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+++ Volkswagen’s $2.6-billion investment in Ford’s ARGO AI self-driving unit immediately vaults the 2 year old Pittsburgh based startup into the top ranks in the sector. Argo said VW was investing $1 billion in cash and contributing its European self-driving unit, valued at $1.6 billion. The investment deal gives Argo a valuation of just over $7 billion, one of the highest in the autonomous vehicles sector. VW is buying the Argo shares for another $500 million from Ford, which acquired a majority stake in the Pittsburgh based startup in 2017. VW and Ford then will each have a minority stake, as will Argo founders Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander and a pool of Argo employees. VW and Ford each will hold 2 seats on the Argo board (representing a voting share of just under 30 % each) while Argo will hold 3 seats, representing just over 40 %. The companies declined to disclose their actual stakes in Argo. Ford previously agreed to inject $1 billion over 5 years into Argo. In an interview, Argo chief executive Salesky said: “We have 2 great customers and investors who are going to help us really scale and are committed to us for the long term”. Salesky said Argo would welcome additional strategic or financial investors to help share the costs of bringing self-driving vehicles to market. “We all realize this is a time, talent and capital intensive business”, he said. The Ford – VW partnership with Argo could help accelerate the deployment timetables of the 2 automakers who plan to put autonomous vehicles into operation in 2021. Argo has been overlooked as Waymo, Alphabet self-driving subsidiary, has deployed its robo-vans, and General Motors’ Cruise Automation unit has raked in billions of dollars in investments. With VW, the world’s biggest automaker by sales volume last year, Argo is now aligned with a partner with substantial scale and resources. VW also has a broader product portfolio that includes heavy trucks and off-road equipment that could be automated with Argo’s help. “Our platform is scalable to just about any type of vehicle”, Salesky said. The Ford – VW collaboration with Argo could also have broader implications for similar alliances, as well as valuations of related start-up companies. The value of autonomous driving startup Cruise jumped to $19 billion earlier this year after it attracted more than $6 billion in investments from SoftBank Group, Honda and T. Rowe Price. The value of ride services firm Uber Technologies’ Advanced Technologies Group climbed to more than $7 billion earlier this year after SoftBank, Toyota and Denso invested $1 billion. Those valuations were dwarfed by the estimates for Waymo, which is widely acknowledged as the sector leader. Morgan Stanley values Waymo at up to $175 billion, while Jefferies values the company at up to $250 billion. VW reportedly considered a $13.7 billion investment last year in Waymo for a 10 % stake that would have valued Waymo at $137 billion. +++

+++ CADILLAC is in the midst of expanding their V-Series lineup and there will be a high-performance version of the new Escalade. The next-generation luxury SUV will be offered with the supercharged 6.2 liter LT4 V8 engine that resides in the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Corvette Z06. The model is reportedly being described as a “powerhouse” and that’s probably not much of a stretch as the engine is rated at 659 hp and 881 Nm. It remains unclear if the Escalade will keep that power rating but, if it does, it would mean the SUV would have 233 hp and 258 Nm more than the current model which uses a naturally aspirated 6.2 liter V8. Interestingly, the high-performance Escalade could be even more powerful than the CTS-V which had a surcharged 6.2 liter V8 with 649 hp and 854 Nm. As a result, it’s not entirely clear if the model will be badged as an Escalade V or an Escalade V Plus / Blackwing. The redesigned Cadillac Escalade is expected to be introduced either late this year or early next year. While some rumors had suggested it could be equipped with the brand’s new twin-turbo 4.2 liter V8 engine, but dealers who were shown the model said the “powertrain is the same as the current generation”. Of course, that’s just the base model and it’s possible that other variants could be introduced later on. +++

+++ CHINA is considering re-classifying petrol-electric hybrid vehicles so they get more favorable treatment than all-petrol or diesel counterparts under clean car rules, making it easier for automakers to meet environment quotas and offer more choice. Global hybrid leaders Toyota and Honda would be among the biggest beneficiaries of such change, which could allow them to make more hybrids and less of the more costly all-electric vehicles, experts said, after reviewing the draft policy proposal published by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. China has some of the world’s strictest rules regarding the production of greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles, as it battles unhealthy levels of air pollution in its crowded cities. Those rules have pushed both domestic and international automakers to spend billions of dollars on the development and production of so-called new-energy vehicles (NEVs), such as those powered solely by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells, as well as plug-in hybrids. Under a system that kicked in this year, automakers in China are obliged to make up for a portion of the ‘negative’ points they incur when they produce internal combustion engine vehicles with points won for producing NEVs. Though more fuel-efficient than petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles, hybrids, introduced in 1997 with Toyota’s Prius, are currently classed alongside those powered by fossil fuels. In the draft proposal, hybrids would still be considered fossil-fuelled but re-classified as “low fuel consumption passenger vehicles”. Significantly, the number of negative points incurred for making hybrids will be less than for traditional vehicles. That could see more of those traditional vehicles replaced with hybrids, experts said, because when automakers produce hybrids, they would have to make up for fewer negative points. The proposed change came as a surprise, some experts and industry officials said, because the government has never given any preferential treatment for hybrid technology. Previously, the government offered subsidies for, for instance, the purchase of all-electric cars. “The new proposed policy is a roundabout way to promote hybrid cars”, Cui Dongshu, secretary general of China Passenger Car Association, wrote in a social media post. Hybrid cars sold in China include versions of Toyota’s Corolla, Levin and Camry sedans, and versions of Honda’s Accord and CR-V. Beijing based spokesmen for both Japanese automakers declined to comment. Local automaker GAC Motor, which makes hybrids in partnership with Toyota and Honda, said it “keeps close attention to national policies and will actively respond to the promotion and development of relevant policies and standards”. +++

+++ DAIMLER cut its profit forecast for the 4th time in 13 months, as it set aside more money to cover a regulatory crackdown on diesel emissions and vehicle recalls related to Takata airbags. The German automaker is among a raft of blue-chip firms to issue a profit warning this week, adding to concerns about the severity of an economic slowdown, particularly in China where confidence has been hit by an ongoing trade war. The maker of Mercedes-Benz cars said it would post a second-quarter operating loss and that 2019 results would be “significantly” lower than last year, compared with its previous forecast for a broadly unchanged performance. It also blamed lower-than-predicted growth in automotive markets, as well as slower product ramp-ups that have affected availability this year. Analysts said deteriorating cashflow would make it hard for Daimler to keep paying a high dividend. Philippe Houchois at Jefferies said Daimler’s dividend would need to be cut to around 50 cents per share, down from €3.25 in 2018. The warning is the second since Ola Källenius took over from long-standing Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche in May. “In finance, some call it ‘to throw in the kitchen sink’, well Daimler just threw in the dining room table, the fridge and the polished silver”, Evercore ISI analysts wrote in a note. “Whether this is the final warning for the year remains to be seen”. German carmakers, among global leaders in diesel technology, have been caught in the crosshairs of courts and regulators after Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to using engine control devices to cheat U.S. diesel emission tests. Daimler’s diesel pollution levels are being investigated by prosecutors in Stuttgart, Germany, where it is headquartered, as well as by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The pressure to clean up combustion engines has come at a time when the industry has 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. Daimler said it expected to take an extra €1.6 billion hit related to “ongoing governmental and court proceedings and measures relating to Mercedes-Benz Diesel vehicles in various regions”. It did not give further details. It also said provisions related to an extended recall connected to Takata airbags would increase by around €1 billion and a review of its Mercedes-Benz vans product portfolio would hit second-quarter earnings by €500 million. The bankruptcy of Japanese airbag maker Takata has left some carmakers having to shoulder the cost of recalls. Ford took a hit of $775 million in 2018 for Takata-related recalls in North America. A result of the extra costs, Daimler forecast a second-quarter loss before interest and taxes of €1.6 billion, compared with a €2.6 billion profit in the same period last year. Daimler also said its free cash flow for the second quarter would be below the same period last year, and that for the full- year it was no longer be expected to be above that of 2018. Daimler’s warning came after auto suppliers Johnson Electric Holdings and Sensirion slashed their earnings forecasts, blaming a slowdown in car sales and pessimism about the prospects of a Chinese car sector recovery. In May, 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. Sales of Mercedes-Benz cars fell 7 % in the first quarter in part due to manufacturing bottlenecks for the A-Class in Aguascalientes, Mexico, the Mercedes-Benz Van in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. +++ 

+++ The DASH CAM footage upload portal launched by dash cam manufacturer Nextbase has saved police forces across the UK some 9,700 working days of video processing time since it went live 1 year ago. The National Dash Cam Safety Portal (NDCSP) was set up in July 2018 as a streamlined method of allowing drivers to share clips of driving incidents with the police. Before Nextbase’s new system arrived the procedure used to take an average of 14 hours, but in the last 12 months, 4,891 videos have been uploaded via the NDCSP, saving police forces some 68,474 hours of work. West Mercia Police was one of the first forces to adopt the system. Supt Mel Crowther said: “The use of the NDCSP is a perfect example of modern police forces embracing new technology in order to help with internal time management. It ensures that our policing services are as accessible as possible, complementing the work already being done by police officers on our road network. Most importantly, it allows us to show that a dangerous driver’s behaviour can and will be held to account. I am confident that, with the help of other road users, this technology will deter people from making poor choices on the road and help make our roads safer for all”. In contrast, Northumberland Police is one of the forces to start using NDCSP most recently. It’s head of communications Neil Preston added: “The NDCSP reduces the demand on our communications centre by providing a quick and easy solution for the public to upload footage.The number of positive outcomes that we have seen as a direct result of these submissions is very high. The system continues to help us make our region a safer place for road users”. Dash cam owners can submit footage directly to the police through the National Dash Cam Safety Portal (NDSP), a free online portal linked directly to 19 police forces. Dash cam maker Nextbase’s not-for-profit site allows drivers to submit footage of dangerous driving and complete an online form, which creates what police refer to as “gold standard” evidence for authorities to review. The portal accepts footage from all types of dash cam. The NDSP builds on the success of Operation Snap, which started with North Wales Police before being adopted by the 3 other Welsh constabularies. The system streamlines the process of submitting video evidence of dangerous road incidents to police, cutting the time involved from an average of 14 hours to a matter of minutes. To submit footage, dash cam owners should head to the NDSP, where they can upload their video and be guided through a questionnaire that automatically generates a witness statement. All submitted evidence is held encrypted on a secure server run by Egress Software Technologies, which counts government departments and defence contractors among its clients. +++ 

+++ FIAT ’s Mirafiori Plant in Turin is currently being reconfigured in preparation for the production of the next-generation all-electric 500. The Italian manufacturer has allocated around £700 million for the project, and plans to launch its all-electric city car at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show. The current-generation model has been a staple of Fiat’s range for more than a decade, with over 2 million units produced since its introduction in 2005. It remains a popular seller for the brand to this day but, to keep pace with the likes of Mini and Honda (both of which now feature all-electric vehicles in their ranges), Fiat is planning a bold reinvention for the 500. There will be no internal combustion engine offered in the next car. It will be entirely electric and will be redesigned to appeal to the 500’s increasingly upmarket customer base. FCA’s chief marketing officer, Oliver Francois said: “Premium is the way we will go with the 500 EV. A new 500, totally renewed. Totally electric. It’s kind of an urban Tesla, with beautiful style. Italianess, dolce vita in an electric car. It’s the polar opposite of Centoventi”. The Centoventi concept was a surprise entry from Fiat for the Geneva Motor Show. It previewes the next generation Panda, which is touted to feature a selection of affordable electric powertrains, offering anywhere between 100 and 500 kilometres of range. Francois could not clarify whether the 2 vehicles would share the same platform, but he did confirm that the next-generation 500 will use FCA’s brand new dedicated electric underpinnings. He said: “It’s a new platform designed for electrification. It makes the car radically different. It’s still a 500, same size, same proportions, but it’s just not the same car. It is the 500 of the future”. FCA’s marketing chief also hinted that, due to the all-electric 500’s planned shift upmarket, its price would increase significantly over the outgoing model. However, Francois pointed towards the appeal of the more expensive limited edition variants of the current car, adding: “the appeal of the 500 is so strong we may not lose customers”. Production of the all-new Fiat 500 EV will commence during the second quarter of 2020, on a dedicated assembly line manned by a 1.200 strong workforce. Fiat forecasts an annual production capacity of 80.000 units, with the potential for further expansion should customer demand exceed expectations. An Abarth version is not part of the plan at present, but could potentially appear further into the 500 EV’s lifespan. Francois also confirmed that the new 500 EV would not be the end of the line for the current generation 500 though, which will continue on after the launch of the new electric model, offering buyers a more affordable route into 500 ownership with a selection of petrol engines. +++ 

+++ FORD will develop battery-powered cars based on Volkswagen Group’s MEB electric platform at its factory in Cologne, Germany. The move is part of an expanded alliance between the 2 automakers. Ford will use VW’s modular electric toolkit, known as MEB, to design a new battery-electric vehicle for its European operations. It will be designed and developed at Ford’s development center in Merkenich, near Cologne, Germany. Volkswagen will supply MEB parts and components for the EV. Ford said it expects to deliver over 600,000 MEB based vehicles in Europe over a 6 year period starting in 2023. A second EV for European customers is “under discussion”, Ford said. Ford Automotive president Joe Hinrichs said it would take 4 years to design Ford’s electric car around the MEB architecture, and retool a Ford of Europe plant to build the vehicle. Analysts at Citi said Ford’s licensing of Volkswagen’s MEB platform was a “transformational” step for both companies. “It likely provides VW with an unassailable scale advantage”, Citi analyst Angus Tweedie said. VW has invested $7 billion in its MEB architecture since 2016. It plans to use MEB to underpin about 15 million cars for its VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat brands including hatchbacks, sedans, crossovers and minivans in the next decade, starting with the Golf-sized VW ID.3 that will debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September. Ford becomes the first global automaker to agree to license VW’s MEB toolkit. VW’s Diess said Ford would pay VW “set by set” for the use of VW’s electric vehicle components. The cooperation with VW on electric vehicles in Europe is part of Ford’s previously disclosed $11.5 billion EV investment worldwide. Hinrichs said the VW collaboration would not affect Ford’s plans to launch 2 new electric vehicles in the United States, including a battery-powered version of the F-150 pickup and a new Mustang-inspired crossover vehicle that is expected to be called Mach E. Suppliers familiar with Ford’s plans say the automaker is developing a broader portfolio of electric vehicles, most of them crossovers that will carry the Ford and Lincoln brands, for North America and China. Many of those models will be built on an updated version of Ford’s C2 global compact platform, they said. VW will invest $2.6 billion in Argo AI, with $1 billion in direct funding. VW Group’s Munich-based Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) unit, led by Audi and valued at $1.6 billion, will become Argo’s new European headquarters. AID has about 200 employees, with most working on developing self-driving technology for VW Group. The combination will give Argo AI over 700 global employees. Argo AI is focused on developing a Level 4 self-driving system primarily for ride sharing and goods delivery vehicles in dense urban areas. Hackett and Diess emphasized the benefits and synergies the additional scale of working together on expensive EV and AV technologies can bring. Ford’s Hackett said that while VW and Ford remain independent and “fiercely competitive in the marketplace, teaming up and working with Argo AI on this important technology allows us to deliver unmatched capability, scale and geographic reach. Unlocking the synergies across a range of areas allows us to showcase the power of our global alliance in this era of smart vehicles for a smart world”. Diess said that adding Ford to its ambitious global EV plans will drive down development costs further, and make EVs more affordable. Ford and VW agreed in January during the Detroit auto show to work together on development of midsize pickups and commercial vans for use outside North America. At the time, both Diess and Hackett said further collaborations were under discussion. The automakers’ collaborations in midsize pickups and commercial vans will proceed apace, with Ford agreeing to source and build a midsize pickup to replace the aging Volkwagen Amarok in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South America and Asia beginning in 2022. Of nearly 350 models across its many brands around the world, the Amarok is the only light-duty, body-on-frame vehicle Volkswagen builds. Regarding commercial vans, Ford will design and build a large commercial van for both companies, beginning in 2022, for European customers, while Volkswagen will do the same for a city van for Europe and “other select global markets”. +++

+++ A report presented to the government of GERMANY said the transport and building sectors should be set carbon prices as penalties to incentivise savings in climate harming emissions, as Germany struggles to meet its 2030 environmental targets. European Union emissions trading (ETS) covers half of all polluting industries such as utilities, but not the 2 sectors whose CO2 output accounts for significant burdens on the environment, alongside areas such as agriculture and households. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet is due to decide by September on how to deal with sectors whose contribution to climate protection is lagging behind. Germany is otherwise due to miss targets to cut greenhouse gases emissions, of which CO2 is the main one, by 55 % in 2030 over 1990, has only achieved less than 30 % so far. The German council of economic experts in a special report said a separate CO2 price for the 2 sectors should be established as a transitory instrument to integrate them into the ETS, either by setting up separate emissions trading systems for them, or by imposing CO2 taxes on them. The ETS sets a common price on emissions allowances are distributed to polluters and can be freely traded. Volumes of these certificates can be steered to bring about desirable outcomes for decarbonization efforts. “The current debate offers the historic chance to transform the piecemeal, expensive and inefficient German climate policy in such a way that putting a price on CO2 becomes the focal point”, said the chairman of the council, Christoph Schmidt. But in the view of the group, the car and building industries should not be subjected to additional national or sector-specific CO2 cutting targets; options that are being demanded by some environmental campaigners. As for the tax option, chiefly hitting car fuels and heating oil, the experts said it would only work if targets were strict and monitored, and that voters should be assured it was used only to fund more carbon avoidance not to boost state budgets. Also, “to create acceptance for CO2 prices, the revenues collected by the state should be redistributed”, they said. This could be done, for example, by per-capita payments, to enable citizens to account for higher energy bills, or by lowering existing energy-related taxes that already burden German consumers heavily. France saw fierce protests when it raised energy prices. +++ 

+++ Ford and Volkswagen have jointly announced the expansion of their GLOBAL ALLIANCE will include electric vehicles, along with a massive investment in autonomous technology and joint development of commercial vehicles. The deal allows Ford to make use of the German giant’s MEB modular electric platform for “at least 1 high volume fully electric vehicle in Europe”, to launch in 2023. Ford plans to deliver more than 600,000 MEB-based vehicles over a 6 year period from 2023, though no specific bodystyle has been confirmed for the first model. VW CEO Herbert Diess talked about the possibility of a second MEB-based model line for Ford, too, suggesting the next model could “almost double” the supply of MEB components to Ford. Volkswagen will supply the platform plus “battery packs and structural components” to the US brand. Ford will design its own car at its facility in Cologne, Germany, but is yet to announce where it will assemble the model. Ford CEO Jim Hackett confirmed that faciity would be one of its existing European plants, however. Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess claimed the scaling of the MEB platform in this way “drives down development costs for zero-emissions vehicles, allowing for a broader and faster adoption”, saying: “This improves the position of both companies through greater capital efficiency, further growth and improved competitiveness”. Both manufacturers will continue to explore further joint avenues into electric mobility. Diess also confirmed VW’s intention to have produced 15 million MEB-based EVs globally in the next 10 years, with a lineup of 70 all-electric models across its brand portfolio. These will include “high volume small city cars and large limousines, through to electrically powered camper vans”. The VW chairman confirmed why it is putting almost all of its eggs in the EV basket for the near future, claiming he does not see alternatives such as synthetic, low emission fuels gaining greater market penetation until “at least the middle of the next decade”, and even then the scale will not be extensive enough. +++ 

+++ The 2020 model year JEEP Wrangler is set to benefit from a series of upgrades, including the addition of a hybrid powertrain for the Unlimited Sahara model. The Wrangler Unlimited Sahara will now be offered with FCA’s standard Pentastar 3.6-liter V6, a 3.6-liter E-Torque V6 engine, and a 2.0-liter inline-4 E-Torque engine. These latter 2 powertrains include a 48 volt mild hybrid system and the Ram 1500 is already offered with the 3.6-liter hybrid V6. Interestingly, the Wrangler Unlimited Sahara is the only 2020 model to be available with either of these two E-Torque Engines. Other models, such as the Unlimited Sport and Unlimited Rubicon, are only available with the standard non-hybrid 3.6-liter V6 and 2.0-liter inline-4. Both the 3.6-liter E-Torque and 2.0-liter E-Torque engines attract a price premium over the standard powertrains. For example, opting for the 3.6-liter E-Torque mild-hybrid V6 adds $1000 to the vehicle’s starting price. Combine that with the eight-speed automatic transmission which the engine is offered exclusively with and the total price for the powertrain rises to $3.000. The 2.0-liter E-Torque can be purchased for $1.000 less in the same configuration. Although not detailed in these documents, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler is also expected to be available with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel. This powertrain was recently added to the Ram 1500 and pumps out 260 hp and 650 Nm of torque. +++ 

+++ LYNK & CO is looking to diversify its SUV portfolio and one upcoming model we can expect will be a 7-seater version of the 01, the latter having been with us since late 2017. Compared to the regular 01, the 7-seater boasts a longer rear overhang and possibly a longer wheelbase as well. Its B and C-pillars are also chunkier, which was to be expected given the new bodywork. The rest of the vehicle appears otherwise the same as the 01, with identical front and rear fascia designs. The Lynk & Co 01 is based on the same Compact Modular Architecture platform (CMA) as the Volvo XC40, with which it shares many components such as electrical architecture, safety tech and even engines. Speaking of the engines, we can expect the 7-seater version to boasts a 190 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder unit as standard, working alongside a 7-speed dual clutch automatic and an available all-wheel drive system. There could also be a plug-in hybrid variant, combining a 180 hp 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine, with a 82 hp electric motor. The regular Lynk & Co 01 hybrid features an all-electric driving range of 51 km, which means that a slightly heavier 7-seater model would probably manage a little less than that. As for its interior, it should mirror the 01’s design entirely as far as the dashboard is concerned: digital gauge cluster, large 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment display, premium materials and loads of available contrast stitching on leather surfaces. Lynk & Co should debut this family oriented crossover either later on this year or sometime in 2020. +++

+++ MINI could make the radical jump to becoming a fully electric car brand, senior bosses have exclusively revealed. The news follows quickly from the launch of the firm’s first EV, the Cooper SE, which has seen 40,000 customers register their interest online. Peter Schwarzenbauer, member of the board of management at BMW responsible for Mini, told me that legislation in major cities and increasing consumer interest in electric vehicles could see Mini becoming an electric only brand. “For Mini, the Countryman as a plug-in hybrid was the first move; it is working much better than originally planned and shows electrifying Mini is the right way to go”, Schwarzenbauer explained. “But then for Mini and small cars you have to focus yourself on emission-free, fully electric. Step-by-step we electrify the Mini line-up completely; this fits perfectly with the brand. If you have in the automotive industry one brand which you can call urban it is Mini”. Schwarzenbauer revealed that the interest and demand surrounding the new Cooper SE took him by surprise, saying that he “hadn’t seen anything like it”. He added: “I feel the best times for Mini are yet to come”. A switch to fully electric is unlikely to happen before 2030 as consumer demand for long-range vehicles remains strong. Schwarzenbauer added: “In this transition period it is important to have this choice, but beyond 2030 is a different ball game. “The trend to becoming fully electric is totally clear, but what is the right path? We still think there are many customers who need long range mobility. We invested a lot of money to make our production lines much more flexible”, he said. In the meantime BMW and Mini are working hard on reducing CO2 levels from its supply chain and converting all of its factories to run on renewable energy. “By 2020 all our production facilities worldwide will be on renewable energies”, Schwarzenbauer explained. “We are working a lot on our supply chain and making it very transparent with what is happening. We work with thousands of parts and suppliers and we are making this process transparent to see what is happening in the entire logistic chain”. +++

+++ NISSAN is apparently facing pressure from its global executive ranks to build a rival to the Ford Ranger Raptor. Nissan Australia head Stephen Lester says he is pushing the company’s Japanese decision makers to add a gasoline engine with “a coupe of extra cylinders” to the Navara for a high-performance model, complementing the pickup’s existing 4-cylinder turbodiesel powertrain. “I can only hope that light commercial vehicles team heeds some of that pressure from our group; we’re not the only ones around the world that would like to see it. We’re always keeping the pressure on”, he added. If such a project does get a green light, it may not matter for American buyers. Ford has downplayed the possibility of seeing a Ranger Raptor in US showrooms. The latest Nissan Frontier rumors, meanwhile, suggest the company will update the pickup’s aging F-Alpha platform in the US rather than switching to the global Navara platform. The company is said to be focused on keeping the Frontier competitive in terms of starting price. The Navara adopts a more expensive coil-spring rear suspension, while a revised Frontier will likely keep its cheaper leaf-spring setup. +++ 

+++ Fans of naturally-aspirated engines and manual transmissions can rejoice in the knowledge that, PORSCHE intends on continuing to produce both for at least the next decade. During the recent launch of the new Cayman GT4, Porsche GT boss Andreas Preuninger told that driving a naturally-aspirated car with a manual transmission is “like medicine” in defending the importance of such vehicles. “I think we have an advantage in the market over the competition because everybody has skipped and deleted the atmospheric engine and deleted even the manual gearbox”, he said. “That’s a mistake! Because if you look at the take rates on the GT model side, in some markets half of the cars are manual and everybody is longing for a car like this with a normally aspirated, high revving engine. It’s not an A-to-B means of transportation. It’s something you do for yourself, it’s something you do for pleasure and in that case it’s a healthy car, it’s like medicine because everybody is grinning and that’s healthy”, Preuninger added. For what it’s worth, Porsche did (controversially) abandon the manual transmission in what is perhaps its most iconic GT model, the Porsche 911 GT3, back in the car’s 991-generation. However, the German car manufacturer learned from its mistake and soon brought it back. Preuninger believes that Porsche’s GT models will exist harmoniously with other vehicles in the company’s range, most notably the all-electric Taycan. The duo may seem at odds with each other but the executive thinks it is important Porsche caters for all kinds of customers, from those that want electric vehicles through “to the hardcore enthusiasts as well”. +++

+++ Yesterday, TOYOTA announced it would build a new SUV at its joint plant in Huntsville, Alabama. While the company was tight-lipped about the upcoming model, new details are starting to emerge. Toyota’s SUV will share a number of “components and suppliers” with Mazda’s SUV which will also be built at the €1.4 billion plant. However, the models will be unique and Mazda told they will be “developed independently by each brand”. In essence, Toyota’s SUV won’t be a rebadged version of Mazda’s SUV. This is an important distinction because the US-spec Toyota Yaris is effectively a Mazda2 with different logos. While Mazda and Toyota confirmed the 2 models would share some components, they didn’t say much else about the crossovers. However, it’s believed Toyota’s SUV will be a production version of the FT-4X concept which was introduced at the 2017 New York Auto Show. That remains unconfirmed, but it wouldn’t be too surprising as the FT-4X’s chief designer had previously said the concept was 75 % production ready. Like the C-HR, the FT-4X rode on the TNGA platform but had a more spacious interior and all-wheel drive. The latter is important to note as Toyota officials have acknowledged the lack of all-wheel drive is hurting sales of the C-HR. Mazda’s crossover is more mysterious, but it could be a new mid-sized model that might adopt the CX-7 moniker. If that’s the case, it would fit in between the CX-5 and CX-9. The plant is slated to begin production in 2021 and the companies have previously said it will have the capacity to produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually. That capacity will be split between the 2 companies, so each to have the ability to crank out 150,000 units every year. +++ 

+++ The Volkswagen Group will build a multi-brand plant in TURKEY . VW’s supervisory board picked a site for the factory near the western coastal city of Izmir over a location in Bulgaria. The plant will build cars for VW, Skoda and Seat. It will ease capacity constraints at Skoda’s factories in the Czech Republic. The state of Qatar, which has a 17 % stake in VW, pushed for the factory to be built in Turkey at the board meeting. A spokesman for Volkswagen’s supervisory board told the plans for a new site were being firmed up but had not yet been finalized. Previous reports have said the factory will open in 2022/2023 with an annual capacity of up to 350,000 units. Production will include the Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca. Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier said in March that the brand could have sold 100,000 more cars last year if the capacity to build them had been available. In April, Czech daily Hospodarske Noviny reported that Skoda was choosing between Bulgaria or Turkey as the site for a planned new plant. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN and Ford said they will spend billions of dollars to jointly develop electric and self-driving vehicles, deepening a global alliance to slash development and manufacturing costs while positioning VW as the initial winner. How soon those investments will pay for themselves is an open question across the global auto industry. Ford and VW executives said the latest collaborations could save hundreds of millions of dollars for each company. But the projects would take time to develop, and the size and timing of the payoffs were unclear. The latest iteration of the Ford – VW alliance suggests the German automaker may hold the more lucrative cards for now. VW has agreed to plow $3.1 billion into Ford’s Argo AI self-driving unit, but estimates it could realize up to $20 billion in revenue by sharing its MEB electric vehicle architecture with Ford in Europe. The 2 sides are still discussing additional deals, including an extension of the EV sharing arrangement to other Ford vehicles, which could further boost VW’s take. Ford and VW have already started cooperating in the area of commercial vehicles and mid-size pickup trucks as part of the auto industry’s broader effort to redraw production and sales footprints to cope with more stringent regulation and fragmented markets. Executives, meanwhile, declined to put a value on the potential revenue generated by the data to and from their respective self-driving vehicles. Ford chief executive Jim Hackett said he expects “chimneys of data that will be spewing from the vehicles” that will use Argo’s self-driving technology. VW boss Herbert Diess said at the briefing the Argo platform was “the best solution for Volkswagen” to speed self-driving vehicles to market, and that Ford and VW together intend to make that platform “a global industry standard. Our global alliance is beginning to demonstrate even greater promise, and we are continuing to look at other areas on which we might collaborate”. It was not clear if some of those future Ford EVs could migrate to VW’s MEB platform, versions of which the German automaker will build in Europe, China and North America. The broader Ford – VW alliance, which covers collaboration beyond joint investments in Argo AI, does not entail cross-ownership between the 2 companies. +++

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