+++ ASIAN CITIES are switching to electric vehicles in a bid to tackle worsening air quality, cut climate changing emissions, and expand their public transport networks, climate experts said. Transport is the fastest-growing source of climate-warming greenhouse gases, with the vast majority of projected increases expected to come from developing Asia by 2030, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Only 7 Asian countries have transport emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement on climate change, but many cities in the region are now taking action, said Madan Regmi, at the United Nations social agency for the Asia-Pacific. “Authorities are realizing that they can extend metro lines and convert to electric-powered buses that not only lower emissions, but also reduce congestion and improve air quality”, he said at a U.N. climate event in Bangkok. “Cities are also adding infrastructure for walking and cycling, which are seen as key to improved liveability”. The world’s 100 most polluted cities are largely in Asia, with India and China dominating, according to an air quality report published by Greenpeace this year. Tackling the problem, Shenzhen in China’s southeast, said last year that its entire bus fleet of more than 16,000 buses had gone electric; the biggest such fleet in the world. Beijing has also greatly improved its air quality by switching to clean energy vehicles, Regmi said. Thailand is testing electric-powered ferries for Bangkok’s canals to replace diesel engines, while India’s transport minister has called for a full switch to electric vehicles by 2030. In the Philippines, one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of warmer temperatures, the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 hastened the switch to clean-energy jeepneys, the colorful passenger trucks that tens of thousands rely on. As older, more polluting vehicles were phased out, Manila and Tacloban cities backed solar and electric-powered jeepneys, said Maria Golda Hilario, an associate at the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities in Manila. “Traffic congestion is a reality in Asian cities, but public transport is not to blame. The priority for cities should be to move people, not vehicles”, she said. But electric buses cost two to four times more upfront than conventional diesel buses, and need extensive charging infrastructure. So poorer countries are making do. In Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, “pink” buses for women were launched recently with U.N. funding, and are hybrid vehicles or use clean diesel technology, said Mir Reza Ozgen, an urban and regional planning official. The buses are aimed at female students and working women who otherwise have to rely on more expensive private transport, or risk harassment on public transport, he said. The vehicles are expected to benefit 1.4 million women annually. “We have to find feasible solutions that work for us, given our economic constraints”, he said in Bangkok. “These buses will not only reduce emissions, they will also increase the mobility of women and their access to economic opportunities, so there will be several long-term positive impacts”, he said. +++ 

+++ The AUDI RS Q8 may have just set a new production SUV lap record around the Nürburgring. On August 21 there was a plethora of different cars from the Volkswagen Group and Mercedes-AMG hit the German racetrack. One of them was an RS Q8 prototype. The RS Q8 was timed as lapping the circuit in just 7 minutes and 47 seconds. This would put it 2 seconds ahead of the current record-holding Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S. Sitting at the heart of the RS Q8 will be the company’s familiar 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine pumping out approximately 600 hp. The car will send all of its power to the rear wheels and could prove to be an enticing option for those wanting a super SUV but not willing to pay the premium for the Urus. +++ 

+++ The government of the United Kingdom is developing a new safety standard for self-driving vehicles on British roads, as part of a push to make the country a world leader in AUTONOMOUS TECHNOLOGY . The new regime, called Cav Pass, is being developed by “world leading” experts in vehicle safety and cyber security from the Government, industry and the academic world. It’s intended to ensure that self-driving vehicles “are safe and secure by design and minimise any defects ahead of their testing, sale and wider deployment on UK roads”. The new standards will build on existing guidelines that were first established by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) in 2015. The scheme, which the British government hopes will become the basis for a global standard, was announced by George Freeman, the future mobility minister, at the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle conference. At that event, Freeman also opened the Autonomous Village, a new self-driving test facility at Millbrook Proving Ground that features 70 kilometres of test track. The facility is the first in a planned network of autonomous vehicle testing facilities that will also allow developers to test software, 5G connectivity and cyber security systems. “Self-driving vehicles can offer significant rewards for the UK’s economy, road safety and accessibility”, said Freeman. “We are determined to lead in the testing and development of safe autonomous transport. This is new terrain, and with our national expertise, the UK is well placed to blaze the trail globally by developing a global benchmark for assuring the safety and security of this exciting technology”. +++ 

+++ BMW ’s top labor representative is batting away gloomy predictions for the industry, saying he expects global demand to recover and the automaker’s output to jump by as much as a fifth over the next few years. BMW, which includes the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, will grow production by a market-beating 2 % to 3 % annually until about 2025, Manfred Schoch, who is also deputy chairman of the company’s supervisory board, said in an interview. The forecast, against a backdrop of shrinking key markets, will require BMW to build 2 new plants. “We don’t expect the global car market to stagnate but grow by 1 % to 2 %”, said Schoch. “Based on our model planning at BMW we expect annual growth of 2 % to 3 %. So we need 2 more plants to do this: one in China and one in Europe”. Such a rise would equate to as many as 500,000 additional cars by 2025, on top of the 2.5 million sold last year. BMW recently started output at a new factory in Mexico, and plans a €1 billion site in Hungary. It’s also boosting capacity in China to 650,000 cars from about 400,000 currently. The rosy assessment from Schoch contrasts with signs of gloom in the industry, which is under pressure from a global economic slowdown and the strains of investing in electric-car production. Munich based BMW, which recently replaced its CEO Harald Krüger with manufacturing boss Oliver Zipse after just one term, cut its outlook in May after making a provision in an alleged cartel case. Even excluding this charge, automotive returns have dropped to the lowest point in 10 years. BMW in June moved up a goal for a lineup of 25 electric and plug-in vehicles by 2 years to 2023. This puts the carmaker on track to sell roughly 700,000 electrified vehicles by 2025. The manufacturer currently builds the i3 electric city car in Leipzig, Germany, and will make the upcoming iNext and i4 at 2 other German sites. “Setting up for the i4 in Munich will mean closing down the plant for nearly 3 months”, said Schoch. “But we have got to ready factories here to make electric cars. Otherwise we face sitting among ruins like in Detroit”. And the pressure doesn’t stop there. At next week’s Frankfurt car show, anti-climate change protesters plan to bring the world’s biggest vehicle show to a standstill as manufacturers’ electric-car offerings sit next to gas-guzzling SUVs. “If you look at an average household today, from the fridge to the hair dryer to the razor, all of these things are electric, the only thing that isn’t is the car”, said Schoch. “Cars will turn electric too, and whoever isn’t on board with this is a goner”. +++ 

+++ Britain should delay the BREXIT beyond Oct. 31 rather than leave the European Union without a deal which is a particular threat to large automakers, the head of the sector’s industry body told. As the United Kingdom spins toward an election, Brexit remains up in the air more than 3 years after Britons voted to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum. Options range from a turbulent ‘no-deal’ exit to abandoning the whole endeavor. The autos sector, the country’s biggest exporter of goods, has been one of the most vocal opponents of a no-deal Brexit, warning that production would be hit with tariffs, border delays and new bureaucracy, ruining the viability of many plants. “Leaving without a deal would be the worst outcome”, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers of Traders (SMMT) Mike Hawes told. “If it takes an extra couple of months to get that deal, I think the industry would put up with that”, he said. Figures published by the SMMT in July showed investment in Britain’s car sector fell by more than 70 % in the first half of the year to $111 million, although a major investment by Jaguar Land Rover will boost the full-year figure. “Investment in the UK has effectively stopped”, said Hawes. “It has, because they (investors) fear no-deal. That will make it very, very difficult to continue to have the certainty and confidence to invest in the UK”. +++ 

+++ The automotive world is full of stories of unsung or lesser known heroes, but few are perhaps as tragic as that of Alejandro DE TOMASO . It began when De Tomaso fled Argentina and settled in Modena, Italy, where he founded his eponymous automotive brand. Over the years the entrepreneur folded several prominent Italian names under the De Tomaso group, including Ghia, Vignale and Innocenti, as well as motorcycle companies Moto Guzzi and Benelli. In addition, De Tomaso swooped in and acquired Maserati when Citroën couldn’t (or wouldn’t) sustain the trident brand, introducing platform sharing to lower costs and subsequently launching several models such as the Quattroporte III, Ghibli, and, most important, the Biturbo. What does all this have to do with the newly revived De Tomaso Automobili? When Norman Choi, the Hong Kong–based businessman who was also responsible for reviving the Apollo brand, bought the rights to the De Tomaso name in 2014 he wanted to do it justice and pay homage to both the man and the company. Choi and the team led by general manager Ryan Beris took a deep dive into De Tomaso history. That history is of course inextricably intertwined with the Pantera and launching a new version of that car would have been an obvious place to start. But the firm wanted to do things slightly differently, and found the perfect starting point with the P70 project (also of note: Ares Design plans a run of Lamborghini Huracán based Panteras). Originally envisioned as a prototype Can Am car, the P70 was conceived when Carroll Shelby and Alejandro De Tomaso wanted to take on giants such as Ferrari in sports-car racing. It was intended to be a follow up to De Tomaso’s first road car, the Vallelunga (one of the earliest mid-engine sports cars; it predated the Lamborghini Miura) and was originally slated to have a 7.0-liter engine, hence the P70 name. Shelby would finance the project, De Tomaso would produce the car, while Pete Brock would design it. Brock had worked on the Shelby Daytona Coupe and the initial version of the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, and the final design was given a once-over by Medardo Fantuzzi, who had previously worked on Maserati and Ferrari road racers. However, as fate would have it, Shelby left the project on the eve of the car’s launch to join another sports-car project, this one with Ford for something called the GT40. Because of Shelby’s withdrawal from the project, the P70 never launched. Only one example was ever built and it remained at the factory until the company’s bankruptcy in 2004. Feeling betrayed, De Tomaso used the P70’s chassis design as the basis for his next road car: the Mangusta, the natural predator of the cobra. This is where the new P72 comes in. Promoted as a continuation and homage to the P70 project, Choi wanted to get this right. Designed by Joe Wong, the same young stylist behind the Apollo IE, there are several cues from ’60s road racers. That was intentional. The Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale, Ferrari 330 P3/4, and Lola T70 are easy comparisons, but a lot of the inspiration also came from previous De Tomaso racing prototypes such as the Sport 1000 and Sport 2000. It’s a truly stunning looking thing, more a sculpted piece of art than anything coming from Modena, Woking, or Stuttgart today. The lines are smooth and curvaceous, mixing in classic style with modern details. It’s as retro as it is modern, and a design as beautiful as this needed to be as stunning on the inside too, and wherever the car has appeared (Goodwood, Pebble Beach, etc.) it seems to draw a crowd. Indeed, the interior is just as jaw-dropping as the exterior, and features a similar mix of old-school and modern touches. There’s leather, carbon-fiber, and copper, while the quilted seats, visible gearbox workings, and beautiful gauges give the P72’s interior a unique look and feel. Certainly, for a prototype everything looks and feelsready to go. It’s this attention to detail that shows the passion behind the project. Underneath, the P72’s state-of-the-art mechanicals are based on the same carbon-fiber chassis used in the Apollo IE. Beris hopes the car will “disrupt the industry, just as the Pantera did in its time”. The prototype is powered by a V12 with a manual gearbox, and will be available in right and left handdrive specifications, the former a special request from Choi for Hong Kong homologation. All 72 examples of the €750,000 ($822,000 as of this writing) supercar have already been spoken for. The price point puts it in an interesting mid-point between more mainstream supercars such as the Ferrari SF90 Stradale and Lamborghini Aventador SVJ and hypercars such as the McLaren Speedtail, Bugatti Chiron, and Koenigsegg Regera. The reborn De Tomaso Automobili wanted to bring romanticism back to supercars to honor the 60th anniversary of the brand, to reintroduce storytelling in a world more focused on chasing lap times, horsepower numbers, and who has the most bespoke customization options. It appears they’ve succeeded. De Tomaso isn’t about diamond paint finishes, Nürburgring lap times, or top-speed records, and that alone is worth applauding. It turns out the De Tomaso story isn’t finished yet, and it seems as if it will be an interesting one to keep following. +++ 

+++ European states are discussing the creation of a second EUROPEAN BATTERY CELL PRODUCTION CONSORTIUM , the German economy ministry said, as automakers prepare to launch a raft of new electric cars at the Frankfurt auto show. Europe’s auto industry is promoting zero-emissions cars as a way to comply with clean air rules, a strategy shift which forces carmakers to retool their supply chains to build electric, rather than combustion-engined cars. Germany’s Economics ministry said it is making €1 billion in subsidies available to help enhance and preserve the automotive value chain in Germany and Europe. “Germany and Europe need to develop and build competitive, innovative and environmentally sustainable battery cells”, German economy minister Peter Altmaier said. Germany is in talks with the European Commission and other European Union member states about finalizing 2 “Important Projects of Common European Interest” and German companies are set to play a leading role in both projects, the ministry said. A spokeswoman declined to give names of companies potentially taking part but added that German companies play important roles in both production consortia. Among the German companies involved are BMW. Altmaier said in June he expected there would be eventually probably 3 battery cell groups. Volkswagen said it will invest €900 million in a joint venture with Sweden’s Northvolt to build a battery plant with an annual capacity of 16 Gigawatt hours in Salzgitter, Germany. Volkswagen will take a 20 % stake in Northvolt and the German battery plant is due to commence production in 2020. The Volkswagen Group alone has a demand of more than 150 Gigawatt hours from 2025 in Europe. It will launch almost 70 electric models in the next 10 years and expects to build around 22 million electric cars in the next decade as part of a €30 billion investment push by 2023. The market for electric vehicle battery cells is currently dominated by Asian companies including Samsung SDI, LG Chem, SK Innovation, CATL, Svolt and Panasonic. +++ 

+++ FORD has scrapped a plan to create a unified national sales company for China that stoked mistrust of the automaker at its joint venture partners and contributed to a spectacular collapse in sales in the world’s biggest car market. On the face of it, the plan announced by Ford in June last year to combine sales channels for vehicles manufactured with Chongqing Changan Automobile and the Jiangling Motors Group made sense. It would promote operational efficiency at its loss-making China operations and is standard practice in most other markets. But it ignored realities on the ground. Chinese automakers, often in 50-50 partnerships with foreign car makers, are reluctant to lose control over sales decisions, rarely willing to trust each other and loyal to local provinces that are fiercely competitive in their quest for economic growth and tax revenues from vehicle sales. “I would say there was a lack of deep understanding on how relationships work in China”, Anning Chen, who in October took over as Ford’s third China chief in 2 years, said in an interview in Shanghai. It is the first time that Ford, grappling with a host of problems in China that present no quick fix, has disclosed the dropping of the plan; a decision also prompted by a sharp slowdown in China’s economic growth amid the trade war with the United States as well as deeper losses at dealerships. Many major foreign automakers have 2 or 3 partners in China, involving different marketing and distribution strategies for each partner. Ford is the only one known to have tried combining sales channels for mainstream cars. Other steps Ford is taking to turn around its China business include launching 30 new or significantly redesigned vehicles over the next three years, reductions in the number of temporary workers at plants, hiring more local Chinese, and putting profits before growth in market share. Capacity cuts as Ford and its partners embark on “right-sizing” their plants are also likely, Chen said. A recovery would help relieve pressure on the U.S. automaker which is also scrambling to end losses in Europe through plant closures and layoffs. It would also mitigate the risk that Ford ends up a marginal player in China; a market with annual sales of some 28 million vehicles that many foreign automakers now consider their most important. The slide in Ford’s sales has been unprecedented for a major global automaker in China. After a peak of 1.08 million vehicles in 2016, sales began faltering in late 2017, then nearly halved last year to 504,488, according to consultancy IHS Markit. IHS forecasts Ford’s sales will tumble further to 382,882 this year, while LMC Automotive predicts Ford’s China market share will fall to 1.4 % compared to 3.8 % in 2016. Ford has publicly pinned the blame on an aging model lineup but company officials familiar with the matter said the breakdown in relationships with its joint venture partners and dealers as well as missteps by previous management teams were the bigger factors at play. For now, Ford’s main goal in China is profitability, Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford Automotive, told. “You can be a profitable business in China with a relatively low market share because of the size of the market”, he said. As signs of progress, Hinrichs pointed to dealer inventories at their lowest level in 18 months and a halving in first-half China losses before interest and tax to $283 million from the same period a year earlier. “This is not a 5 year journey”, he said, but declined to be more specific when asked how soon Ford’s China unit is expected to regain profitability. Hinrichs, who became head of Ford’s auto business in May, helmed its Asia Pacific business from 2009 to 2011; a period of strong growth for the automaker in China. Chen, a U.S. citizen who grew up in China and speaks fluent Mandarin, joined Ford in October from Chery. He is however, a Ford veteran, having worked for the firm for 17 years, mostly in Dearborn, prior to joining Chery. Highlighting the uneasy relationship that the joint venture partners have with each other and with Ford has been unhappiness over a cross distribution arrangement for a small SUV: the Territory. It was developed with JMC and sold not only through JMC Ford’s sales network but also through Changan Ford’s. The approach angered Changan, which wondered why it wasn’t the development partner and which as a bigger state-owned company considers itself far higher in pecking order than a regional firm like JMC, Ford company officials said. For its part, JMC was upset the product was shared with Changan, the officials added, declining to be identified as they were not authorised to speak publicly on the matter. Changan Ford, which makes the EcoSport, Focus and Mondeo, did not respond to a request for comment. JMC, which builds the Territory and the Transit plus Tourneo vans, declined to comment. While Ford previously touted the arrangement as a success, Chen was more circumspect, saying similar agreements were unlikely as they can create inconsistencies in dealer services. “We want to make sure distribution networks are directly facing different market segments and customers. We don’t want to mix them up”, he said. Ford is also aiming to build more cars locally, which will improve relations with domestic partners and help fill its woefully underused assembly plants. Cars likely to be built in China include the redesigned Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs. Ford used only 24 % of its China production capacity to build 1.6 million vehicles in 2018, according to U.S. consultancy AlixPartners. Normally, rates of around 70 % to 75 % are considered the breakeven threshold. Ford declined to comment on its China capacity. The PSA Group, also struggling in China with a 26 % capacity utilization rate in 2018 according to AlixPartners, is shutting one plant, selling another and cutting thousands of jobs. Hinrichs said, however, that Ford doesn’t feel a “huge amount of pressure” to shutter any of its 5 China plants given that they are already paid for. Instead, by locally producing many of the upcoming new products, Ford will gain an opportunity to further adjust the installed capacity, he said. +++ 

+++ The FRANKFURT Auto Show will champion sustainable driving and electric cars, Germany’s auto industry association said, as it seeks to head off protests from climate activists. Security has been tightened for the Sept. 11-22 event after an activist group last month smashed up 40 luxury vehicles and called for the show to be scrapped. “We will make our contribution to climate protection and invest massively in sustainable individual mobility”, Bernhard Mattes, president of Germany’s VDA auto industry association told journalists at a press conference guarded by riot police. The VDA has invited activists to join public debates before and after the show, Mattes said, as activists unveiled a banner saying “cars have been overtaken” outside the press conference. “We wish to provide intelligent answers to the most urgent questions about the future of mobility”, Mattes said, explaining that the dwindling number of exhibitors was no longer a measure of success for the IAA, as the exhibition is known. “We are experiencing a transformation from the world’s largest car showroom to the most relevant platform. A trend can be seen among all the major exhibitions: the relevant point is no longer the size of the area, but the extent of the media reach”, Mattes said. The VDA said exhibition space had been cut from around 200,000 square meters in 2017, to around 168,000 this year and formats had been changed to include more interactive debates. The number of exhibitors has shrunk to around 800 this year, from 994 in 2017. Fiat, Volvo, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Chevrolet, Cadillac and Aston Martin will skip the show and only 5 exhibition halls will have new cars, instead of 8. The Frankfurt show will, however, remain a key venue for German manufacturers to show off their wares. Volkswagen will display its ID 3 electric vehicle, Porsche its Taycan electric sports car, and Mercedes-Benz its EQ S concept for an electric sedan. All 3 carmakers are also hosting separate launch events for these vehicles outside of Frankfurt. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS (GM) will use embedded Google technology to power navigation, voice activated controls and other vehicle infotainment functions starting in 2021, in a win for Alphabet in the race with Amazon and other technology companies to control dashboards. GM said it will offer Google Assistant, Google Maps and other applications available through the Google Play app store in all its vehicle brands outside China, which is GM’s largest single market. GM said the first vehicles with built-in Google infotainment technology will launch in 2021, with more models rolling out in the following years. Google has previously struck deals to embed infotainment technology in cars built by allied automakers Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and Volvo. Amazon is wooing automakers to embed its rival Alexa voice assistant technology in vehicles. For years, GM and other automakers were reluctant to share dashboard space with Google, Apple and other tech companies. Automakers feared losing control of valuable data, and having their brands eclipsed by powerful Silicon Valley names. Consumers are, however, forcing automakers to shift gears. Connecting smartphones and apps to cars can be a clumsy experience because of automakers’ poor technology, but having functionality built in from internet giants has begun to make for a smoother experience. “We have the ability today to give commands to vehicles with embedded voice assistants. It is very limited”, Santiago Chamorro, GM’s vice president for Global Connected Customer Experience, said in an interview. “With Google voice assistant it is a better experience for them”. Patrick Brady, Google’s vice president of engineering, said the issue of harvesting and monetizing data is “blown out of proportion” when it comes to cars. “We are working to bring services into the car”, he said. Google will not have access to data about the way an individual drives, or data about the vehicle’s maintenance needs, he said. GM could though enable customers to schedule vehicle maintenance using Google’s voice commands, Chamorro said. The automaker said pricing for packages that include Google services will be set closer to vehicle launches. GM will continue to offer Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto to allow consumers to project a version of their smartphone screen onto a dashboard screen. GM was a pioneer in offering drivers an on-board concierge service through its Onstar telematics system, which connects drivers to human operators. Some of the services those operators provide, such as turn-by-turn navigation, Google technology delivers with its automated system. Chamorro said GM will continue the Onstar service, which GM has promoted recently as a form of insurance, connecting motorists to an operator who can help in an emergency. “That is fundamentally a human activity”, Chamorro said. “We have 100 trained technicians” who can respond when an Onstar customer is in danger. For Google, the GM agreement offers the potential of embedding technology in as many as 3.6 million cars annually; the number of vehicles GM sold outside China last year. The Renault-Nissan alliance sells more than 10 million vehicles a year. Google’s Brady said the company is discussing deals with other automakers but for now is focused on launching embedded systems with GM, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and Volvo. “We are mostly focusing on making those partnerships successful”, he said. +++ 

+++ French economy minister Bruno Le Maire poured cold water on the possibility of MERGER talks between Fiat Chrysler and Renault resuming any time soon, saying the priority for the French automaker was to strengthen its alliance with Nissan. “I think it would be better not to do 2 things at the same time”, Le Maire said when asked about a possible restart of the collapsed merger talks. +++ 

+++ NISSAN is not currently considering asking embattled boss Hiroto Saikawa to resign, 2 people with knowledge of the matter told after he admitted to being overpaid in violation of internal procedures. An internal investigation found that Saikawa and other executives had received improper compensation, raising doubts about Saikawa’s pledge to improve governance in the wake of former chairman Carlos Ghosn’s arrest last year for alleged financial misconduct. “It’s not going to happen. I don’t think it will”, one of the sources said when asked if Saikawa could resign to take responsibility for the alleged misconduct. “There’s no illegality”, the source said, declining to be identified because the information has not been made public. Nissan was not immediately available to comment. Saikawa apologized and vowed to return any improperly paid funds as he admitted to Japanese reporters that he had wrongly received stock-related compensation under “a scheme of the Ghosn era”. The improper payments, including tens of millions of yen Saikawa received through a stock appreciation rights scheme, were disclosed at a meeting of Nissan’s audit committee. Nissan’s board is expected to discuss potential disciplinary action. +++ 

+++ OPEL is planning a revival of its now-dormant performance subbrand, OPC, and a hot Corsa is on the cards as the next model in the pipeline. Although a source at the firm indicated that Opel’s rival to Ford’s ST and Honda’s Type R is “in a bit of a hiatus now”, understands company executives are considering a return to the hot hatch sphere in the near future. There was some concern that new owner PSA, engaged in a dramatic profit-driven turnaround of the German brand, would consign OPC to the history books. The French firm is yet to officially confirm a new GTI version of the Corsa’s platform-sharing sibling, the Peugeot 208. But bosses are understood to be waiting to decide between petrol or electric propulsion for a new hot supermini, likely based on how sales of the standard electric variant take off. The Corsa is considered the best hope for a revival of OPC on account of its historic sales success. The past 3 generations of the Corsa have been available with OPC variants. The chosen power source for a new Corsa OPC will hinge on PSA’s decision for the 208 GTi. My source was keen to point out that the OPC subbrand is synonymous for being “track focused, a bit lairy and very much hardcore”; qualities that would suggest petrol power is the most natural fit. An output of more than 200 hp would be needed to compete with the best in the small hot hatch sector, the Ford Fiesta ST. A decision has yet to be made on the exact debut date for a performance-oriented Corsa, but insiders suggest nothing will arrive until 2021 at the earliest. The brand is first focusing on rolling out the models that are core to its crucial electrification strategy, including the new Corsa, plug-in hybrid Grandland X and the new Mokka, which is due next year and will join its supermini sibling in being offered as a pure-electric version. Also arriving in 2021 will be an all-new Astra, based on PSA’s modular EMP2 platform, unlike the current GM-developed car. The new Astra will almost certainly include an electric version alongside regular petrol and diesel units, although EMP2 hasn’t been developed to take hybrid powertrains. +++ 

+++ The PSA Group and its Chinese partner Dongfeng Group have hammered out a plan to restructure their joint venture operations, slashing costs in the short term and aiming to boost annual sales to 400,000 vehicles by 2025, PSA said. Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen Automobiles (DPCA), the joint venture based in Wuhan, central China, plans to reduce the break-even point to below 180,000 vehicles in 2019 and further reduce to below 150,000 vehicles between 2020 and 2021. The 27-year-old venture will start to consolidate manufacturing resources, dispose of idle assets, improve system efficiency and launch more models in China, according to the post. The goal is to revive annual sales to around 250,000 units between 2020 and 2021, and 400,000 units by 2025, it said. Dongfeng Peugeot sold around 250,000 vehicles in China last year. PSA is attempting a reboot under tough conditions in the world’s largest vehicle market, once an auto industry cash cow. The Chinese market contracted last year for the first time since the 1990s and is expected to decline another 5 % in 2019, squeezed by a trade tension between China and United States. Peugeot is one of several global automakers, including Ford, that have been forced to retrench as sales in China have tumbled. Dongfeng Peugeot plans to launch 14 new models in China over the next 3 years. After 2020, every new model will have an electrified version that qualifies as a “new energy vehicle” under Chinese regulations. The joint venture plans to halve workforce and drop 2 of 4 shared assembly plants in China. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE said it had raised its stake in Croatian supersportscar manufacturer Rimac to 15.5 %. In June 2018, Porsche took a 10 % stake in Rimac, after the start-up company developed expertise in the area of high-voltage battery technology and electric powertrains for use in ultra high end sportscars. Lutz Meschke, deputy chairman of the Executive Board at Porsche said: “We have now increased our stake and intend to intensify our collaboration in the field of battery technology”. +++ 

+++ The third-generation RENAULT Mégane RS debuted only 2 years ago at the Frankfurt Motor Show so it’s a bit surprising to see a prototype of the facelifted version already undergoing testing. The undisguised prototype reveals only subtle changes, all of which regard the graphics of the headlights and taillights. The design tweaks are most obvious at the rear, where the shape of the lamps remains the same but their internal structure gains a more modern appearance. That’s due to a red upper section and a thin white band at the bottom which likely incorporates sequential turn signals. As for the headlights, they retain the shape as well but they adopt an updated light signature. Other than the lights and the new bi-color alloys, we should not expect any other changes on the outside of the facelifted Renault Mégane RS. Renault is also expected to make some improvements to the interior, especially when it comes to the perceived quality of the plastics and other materials used in the cabin. Additionally, the updated Megane RS should gain the latest generation of the R-Link infotainment system as well as new driving assistance tech. Given that we’re dealing with a car that launched less than 2 years ago, the powertrain should remain unchanged. The 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine will continue to deliver 280 hp in the base model and 300 hp in the Trophy and Trophy-R versions. The choice of 6-speed manual and EDC dual-clutch transmissions is expected to carry over as well. +++ 

+++ Deutsche Post said its subsidiary STREETSCOOTER had signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese carmaker Chery Holding Group to begin producing electric vans in China from 2021. Chery will invest up to €500 million and plans call for production capacity of up to 100,000 vehicles, it said. Deutsche Post will bring its technical expertise to the joint venture. The MoU is part of a bundle of deals companies signed during a visit to China by German chancellor Angela Merkel. “Entry into the Chinese market is a significant milestone in the recent history of StreetScooter”, chief executive Jörg Sommer said in a statement. China is StreetScooter’s second venture in Asia after Japan and the e-carmaker is looking to enter the U.S. market in 2 or 3 years, a Deutsche Post spokesman told. The company acquired StreetScooter, a start-up based in Aachen, in 2014 in a move to electrify its fleet by using the fully-electric light pickup trucks for letter and parcel deliveries. Deutsche Post has produced more than 12,000 ScreetScooters but has shied away from making large investments in the unit. Last year it hired Goldman Sachs to evaluate options for StreetScooter as it sought to expand the unit ahead of an expected rise in demand for electric vehicles. Deutsche Post CEO Frank Appel had said options included cooperating with manufacturers, floating StreetScooter on the stock exchange or bringing in a financial investor. +++ 

+++ The National Transportation Safety Board cited driver errors and TESLA ’s Autopilot design as the probable cause of a January 2018 crash of a Model S into a parked fire truck on a highway in California. The safety board, which previously criticized Tesla’s driver assistance system Autopilot after a 2016 fatal crash in Florida, said that the system’s design “permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task” in the Culver City crash. The board said that Autopilot allowed the driver to keep his hands off the wheel for the vast majority of the nearly 14 minutes of the trip. The fire truck was unoccupied and the driver was not injured in the incident. The board cited the driver’s “inattention and overreliance” on the advanced driver assistance system. Tesla’s Autopilot was engaged during at least 3 fatal U.S. crashes, including one involving a Model 3 in Delray Beach, Florida, and a crash in Mountain View, California, of a Model X. Both incidents, which occurred in March 2018, remain under investigation by the board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The board makes safety recommendations and can order a recall if it deems a defect poses an unreasonable risk to safety. The Center for Auto Safety, a consumer watchdog group, said the report should prompt the board to “do its job and recall these vehicles. A vehicle that enables a driver to not pay attention, or fall asleep, while accelerating into a parked fire truck is defective and dangerous”. Tesla said that since the 2018 crash “we have made updates to our system including adjusting the time intervals between hands-on warnings and the conditions under which they’re activated”. The company added that Tesla owners have driven billions of miles with Autopilot engaged and says its data “indicates that drivers using Autopilot remain safer than those operating without assistance”. The crashes raised questions about the driver-assistance system’s ability to detect hazards and sparked safety concerns about systems that can perform driving tasks for extended stretches of time with little or no human intervention, but which cannot completely replace human drivers. After the fatal 2016 Florida crash, the board asked 6 automakers with advanced driver assistance systems (Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Nissan, Daimler and Volvo) to “develop applications to more effectively sense the driver’s level of engagement and alert the driver when engagement is lacking while automated vehicle control systems are in use”. “All manufacturers except Tesla have responded to the board explaining their current systems and their efforts to reduce misuse and keep drivers engaged”, the board said. While Tesla drivers say they are able to avoid holding the steering wheel for extended periods while using Autopilot, Tesla advises drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention while using the system. The Model S Autopilot system was engaged continuously for the final 13 minutes 48 seconds of the January 2018 trip and the driver kept his hands off the wheel for all but 51 seconds of the final drive segment and received numerous alerts to place his hands back on the wheel, the board said. Had he been paying close attention “he could have taken evasive action to avoid or mitigate the collision”. +++ 

+++ TURKEY is increasingly confident Volkswagen will build a production plant in the country after an “extremely positive” meeting between a senior company official and President Tayyip Erdogan, 3 Turkish sources said. The 2 sides have been holding talks over Turkey’s vehicle tax regime to conclude the €1 billion investment. The carmaker, which has also considered making the investment in Bulgaria, has not announced a final decision, but sources have said Volkswagen is positive about investing in Turkey. Erdogan and a high-ranking VW official overcame most of the problems during a meeting this week, one Turkish source with knowledge of the matter said. A Volkswagen source said Erdogan had met with Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess. “There were previously some small issues, such as the tax arrangements on the cars that will be sold. In the meeting, an almost complete agreement was reached”, the Turkish source said. “If there isn’t a last minute problem, the investment will be made in Turkey”. Steep Turkish taxes on larger cars limit most buyers and local producers to smaller engine sizes. Cars with engines of less than 1.6 liters made up 96 % of Turkey’s new car market in 2018. A source had said Turkey was trying to find a formula to address Volkswagen’s concerns without putting existing car producers at a disadvantage. Major producers such as Fiat, Renault, Ford, Hyundai and Toyota produced more than 1.3 million motor vehicles in Turkey last year. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said during a visit to Ankara that Volkswagen is making a big investment in Turkey. A second Volkswagen source said only minor matters still had to be clarified, mainly on tax issues. The agreement was expected to be reached in a few weeks and the plant was expected to be built in the western Manisa province, the source said. “There is no problem any longer about thinking that the investment will be made in Turkey. This decision will be announced in a short while after the final adjustments are made”, a second Turkish source said. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN said it is shuffling the leadership at its Moia unit to map out next steps in the development of its ride-sharing operations. Ole Harms, who has led Moia since its founding in 2016, will take on “a new, responsible task” within the world’s biggest automaker, the automaker said in a statement. His successor will be the unit’s current chief operating officer, Robert Henrich. The management revamp was caused by diverging views over Moia’s growth strategy. Volkswagen was late to develop services such as short-term rental or ride hailing, and remains far behind tech players such as Uber. It’s also come under more pressure from German rivals Daimler and BMW, which recently joined forces in mobility services. Moia’s operations currently comprise ride-sharing services in the German cities of Hannover and Hamburg. It also offers fleet solutions for companies and plans to participate in a ride-pooling test in London later this year in cooperation with an public transport operator. Volkswagen boosted its mobility service efforts in the wake of the diesel-emissions crisis, which erupted 4 years ago. So far, the results have been mixed, as patchy transport regulation in key markets complicate efforts for companies. Self-driving vehicles, which Harms has said are necessary for ride-sharing to become profitable, are taking longer to develop than initially expected. Harms had been focused on growth, with a goal of cracking the top 3 in mobility by 2025, while also making money. To do that, he sought to create partnerships and use Moia as a kind of bridge between VW’s manufacturing capability and outside service providers. +++

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