Newsflash: Alfa Romeo waardeert de Giulia en Stelvio op

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+++ The ALFA ROMEO Giulia and Stelvio were designed to compete with the likes of then BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-Class, but there’s no denying they are a little rough around the edges when it comes to quality, especially perceived quality. Aside from technical and mechanical problems, the vehicles have a cabin that just isn’t up to snuff. However, it appears the company is acknowledging this as the 2020 models will bring a host of upgrades. They will come with a revised interior that features a new steering wheel (not that there was anything wrong with the current one), center console, shifter and switchgear. The cheap plastic gearshift surround will be jettisoned. The console will also be redesigned and it will look slimmer than before. There will be new controls for the infotainment system and trimmings and a subtle Italian flag accent. In addition, the electronic parking brake button will be moved up next to the gear lever while the center console arm rest will be reshaped. Besides those updates, the vehicles will now come standard with an 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. That doesn’t sound too unusual, but the current model uses an old school 6.5-inch display which isn’t even a touchscreen. Speaking of the infotainment system, it promises “enhanced graphics, new functionality and enhanced adaptability”. That’s a little vague, but the document says drivers can expect a one year subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio as well as one year of access to connected services. Speaking of technology, the Giulia and Stelvio are slated to have the “most advanced” Highway Assist system from FCA. The company goes onto say this semi-autonomous Level 2 system will be comparable to Tesla’s Autopilot. The models will also have newly standard driver assistance systems including forward collision alert. Exterior changes will apparently be minor, but include 2 new paint options called Anodized Blue and Lunare White. Higher-end versions of the Stelvio are also slated to ditch the black plastic body cladding for body-colored trim. Besides the aforementioned changes, the various trim levels will feature greater differentiation. The number of options will also be reduced as the documents says the number of buildable configurations will be cut by over 90 %. It’s possible engine options will carryover. +++

+++ The BMW 2 Series Coupé, will continue as a rearwheel-drive model in the future, and the firm will continue to offer a high-performance range-topping M2 version. While the 2-door Coupé, first launched in 2014, driven from the rear, the recently launched new 2 Series Gran Coupé has adopted a frontdrive architecture. That 4-door model is built on the same UKL platform as the new 1 Series, which has switched its driven wheels from front to rear. But 2 Series product manager Gernot Stuhl said there were no planes for the next-generation Coupé to make a similar switch. Stuhl said the coupe, which was first launched in 2014 and facelifted in 2017 would “continue with a different architecture” in the next generation. He added that while market research had shown most 1 Series buyers did not choose that model because of its drivetrain, it was a selling point for buyers of the 2-door Coupe. The 2 Series Gran Coupe line-up is headed by the 306 hp allwheel-drive M235i M Performance version, which uses the same 2.0-litre twin-turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine as the M135i. Stuhl said BMW would not produce a full M version of the Gran Coupé, with Stuhl saying that “there’s not much missing” in terms of driving dynamics. But he added that “there will still be a hardcore BMW M2 for those that want it” in the next generation of the 2 Series Coupé. While Stuhl would not be drawn on any technical details, he said: “if you feel you need a compact car with more than 306 hp, there will be an offering for you in the BMW range”. The differing platforms and drivetrain of the Coupé and Gran Coupé make the 2 Series arguably the most diverse line in BMW’s range. It also includes the 2 Series Active Tourer, a new version of which is due in 2020. BMW also offers a 7-seat 2 Series Gran Tourer, but this will be phased out due to rivalry with the SUV range. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) posted higher than expected operating earnings for the third quarter, lifted by its North-American business, as the carmaker heads to a merger with PSA. FCA’s adjusted earnings before interest and tax came in at €1.96 billion, ahead of the €1.89 billion average forecast from analysts. The results, which FCA described as built on “record” North American profitability, led the automaker to reiterate its full-year guidance of an adjusted profit over €6.7 billion. Margins on adjusted profit in FCA’s North America region rose 40 basis points year on year to 10.6 %. FCA added it expected a further improvement of its financial performance in 2020. +++ 

+++ Electric vehicle maker FISKER said it would begin production of its new luxury SUV at the end of 2021. High-volume deliveries of the electric SUV, called Ocean, are expected to start in 2022, the company said. Chief executive officer Henrik Fisker, whose previous automotive venture collapsed in 2013 owing U.S. taxpayers $139 million, relaunched his company in 2016 to compete with Tesla. +++ 

+++ FORD is preparing to replace the Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy with a single crossover-style model. The new vehicle, which could be called Fusion, will mark Ford’s exit from both the classic large liftback market and the MPV sector. Although there’s no news on a definitive launch date, the car is expected to arrive in the second part of 2021. Compared with the Mondeo, there will be a radical repositioning. The suspension, for example, will be raised considerably for a more SUV-like stance, while a widened track means enhanced interior space. Unlike some of Ford’s bespoke European models, the model will be sold in North America and beyond. In the US, it’s being compared by insiders to the Subaru Outback, a high-riding estate car. Although a niche model in Europe, the Outback has been a significant success in the US since it was launched 2 decades ago, with recent sales exceeding 200,000 units annually. Last July, Jim Farley, Ford’s president of new business, technology and strategy, hinted at the move away from conventional cars towards what he called ‘utility’ bodystyles. He said the thinking behind the move into medium-rise crossovers is that customers will get “utility benefits without the penalty of poorer fuel economy”. The new car will be built on Ford’s super-flexible C2 platform, which underpins the Focus and, in time, should be able to stretch from accommodating the next Fiesta to the future 7-seat Edge. The front section of the architecture will also be used by the future Transit and Tourneo van family. The model will be offered with petrol and diesel engines plus a 48 volt mild hybrid petrol option. The base engine is expected to be Ford’s 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbo petrol, which will have a belt-driven electric motor and small battery in mild hybrid form. Insiders says that new Euro 6d-compliant diesel engines are, in pollution terms, as clean as petrol engines in real-world use. It’s understood that these new oil-burners are still more economical than even mild hybrid petrol engines, as well as less expensive. Ford’s move to medium-height crossovers in Europe is also partly a recognition that meeting future European Union fuel economy regulations would have been very difficult with a line-up of conventional SUVs. Ford will be hoping that the model will appeal to today’s mainstream market of ‘adventurous families’ who will be attracted by running costs lower than those of an SUV, allied to what’s said to be a particularly capacious load bay and a comfortable raised driving position. Although the car will replace 3 very different vehicles, it’s likely to outsell the Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy combined. Last year, Ford sold around 50.000 Mondeos, 24.000 S-Max models and 12.000 Galaxys in Europa; figures too low to be profitable enough. By the time the new model is launched, Ford will have discontinued 4 MPV model lines. The MPV market has been hit hard in recent years, and as a result Ford recently ended production of the B-Max, C-Max and Grand C-Max. The Galaxy and S-Max will likely follow next year. The B-Max has in effect been replaced by the Puma and Ford will look to steer C-Max customers into the new Kuga. Mondeo and S-Max buyers will be targeted by the new car, and Galaxy can also move towards the smaller Transit Edge 7-seater. +++ 

+++ Hydrogen powertrain technology will be vital for car makers to achieve ever-tightening emissions targets in the future, according to HYUNDAI research and development boss Albert Biermann. The industry is racing to develop electrified technology to cut the average CO2 output of its car fleets to meet new European Union (EU) emissions targets, and those targets are due to get progressively tougher in order to meet the Paris Agreement goal for the EU to reach net-zero carbon emissions by the midpoint of this century. While there has been a major push towards battery-electric technology lately, there has also been a resurgence of interest in hydrogen fuel cell powertrains in recent years. Hyundai has invested heavily in the development of hydrogen tech for cars, such as its new Nexo, and for commercial applications including buses, lorries and ships. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi have also increased their investment in the technology, while Toyota recently revealed the second generation of its Mirai. Speaking about the challenge of meeting ever-tighter CO2 targets, Biermann said: “We are fully convinced that, to meet the 2050 CO2 targets, without hydrogen it will not be possible to get there. We started hydrogen development 20 years ago and we’ve not stopped since. We know it can be very helpful to fix a lot of issues, and with the right sustainable power source, it’s very clean and very green”. Biermann, who was recently promoted to become Hyundai Motor Group’s president of research and development, in addition to his duties running the Hyundai N performance brand, underlined that the firm currently offers mild hybrid, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. He said: “these technologies will coexist for quite some time, and it’s hard to tell right now in which areas which technology will be the best solution and find customers”. Hyundai has invested in upping its production capacity of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to 40,000 per year, matching Toyota’s latest projections, and has a plan to continue scaling up from there. Biermann said it has sold its full allocation of 1.500 hydrogen cars this year and is aiming to at least double production output every year henceforth. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen’s only recently revealed the production version of its ID 3 but as with any good engineer, VW R&D boss Frank Welsch is already thinking about ways to improve it. He said: “There’s still room for optimisation. Just like in combustion-engined cars, look at how CO2 has come down and down and down because engineers have optimised. The ID 3 is a huge step but it’s not the end”. Here are his 3 key areas. First of all, the range can be improved. “People need range”, Welsch said. Despite the top-end ID 3 offering 550 km of range, Welsch believes people want more. “We won’t do this by giving people a bigger battery because it’s more weight and more cost. It’s about battery density improving”, he said. Second, the technology can be improved. “It is not enough to change the drivetrain to electric. We have more room and it drives like a GTI right now. We need other USPs you don’t get in other cars. This first step is a good step but we’re going to make speech recognition more intelligent. We can also make much more use of the augmented reality head-up display in the ID 3. We are the first ones to have this, even in higher segment cars. We can improve it by software upgrades because the hardware is in the car. Now, we have a few situations where you can use it: navigation mode, lane keeping, showing snowflakes on the street if the temperature is below four degrees. We have to assess which situations are useful. We don’t want to do video games”. Third, performance variants will be added. “People love performance cars and people love to spend money on it. We should have this in the electric world as well. This is why we do the ID R: to show how the performance of electromobility can be even better than classic ones. We need 4-wheeldrive and a performance e-motor”. An R version of the electric ID 3 will arrive in under 5 years, using 4-wheeldrive and performance e-motors, promising even better acceleration than the current Golf GTI. +++ 

+++ Depreciation is a fact of life and it can be either helpful or hurtful. When it comes to new cars, depreciation can be especially bad as some models lose most of their value within the first few years of ownership. As part of a study, iSeeCars analyzed more than 7.7 million vehicle sales in then United States to determine which models had the best and worst depreciation after 5 years. Given the popularity of trucks and SUVs, it comes as little surprise that many of them have low depreciation. The previous-generation Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited topped the list as they only lost 31.5 % and 30.0 % of their value after 5 years. Toyota nabbed the remaining top 5 spots as the Tacoma (32.0 %), Tundra (35.9 %) and 4Runner (36.5 %) kept a lot of their value. The only low cars to break into the top 10 were high-performance models such the Porsche 911 (37.2 %), Nissan GT-R (39.4 %) and Subaru Impreza WRX (40.0 %). On the flip side, the vehicles with the worst depreciation were all cars that fell into the luxury category: The MASERATI Quattroporte was the worst overall as the model loses 72.2 % of its value after just 5 years. That’s 22.6 % worse than average. Speaking of large luxury sedans, the BMW 7-Series wasn’t far behind as it loses 71.3 % of its value after 5 year. Other flagships sedans with high depreciation include the Jaguar XJ (68.9 %). Savvy shoppers can use this information to select a new vehicle that will likely hold its value better than the competition. Conversely, used car shoppers can get a deal if they select a model with high rates of depreciation. +++ 

+++ MAZDA cut its annual profit forecast by nearly half as the Japanese automaker expects a strong yen and falling cars sales in the United States and China, its biggest markets, to drive earnings to a 7 year low. Japan’s fifth-largest automaker expects to post 60 billion yen ($555.4 million) in operating profit for the year ending March, down from a prior outlook of 110 billion yen, and lower than a mean forecast of 69.5 billion yen from 20 analysts. It represents a cut of nearly 30 % from 82.3 billion yen profit a year ago. The downgrade comes after operating profit came in at 18.8 billion yen in the July-September quarter, above analysts’ forecast of 14.4 billion yen, although profit fell for the 4th straight quarter. Quarterly operating profit recovered from a 2.9 billion yen loss a year ago. Demand for Mazda vehicles has slumped since the company posted record annual sales of about 1.6 million vehicles in the fiscal 2018. Mazda posted global sales of 378,000 units for the quarter, down 4 % from a year ago, partly due to sluggish sales in the United States and China. Global automakers have been grappling with a sales slowdown, as a prolonged trade war between Washington and Beijing and slowing growth in China have cut demand for cars in the world’s top 2 economies. The slowdown comes as carmakers invest heavily in electric cars, autonomous driving technologies and ride-sharing services to survive a market shift away from car ownership. +++ 

+++ NISSAN remains committed to a successor to the existing 370Z, according to the company’s design boss, and now prototypes of the new sportscar have been spotted at the Nurburgring. The current iteration of the iconic Z-car was introduced more than a decade ago, and there has been speculation that it could simply be allowed to die off in the face of ever-tightening regulations on CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency. Early prototypes don’t give anything away in terms of how the 370Z successor will look, however, speaking at the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan’s senior vice-president for Design, Alfonso Albaisa, said that the company would “never leave this alone”. When asked if he could envisage a successor to the 370Z, Albaisa replied, “It’s easy to imagine. The Z is the car that democratised sports cars back in the sixties. The current car has been a long time in the dealerships, and so you could imagine Giovanni (Arroba, Nissan’s design boss for electric vehicles) and the designers working on it. We could never leave this alone. It’s in our soul. You can feel this in other Nissan designs, like the new Ariya; it’s not just about fuel efficiency, it wants to be driven, for the love of driving”. Albaisa also confirmed that the Ariya itself is likely to reach production soon. “When we design a concept and give it a name; a name that doesn’t start with ‘I’ or ‘M’, then it’s getting close. It’s like when you visit the doctor and they’re able to tell you whether you’re going to have a boy or a girl; it’s time to give it a name. I can’t give you a date because it’s a global car and things could change, but obviously we’re ready. I’m already tired of carrying this thing around”. +++ 

+++ OPEL works on a facelift for the Insignia. The updated car will make its premiere around the end of the year or the beginning of 2020. It features a new front fascia with a slimmer grille. It echoes the one used on the new Corsa and has a single bar that is broken up by a prominent Opel logo. Besides the new grille, the Insignia will be equipped with restyled headlights. They’re pretty evolutionary, but feature a protruding accent at the outside edges.
The rest of the car largely carries over, but it appears the taillights may have some minor modifications. The GSi also features a smaller rear spoiler. Since the car is only 2 years old, we shouldn’t expect any major changes in the cabin. That might disappoint some people, but the model was equipped with a new infotainment system last year. While the styling changes are relatively small, bigger updates could occur under the hood. Nothing is official, but Opel could replace the current GM-designed engines with new units, for instance 4-cylinder versions of the 3-pot units units used in the facelifted Astra. +++
 

+++ PORSCHE has released a new 7-speed manual gearbox option for the 911, which since launch has been offered exclusively with an 8-speed PDK automatic. The new option has so far only been released to the US market, where a Porsche spokesman said there is increased demand for manual models, as demonstrated by the success of the 6-speed 991-generation GT3 range-topper. Porsche’s representative also said that the 992-generation 911 became available much later in the US than it did here, hence the staggered global roll-out of different drivetrain options, and that we can expect the manual option to arrive in Europe in the first half of 2020. Both the mid-range Carrera S and top-spec 4S, in Coupé and Cabriolet guises, can be equipped with the manual gearbox, with no word on whether it will be soon made available on the entry-level Carrera variant. There’s no word on pricing yet. As with the old 991-generation 911, the manual-equipped 992 receives a mechanical limited-slip differential with torque vectoring functionality as standard. This replaces the electronically adjustable unit fitted to PDK-equipped models. Porsche claims a 0-100 kph time of approximately 4 seconds, with the manual version tipping the scales at 1.496 kg, at least 9 kg less than the automatic model. While Porsche only offers 992-generation 911 with a PDK gearbox in Europe, the limited-run Speedster, a retro-styled performance variant of its predecessor, is offered exclusively with a manual ’box. +++ 

+++ America’s love affair with midsize SEDANS has ended a long time ago, right about when crossovers and SUVs started their assault on the market. While everyone knows the market for midsize passenger cars is shrinking each year, it’s pretty shocking to look at the current sales figures and compare them to those from a decade ago. Americans are likely to buy and lease fewer than 1.4 million midsize cars in 2019. That’s 15 % fewer vehicles than in 2009 when the Great Recession was in full swing. While the sales decline is not that shocking, the drop in market share really is. Before the economic collapse, midsize cars accounted for 16 % of the U.S. automotive market’s volume. That figure now stands at 8 %, which effectively means the market share for midsize cars shrunk by 50 %. The downward trend does not seem to be stopping soon. In the last year alone, the midsize segment’s market share has fallen by more than half a percentage point. Meanwhile, through the first 3 quarters of 2019, midsize volume is down nearly 7 % in a market that’s down less than 2 % year-over year. Almost all midsize sedan models are losing sales. Cars such as the Hyundai Sonata, Subaru Legacy, Mazda 6 and VW Passat have seen double-digit year-over-year percentage loses this year, with the German model “leading” the way with a 61 % decline. Things are not looking great for the segment leaders either. Although recently redesigned, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima lost a combined 22,000 sales over the last 9 months. Despite that, their market share in the shrinking segment is rising from 56 % in 2018 to 59 % this year. So is there a ray of hope on the horizon for midsize sedans? As things stand at the moment, not really, unless of course you believe that the slower market share decline in 2019 compared to the previous 4 years, is good news. +++ 

+++ SSANGYONG has announced its wide-ranging electrification plan for the future, including the development of an all-new electric car platform. Executives told that the new underpinnings will go on to form the basis of “3 or maybe 4” new C and D segment models, the first of which will launch in 2024. As with its current lineup, all of those vehicles will be SUVs. Designed purely for electric vehicles from the outset, the new platform should offer the potential for packaging and efficiency benefits over adapting existing architecture for battery tech. It’s similar in principle to the route Volkswagen has taken with the MEB platform used by its upcoming ID family. SsangYong is able to draw upon EV knowledge acquired by parent company Mahindra. The Indian firm took a controlling stake in SsangYong in 2011, and has previous experience in electric vehicles, including competing in Formula E since the inception of the all electric motorsport series. Batteries, meanwhile, will be sourced from LG Chem. The brand’s first full EV, an electric version of the Korando (riding on the same platform of its existing petrol and diesel models), will go on sale in the first quarter of 2021. An electric Tivoli is also due at a later date. Beyond the fully electric models, meanwhile, Ssangyong also aims to introduce 48 volt mild hybrid tech to its combustion-engined cars too. The fuel-saving systems will first be applied to the brand’s 1.6-litre diesel used by the current Korando. The mild hybrid tech is due to launch on the Korando in 2022, and the Tivoli a year later. The electric version of the Korando will be called E100 and is set to launch in the first quarter of 2021. Power will come courtesy of a single electric motor producing 190 hp. Acceleration figures haven’t yet been confirmed, but Ssangyong claims they will be “best in class”. As with many other EVs, top speed is estimated to be a fairly modest 150 kph in order to preserve battery charge. The battery itself has a 61.5 kWh capacity. That’s enough, says Ssangyong, to return a range of over 400 km on the NEDC testing cycle. That’s a little down on the range claimed by the Hyundai Kona Electric. As it stands, there are no direct rivals for the Korando E100; the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric represent the closest competition currently, though both are physically smaller cars with less interior and boot space. With the on-sale date still a couple of years away, prices are still a long way from being finalised. +++ 

+++ Carlos TAVARES , a former Renault star credited with reviving the company’s rival Peugeot SA, has long shone as a restructurer-in-chief, staring down unions and slicing down bureaucracies. Now the 61-year-old Portuguese car fanatic and weekend racer will face his biggest challenge yet. Combining PSA and FCA would create the 4th largest global auto manufacturer, a big advantage for amortizing investments in electric vehicles and getting the best prices from parts suppliers. But with big-scale economies come big-scale problems, including underutilized factories in Europe, overlapping regional brands and duplicative corporate staffs. On top of that, automakers face mandates to sell electric vehicles, competition from businesses born out of the digital technology industry and a looming global sales slump. The auto industry faces “10 years of chaos”, Tavares told reporters at September’s Frankfurt auto show. Tavares’ track record in turning around PSA, which he took over just as it narrowly avoided bankruptcy in 2014, and his reputation as an effective operator is being touted as a key selling point in the FCA tie-up. “If this is getting done now, it’s because Tavares was in the driving seat”, a banking source in France said of the merger discussions between PSA and FCA. French-educated Tavares joined Renault in 1981, but gained prominence when he joined Renault’s partner Nissan under then-CEO Carlos Ghosn. Under Ghosn, Tavares ran Nissan’s North American operations, then became chief operating officer of Renault, and Ghosn’s apparent successor, in 2011. But in 2013, Tavares grew tired of waiting for Ghosn to step aside and said as much in a blunt interview in which he said he would be open to taking a CEO job somewhere else. Ghosn dismissed him and in January 2014, Tavares was hired by then-struggling PSA to lead a turnaround. When Tavares discusses his management approach, he talks about teams that combine employees from different functions to speed up decisions. “Agility” is a go-to word, as are “efficiency and effectiveness”. He boasted at the Frankfurt auto show last month that the company’s exhibition stand was a third the size of the space used at previous shows. “This is a guy famous for his embrace of economy-class travel and off-the-peg suits”, Bernstein analysts said in a note which made the case that PSA was not necessarily overpaying for FCA as some have argued. Tavares has found ways to push through staff cuts and pay deals in Europe that may prove useful in the PSA-FCA scenario, despite likely pushback from unions in Italy, France and Britain. At Opel, the executive resorted to voluntary redundancies rather than forcing job cuts, including with “speed bonuses” that offered better rewards for those who opted to leave quickly. Tavares’ tactics to trim costs at Opel proved so effective that they sparked concerns that too many skilled workers would leave. Tavares has stoked competition among PSA and former Opel factories to push workers to cut costs. Ahead of a meeting in 2018 with British unions to discuss job cuts at a Vauxhall plant inherited from Opel, Tavares told reporters in Detroit that UK production costs were twice those of PSA plants in France. “What counts is to bring UK plants to the level of cost and quality that is the same as Continental Europe”, he said. Such public directness about labor cost differences between factories is unusual. Opel and Vauxhall racked up €20 billion in losses under ownership by General Motors, including a stint of more than 18 years of losses until 2017, when Tavares steered PSA’s swoop on Opel. In the first half of 2019 Opel, which includes Vauxhall, posted a profit of €700 million. The integration also involved switching Opel and Vauxhall from 9 General Motors assembly platforms to just 2. One French union leader already used to locking horns with Tavares said he expected the executive to approach the PSA-FCA consolidation in a similar way. The 2 firms have already outlined plans to eventually make €3.7 billion of annual savings, without plant closures. “He’s someone who always follows the same line: suppressing jobs and increasing productivity”, said Jean-Pierre Mercier, head of the PSA faction at France’s leftist union CGT. Even by the time PSA bought Opel, Tavares had cut about 3,000 French assembly line jobs at PSA each year through voluntary departures to trim the wage bill to 11 % of revenue from the 15 % he inherited. “He’s very strong with restructuring”, said Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research, adding that Tavares would be focusing on “one variable, which is the cost of employees relative to revenue”. +++ 

+++ Over the past 2 years, U.S. president Donald TRUMP has had a tumultuous relationship with carmakers and it looks like things could get even worse. The president repeatedly criticized U.S. carmakers, particularly General Motors, for vacating domestic plants and building vehicles in other countries. The government cannot control this phenomenon but, as it turns out, it plans to have a strong say in the automakers’ decisions regarding production facilities. The Trump administration wants to dictate how and where global auto companies make cars and parts in exchange for them securing duty-free treatment under the new NAFTA. This is by far the most direct intervention yet to manage trade and production, people familiar with the plan told. How would that come about, you ask? Well, the White House wants specific language that would allow it to unilaterally administer the production rules for companies. The sources said the issue is being discussed between Trump administration officials, congressional staff, and domestic and foreign carmakers with regard to the legislation that lawmakers will vote on for the trade deal to go into effect. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, known as USMCA, is still awaiting approval from the U.S. Congress and the Trump administration is using that as leverage to force automakers into accepting its protectionist terms. The White House said the new production rules it wants to enforce on the auto sector represent one area of the deal that’s most beneficial to America. As expected, car companies, lawmakers and even the U.S. International Trade Commission said the rules are so strict that they would cause higher car prices and slower sales. That’s not even counting the fact that USMCA has already been described as much more difficult to comply with than NAFTA. Under the new terms, 75 % of a car has to be built in the 3 countries to qualify, using 70 % of North American steel and aluminum. Furthermore, 40 % of a vehicle has to be made in plants with an average wage of $16 an hour or higher; a not so subtle reference to Mexico and its lower wages. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will unveil a new addition to its ID electric vehicle family at a dedicated event ahead of the Los Angeles motor show. The new model, appearing in concept form, is expected to be a new variant of the Vizzion electric luxury saloon that was revealed in early 2018. One possibility is an estate version of the electric model, which Volkswagen is considering for launch in 2022. Such a model would sit atop the same extended version of the MEB platform as the Vizzion. The unveiling will take place at LA’s Petersen Automotive Museum on 19 November, with attendees invited to examine the ‘accessible and unlocked’ concept in detail, suggesting that it will feature a fully finished interior. Volkswagen will display 4 other MEB-based concept vehicles at the event, likely the Crozz and Roomzz SUV concepts, Buzz Cargo van and ID Buggy off-roader. The firm unwrapped its first production-ready electric car, the ID 3 hatchback, at last month’s Frankfurt motor show. That model will soon be joined by a production version of the ID 4 electric SUV. +++ 

+++ WAYMO recently started outfitting its self-driving prototypes at its new plant in Detroit. Waymo’s chief executive, John Krafcik, dubbed the site, which has already outfitted 30 Jaguar I-Pace cars with its autonomous driving technologies, “the world’s first dedicated autonomous plant”. These prototypes are now in California for development and testing. The plant is being leased from American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings and has been repurposed by Waymo. The site is also conveniently located across the Detroit River from the Windsor assembly plant that produces the Chrysler Pacifica that is also used by Waymo for its self-driving fleet. Waymo’s lease agreement for the facility requires it to eventual grow the workforce at the location to 400 people, including engineers, operations experts and fleet coordinators. The company has previously inked contracts to purchase no less than 62,000 Pacifica Hybrids and 20,000 I-Pace cars. “Jaguar sends us this car in a mode that is ready to accept an easy integration of the Waymo driver”, Krafcik said. “There’s not a lot in assembly or content. It’s a relatively straightforward process to insert the Waymo driver into the I-Pace”. Vehicles being made in Detroit by Waymo will eventually be used in its self-driving robotaxi fleet dubbed ‘Waymo One’. This service launched in December last year in Phoenix and has so far been limited to just a few hundred customers. +++

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