Newsflash: achterwiel aangedreven Audi R8 wordt vast onderdeel van gamma


+++ AUDI has tapped ad agency 72andSunny for a global marketing campaign. The Volkswagen Group owned luxury brand announced that this company would handle a project aimed at redefining Audi’s “Vorsprung durch Technik​” marketing slogan. The tagline, which was first used by Audi in 1971, will “no longer be solely about what is technically possible, but on focusing even more on what customers want”, Audi said in a statement. The project will be led by 72andSunny’s Amsterdam office, with support from its offices in New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and Singapore. The new campaign is slated to roll out in 2020. The “Vorsprung durch Technik​” tagline, first used to introduce the Audi 80 in the early 1970s, was used in selected markets. BBH brought the German tagline to the UK in 1982. The idea sprung form BBH founder John Hegarty, who encountered the line when touring an Audi plant in Germany. In the U.S., Audi had for years been associated with the tagline “Truth In Engineering”, which dates back to 2007, the year after it hired San Francisco-based Venables, Bell & Partners to handle its U.S. advertising. But the line drew scrutiny in the wake of VW’s emissions cheating scandal, which began in 2015 when it admitted to installing devices on diesel vehicles to evade testing. Audi later quietly shed the line. Of late, Audi’s U.S. advertising has not used a tagline. Spots simply end by showing the brand’s 4-ring logo against a “thump thump” sound that resembles a beating heart. Audi is expected to continue working with Venables Bell & Partners in the U.S. A representative for Audi of America confirmed that this company remains the creative agency of record in the U.S. An Audi of America representative noted that “while global creative will be run out of Amsterdam office, the New York office of 72andSunny will be vital to ensuring U.S. consumer insights are integrated into global content work”. +++ 

+++ BMW ’s new chief executive delivered a 33 % third-quarter operating profit rise as stronger SUV sales and the absence of the one-off factors which depressed earnings a year earlier lifted its earnings. Oliver Zipse, who became CEO in August, said the German sportscar manufacturer is on track to meet full-year targets, unlike rivals such as Ford which have been forced to lower their profit forecasts due to slower sales in China. “We are well on our way to achieving our targets for the year as a whole”, Zipse said. Sales of BMW’s passenger cars rose 3.6 % in the quarter including a 5.8 % rise in China sales in September, thanks to a newly launched X3, even as overall car sales in China fell for the past 15 months in a row. The Munich-based company said its earnings before interest and taxes rose to €2.29 billion; up from €1.72 billion in the year-earlier quarter and ahead of the €2.16 billion forecast in a analyst poll. The operating margin at its automotive division rose to 6.6 % from 4.4 % in the year-earlier period, when new emissions rules led to heavy stockpiling and discounting by competitors and hit BMW’s profit margin on luxury cars. “A decent set of third-quarter numbers with revenues 4 % ahead of consensus driven by better mix and solid pricing”, Barclays analyst Dorothee Cresswell said in a note. BMW said in March it expects a significant fall in group pretax profit, a slight increase in vehicle deliveries, and an margin of between 4.5 % and 6.5 % in the automotive division; an outlook it reiterated today. It sees demand for electrified vehicles, which includes hybrid engines, doubling by 2021, and sales of electrified cars growing by 30 % annually between 2021 and 2025. Carmakers are having to make huge investments into cleaner and self-driving technologies just as demand in China, their biggest market, is falling and a trade war between Washington and Beijing is curbing global economic growth. The Bavarian carmaker faces higher manufacturing costs as it prepares factories to build hybrid and electric cars, forcing cost cuts elsewhere, with the aim of achieving more than €12 billion in efficiency gains by the end of 2022. BMW said it will cut development times of vehicles by a third and the number of drivetrains by 50 % from 2021 onwards. +++ 

+++ Inconsistent requirements for CHARGING STATIONS across Europe are keeping the infrastructure for electric cars from growing as fast as it could, the CEO of ChargePoint, one of the world’s largest charging network operators, said. Pasquale Romano said the European Union was the “only governing body” able to tackle the issue. “Germany has very specific metering requirements. Some Southern European countries require shuttered sockets. That’s crazy. It’s creating noise in a way that’s not adding value to the drivers”, he said. “Companies like us can work around this, but it makes doing business here messier than it needs to be”. ChargePoint, which operates 103.600 charging points globally, aims to increase that to 2.5 million by 2025, with the increase split evenly between Europe and the United States. The company entered the European market in 2016, with its headquarters located in Amsterdam, joining a crowded field of oil majors, carmakers and utilities fighting to dominate the industry of electric vehicle infrastructure. Since then, ChargePoint has hired 70 staff across the continent, with one facility in Munich and another in Reading, England, due to come into operation by the end of this year. Most of the growth has been in Europe rather than the United States, Romano said, “with the U.S. climate the way it is”. The U.S. government filed paperwork to withdraw the country from the Paris Agreement, the first formal step in a one-year process to exit the global pact to fight climate change by cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. ChargePoint has raised $530 million from investors in 10 funding rounds since it was founded in 2007 (including Daimler, BMW and Siemens in Germany), as well as U.S. energy firms Chevron and America Electric Power. “Investing in electric vehicles is the last growth opportunity the utilities industry will have for decades”, Romano said. +++ 

+++ In CHINA , domestic automakers still aspire to establish a presence in mature markets outside of Asia, even though they have largely limited their exports so far to emerging markets. Europe and the United States have been obvious targets. But the prolonged trade dispute between Beijing and the Trump administration has pushed them to focus more on western Europe of late instead of the U.S. Some examples: In 2005, state-owned Nanjing Auto purchased the MG brand from bankrupt UK automaker MG Rover. Within a year, a strategy was hatched to build and sell vehicles in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, in addition to China. The 2007 purchase of Nanjing by another stated-owned automaker, SAIC Motor, and the global recession that followed threw those plans off track. Now, Europe is SAIC’s focus, and the U.S. is not. This year, the company conducted road tests for the full-electric variant of the MG ZS, a compact crossover, in Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the UK. In July, SAIC said it had begun shipping the EZ to the UK, Netherlands and Norway. At the Frankfurt auto show in September, Great Wall Motor announced plans to distribute vehicles under its premium brand, Wey, in western Europe within 2 years, starting with Germany. This year, Great Wall opened an assembly plant in Russia. At that event, chairman Wei Jianjun was asked why domestic Chinese carmakers should sell their cars globally when their home is the world’s largest new-car market. His explanation to the Chinese media: After competing with domestic rivals on price for so long, it’s time for Chinese carmakers to compete on brand strength. And as worldwide operations are a must for any car company with true international standing, Chinese brands must go global, he added. He also said that he has joked with staffers about weighing the risks of venturing far from home. The verdict: “Great Wall would rather take the challenge, even if it means dying abroad”. In Frankfurt, Wei said entering the U.S. remains an ambition for the company, 11 years after proclaiming its “ultimate goal” was to sell cars there. That same month, Great Wall signed up Swedish supplier Autoliv to help research road safety in North America and better prepare its vehicles for the market; whenever they might arrive. In 2017, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group started sales of the first product, a compact crossover, under Lynk & Co: a brand jointly owned by the leading Chinese carmaker and its Swedish subsidiary, Volvo. Back then, Geely also planned to sell Lynk & Co’s products, which share the platform with the Volvo XC40, in Europe and U.S. in the next few years. Last week, Geely announced that it would start distributing Lynk & Co vehicles in Europe next year. The company has yet to disclose a timeframe for when to take the brand to the U.S. 2 prototypes of a full-electric crossover developed by EV startup Aiways also arrived in time for Frankfurt after completing an 14,184 kilometre journey from the northwestern China city of Xi’an. Aiways plans to begin sales in Europe in April. +++ 

+++ The agreed merger between FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) and the PSA Group will create the world’s 4th-largest car company based on sales. The 2 European firms last week announced their intention to create a new entity owned 50/50 between the 2, but led by PSA’s boss Carlos Tavares. PSA will also appoint 6 board members against 5 for FCA, in effect giving the French company control over the decision-making. The combination of the 2 will create a 15-brand automotive behemoth that together sold 4.2 million vehicles in the first half of this year, behind the Volkswagen Group, Toyota and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, but ahead of General Motors and Hyundai-Kia. The company would be big enough “to capture successfully the opportunities and manage effectively the challenges of the new era in mobility”, according to a joint statement referencing the high cost of investing in new technologies such as EVs and autonomous cars. Despite being highly profitable, FCA has been chasing a merger ever since its previous CEO, the late Sergio Marchionne, warned in his 2015 treatise ‘Confessions of a Capital Junkie’ that car makers had to consolidate in order to have any hope of controlling spiralling development costs. FCA have since been rebuffed time and again, most recently after talks with Renault collapsed earlier this year. Now, just over a year after his death, Marchionne’s dream has been realised. By sharing technology and platforms and pooling other resources, the companies will eventually make combined annual savings of €3.7 billion, the 2 said in a statement. This figure could be achieved without shutting factories, the statement said; something PSA has proved it can do after successfully turning around GM’s loss-making Opel – Vauxhall division. The barriers to success are huge. FCA might be profitable but, of the €7.3 billion it made last year in pre-tax profits, €6.2 billion was made in the US thanks in the main to demand for Ram pick-ups and Jeep SUVs. The company struggles in Europe, where demand for its core Fiat brand is too heavily dependent on sales of the lower-margin 500 and Panda city cars. It also fails to make serious money from its storied but underfunded premium brands, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. PSA could quickly fix Fiat in Europe, argues Felipe Munoz, a global analyst at Jato Dynamics. “FCA could make use of the new 208/Corsa platform to re-enter the supermini segment with a new Punto”, he said. A new Tipo could then follow on the Peugeot 308 platform. A bigger problem is FCA’s industrial base in Italy, where it has an astonishing 27 manufacturing facilities for vehicles and parts. Over-staffing in underfunded factories running far below capacity is a serious problem that will take all of Tavares’ skill to negotiate. He won praise in the UK for, so far, managing to keep Vauxhall’s 2 plants running while still returning Opel / Vauxhall to profitability, and Italian unions are seeking assurances that the same can happen in Italy, where Fiats, Alfas, Maseratis and smaller Jeeps are built. The interesting question is what happens to Alfa Romeo and Maserati? Turning Maserati into the Italian equivalent of VW Group profit machine Porsche has always been the tantalising goal, and earlier this year FCA announced a €5 billion investment programme to electrify Maserati and launch a new sports car with both electric and combustion engines by next year. PSA described Maserati and Alfa Romeo as having “substantial development potential”, and maybe Tavares is the man to fully unlock this. Or maybe he’s the man to finally sell Alfa Romeo to the VW Group, which it historically has coveted. The big strengths of the planned merger are in SUVs and Vans; the 2 most profitable segments right now. An FCA-PSA merger creates the world’s largest Van maker, with sales in excess of half a million in the first half of the year. It is also the world’s third-largest SUV maker, with sales of 1.5 million over the same period. Combined, it sold more than 1.2 million smaller cars (up to Astra size) but is seriously under-represented in medium-sized saloons (14th largest globally), which the new entity will need to address to overcome weakness in China. Max Warburton, an analyst at Bernstein, acknowledged that Europe is likely to be the biggest benefit. “It’s obvious that PSA does not offer any synergies in the US, and very little in Latin America”, he said. “Putting PSA and FCA together in China doesn’t solve much, either: 2 wrongs don’t make a right. A deal does nothing to change Alfa and Maserati’s prospects, either”. +++ 

+++ In ITALY , new-car sales rose 6.7 % to 156,851 in October. Demand rebounded from the slump in the same month last year when automakers were hit by supply disruptions to meet tougher WLTP emissions standards introduced the month before. The rise was the second consecutive monthly increase after September registrations rose 14 %. Demand was also boosted by sales to long-term rental companies, which jumped 30 %. Self-registrations by dealers also rose by 30 %, while those by automakers increased by 97 %. Private demand fell 1 %, while business sales dropped 5.2 % and sales to short-term rental companies fell 11 %. Sales of diesel vehicles dropped 13 % for a market share of 35.8 %. The diesel share in October was the lowest since May 2001, according to industry association ANFIA. Sales of gasoline-powered cars rose 18 %, giving them a 45.9 % market share. Sales of full-electric vehicles rose 59 % to 939, giving them a 0.6 % market share. This was down from 0.9 % in the previous month. Plug-in hybrid registrations also slowed. In October, they rose 48 % to 845 vehicles, giving them a 0.5 % market share; half the amount they achieved in September. Full hybrid-vehicles saw their share increase to 7.4 % from 5.5 %. The market share for cars powered by liquefied petroleum gas declined to 6.8 % from 7.1 % last year, while sales of vehicles powered by compressed natural gas jumped 284 % to 4.575 and their share increased to 2.9 % from 0.8 %. Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s group sales fell 2.2 % in October as demand for the market leader’s core Fiat brand declined 4.7 %. Jeep gained 0.8 %, Alfa Romeo was down 0.8 % and Lancia increased sales by 8.2 %. Maserati registrations fell by 34 %. Fiat’s Panda remained the top market seller, despite a 13 % decline to 10,910 units. Sales of PSA Group’s Peugeot and Citroen brand sales grew by 9.2 % and 9.4 % respectively while Opel, which is replaced its Corsa best-seller with a new generation, suffered a 26 % decline. The DS brand increased 157 %. Volkswagen Group sales jumped 34 %, boosted by a 37 % increase at core brand VW. Both the T-Cross and T-Roc helped lift demand. Audi registrations rose 25 %, while Porsche sales jumped 453 %. The sports car’s registrations were low in October 2018 due to the lack of models homologated to meet tougher WLTP emissions standards that went into effect on Sept. 1, 2018. Seat sales were up 61 %, while Skoda suffered an 8 % decline. The VW group leveraged the success of its range of CNG-powered models. The Golf was the most popular model with 1.357 sales, representing more than half than the 2.484 Golfs sold in Italy last month. Renault Group’s Dacia brand posted a 34 % jump, while Renault brand saw its sales grow 11 %. Ford deliveries were up 1.6 %. Asian brands had mixed results as Kia gained 9.9 % and Hyundai increased 3 %. Toyota rose 7.9 %, while Nissan declined 5.3 %. BMW brand sales were up 10 %, while sales at rival Mercedes-Benz declined by 4.2 %. Through October, sales in Italy are down 0.9 % to 1.62 million. +++ 

+++ Sentiment toward JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) is improving at an unprecedented pace, after stabilization in its China business helped the premium UK automaker’s parent Tata Motors report a narrower loss than expected. So say the debt markets, where credit-default swaps insuring against default at the company dropped a record 268 basis points in October to 538. The cost to buy protection against JLR bond non-payment had been as high as 943 basis points in February. JLR’s retail sales in China grew at double digits for the 3 months through September as new product launches boosted sales. The number had plunged by double digits for 12 months in a row before the revival. The automaker’s turnaround could be sustained as China sales continue to rise, and as the company tightens its belt further, according to a note from Nomura Holdings. After solid second-quarter results, JLR may consider an unsecured issue to refinance a bond maturing this month, Joel Levington, director for credit research at Bloomberg Intelligence, wrote in a note. Moody’s Investors Service, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings all still have a negative credit outlook for JLR due to risks including uncertainty around Brexit and the U.S. threat of tariffs on car imports from Europe. With the bulk of its manufacturing in the UK, JLR is the most exposed among automakers to a disorderly Brexit, according to Fitch. Meanwhile, Tata Motors reported a narrower-than-expected loss helped by the stabilizing sales in China. The company lost 2.2 billion rupees ($31 million) in the 3 months ended September against a loss of 16.4 billion rupees projected by analysts on average. +++ 

+++ MITSUBISHI cut its full-year profit outlook by 67 % as it expects sluggish demand in North America and China will continue, while a strong yen and research and development costs will also hurt the automaker’s bottom line. Japan’s 6th largest automaker now expects operating profit to come in at 30.0 billion yen in the year to March, down from a previous forecast for 90.0 billion yen. The new outlook would be Mitsubishi’s lowest profit since the year ended March 2017. The downgrade comes after Mitsubishi, in which Nissan holds a controlling stake, reported a 78 % plunge in operating profit during the July-September quarter to 6.3 billion yen, lower than a mean forecast for 16.26 billion yen from analysts. It joins a growing number of Japanese automakers which are bracing for lower profitability. +++

+++ We’ve kind of been here before (insert Renault where you see PSA), but the news that FCA (think Fiat, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Maserati, Abarth, Dodge and others) is joining forces with PSA (Peugeot, Citroen, Opel / Vauxhall, DS) fills me with huge excitement. Sadly that’s not the case everywhere, with British Unite union boss and doom-monger-in-chief Des Quinn saying: “Merger talks combined with Brexit uncertainty is deeply unsettling for Vauxhall’s UK workforce, which is one of the most efficient in Europe. The fact remains, merger or not, if PSA wants to use a great British brand like Vauxhall to sell cars and vans in the UK, then it has to make them here in the UK”. I totally agree that Vauxhall’s UK workforce is super-efficient, but Mr Quinn clearly doesn’t realise the majority of today’s Vauxhalls aren’t made in the UK anyway. I’ve reported before that PSA is considering turning Ellesmere Port into a right-hand-drive plant for its brands; an idea described as “making sense” by senior PSA execs. So with more brands joining the family, that’s surely good news for the workers at Ellesmere Port? In PSA and FCA, you have 2 automotive giants with some of the best leaders in the business in Carlos Tavares and Mike Manley. What the 2 companies could achieve together could be incredible. Yes, there are efficiencies to be made, as you’d expect. And Tavares in particular has shown how adept he is in making car companies more efficient and, therefore, more profitable in a relatively short space of time. But efficiencies can also lead to more choice. You’ve only got to look at the proliferation of product within the Volkswagen empire to realise that a great number of great cars simply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the efficiencies you get from sharing technologies among brands. FCA and PSA have great brands and I can’t wait to see them produce a greater number of models. +++ 

+++ Audi has added a new REAR DRIVE R8 to the line-up on a permanent basis, which joins the updated and uprated Quattro all-wheel-drive versions of the brand’s mid-engined supercar in a new-look line-up. The R8 was given a thorough facelift this time last year, with a sharp new look and extra power for both the base and flagship Plus versions of the car, both of which use a 5.2-litre V10 shared with the Lamborghini Huracan. Prior to the facelift a rear-wheel-drive R8 was introduced on a short-term basis. The 540 hp R8 RWS was limited to 999 units globally, and went on sale shortly after its debut at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. The new rear-wheel-drive Audi R8 RWD sticks with the same amount of power as that car, with its 5.2-litre V10 pushing 540 hp and 540 Nm torque to the rear axle and a mechanical locking differential via a 7-speed dual clutch gearbox. The new addition sits below the R8 Quattro, now packing 570 hp, and the R8 Plus, which produces up to 620 hp. It’ll be available in both Coupe and drop-top Spyder body styles, boasting the same aggressive makeover as the rest of the line-up, save for 1 or 2 fresh additions. It gains new sideblades in gloss black, while the blades at the front of the car and on the rear diffuser are gloss black, too. Inside, a shiny RWD badge has been fitted to the dashboard, opposite the passenger. The R8 RWD rides on 19-inch wheels as standard, with a 20-inch set available on the options list. Audi claims that the Coupe version of the new R8 RWD is capable of 0-100 kph in 3.7 seconds, topping out at 318 kph. The Spyder is a tenth of a second slower from 0-100 kph, clocking up the benchmark sprint in 3.8 seconds and topping out at 315 kph. With the front driveshaft removed, Audi says that the chassis setup of the new R8 RWS allows for controlled drifts when Sport mode is selected. The kerbweight of both RWD editions drops by 65 kg over their Quattro all-wheel-drive equivalents. Both Coupe and Spyder RWD models go on sale across Europe in early 2020. +++ 

+++ RENAULT SAMSUNG MOTORS said that it will introduce 6 new cars to the local South Korean market next year. The first model to be introduced will likely be the XM3 crossover. While there have been uncertainties about the carmaker’s future business in Korea, especially as it struggles to secure orders for production at its Busan factory, the message gives some hope to its workers. Renault Samsung CEO Dominique Signora encouraged employees to make a turnaround in the business with 6 new models to be released in the market next year, which will the 20th anniversary of the Korean unit of French automaker Renault, in an internal message. According to Signora, the company plans to release the second-generation Captur, which is the fully changed model of the QM3, and the Zoé in the first half of next year, after releasing the XM3. Signora also said that the company’s preparing to launch upgraded versions of the SM6 sedan, QM6 SUV and Renault Master Van. “With the new lineup, we are expecting to sell some 100,000 cars in the domestic market in 2020”, the company said in statement. Signora said the company is pushing to have new cars allocated for production at the Busan factory as a deal to manufacture Nissan’s X-Trail there is likely to end this year. Renault Samsung has been hoping to produce XM3s for the European market in Busan. Signora asked for the union’s support to help the company secure production of XM3s for the Europe market. +++ 

+++ In SOUTH KOREA , automakers are struggling with lackluster sales amid a drawn-out economic slowdown. Korea’s 5 automakers (Hyundai and affiliate Kia, GM Korea, Renault Samsung and Ssangyong) saw their sales drop last month. Their combined sales fell by 4 % on-year to 703.777 units in October. Hyundai and Kia saw their domestic and overseas sales plummet by 2.5 % and 0.8 % overall, bucking the trend that had been seen until the previous month of small increases of 1 % to 2 %. “We are struggling with weak demand in the U.S. and China. Besides that, the release of the new Grandeur sedan led to a significant drop in sales of existing models”, said a Hyundai spokesman. The situation is even worse for the 3 other automakers. GM Korea saw its sales fall by 25.5 % to 30,158 units on-year, Renault Samsung by 20.4 % to 14,826 units and Ssangyong by 24.1 % to 10,135 units. An industry insider said, “With exports declining, they have no plans to release new cars, so it is unlikely they will see a recovery in sales anytime soon”. Sales of imported cars slightly picked up last month after suffering a drop due to weak demand and a boycott of Japanese cars. Combined sales of Japanese cars also rebounded. According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (KAIDA), the number of newly registered imported cars stood at 22.101 last month; up 6.2 % on-year and 9.4 % on-month. “The rise was fueled by the release of new models, various promotions and huge discounts”, a KAIDA staffer said. Honda, which had been hit hardest by the boycott since July, sold 806 cars; a nearly 5-fold increase from just 166 last month. Lexus’ sales still fell from 469 to 456 but by a smaller margin of 2.8 % compared to previous months. Total sales of Japanese cars went up to 1,977 from 1,103 last month. Mercedes-Benz posted record monthly sales with 8,025 cars; the first time a foreign automaker has sold more than 8,000 cars a month here. BMW sold 4,122 cars, followed by Audi with 2,210 and Jeep with 1,361. Jeep, which released a new version of the Grand Cherokee in late September, saw sales double on-year. Meanwhile, cumulative sales of imported cars until October this year fell 13.2 % on-year to 189.149. +++ 

+++ SUBARU lowered its annual profit forecast on expectations of a stronger yen and the impact on production from a typhoon last month, driving its shares down as much as 4.5 %. Japan’s smallest major automaker, which is owned for 20 % by Toyota, cut its forecast for operating profit to 220 billion yen ($2 billion) for the year ending March 2020, from a previous forecast of 260 billion yen. Subaru revised its forecast for the yen to average 107 versus the dollar over the period, from 110 previously. A stronger currency eats into profits because cars exported from Japan become more expensive and the value of earnings made overseas decreases. The United States is Subaru’s biggest market, accounting for about 60 % of overall sales. Typhoon Hagibis forced Subaru to halt production at its factories in Gumna, north of Tokyo, for more than a week in October due to supply chain disruptions. The stoppage, which lasted until Oct. 25, resulted in lost production of 11.000 vehicles, chief executive officer Tomomi Nakamura told. Hagibis was the worst typhoon to hit Japan in decades, leaving at least 80 people dead. “We have restarted production, but we couldn’t return to full capacity immediately”, Nakamura said. “Some of our suppliers’ factories were completely submerged”. Subaru also said vehicle sales rose nearly 20 % in the first half of the fiscal year compared with a year earlier, driven almost entirely by an improvement in the United States amid strong demand for the Forester SUV. +++ 

+++ UBER TECHNOLOGIES AUTONOMOUS TEST VEHICLES were involved in 37 crashes in the 18 months before a fatal March 2018 self-driving car incident in Tempe, Arizona, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said. The board said between September 2016 and March 2018, there were 37 crashes of Uber vehicles in autonomous mode at the time, including 33 that involved another vehicle striking test vehicles. In 1 incident, the test vehicle struck a bent bicycle lane bollard that partially occupied the test vehicle’s lane of travel. In another incident, the operator took control to avoid a rapidly approaching oncoming vehicle that entered its lane of travel. The vehicle operator steered away and struck a parked car. The NTSB will hold a probable cause hearing on the Arizona crash on November 19. A spokeswoman for Uber’s self-driving car effort, Sarah Abboud, said the company regretted the crash that killed Elaine Herzberg and noted it has “adopted critical program improvements to further prioritize safety. We deeply value the thoroughness of the NTSB’s investigation into the crash and look forward to reviewing their recommendations”. The crash was the first death attributed to a self-driving vehicle, prompting significant safety concerns about the nascent self-driving car industry, which is working to get vehicles into commercial use. The NTSB said previously Uber had disabled an emergency braking system in the modified Volvo test vehicle. In the aftermath of the crash, Uber suspended all testing and did not resume testing in Pennsylvania until December with revised software and with significant new restrictions and safeguards. NTSB said Uber conducted simulation of sensor data from the crash with the revised software and told the agency that “the new software would have been able to detect and correctly classify the pedestrian at a distance of approximately 88 meters (4.5 seconds) before the original time of impact”. NTSB added: “The system would have initiated controlled braking more than 4 seconds before the original time of impact”. In March, prosecutors in Arizona said Uber was not criminally liable in the self-driving crash. In July, police in Tempe closed a street to conduct a lighting test as it investigated whether the Uber safety driver who was behind the wheel and supposed to respond in the event of an emergency should face criminal charges. Police have said the crash was “entirely avoidable” and that the backup driver was watching a TV program at the time of the crash. +++ 

+++ Vietnam will fine VOLKSWAGEN Group’s local distributor and an importer for showing a car with a navigation app reflecting Chinese territorial claims rejected by Hanoi. VW Vietnam Auto faces a penalty of 20 million to 40 million dong ($860 to $1,724), while World Auto will be fined 40 million to 60 million dong and suspended from operating for 6 to 9 months, the General Department of Vietnam Customs said in a statement on its website. The navigation app was displayed in a Touareg shown at an auto show in Ho Chi Minh City last month. Southeast Asian countries have clashed with China over maritime claims in the region, where Beijing’s so-called 9-dashline encompasses waters the U.S. has said could contain unexploited hydrocarbons worth $2.5 trillion. Vietnam and China fought a war along their land border in 1979. Vietnam ordered cinemas to halt screenings of DreamWorks Animation’s “Abominable” last month because it showed the 9-dashline on a map. There were also calls for a DreamWorks boycott in the Philippines and the movie was withdrawn from a scheduled debut in Malaysia. Another automobile importer was told last month to remove navigation apps that showed Chinese territorial claims. A representative from VW Vietnam Auto declined to comment on the statement from the customs administration. The distributor’s general director was cited as saying the vehicle was showcased due to carelessness on its part. +++ 

+++ VOLVO is to use blockchain technology to help it trace the provenance of the cobalt used in its electric cars, like the XC40 Recharge. Cobalt is a vital component for the batteries in electric cars, as well as smartphones and laptops. But with around 60 % of the world’s cobalt coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one of the poorest countries in the world, concerns over unregulated mines and child miners have led Volvo to introduce the provenance-tracking technology. Blockchain works by creating a digital ‘ledger’, or database, that can be shared electronically between computers and companies, without being changed. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, rely on blockchain technology to track payments and keep the currency secure. Blockchain is already used by some diamond companies to ensure blood diamonds, mined in war zones to fund soldiers and mercenaries, do not make their way on to the market. highlighted concerns over cobalt supply chains at the end of 2018, when we asked all the major players in the EV market where their cobalt came from. No manufacturer was able to guarantee its EV batteries were free from DRC cobalt, though BMW said it planned to stop using Congolese cobalt in the future. Even this solution is not without problems, however, as mines providing vital employment for some DRC residents.
In the case of Volvo’s cobalt, blockchain will be used to log the origin, weight and size of the metal, as well as its “chain of custody”; i.e. in which companies’ hands the material is in, or has passed through. With much of the world’s cobalt processed in refineries en mass, even manufacturers who insist on using legitimate mines can find it difficult to guarantee the material has been ethically sourced. By deploying blockchain to cobalt supply chains, however, Volvo will be able to ensure the materials used in its batteries were not dug out of the ground by children in dangerous, unregulated mines. The Chinese-owned Swedish firm will work with its battery suppliers (CATL of China and LG Chem of South Korea) as well as tech firms Circulor and Oracle to deploy the blockchain system. Martina Buchhauser, head of procurement at Volvo, said the firm has “always been committed to an ethical supply chain for our raw materials”, adding: “With blockchain technology we can take the next step towards ensuring full traceability of our supply chain and minimising any related risks, in close collaboration with our suppliers”. +++

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