common architecture and both a zero-emissions sedan and SUV are in the works. Limited details about the first Genesis EV are known, but it will allegedly launch in 2021. If Genesis wants to pursue significant volume sales with its electric sedan, it would be wise to position it against the Tesla Model 3 (and the upcoming BMW i4) and offer it as an electric alternative to the G70. As for the SUV, it is also unclear what segment of the market it will compete in, but we expect it to line-up against the Tesla Model X. Another new Genesis model said to be in the pipeline is a production version of the cute Mint hatchback unveiled earlier this year. In May, chief executive Manfred Fitzgerald said he was pushing for it to be made. The automaker says that, once it is in the position to build the Mint, it will start technical discussions about what will underpin it. Limited details about the vehicle’s powertrain were announced when it was revealed as a concept. It is nevertheless thought to feature an all-electric powertrain offering up to 320 km of driving range and offer support for 350 kW fast charging. Before these EVs launch, however, Genesis shall unveil the new-generation G80 as well as the production version of the GV80 SUV concept. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI i30 N owners will soon be able to customise their cars with a range of new aerodynamic options and accessories. Options are a aggressive front splitter, finned side skirts and a set of lightweight, ten-spoke alloy wheels. Hyundai will also offer a range of interior upgrades. These stretch to a pair of leather and Alcantara trimmed sports seats, carbon fibre replacements for the air vent surrounds, door handles and dashboard and Alcantara trim for the steering wheel, gearstick gaiter and centre armrest. Other interior revisions could include Alcantara trim for the upper dash panel, sports pedals and red interior highlights. It’s likely that these extras will be sold to customers as official aftermarket accessories, as a bolt-on accessory pack. Last year, Hyundai confirmed at Paris that the ‘N Option’ pack would be launched in the “near future.” The Korean manufacturer is yet to fix a launch date for its ‘N Option’ pack but, as the parts are currently being tested on one of the company’s mules, I expect it will be soon. +++ 

+++ The production version of the LEXUS LC Convertible is due to go on sale in 2020. With a contoured rear deck designed to store a retractable roof, the convertible retains the same dimensions as the LC coupé. The LC Convertible is being positioned as a halo model for Lexus, with the company hinting that its design will serve as the inspiration for future models. Talking in January, David Christ, Lexus Group vice president, said the LC coupé is “one of the most sought-after vehicles we’ve produced. From the moment we finished it we’ve been thinking of what comes next”. He continued: “This concept signals the future direction of our brand”. The concept featured 22 inch wheels hinting at the model’s performance ambitions, while a near-identical interior featuring the same 2+2 layout as the coupé sets it up as a rival for high-end convertibles like the Porsche 911 Cabriolet and new Ferrari Portofino. Autointernationaal.nl understands that a production LC Convertible has been prioritised over a range-topping F variant of the LC in Lexus’s product plan due to its higher potential for global sales. The production version of the LC Convertible is likely to be offered in both the 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 in the LC500, and the 3.5-litre V6 in the LC500h hybrid variant, which, coupled to a pair of electric motors, produces 354 hp. It’s set to weigh more than the 1.935 kg coupé on which it is based, meaning a slight drop in top speed and acceleration times. More details on the model will be revealed in due course. +++

+++ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has named Davide Grasso as chief operating officer (COO) of MASERATI in an attempt to breathe new life into the Italian sports car brand and boost sales. Grasso was a long-tenured executive at Nike, where he even acted as chief marketing officer for a little over 3 years, before becoming president and CEO of Converse in 2016; a position he held until February of this year. At Converse, Grasso positioned the iconic streetwear brand for long-term sustainable growth, something Maserati could definitely use moving forward. FCA also appointed him to the company’s Group Executive Council, or GEC. “With Davide’s arrival, we continue to round out FCA’s senior leadership team with world class talent”, said FCA boss Mike Manley. “He brings a wealth of brand expertise to one of the most historic marks in the automotive world. Davide will be a valuable advisor to the GEC on brand matters across the FCA portfolio”. Meanwhile, the former Nike and Converse exec had this to say about his new position: “Joining Maserati at such a transformational time is an extraordinary opportunity that speaks to my passion for cars, great brands and my personal Italian heritage. Working with Mike Manley, Harald Wester and the rest of the FCA team will be a privilege. I’m honored to be joining FCA at such a defining and transformative moment for the company and the industry”. In a related move, FCA also appointed Harald Wester as executive chairman of Maserati, thus expanding on his responsibilities as chief technical officer to include global powertrain and global vehicle engineering for the group. +++

+++ The head of French state holding APE said he was “not aware” of any new discussions between RENAULT and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) over a future alliance. Martin Vial told that Renault’s alliance with Japanese partner Nissan remained a priority and that the state, which is Renault’s biggest shareholder with a 15 % stake, did not plan to reduce that stake. Last month, the Italian-US carmaker pulled the plug on a proposed merger with Renault, saying negotiations had become “unreasonable” due to political resistance in Paris. +++

+++ BMW and Mercedes have announced they will work together to develop SELF-DRIVING TECH , with the expectation that private customers will be able to use the systems by 2024. The firms will develop Level 4 self-driving systems together, meaning within certain areas drivers should be able to take their eyes off the road, feet off the pedals and hands off the steering wheel; assuming legislation allows for this. Level 4 is considered to be a “high” level of automation, allowing cars to drive themselves when certain conditions are met; in this instance when the cars are in a highway environment. Level 5 is full, door-to-door automation, which works in all areas and conditions, although this is not within the scope of the firms’ agreement, and some industry insiders have predicted full Level 5 is decades, not years away. The initial focus of the project between BMW and Mercedes will be autonomous systems that work in in the highway environment. It is likely the firms will use geofencing (where cars will only allow their self-driving systems to be activated in specific locations) to achieve their aims. Some 1,200 employees from the firms will work together to develop a “scalable platform for automated driving”. BMW says a key aim of the project is “the swift market launch of the technology”, which is expected to be available in private passenger cars within 5 years. Assuming the project is successful, by 2024 it means BMW and Mercedes customers should be able to purchase a car that, legislation permitting, will drive them on motorways and highways with no driver intervention whatsoever. The firms will also work closely on self-parking systems, while “further talks are planned” for potential work on automated driving in urban environments. The project is based on “non-exclusive cooperation”, and is open to other manufacturers and technology firms to join. Firms who decide not to join the German duo in the project will be able to purchase the results of the study under licence. While a number of carmakers have made declarations on the subject of self-driving cars promising varying degrees of automation, some, like Ford, have toned down their previously bullish expectations in this area. The fact BMW and Mercedes say the systems are expected to be available to customers by 2024, coupled with the specific focus on highway driving, and the two firms’ previous experience with autonomous tech, makes this one of the more significant announcements of the many we have seen on the autonomous subject. +++ 

+++ The all-new TOYOTA Yaris has been caught on camera undergoing testing at the Nurburgring wearing its final production bodywork. The supermini will move to Toyota’s tried and tested TNGA platform, which also underpins the Prius, C-HR and Camry hybrids. Previous sightings of the next Yaris have been limited to that of prototypes trailing new chassis components under the disguise of the existing model. However, based on new spy shots, the next generation supermini looks set to grow in size and gain sharper exterior styling. Apart from a standard version of the new Yaris, Toyota will also offer a sportier Yaris GR variant, which will bridge the gap between the hybrid-only GR Sport and full-fat GRMN hot hatch. Toyota’s middling GR trim will rival cars such as Suzuki’s Swift Sport, with around 140 hp and a selection of high-performance chassis tweaks. A Toyota spokesperson suggested the next-generation GRMN would be “quite nutty” suggesting a more hardcore rival to the latest Ford Fiesta ST. Using Toyota’s TNGA platform should make the new Yaris better to drive than before. It’ll also provide access to a wide range of hybrid powertrains, though it’s not yet clear whether it’ll be offered as a pure EV. The new Yaris will make its domestic market debut at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, but that car will differ slightly to the European model we’ll get in Europe. That version isn’t due for reveal until later in 2020, with a launch date pencilled in for early the following year. +++ 

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group has named Thomas Müller, a former Volvo and BMW executive, to head its research and development operations in China. One of Müller’s key responsibilities will be to lead the introduction of VW Group’s “One China” initiative, which brings together the r&d units of Audi, Volkswagen and Volkswagen Group into a new localized unit offering independence from European operations, VW said in a statement. “We will no longer rely on carryover solutions from Europe. We are further strengthening our national R&D capacity to develop in China for China to better meet Chinese consumers’ needs. In fact, in some areas, we will develop technologies for the rest of the world”, said Stephan Wöllenstein, VW Group’s China CEO. VW employs more than 4,500 employees on future technologies in China and the automaker hopes the establishment of its own R&D unit will help create synergies and speed up research into developments in areas such as electrification and autonomous driving. Müller joined the VW Group in 2016 as head of Electrics / Electronics & Car IT at Audi, based in Germany. Prior to that, the German national headed electrics/electronics & e-propulsion at Volvo. He joined Volvo in 2012 after 13 years at BMW. During his time at BMW, Müller held a number of roles in process and IT strategy and electrics/electronics processes, before becoming director of connected drive at the automaker’s headquarters in Munich, Germany. +++

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