Newsflash: Mini krijgt tweede ‘mini’ modellijn

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+++ BENTLEY is readying an ultra-exclusive model created by its coachbuilding division, Mulliner, and described by insiders as the “ultimate open-cockpit sports tourer”. The model is expected to cost upwards of €2 million in The Netherlands and will take cues from the EXP 100 GT concept, revealed in July for Bentley’s centenary. As well as echoing the concept’s exterior design, it is likely to use innovative and sustainable materials showcased by the EXP 100 GT (for example, the 5.500 year old naturally felled riverwood). Bentley is hoping the special model will give a nod to its past (the Mulliner division dates from the 18 century) while also demonstrating its future direction, as seen in the EXP 100 GT. Its price and exclusivity will also serve to differentiate it from the broader Bentley line-up as wealthy buyers seek out rarer models. Although the bespoke model has not yet been officially announced, Bentley design boss Stefan Sielaff hinted at the project earlier this year. “We will show a first idea of what we can do for a small number of] customers”, he told. The model, which will arrive in 2021 if approved, will be a 2-seat barchetta-styled tourer, intended to “exaggerate the sensations of driving”, according to one source. The barchetta will use a traditional petrol powertrain, eschewing any form of electrification. It will be powered by Bentley’s 6.0-litre W12 engine and produce at least 635 hp and 900 Nm, as it does in the Continental GT and Flying Spur. No roof will be offered, which will make the car significantly lighter and enable it to beat the 3.7 seconds 0-100 kph sprint of the Continental GT. Bentley is believed to be in conversation with its closest clients about this Collectors’ Series, of which no more than 12 vehicles would be made. The plans follow the announcement in September of a continuation series of 12 Bentley ‘Blowers’, all of which have been allocated. There has also been a number of other limited editions created by Mulliner this year, including the Mulsanne WO Edition, Continental GT No. 9 and Continental GT Convertible No. 1, all of which quickly sold out, according to Bentley. The popularity of these exclusive models demonstrates a thirst for bespoke Bentleys by its customers and echoes rivals such as Rolls-Royce and McLaren, which are investing more resources in creating ultra-high-end models to cater for the super-rich. Such cars are also highly profitable for their makers. Talking about demand for such cars earlier this year, Sielaff said: “We have more and more customers asking for a very individual Bentley – almost a one-off or a series of 10. From our observations, if you look at society, the rich customers are getting richer. They come to us and say: ‘I want the one and only Bentley tailor-made for myself’. In the old days, this was difficult for homologation but now we ramp up this idea”. Referencing this project, he continued: “We have to deal with one-offs very carefully, but I think this is a trend. It’s not only Bentley. It will be under the remit of Mulliner coachbuilding, sitting on top of Bentley, and will definitely be something more expensive than a normal Bentley”. As is typical at this level of the market, customers of the barchetta will be able to work with Bentley’s design team to create a personalised vehicle. Mulliner Style Specification and Mulliner Driving Specification are both popular additions to Bentley’s standard models, with 75 % of Continental GTs now sold featuring one of these specifications. Mulliner also offers an extended paint range across the line-up. However, this limited-edition model will mark a return to a truly bespoke offering by Mulliner, last seen in 2002 when it produced the Bentley State Limousine for the Queen. +++ 

+++ BMW management and labor have reached an agreement on measures to reduce costs that avoids “drastic measures”, the German carmaker said. BMW had been in talks with labor representatives and its top suppliers as it seeks to achieve cost savings of more than €12 billion by 2022. The agreement involves reducing a payout scheme for workers based on company profits, as well changes to Christmas and other bonuses for some workers. The measures are effective from 2020. The announcement comes a day after Audi said it would cut one in 10 jobs, freeing up billions of euros to fund its shift toward electric vehicle production. “We have achieved a solution based on solidarity. This allows us to avoid drastic measures that others are currently taking to reduce their costs”, CEO Oliver Zipse said. Carmakers have been struggling with an auto industry downturn, particularly in China, and the need to increase investment in electric vehicles as several countries move to eventually ban conventional combustion engines. Rival Daimler has also recently announced staff and cost cuts. +++ 

+++ We know from previous reports that the next-generation BMW M3 will come with an available manual transmission. However, there’s a small catch: you won’t be able to order a stick-shift gearbox together with an all-wheel drive. BMW M boss Markus Flasch confirmed BMW “will offer all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive”, as well as “both manual and auto”. The AWD system won’t be a dual-clutch one like on the previous 2 generations of the M3 but a traditional torque-converter in the same vein as the current M5. “There’s no reason for changing a winning system and pretty much carrying over what we know from the M5”, Flasch explained. In fact, in the new M3, the all-wheel drive will be very similar to the one used in the M5 but will offer an actual rear-drive mode. Technically, it’s possible to mate this AWD system with a manual transmission but Flasch believes there’s no demand for such a configuration. As a related note, he also told that there’s no demand for larger manual-transmission M cars, which basically means there are zero chances of seeing a manual M5 soon. “Power output gets to an extent with this generation where it’s really difficult to get it to the road if the conditions are not perfect”, Flasch explained the idea behind an AWD M3. “We also have quite a significant group of customers that live in places that are not spoiled with weather like Los Angeles. If you look to the competition, to other brands, there is a demand for high-performance cars in all-wheel drive in the segment”. You can probably recall from the previous reports that the next-generation M3, together with the new M4, will be powered by the S58 inline-6 3.0-litre turbo engine of BMW that debuted with the X3 M and X4 M. Depending on the trim (standard M or Competition), the unit will generate 480 hp or 510 hp, and Flasch even hinted more powerful CS and CSL variants could be planned. +++ 

+++ British annual car production will drop by a third to 1 million by 2024 if BREXIT leads to tariffs with the European Union, a trade body warned, saying output would be lost to other countries. Britons head to the polls in just over 2 weeks to elect a new government with Prime Minister Boris Johnson promising to pass his Brexit deal as soon as possible, whilst the opposition Labour Party would renegotiate and call a referendum in 2020. If Johnson, leading in the polls, is re-elected, next year is set to be dominated by talks with Brussels on future trading terms, with British automakers seeking the continuation of free and frictionless trade with their largest export market. The sector, Britain’s biggest exporter of goods, warned on Tuesday that World Trade Organisation tariffs on components imported into Britain and exported vehicles would add more than 3.2 billion pounds ($4 billion) a year to manufacturing costs in the worst case scenario. “By 2024, falling demand and model reallocation to more competitive and welcoming production locations would see annual output falling to just 1 million vehicles per year”, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said. Production stood at 1.5 million cars in Britain last year but has fallen by 16 % so far this year, hit by a slump in demand for diesel vehicles, falling sales in China and a hit to consumer confidence due to Brexit uncertainty. Honda and Ford have announced plant closures this year but both blamed factors other than Brexit. PSA has said a decision to keep open its Vauxhall car factory in northern England is dependent on the final terms of Brexit. “The next government must deliver the ambition, the competitive business environment and the commitment needed to keep automotive in Britain”, said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. +++ 

+++ Even though the Ford Mustang Mach-E isn’t expected to arrive until late next year, you can bet that both General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are keeping an eye out for just how successful the Blue Oval’s Tesla Model Y rival is going to be. The question is, do rival automakers look at the Mach-E as more of a curiosity, or are they already planning their own EV and/or higher-end crossovers with surprisingly iconic badges? I’m inclined to think the latter scenario is more likely. In fact, here’s what Chevrolet marketing boss Steve Majoros told last week at the LA Auto Show with regards to a potential CORVETTE based SUV: “We’re flattered by the attention. We’re very happy with the Corvette we’ve got to sell, here, right after we turn the calendar in 2020. What future plans are, we’ll see”. That sounds like a definitely maybe to me. Meanwhile, GM CEO Mary Barra was asked a similar question by Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, replying “We’ll, I appreciate that you think our Corvette franchise is very strong. I’m not going to talk about the future”. Jonas actually thinks that the Corvette brand is “undervalued and underappreciated by the market” and that it’s time for GM to acknowledge that times are changing. “It’s time to look at the potential of GM’s supercar brand”, Jonas said, adding it would be “more than a needle-mover for GM” helping it increase Corvette volutes five-fold to 80,000 units by the mid 2020s. So do we want a Corvette-based SUV? Well, that depends. If we’re talking about something that’s fully electric, then the answer is definitely ‘Yes’. Both GM as well as FCA know that Ford cannot be allowed free reign as the sole Model Y challenger. But why Corvette though? GM could just as easily use the Camaro branding. +++ 

+++ In 2018, South Korea’s SK Innovation beat its larger, local rival LG Chem to a multibillion dollar deal to supply German carmaker Volkswagen with ELECTRIC VEHICLE BATTERIES in the United States. With great fanfare, SK Innovation (SKI) broke ground in March on a $1.7 billion factory in Georgia, about 200 km from VW’s Chattanooga plant, which will be the automaker’s electric vehicle hub in the United States. LG Chem (LGC) however had other ideas. Stung by missing out on the VW deal to the new kid on the block and the departure of 77 employees for its rival across the Han River in Seoul, LGC took SKI to court in the United States in April accusing it of misappropriating trade secrets. Fast forward 7 months and the 2 firms have hit each other with U.S. lawsuits for battery patent infringements in a bitter row that threatens to disrupt the launches of electric vehicles (EVs) by some of the world’s biggest carmakers. U.S court filings show the feuding firms are trying to stop each other from importing and selling EV batteries destined for the SUVs Volkswagen will build in Tennessee as well as GM’s Bolt (Opel Ampera-e), Ford pickups, Jaguar’s I-Pace, Audi’s e-Tron and Kia’s Niro. At stake is the Korean firms’ ability to supply automakers in the United States with batteries just as the car producers are scrambling to lock in supplies with lucrative contracts ahead of an expected surge in demand, according to court filings by the two companies and several industry experts. “Whoever loses the fight would suffer a fatal blow, unless the 2 reach a settlement. This will also be a setback for automakers”, said Cho Jae-phil, a professor at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology who worked previously at another Korean rival, Samsung SDI. Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Flake said it was encouraging LGC and SKI to resolve their conflict without litigation and that it believed there was sufficient demand for multiple suppliers. “We are aware of the issue. As a normal course of action, we have business continuity plans in place to protect our interests”, Flake said. GM spokesman Patrick Morrissey said the company was aware of the dispute and at this point it did not expect any impact on the production of its Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle. Kia, Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen / Audi, declined to comment. Volkswagen has said it is worried there won’t be enough batteries for all the EVs it plans to launch in the next 5 years, partly because producers such as LGC and China’s CATL don’t have enough skilled workers for new plants in Europe to ramp up output quickly. According to Korea’s battery industry tracker SNE Research, the market for EV batteries (the most expensive and important component in the vehicles) is set to grow 23 % a year to reach $167 billion by 2025, making it bigger than the global memory chip market which is expected to be worth $150 billion by then. In one court filing, LGC said its rival poached employees working on its own project to supply batteries for Volkswagen’s MEB electric vehicle architecture, and that SKI only won the VW contract because it had misappropriated trade secrets. SKI has denied stealing trade secrets, saying its staff signed agreements not to use information from former workplaces. “We value intellectual property”, a spokesman for SKI said. If the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) rules in favour of LGC on June 5, when it is due to make a preliminary ruling, that could jeopardise SKI’s plans to supply VW in the United States with batteries from Georgia or a new factory in Hungary, according to court filings. In April, LGC asked the ITC to block SKI from bringing batteries and components into the United States, as well as manufacturing systems needed for U.S. production which is scheduled to start in 2022. The SKI spokesman said there had been no change to its schedule for the factory, which will have the capacity to make batteries for more than 200.000 EVs a year. He said SKI had received inquiries about the lawsuits from customers, including if they would have an impact on supplies, without elaborating. LGC said a final ruling on the case would be made on October 5 next year but it asked the ITC earlier this month to make a so-called default judgment against SKI quickly. According to a memo, the Commission’s investigative staff recommended a motion in favour of LGC as it is “the most appropriate sanction for respondents’ SKI’s widespread spoliation of evidence”. Evidence spoliation is destruction or alteration of evidence that may be used in a legal proceeding. The staff also said a 2 day hearing may be held “because of the severity of the allegations of misconduct and the extraordinary nature of the relief requested by LGC”. SKI denied the allegation of evidence spoliation in a statement, saying it is “sincerely responding to any investigation by the ITC” and its statement of position filed with the panel will clear the “groundless” accusation. The patent infringement lawsuits lodged by the companies in the United States, meanwhile, mean that if one, or both, lose they probably won’t be able to market products using the patents in question in the country, the companies said in court filings. The 2 have taken their feud to South Korean courts as well. LGC said in a statement it would impossible to design around its patents while SKI said losing the patents case could create “substantial setbacks” to its battery business. SKI and LGC said there had been no supply disruptions yet. LGC was an early industry force to be reckoned with, winning a deal in 2008 to supply batteries for GM’s Volt, the world’s first mass-market, plug-in hybrid car, and it has since worked with almost every EV maker including Tesla. But LGC has been grappling with an exodus of workers: 1,258 staff jumped ship from 2016 to 2018, according to its sustainability reports. The company told the total number of staff who have joined SKI since 2016 has risen since it filed its complaint in April to about 100. The bitterness of the fight is worrying Korean government officials on the grounds it could damage the firms’ reputations and let rivals win market share from South Korean companies. Lawmakers have called on the government to intervene and Industry Minister Sung Yoon-mo said in October it was watching the dispute closely to see how and when it could play a role to bring about a “positive outcome for the country overall”. Beejay Kim, a battery consultant, said Volkswagen may have to broker a truce as the dispute could disrupt not only battery suppliers but also reduce competition between its vendors. “No one wants them to fight till the end”, he said. +++ 

+++ Italy’s industry ministry pledged €27 million in tax benefits for FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES for the production and development of hybrid and electric cars in 3 of its Italian productions sites. The agreement offers incentives for the purchase of equipment for the plants of Melfi, Orbassano and Turin-Mirafiori, and is part of a broader program of investments in innovation and research worth almost €140 million, to be completed by 2022. +++ 

+++ FORD announced it was making a €453 million investment in Rivian earlier this year and would get an electric vehicle based on their skateboard platform in return. Speculation initially suggested the model would be a pickup like the Rivian R1T, but Ford CEO Jim Hackett later downplayed that possibility. Fast forward to today and the mysterious model is a new LINCOLN crossover. It will be launched in mid-2022 and be offered with all-wheel drive. Little is known about the crossover at this point, but it’s reportedly codenamed the U787. Both companies declined to comment on the report, but the model is rumored to be one of 3 electric crossovers headed to Lincoln dealerships in the next 4 years. The first will reportedly be a compact crossover that will arrive in late 2021 or early 2022. Little is known about the model, but the timing is interesting as Ford has previously said the Mustang Mach-E GT will arrive in 2021. Given that Lincoln and Ford models are closely related, we wouldn’t be surprised if this crossover is a restyled and more luxurious version of the Mach-E. Regardless of when the compact crossover is launched, it will reportedly be joined by a mid-sized electric crossover in 2023. This suggests the Rivian-based 2022 model will be a large crossover as it would allow Lincoln to cover the compact, mid-size and large segments without overlap. Of course, that remains unconfirmed and we likely won’t hear much about the model for a few more years. +++ 

+++ MAZDA has seen a much higher take-up than expected in Europe for its Skyactiv-X engine. The SPCCI (spark plug controlled compression ignition) engine is available on the 3 and the CX-30. “Since we launched the engine, we are seeing a very encouraging feedback: 60 % of the orders for the Mazda 3 are currently for cars equipped with the Skyactiv-X engine, as well as 45 % of orders for the CX-30”, Mazda Europe CEO Yasuhiro Aoyama said. Interest in the new powertrain is “much higher than expected”, he told. The new Mazda 3 went on sale in Europe in the second quarter, with the SPCCI option available from September. The CX-30 was launched mid-October with diesel and gasoline variants, and SPCCI. Aoyama said he believes the CX-30 will be Mazda’s best-selling model in Europe next year. The CX-5 is Mazda’s current best-seller in Europe. The SPCCI technology is being sold at a higher price than other powertrains. The SPCCI unit is a gasoline-powered engine which combines the spark ignition of a gasoline engine with the compression ignition of a diesel. Mazda says the engine provides drivers with the free-revving performance of a gasoline engine and the superior response of a diesel, plus a reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. On the Mazda3, the SPCCI engine emits 5 % to 10 % less CO2 than a standard 2.0-liter gasoline unit on the same car. The 2.0-liter Skyactiv-X is equipped with a 24 volt mild hybrid system as standard. It delivers 180 hp and 224 Nm, with CO2 emissions of 100 to 111 grams per kilometer under Europe’s new WLTP vehicle testing regime. As part of its effort to reduce CO2 emissions from its new-car fleet, Mazda will launch its MX-30 full-electric crossover in Europe next summer. +++ 

+++ The next generation MERCEDES S-Class will be revealed towards the end of next year. Visually changes will be minor; the Audi A8 rival will retain the traditional 3-box shape, long wheelbase and bold roofline that has appeared on every generation since the 1970s. However, at the front, the new S-Class will adopt a version of Mercedes’s latest family face, with an enlarged grille and new LED headlamp cluster. While the exterior design changes only slightly, the interior will be overhauled. The existing model’s long, dual display infotainment setup will be replaced by a large Tesla-like central display mounted on the centre console. The look of the new cabin was previewed by the EQ S concept that debuted at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. As ever, the S-Class will be the firm’s technological flagship; an array of new driver convenience tech, as well as Mercedes’s latest range of electrified drivetrains and infotainment systems will appear. It will also feature hidden, pop-out door handles. The new model will also build on the outgoing saloon’s autonomous driving functions and is expected to debut new Level 3 semi-autonomous driving assistance features. However, legislation could mean that the autonomous functions can only be used in certain markets. Under the skin, Mercedes will introduce new petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains to the S-Class range. Later down the line, the German brand will introduce an all-electric equivalent to the S-Class under its new EQ sub-brand. High-performance AMG editions will also feature. When Mercedes-AMG unveiled the S65 Final Edition at the Geneva Motor Show back in March, many believed it represented the end of the road for the mighty V12 engine. However, it appears that’s not the case as the powerhouse is set to make a comeback in the next-generation S-Class. Daimler’s chairman Ola Källenius shared the good news: the V12 is not dead. He did not go into any details about the engine, so it’s unclear at this point whether it will be an updated version of the twin-turbo 6.0-litre unit or a new development possibly based on a smaller V8. Regardless, it appears the engineers have found a way to make a 12-cylinder engine more efficient and less harmful to the environment to meet more stringent emissions regulations. We’re not entirely surprised by the fact the V12 is soldering on since AMG boss Tobias Moers told last year the engine would only be retired from the AMG-branded models. In other words, the Benz and Maybach vehicles are still expected to feature the large engine, although it would make more sense for only the posh vehicles carrying the double M logo to pack a V12. Källenius also told that while the next-generation S-Class due to be unveiled next year will indeed get a V12, the recently introduced Maybach GLS won’t. There could still be at least one other engine offering for the posh SUV on the way as Daimler’s head honcho suggested a lesser 6-cylinder variant could be launched further down the line. The company decided to go with the AMG-developed V8 first since it “fits the GLS Maybach very well”, added Källenius. +++ 

+++ It has previously been reported that MERCEDES-AMG had pushed back first deliveries of the One hypercar due to complications with its F1-derived powertrain, but this is the first time the company confirms it. Mercedes-AMG’s head of product management, Michael Knoller revealed that the company has already informed customers of the delay and that first deliveries of the AMG One will begin in 2021. “When you make F1 technology street legal you have to go through a journey with the customers”, he said. “We had some challenges, but now we’ve reached a tipping point”. These challenges apparently included getting the hypercar idling at a steady 1.200 rpm in order to meet emissions-test requirements. “You have leakage in the throttles in Formula One and nobody cares, because it runs at 5,000 rpm idle”, said AMG boss Tobias Moers last year. “At 1,200 rpm, you have to meet the emissions regulations. You need a stable, proper idle. If it’s unstable, your emissions are unstable”. Knoller now also admitted that meeting noise regulations was also pretty challenging. The upcoming Mercedes-AMG One will share its powertrain with the 2017 F1 car, meaning a hybrid 1.6-liter V6 engine. The powertrain will use the same electrically spooled turbocharger, MGU-K electric motor and liquid-cooled batteries with Lewis Hamilton’s single-seater, but will also add an extra pair of MGU-K motors at the front axle for full torque vectoring AWD. Other revisions include the powertrain’s redline being limited to 11,000 rpm, down from the F1’s 14,000 rpm, with the total output expected to exceed the 1,000 hp barrier. Mercedes promises a 0-200 km/h sprint in less than 6 seconds and a top speed in excess of 350 km/h. +++

+++ MINI hasn’t really lived up to its name as the company has embraced a bigger is better philosophy with models such as the Countryman and Clubman. However, the firm is ready to downsize as Mini boss Bernd Körber told that the next-generation of vehicles can be smaller than the current 3-door hatchback. Despite the reduced dimensions, the executive said the car would offer the “same functionality and space and boot room”. There’s no word on how small the car will be, but the change will be possible thanks to the decision to go electric. While the recently unveiled Cooper SE is based on the existing 3-door hatchback, the next-generation of electric Mini’s will be based on a new platform and built in partnership with China’s Great Wall. Little is known about these upcoming EVs, but the publication says the Chinese government recently signed off on the joint plant and it will be ready to begin production in 2022. While some fans are probably concerned about Chinese influences on Mini and the switch to electric vehicles, Körber dismissed it. As he explained, the company has previously partnered with Chrysler and Peugeot on engine deals and noted “electrification suits Mini well” as EVs deliver instant power and provide improved handling thanks to a low center of gravity. Körber also said Mini owners travel less than BMW drivers, so a range of 240 km is perfectly fine. Some people will probably disagree with that, but Mini is geared towards urban consumers who typically don’t have long commutes. Despite the focus on electric vehicles, Mini isn’t going to pull a Smart and jump the gun on EVs. Instead, Körber said the company will offer both internal combustion engines and electric powertrains “up to 2030”. He wouldn’t say if the company would go EV-only after that date, but suggested it might be possible as Mini customers “jump to new trends earlier” and are “more interested in sustainability”. +++ 

+++ NISSAN has made a range of suggestions to policy makers looking to increase electric vehicle (EV) uptake and hit 2050 climate targets. The company’s latest white paper, released as part of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC), which is supported by the European Commission, recommends ways to increase EV sales, as well as ways of ensuring the batteries have a “second life” after use in vehicles. The paper also looks at ways of increasing infrastructure to make electric cars more convenient for drivers. Topping the list of proposals is the introduction of incentives for electric vehicle buyers and owners, while low-emission zones designed to encourage drivers in urban areas out of internal combustion-powered cars came close behind. The paper also recommended that governments lead from the front by using EVs on their fleets. Furthermore, the paper suggests simplifying procedures for the installation of smart charging systems that allow cars to charge when the demand on the grid is low and introducing tax incentives based on a vehicle’s environmental impact and the amount of energy it sends back to the grid through vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging. In addition, the paper recommends mandatory or incentivised installation of renewable and energy efficiency technologies, as well as smart charging points, in new commercial buildings, as well as integrating electric vehicle ownership with solar panels and energy storage in the home. In essence, the company says governments must integrate their mobility and energy policies, rather than dealing with the 2 facets of the economy in isolation. Cynics might suggest the move is simply a plea to governments to help Nissan increase sales of its battery-electric vehicles, but the company insists the white paper serves to help Europe “achieve its goal” of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. The firm points out that the publication has been launched in front of policymakers at the Smart Cities Expo World Congress in Barcelona and has been endorsed by a number of “influential associations”. “To meet the challenges Europe faces we need a fundamental rethink on how mobility and energy policies are designed”, said Friederike Kienitz, Nissan Europe’s vice-president for communications, legal, external & government affairs. “While Nissan brought mass battery technology to Europe when it pioneered the Nissan Leaf 10 years ago, it is clear from this paper that this is about more than just Nissan or electric vehicles. There is much work to be done if Europe is to achieve its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 and this white paper sets out how to get there at the national, regional and municipal level”. +++ 

+++ PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will continue to operate as competitors until their planned $50 billion merger gets approval by the various antitrust authorities around the world, a process that could take over a year. 9 PSA and FCA working groups have been meeting since late October meet regularly to agree on a binding memorandum of understanding that could be signed in coming weeks, possibly before December 25. In 2 separate communications sent to employees through internal channels and seen by Automotive News Europe, the two companies told employees that members of the work groups are continuing to pursue the goals of their respective companies. “FCA and PSA will remain competitors until the merger process is completed”, the internal memos said. Respecting antitrust obligations until the merger is completed and operational, particularly stringent in Europe, is crucial to avoid hefty EU fines. In April, EU cartel regulators charged BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen brand, Audi and Porsche with colluding to block the rollout of cleaner emissions technology between 2006 to 2014. The European Commission said the collusion took place during technical meetings held by the “circle of 5”. In May, BMW made a provision of more than €1 billion for a potential antitrust fine. In April, the EU said it had fined car safety equipment makers Autoliv and TRW €368.3 million for setting up an illegal cartel to supply car seat belts, airbags and steering wheels to Volkswagen Group and BMW in Europe. PSA said it expects the merger to take between 12 and 14 months after signing of a memorandum of understanding. If this is signed in December, the merged company could start operations between the end of 2020 and early 2021 with its headquarters in the Netherlands. The 2 companies’ working groups cover areas such as product development, manufacturing, synergies, purchasing, legal issues and human resources. The groups have more than 50 members equally divided on both sides, a person familiar to the talks told. The working groups are led by PSA’s program and strategy chief, Olivier Bourges, and by FCA’s business development chief, Doug Ostermann. PSA’s Bourges said in an internal document that the working groups are moving rapidly toward the first objective: the signing of the memorandum of understanding. “We have paved the way for the creation of a new group that will occupy a position of global leadership in the sustainable mobility sector to meet the needs of all types of customers”, he wrote in the document. Bourges said the merger could not be happening at a better time given the period of profound changes that are currently underway in the automotive sector. “In a rapidly changing environment, this operation is a fundamental opportunity for the global development of PSA and FCA”, he wrote. FCA’s Ostermann was quoted in document as saying: “Both sides are very motivated to come up with a plan that is successful, and we are making excellent progress towards the final goal. FCA and PSA will leverage all their research and development resources to promote a future of innovation”. FCA chairman John Elkann last week said he was not worried by a U.S. lawsuit from General Motors against FCA and that he was confident of reaching a binding merger deal with PSA by the end of this year. +++ 

+++ Electric-car maker RIMAC will unveil its C_Two electric hypercar at the Geneva auto show in March. The 1.914 hp C_Two is the Croatian startup’s first full production car. Rimac will build 150 examples of the C_Two starting from the end of 2020, the company’s founder, Mate Rimac, said. The C-Two will cost €2.2 million. The model is the second car the company has developed under its own name, but the C_Two is the first to be homologated for global sales. Rimac’s first car, the 1224 hp Concept_One electric hypercar, was sold under “show and display” rules which allows limited road driving in the U.S. Its production was restricted to 8 units. 5 have been delivered, with 3 still in production. The Concept_One gained Rimac attention from automakers looking for an edge when developing their own high-performance electric cars. Porsche took a stake in the company in 2018 and increased its investment in September. Hyundai also bought a stake in the company in May and announced that Rimac would help develop 2 sports cars. The C_2 is powered by 4 electric motors. Rimac said it can accelerate from 0 to 97 kph in under 2 seconds. Its top speed is 415 kph. The 120 kWh battery pack gives a range of 550 km under the WLTP emissions cycle. The battery can be charged to 80 % of its capacity in under 2 minutes using the car’s 250 kW fast charger, Rimac said. A concept previewing the car was revealed at the 2018 Geneva auto show. The car will be built at Rimac’s factory in a suburb of Zagreb, Croatia, alongside the Pininfarina Battista, which Rimac will build on the same platform as the C_Two. The factory will build 1 a week of each model when production begins late next year. Rimac expects the C_Two will appeal to a new type of hypercar buyer; customers who want performance but are also concerned about climate change. “It unlocks a certain customer who might have the funds to buy such a vehicle, but hasn’t before because it doesn’t fit with their environmental beliefs”, Rimac told journalists at an event in London to announce a tie-up with UK dealer group HR Owen to sell the car. However, Rimac said the benefits of switching from a gasoline engine to electric motors in such a low-volume segment were probably more symbolic than real. “It’s questionable if makes any difference to the environment whether a hypercar is electric or not”. he said. The C_2 will have Level 4 autonomous capability to enable the car to drive itself on race tracks in order to teach drivers the fastest line. Rimac has worked with UK-based autonomous race car developers Roborace on the technology, and the car will have at least one lidar sensor, as well six radar sensors, nine cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors. The interior will have 6 screens, including 1 for the passenger. 2 of the screens are surrounded by circular dials that give control of the functions in manner of the latest smartwatches and include the ability to shuffle power between the front wheels and back wheels, enabling drivers to make the car fully rear-wheel-drive or even fully front-wheel drive, should they want. The C_2 will compete with the Battista as well as the forthcoming Lotus Evija electric hypercar, will have around 2000 hp and is restricted to 130 cars. The Evija will be slightly cheaper at €2 million than the C_2. +++ 

+++ TESLA has received 250,000 orders for its electric pickup unveiled 5 days ago, chief executive officer Elon Musk suggested in a tweet. Musk has been promoting the Cybertruck on Twitter and cryptically tweeting out updates to the number of orders the company has received since the launch. After more than 50 interaction on Twitter since the launch, he tweeted “250k” in an apparent reference to the number of orders. The company did not immediately confirm the figure. Tesla opened preorders immediately after the unveiling and allowed potential buyers to book the truck by depositing a fully refundable $100, compared with the $1,000 it charged for booking Model 3 sedans in 2016. Not all orders translate into sales as many are likely eventually to be canceled and money refunded to depositors. Tesla plans to start manufacturing the truck around late-2021. The electric carmaker received 325,000 orders for the Model 3 in the first week of bookings 3 years ago and the Cybertruck could rival that figure with 2 days still to go for its first week of preorders. The truck, made of stainless steel used in rockets and priced at $39,900 and above, failed to impress Wall Street last week after its “armored glass” windows shattered in a launch demonstration and analysts argued the design would not have mass appeal. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will start selling the next-generation Golf GTI towards the end of 2020, roughly 12 months after the arrival of the standard model. Like all previous Golf GTIs, the 8th generation model has undergone a significant cosmetic overhaul with a more aggressive body kit, a new boot spoiler and larger chromed exhaust tips. There’s also a set of oversized pre-production alloy wheels, a slightly lowered ride-height, larger brake discs and new brake calipers, finished in red. Following tradition, the new GTI’s cockpit should feature a pair of heavily bolstered tartan sports seats, a chunky sports steering wheel and a set of aluminium pedals. The standard Golf’s infotainment system and digital gauge cluster will be reconfigured for the performance variant, with a range of new menus and chassis control options. Volkswagen’s planned array of “24/7” connectivity features will also be transferred into the hot hatch version of its famous family hatch. As it will be based on the same MQB underpinnings as the current model, we expect the next-generation Golf GTI will also come an electronically controlled locking differential as standard, while adaptive dampers and Volkswagen’s Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system should be offered as optional extras. I expect the new Golf GTI will be powered by a new 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, producing around 270 hp and 375 Nm of torque. As with the current model, power will be sent to the front wheels via either a 6-speed manual gearbox on a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Further down the line, Volkswagen will introduce an even more powerful, four-wheel-drive Golf R variant with up to 333 hp. The engine will be mated to a dual-clutch gearbox and a 4-wheel-drive system. +++

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