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+++ DAIMLER is reviewing the product portfolio at its vans division, where sales have been hit hard by doubts about the cleanliness of diesel engined vehicles, Mercedes-Benz executive Marcus Breitschwerdt said. “In order to optimize our performance, this also means reviewing and realigning our strategic orientation”, Breitschwerdt, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said at the launch of an electric Mercedes-Benz van. Daimler will seek cost-saving opportunities, including through a review of the company’s product portfolio, he said. “We are looking at what we have and what we could have”, Breitschwerdt said, adding that the X-Class pickup is not delivering the sales volumes the company had hoped for. “The X-Class is a niche product”, the Daimler manager said at an event in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart. Furthermore Mercedes-Benz was not interested in entering the full-sized pickup truck segment, Breitschwerdt said. He added that the vans division had too many management layers and the company was looking at ways to cut fixed costs without resorting to forced layoffs. Daimler’s vans division employs 26,000 staff. Mercedes-Benz launched the EQ V, an electric van with a theoretical operating range of around 400 kilometers and the ability to charge the battery to 80 % of capacity within 45 minutes, Daimler said. The Mercedes-Benz EQ V will hit showrooms in early 2020, the company said. Breitschwerdt said he expected 15 % to 25 % of van sales by 2025 to be fully electric variants in the passenger segment and that he would consider diversifying the cell supplier base to ensure a sufficient supply of batteries as production ramps up. Breitschwerdt also said that although autonomous driving was possible from a technological point of view, the business models for operating autonomous vehicles were not yet proven. +++ 

+++ The DODGE Challenger has been built in its current generation since 2008 but, remarkably, it is still selling well and as it turns out, is appealing to younger buyers than the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. The Challenger’s current brand manager Kevin Hellman said that the average age of a buyer is 51 years old. “For the Challenger, it’s the youngest buyer in the segment, so there’s something to be said about that”, Hellman added. While 51 is hardly considered young, but information from the federal reserve reveals that the average age for a new car buyer in the United States is 53. What’s particularly surprising is the fact that the average Challenger buyer is younger than the average Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro customer despite those 2 pony cars being smaller, sportier and not to mention, much newer / modern than the Challenger. Analysts believe there are a number of reasons for this. Perhaps most importantly, Dodge routinely offers generous incentives on the Challenger and is often willing to provide financing to buyers with very little fuss. In addition, an argument can be made that the Challenger is a better daily driver than the Mustang and Camaro thanks to its more spacious interior, relaxed and comfortable ride, and its availability with an all-wheel drive system. In the first half of 2019 a total of 28,668 Dodge Challengers have been sold. While that’s down a full 23 % from a year ago, it is still ahead of the Chevrolet Camaro with 24,516 deliveries but well down on the 38,542 Mustangs that Ford delivered in the first 6 months of this year. +++ 

+++ FORD is gearing up to launch a Mustang-inspired electric crossover next year, but there’s a number of other electric vehicles on the horizon. While the company has been tight-lipped on specifics, 2 electric crossovers will be introduced for the 2023 model year. Little is known about them, but they are mid-sized crossovers that are code-named the CDX746 and CDX747. One will be for Lincoln, while the other is a Ford. The models are slated to be built in Flat Rock, Michigan and will reportedly be about the same size as the Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus. Production could begin as early as 2022 and the company could built up to 65,000 units annually. Interestingly, the report says the crossovers were originally slated to be built in Cuautitlan, Mexico. However, production was moved to the Flat Rock Assembly Plant. It remains unclear why Ford switched production sites, but the transfer will reportedly spell the end of Lincoln Continental production. That’s disappointing news, but Lincoln only managed to sell 8,758 Continentals in the United States last year. The car’s death has been rumored for awhile and it will reportedly cease production in late 2021. Like the Cadillac CT6, the Continental won’t disappear entirely as the model will reportedly continue to be built in China. It remains unclear if the Chinese-built model could be imported to the United States, but that decision will likely depend on the tariff situation as the trade war continues with no end in sight. +++ 

+++ Electric-vehicle startup Aiways acquired a 50 % stake in troubled domestic SUV maker JIANGLING , paving the way to launch Electric Vehicle (EV) output. Jiangling was relaunched last week as a 50-25-25 three-way partnership among Aiways, Jiangling Motors Group and Changan Automobile in Nanchang, capital of east China’s Jiangxi province. Aiways paid 1.75 billion yuan ($248 million) for the stake. The deal enables Aiways to obtain a license to produce EVs from China regulators and to use Jiangling’s plant to quickly ramp up output. The agreement also allows Jiangling to better utilize factory capacity and ease its financial woes. Aiways was established in 2017 by Fu Qiang, former China sales chief of Volvo in Shangrao, another city in Jiangxi province. The startup unveiled its first full electric vehicle, the U5 compact crossover, in November. Aiways plans to sell the U5 in domestic and European markets. Jiangling Holdings was formed in Nanchang in 2004 as a 50-50 joint venture between Changan and Jiangling Motors Group, both of which are state-owned companies. It mainly builds and markets SUVs under the Landwind brand. While it has annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles, Jiangling Holdings only sold some 26,000 Landwind-badged SUVs in 2018 and recorded a loss of 820 million yuan for the year. In March, Jiangling Motors was ordered by a Beijing court to stop the manufacture, marketing and sales of the Landwind X7, after a ruling found the SUV copied features of the Range Rover Evoque. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN is understood to be readying a faster, lighter ‘Long Tail’ version of the 720S for launch next year. McLaren is yet to confirm whether or not it will use the 750LT name for the Long Tail model, but earlier this year CEO Mike Flewitt told that the power gain from S to LT will be “at least” as much as that which turned the 570S into the 600LT. As such, a 750 hp figure is expected. However, he also stated that engineers have been struggling to shed the 100 kg now expected of LT models “because we made the 720S as light as we could in the first place”. It’s expected McLaren will still be capable of removing a meaningful amount of weight, however. The Woking firm is also battling to find an aesthetically pleasing way to incorporate the top-exit exhausts seen on the 600LT into the 720S’s body; something a scooped prototype didn’t have. That suggests a decision is yet to be made. A production limit has yet to be decided for the model, which could arrive in the middle of next year. “Part of me wants to keep it open as Porsche does with its GT models”, said Flewitt, “but we maight limit it to something like 750 of each (coupé and Spider)”. +++ 

+++ MORGAN Cars China, the British sports car maker sole dealer in the Asian country, has stopped marketing, importing and taking orders for the hand-built roadsters. The importer cited continued issues with vehicle quality and a lack of support from Morgan for the decision to shut down. Morgan Cars China was incorporated in Beijing by British entrepreneur Jim James along with a Chinese partner. It was established in 2011 and has sold more than 60 cars in China for Morgan. After 110 years of family ownership, Morgan Motor sold a majority stake this year to Investindustrial, an Italian investment firm with investments in Aston Martin and motorcycle maker Ducati. +++ 

+++ Sales at the VOLKSWAGEN GROUP , the largest light-vehicle maker in China, rose for the second straight month in July as gains at the Audi and VW brands more than offset weak results at Skoda, the company said in a statement. The automaker bucked the market downturn as volume rose 1.3 % last month to 313,400 vehicles under its various brands. Sales at Audi grew 6.1 % to 56,233, while deliveries at the VW brand increased 2 % to 228,000. But sales at Skoda fell 16 % to 21,100. VW Group did not release July results for other brands. In the first 7 months, the German group’s China deliveries dipped 3.2 % to 2.23 million. Still, the company has gained market share and left its closest rival, General Motors, further behind in China. China’s new light-vehicle sales dropped for the 13th consecutive month in July. Through July, cumulative new light-vehicle deliveries slumped 13 % to below 11.7 million. GM does not disclose monthly China sales. But according to its local partner, SAIC Motor, GM’s 2 joint ventures posted steep sales declines in the first 7 months. Deliveries at SAIC-GM dropped 13 % to 945,646 while volume at SAIC-GM-Wuling plunged 28 % to 853,212. SAIC-GM builds and markets Cadillac, Buick and Chevrolet cars and light trucks, while SAIC-GM-Wuling produces and distributes cars for the entry-level Baojun brand and minibuses for the Wuling marque. +++

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