+++ Audi chairman Bram Schott has granted production approval to the new A3 ahead of its showroom introduction in early 2020. However, it will be another year before sporting variants of the new 4th generation Audi model (including a rapid 425 hp RS3 with a new mild-hybrid drivetrain and revised electro-hydraulic 4-wheeldrive system) challenge rivals from Mercedes-AMG and BMW M. The arrival of the new A3 has been delayed by more than a year because of fallout from the diesel emissions scandal and Audi’s decision to prioritise development of its pure-electric E-tron models. However, the new A3 has been heavily reworked in a move that, one senior Audi official has suggested, will make it the most advanced car in its class and a new benchmark in terms of refinement. “It is better in every way, especially the interior, which is a real strong point and brings a true premium feel and digital features you otherwise only find in the luxury class”, my source said. “We’ve also spent a lot of time on improving refinement, especially the ride quality, which our latest tests show place it right at the top of its class. With the move towards partial electric propulsion in plug-in hybrids, where there is no influence from mechanical noise developed by the engine, this particular area of development is more important than ever”. The new A3 sports a bold new look that links it closely with the smaller A1 and higher-riding Q3. The upcoming BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class rival, known under the internal codename AU380, sits on a heavily re-engineered version of the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform. The steel and aluminium structure is said to be lighter and more rigid than the platform used by today’s A3 and includes developments that specially target vibration and noise reduction. The MQB II platform supports a more advanced electrical architecture that will allow the new A3 to offer a wider range of both mild and plug-in hybrid drivetrains throughout its planned 7 year life cycle. It has also been brought up to date with digital cockpit functions, internet-based communication features and upcoming 5G-enabled autonomous driving innovations. The new A3 will initially be produced in 5-door hatchback and 4-door saloon guise only. Production of the 5-doors will continue to take place at Audi’s Ingolstadt factory in Germany, with 4-doors built in its Gyor plant in Hungary. A 3-door hatchback A3 will not make production because of the lack of demand in key markets. That decision also means the A3 Cabriolet will disappear from the new line-up. In their absence, Audi plans to introduce a new high-riding A3 Allroad model with a uniquely styled grille and bumpers as well as wheel-arch cladding and a chassis tuned around all-season tyres. Based on the 5-door hatchback, it is expected to challenge the Mercedes GLA from the end of 2021. It will sit underneath the Q3 and soon-to-be-revealed Q3 Sportback SUV coupé in the Audi line-up. Plans for a new 5-door A3 liftback model remain on track, according to sources. However, understands the Mercedes CLA rival has been delayed until 2021 because of a bottleneck in engineering capacity at Audi. A sister car to the Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf, the new A3 has grown slightly in all bodystyles. The increase in the wheelbase and track widths translate to a roomier interior and what Audi promises will be class-leading luggage capacity. Inside, it shares its dashboard styling with that of the second-generation Q3 and will make use of a similar range of connectivity features, including SIM-enabled realtime navigation using mapping from HERE, the former Nokia-owned joint venture now operated by Audi, BMW and Mercedes. The new Audi will be sold with a choice of turbocharged petrol, diesel and natural gas engines in combination with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. All but the most powerful models will use front-wheel drive, although, in a continuation of today’s model mix, Audi plans a selected number of 4-wheeldrive Quattro models, including the new A3 Allroad. The petrol engines will include 130 hp and 150 hp versions of the VW Group’s turbocharged 1.5-litre 4-cylinder, together with a 190 hp version of Audi’s turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder. Both petrol powerplants feature a 48 Volt electric architecture and electric boosting as part of developments to increase overall efficiency. Although it is not planned for the outset of sales, a successor to the petrol-electric plug-in hybrid A3 e-Tron is being developed. It will have battery technology borrowed from the e-Tron SUV for an increased electric range. Despite big investments in the development of its electric-powered e-Tron models, Audi says it continues to see strong demand for diesels within the A3 line-up in the short to medium term. The new model is due to be sold with up to 3 versions of parent company VW’s Euro 6d-Temp turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel with outputs of between 136 hp and 204 hp. Audi insiders suggest all diesel variants of the new A3 will receive a 12 Volt electric system and starter/generator, reducing fuel consumption by around 10 %. Further innovations include a new particulate filter and double SCR catalyst to dramatically cut NOx emissions. Also planned for launch in 2020 are 4-wheeldrive successors to the S3 and RS3. The S3 is set to continue with a powered-up version of today’s turbo 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine with up to 330 hp. The same engine is also reported to replace the existing turbo 2.5-litre 5-cylinder petrol unit in the RS3, where it is rumoured to develop 408 hp, with an additional 17 hp from the starter motor taking combined output to a Mercedes-AMG A 45-tipping 421 hp. However, this is denied by Audi, which confirms the 2.5 will continue to be produced. Among the developments destined for the RS3 is a reworked multi-plate clutch 4-wheeldrive system that is claimed to provide it with a similar rear-wheel-drive drift mode function as the Ford Focus RS and new A 45. Audi has placed significant emphasis on the handling of the A3 in an attempt to set it apart from other MQB-based VW Group models. “The standard set-up is tuned to make it sharper and more direct than other MQB models, but the inclusion of Drive Select will allow customers to tailor the dynamics to their specific tastes”, a source said. “The clear aim is to not only make it the most refined but also the best-handling car in its class”. +++ 

+++ BMW tuner ALPINA nearly added the original Mini Hatch to its line-up as an entry-level model, the company’s chief executive revealed. The project, which is nearly 2 decades old as of 2019, never made it past the prototype stage. Alpina made at least one Mini Hatch based prototype, CEO Andreas Bovensiepen told. He wasn’t working at the tuner at the time, he spent most of his career at BMW, but he remembered that his dad Burkard, who founded the firm and ran it in the early 2000s, wasn’t convinced expanding into Mini territory was the right decision to make. Bovensiepen pointed out Alpina has tuned BMWs since the early 1960s, but it has never worked on a Mini before; the heritage wasn’t there. And, making a hot-rodded small car was expensive, yet it had to keep pricing in check in order to make the model competitive against John Cooper Works badged variants developed in-house. Alpina stopped working on the project when BMW announced the second-generation 6 Series internally. Adding the big 6 to the Alpina portfolio made more sense from every perspective. The heritage was there, Alpina put its name on several versions of the original, E24-generation 6 Series, and it could credibly charge more for the model without alienating buyers. The Bovensiepen family has never been overly concerned with volume, so it shelved the Mini project and focused on the 6. Alpina has never again considered making a Mini. It’s open to adding more models to its line-up, but it will expand upwards before it moves downmarket. +++ 

+++ Tech giant AMAZON wants its Alexa offerings to grow in the automotive industry, expanding directly into the embedded software systems of vehicles. “The real North Star for us is to be embedded with all the cars”, said Amazon Alexa Automotive vice-president Ned Curic in an interview. “That’s where we want to get. We’re working very hard to get there because we believe that is the best experience”. While Curic didn’t say specifically how many automakers are in talks with Amazon about embedding Alexa into their infotainment software, he did mention that we should expect “a significant number of vehicles having access to Alexa” in the next few years. Until then, first in line are Audi and the BMW Group (including Mini), brands that are committed to connectivity and remote updates. “We updated our experiences constantly on a weekly basis, and that’s not something the auto industry is used to. When we have embedded experience, it’s quite important that experience is really solid, and obviously there will always be need to improve. We’re working closely with them”. Then there’s the prospect of having Alexa-enabled software in autonomous vehicles, which Curic believes opens up even more possibilities going forward. “Whatever happens, autonomous vehicles will give tons more time for consumers to do things inside the vehicle. We see that sort of natural transition. It would be as if you’re sitting on the couch at home”. Aside from Alexa, Amazon is looking to pounce on the automotive industry in other ways as well. Back in February, the company poured $700 million into Rivian, but not before launching Amazon Auto, a consumer review website. +++ 

+++ ARGO AI , the self-driving startup that just sealed a $2.6 billion investment from the Volkswagen Group, says there’s room in its partnership with VW and Ford for another automaker to fill a void in its global footprint in Asia. Argo, founded by veterans of Uber Technologies and Alphabet’s Waymo autonomous-driving unit, will count Ford and VW as its 2 biggest investors. Ford in 2016 pledged $1 billion in funding, while its German rival joined in. The automakers will have equal stakes in Argo and together will own a substantial majority of the startup. Argo is open to partnering with another automaker, CEO Bryan Salesky said in an interview. He said Argo’s $7.25 billion valuation will attract outside investors, similar to the investment SoftBank Group made in General Motors’ Cruise. “We’ve got a strong global player, strong in Europe with VW and Ford being strong in the United States. A third player is absolutely possible”, Salesky said. “And we would again look for the same thing. We’d want it to be a strategic relationship”. Ford generates more than 60 % of its revenue in the Americas and less than 10 % in the Asia-Pacific region, based on data compiled by Bloomberg. VW relies on its home European market to a similar extent, with less than 20 % of sales coming from Asia-Pacific. Ford and VW will have “a lot of influence” on Argo’s decision to potentially partner with another automaker, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s automotive president, told reporters. Whether another company joins with Argo or not, Salesky contends the size and global scope of the deal to add VW to the mix catapults the startup he co-founded past Waymo, GM Cruise and all other self-driving companies. “We saw the best talent, track record and technological road map”, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said of why the automaker chose to invest in and partner with Argo. Argo will continue to focus on so-called Level 4 self-driving technology that can be used for ride-sharing and deliveries in city environments. The automakers said they will focus their autonomous efforts on “purpose-built vehicles to support the distinct people and goods movement initiatives of both companies. It took a while to get this deal done, but it’s because we actually sorted out a lot of the hard problems”, Salesky said. +++ 

+++ ASTON MARTIN chief executive Andy Palmer has said he’d rather see the UK leave the European Union with no deal, as opposed to continued uncertainty about whether the country will indeed split with the EU or not. “I’d rather leave with No Deal than drag negotiations on”, Palmer told attendees at the Driving the Future event in London. In recent months, a number of car manufacturers have expressed serious concerns about the repercussions of the UK leaving the EU without some kind of trade deal, including the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan. “Every time we have to prepare to leave it ties up working capital and brains on something that may or may not happen”, Palmer said. “The car industry has proved itself very adaptable, from dealing with tsunamis in Japan to currency problems in Russia, but the issue with Brexit is we don’t yet know what problem we are trying to solve. First and foremost I think we now need certainty. I think business was pretty clear that it would prefer a deal with free trade with Europe, and it is true we are looking at a cliff-edge without one, but at this stage a decision is better than no decision”, he added. Palmer is the British car manufacturer has procedures in place if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal and hit out at the nation’s politicians saying the country’s “Brexit strategy has been laughable”. +++ 

+++ AUDI delivered around 166,700 premium automobiles worldwide in June; 1.7 % more than in the same period last year. In particular, the largest single market China (+22.2 %) contributed to global growth, closing June with a new record-breaking figure. Across all markets, demand was particularly strong last month for the brand’s premium flagship, the A8, with deliveries up 53.2 %. Worldwide growth with the Q2 (+46.2 %), Q5 (+32.1 %) or the new Q3 in Europe (+51.0 %) attests to the sustained popularity of the SUV range. Since January the brand with the 4 rings delivered around 906,200 cars (-4.5 %) to customers. “The first half of the year was still dominated by numerous challenges such as model changeovers with volume models and the delayed effects of the WLTP switchover”, says Martin Sander, who had been operational head of the Sales and Marketing division in the first half of the year. On July 1, he became vice-president of the new Sales Europe division, which also includes Germany for the first time alongside the European export markets. “The good June results make us optimistic for the second half of the year. We expect a boost in deliveries as our model initiative increasingly gains traction, including with the new Q3 Sportback, the redesigned Q7 and A4 models, or the plug-in hybrid models. At the same time, we are intensively preparing for the switchover to the WLTP 2nd Act test procedure”, says Sander. In China, the number of deliveries rose in June to 58,877 vehicles, equivalent to an increase of 22.2 %. The A4 L (+11.7 %) or the Q5 L (+64.8 %) were among the highly popular models. The long version of the Q2, the city SUV developed specifically for China, proved highly successful with 3,806 units sold. Since the start of the year, the brand with the 4 rings delivered 312,502 cars to customers in the Middle Kingdom; an increase of 1.9 %. As such, the company also closed the first half of the year with a new record-breaking figure. In the United States, Audi virtually managed to replicate in June the record-breaking figure from last year. In what remains a weak overall market and despite the model changeover with the Audi Q3 volume model, which will not be in dealerships until the second half of the year, the company delivered 19,409 units. This represents a slight drop of 0.3 % year-on-year. The full availability of the portfolio of full-size models since the start of the year provided a positive boost: The A6, A7, Q7, Q8 and A8 saw strong growth compared with the same period last year (+47.7 %). Demand for the Q5, which remains the most popular Audi model in the United States, rose 42.7 % in June alone. In the first half of the year, the company delivered in total 101,440 cars (-6.0 %) to customers. The North America region closed the first 6 months with deliveries down 8.6 % to around 123,350 units. In June the number of deliveries in the region was around 23,200 (-5.5 %). In Europe, Audi delivered around 76,050 premium automobiles (-3.4 %) to customers in June. Since the start of the year, cumulative deliveries total around 419,450; a decrease of 4.5 %. The first half of the year proved positive in France (+5.4 %), Denmark (+23.3 %) and Norway (+13.7 %). Germany closed the first half of the year with 152,431 vehicles sold (-3.0 %). In June the domestic market proved weaker due to the imminent model changeovers, including with the most popular model, the A4, and an overall cautious market environment. The number of deliveries totaled 25,318; a decrease of 8.3 % year-on-year. The Q3 (+60.8 %) and the A6 (+11.4 %) proved highly popular in the German market in June. +++ 

+++ The future of the BMW i3 is in doubt with senior BMW bosses revealing that the groundbreaking electric car may not get a direct successor. The i3 launched back in 2013 and kickstarted BMW’s move into developing electric vehicles. However, BMW has shifted its electrification strategy to integrate future EVs into its mainstream range rather than developing bespoke models on unique architectures, like the i3. “It is difficult to say if the i3 will have a straight successor as it electrification goes more into the mainstream like the upcoming iX3”, Pieter Nota, member of the board of management at BMW for sales told. “The i3 had a pioneering role; it was at the very beginning of BMW’s electrification plans but what we are seeing now is that electrification is moving more into the mainstream”. The carbon fibre chassis the i3 and i8 models are based upon is almost certain to be phased out; BMW’s new CLAR architecture will allow the firm to be more flexible, enabling it to develop conventional petrol or diesel, plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicles all on the same platform. “We will continue to use carbon fibre but not exactly in the way that we see it in the i3 today”, Nota added. By 2023 BMW has confirmed it will launch 25 new electrified vehicles, more than half of which will be fully electric. The electric iX3, which launches next year, joins the X3 lineup making it BMW’s first model range to be offered with a complete selection of powertrain options. Following in 2021 will be BMW’s Tesla Model 3 rival, the i4. It too will use the CLAR architecture and be offered with a range of battery sizes – the largest of which enabling a claimed range of 600 kilometres on a single charge. +++ 

+++ An all-new, mid-engined CHEVROLET Corvette has been in the works for at least 5 years now and must have been one of the worst guarded secrets in the automotive industry. Meanwhile, another GM brand, Cadillac, recently added a twin-turbo 4.2-liter V8 to its family. One may think the General would want to fit this engine into the Corvette, but that doesn’t seem to be even remotely on the cards. At least not now. From the moment it launched its Blackwing engine, the company insisted it would remain a Cadillac-exclusive powertrain. GM president Mark Reuss added that the Corvette development team hasn’t even tried fitting the Blackwing V8 into the C8. “We can do anything with enough time and money, but we’re not sure we want to do that because it’s Cadillac exclusive”, Reuss said at a recent Cadillac event. While the Blackwing won’t find its way into the new Corvette in its current form, it is likely that a derivative of this engine will form the basis for future Corvette mills, as it is claimed that GM has given Chevrolet the go-ahead to develop more powerful versions of the Blackwing architecture. Each engine is assembled by hand at the same Bowling Green plant as the engines powering the Corvette, and if we were to guess, we’d suggest that the long-rumored twin-turbo 5.0-liter V8 which will eventually power higher-end versions of the C8 could use much of the of the Blackwing structure, but with greater displacement and different internals. Power details about this potential engine are unclear, but it would likely be the powertrain of choice for the rumored hybrid Corvette with upwards of 1,000 hp. Of course, that is mere speculation right now, but if the bean counters decide it makes sense, and the powers-that-be reverse course on the “Caddy-exclusive” mandate, it would seem like the logical thing to do. +++

+++ CUPRA has released a photo hinting at a forthcoming concept, to be shown at the Frankfurt motor show. On the photo, a silhouette of the upcoming car’s front end can be seen, highlighting the daytime-running lights and flashing close-up images of its alloy wheels. An illuminated Cupra logo also hints at some kind of electrified powertrain, while more aggressive lines suggest an evolution in Cupra’s existing design language. Seat boss Luca de Meo previously told that the Cupra brand would be used “as a gate to bring technology that will cascade to the rest of the Seat range”, with plug-in hybrid technology potentially appearing on Cupra-badged models before it does on the standard car. If the concept is pure electric, it is likely to be based on the VW Group’s MEB platform, created solely for EVs, and on which Seat’s first EV, the El-born is based. While the video suggests some similarities to the Leon-based Cupra e-Racer revealed last year, it’s not thought to be the hot hatchback, given the 4th generation standard model has not yet been revealed. Since being turned into a stand-alone brand last year, Seat’s performance division has released one car, the Cupra Ateca. It more recently gave a debut to its first stand-alone model, the Formentor, and is set to expand its range to seven models in 2020. Seat had a record year in 2018, posting the best results in its 68-year history. Cupra sold more than 14,000 cars in its first year of independence. +++ 

+++ Aston Martin says it is prepared for a radical industry shift which could see shared autonomous vehicles become a popular transport method in cities across the world. While speaking at the Driving the Future event in London recently, Aston Martin chief planning officer Nikki Rimmington said the customer base for Aston Martin and LAGONDA will change dramatically in the future. According to Rimmington, factors such as a growing base of millennials and the increasing purchasing power of women will drastically alter Aston Martin’s customer base. She also said that increased urbanization, as well as more mobile and aging populations, will have an impact on the brand. “If you look at autonomy it opens up all sorts of possibilities, of which one of the most appealing is being able to get around faster if the systems are there to support it. Owners could live more remotely but travel in faster”, Rimmington said. “But we might also consider opportunities around shared use of cars. Attitudes are changing: for some, owning a car that sits there stationary, losing value most of the time is less desirable, and the prospect of getting in a car that might be a bit untidy from the previous occupant isn’t a deal-breaker. That could be an opportunity”. Upon hearing about shared, autonomous vehicles, one might think about affordable vehicles deployed en masse across cities and wonder which Aston could suit such purposes. That’s not the case, though; Rimmington claims the British car manufacturer could make its presence felt through fleets of high-end autonomous vehicles. “In a busier urban environment than today, it might make sense for high-end hotels or businesses to run fleets of autonomous cars, for instance. Those vehicles could still be hugely personalized to the brands they represent, as we’re used to at Aston Martin, so there is absolutely a role for us to play”, she said. While Aston Martin is currently developing an SUV and a new range of supercars and hypercars, Lagonda intends on launching both an all-electric sedan and SUV to be revealed in the coming couple of years, and it’s those that could put it in good stead in the not-so-distant autonomous automotive landscape. +++ 

+++ Porsche has announced the reopening of the NARDO Technical Center in Italy, following a renovation that lasted 7 months and a total investment of €35 million. Apart from having its famous track resurfaced, the renovated proving ground gained an innovative guardrail system that was developed by Porsche Engineering specifically for the high-speed testing needs of Nardo. “With the modernization of the tracks, the strategic development of the Nardo Technical Center advances decisively”, says Malte Radmann, chairman of the board of directors of the Nardo Technical Center and managing director of Porsche Engineering. “This proving ground has always been one-of-a-kind and is now more than ever a cornerstone of the Porsche development strategy and of the vehicle testing activities in the automotive industry as a whole”. The Nardo Technical Center, which is operated by Porsche since 2012, features over 20 tracks and facilities on an area of more than 700 hectares. Founded in 1975, it features a unique 12.6 km long high-speed circular circuit that enables vehicle testing under extreme conditions. “The goal is that our customers can test the mobility of the future”, said Antonio Gratis, Managing Director of the Nardo Technical Center. The testing facilities, which are used by 90 automotive companies among other, also offer the opportunity to test future technologies, such as fast-charging behavior of EVs, new driver assistance systems, connected services and autonomous driving. “There are several more extensions and renewals planned for the future”, added Gratis. “In addition, we want to promote the growth of the entire local ecosystem with the further development”. +++ 

+++ We’ve been waiting for news about the next-gen GT-R since, like, forever, but NISSAN isn’t going to open its cards just yet; at least that’s what the model’s chief product specialist says. Hiroshi Tamura is the man in charge of the R35 GT-R since the car was a mere concept, so if you’re looking for information about its successor, he’s basically your guy. Tamura-san was asked if the new 2020 modelyear GT-R Nismo is the last hurrah for the R35. “Is it final? Hmmm”, Tamura-san said. “The traditional, conservative answer is ‘I cannot tell you’, but I don’t know what our next mission will be, our next assignment”. Sounds like Nissan has still to decide what the next GT-R will be then, which is a little disheartening. But the latest 2020 update also certified the R35 GT-R for the upcoming emissions regulations, meaning that there’s the automaker still has plenty of time to make up its mind. And since the waiting list for the current model has stretched to over 18 months, why hurry? “The simple answer is ‘why not try for a model year 2022 or 2023 GT-R?’ ”, Tamura-san said. Then, he places his hand flat on his chest. “In my heart, we’re already kicking off options for the next step. We already have the feedback”. The current Godzilla has been on the market since December, 2007. That’s 11,5 years, which is extraordinary for any car these days, never mind a performance coupe that’s facing stiff competition. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE of the Porsche 911 and 718 models sits at approximately 25,000 units annually, so it’s only logical to presume there many identical examples rolling out of the factory each year. However, that’s not the case. Porsche plant manager Christian Friedl said that the German car manufacturer typically only produces 2 identical 911 or 718 models annually. That astonishing figure pays testament to the personalization options Porsche offers. In addition, there are no less than 39 variants of the 911 and 718 Boxster / Cayman models on the market, allowing customers to pick their perfect ride no matter what their needs and wishes are, so the possible combinations are way too many to count. Porsche, though, won’t stop here: according to Friedl, the carmaker intends on launching even more options for its vehicles and, before long, it is possible that every single car rolling off the production line will be distinct from all others. The 718 range was recently updated with the launch of the Boxster Spyder and Cayman GT4. Both feature a high-revving 4.0-liter naturally-aspirated flat-six pumping out 420 hp and 420 Nm. To keep with the driver-focused nature of these models, the duo are offered exclusively with a 6-speed manual transmission sending power to the rear wheels. Porsche Exclusive recently unveiled its first take on the new Boxster Spyder, revealing a dark blue example with a host of custom touches and once customer deliveries commence, you can be assured that many more bespoke examples will hit the streets. +++ 

+++ PSA Group’s vehicle sales fell 12.8 % in the first half as lower deliveries in China, South America and the Middle East weighed on its overseas business, challenging the trajectory of the automaker’s recovery. Sales fell to 1.9 million light vehicles in January-June from 2.18 million a year earlier, the company said in a statement. In Europe, its biggest market by far, PSA eked out a 0.3 % gain in sales that lifted its market share to 17.4 % in an automotive market down 2.5 % overall. The European gain was driven by the success of the new Citroën C5 Aircross and C3 Aircross models, PSA said. Citroën gained a 0.3 percentage point improvement in market share in Europe. The Opel – Vauxhall business acquired from General Motors in 2017 saw a slight share gain in Europe. Opel will restart sales in Russia in the next few months starting with the Zafira Life and the Grandland X. Peugeot’s European share was stable in the first half. PSA recorded sharp declines almost everywhere else, however, with deliveries down a further 61 % in China, where the group has suffered a protracted sales collapse at its joint ventures with local automakers Dongfeng and Changan. PSA said it is working on action plans with its partners to lower the breakeven point of the JVs. Sales fell 29 % in a South American region hit by the Argentinean market downturn and 68 % in the Middle East-Africa region, punished by the group’s forced withdrawal from Iran under threat of U.S. sanctions. After posting a 7.7 % operating margin for 2018, PSA’s 4.5 % group profitability goal for 2019-21 still looks conservative, with many investors expecting more. PSA has recorded successive sales and profit records under CEO Carlos Tavares. The automaker is due to report half-year earnings on July 24. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has handed French prosecutors the conclusions of an audit into its joint finances with alliance partner Nissan, the carmaker said. The audit, carried out by accountancy firm Mazars in the wake of the Carlos Ghosn scandal, identified €11 million in questionable spending by the Dutch-registered alliance subsidiary Renault-Nissan BV, Renault said in April. Former chairman Ghosn, ousted by both carmakers following his November arrest in Tokyo, is awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges he denies. Renault submitted the audit findings in response to a requisition by prosecutors, the company said in a statement. “Renault is fully cooperating with the authorities and will not comment on the report’s content to avoid the risk of jeopardizing the proper conduct of the investigation”, it added. French police searched the company’s headquarters outside Paris last week as prosecutors continue to examine spending by Renault and the RNBV joint venture. +++

+++ TESLA is looking for help from Apple as it pursues legal action against a former engineer who reportedly took thousands of highly confidential files from the company when he started working for Chinese automaker Xpeng. In the lawsuit, Tesla wants to see the engineer’s emails and have a forensic analysis conducted on his electronic devices. Tesla has served Apple with a subpoena as part of its ongoing legal action and while the lawsuit doesn’t state specifically what it wants from the world’s most valuable public company, the 2 brands do have a common enemy in Xpeng. In July 2018, prosecutors charged a former hardware engineer from Apple’s autonomous vehicle development team of downloading proprietary files as he prepared to leave the company and work for Xpeng. Lawyers for the former engineer being pursued by Tesla, Guangzhi Cao, have acknowledged that the man downloaded copies of the Californian automaker’s Autopilot-related source code to his personal iCloud account but denies any wrongdoing. The lawyers state that he “has done precisely nothing with Tesla’s IP” and “diligently and earnestly” tried to scrub all of Tesla’s source code from his personal devices. Xpeng itself hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing by Apple or Tesla and denies any involvement in the alleged misconduct of the engineers in question. According to the company, it fired the former Apple engineer after it was notified that U.S. authorities were investigating the man, confirming that his computer and office equipment were secured and that he was immediately denied access to his work. +++

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