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+++ While it’s not a full-blown automaker, ALPINA believes it has a much better understanding of how to make a high-performance SUV powered by a turbodiesel engine than Audi. The company had unusually harsh words for its rival. “Audi started to produce a new SQ5 with a TFSI engine, and it was rubbish. Really, it’s not a good car, and the press was not good, and the car is not selling well”, said Alpina marketing chief Thomas Cornu in a interview. He added the SQ5 will consequently return to diesel power in 2020, though the move is primarily fueled by stricter emissions regulations. In the meantime, Alpina hopes disgruntled SQ5 owers will instead look at the XD3 Biturbo, its home-brewed version of the BMW X3. It’s powered by a 3.0-liter straight-6 diesel tuned to 350 hp and a mighty 750 Nm, and it reaches 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds. The XD3 has played a significant role in helping Alpina expand; it might even have stolen a few sales from partner BMW. “We started the XD3 with the previous model, the F25 generation, and it was new for Alpina, and we gained a lot of new customers; customers mainly coming from Audi or BMW”, Cornu said. Looking ahead, Alpina plans to add the X7 to its line-up. +++ 

+++ ASTON MARTIN will open the order books for its new DBX at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance next month, ahead of a global launch in December. The new machine, the British firm’s first SUV, recently made its UK public dynamic debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and Aston Martin Lagonda’s latest financial update has now revealed more details on the development timeline. Aston Martin has started building pre-production versions of the new model at its new St Athan plant, ahead of it going on sale in the first half of 2020. It added that it remained on track to begin series production at St Athan in the second quarter of 2020, which suggests first customer deliveries will follow in the second half of next year. The new 90-acre factory in Wales, built on a former Ministry of Defence site, has been under development since 2016, and will be the sole production facility for the DBX. +++ 

+++ AUDI ’s newly reorganised Sport performance car division is set to significantly broaden its line-up with the addition of an extended number of RS badged SUV models within the next 12 months, its newly appointed managing director, Oliver Hoffmann, has revealed. Stirred into action by the success of performance SUV ranges from rivals BMW M and Mercedes-AMG, Hoffmann has confirmed that Audi Sport will begin offering range-topping RS versions of nearly every SUV model in the Audi lineup, starting with the heavily anticipated RS Q8. He said: “We have to stretch our portfolio and the SUV segment is the segment with the most growth. There is high demand from our customers for high-performance SUVs. The RS Q8 we will launch this year. There is really, really high demand for this type of car”. Nothing is official at this stage, but Audi Sport is rumoured to be developing its own specific RS versions of the new second-generation Q3, Q5, Q7 and Q8. The Q3 Sportback, a coupe-styled version of the Q3, will debut as an RS variant at September’s Frankfurt motor show. Expectations are that it will retain the inline 5-cylinder unit of Audi’s smaller RS models, putting out around 400 hp and making the SUV capable of 0-100 km/h in around 4 seconds. Hoffmann, who was recently promoted to the position of managing director after a stint as engineering boss following the departure of CEO Michael-Julius Renz, indicates driveline electrification will play a key role in enhancing the performance of Audi Sport’s RS SUV models. “If you have the SUV segment with the higher weight, it’s easier to implement a hybrid drivetrain. It’s easier because of the packaging and the higher weight”, he said in an interview. He added: “For sure, we will increase electric for our RS models in the future”. +++

+++ Auto supplier Robert Bosch has revised its forecast for AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCTION , expecting a 5 % fall this year, bigger than an earlier estimate for a 3 % decline, the company’s chief financial officer told. As a result, Bosch would not be able to achieve an earnings before interest and taxes margin of 7 % as it did last year, Stefan Asenkerschbaumer told. The company had forecast a rise in revenue and an margin of 6 to 7 % for this year. “We will not be able to repeat the high margin from last year given the development in revenues”, Asenkerschbaumer said, adding that he believed automotive production would stagnate over the next 3 years. By 2025, Bosch expects to generate €5 billion euros in revenue from electric cars thanks to steady growth in this segment, particularly from China, he said. Bosch has already supplied components for more than 1 million electric vehicles and expects revenues to grow since it has developed powertrains for 50 vehicle platforms for various manufacturers, the executive told. +++ 

+++ BMW M chief executive Markus Flasch has confirmed that the next-generation M3 and M4 will be available with a manual transmission. Both Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport ditched manual gearboxes years ago, but eager to satisfy its customers’ needs, BMW has kept producing stick shifts for vehicles such as the M2, M3 and M4. Next year, an all-new M3 and M4 will launch and there had been some fears that the manual would go the way of the do-do. Thankfully, that won’t be the case. When quizzed about whether or not there will be any surprises for BMW fans with the new M3 and M4, Flasch confirmed the availability of a manual and all-wheel drive. “It’s a bit early to disclose all the details but something I want to highlight is that we will have a manual stick shift”, he said. “We have already disclosed we will have the option of 4-wheeldrive. We’ve not decided which variant, which system, but everything that’s on our current lineup; think of the M5; can be made available. The M3 and M4, I’ve driven the pre-production cars already and they’re fantastic”. The executive didn’t confirm if the M3/M4’s allwheel drive system will have a rear-wheel drive mode like the M5, but did suggest it could. He also took the time to reiterate the importance of manual gearboxes for the brand as a whole. “Manual is very important. The manual stick shift is not a performance-bringer, because an automatic transmission is just faster, you can ask any race driver”, he said. “But it gives the vehicle character and I kind of compare it to people who love mechanical watches; it isn’t more precise and it doesn’t have any advantage at all but it’s a character feature. So is a stick shift”. +++ 

+++ CHEVROLET shocked the world last week when it announced that the new Corvette Stingray will start at under $60,000. Just how is that possible? GM president Mark Reuss and Corvette chief engineer and vehicle line manager Tadge Juechter pinpointed 2 key areas that have allowed General Motors to develop an affordable mid-engined supercar. For starters, the Corvette is underpinned by GM’s new Global B electrical platform. This architecture will be used by a plethora of GM vehicles moving forward and is extremely flexible, supporting active safety systems and infotainment systems while also having the potential to underpin all-electric cars. “Tadge touched on some of these strategies that you’ll see introduced across our lineup. Global B is one of them. Global B, don’t underestimate what that’s going to do capability-wise for all our cars and we’re doing it in volume, so that’s how you do it”, Reuss said. “A lot of what you see here leads to a portfolio of things that happens, just like there’s a portfolio of Corvettes today. We’ll have a portfolio like that for Corvette as we expand”. In addition, the size of General Motors means it can leverage its economy of scale in a way that smaller car manufacturers cannot. “How did you get today’s car (the C7 Corvette) to $55,000? It’s aluminum, it’s composite, it’s got carbon fiber in it. It’s what we do. We engineer performance value and we leverage General Motors’ economy of scale wherever we can to try to give you all the content but not pay for a bunch of extras”, Tadge Juechter said. “So, we have an advantage for being part of a very big company”. Chevrolet has revealed that the new Corvette Stingray has almost been sold out for the 2020 model year. GM design chief Michael Simcoe told: “I think the orders have already hit the first year of production numbers. It’s nearly sold out. It’s so close that it’s bound to be sold out soon”. At this stage, it remains to be seen how many units of the new Corvette which Chevrolet intends on building next year. There will likely be a steady ramp-up in production meaning 2020 build figures won’t be as high as they will be in subsequent years. One thing is clear and that is that those looking to place an order for the C8 Corvette will have to wait quite a while before taking delivery. It’s hardly a surprise that Chevrolet has received a lot of Corvette orders in the week-and-a-half since its unveiling. Not only is the C8 Corvette the first mid-engined production car from Chevrolet but it is also powered by a potent 6.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 engine, fitted with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission and will have a starting price at under $60,000. As Chevrolet slowly releases more details about the new Corvette, including performance specifications, order numbers will inevitably increase. +++ 

+++ The “check engine” light lit up almost as soon as Mike Manley took over as chief executive of FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA). Days before the late Sergio Marchionne died unexpectedly a year ago, Manley was tasked with leading the Italian-American company into an automotive era increasingly defined by progress in electrification and self-driving technology. Right after being named CEO, he was forced to cut financial targets due to disappointing sales in China. The company rattled investors again 6 months later by lowering 2019 earnings guidance. Then came a failed attempt to merge with Renault orchestrated by chairman John Elkann, scion of Fiat’s founding Agnelli family. Those setbacks, paired with peaking global car demand, have weighed heavily on FCA shares, which are down nearly a third over the past 12 months. Its market capitalization has shrunk to $22 billion, less than half the value of General Motors. The 2 will release their quarterly results this week. Known as a workaholic with an icy, no nonsense demeanor, he’s been busy putting his own stamp on the company, according to interviews with executives who worked closely with him. He’s dispatched with Marchionne’s pressure-cooker style of having top lieutenants wear multiple hats and manage vastly different parts of the business, instead streamlining divisions and assembling a brain trust of longtime veterans and outsiders from Amazon, Nike and Nissan Motor to help run them. Mark Stewart, whom Manley hired from Amazon, now runs North America, a job Marchionne himself had done, while CFO Richard Palmer is in charge of business development, and not the systems and castings division he once ran under Marchionne. Manley also moved the CEO’s office back up to the 15th floor at Chrysler’s Auburn Hills, Michigan, headquarters, after Marchionne spent nearly a decade on No. 4, ostensibly to be closer to his foot soldiers. Manley, 55, is trying to keep FCA on track in North America, which Goldman Sachs estimates generated 93 % of the automaker’s profit last year. He’s meanwhile looking to reboot the company’s money-losing business in China and Europe and has billions of dollars of catching up to do on electrified and self-driving vehicles. And even as he works to lessen FCA’s dependence on American demand for gas guzzling pickups and SUVs, it’s unclear if the Agnelli family, which owns a controlling stake in the carmaker, is certain it can thrive in an electric, autonomous age without a big partner. Manley inherited a collection of storied brands that his charismatic predecessor revitalized, but also some clunkers, all adding up to a company with an uncertain future as an independent entity. “Inheriting such a legacy is no easy task, but one thing I will not do is try to be Sergio”, he told employees during a private memorial service held for Marchionne in Auburn Hills last year. “It’s now our responsibility, collectively, across our company, to deliver the future that has now been made possible because of Sergio’s work”. Manley, who started his career as a car salesman, declined to be interviewed for this story. Executives say Manley has brought a new level of transparency. During a meeting of senior executives in Auburn Hills this past winter, he laid out the company’s problems in China, from customer acceptance of Jeeps and Alfa Romeos to the number of unsold cars piling up on dealer lots. It was a striking contrast to the Marchionne era, when information was doled out on a need-to-know basis, said one person who was present. A strong believer in the power of brands, Manley aims to expand the lucrative Ram truck and Jeep SUV divisions as twin engines of global growth. Fiat Chrysler is retooling a plant in downtown Detroit to make the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee at a time when crosstown rivals Ford and GM are downsizing their manufacturing footprint. Baillie Gifford & Co., Fiat Chrysler’s fourth-largest investor, is betting Manley and Elkann can continue to grow Jeep and Ram, and turn around luxury sports-car specialist Maserati. “They get where the future value of this company is likely to be, and they’re investing at the appropriate rate given the uncertainties”, said Tom Coutts, a Baillie Gifford fund manager. “That is clearly something Marchionne had, but I think it goes much deeper than him”. Fiat Chrysler’s business plan through 2022 calls for Jeep’s global sales to reach 3.3 million, and for Ram to rise 30 % to 1 million. Last year, the company forecast it would sell 1.9 million Jeeps, but researcher LMC Automotive says it likely undershot that by some 300,000 vehicles. A key to achieving those goals will be developing new electrified powertrains to meet stricter emissions rules in Europe and China. And to fund that, Manley needs to keep the cash flowing in the all-important North American market. But auto demand is weakening worldwide after several years of growth, which may put the ambitions laid out in Fiat Chysler’s 5-year plan out of reach. “The opportunity for further North American earnings growth is limited, while other segments of the business face substantial challenges”, George Galliers, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, wrote in a July 15 report initiating coverage of the carmaker with a sell recommendation. Goldman isn’t alone in doubting Fiat Chrysler can stem the tide. “There’s only so much good execution will get you”, said Demian Flowers, an analyst with Commerzbank in London. “If you don’t have volume growth, then it’s not happening”. Perhaps the biggest challenge for FCA is establishing a foothold in the world’s largest car market. Its market share in China was less than 1 % in 2018, well behind Ford’s 2.3 % and GM’s 13.8 %. Under Manley, FCA restructured its decade-old joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group in April, calling the shakeup an attempt to “more rapidly respond to changes in the Chinese market”. The company has struggled to tailor its lineup to meet the needs of Chinese car buyers, said Bill Russo, a former Chrysler executive and CEO of Shanghai-based consultancy Automobility. “If you want to unlock the potential for growing into the market, you need the boots on the ground to do the product development and adaptation work necessary”, Russo said. “FCA doesn’t have the capacity deployed in country that is capable of doing that”. Another urgent trouble spot is the Maserati brand, which has suffered from an aging lineup and steadily shrinking global shipments. Manley recruited former Nike executive Davide Grasso to revamp the unit, which is expected to be among the first to showcase FCA’s new electrified vehicle architecture. Investors will pay close attention to what Manley says about FCA’s near-term prospects on the company’s earnings call on July 31. But ultimately, the CEO answers less to Wall Street than to Elkann, who has sent mixed signals about his long-term strategy for FCA. He told Italian newspaper La Stampa this month that Manley is doing a “a great job” and is “a true leader”. But as part of the scuttled deal with Renault, that company’s chair, Jean-Dominque Senard, would have become CEO, with Elkann staying on as chair and Manley serving as COO for North America, according to people familiar with the discussions. The day after that corporate marriage proposal was disclosed, Manley sold $3.5 million of FCA stock for what people familiar with the matter say were personal reasons. +++ 

+++ FORD has applied to file trademarks for the terms ‘Badlands’ and ‘Adrenaline’ with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Both applications were made on July 17th and apply for use on “land motor vehicles, namely, passenger automobiles, pick-up, SUVs”. At this point, it is hard to be sure what Ford is working on, but it seems likely both names will be used to denote unique packages. Starting with ‘Badlands’, it’s reasonable to assume that it could be used for an off-road package available for an SUV or pickup, or maybe more than one. As for ‘Adrenaline’, it is a little easier to decipher. When the second-generation Explorer Sport Trac was being built, Ford’s SVT division created a Sport Trac Adrenalin model as a spiritual successor to the F-150 Lightning. Unfortunately, this vehicle never hit the production line and ‘Adrenalin’ was used solely as an option package for the Sport Trac. If this patent, albeit without the ‘E’ at the end, is anything to go by, Dearborn may revive the name for use on a performance version of one of its off-roaders or pickups. Of course, as with any trademark, it is entirely possible that they may not eventually hit the market, but are simply secured to ensure none of its rivals can use them in the future. +++ 

+++ State Bank of INDIA has tightened lending terms dramatically for auto dealerships, according to a source and an internal memo, seeking to reduce its exposure to risk from a sector in the midst of a sharp downturn. The shadow banking crisis that began to unfold in India during mid-2018 has deepened this year. The liquidity crunch in non-bank financing, higher insurance costs and rises in taxation have served to increase the pressure on the car sector, with monthly auto sales falling by 17-20 % since April. Monthly passenger vehicle sales in June fell by the biggest margin in 18 years. In one internal memo for financing dealers selling vehicles made by Hyundai’s India unit, SBI said it is revising the lending terms because of “growing stress” in the carmaker’s portfolio. Similar memos have been sent to dealerships for all other brands, said a senior SBI official aware of the matter. As part of the revised terms, the country’s largest bank by assets has decided to halt lending to dealers of Hyundai India unless they provide a minimum of 25 % collateral. Dealers that had already received loans from the bank will also have to provide security of between 25 % and 50 % of the loan amount, SBI said in the memo dated March 27 and signed by the chief general manager for supply chain financing. Hyundai is India’s second-largest carmaker with more than 16 % of a market accounting for 3.3 million passenger vehicles in the year to March 31. Suzuki’s Indian business, Maruti Suzuki, dominates with a 50 % share while rivals including Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford and Nissan also produce and sell cars in the country. While it is known that several Indian banks have broadly tightened lending to the auto sector, specifics have not been disclosed. “There is an auto sales slowdown and we have substantial exposure to autos. We want to stay safe and this was done to mitigate risk and protect us”, said the SBI official. SBI’s loan exposure in the auto retail market was 718.8 billion rupees ($10.5 billion) at the end of March, according to regulatory filings. “In view of the current slowdown in the auto sector, the bank is continuously reviewing its exposure”, SBI told, adding that it is evaluating the situation and engaging with dealers to ensure the sector does not face any undue stress. Other lenders have also become more wary of lending to dealers with credit lines from different banks. Dipak Gupta, joint managing director at Kotak Mahindra Bank, earlier this month said some dealers were using credit lines from one bank to pay off another, and banks are now taking a harder look at such practices. In its memo, SBI said that if a dealer had raised funding from more than three banks including SBI, the collateral requirement would be increased to a minimum of 50 %. SBI has also cut the credit period for dealers to 60 days from 90 days. The bank will also monitor stock and inventory levels on a monthly basis to keep tabs on the dealer’s financial health. The tighter scrutiny comes at a time when inventories at dealers have risen to 50-60 days of sales, up from around 45 days previously, according to industry data. In an effort to help its dealers, Maruti Suzuki has tied up with state-run Bank of Baroda for dealer finance and is in talks with other banks to ease strict lending terms. India slashed taxes on electric vehicles and chargers, as it looks to encourage the use of more environmentally friendly cars. The goods and services tax (GST) on electric vehicles and chargers was reduced to 5 % from a previous 12 % and 18 % respectively, India’s finance ministry said in a statement. The government had earlier this month given tax breaks in the federal budget for consumers buying electric vehicles. India, the world’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and home to 14 of the world’s most polluted cities, is aiming for electric vehicles to account for 30 % of all passenger vehicle sales in the country by 2030. They currently make up less than 1 %; largely due to a lack of charging infrastructure and the high cost of batteries. Sitharaman said during the budget announcement that the government’s plans was to make India a hub of electric vehicle manufacturing, with large manufacturing plants for lithium storage batteries and solar electric charging infrastructure. The government also removed import taxes earlier this month on some auto components to help boost electric vehicle sales and reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. +++ 

+++ KIA Australia has revealed that it is working on a dual-cab pickup, but it is unknown if the vehicle will be sold in other markets as well. We’ve known for quite some time that Hyundai intends on putting its Santa Cruz pickup into production, and while it would be easy to presume that Kia would simply release a re-badged version of that model, it won’t. Instead, the pickup that Kia is working on will take the fight to the likes of the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux. Kia Australia chief operating office Damien Meredith said “work has begun” on the new pickup. Kia hasn’t yet given the project the green light, but by chasing after the likes of the Hilux and Ranger, it will be diving headfirst into one of the most competitive segments of the market, particularly in Australia where these types of vehicles are the country’s best-selling vehicles. Nevertheless, the South Korean automaker is confident with what it can deliver. “When a light commercial range does arrive in Australia, I’d be confident we’d be looking around that 8 to 10 % market share in that range”, Meredith said. “Great product, great pricing and a 7 year warranty; it’s a pretty powerful package”. As for Hyundai’s Santa Cruz, it will be a smaller ‘lifestyle’ pickup and likely arrive sometime in 2020 or shortly thereafter. It could be based on the Hyundai Tucson. +++ 

+++ The Frankfurt Motor Show kicks off on September 10th, and it looks like LAMBORGHINI might be bringing something special. The Italians could use the show to introduce a limited production hypercar. Little is known about it, but it will cost £2 million and a feature a hybrid powertrain with a V12 engine. Performance specifications are, naturally, non-existent at this point, but the new hypercar was already shown to prospective buyers last year. If that’s the case, there’s a strong chance it could be sold out even before its public unveiling. Regardless, the hypercar is rumored to help preview the Aventador successor. While the styling of the 2 models will likely differ, both are slated to have a hybrid powertrain and Lamborghini could use the hypercar to highlight the performance benefits of going green. Lamborghini officials have already talked about their hybridization plans, while previous reports have suggested the Aventador successor will draw inspiration from the Terzo Millennio concept. The range-topping model is also rumored to have a plug-in hybrid powertrain that combines a naturally aspirated V12 engine and up to 3 electric motors. This setup could give the car an output of around 1,000 hp; a significant increase over the 770 hp produced by the Aventador SVJ. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-AMG is working on an all-new C-Class and details are starting to emerge about the next-generation C 63. The high-performance model will follow in the footsteps of the E 63 and come equipped with a standard all-wheel drive system. That news might disappoint some fans, but the model will reportedly have a Drift Mode that decouples the front driveshafts for occasional rear-wheel drive fun. Little else is known about the car, but it is expected to use a familiar twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine. The current C 63 has 476 hp and 650 Nm, while the C 63 S packs 510 hp and 700 Nm. In order to stay competitive with the BMW M3, the C63 is expected to receive a significant power boost. Detailed specifications aren’t available, but the publication says the next-generation C 63 S could have 550 hp. If that number pans out, the sedan could rocket from 0-100 km/h in the low 3 second range. Those won’t be the only AMG variants either as there’s word of a C 53. It is expected to borrow a hybrid powertrain from the E 53 and CLS 53. As a result, the model should have a turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine with an EQ Boost electric motor that can deliver an additional 21 hp and 250 Nm. It remains unclear if the powertrain will be detuned for use in the C-Class, but it develops 435 hp and 520 Nm in the E 53. +++ 

+++ The proposed 12,500 job cuts aren’t enough to help NISSAN solve its massive profit drop problem. The automaker now says that in addition to reducing its work force, it will trim its global product line by at least 10 % by March 31, 2022. Combined with the layoffs and production capacity cuts, the reduction of vehicle models is expected to help Nissan improve its competitiveness. Currently, the carmaker offers more than 60 nameplates worldwide across the Nissan, Infiniti, and Datsun brands so it will be interesting to see which of them will get the axe. Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said the product reductions will focus mainly on small vehicles, including emerging-market Datsun models. The carmaker could also limit the options and packages offered on its vehicles, something rival company Honda has already announced earlier this year. Another area where Nissan might make some cuts is in the sports car department. Sports coupes such as the Infiniti Q60 and Nissan 370Z are not doing well. When it comes to crossovers and SUVs, Nissan covers the market really well so the nameplates in this segment are safe. The situation differs in the pickup lineup, where the full-size Titan is not doing well. U.S. sales are down 23 % through June, with the nameplate falling significantly behind its American rivals and even Toyota. While Nissan hasn’t announced yet which models will go, all options seem to be on the table at the moment. As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. +++ 

+++ PSA has threatened to pull production at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant and move it to mainland Europe if Brexit causes a downturn in profitability. The group’s chairman Carlos Tavares says it has “an alternative to Ellesmere Port”, said to be located in Southern Europe. “Frankly I would prefer to put it the Astra in Ellesmere Port, but if the conditions are bad and I cannot make it profitable, then I have to protect the rest of the company and I will not do it”, Tavares told. The remarks are the strongest made so far by Tavares, who said last week that a no-deal Brexit “cannot be considered” and would have significant impact on the car making group. In June, PSA announced it would ready the Ellesmere Port plant, near Liverpool, for the next-generation Astra to be built in 2021. However, that commitment depended on the final terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union. A proposed move to Europe would almost certainly lead to the closure of Ellesmere Port, which employs more than 1000 people and has been established since 1962. The Astra has been produced there since 1981. New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has take a hardline stance on the UK’s exit from the EU, slated for 31 October whether a deal is struck or not. If there is no deal, it would trigger both increased customs checks and tariffs for importers. “For us it’s quite simple: we need visibility on custom; that’s all”, Tavares said. Ellesmere Port is the most vulnerable of the UK’s car making facilities from a trade issue perspective: 80 % of production there is exported to mainland Europe and about 75 % of the components to build the cars are imported from there. Groupe PSA has already confirmed its factory in Rüsselsheim, Germany, will be one of the plants to build the next-generation Astra. The UK’s automotive industry has seen a sharp decline in recent months, with Honda announcing it will close its Swindon plant in 2021, and Ford confirming its Bridgend engine plant in south Wales is to close in September 2020 with the loss of 1,700 jobs. But with Ford’s decision to close Bridgend linked to its global restructuring strategy, and Honda making no explicit links to Brexit in its Swindon announcement, Groupe PSA’s statement on the Astra is the clearest warning yet that a bad Brexit deal, or no deal, will directly impact jobs and manufacturing. +++ 

+++ To say that the Leon has been a huge hit for SEAT would be an understatement; after all, it’s become the brand’s best-selling model and the first to take over the number one spot held by the Ibiza for the past 30 years. The third-generation Leon is now celebrating an important landmark, as it has achieved 1,000,000 deliveries since its launch in 2012. The Spanish cousin of the Golf has been designed, developed and produced in the company’s Martorell factory and is underpinned by the VW Group’s modular MQB architecture. “The most prominent aspect of this third generation of the Seat Leon is the wide acceptance that it still has in the market, even after 7 years”, said Wayne Griffiths, Seat vice-president for sales and marketing. “In 2017, the current generation of the Leon achieved its record with 170,000 cars sold and now in 2019, we are still confident that it will maintain its volume at a high level close to this figure”. The current Seat Leon played a crucial role in turning Spanish brand around. Back in 2012, Seat lost €149 million; 6 years later, in 2018, it had its best ever results in its history, achieving a profit of €294 million after tax. Key markets include Germany and the UK, where Seat saw its deliveries go up by close to 70 and 60 % respectively since 2012, with the Leon firmly on top of its sales charts. One out of every four cars Seat sold in the first quarter of 2019 is a Leon, while Spain remains the number 2 market of the compact model worldwide. In total, Seat has delivered 2,210,712 examples of the Leon throughout its 3 generations: the original sold 534,797 units, the second generation 675,915 and the current iteration just crossed the 1 million mark. Although Europe is still its main focus, Seat offers the Leon on all 5 continents in countries like Mexico, Morocco, Singapore and New Zealand. +++ 

+++ That’s fresh: TESLA says the Model S and Model X aren’t all that important to its future. Chief executive Elon Musk said the company is currently focusing on the Model 3 and the Model Y. “Without them (Model S and Model X), we couldn’t spell ‘sexy’ ”, Musk said. “But the story for Tesla future is fundamentally Model 3 and Model Y”. The luxury saloon and SUV formed the second part of Musk’s ‘master plan’, which started with the Roadster and transitioned to the Model S and X, allowing Tesla to start producing its first mass-market electric vehicle, the Model 3. Moving forward, Tesla expects the Model 3 and Model Y to sell in far greater numbers than any of its other vehicles. As a matter of fact, Musk believes customers will eventually demand about 1.25 million Model Ys and 750,000 Model 3s per year. By comparison, demand for the Model S and Model X will slip to about 80,000 units and 100,000 units respectively. While the outspoken exec believes its future lies in the Model 3 and Model Y, it is taking the time to develop a series of other models, namely its pickup, semi-truck and second-generation Roadster. Musk failed to provide updates on these vehicles during the earnings call, but revealed in June that the company’s first electric pickup will be presented before the end of the year. +++ 

+++ A new technology is being developed which could see TYRES generate electricity to be used to power tyre pressure monitoring systems. Sumitomo Rubber Industries, the parent company of Falken, is working with Professor Hiroshi Tani from Kansai University in the city of Suita, Osaka to develop the Energy Harvester, a system that takes advantage of the build-up of static electricity inside the tyre to efficiently produce power as the car’s wheels turn. The Energy Harvester consists of 2 layers of rubber, each covered in an electrode, along with a negatively charged film that interfaces with a positively charged film. When fixed to the inside of a tyre, the system generates electricity as the tyre deforms during rotation. The engineers behind the Energy Harvester think it could be used to power a tyre pressure monitoring system or another automotive device without the need for batteries. Initially created as part of Sumitomo’s research and development programme, aimed at creating technologies that improve safety and environmental performance, the device has now earned the support of the Japan Science and Technology Agency. Sumitomo Rubber Industries is a Japanese company that owns well-known tyre brand Falken. It’s the fifth-largest tyre manufacturer in the world and employs 37,852 people worldwide. +++ 

+++ UGANDA is aiming to start assembling new vehicles by June 2022, with an initial production capacity of 5,000 units per year, a top official of the state-owned Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) told. The East African country joins other regional countries including Rwanda and Kenya that are at various stages of developing domestic auto industries to meet growing demand for new vehicles. Last year, Volkswagen launched Rwanda’s first locally assembled car at its new factory in Kigali, with Europe’s biggest carmaker hoping to tap into an expected expansion in demand for ride-sharing in the region. KMC chief executive officer Paul Isaac Musasizi said in an interview that the firm started construction early this year of the first phase of its production plant in Jinja, eastern Uganda.”The plan is to have the initial phase completed and commissioned by end of June 2022. We should be in the market with our product by then”, he said. The Ugandan government has provided $40 million to fund the firm’s operations up to June 2022 beyond which KMC plans to sell stakes to private equity investors to raise extra funds to finance further expansion. KMC will start with production of buses of various sizes to meet the demand for passenger transportation. Eventually, the firm hopes to expand to manufacturing trucks. Car manufacturing efforts in the region have long been hobbled by imports of cheaper secondhand cars mainly from Asia. New vehicle sales in East Africa average less than 15,000 out of a total of 200,000 sold annually. Musasizi said a range of factors including healthy economic growth rates, a large and growing population and technological innovations that could bring down production costs will help support a sizeable domestic market for new cars. KMC is collaborating with China’s state-owned China Hi-Tech Group Corporation (CHTC) which specializes in manufacturing of a range of products including textile machinery, commercial vehicles and others. “They are providing us with technical capacity”, Musasizi said, adding CHTC was helping to train a group of Ugandan engineers in China. +++ 

+++ VOLVO has started exporting the XC60 assembled in the south China city of Chengdu to Europe under plans to use China as a production hub for global markets. The first wave of XC60s arrived by train in Ghent, Belgium, earlier this month, Volvo said, without disclosing the volume of the shipment. From Ghent, gasoline and plug-in hybrid versions of the XC60 will be transported and distributed in 25 European countries, including Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. The XC60 is the latest China-built model that Volvo has exported to Europe. In 2017, the Swedish brand began shipping the S90 assembled at a plant in the northeast China city of Daqing. In 2015, Volvo started shipping the S60 produced at the Chengdu plant to the United States. But the exports have been subjected to a 25 % tariff the Trump administration imposed on China-made vehicles in 2018. China is Volvo’s largest market worldwide. With demand for luxury brands still strong, Volvo’s China sales rose 10 % to 67,741 vehicles in the first half. +++

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