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+++ FARADAY FUTURE chief executive Jia Yueting is set to step down from his position at the car manufacturer as part of a comprehensive restructuring plan. The somewhat controversial Yueting will look to clear the company’s and his own debts by establishing a trust fund paid with his Faraday Future shares to ultimately repay creditors. The electric car manufacturer believes a future initial public offering will net it the funds required to repay its mountains of debt. Yueting himself has stated he will take on the full responsibility of paying back all of his creditors. He has also indicated that he will sell some of his shares, but didn’t disclose the exact amount. The executive has been shrouded in controversy for years and, at one stage in 2017, was ordered back to his homeland of China to repay debts, to which he did not comply. Various court moves were also made to freeze his assets as well as his ownership stake in Faraday Future. Things looked to be improving for the startup last year after it received $854 million from Evergrande Health in exchange for a 45 % stake, but the company attempted to back out of this deal in December. Evergrande’s investment totaled $2 billion, and after the initial investment, the remaining $1.2 billion would be dispersed throughout 2019 and 2020. In May 2019, Faraday Future secured a $225 million bridge loan. +++ 

+++ The GENESIS Essentia concept wowed attendees at the 2018 New York Auto Show and, from the looks of it, it is getting closer to hitting the assembly line. Genesis boss Manfred Fitzgerald revealed the company is already working on a production variant as they’re currently validating its chassis. The executive went on to say they’re trying to get the “powertrain equation right and defining which way we want to go with it”. That statement is a little open ended, but Fitzgerald did say that “different configurations and different options are on the table”. The concept was an electric vehicle with multiple motors and a carbon fiber monocoque chassis and while we don’t see the latter being a feasible option, for cost reasons, an electrified powertrain can’t be ruled out, especially when everyone is moving towards this direction. Interestingly, the Essentia isn’t the only concept that is being eyed for production. Fitzgerald said this year’s Mint concept “hits all the marks” and this is important for the future. That being said, it’s hard to imagine how a small hatchback-like vehicle would fit into Genesis’ lineup. However, the concept was rather interesting as it was a compact 2-seater that was billed as an evolution of the city car. It also had a high-density battery pack which enabled the model to travel approximately 320 km on a single charge. In the meantime, Genesis is gearing up to launch the production version of the GV80 concept in the United States early next year, and a smaller crossover, dubbed the GV70, in 2021. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI and its South Korean workers’ union have reached a tentative wage deal and averted strike action for the first time in 8 years, sending the automaker’s shares up by more than 4 %. The union said it took into account “the uncertain political and economic situation” stemming from a diplomatic spat with Japan as well as a U.S.-China trade dispute. Hyundai’s unionized workers in South Korea have staged strikes in all but 4 years since the union was created in 1987. But the union has faced growing public and media criticism for walking out of wage talks despite workers’ relatively high pay and at a time of economic slowdown. “We have focused on escaping social isolation”, the union said in a statement. The deal is subject to approval from union members. South Korea has been dropped from Japan’s “white list” of countries with fast-track trade status, deepening a decades-old dispute over the countries’ wartime history and dimming South Korea’s economic outlook. The U.S.-China trade war meanwhile is playing havoc with global supply lines and markets vital to South Korea’s major exporters including automakers. Hyundai and the union reached their deal “to survive in the future” amid the uncertain business environment and rapidly changing auto industry bent on electrification and autonomous vehicles, the carmaker said in a statement. Under the latest wage agreement, each unionized worker will receive a one-off payment of up to 9 million won ($7,414), an additional payment equivalent to one and a half months’ salary, 15 Hyundai Motor shares, and a basic salary increase of 1.74 %. The basic salary increase is the lowest since at least the 2009 global economic downturn. “It is a good deal. It will reduce risks to Hyundai’s earnings”, said analyst Lee Jae-il at Eugene Investment & Securities, adding the rise is less than expected. “The union staged a strike to get a better wage deal from the company. But as profit is sagging, it’s having a reality check”, Lee said. After 6 consecutive years’ of profit decline, earnings have been recovering this year as favorable currency exchange and SUVs offset a sales slump in China. A consumer boycott of Japanese cars brought about by the diplomatic spat is also likely to help Hyundai’s domestic sales, particularly of its higher-margin premium brand Genesis, analysts said. The wage agreement will help Hyundai avert production losses as it tries to regain ground in the U.S. market with its new Palisade SUV, shipped from South Korea. +++ 

+++ KIA is hard at work developing a plug-in hybrid version of the XCeed. The sleek-looking XCeed was unveiled in petrol and diesel forms in June and, at the time, it was reported that a 48 volt mild-hybrid and a fully-fledged plug-in hybrid would be added to the family at a later date. Kia confirmed last year that the plug-in hybrid powertrain of the Niro PHEV would be added this year to the regular Ceed family. This powertrain comes with a 1.6-liter petrol engine delivering 105 hp and 147 Nm paired with a 60 hp electric motor for a total of 141 hp and 265 Nm. The Niro PHEV also features a 8.9 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and is good for an all-electric driving range of 58 km. The car manufacturer has yet to say what powertrain that XCeed plug-in hybrid will receive, but it makes absolute sense to utilize the same Niro PHEV-sourced system found on the standard Ceed hatchback. The exterior design of the XCeed plug-in hybrid will be largely identical to the petrol and diesel models, with perhaps the only identifying features being some new badges and the inclusion of a charging port on the left-side front fender. Those not interested in the PHEV can always choose between 3 petrol and 2 diesel engines. These include a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder with 120 hp, a 1.4-liter four-cylinder delivering 140 hp and a 1.6-liter T-GDi delivering 204 hp. The diesels both displace 1.6-liters and produce 115 hp and 136 hp respectively. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES ’ forthcoming next-generation S-Class has been seen during a prototype test, this time undergoing chassis and engineering assessment on the road. The production variant is due for launch in summer 2020, with sales starting shortly afterwards. Design-wise, the new S-Class morphs towards the brand’s new family face, but it’s likely to form one of the more noticeable alterations in an evolutionary design change. It’s an all-new model, but it retains the outgoing car’s basic 3-box saloon shape, swooping roofline and long bonnet. Like all S-Class saloons, I expect this new model will be packed with kit, including an array of driver convenience technology, as well as Mercedes’s latest range of electrified drivetrains and infotainment systems. Technology-wise, we expect the new S-Class will build on the outgoing model’s autonomous driving functions, and feature the next level of automation that could allow the vehicle to drive in urban environments with minimal driver input. New Level 3 semi-autonomous driving assistance features will arrive, but not before they make their debut on the next-generation C-Class that will be in showrooms before the brand’s next flagship limo. While the exterior design changes only slightly, the interior will be totally new. The next S-Class looks set to move away from the long, dual display infotainment and digital dial setup. Instead, a new single screen will sit pride of place, feeding up from the centre console not too dissimilar to the setup you’d find in a Tesla Model S. Naturally, Mercedes will introduce new petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains to the S-Class’s range. Later down the line, the German brand will introduce an all-electric equivalent to the S-Class under its new Mercedes-EQ sub-brand. A high-performance AMG model will also feature, alongside a new AMG 53 mild-hybrid 48 volt performance version. +++ 

+++ The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to test how drivers could use cameras to replace traditional REAR VIEW MIRRORS in automobiles, a technology already allowed in other countries, the agency said. The planned test by the agency known as NHTSA would examine “driving behavior and lane change maneuver execution” in cars with traditional mirrors and camera-based visibility systems, the department said in a notice offering the public a chance to comment. In March 2014, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (a trade group representing General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota and others, along with Tesla), petitioned NHTSA to use camera-based rear or side-vision systems. A similar petition was filed by Daimler in 2015 seeking approval for camera use instead of rearview mirrors in heavy-duty trucks. Those petitions are still pending. NHTSA said in a report last year it was still studying the issue. The new testing would initially focus on passenger vehicles and later on larger vehicles. Auto manufacturers have commonly added front and rear cameras to assist with maneuvers like parking, but some are now adding side cameras to provide visibility without traditional mirrors in other markets. Toyota began selling a Lexus ES in Japan last year with cameras replacing side mirrors and was followed by Volkswagen, which began selling its Audi e-tron model with cameras instead of side mirrors in Europe in December. Both sell versions in the United States with traditional mirrors. Honda will have the technology standard on its Honda e when the model goes on sale in Europe later this year or early next year, a spokeswoman said. The technology is already approved in Europe and Japan. Mirrorless systems are “an example of where automotive technology is ahead of the legislative curve” in the United States, said Mark Dahncke, an Audi of America spokesman. +++ 

+++ SEAT is adding a fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid version of the Tarraco, its flagship SUV. The Tarraco plug-in’s drivetrain combines a 1.4-liter gasoline engine with an 115 hp electric motor and a 13 kWh lithium ion battery pack to reduce its CO2 emissions to below 50 grams per km in Europe’s WLTP test cycle, Seat said. Seat launched the Tarraco, its third SUV after the Ateca and Arona, earlier this year to give the brand a midsize model offering 5 or 7 seats. The Tarraco plug-in version will debut at the Frankfurt auto show on Sept. 10 and will be available to order in the second half of next year, Seat said. It will be Seat’s first plug-in hybrid. The Tarraco is underpinned by Volkswagen Group’s MQB A long-wheelbase architecture and will be built at VW’s factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, alongside its platform sibling, the VW Tiguan Allspace. The Tarraco’s drivetrain has a total output of 245 hp and 400 Nm. A new option available will be trailer assist, which makes towing easier and helps with parking. The Tarraco plug-in hybrid is one of 6 electric and plug-in hybrid Seat and Cupra models that Seat plans to launch by early 2021. Seat sold 12,632 units of the Tarraco in Europe in the first half of 2019. The Tarraco was Europe’s fifth best-selling volume midsize SUV during that period after the Skoda Kodiaq, Peugeot 5008, Mitsubishi Outlander and VW Tiguan Allspace. +++ 

+++ Former Waymo and Uber SELF DRIVING TECHNOLOGY engineer Anthony Levandowski has been charged by federal prosecutors with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets. Levandowski made consistent headlines throughout 2017 and 2018 after Waymo, the self-driving division of Alphabet, filed a lawsuit against Uber claiming that he stole 14,000 documents from the technology company relating to proprietary information about its self-driving cars. Upon leaving Alphabet, Levandowski went on to found self-driving truck startup Otto and sold it for $680 million to Uber. Waymo claims that Uber ended up with these stolen files after acquiring Otto. The saga included a high profile lawsuit between Waymo and Uber and upon being put on the stand, Levandowski repeatedly pleaded the Fifth. The lawsuit was ultimately settled with Alphabet receiving a 0.3 % stake in Uber. The new criminal charges filed against Levandowski assert that he stole documents containing drawings and schematic pertaining to circuitry and Lidar units which were used in Waymo’s self-driving cars. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, plus restitution, for every count if he is convicted. In a statement, attorneys for Levandowski, Miles Ehrlich and Ismail Ramsey, denied any wrongdoing on behalf of the self-driving engineer. “For more than a decade, Anthony Levandowski has been an industry-leading innovator in self-driving technologies. He didn’t steal anything, from anyone. This case rehashes claims already discredited in a civil case that settled more than a year and a half ago”, they said. “The downloads at issue occurred while Anthony was still working at Google, when he and his team were authorized to use the information. None of these supposedly secret files ever went to Uber or to any other company. Over these last couple years, Anthony has continued to lead the development of new and innovative safe-driving technologies to advance this ground-breaking industry. Anthony is innocent, and we look forward to proving it at trial”. +++ 

+++ If you’re about to become the proud owner of either a brand new SKODA Scala or a Kamiq, you will now be able to connect your smartphone to your ride wirelessly. These 2 are the first Skoda models to offer Wireless SmartLink, which makes it even easier to use features such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although the latter will be available at a later date. Furthermore, wireless inductive in-car smartphone charging is also available through the optional Phone Box. Up until recently, Skoda owners could only access the Czech automaker’s SmartLink technology by connecting their mobile phones to their car using a USB cable, which still resulted in your smartphone apps being displayed on the vehicle’s infotainment screen. Doing this through a wireless capacity is of course easier and more convenient. First thing you do is establish a connection to the infotainment system via Bluetooth. Afterwards, you phone will always connect automatically through Wireless SmartLink as soon as you enter the car (you need to have Bluetooth on). While the smartphone itself is paired to the car via Bluetooth, the data for mirroring is transmitted over Wi-Fi. As for the 2 models, if you’d like to see them looking a little more visually aggressive, either visit or follow our coverage of the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show where Skoda will display Monte Carlo editions of both the Kamiq and the Scala. Compared to their “regular” counterparts, the Monte Carlo versions feature black details and special badging. Unfortunately, no performance enhancements were made, as this is simply a trim level. +++ 

+++ SUZUKI and Toyota have announced plans to acquire a financial stake in each other’s operations, as part of a move towards a collaborative development programme. Toyota plans to take a 4.94 % stake in Suzuki at a cost of £743.3 million for 24 million shares of common stock. Suzuki, meanwhile, will invest roughly £372 million in Toyota. The deal is awaiting approval from the foreign competition authorities. The difference in investment amounts reflects Toyota’s inflated value; in 2018, the company became the first Japanese firm to achieve annual sales of 30 trillion yen (£232 billion), while Suzuki achieved roughly a tenth of that, at 3,871.5 billion yen (£28 billion). A statement from Toyota read: “The 2 companies intend to achieve sustainable growth, by overcoming new challenges surrounding the automobile sector by building and deepening cooperative relationships in new fields while continuing to be competitors, in addition to strengthening the technologies and products in which each company specializes and their existing business foundations. Specifically, to take up challenges together in this transitional era, the 2 companies plan to establish and promote a long-term partnership between themselves, for promoting collaboration in new fields, including the field of autonomous driving”. In March, the 2 companies announced the first details of a new wide-ranging collaboration, which will involve Toyota producing Suzuki-badged hybrid vehicles based on the RAV4 and Corolla Touring Sports for the European market. The deal will include Suzuki vehicles being built at Toyota’s Derbyshire plant. The 2 Japanese firms signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a partnership in 2017, and have now agreed ‘concrete details’ of the deal. The 2 firms say the agreement will bring together “Toyota’s strength in electrification technologies and Suzuki’s strength in technologies for compact vehicles”. The agreement is also designed to help both firms “grow in new fields”, and will include joint collaboration in production and electrified vehicles. Toyota and Suzuki say they will “continue to fairly and freely compete against each other”. Both firms have given details on a number of specific projects in which they will collaborate, split into 3 strands. Toyota will supply its hybrid powertrain system to Suzuki at a global level, and will supply Suzuki with two new electrified vehicles based on the RAV4 and Corolla Touring Sports for the European market. The 2 new models, both due on sale in late 2020, will be additions to Suzuki’s current range, rather than replacing any current model. The Corolla-based vehicle will be built at Toyota’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire alongside the new Corolla, with production starting in late 2020. The hybrid powertrains will be made at the firm’s Deeside engine plant. The addition of the new model is not expected to add to the 3.200 people employed across the 2 sites. Toyota has invested more than £2.75 billion in its UK operations, and the head of the firm’s UK manufacturing division, Marvin Cooke, said the move “demonstrates Toyota’s trust in the capability of our workforce to deliver the highler levels of superior quality products”. He added: “Seeking to produce additional volume for other manufacturers is one example of all the efforts we are making to keep our UK manufacturing operations as competitive as they can be”. Toyota will also adopt Suzuki’s newly developed compact vehicle engines in the European market. These engines will be manufactured at Toyota’s facility in Poland. Toyota said it was too early to determine which models would get the engines. The 2 firms will work to develop hybrid vehicles for the Indian market. Suzuki will also supply Toyota with two compact vehicles based on the Ciaz and Ertiga for the Indian market, and 4 vehicles in the African market. In addition, Toyota and Suzuki have agreed to collaborate on the development of a C-segment SUV for India, with Toyota taking on production of the Suzuki Vitara Brezza for that market. Toyota boss Akio Toyoda said: “We believe that the expansion of our business partnership with Suzuki, from the mutual supply of vehicles and powertrains to the domains of development and production, will help give us the competitive edge we need to survive this once-in-a-century period of profound transformation”. Suzuki boss Osamu Suzuki added: “We appreciate the kind offer from Toyota to let us make use of their hybrid technology”. +++ 

+++ A series of images from inside TESLA ’s new Gigafactory in Shanghai, China, have surfaced, revealing that the electric car manufacturer is making the first steps in commencing production of the Model 3 at the site. These images show a pair of body-in-white Tesla Model 3s sitting where one area of the production line will be. In the background of other images are a host of different robots that will play a significant role in bringing the Model 3 to life in China. It is reported that Tesla has also installed a large stamping machine in the Gigafactory to make body parts. In early June, it emerged that Tesla had started installing production equipment into the massive Chinese Gigafactory just 6 months after breaking ground at the site. Chief executive Elon Musk recently said he believes Gigafactory 3 is the quickest car manufacturing facility to ever be built. Tesla will start local production of the Model 3 as soon as the plant is ready and intends on churning out approximately 3,000 units per week by the end of the year. At the same time, it is looking to increase Model 3 production at its site in Fremont, California to 7,000 units per week. Building Model 3s in China for the local market is more important than ever for the American car manufacturer to ensure it avoids steep import tariffs from selling its U.S.-built vehicles in China. The presence of Gigafactory 3 will also somewhat shield it from the ongoing trade war between the United States and China. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA and Suzuki will form a capital alliance, the Japanese automakers said, as they look to accelerate technological development and meet sweeping changes upending the global auto industry. The deal will see Toyota pay about 96 billion yen ($910 million) for a 4.94 % stake in smaller Suzuki, while Suzuki will acquire around 48 billion yen worth of shares in Toyota. That is equivalent to 0.2 % of Toyota’s shares. The 2 automakers said in a joint statement they intended to overcome new challenges facing the industry by “building and deepening cooperative relationships in new fields while continuing to be competitors”. They said they would strengthen technologies and products in which each of them specialize. “Toyota is getting Suzuki at an attractive valuation”, said Janet Lewis, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Securities. “It appears to be very similar to the mutual investments made between Toyota and Mazda”. The tie-up highlights the challenges for automakers as they fight to keep up with the breakneck growth in an industry that has been transformed by the rise of electric vehicles, ride-hailing and autonomous driving. Toyota and Suzuki said in 2016 they were exploring a partnership, citing technological challenges and the need to keep up with industry consolidation. The pair earlier this year announced a tie-up to produce electric vehicles and compact cars for each other. Toyota has been looking to expand scale in next-generation technology and said this year it would offer free access to patents for EV motors and power control units. It believes that move would help it cut by as much as half the outlays for expanded electric and hybrid vehicle components in the United States, China and Japan. Supplying rivals would greatly expand the scale of production for hardware. Suzuki, which specializes in affordable small cars, had been struggling to keep pace with the huge costs of investing in research and development for automated driving functions. Suzuki said it will use 20 billion yen of the proceeds on development of new technologies including autonomous driving, and the remainder to replenish its capital. Suzuki has been seeking to team up with a larger carmaker after an acrimonious split with Volkswagen. Toyota has budgeted about 7 times more on research and development than Suzuki for this fiscal year, and the smaller automaker has pointed to the soaring cost of making competitive cars as a reason to join forces with a partner. Toyota said in June it aims to get half of its global sales from electrified vehicles by 2025, which is 5 years ahead of schedule, and will tap Chinese battery makers to meet the accelerated shift to electric cars. +++

+++ The time has come for VOLVO ’s S90 and V90 models to receive their mid-life facelift. Changes will be made to the front and rear, more specifically to the fog light surrounds and the lower parts of the rear bumper and part of the taillights. As you might have guessed already, the facelifted Volvo V90’s and S90’s visual changes will be really subtle. The highlight of the facelift will come from under the bonnet, as the S90/V90 is expected to get the company’s latest mild-hybrid tech that debuted in the updated XC90. Volvo’s new electrified tech involves combining a KERS system with its existing turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, claiming up to 15 % of fuel savings in the real world. The new Kinetic Energy Recovery System works through the also new brake-by-wire system in order to improve fuel economy and tailpipe emissions. Models equipped with this powertrain tech will bear a ‘B’ badge instead of the ‘T’ for petrol/petrol-electric and ‘D’ for diesel vehicles. Following the same recipe with the updated XC90, the facelifted S90/V90 duo will also get a revised range of driver assistance systems, including Oncoming Lane Mitigation and City Safety with Autobrake, as well as an upgraded Sensus infotainment system that’s finally getting Android Auto in addition to Apple CarPlay. The facelifted Volvo S90/V90 are expected to reach the market sometime towards the end of the year. +++ 

+++ WIESMANN filed for insolvency back in 2013, but the brand is making a comeback as the company has released the first teaser image of their all-new model. The car will have a familiar front end with a prominent grille and a flowing hood. We can also expect pronounce fenders and a rakish windscreen. The model will be a coupe, but nothing is official as of yet. Virtually nothing is known about the car, but Wiesmann announced plans use engines sourced from BMW M in 2017. At the time, the company said their upcoming model will be built from scratch and incorporate new technology and materials. Wiesmann also said the car would be positioned as a luxury vehicle and noted the BMW engine would give it a “Bavarian high-tech heart”. While the company hasn’t confirmed which BMW engine they’ll use, rumors suggest it could be the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 that powers the M5. The engine produces 600 hp and 750 Nm in the standard model, while the M5 Competition has an increased output of 625 hp. There’s some speculation that the car will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, but Wiesmann doesn’t appear listed on the official press conference schedule. Regardless, the company’s website says it will be updated next month and that’s presumably when the car will be unveiled. +++

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