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+++ On sale since 2017, the ALFA ROMEO Stelvio is getting ready for its first mid-life update. I’ve already spotted prototypes during cold weather testing earlier this year, but now it’s time to change the winter scenery for the arid landscape of southern Spain where Alfa Romeo engineers are currently assessing the Stelvio in hot weather. Compared to the previous sighting, the camouflage is lighter, especially on the rear quarter panels and the front fenders. The bumpers continue to be covered with tape but they don’t seem to get significant changes. Still, new full LED headlights are expected as testing moves on. Interestingly, both the front and rear badges are camouflaged; could Alfa Romeo apply an update to its corporate logo as well? The interior photos which are from the last sighting reveal a newly-designed center console with a slightly different look for the gear shifter as well as the relocation of the button for the electronic park brake which now sits next to the transmission lever. The armrest between the seats features a new design as well. Alfa Romeo is also expected to give the facelifted Stelvio a digital instrument cluster as an option. Updates to the infotainment system should be in the cards too. Word on the street is that Alfa Romeo’s first SUV will also gain mild hybrid technology but nothing is confirmed so far. We should learn more as we approach the launch of the facelifted Alfa Romeo Stelvio which is likely to happen either towards the end of this year or in early 2020 at one of the major upcoming auto shows. +++ 

+++ BMW ’s M performance car division is finalising development of a lightweight version of its highly acclaimed M2. Carrying the German company’s CS name into production in early 2020, the new coupé builds on developments brought to the current M2 Competition in a move that is expected to make it challenge the new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 for dynamic ability. The new M model will act as a swansong for the existing first-generation M2 ahead of the launch of a new rear-wheel-drive successor model in 2021. Among the changes brought to the M2 CS is a revised aerodynamic package consisting of a deeper front bumper that features a more pronounced lower lip, revised side sills, larger rear deck spoiler and reprofiled rear bumper. More significant, however, is the replacement of the M2 Competition’s steel roof with a carbonfibre one, already optionally available through BMW’s M Performance catalogue. It reduces the weight of the new car by only 5kg, but the reduction is made at the highest point of the M2 CS, giving it a lower centre of gravity than its standard sibling. Together with the new roof, there’s also a series of weight-saving initiatives concentrated within the interior, which is described by BMW M insiders as being “pared back to essentials only”. All up, the new junior M car is claimed to weigh no more than 1540 kg. Although rumours have suggested the M2 CS will run BMW M’s new S58 engine, as used by the X3 M and X4 M, Autointernationaal.nl sources contend it will retain the older S55 powerplant from the M2 Competition, complete with a particulate filter and other recent upgrades. In the M2 Competition, the S55 unit develops 410 hp between 5250 rpm and 7000 rpm. While the focus of the M2 CS is more on handling agility than outright power, it is expected to gain 21 hp to take the output of the latest M car up to 431 hp. Buyers will get the choice of 2 gearboxes: a standard 6-speed manual or optional 7-speed dual-clutch unit with a race start function. Further tweaks are focused on the chassis, which uses MacPherson struts up front and a five-link arrangement at the rear. Alongside a more direct steering ratio, the M2 CS is set to receive firmer springs and dampers, larger-diameter anti-roll bars, new bushings within the front end and reduced ride height. The top-of-the-line M2 is being developed exclusively on 19 inch wheels shod with the latest generation of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres. Further evident changes include the adoption of M carbon-ceramic brakes from the M3 and M4. At the front, they measure 410 mm in diameter and boast six-piston calipers, while the rear measures 396 mm in diameter and uses single-piston calipers. As well as providing added stopping ability, the new brakes bring a weight saving of more than 4 kg at each wheel, significantly reducing the unsprung masses of the M2 CS in comparison with the standard M2 Competition. +++ 

+++ The launch of the new CT4-V and CT5-V may have left many underwhelmed, but it’s clear that American car manufacturer has 2 very exciting new vehicles in the works that should restore the order of things within CADILLAC . These will be the CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing, of which a number of prototypes were recently snapped while testing in the United States. According to spy photographers, there were three CT5-V and two CT4-V prototypes joined by the current CTS-V and ATS-V as well as a BMW M5 and M2, the latter two obviously for benchmarking purposes. My man on the ground says the CT4-V Blackwing prototypes sounded very similar to the ATS-V they were being tested alongside, indicating that some kind of turbocharged V6 will likely sit under the hood. The cars were also sitting on Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires and at least one them appears to have been installed with a manual transmission. One recent report suggests the CT4-V Blackwing will have the same twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 as the ATS-V, pumping out a touch over 464 hp and 603 Nm. As for the CT5-V Blackwing, it produced a much more viscous engine note, indicating that it will be fitted with a V8 engine. Details about this engine remain limited but the new car could get the same supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine as the CTS-V where it produced 640 hp and 853 Nm. The names of the vehicles remain unconfirmed and if it’s true that neither feature Cadillac’s ‘Blackwing’ engine, it is unlikely they will include the Blackwing moniker. To differentiate them from the ‘regular’ CT4-V and CT5-V models already unveiled, Cadillac will have to introduce some new naming conventions. It’s hard to know when these 2 performance sedans will launch, but I expect to see them in early 2020. +++ 

+++ Shares in FERRARI went into reverse as the Italian luxury carmaker failed to lift its guidance for 2019 despite strong results in the first part of the year. Releasing its second quarter results, the company confirmed that it was on track for the higher end of the guidance range for all relevant figures. However, there was some disappointment as many investors and analysts thought an upgrade was in store after a forecast-beating first quarter. “The market was expecting them to raise their guidance for the year”, a Milan-based trader said. For 2019, Ferrari forecasts its adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to rise around 10 % to between €1.2 and €1.25 billion. Sales are seen growing more than 3 % to more than €3.5 billion. Chief Executive Louis Camilleri said there were several factors behind the decision not to lift earnings guidance. He cited the discontinuation of certain models later this year, less favorable currency effects going forward, global trade tensions and outperformance in China in the first half of the year as customers snapped up cars in anticipation of stricter anti-pollution rules. “It would seem to me that it was a prudent move on our path”, he told analysts on a post-earnings call. To support its growth, Ferrari will unveil 2 new models in September, Camilleri said, with one more expected by the end of the year. These are in addition to the two new models the Maranello-based company has already presented this year, including the F90 Stradale, its first hybrid, excluding special editions. The company’s performance is a bright spot in the luxury car segment, where its competitors are struggling. Aston Martin cut its forecasts for volumes, investments and margins for 2019, while Tata Motors’ luxury brand Jaguar Land Rover posted a loss in the April-June period with analysts doubting it can be turned around in the short term. Former Ferrari parent FCA’s luxury brand Maserati also lost money, with a negative margin of 34.7 %. The group’s CEO Mike Manley said he expected more difficult quarters this year. “Ferrari stock may take a breather today but the story remains exciting and while some were expecting more today on the guidance, we expect buying support on the dip”, Morgan Stanley analysts said in a report. Ferrari said performance in the April-June period was led by robust deliveries of its 8 cylinder Portofino model and higher-margin 12 cylinder 812 Superfast model. Although shipments were up for 8 cylinder models, it cautioned they had slightly decreased for 12 cylinder models. Ferrari’s core earnings rose 8.7 % in the second quarter to €314 million in line with analyst expectations. Margins weakened to 32 % from 33.1 % in the first quarter, versus a full-year target of 34 %. Chief financial officer Antonio Picca Piccon told analysts margins would suffer a little more in the third quarter compared to the high levels achieved in the same period last year. Camilleri, who took over from Sergio Marchionne after his death in 2018, said earlier this year that Ferrari is counting on hybrid models and the Purosangue SUV, expected in 2022, to exploit its potential in China. Ferrari shipped 2,671 cars in the second quarter, including 289 to China; up 63 % versus the same period of last year, while shipments to the Americas fell 6 % to 803 units. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS ’ (GM) investors will see how the Detroit carmaker is weathering declining sales and mounting price pressures in its largest markets. Slumping industry demand in China, the world’s largest auto market, and an escalating price war in the lucrative U.S. pickup truck segment are ratcheting up the pressure on GM. Other automakers, including U.S. rival Ford and Daimler offered disappointing forecasts last week. In April, GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said her “confidence in the year ahead remains strong,” citing the company’s new full-size pickup truck launch and the automaker’s ongoing business transformation. Investor David Kudla, chief investment strategist for Michigan-based Mainstay Capital Management, said GM must “carefully juggle” its restructuring with the rollout of its high profit vehicles even as it invests for the industry’s future while facing such headwinds as declining global sales. For the full year, GM has forecast adjusted automotive free cash flow in the range of $4.5 billion to $6 billion. GM must deliver as much as $10 billion in cash flow in the final three quarters of 2019 to hit its full-year target, amid stagnant U.S. demand and plummeting industry sales in China. It reported a negative cash flow of $3.9 billion in the first quarter. In April, GM said it would hit its full-year target through strong performance, and annual dividends from China and GM Financial. In 2018, the Detroit company reported negative cash flow of $3.3 billion in the first quarter, but ended the year at positive $4.4 billion. Auto sales in China, GM’s largest market, are headed for a decline for the second year running after demand contracted for the 12th straight month in June. In the second quarter, GM’s China sales slid 12 %, a slight improvement over the 17.5 % decline in the first quarter. GM has laid out plans to introduce around 20 new models or variants of older ones this year, most in the second half. Profit pressure could increase as it launches a series of lower-margin electric vehicles over the next several years. Last week, Ford posted a lower-than-expected profit and provided investors with a full-year earnings forecast that fell short of analysts’ expectations, and luxury carmaker Daimler reduced its 2019 sales outlook for Mercedes-Benz cars. GM’s profits in the lucrative pickup truck market have also been pressured by an escalating price war with Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). The 3 Detroit automakers dominate the segment. GM executives previously said they were “bullish” on sales in the segment for the rest of the year, and have cited the introduction of more profitable models as the launch continues. GM chief economist Elaine Buckberg said this month that U.S. industry sales were strong in the first half and should remain so in the second half and get even more support if the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates as expected. The company’s U.S. inventory of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks at the end of July was 108 and 110 days, respectively. In comparison, inventory for the Ford F Series and FCA RAM trucks stood at 88 and 75 days, respectively. GM no longer discloses monthly sales data and a company spokesman said the estimates were incorrect. He added that truck inventories were approaching “optimal levels” and GM tries to maintain about a 100-day supply because of the complexity of truck offerings. Last week, GM backed off the target for commercial deployment of cars by its Cruise self-driving unit beyond 2019, citing a need for more testing. +++ 

+++ HONDA reported a 16 % drop in first-quarter operating profit, as a stronger yen weighed on overseas earnings and U.S. vehicle sales dropped. Japan’s No.3 automaker posted operating income of 252.4 billion yen ($2.36 billion) for the April-June period, compared with 299.3 billion yen a year ago and an average forecast of 246.9 billion yen from 7 analysts. The company’s U.S. sales fell to 407,000 vehicles over the 3-month period, from 425,000 vehicles a year earlier. It lowered its forecast for global sales in the year to March 2020 to 5.11 million vehicles, from its prior projection of 5.16 million and a record 5.323 million sold last year. Honda, however, reiterated its forecast for a 6 % increase in operating profit to 770 billion yen for this fiscal year. Honda, like other car makers, has been scrambling to reinvent itself amid rising competition from technology firms (such as Google parent Alphabet and Uber) as the auto industry moves toward vehicles that are shared, autonomous and electric. In May, Honda signaled that it was looking to cut global production costs by 10 % by 2025 and scale back regional model variations, channeling savings into research and development. The company has also expanded partnerships, joining mobility project by SoftBank Group and Toyota, and investing in General Motors’ Cruise self-driving vehicle unit. +++ 

+++ KIA will leverage full-electric vehicles to reach European CO2 emissions reduction targets in 2020 and 2021 but the brand has developed contingency plans in case sales are insufficient. “Failing to make the targets is not an option. Our Korean headquarters would not accept it”, Kia Europe chief operating officer Emilio Herrera told. Among the contingency plans that Herrera revealed: 1) Kia could make its car-sharing business in Spain all-electric. 2) It could introduce low-emissions tires on every vehicle. 3) Company cars for staff would be EVs. 4) All the dealers’ demo cars would be EVs. 5) All the company’s service cars would be EVs. Kia is likely to miss its European Union-mandated target to cut new-car fleet emissions to 91.7 grams per kilometer by 3.2 grams, according to a study by PA Consulting. This means the automaker would face fines from the EU. Overall electrification will be crucial. Without battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, it will be almost impossible for Kia to meet the targets, Herrera said. Kia Europe has to secure as many EVs as possible to be able to increase sales or at least maintain them, he said. The alternative would be to reduce the volumes, like some other brands. But Kia doesn’t want to do that, Herrera said. And paying fines would be deemed a major failure in Korean culture, he said. Kia needs to sell 40,000 full-electric cars in Europe in 2020 to reach the CO2 target, Herrera said. EVs are expected to account for 15 % of Kia’s total sales in 2019; about 75,000 vehicles out of 500,000 total. Under the European CO2 emission rules, manufacturers are given additional incentives to offer cars that emit less than 50 g/km through a supercredits system. For purposes of calculating a manufacturer’s average specific emissions, such cars will be counted as 2 vehicles in 2020, 1.67 in 2021 and 1.33 in 2022. Herrera estimated that Kia this year will sell 16,000 full-electric cars, of which 12,000 will be the e-Niro and 4,000 units of the e-Soul. Both are small crossovers. Both “are going so well that we don’t have enough supply”, Herrera said. “In most of the countries, we have already sold the quantities allocated for the whole of 2019, so these countries are already selling the 2020 production”. Luckily, Herrera said, battery production will rise in the second half of this year and will help Kia sell the cars in 2020. An accelerated electrification of the model range should help sales. In November, Kia’s plant in Zilina, Slovakia, will start producing plug-in hybrid versions of the Ceed station wagon and recently launched XCeed. Both models will reach the market in January 2020. Next year, the new Sorento will add hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions to the current powertrain portfolio, which already inlcudes a diesel. The Imagine by Kia concept unveiled at this year’s Geneva auto show will be the base of a battery-electric car that Herrera said will launch in 2021. All together, Kia plans to offer 19 electrified vehicles by 2022. Mild hybrids will also help, although they are not entitled to supercredits. In November, a mild hybrid version of the Ceed hatchback will launch. Mild hybridization will probably be extended to the full range later, Herrera said, adding that the mild hybridization could be quicker if Kia realizes it needs lower-CO2 vehicles. Is their CO2 advantage worth the cost? The target is so stringent, Herrera said, that Kia needs everything; every little bit counts. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is currently testing an all-new, all-electric flagship saloon, due in 3 years. Set to be called EQ S, it will be the range-topping model as part of the German manufacturer’s electrification plan, which will see 10 all-electric Mercedes passenger cars arrive by the end of 2022. The EQ S will join the existing EQ C and forthcoming EQ V van plus EQ A hatchback. It’s likely that Mercedes will preview the model as a concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. While the EQ C uses an adapted version of the platform that underpins the medium-sized GLC, the EQ S will be one of the first Mercedes vehicles to make use of a purpose-built, modular all-electric platform currently under development in Stuttgart. The next-generation underpinnings are scalable, using a mixture of steel, aluminium and carbon fibre in their construction, and are suitable for a wide range of models. Earlier in 2019, a high-ranking Mercedes insider told about the new toolkit: “It’s a fully dedicated electric-vehicle platform. It’s designed for larger cars and SUVs. How many models do we put on that? Maybe 5 body styles”. My source also revealed that the new platform doesn’t require a separate production line, so the EQ S will be built alongside the next-generation S-Class at Mercedes’ new ‘Factory 56’ in Stuttgart. And there’s good reason why the firm is going with this approach to assembly: “Customer demand in 3 to 5 years is somewhat difficult to predict”, my source said. “That’s why we want flexibility”. The EQ S name has been trademarked extensively. Mercedes has already made a claim on a wide line-up of variants, ranging from EQ S 350 to EQ S 600, hinting at a broad line-up of range and power outputs. The EQS looks set to take advantage of the new platform and electric underpinnings by pushing the wheels far into each corner of the car, maximising interior space. The new saloon should borrow its electric motors from the EQ C, creating a 4-wheeldrive set-up with a motor on each axle and a power output in excess of 400 hp. However, the new platform should mean there’s more space to fit a larger battery than the 80 kWh pack used in the EQ C. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE will release a mid-cycle update for the Panamera (Sport Turismo) early next year, and now prototypes with barely any disguise are emerging. Likely to be revealed before the year is out, the Mercedes AMG GT 4-door rival will receive subtle revisions to the exterior look, including an altered tail-light design with an LED strip linking both units. The changes will bring it into line with newer Porsche models, such as the Cayenne and 992-generation 911. Also evident on the latest prototypes is a new front bumper and reprofiled grille, but more significant is the introduction of new sensor modules at both ends of the front bumper. These indicate an advancement in the model’s semi-autonomous systems could be on the cards. Mechanically, Porsche is planning to introduce its first mild-hybrid powertrains for the Panamera. The S and 4S models will make use of the same 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, but like US market versions of the Audi S6 and S7 the 2 variants are likely to adopt a 48 Volt electrical architecture. This allow the fitment of a mild-hybrid system, using the usual integrated motor generator to harvest electrical power to provide an efficiency boost and allow the start-stop system to activate sooner. Perhaps more important to Porsche buyers, however, will be the expected inclusion of Audi’s electric compressor system, filling in the gaps in torque delivery while the turbochargers spool up. With the interior already as up to date as its siblings, expect more technology upgrades than design changes inside. We’ll see more advanced infotainment features, but nothing dramatic is predicted. +++ 

+++ Dongfeng PSA Peugeot Citroen Automobile, PSA Group’s joint venture with Dongfeng Motor, lost more than 2.5 billion yuan (more than $363 million) in the first 6 months as sales fell sharply. Dongfeng PSA deliveries plunged 60 % to 63,027 cars in the first half. The joint venture’s revenue also tumbled 60 % to 7.0 billion yuan during the period, according to Dongfeng, a Hong Kong-listed, state-owned Chinese automaker. In the first half of 2018, Dongfeng PSA posted a net profit of 200 million yuan. But it ended all of 2018 with a loss of nearly 3.7 billion yuan. Dongfeng PSA, headquartered in the central China city of Wuhan, can produce up to 840,000 vehicles annually for the Peugeot and Citroen brands. After hitting a high of 704,000 in 2015, annual deliveries of the joint venture have steadily declined over the past 3 years. In 2018, sales slumped 33 to around 253,000 vehicles. PSA also operates a partnership with Changan Automobile, which builds and markets vehicles under the Citroen DS brand. Changan PSA, with annual production capacity of 200,000 vehicles, is also struggling with losses, largely because of limited sales since it was established in 2011. In 2018, Changan PSA sold fewer than 3.900 vehicles, according to the China Passenger Car Alliance, a Shanghai consultancy. +++ 

+++ After months of speculation, internet debate and nothing to go on but estimated Nürburgring lap times, it’s official: the new Toyota SUPRA is fast. Mike Chang, co-founder of Evasive Motorsports, wrangled the brand spanking new Toyota sports car and Formula Drift champion Daijiro “Dai” Yoshihara, and brought them both to Buttonwillow Raceway in central California. With the drifter behind the wheel, the Supra clocked a 1:58.92 on the circuit’s clockwise 13 configuration, the variant most hallowed by time attack fans. For context, a sub 2-minute lap time at Buttonwillow is considered very quick for a production car. The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) track record at Buttonwillow for a Spec Miata stands at 2:05.02. According to Fastestlaps.com, a 997 Porsche 911 GT3 ran a 2:01.50 on the circuit and a 997 Porsche 911 GT2 put down a 1:59.70. For those who prefer the English section of the SATs, that would mean the Supra is a full 2 seconds-plus quicker than the former naturally aspirated model and nearly a second faster than the turbocharged one. Granted, I don’t know the conditions for the 2 Porsche lap times and those are now 2 generations ago for Stuttgart, but for a Toyota starting with a much lower base price, that’s a heady dose of bang-for-buck performance. To be one of the first, if not the first Supra to ever set an official lap time, Los Angeles-based tuning shop Evasive Motorsports worked with Yume Sports, another speed shop based in Vancouver, Canada. In the time attack community, Evasive is a titan. Their shop turns out full track builds and have previously held 3 class records at time attack events. The new Supra is their latest project car. In addition to drifting, Yoshihara has a considerable amount of circuit experience. He currently competes in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series and has also driven in Super Taikyu, a Japanese GT-spec racing series, 25 Hours of Thunderhill, among others. “The new Supra was a lot faster than I expected”, said Yoshihara. “I knew the car handled well from driving it before, but it’s surprisingly very neutral when pushed to its limits. Power, steering, braking, and cornering are all super balanced. And for a modern car with all of the electronics, the Supra has really good feedback, you can tell what the car is going to do. It’s a true driver’s car”. Now that Evasive Motorsports has a base lap time for comparison, its real work begins. “The first stage of the Supra build will be mostly bolt-ons”, said Mike Chang. “Titanium exhaust, bucket seats and forged aluminum wheels will replace the factory units, saving weight. Adjustable coilovers suspension and sway bars will allow us to dial in handling, and a few aero modifications will help improve grip. Combine all of that with an ECU tune for more horsepower, and we should get the car to break into the 1:54s”. For the final bit of context, a 991 Porsche 911 GT3 RS ran a 1:54.50. The waitlist for an Evasive-spec 2020 Toyota Supra starts behind me. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA lowered its annual profit forecast while Honda turned in a double-digit decline in quarterly earnings as a resurgent yen hurt 2 of Japan’s biggest automakers. The quarterly earnings unveiled by Japan’s biggest and third-biggest automakers highlight how “safe-haven” demand for the currency (buoyed by global uncertainties and falling U.S. interest rates) could eat into profits at Japanese exporters in the months to come. A strengthening yen hurts Japanese automakers as cars exported from Japan become more expensive, while it also decreases the value of earnings made overseas. Toyota cut its operating profit forecast for the year ending March 2020 by nearly 6 % to 2.4 trillion yen ($22.4 billion), from a previous forecast of 2.55 trillion yen. The 2.7 % drop on the year means it will snap a 3-year run of rising profit. “We have factored in cost reduction efforts for the year, but there are still some uncertainties. We cannot be complacent”, Toyota operating officer Kenta Kon told reporters at a results briefing. It expects the yen to trade around 106 to the U.S. dollar and 121 to the euro in the current financial year, from a previous assumption of 110 yen and 125 yen, respectively. For the quarter just ended, however, Toyota posted an 8.7 % rise in operating profit to 741.9 billion yen ($6.93 billion), its highest since the September 2015 quarter, helped by a slight increase in global vehicle sales. An escalating trade war between China and the United States, the world’s top 2 auto markets, and slowing economic growth have prompted a broad-based sales downturn in the global auto sector. “Conditions in the U.S. market continue to be severe, including the effects of the trade friction between the U.S. and China”, Honda Executive Vice President Seiji Kuraishi told reporters, adding that tensions could also have a negative impact in China, where demand for cars is already slowing. “How the Chinese market reacts to the U.S.-China trade friction will be key to setting our business strategy”. A downturn in the global auto sector could weigh on profits just as automakers invest heavily in new technologies including electric cars, autonomous driving technologies and ride-sharing services to survive a industry shift away from car ownership. Toyota has been pouring money in ride-sharing services including Uber, Grab and Didi Chuxing while deepening alliances with SoftBank Group to develop on-demand transportation services in Japan, to position itself as a provider of mobility services. Investors have backed this strategy, pushing Toyota shares roughly 10 % higher this year, outperforming its domestic rivals. +++ 

+++ The first-generation VOLKSWAGEN Tiguan stuck around for more than a decade, but it appears the current model will have a much shorter life cycle. The company is already working on a redesigned SUV and it is slated to arrive in 2022. Little is known about the model, but it will feature a radical new design that is far sportier than the current car. Details are limited, but the 2022 Tiguan will reportedly have a coupe-like appearance. As part of this effort, the model could have a rakish windscreen, a steeply sloping roof and curvier bodywork. This would be a big change as the current Tiguan is rather boxy and anonymous.
Less is known about the interior, but it will reportedly follow in the footsteps of the Euro-spec Passat. As a result, we can expect a digital instrument cluster and a widescreen infotainment system. Despite the sportier styling, interior room shouldn’t be drastically affected. Sources told that cargo room will remain “relatively unchanged” at around 470 liters. Customers looking for something roomier will reportedly be able to buy an Allspace variant which will be roughly 250 mm longer than the standard model. Under the skin, the next-generation Tiguan is expected to ride on an updated version of the MQB platform. Engine options will reportedly be shared with the upcoming Golf and could include 2 plug-in hybrid options with outputs of around 170 hp and 245 hp. There’s also word of a high-performance Tiguan R with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing up to 355 hp. Perhaps one of the most interesting rumors is the possibly of a Level 4 semi-autonomous driving system. It would be a step below a fully autonomous vehicle, but it could allow drivers to stop paying attention to the road under certain conditions. +++
 

+++ VOLVO , owned by China’s Geely, has produced the first cars containing recycled cobalt mapped using a blockchain, and has joined a separate project to monitor cobalt from Democratic Republic of Congo, Volvo said. Carmakers are under pressure from customers and investors to prove electric vehicles do not rely on conflict minerals or child labor. They are exploring the usefulness of blockchain (the technology to create an immutable ledger first used for cryptocurrency) to improve accountability throughout supply chains. Volvo said it had completed the first blockchain, using recycled cobalt in China. “It tracked cobalt from a Chinese recycling plant to Volvo Cars Zhejiang over a 2 month period to June 27”, Volvo said, adding its aim was “full transparency and traceability”. The blockchain has been developed by British blockchain specialist Circulor using technology from U.S. company Oracle and is expected to be rolled out widely this year. Volvo declined to comment on the next steps. The batteries are made by Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL). Volvo also confirmed it was joining fellow automaker Ford, technology giant IBM, South Korean cathode maker LG Chem and China’s Huayou Cobalt in a project overseen by responsible-sourcing group RCS Global. RCS Global said it was pleased Volvo was joining its efforts to achieve “quantifiable and continuous” improvement of supply chains. Among battery minerals, cobalt is particularly challenging because around two thirds of all supplies are from Democratic Republic of Congo, where governance challenges are extreme. Glencore, a producer of industrial-scale cobalt in Congo, has this year faced a series of problems, including an incursion of artisanal miners on its concession. Those involved in tracking minerals say blockchain alone is not the answer. But they are testing how entering data from each stage of a mineral’s journey into a blockchain can improve accountability and even fend off disputes between, say, transportation companies and those using them. “No technology can completely replace due diligence. What it will do is improve enforcement of standards by highlighting when things are not working as intended”, Doug Johnson-Pönsgen, CEO of Circulor, told. Oracle has provided technology for blockchain projects aimed at anything from certifying the origin of olive oil to reducing costs by streamlining cross-border banking payments. Apart from its work on cobalt, IBM has cooperated with retailers including Walmart to trace food through supply chains. +++

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