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+++ ASTON MARTIN boss Andy Palmer said the company’s first crossover arriving later this year will be crucial for the British luxury-car maker, which is trying to revive sales growth and rebuild investor trust. The DBX will add about 4,000 units to annual deliveries after its launch in late 2019, Palmer told. The automaker cut its overall sales target for this year by 11 % last month to a minimum of 6,300 cars. The DBX will be the biggest step yet in Palmer’s campaign to win over buyers and regain investor confidence in the Gaydon, England-based automaker. Waning demand in the United Kingdom and Europe have left Aston Martin’s stock valued at a quarter of its initial public offering price just 10 months ago; the worst-performing new listing on London’s main market in more than 2 years. “The key, of course, is the DBX”, Palmer told. “When you see DBX, when you hear DBX and when you drive DBX, it should shout Aston Martin at you”. Palmer did not rule out raising more funding should Aston Martin need to replenish its declining cash pool. The company generated about 900,000 pounds ($1.1 million) of cash from operations in the first half, the lowest since it started to disclose earnings. “In a public market in the UK, probably the investors would prefer that you had more cash”, Palmer said. “If we felt that we needed more money, then we would step to an instrument which we understood, which will be to go to the debt markets and raise more debt”. The DBX will compete with the Porsche Cayenne and Macan, the Bentley Bentayga, and the Lamborghini Urus. Adding a crossover is a tactic that’s worked for Bentley, which has doubled production numbers with the Bentayga, and for Porsche, whose $50,000 Macan is the company’s best-selling vehicle. While Palmer said the stock-market reaction does not change Aston Martin’s plan of introducing 7 new models in 7 years since 2016, analysts are downbeat. They lowered the average one-year target price for the stock by 43 % in the past 3 months, with Credit Suisse’s Daniel Schwarz recently slashing his estimate by more than two-thirds. Meanwhile hedge funds have taken record short positions in both Aston Martin’s debt and equity. The cost of borrowing the company’s sterling-denominated bonds has risen to the highest of any UK corporate debt. “Short-sellers are taking the opportunity of 2019 being an increasingly difficult year. Wholesale not quite enough. Difficult market in the UK and Europe”, Palmer said. “And because Brexit moved (used to be end of March and now it’s end of October) it’s not reasonable to assume that somehow the market is going to come back”. +++ 

+++ AUDI introduced the redesigned Q3 last summer, but a mysterious prototype has been spotted undergoing testing in southern Europe. While the prototype closely echoes the standard model, it features a charging port on the driver’s side front fender. The model also has an electrified vehicle warning sticker on the rear window. Given this, the prototype could be equipped with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. That remains unconfirmed, but it wouldn’t be surprising as rumors have suggested the Q3 lineup would eventually expand to include an electrified variant. I haven’t heard much about the model, but it could have a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, an electric motor and a small battery pack. This could enable the plug-in hybrid to have a combined output of 204 hp and an electric-only range of up to 50 km. That’s significantly less power than the Q5 TFSI e which features a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, an electric motor and a 14.1 lithium-ion battery pack. That setup enables the crossover to produce 367 hp and 500 Nm. This means the PHEV can run from 0-100 km/h in 5.3 seconds and travel more than 40 km on electricity alone. There’s also the possibility that the prototype could be something else entirely. Rumors have suggested Audi could introduce an electric Q3 e-tron designed to appeal to the Chinese market. That model is rumored to have a 35.8 kWh lithium-ion battery and a range of up to 299 km. The prototype could also be a mule for upcoming Q4 e-tron. The model was previewed by a concept earlier this year and Audi has confirmed the production variant will be introduced in late 2020. However, it’s doubtful the prototype is the Q4 e-tron as the concept was based on the MEB platform while the Q3 rides on the MQB platform. +++ 

+++ BMW ’s new chief executive urged employees to embrace change and to find innovative ways to help the Bavarian carmaker overtake rival Mercedes at a time when demand for luxury cars is waning. Oliver Zipse addressed staff in an internal email a day after his predecessor Harald Krüger stepped down. BMW has lost ground to Mercedes-Benz producer Daimler in the past 5 years and seen rivals such as Tesla jump ahead in electric car sales. “Instead of blaming the current situation, conditions, political landscape or particular individuals, a positive spirit will enable us to seize the opportunities available to us. Such a positive spirit will be reflected in our culture: the harder the job, the more innovative our solution”, Zipse said. “We don’t always have to be first, but we most certainly have to be far better than our competitors in everything that we do. This applies not only to our products and services, but also to our processes and structures, as well as our costs”, he said. BMW has already narrowed the sales gap between BMW and Mercedes and is preparing to launch more models, Zipse said. BMW’s flexible production methods, which allow the carmaker to build electric and combustion-engined cars on the same production line, provide a major competitive advantage because it will allow the carmaker to scale up or slow down production of electric cars in line with demand, Zipse said. +++ 

+++ Employees at CHRYSLER ’s plant in Windsor, Ontario can breathe a sigh of relief as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has extended the life of the third shift at the factory for the rest of the year. Originally, the third shift was supposed to be eliminated on September 30 due to sluggish North American sales for the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan. However, the company later extended it until October 21 to accommodate a large order. FCA Canada has now extended the third shift until “until at least the end of 2019”. It is not known what motivated the automaker’s decision. “This is not a final solution, but every one of these extensions provides us more opportunities to work with the company to get a final resolve that maintains our third shift and current workforce for the future”, a statement reads. While the automaker confirmed the extension, it did not go into details as to why it decided to keep the third shift operational through 2019. Ending the shift would result in about 1,500 layoffs at the plant which currently employs 6,000 people. The facility will reportedly end production of the Dodge Grand Caravan in May 2020, as the aging model will be replaced by the Chrysler Voyager, an entry-level version of the Pacifica. In 2018, U.S. minivan sales reached their lowest level since 2011 with a total of 473,090 units. That’s only about one-third of the 1.37 million sold in 2000, the peak year for minivan sales. In the first half of 2019, sales were down another 15 % and the decline does not show signs of ending. Consequently, minivan market share has shrunk from 7.9 % of U.S. new-vehicle sales in 2000 to 2.6 % this year. Minivan sales in Canada were also down 17 % in 2018 to 71,878 units compared to 86,888 in the previous year, with market share shrinking to 3.6 % in 2018 from 4.3 % in 2017. +++ 

+++ GHANA will offer tax breaks of up to 10 years to automakers that set up local plants, as the government seeks to attract international companies such as Volkswagen Group and Nissan. VW and Nissan both agreed last year to set up production plants if Ghana signed off on an official incentive plan, while Renault said in January it would consider a similar move. In March, Toyota and Suzuki announced a joint venture to produce vehicles in the country. Ghana’s move to lure automakers follows South Africa, which has attracted 7 companies including VW, Renault, Nissan and Toyota with tax incentives. That has produced one of the bright spots of an otherwise moribund economy, accounting for about 7 % of GDP. As well as building cars at a plant in South Africa, VW also builds cars in Kenya, Nigeria and Algeria, and last year opened Rwanda’s first car plant. The full 10-year tax break will only apply to companies building whole vehicles in Ghana, though a 5-year holiday will be available for partial manufacturing, Trade Minister Alan Kyerematen said in a presentation. Import duties on new and used vehicles will be increased to 35 % from 5 – 20 % to encourage the purchase of locally built vehicles, while bringing in cars, which are older than 10 years, will be banned, he said. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI has big plans for the Frankfurt Motor Show as they’ve already teased the all-new i10 and an electric race car. If that wasn’t enough, now the company has confirmed a “full electric design concept”. The automaker is keeping details under wraps, but did say that the concept will “demonstrate how Hyundai is rethinking mobility”. That isn’t much to go on, but they also suggested the concept will have a unique interior as “the cars of tomorrow will become individualized living spaces”. As part of this effort, dubbed Style Set Free, Hyundai wants to give customers more customization options. In particular, the company envisions a future where customers could have the “freedom to design their cars in a way similar to how people design their homes”. Hyundai says this will enable cars to better reflect the lifestyle of their owner and even mentioned the customization could occur later in a vehicle’s lifecycle. There’s no word on specifics, but Hyundai Europe’s vice president of Marketing & Product, Andreas-Christoph Hofmann, said “With the first full electrified concept integrating Style Set Free, as well as our first ever electrified race car, we are proud that Hyundai is once again showing a glimpse into the future of driving, while other manufacturers are still talking about it”. Besides announcing the new concept, Hyundai revealed plans to launch a “special version” of the new i10 that was only recently previewed by the sketch. +++ 

+++ INFINITI ’s crossover lineup will soon welcome a new SUV coupe model dubbed QX55. How soon, you ask? Summer of 2020. The Japanese automaker released this brushstroke image of the vehicle, which shows a sloped roofline said to have been inspired by that of the first-generation FX. “The QX55 is a stunning new SUV coupe in the heart of one of the industry’s fastest growing segments, globally”, said Infiniti deputy chairman Mike Colleran. “Customers will appreciate the distinctive design which features a sporty roofline. We know customers and retailers are eagerly looking forward to the QX55 which will be available next year”. So if you used to love the FX (later dubbed QX70), then you might want to start getting excited for this new model, even though its ’55’ designation means we can expect a more compact crossover, rather than something mid-size like the discontinued FX / QX70. If that turns out to be the case, then the QX55 will serve as a direct rival to the likes of the BMW X4, Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe and perhaps even the Porsche Macan. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN has confirmed that a new ‘Ultimate Series’ hypercar is in the works, which will make its full debut at some stage in 2020 and will be strictly limited to just 399 examples. The roofless model is described as a ‘2-seat, open cockpit roadster’, sitting low with only a minor lip for a windscreen, and with noticeably contoured flanks. Dihedral doors will be fitted, too. The new car, which could be called GTZ or more likely GT Superlight based on recent McLaren trademark applications, will sit between the Senna (£750,000) and upcoming Speedtail (£2.1 million) in price. The company is taking expressions of interest from current customers at the Pebble Beach gathering in San Francisco this weekend. While the Senna has been designed for outright track performance, with  the Speedtail an aerodynamic special majoring on outright top speed, the third Ultimate Series car will be a road-focused machine. The engine has been confirmed as being the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 used across the brand’s entire line-up. It’s likely to arrive with the same 800 hp figure as the Senna, sending drive to the rear wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. It’ll still utilise McLaren’s carbon-fibre tub chassis, and the firm claims that it’ll be the lightest car the company has produced in the McLaren Automotive era (2010 onwards). To that extent, the bodywork will likely be all carbon-fibre too. The yet-to-be-named new machine, which, the firm claims, will offer its “purest driving experience yet”. Autointernationaal.nl understands that the roadster will be a lightweight design and is tipped to weigh less than the 1.198 kg Senna. “At McLaren Automotive, we are consistently pushing the boundaries to deliver the purest and most engaging driving experience whether for the road or track”, a spokesman said. “Our 2 current Ultimate Series cars, the Senna and Speedtail, offer unique and distinct driving experiences. Now this new addition to the Ultimate Series, an open-cockpit roadster, will take road-focused driving pleasure to new levels”. The new speedster will take on the forthcoming open-cockpit Ferrari Monza SP1 and SP2 roadsters. +++ 

+++ The perks of owning an electric car in NORWAY (one of the world’s largest markets for electric cars) are mostly enjoyed by the richest. That’s according to a study released by Statistics Norway, revealing that the likelihood of buying an electric car in Norway is almost double if you belong to the richest section of the population. In the first half, 45 % of all cars sold in the market were electric, up from a 31 % share in 2018. Sales were boosted by the introduction of the Tesla Model 3, which accounted for 14 % of all new cars registered in the first six months, the OFV said. Much of the success of electric vehicles in Norway is owed to generous tax incentives and exemptions from various fees. The surge in electric car sales even resulted in a shortfall in automobile taxes of about 3 billion kroner ($335 million) in this year’s budget. +++ 

+++ Car rental company Nextmove has walked away from a €5 million order for 85 units of the TESLA Model 3 electric vehicles following a dispute over how to fix quality issues, the German company said. Nextmove said it had ordered 100 electric vehicles in 2018 but raised objections over quality and finish after taking delivery of the first 15 Model 3 cars earlier this year. The rental company said following a dispute over how to resolve the quality shortcomings, Tesla triggered a refund clause but Tesla disputes that it cancelled the order. Tesla said Nextmove chose not to take delivery of the cars. Nextmove said its Model 3 vehicles had paint defects, faulty wiring, scratches on the dashboard, faulty wheels and condensation in the headlights. Offering faulty vehicles to rental customers would compromise Nextmove’s reputation for quality, the German company said. Tesla said it was in the process of resolving the issues and had provided replacement vehicles. “We believe the customer’s decision not to take delivery of its remaining Model 3 orders wasn’t entirely due to quality issues, but was largely influenced by their frustration with an unrelated dispute from earlier in the year”, Tesla said in a statement, without elaborating further. Tesla said any customer who was unhappy with their car could return it for a full refund up to 7 days after purchase. It said customer satisfaction data showed that German customers have largely been satisfied with their vehicles, including the quality and condition of their cars upon delivery. Tesla is counting on the Model 3 to help the company become profitable on a sustainable basis and transform it from a niche player to a heavyweight in the automobile industry. But Elon Musk has warned the company faced “manufacturing hell” as he has tried to scale up production of the Model 3. +++ 

+++ A federal judge in California urged the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and VOLKSWAGEN to resolve a civil suit stemming from its Dieselgate emissions scandal. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, who earlier had questioned why the agency waited 2 years to sue the automaker, said he was putting the suit on hold until October 4. “I want you to spend the next month or so seeing if you can resolve this case”, Breyer said, adding he was temporarily halting the case and ordering both sides “to sit down and see if you can work it out because whatever you work out today would be less expensive to everybody than what you would work out in the future”. The SEC filed a civil suit in March accusing Volkswagen and its former chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, of defrauding investors in U.S. bond offerings. Volkswagen was caught using illegal software to cheat U.S. pollution tests in 2015, triggering a global backlash against diesel vehicles that has so far cost it €30 billion in fines, penalties and buyback costs worldwide. In May, it set aside an additional €5.5 billion in contingent liabilities. Breyer cited a California SEC case that found any penalty could be reduced to account for other criminal or civil payments and he referenced the massive U.S. diesel costs VW has paid to date. Breyer said in May he was “totally mystified” why the SEC waited until 2019 to file suit. The SEC defended its pace of investigation saying in a court filing its staff worked as “quickly as possible under very difficult circumstances to complete an investigation into numerous different securities offerings conducted by a foreign company and three of its affiliates over many years”. Volkswagen has said it “cooperated fully with the SEC’s investigation” and argued the SEC was “now piling on”. Regulators and investors argue VW should have informed them sooner about the scope of the scandal, while the automaker says it was not clear then it would face billions of dollars in fines. VW issued more than $13 billion in bonds and asset-backed securities in U.S. markets at a time when senior executives knew that more than 500,000 U.S. diesel vehicles grossly exceeded legal vehicle emissions limits, the SEC complaint said. +++

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