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+++ BMW believes it is crucial that ELECTRIC vehicle charging infrastructure improves if EVs are to really take off. The director of global research cooperation at BMW, Stephan Neugebauer, said that the European Union needs to invest more in charging infrastructure across the Old Continent. “No one will buy an electric car if you can’t charge it near your work or home. It’s as simple as that”, he said. “That is why we must continue our partnership with the European Union. Except that we no longer need to focus solely on the actual development of the car itself, as has been mainly the case in recent years. We should focus on cooperation with others, like energy companies and municipalities”. Neugebauer also believes that more needs to be done to grow the number of fast-charging stations to ensure charging up an electric vehicle is just as easy as charging a mobile phone: “You just have to be able to drive somewhere and stick the plug into a socket so that you can charge a car. That’s my vision for the future”. Growing charging infrastructure won’t just require car manufacturers’ work with governments but also various other stakeholder organizations including those providing digital services and energy companies. Neugebauer says the European Union should pay for such efforts under its €100 billion research and innovation programme dubbed ‘Horizon Europe’. BMW, alongside other automakers including Daimler, has invested heavily in ChargePoint to accelerate the deployment of charging stations around the world. ChargePoint intends on deploying 2.5 million electric vehicle charge points by 2025. +++ 

+++ FORD and Mahindra will form a new joint venture in India to develop models under both brands for emerging markets around the world. This marks a new era for the collaboration of the 2 car makers, with Mahindra owning 51 % and Ford the remaining 49 % of the new venture that’s valued at $275 million. All of Ford’s India operations, including personnel and its assembly plants in Chennai and Sanand, will be transferred under the roof of the new entity. Ford will keep its engine factory in Sanand, as well as their Global Business Services unit, Ford Credit and Ford Smart Mobility. The 2 automakers first formed a strategic alliance in 2017, with the new joint venture expected to be fully operational by mid-2020. Operations will be managed by Mahindra, but the governing body will be equally composed of representatives of both companies. “We need to evolve with new and faster ways of not only delighting our customers around the world but also solving their very different needs. Strong alliances like this play a crucial role in assuring we continue to achieve our vision while at the same time staying competitive and delivering value to our global stakeholders”, said Jim Hackett, Ford president and CEO. The new joint venture aims to grow the Ford brand in India, as well as export its product to Ford’s global markets. The first models are expected to be three new SUVs that will carry Ford badges, starting with a mid-size model that’ll use a platform and powertrain from Mahindra. Ford and Mahindra will also focus on the development of electric vehicles for emerging markets and Mahindra will also get to use Ford’s distribution network in them. “Emerging economies including India are expected to account for one in three future vehicle sales”, said Pawan Goenka, managing director at Mahindra. “The joint venture will have a distinct product portfolio with shared platforms and powertrains, the newest technology, high quality and engineering standards from both Mahindra and Ford, at optimized costs”. +++ 

+++ The United Auto Workers union said it rejected a new comprehensive offer from GENERAL MOTORS to end a two-week-old strike, saying the automaker came up short on several fronts including wages, healthcare and temporary workers. The union said it made a counterproposal and warned “there are still many important issues that remain unresolved”. GM said the strike by U.S. workers forced it to halt production at its pickup and transmission plants in Silao, Mexico, resulting in temporary layoffs of 6,000 workers. About 48,000 UAW members went on strike on Sept. 16 seeking higher pay, greater job security, a bigger share of the leading U.S. automaker’s profit and protection of healthcare benefits. UAW vice president Terry Dittes told members in a letter the GM offer “came up short” on issues like healthcare, wages, temporary workers and job security, “to name a few”. The union said it is committed “to exploring all options in order to reach an agreement”. GM said in a statement it continues “to negotiate and exchange proposals, and remain committed to reaching an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our company”. The statements on “comprehensive proposals” indicate the talks have shifted into a higher gear as the dispute is taking a toll on both the automaker and striking UAW workers, whose $250 a week from the union strike fund is a fraction of their normal pay. Analysts estimate the strike could cost GM over $1 billion. Both sides face broader risks should the U.S. economy slow down. Data showed the U.S. manufacturing sector contracted in September to its weakest level in more than a decade. The strike had previously forced GM to lay off at least 2,000 Canadian workers and temporarily close an engine plant in Mexico. Many suppliers have halted or scaled back some operations. JP Morgan auto analyst Ryan Brinkman estimated in a research note that the strike has cost GM over $1 billion but it may be able to recover some lost profit in the 4th quarter. He said GM has $82 million a day in lost profit. GM in Mexico said that “for the moment” its 3 other Mexican plants (Ramos Arizpe, San Luis Potosi and Toluca) are working normally. A spokesman in Mexico said the plants still had parts available but the company could not say how many more days the plants would remain open. The spokesman declined to estimate the daily cost of suspending operations at the Silao complex. The 6,000 affected workers are being paid a percentage of their salary, the spokesman said, with some workers using vacation time to continue receiving their full salaries. +++ 

+++ HENNESSEY Performance has confirmed the engine specifications for its forthcoming Venom F5 hypercar. The Texas-based tuning company will build just 24 examples of the potentially record-breaking car, which the firm suggests will hit 480 kph. Each one will have a price-tag of around $1.5 million. The Venom F5 is powered by an all-new twin-turbocharged 6.6 litre V8 engine, which features forged aluminium pistons, forged steel connecting rods, a pair of high-flow aluminium cylinder heads, titanium exhaust manifolds and a billet aluminium intake manifold. Power and torque figures respectively stand at 1,850 hp and 1,617 Nm. Hennessey claims the Venom F5 will be able to accelerate from 0–300 kph in less than 10 seconds, which is quicker than a Formula One racer. The sprint from 0–400 kph and back to zero can supposedly be handled in less than 30 seconds, beating the world record-holding Koenigsegg Agera RS by over 6 seconds. Back in 2014, Hennessey targeted a 465 kph top speed for the Venom F5, which would make it one of the world’s fastest production cars. The Koenigsegg Agera RS currently holds the official production car top speed record of 445 kph, although Bugatti recently set an unverified record with a Chiron SuperSport prototype, at a speed of 486 kph. Hennessey has designed an all-new carbon fibre body for the Venom F5, which tips the scales at 1,338 kg, making it around 100 kg heavier than its predecessor, the Venom GT. However, the American firm claims that the engine’s 1,850 hp output will provide the F5 with “the best power to weight ratio on the market”. Active aerodynamics will also offer a competitive drag coefficient of 0.33 cd. My most recent update for Hennessey’s hypercar project came from the 2017 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. The American tuner released the first images of the Venom F5’s interior, which will be clad in carbon fibre and quilted upholstery. Fabric pull cords will be used instead of solid door handles, while the seats will be trimmed in Alcantara rather than leather. Should Hennessey’s renders be accurate, the Venom F5’s steering wheel will be trimmed in a blend of carbon fibre and Alcantara, and it could feature a Formula One-style digital display in place of a traditional boss. An infotainment screen will sit in the centre of the carbon fibre dash, with rotary heater controls being housed in the centre console. Hennessey Performance has unveiled interior shots of its new 480 kph Venom F5 hypercar, which was launched at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. The Venom F5’s cockpit is clad in carbon fibre, most noticeably on the dashboard, doors and on the floor – as well as on parts of the steering wheel. Pull cords are used instead of the traditional door handles, with the seats and steering wheel covered in what appears to be Alcantara rather than leather. Quilted yellow upholstery can also be seen along the doors and on the dashboard. An information screen sits on top of the centre console, along with a Formula One-style digital display on the steering wheel. The Texas tuner will build just 24 examples of the potentially record-breaking Venom F5. +++

+++ NISSAN could close its Sunderland factory if the UK leaves the European Union without a trade deal. A no-deal Brexit could prompt the Japanese firm to stop making the Qashqai at the site, which could ultimately lead to the closure of the plant. In November 2016, Nissan pledged to build the hugely popular Qashqai in the UK, after then-chairman Carlos Ghosn received assurances from then-prime minister Theresa May that the firm’s operations would be protected from the impact of Brexit, but the agreement was reportedly contingent on a ‘soft’ Brexit with an EU trade deal. Under a global review Nissan has since undertaken, the Sunderland plant could be downsized or even closed if a no-deal Brexit makes it uncompetitive to ship cars from the site to the EU. Currently, Nissan also makes the Juke and Leaf models at Sunderland. In a statement, Nissan has officially warned that a no-deal Brexit could have a serious impact on British-based industry: “Since 1986, the UK has been a production base for Nissan in Europe. Our British-based R&D and design teams support the development of products made in Sunderland, specifically for the European market. Frictionless trade has enabled the growth that has seen our Sunderland plant become the biggest factory in the history of the UK car industry, exporting more than half of its production to the EU. Today we are among those companies with major investments in the UK who are still waiting for clarity on what the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU will look like. As a sudden change from those rules to the rules of the WTO will have serious implications for British industry, we urge UK and EU negotiators to work collaboratively towards an orderly balanced Brexit that will continue to encourage mutually beneficial trade”. Current prime minister Boris Johnson has said he is committed to the UK leaving the EU on the currently scheduled date of 31 October regardless of whether a deal has been agreed. A no-deal Brexit would mean UK-built cars such as Nissan models made at Sunderland would be subject to tariffs when being shipped to Europe. But under a trade agreement between the EU and Japan, Nissan would be able to export models made in its home country into the EU without tariffs. That would potentially make it more profitable to make models for Europe in Japan rather than the UK. Earlier this year, Nissan reversed a decision to make the next-generation of the X-Trail at Sunderland, citing Brexit concerns and the decline of diesel as reasons. The plant also recently lost the Infiniti Q30 and QX30, after Nissan decided to withdraw its premium sub-brand from Europe. It has also cut back a number of jobs at the plant as part of a global cost-cutting initiative. Nissan opened its Sunderland plant in 1986, and is believed to have invested more than €4.5 billion in it since then. The plant has recently been upgraded to prepare for the next-generation Juke, which is due to go into production shortly. Honda is in the process of closing its Swindon factory, in a move it says is not primarily due to Brexit. But BMW and Toyota have warned they could switch production from the UK in the case of a no-deal Brexit. +++ 

+++ Nissan has narrowed candidates for its CEO to 3 Renault-Nissan veterans, with RENAULT ’s chairman conducting interviews, people familiar with the matter said. Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard spoke with the candidates in person in Paris or via TV conference, the people said. Senard sits on the Nissan board’s nominating committee, a post he received in June after a battle with Nissan executives. 2 of the candidates are Japanese company veterans: Nissan’s acting CEO Yasuhiro Yamauchi and former Nissan China chief Jun Seki. They are seen as the frontrunners, the sources said. But Nissan’s board and Renault have kept up dialogue with Indian-born Ashwani Gupta, a possible external candidate. Gupta, 49, joined Renault in 2006 in India as a purchasing manager, and was sent this year to Nissan’s alliance partner Mitsubishi as chief operating officer. The support of Renault, which has a 43.4 % stake in Nissan, will be critical to winning the CEO post, as will support from Japan’s trade ministry, which has intervened in Nissan’s affairs, sensitive to Renault’s upper hand in the alliance. One issue Senard raised, according to the sources, was Nissan’s ability and willingness to defend its dividend payout, which was cut for the fiscal year ended March 31 following a 45 % decline in Nissan’s operating profit. That dividend cut wiped €130 million off Renault’s 2019 earnings. Nissan is forecasting earnings to continue to slip this fiscal year. Yamauchi came out of his meeting in Paris with Senard smiling, according to one of the sources. Seki, meanwhile, also met Senard in Paris and told his colleagues he “had a blast” with the Frenchman, according to a message viewed by Reuters. Relations between Renault and Nissan have been strained since the 2018 arrest in Japan of the alliance’s architect, Carlos Ghosn, on charges of financial misconduct, which he denies. Nissan executives have pushed for a restructuring of the alliance and more independence from Renault. The tensions contributed earlier this year to the collapse of a proposed merger between Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “We want Nissan’s board to pick a leader that can restore Nissan’s business and free us from all the politics we have been forced to cope with,” one of the sources told. The selection process highlights an internal debate over Nissan’s strategy. Ghosn sought to combine tight cost control with ambitious expansion goals. But Nissan’s profits have plunged to a ten-year low, undercut by low-margin sales to rental fleets aimed at propping up market share. Nissan’s next CEO faces a restructuring task, and tough choices about where to focus investment as China and Europe demand more electric vehicles. Nissan’s board of directors has narrowed a list of candidates in part by using a business school style-CEO aptitude test to measure candidates’ leadership quality, sources said. Yamauchi, the acting CEO, was groomed as a cost manager and climbed the ranks under Ghosn. He is favored by older top managers, people familiar with internal discussions said. Seki is backed by younger leaders and is especially popular among rank and file employees who see him as more likely to chart a new course for Nissan. Seki has been leading the company’s recovery team which is looking at a deeper restructuring of the business that would shutter plants in some markets and exit certain global markets and vehicle segments. +++ 

+++ TESLA has registered a construction company in China, a business registration filing shows, the latest sign the California-based carmaker is pushing ahead with its plans in the world’s biggest auto market. Tesla has opened a wholly-owned construction unit in Shanghai with registered capital of $1 million, according to China’s National Enterprise Information Publicity System. Its scope includes architectural design, construction and building materials, the document said. It listed the firm’s legal representative as Zhu Xiaotong, Tesla’s boss in China. While the purpose of the construction company remains unclear, Tesla has been building car manufacturing facilities in Shanghai since January with an estimated annual capacity of 250,000 vehicles for the initial phase. The $2 billion factory, Tesla’s first in China, was a major bet by the company as it faces more competition from domestic electric vehicle makers and its earnings have been hit by increased tariffs on U.S. imports. Tesla’s China factory aims to start production this month but it is unclear when it will meet year-end production targets due to uncertainties around orders, labor and suppliers, sources with knowledge of the matter said. The U.S. electric vehicle maker aims to produce at least 1,000 Model 3s a week from the new factory by the end of this year, the centerpiece of its ambitions to boost sales in the world’s biggest auto market and avoid higher import tariffs imposed on U.S. cars. The plant’s mass production schedule is crucial for Tesla’s hopes of reaching its total production rate at an annualized 500,000 vehicles by the end of this year. The $2 billion factory (Tesla’s first car manufacturing site overseas) gained key government approvals last month and is on schedule to start production in October, the sources said. “We aim to start some production in October, but the actual production volume depends on many factors including car orders we received, performance of newly hired workers, supply chain and so on”, a Tesla source told. “It’s unclear when we can reach the 1,000-2,000 units per week target”, the person said, declining to be named as he was not allowed to speak to media. The factory is kicking into gear amid the U.S.-China trade war and weakness in China’s auto market. Sales of new energy vehicles contracted for a second month in a row in August, and are likely to grow at a slower pace this year to 1.5 million vehicles, down from a previous forecast of 1.6 million, according to an industry association. Tesla has fared better, with China sales rising 98 % in the first 7 months of this year thanks to strong demand for Model 3. Tesla has embarked on a new phase of construction work at the factory in a sign of confidence in its China strategy. The new facilities will include battery pack production units, according to a company source and documents. The so-called 1.5-phase works, which have not previously been reported, include a production workshop and an energy center, construction documents showed. Construction is scheduled for completion by around the end of this year. Tesla also is looking to hire battery-related production engineers in Shanghai, according to its job advertisements. The plant, which Tesla says will be simplified and more cost-effective than its existing Model 3 line, will have 500,000 units of annual capacity when the second phase is completed, doubling from initial phase capacity of 250,000 vehicles. The factory, China’s first fully foreign-owned car plant, is a reflection of Beijing’s broader shift to open up its car market. Shanghai authorities have offered assistance to speed up construction, and China excluded Tesla models from a 10 % car purchase tax on Aug. 30. +++ 

+++ Ongoing TRADE TENSIONS between the United States and China have already impacted smartphone and 5G technology and autonomous or connected cars could be next. There’s little doubt that in the decades to come, the car will become the largest and perhaps most important connected device that people own. Such vehicles will be loaded with chips and sensors and run on digital platforms to not only make vehicles of the future more advanced but also much safer. The trade war could impact this. Following the decision from the Trump administration to lock Huawei smartphones out of the country and the ongoing battleground in the world of 5G technologies, it’s not inconceivable that certain phones won’t work with certain vehicles and that select cars may be unable to connect to Chinese or U.S. 5G infrastructure, for example. A recent study from IBM concluded that 15 % of new cars could be fully autonomous by the end of next decade and as self-driving cars become more prevalent, car manufacturers and technology companies will turn their attention towards innovative new digital in-car experiences. It remains to be seen if these fears will actually eventuate and if tensions between countries could impact how cars interact with each other and the world around them. Nonetheless, these are very real concerns that car manufacturers and regulators will inevitably have to discuss moving forward. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen has established a subsidiary in TURKEY ’s western Manisa province, as the company nears a final decision on the location for its new production plant. The Turkey unit will have 943.5 million lira ($164.21 million) capital and the parent company had paid a quarter of that amount. The remainder will be paid in the next 2 years. The unit will focus on designing, producing and assembling automobiles, trucks and other vehicles. VW had been looking into a possible new plant in eastern Europe, with Bulgaria known to be among countries considered along with Turkey. A board member of the German carmaker told reporters last week in Berlin that the company is nearing a decision on building the new plant in Turkey. A spokesman for VW told that the company was still in the final stages of negotiation and that it had not made a final decision on the factory. A deal in Turkey could be politically controversial given European Union concerns regarding what it sees as constraints on freedom of expression and demonstration rights under president Tayyip Erdogan. VW’s argument is that Turkey is a candidate for EU membership. +++ 

+++ The next-generation VOLKSWAGEN Golf, to be unveiled this month, aims to revolutionise the volume hatchback market with 48 Volt mild-hybrid engines and technology not yet seen in the class. The German maker is betting on the new Mk8 Golf to secure its foothold in the shrinking segment (down 16 % globally in the first half of 2019) by offering not only class-leading technology but also the lowest CO2 emissions, important for running costs and the brand’s social responsibility standing. VW’s technical chief, Frank Welsch, told that development is now finished and the Mk8 Golf is currently undergoing quality testing. He said: “We are now in pre-production, in the phase to make sure that one part fits perfectly to another. Everything we did on the prototype is nice but now it’s time to see whether it works in the series solution. We are testing in Germany, America, Spain, China: everywhere”. There has been much debate about the Mk8’s engines and which should use hybrid tech, with decisions understood to have been reversed following the departure of Matthias Müller as CEO and subsequent appointment of Herbert Diess. The outcome, Welsch said, is that the volume engines (the 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre petrol units) will be available with a 48 Volt system with VW’s dual-clutch transmission only. The 1.0-litre will make 130 hp and the 1.5-litre 150 hp. It isn’t yet known which engines will be offered with a manual gearbox. Welsch said: “We have 48 Volt on the mainstream petrol engines but not on the diesel. The diesel has better CO2 emissions anyway and diesel is more expensive so to keep it balanced, we did it only on petrol. The 48 Volt mild hybrid is not only good in terms of CO2 but also comfortable driving. You won’t hear the restart on the start/stop system. It’s much more powerful with the mild-hybrid starter/generator system. Even while driving, if the car is just rolling, you don’t need extra power. The engine turns off while driving, and if you just touch the pedal, it starts again and you don’t feel it. It’s very comfortable”. Alongside the 2 volume petrol engines, there will be an updated version of the 2.0 TDI unit, codenamed EA288 Evo, which has been significantly re-engineered to reduce exhaust pollution. There is also a more efficient and responsive turbocharger and the engine itself is lighter. VW has claimed the unit offers an average of 9 % more torque and power together with an average 10 g/km decrease in CO2 emissions. Welsch said the new Golf will be “leading again in terms of CO2 emissions”, stating that its most efficient variant under WLTP testing will be just into 3 figures. Welsch said: “We are in the process of homologation now and 2 or 3 engines are already done. CO2 in the Mk8 is a huge step. We’ve optimised engines and aerodynamics”. The Golf GTE plug-in hybrid will also continue and offer a power boost, while a lower-powered hybrid will also be available. “Today’s GTI is 245 hp so the GTE should also have 245 hp, so it’s really a GTE”, Welsch said. “But there are some people who just want to stay with a similar plug-in hybrid to today so that is why we’re offering the 204 hp, too. It comes without the GTE trim and appears as a normal Golf”. There will be no e-Golf as Volkswagen focuses on its electric ID 3. The next Golf GTI, due to arrive by late 2020, is set to use much of the hardware from the Mk7 Golf GTI, including an updated version of the EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, which will exceed the 245 hp of the current iteration. An even hotter Golf R will follow in 2021. A range-topping 400 hp R Plus, to rival the Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi RS3, is also on the cards. The Mk8 Golf is underpinned by an evolution of the existing model’s MQB platform, featuring a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension in combination with adaptive damping control. Engineers involved in the new car’s development say major attention has been focused on steering accuracy. The electromechanical set-up of the outgoing car has been heavily reworked to provide it with added levels of feedback and a more direct ratio. The new Golf’s design, as ever, will not be a dramatic overhaul from its predecessor’s, given the loyal fan base of VW’s third biggest-selling car globally, behind the Tiguan and Polo. Welsch said: “It’s the same story we started with Mk1 and Mk2. It’s an evolutionary process with very small but clear steps. It’s a little bit more dynamic”. Welsch said the roof line above the C-pillar has been lowered slightly and the belt line has been moved up, to create more dynamism. He said: “The Golf today is a little bit more horizontal. This design makes it look optically faster. We made it a little bit dynamic but everybody would know it’s a Golf without any logo and despite it being the new one”. Despite VW wishing to give its new electric ID brand separate design to its conventional models, the front lighting design of the ID 3 will be reflected in the Golf. Welsch confirmed the Golf will have the same floating light line leading to the new VW logo on the bonnet. That, too, will also be illuminated in countries outside of Europe, where it is illegal. It is the interior, described as “2 steps” forward by Welsch, where we’ll see major changes. The interior is devoid of classic cockpit cues, removing most of the instruments and instead using 2 screens (sized 10,0 inch), as well as a head-up display. “There are not too many buttons. We have voice control”, said Welsch. “All the things we have create a better atmosphere. There are ambient lights all the colours of the rainbow! People love this stuff. It’s like the new chrome”. Although the interior design is notably different from the ID 3’s, the idea of simplification is the same and connectivity features, such as over-the-air upgrades, will also be echoed. One key focus is driving assistance systems intended to offer the utmost in comfort and safety. Welsch said: “Golf, let’s say, is lower-middle class, and we’re bringing things from the upper class. There are also car-to-car and car-to-X communication systems”. The new model is expected to add more self-driving capability and features such as Area View, which feed live images from the car into the cockpit. There will not be a 3-door Golf, with VW choosing to focus on the 5-door and estate variants as it streamlines its range in a bid to maximise cost efficiencies and profits. The estate will have a 50 mm longer wheelbase and longer rear overhang than the hatchback. Jürgen Stackmann, VW board member for sales and marketing, said: “Golf has been holding very strong, keeping its position as uncontested number one in Europe for many years. And even in run-out, it remains a very strong seller and our job is to keep it at the top in segment share”. He added: “The next generation will bring all of the technology and all of the advancements that is necessary to keep that position. Obviously, it will be the best Golf of all Golfs. In its class, it will have the best CO2, the best technology, the best digital footprint”. Following the recent launch of the ID 3, Stackmann doesn’t see a risk of cannibalisation of sales, for now. “If you look into the mindset of who’s buying Golf and for what reason, they want the same as before”, he said. “They love Golf for what it is. They love technology but they don’t go wild. In the long term, in maybe 6 or 8 years, we will start to see crossover between Golf and ID 3 customers”. +++

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