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+++ An intriguing patent from APPLE indicates that the technology company is still very much interested in getting involved in the automotive market. The patent relates to the suspension architecture of a car and the incorporation of a steer-by-wire system. The steering and suspension systems outlined by Apple in the patent would work best for an autonomous vehicle, and is basically a component connecting the vehicle frame and the steering wheel as well as a distinct steering knuckle which defines a steering axis for the wheel with a caster inclination angle of zero degrees. Typically, cars have a positive caster angle, but a self-driving vehicle doesn’t need to provide any type of steering feel to a driver, so the caster angle sits at zero. The use of a suspension like the one shown by Apple in the patent could also result in reduced tire wear and better directional stability. It’s all rather interesting but it’s hard to say if Apple will bring such a system to the market as, in the 2 years since this patent was first filed, a lot is thought to have happened with the company’s Project Titan autonomous vehicle group. Apple dismissed more than 200 employees involved in Project Titan. +++ 

+++ The biggest investor in ASTON MARTIN offeres to buy another 3 % stake in the luxury carmaker, whose shares have slumped since listing last year. Strategic European Investment Group, part of the Italian private equity group Invest industrial, already owns 31 % of Aston Martin. It only wants to buy a maximum 3 % more, but has to make an offer to all shareholders due to its already large holding. It confirmed it is offering to pay 10 pounds per share. Aston Martin has struggled since it listed in October last year. Its shares, down 21 % so far this year. The company’s recent results have been hit by a need to invest more in its manufacturing plants and expand its vehicle offering, leading to higher costs. +++ 

+++ AUDI ‘s new S8 flagship model broke cover earlier this month, featuring Predictive Active Suspension as standard. Now, the automaker is making this technology available on the regular A8, albeit as an extra. In Germany, as well as other European markets, buyers can initially order Predictive Active Suspension only on TFSI versions of the A8, starting from August 2019. Pricing for this option in Germany is €5,450. This new tech uses electromechanical actuators to adjust the suspension, lifting or lowering the wheels individually to manage ride height in every situation. Overall, they can lift or lower the body by up to 85 mm within 0,5 second. Furthermore, there are compact electric motors located near each of the A8’s wheels, feeding off the car’s 48 volt electrical system. The system only needs around 10 to 200 watts, which is less than comparable hydraulic alternatives. For example, an extremely sharp impulse (like on a race track) will produce a very short but high energy demand of up to 6 kilowatts. The best part is that Audi’s Predictive Active Suspension tech works alongside the car’s air suspension, as well as the drive select dynamic handling system, both of which are standard. It also uses the car’s front camera, thus identifying uneven surfaces even before they are reached, signaling the actuators and actively adjusting the suspension. All of this happens in just a few milliseconds, with the camera generating information about the surface properties 18 times per second. Put the car in its ‘Comfort Plus’ setting and you’ll experience another innovative feature dubbed Transverse Force Reduction. This raises the body on the outer side of a bend while lowering it on the other side, meaning your A8 will lean into a bend by up to 3 degrees, like a motorcycle. According to Audi, the driver and passengers will barely notice a cornering maneuver at speeds between 80 to 130 km/h. In a straight line, the Predictive Active Suspension will even reduce the forces acting on the human body during acceleration or hard braking, while at a standstill, it will raise the body by up to 50 mm for even easier entry and exit. As for safety, the car’s Pre Sense 360° system also uses the Predictive Active Suspension in order to raise the body of the A8 by up to 80 mm in case of a side impact. According to Audi, “deformation of the cabin and the loads acting on the occupants, above all in the chest and abdominal areas, can thus be reduced by up to 50 % compared with a lateral collision in which the suspension is not raised”. +++ 

+++ BMW has named Oliver Zipse, one of the driving forces behind its bold electrification programme, as its new CEO, replacing outgoing boss Harald Krüger. Zipse, who will assume his new role on 16 August, joined the company in 1991 as a development trainee and became a member of the board of management in 2015. The 55-year-old, in his previous positions as head of technical planning and head of group planning and production strategy, has been a driving force in BMW’s transition to electrification. He has advocated in-house component production, rather than using external contractors, as a means of conserving the company’s workforce. He managed BMW’s Mini production facility in Oxford in 2007-2008, overseeing the increased robotisation of the plant’s production line and a significant boost in export rates. The chairman of BMW’s supervisory board, Norbert Reithofer, said: “With Oliver Zipse, a decisive strategic and analytical leader will assume the chair of the board of management of BMW. He will provide the BMW Group with fresh momentum in shaping the mobility of the future”. Zipse, along with board member for R&D Klaus Fröhlich, was considered a favourite for the position when Krüger announced his plans to step down. Krüger’s departure comes following 4 years at the helm. The move was not unexpected, with the 53-year-old having a series of health problems since his appointment to the position in 2015. During his tenure, Krüger was criticised for neglecting BMW’s i electric vehicle sub-brand and was held partly accountable for a significant drop in global sales tht resulted in the firm losing its long-held position as the number one premium automotive brand to Mercedes-Benz. Reithofer expressed “sincere appreciation to Krüger for his many years of successful work within the BMW Group. +++ 

+++ Months of leaks, rumors and speculation ended when CHEVROLET unveiled the 2020 Corvette during an event held in Los Angeles. The nameplate enters its 8th generation with a mid-mounted engine, and higher performance than ever before. Chevrolet asked its design department not to stray too far from the outgoing, seventh-generation Corvette’s looks. Look at it from the front or from the back, and it still fits neatly into the Corvette family thanks to a V-shaped front end with swept-back headlights, and horizontal taillights mounted on an upright rear fascia. This could be the next logical evolution of the Corvette in its familiar form, but stylists have pushed the cabin forward by 16.5 inches to make space for the engine. The reinvented proportions give the Corvette a completely new look which promises to split fans into 2 groups: those who love it, and those who hate it. The changes continue inside, where Chevrolet took the Corvette in a more high-tech direction. The driver faces a digital instrument cluster, and the center console is dominated by touchscreen for the firm’s next-generation infotainment system. There is also an odd row of heater, ventilation and airconditioning buttons which inexplicably cuts the cabin right in half. The Corvette’s heart is a 6.2-liter V8 engine that delivers 502 hp and 637 Nm. It spins the rear wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Don’t expect to find a conventional automatic, or a 7-speed manual transmission. Chevrolet promises a zero-to-60-mph time of under 3 seconds, meaning the C8 is quicker than any of its predecessors in base form. This is thanks in part to the extra power, but also to the mid-engined layout, which places most of the car’s weight over the rear axle. The V8 uses dry-sump lubrication, meaning enthusiasts can pull 1G through a corner without having to worry about oil starvation. When it’s time to head home, a front axle lift system raises the body to help owners clear obstacles. It can be programmed to raise the car automatically via the GPS system. Racers can also take a detour via the golf course, because the ‘Vette’s rear trunk is big enough to store 2 golf bags; something tells me this capability was specifically outlined in the design brief. Alternatively, it can house the removable roof panel. The front trunk fits an airline-spec carry-on suitcase and a laptop bag. Chevrolet will build the new Corvette Stingray in Bowling Green, Kentucky, starting in late 2019. Pricing will start at under $60,000, which makes the car look like a true bargain. On paper, it’s in the same ballpark as more exotic machines priced into the 6 digits. Full specifications will be released in the coming months. The new Corvette will feature electrified powertrains in the future, with a full electric version under consideration. Chevrolet sources have confirmed the powertrain has been designed to allow for electrification, with insiders suggesting mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid and, while less likely, full electric versions were being considered. Asked if an electrified Corvette might feature a mild hybrid battery-based starter motor, or use a small electric engine to provide 4-wheel drive, one project member said: “You would not look stupid if you said that”. When asked about future electrified variants of the Corvette, the president of Chevrolet parent company General Motors, Mark Reuss, said: “The company is committed to a strategy of 0-0-0: zero emissions, zero crashes and zero congestion. All of the technology rolling into this vehicle is meant to support that. This platform can carry a lot of different things into the future for General Motors”. Pressed on whether a fully electric Corvette was under consideration, Reuss said: “We’ll see. Stay tuned”. Reuss did confirm that the Corvette will be sold in European markets. Chevrolet sources have confirmed that a convertible version of the Corvette will follow the coupé “in relatively short order”. +++ 

+++ BMW and Chinese online gaming giant Tencent Holdings are teaming up to launch a computing center in CHINA that will help develop self-driving cars in the world’s biggest auto market, the companies said. The computing center, which will start operations by the end of the year, will provide cars with data-crunching capabilities to help them drive semi-autonomously and, eventually, autonomously. The 2 companies did not disclose the investment in the center. Sources familiar with the deal said the center will be built in the eastern city of Tianjin. The establishment of the center “will support BMW’s autonomous driving development and innovation in China”, Jochen Goller, head of BMW’s China operations, said in a statement. “BMW can, therefore, develop autonomous driving solutions that fit better with the specific driving conditions in China”. BMW said the new computing center will leverage Tencent’s cloud computing and big data, and provide the automaker with infrastructure needed to develop the autonomous cars. The Munich-headquartered automaker says it will likely introduce semi-autonomous, or L3 classification, cars in China in 2021 which would need massive computing power to analyze real-time flow of digital information on road and traffic conditions. Driverless cars need sophisticated data-crunching capabilities as they rely on so-called artificial-intelligence, or neuro-network technology, to help them “learn” from experience and could eventually drive themselves without human intervention. BMW’s planned Chinese computing center follows the opening earlier this year of a similar computing center in Munich. +++ 

+++ One of the biggest challenges for the 8th generation CORVETTE , the first production model with the engine behind the driver, doesn’t have anything to do with how fast the car can reach 100 km/h or carve up a corner. The new Corvette Stingray looks to be one of the most technically advanced vehicles General Motors has built since it tested the world’s first fuel cell vehicle in 1966 and, 5 years later, built the propulsion and suspension system for the Lunar Rover that drove on the moon. The new Corvette is a barometer of GM engineering in an era of rapidly changing technology. It will provide a strong test of GM’s product development system, its testing and validation methods, and its quality control processes. If the Corvette launches cleanly with no technical issues from adopting GM’s new wire-reducing digital electrical architecture, its advanced lightweight, mixed-material chassis that uses die-cast aluminum parts made in an engine factory, the electric brakes and other innovations, it could bode well for GM as it pushes closer to production of fully autonomous vehicles, which will share some of the same technologies with the new Corvette. And most important, the retooled Corvette’s computer systems, and the speed at which they communicate internally and externally, will determine how seamlessly GM transitions to autonomous vehicles and the vast amount of data processing they require. GM will begin producing the new Corvette late this year at its Bowling Green plant. Since 2015, GM has invested $439 million to retool the factory to build the midengine Corvette. In addition to new production equipment, the plant is equipped with a new paint shop and a low-volume engine production facility called the Performance Build Center, which was previously in suburban Detroit. “The Corvette has always represented the pinnacle of innovation and boundary pushing at GM”, GM President Mark Reuss said in a statement. “The traditional front engine reached the limit of its performance, necessitating the new layout. In terms of comfort and fun, it still looks and feels like a Corvette, but it drives better than any vehicle in Corvette history”. The long list of high-tech items featured in the new Corvette include: 1) A new version of Chevrolet’s classic small-block V8 engine. This one retains the 6.2 liter displacement of the previous motor, but has a new block that lowers the crankshaft an inch to mate to the transaxle. The layout helps improve handling, GM says. The naturally aspirated engine is rated at 502 hp and 637 Nm. When the Corvette is equipped with an optional performance package, it can propel the car to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds; the fastest base-model Corvette in history. GM did not mention any future engines in statements released before the media event. However, as part of the plant investment at Bowling Green, a new engine line for the twin-turbo “Blackwing” Cadillac V8 has been installed. It’s possible that higher-performance models of the Corvette could get a version of that engine. 2) Chevrolet’s first 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, a gearbox manufactured by Tremec, that allows the driver to shift the car manually or drive it as an automatic. “The performance shift algorithms are so driver-focused, they can sense when you are doing spirited driving, regardless of driving mode, and will hold lower gears longer for more throttle response”, said Tadge Juechter, Corvette executive chief engineer. No manual transmission will be available at launch; a first for the Corvette in decades. 3) A reengineered suspension system that features coil over dampers, revised electric steering and the Corvette’s first electric brake system, which eliminates the vacuum-powered brake booster. That has been replaced with an electronic unit that can be tuned and adjusted for different driving conditions. Other suspension features include a system that automatically raises the front of the car by about 1.5 inches to protect the lower bodywork from damage by potholes, speed bumps and steep driveways. It can be programmed to operate through GPS and can store as many as 1,000 locations. 4) The digital vehicle platform that is the bedrock for GM’s future electronics technologies. GM says it reduces wiring and allows for faster signal transmission between different vehicle systems. Vehicles that use the new electrical architecture can be updated via over-the-air programming, similar to how Tesla rolls out new model features. 5) A chassis constructed using the mixed-material process introduced on the Cadillac CT6 and then used in high volume on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. With mixed materials, GM engineers use different metals of varying thicknesses in different parts of the chassis; the right metal in the right amount in the right place. The approach reduces weight but increases strength. The new Corvette uses what GM calls the Bedford Six. They are 6 high-pressure, die-cast aluminum components that minimize the number of joints in the chassis. Fewer joints yields a stiffer body, which improves handling, especially under strenuous track conditions. The aluminum parts are made at GM’s Bedford powertrain plant. 6) Significant weight savings from new materials. The front and rear tubs and dashboard are molded from ultralightweight fiberglass and proprietary resin. GM says the material is so light that it floats in water. The new Corvette also has a carbon-fiber curved rear bumper beam, an industry first, GM says. The lightest 2019 Corvette checked in at 3,298 pounds. The entry-level 2020 model is slightly heavier at 3,366 pounds. 7) An all-new interior. The 2020 Stingray’s midengine configuration gave GM design chief Mike Simcoe’s team the opportunity to make the biggest changes to the Corvette, inside and out, since the car was introduced in 1953. Simcoe says the new exterior design is inspired by fighter jets and Formula One race cars. But the car’s aerodynamic shape also helped dictate the interior’s styling. First, because there is no engine between the front wheels, the cockpit has been moved forward by 16.5 inches over the outgoing Corvette. Ultrathin air conditioning vents help lower the instrument cluster, which contains a 12-inch reconfigurable display. A long strip of buttons, between the seats on the center console, controls the seats, HVAC system and other items. Customers can choose from 3 types of seats, those designed for street driving to full-on competition seats for track use. The interior is decked out in cut-and-sew leather, real metal inlays, stainless steel speaker grilles and optional carbon-fiber trim. Unlike many other 2-seat cars, the new Corvette has what appears to be reasonable cargo room, and that could prove to be a major advantage over cramped roadsters and coupes battling for sales in a market that is shifting to SUVs, pickups and crossovers. The car has 2 trunks and can transport 2 golf bags or luggage. Cargo room totals 12.6 cubic feet. An all-new Corvette is rare. For 66 years the car has been built basically the same way (with the engine up front, the transmission in the middle and drive axle in the rear) and with the body mounted to the frame. There have been several iterations of the car’s underpinnings over the years, and GM has tinkered a few times with a midengine layout, but none ever made production. Despite the major technical changes, there’s no guarantee the car will be a profit-making vehicle for GM. Sports car sales have collapsed. Even inexpensive 2-seaters, such as the Mazda MX-5, have struggled. Through June, Porsche has sold just 4.620 units of the 911 in the U.S. The budget 718 has fared even worse with 2.155 sold through June. The highest-volume Porsche is the Macan, with U.S. sales of 9.711 this year. “Corvette mobilizes a passionate fan base but it’s a small group and they don’t necessarily represent the next generation of Chevrolet customers”, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst. “Moving to a midengine format shows Chevrolet isn’t afraid to take risks to keep Corvette relevant, but you have to wonder if it will be enough to excite younger buyers”. Chevrolet dealers in the U.S. sold 9,731 Corvettes in the first half of the year, down roughly 5 % over the same 2018 period. Though final pricing has not been set, and the car can now be reserved, Reuss said the new Corvette will be priced below $60,000. Suburban Detroit Chevrolet dealer Paul Stanford of Les Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn, Mich., has collected 160 deposits for the new Corvette. He said the car has the potential to draw buyers from the Porsche 911 and other more expensive sports cars. Stanford believes GM will price the new model within a few thousand dollars of the outgoing model ($56,995 with destination), keeping it a bargain among high-performance sports cars. “They are going to make it affordable”, said Stanford, who is on the Chevrolet dealer advisory board. “That’s hugely important to the everyday buyer who we’ve come to know. The Corvette has always been a value proposition in the market. I am honestly thinking we are going to see improved sales. I’ve seen the car. It’s mind-blowing”. Les Stanford Chevrolet was among the nation’s top 3 dealers in Corvette sales last year. And for the first time in Corvette history, the car will be manufactured in right-hand drive, opening up exports markets in such places as Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia. That tactic has worked well for Ford, which boosted volumes of the latest Mustang by adding right-hand drive versions. +++ 

+++ Authorities are investigating why a DRIVERLESS bus struck a pedestrian in Vienna, an incident that resulted in minor injuries but stopped Austrian trials of the technology. The Navya SAS vehicle was driving at 12 km/h when it struck a 30-year-old woman in the knee. Vienna’s transit authority suspended further trials pending outcome of the investigation. The city has been testing two driverless buses under a program that began June 6. The Austrian Institute of Technology and Siemens mobility are also participating in the project, which required a professional driver on board when the units were operating. +++ 

+++ FERRARI is reportedly going to reveal an 812 Superfast Spider at the start of September. At least that’s what members of the Ferrari Chat forum claim; on my part, I have no info whatsoever, thus I can neither confirm nor refute that report. Word that Ferrari is working on a droptop 812 Superfast may come as quite a surprise to some, considering the F12 was never sold as a Spider and the 599 before it was only offered in extremely-limited numbers in droptop form as the SA Aperta. A number of users from Ferrari Chat claim to have received VIP invitations from the Italian car manufacturer inviting them to attend exclusive unveilings of the 812 Superfast Spider. Some write that their invitations are for an event held on September 2, while others cite the 5th of 7th of September, meaning the company is likely spreading out the car’s presentation for different regions. Unlike the SA Aperta, the 812 Superfast Spider will be a normal production model. That being said, it will only be built for a limited time but at this early stage, it remains to be seen how long the car’s production run will last. Ferrari has allegedly opted to use a folding hardtop mechanism very similar to the one on the 488 Spider. Forum members also state that it will feature the same engine as the 812 Superfast coupe, namely a naturally-aspirated 6.5-liter V12 pumping out an extraordinary 800 hp. All of that power will be sent to the rear wheels, and with the top down, it is bound to offer customers one of the best-sounding experiences you can get on four wheels. +++ 

+++ An all-new electric FIAT 500 city car, the 500e, has been spied testing in California, ahead of its launch at the Geneva motor show in 2020. The sighting of the camouflaged prototype comes just a week after Fiat said it would invest €700 million on the electric city car, to include a new production line in Mirafiori, Italy. Fiat hopes to produce 80,000 examples of the new 500e. The car will be sold alongside the existing 500, which will continue to be powered by conventional petrol engines as well as receiving styling and technical updates. The all-new electric 500 will sit on a bespoke electric car platform, according to Fiat boss Olivier Francois, with the same platform potentially earmarked for use if the the new Panda-inspired Centoventi concept makes production. The electric 500 will be a key part of Fiat’s transformation in Europe into a brand focusing on small electrified city cars. “The car will stay true to everything you know about the 500, but will be entirely new”, said Francois. “Under the skin it will be radically different, but otherwise you will recognise the size and proportions. But it is a big statement, starting our electric path with the 500. We are doing it with that car for reasons of pricing. It is clear that we cannot sell an electric 500 for the same entry price of today’s 500, but what’s clear is that more than half of our 500 customers today do not buy entry-level models. In fact, for them a €24,000 price is normal today. If you look at our electric competition, they are priced around €32,000. The leap then from 24,000 to 32,000 is not so much, especially if you factor in government grants for electric vehicles. Francois refused to be drawn on whether the electric 500 could be rear-wheel drive like the original, but said he would be open to the idea. He also said that an electric Abarth model could hold appeal. The electric car platform that the 500e will sit on will be FCA Group developed. Francois said he would personally be open to sharing the technology with partners; the 500 platform has previously been shared with the Ford Ka, for instance, but he stressed that any such decision would have to be made at a Group level. Fiat also confirmed the 500 lineup will be expanded with a 500 Giardiniera estate, although the firm didn’t say if that version would also appear at next year’s Geneva show. Ahead of the 500e arriving, a mild hybrid 500 is due to launch later this year. The aim is to consolidate the brand’s dominance of the city car segment (the 500 and Panda hold a third of this market) while developing technologies that allow these models to satisfy emission regulations. The 500 Giardiniera, which references the tiny wagon of 1960, will offer the best space efficiency in its class, says Fiat, and “unmistakable design”. It too will get electric and mild hybrid variants. The 500’s new platform architecture can also cope with a mild hybrid system. That unit consists of a belt driven, 12V starter-generator, although little detail has been provided on the electric drivetrain to be used in the 500. Lower-emissions petrol engines will also be offered in the 500 and Panda. Francois conceded that the decision to develop the electric cars was driven “both by the desire to create a profitable electric car for our future, and to ensure we avoid the pressures of potential fines if we don’t hit CO2 targets”. Given the limited space for batteries and the 500’s urban appeal, range of the 500e is likely to be less than EVs such as the Nissan Leaf. The 500e will be a rival to a growing number of small EVs: Mini’s first series-production electric car is due in 2019, at the same time as the Honda E. The 500e will be 1 of 4 electric powertrains offered by FCA. It will sit use a ‘City Car’ powertrain, while a ‘Mainstream’ powertrain will be launched in the Jeep Grand Commander. A ‘Performance’ powertrain will feature in the 2020 Maserati Alfieri and a ‘Premium’ EV powertrain will power the 2022 Maserati Quattroporte. The push for electrification comes amid Fiat Chrysler’s abandonment of diesel; by 2022, there will be no diesel options in the FCA catalogue. These will be replaced by numerous hybrids, both full and plug-in, the first of which will be the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, landing in 2020. The production capacity released by the deletion of the Punto and other unspecified models (such as the MiTo) will be used to build more big Alfa Romeos and Maseratis, whose premium prices can withstand the electrification costs. Some Italian capacity will be used to build some plug-in hybrid models, including certain Jeeps for global sale. +++ 

+++ The price of RHODIUM , a precious metal used to curb harmful emissions from vehicle engines, has rocketed to its highest since 2008 as tightening environmental regulation compels auto makers to buy more just as supply looks set to stagnate. Rhodium has leaped from $615 an ounce in mid-2016 to $3,565 an ounce this month, shooting up by more than $1,000 since mid-February alone. “Within this year we might well see $4,000”, said Mitsubishi analyst Jonathan Butler, adding that rising demand would likely tip the market into deficit. “That’s not to say we wouldn’t see a pullback potentially to $3,000, this is a volatile metal, but it does have good long-term prospects”, he said. Rhodium is used alongside its sister metals platinum and palladium in vehicle exhaust systems to neutralize pollutants. But its price has raced ahead of its peers since 2016, when commodities including precious metals hit multi-year lows. This is because rhodium is the most effective at tackling nitrogen oxides (NOx), whose reduction is increasingly demanded by regulators. Auto makers account for around 85 % of rhodium demand. China has accelerated the introduction of emissions standards to enter force between 2019 and 2023, while in Europe, stricter rules are arriving after a diesel emissions scandal increased sales of gasoline-powered cars that use more rhodium. “You’ve had better than expected China, and quicker than expected China, and then better than expected Europe”, said Emma Townshend, an executive at major South African producer Impala Platinum (Implats). Rhodium’s gains have echoed a rally in palladium, whose price has more than tripled since January 2016 and which now trades around $1,550 an ounce. Unlike palladium, which is in acute deficit, the rhodium market has a small surplus, according to materials maker Johnson Matthey. But the rhodium market is smaller (around 1 million ounces a year compared to 10 million for palladium) and less liquid, so even temporary mismatches in supply and demand can dramatically impact prices, traders and analysts said. Higher prices are encouraging glass makers, the biggest industrial users outside the auto sector, to use less rhodium, according to Johnson Matthey. But despite a slowdown in car sales, demand from auto makers will rise by 10 % this year, it said, as rhodium loadings per engine grow. Car companies such as Volkswagen and Toyota typically buy metals through long-term contracts, but the value of these deals is informed by spot prices, and they may have to buy on the spot market if they need more metal than expected. And it is hard for car companies to use less rhodium. Gasoline engines are estimated to need between 2.5 and 4 ounces of palladium to achieve the same result as a single ounce of rhodium, said Implats’ Townshend. With rhodium only a little over twice as expensive as palladium, that means there’s room for further price rises, Scotiabank analyst Nicky Shiels said. South African miners, who produce 80 % of mined rhodium, have been raising output, but they plan to close older shafts and shift activity to ore bodies less rich in rhodium, which would reduce supply. Recycling will increase, but this “may not be enough to offset future declines in mine production”, Johnson Matthey said in a May report. Rhodium is mainly a by-product of platinum mining, making it hard to increase production even when prices are high. Still, prices may have peaked for now, traders and analysts said. “Certainly a number above $3,000 is justified”, said Hans-Guenter Ritter at Heraeus, a major precious metals refiner and trader. “But it’s had its run already and it needs to consolidate here”. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA has signed an agreement with BYD for the joint development of battery electric vehicles aimed at the Chinese market. The cars will be sold under the Toyota brand in the first half of the 2020s. The 2 companies, which until now were rivals, will be making sedans as well as low-floor SUVs, plus the onboard batteries these vehicles will require in order to keep things emissions free. Both Toyota as well as BYD have been pioneers of the electrified vehicle movement. The latter was actually the first company in the world to sell mass production plug-in hybrid models and since 2015, BYD’s sales of BEVs and PHEVs have been ranked first in the world for 4 straight years. In order to get even more battery electric vehicles out into the world and reduce CO2 emissions, the 2 companies will have to set aside their rivalry and work together; with this collaboration representing a major first step towards that common goal. As for Toyota, while it was the first automaker to launch mass production hybrids, it didn’t embrace battery EVs until much later, compared to rivals such as Nissan for example. Still, Toyota aims to get half of its global sales from EVs (including gasoline hybrids) by 2025. Japan’s top automaker is also planning on launching its first battery electric vehicle in China next year, in the shape of the C-HR. +++

+++ BMW has named Oliver ZIPSE as its new CEO, continuing the German carmaker’s tradition of promoting production chiefs to the top job even as the auto industry expands into new areas such as technology and services. Hailing Zipse’s “decisive” leadership style, BMW hopes the 55-year-old can help the company regain its edge in electric cars and win back the premium market lead lost to Mercedes-Benz under his consensus-seeking predecessor. But some analysts questioned whether Zipse was the right choice when new fields such as software and services like car-sharing are becoming increasingly important to carmakers. “What is intriguing is the cultural bias to appoint the head of production. It works sometimes but it’s not guaranteed. Being good at building cars is not a defining edge the way it was 20 years ago”, Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said. Current BMW boss Harald Krüger, and former chiefs Norbert Reithofer, Bernd Pischetsrieder and Joachim Milberg were all heads of production before they took the top job. Zipse joined BMW as a trainee in 1991 and served as head of brand and product strategies and boss of BMW’s Oxford plant in England before becoming board member for production. He will become chief executive on Aug. 16, taking over from Krüger, 53, after he said he would not be available for a second term. “With Oliver Zipse, a decisive strategic and analytical leader will assume the Chair of the Board of Management of BMW. He will provide the BMW Group with fresh momentum in shaping the mobility of the future”, said Nobert Reithofer, chairman of BMW’s supervisory board. Zipse emerged as favorite because he helped expand BMW’s efficient production network in Hungary, China and the United States, in a move that has delivered industry-leading profit margins despite the company’s relatively small scale. Under Krüger’s watch BMW was overtaken in 2016 by Mercedes-Benz as the best-selling luxury car brand and ceded ground to startup rival Tesla. BMW had an early lead in premium electric vehicles but throttled back its ambitions after the i3, an expensive city car, failed to sell in large numbers, allowing Tesla to overtake BMW in electric car sales. Reithofer initially championed Krüger’s low-key consensus-seeking leadership, but pressured him to roll out electric vehicles more aggressively, forcing Krüger to skip the Paris Motor Show in 2016 to reevaluate BMW’s electric strategy. Krueger’s reluctance to push low-margin electric vehicles led to an exodus of talented electric vehicle experts. A German car magazine, normally quick to champion new cars presented by Germany’s premium manufacturers, this week ran a cover story questioning whether BMW had lost its edge. +++

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