Newsflash: Toyota reserveert autonome rij technologie voor bedrijfswagens

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+++ Fleet-telematics company Geotab has published data that details how BATTERIES used by electric vehicles degrade over time. Geotab used data from 6,300 fleet and consumer electric vehicles around the world and discovered that, on average, EV batteries lose about 2.3 % of their capacity per year. Geotab says that at this rate, most batteries will outlast the useable life of the vehicles that they power. The study went on to show that the way a battery pack is cooled and/or heated by air or by liquid can impact its longevity. In one comparison, a 2015 Tesla Model S’s battery capacity fell by an average of 2.3 % each year while the battery pack of a 2015 Nissan Leaf fell by an average of 4.2 % this year. The Tesla uses a liquid cooling system while the Nissan relies on a passive air cooling system. Geotab points out that the degradation of a battery pack is not linear. As a result, a slow decline for many years can be followed by a steep drop. In addition, a number of Tesla owners have said that how fast a battery can charge may alter over time as car manufacturers introduce over-the-air updates to protect batteries, as Tesla has done in the past. Interestingly, the data showed that electric vehicles that are used frequently don’t experience any more battery degradation than those that aren’t driven or charged as often. The location of where an EV resides does play a factor in the longevity of the battery, however. EVs driven in hot climates degrade much faster than those in cooler climates. Frequent fast charging also accelerates the degradation of a battery. +++ 

+++ BMW has received “very positive” feedback to its radical shift in styling for certain models including the X7, according to product boss Peter Henrich. Henrich told that he was “convinced” this bold styling direction under design boss Adrian van Hooydonk was the right way to go, and that customer data showed it was being well received. “This is crucial for success”, said Henrich. “BMW customers are demanding. They want to express something and are not afraid of vehicles with strong characters. They are looking for it. So we have decided to focus even more on strong characters and bold design. “The design team with Adrian van Hooydonk do an excellent job in designing and defining that character. The feedback received has been very positive. When first shown the X7, people said: ‘How big is the kidney grille?’ But customers never reacted like that and the car is a great success. It’s sold out for a very long period and people love it. There are always people specifically looking for something critical and afraid of something new. But we are very self-confident and will continue”. When asked if BMW would apply such radical design to next-generation versions of its traditionally more conservative models such as the 5 Series, Henrich said it was important each model got its own character. “Each car has its own positioning”, he said. “In the early stages of development, we sit down (product, design and engineering) and define the character and the positioning. This is then the base for the design and engineering team. Some cars are more extroverted, more bold than others as they have different messages to transmit. “The customer is looking for a different type of a car with a 3 Series to a Z4 or X6”. The unusual grille of BMW’s 2018 Vision iNext, which previews a large electric SUV due in 2021, has been abandoned following feedback, design chief Domagoj Dukec has revealed. Most of the 2 vertical bars that separate one kidney from the other made way for the iNext’s arsenal of sensors required for autonomous driving. “We test what works aesthetically”, said Dukec of the iNext, which “reinvented our icons and form language. We connected the kidneys because of sensors, but we’ve decided not to do it. It wasn’t considered to be a BMW kidney grille any more. The grille is critical, so the iNext, the i4 and the iX3 will get separated kidneys. We spent the money to have sensors that can see through the chrome”. +++

+++ The ambassador of CHINA in Berlin has indicated that the German car industry could face “consequences” if technology giant Huawei is banned from building 5G networks in Germany. Huawei has been under the spotlight for months since being singled out as a security threat by the Trump administration. As a result, from February 16, 2020, Hauwei products will be banned in the U.S. Over in Germany, chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has previously ruled out banning Huawei from the nation’s 5G network but there is an effort from lawmakers of the ruling coalition looking to override her decision. In response, Chinese ambassador Wu Ken said that Germany could face repercussions if it bans Huawei: “If Germany were to take a decision that leads to Huawei’s exclusion from the German market, there will be consequences. The Chinese government will not stand idly by”, he said. Wu then told the audience that German car manufacturers account for roughly a quarter of the cars sold in China. “Can we also say that German cars are not safe because we’re in a position to manufacture our own cars? No, that would be pure protectionism”, he pointed out. Some, including the director of Berlin’s Global Public Policy Institute, Thorsten Benner, have interpreted Wu’s statements as an “open threat” to Germany’s automotive industry. The United States has been seeking to convince its allies to squeeze Huawei out as a 5G supplier, alleging the company has been spying on behalf of the Chinese government, something the company denies. +++ 

+++ New-car registrations in EUROPE rose 4.5 % in November, marking the third consecutive month of growth this year for an industry that has been hit by economic woes, trade wars and a broader industry slowdown. Registrations rose to 1.21 million cars in the countries of the European Union and the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA), statistics published by the industry association ACEA showed. Automakers recovered lost ground from November last year, when registrations were depressed by the introduction in EU markets of the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), new emissions rules which forced some brands to re-certify their vehicles. Volkswagen Group brands staged a recovery from last November when sales were hit by supply bottlenecks because new vehicles were waiting to be certified for sale under WLTP rules. Registrations of Porsche vehicles jumped 283 % and Audi’s volume increased 39 %. Seat sales rose 11 % and VW brand gained 9.3 %. Skoda’s volume was down nearly 1 %. PSA Group sales fell 7.9 %, dragged down by a 22 % decline in Opel / Vauxhall registrations. Opel’s volume has been hit by the phase out of the Adam, Karl, Cascada and Mokka X, and by falling demand for the Insignia. Peugeot sales were down 1.2 % and Citroen’s volume fell nearly 1 %. DS sales were up 31 %. Renault Group sales increased 4.1 %, with Renault brand up 11 % and Dacia sales down 7.2 %. Fiat Chrysler sales fell 1.6 % with Jeep registrations dropping by 16 % which offset a 3.1 % rise in Fiat’s volume and a 2.3 % increase in Alfa Romeo sales. Ford’s volume was up 3.4 %. Among Asian brands, Hyundai registrations rose 8.8 %, Toyota brand was up 5.6 % and Kia’s volume increased 4.9 %. Nissan sales fell 3.6 %. BMW brand was up 3.5 % and Mercedes-Benz brand registrations rose 1.6 %. A 9.7 % overall rise in Germany and an 0.7 % increase in France helped to outweigh a 1.3 % drop in British registrations. The smaller markets of Italy and Spain fell 2.2 % and 2.3 % respectively. The monthly rise wasn’t enough to turn the year around so far, with cumulative sales since January still down 0.3 % to 14.59 million. The statistics indicate the year is shaping up to be lackluster. The industry is battling a slowdown, while under pressure to spend huge sums to develop electric and self-driving vehicles. +++ 

+++ The next-generation FIAT 500e electric city car (or whatever the automaker decides to call it) has been spotted again during testing. Compared to the previous sighting this summer, the all-electric prototype features some significant changes at the front, where a protruding makeshift element now stands before the grille. I don’t know what to make of it, but a closer look around it reveals that the cutouts for the headlights are too large, which could indicate that the upcoming Fiat 500e will have bigger lamps. None of the 3 prototypes spotted by my photographers in Germany have exhaust pipes, but they all feature EV charging ports where you’d usually find the fuel filler cap. It’s pretty obvious that the biggest changes will take place at the front and rear ends as those are the areas featuring the largest amount of black vinyl camouflage. There’s not much else to talk about regarding the exterior, as these next-generation 500e prototypes are obviously based on the current version of the city car. What’s far more interesting is the interior, where we can spot new stuff including a refreshed steering wheel, redesigned dashboard with bigger dials flanking a larger LED multifunctional display, and a rotary knob for the automatic transmission placed on the center console. Near the selector we can also see buttons we did not expect to find on an electric 500. They are labeled “4WD Auto,” “4WD High” and “Axle Lock” but we wouldn’t get too excited about them because they are probably blank. The automaker likely sourced the selector complete with the buttons from FCA’s parts bin, unless the 500e will surprise everyone and launch with a 2-motor setup and e-AWD. The new 500e will be based on a new platform designed with electrification in mind. It’s too early for specs, but the electric city car should feature more than its predecessor’s 112 hp / 200 Nm and 135 kilometers of range. Production of the upcoming 500 EV will begin at the Mirafiori plant in Italy in the second quarter of 2020, so we can expect it to launch in Europe not long after that as a 2021 modelyear. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) and PSA are planning to announce a binding memorandum of understanding that will merge the 2 carmakers, a person briefed on the announcement said. A prepared statement on the agreement will be released early Wednesday in Europe, according to the person who requested anonymity due to a lack of authorization to speak before the announcement. The 2 companies announced a merger in October that would create the world’s fourth-largest auto company worth $50 billion and producing 8.7 million cars a year; just behind Toyota, Volkswagen and the Renault-Nissan alliance. While the deal has been touted as a 50-50 merger, French carmaker PSA is expected to have the upper hand, with its cost-cutting CEO Carlos Tavares in charge and PSA controlling the new company’s board. Fiat Chrysler chairman John Elkann, whose family founded Italian carmaker Fiat in 1899, is expected to remain chairman of the merged company. The role of Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley remains unclear. Fiat Chrysler has long been looking for an industrial partner to shoulder investment costs as the industry faces a transition to electrified power trains and autonomous driving. A previous deal with French rival Renault last spring fell apart over French government concerns over the role of Renault’s Japanese partner, Nissan. The French government remains concerned about job cuts following any deal, as there is considerable overlap between the Fiat brand’s small cars and Peugeot’s product lineup. But it has not shown resistance to a FCA – PSA merger. Both companies have promised not to close any plants. Tavares, who used to run Nissan in the Americas and knows the U.S. market well, will not shy away from trimming unprofitable models and brands. He’s credited with turning around the Opel and Vauxhall brands in Europe, perennial money losers which PSA acquired from General Motors 2 years ago. Both companies had promised a deal by the end of the year. +++ 

+++ We’ve had about 2 weeks of bubbling rumor concerning a revival of the FORD Mustang Mach 1. It started with a video that Mustang parts supplier CJ Pony Parts published on YouTube, then removed. The video’s host said there weren’t many details; 2 of the bits known so far being that the Mustang Bullitt would go out of production after the 2020 model year, replaced by a Mustang Mach 1 as the new mid-step performance offering in 2021. Since then, A source has confirmed that this is not a rumor, but a fact. I know Ford’s investing $250 million into the Flat Rock Assembly Plant that builds the Mustang. The next-generation pony car arrives in 2021 on its new modular platform. There’d be “several derivatives, probably including specialty models like the Bullitt and Shelby Cobra”. So we’re looking ahead to the third coming of the Mach 1 trim. There was the original, built from 1968 to 1978, and the resurrection as a last hurrah for the 4th generation Mustang in 2003 and 2004, similar to the way Ford’s doing a 2-year run of the Bullitt in 2019 and 2020. The Mach 1 will get a slight power boost over the Mustang GT, which makes sense if the new coupe will succeed the Bullitt. Right now, the 5.0-liter V8 in the GT produces 460 horsepower, the same engine in the Bullitt makes 480 hp with the assistance of a tuned ECU, larger throttle bodies, and the manifold from a Mustang GT350. I find it unlikely for any such car to outdo the 526 hp in the GT350, though. Rumor also asserts that the Mach 1 is likely to come with the Performance Pack 2, which folds in upgrades like the magnetic ride suspension that the Bullitt uses. What the similarities could mean is that the Mach 1 takes over as a rebadged Bullitt with more color choices and physical badging. Supposedly, the only transmission choice will be a 6-speed manual. Since the original Mach 1 is known for its black shaker hood and scoop, black side stripes, black rear spoiler, and Magnum 500 wheels, we can expect modern renderings of those cosmetics should a 2021 Mustang Mach 1 arrive. And with the new Mustang’s modular platform, it’s possible such a car could be the first Mach 1 to offer all-wheel drive. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS was not able to get an electric vehicle finished in time to show at CES in January, but the vehicle in question will be ready for viewing in the first half of the year, said GM CEO Mary Barra. The original plan was to show a vehicle at CES, but that was before a lengthy strike during negotiations with the United Automobile Workers union (UAW). “We had a plan to go to CES and frankly we can’t go to CES without putting our best foot forward and we could not get the models done that we wanted to get done with the strike”, explained spokesman Tony Cervone. “We had a plan, we worked like hell”, he said, but the automaker was not going to cross picket lines to move concepts out of studios or take dies out of plants to get the vehicle ready. “So we had worked as hard as we could with the infrastructure we had”, Cervone said. But time was not on their side and the automaker did not want to go to CES, which is a huge technology stage, with something that was not ready. “We want to do it right because we’ve got a very powerful story to tell”, Barra told in an interview. Barra would not provide the specifics of the vehicle, saying only that it focuses on the 2 areas where GM is committed for the future: electric vehicles and autonomous technology. “You’ll see us tell that story in different forms”. The CES car was originally thought to be the latest autonomous vehicle from GM and Cruise, but an invitation from Cruise for an event later in January suggests we will see the new robotaxi then. GM bought Cruise in 2016 and they have been developing a driverless ride-hailing fleet that they had hoped to have on the road by the end of 2019. This suggests the CES car might have been a look at the Cadillac electric crossover in the works with Super Cruise semi-autonomous hands-free highway driving capability. GM’s work with Cruise on fully self-driving vehicles started with a version of the Chevrolet Bolt (Opel Ampera-e) with lidar sensors on the roof and evolved into a bespoke, production-ready, fully autonomous car called Cruise AV that is made at the Orion Assembly Plant in Michigan. With each generation it becomes a more advanced dedicated, self-driving electric sedan. The final concept will have no steering wheel or pedals; every seat is a passenger seat. Artificial intelligence and related technology will be the driver. A geo-fenced portion of San Francisco has been the main testbed with additional testing in Phoenix and Michigan. They have also sought permits to test in New York. It’s expected that the model planned later in January at a Cruise media event in San Francisco will be the latest version of the Cruise AV. As testing continues, the team realized the deadline to have an operational fleet of robotaxis in place by the end of 2019 was unrealistic. GM will be gated by safety, Barra said. “I think everyone has realized that AVs are really one of the technical challenges of our generation”, GM’s approach is safety first while also working to understand the customer. “Not only is it a technology race, it’s a trust race and we’re doing a lot in San Francisco where we’re making sure consumers will understand the vehicles, understand the development, understand the technology, and we think that’s very important”, she said. The mindset is to demonstrate that the self-driving vehicle is safer than a human driver. In terms of new timing, “We see a line of sight but we’re not going to put another date out there”, Barra said, given the significance of the technology to reduce accidents and congestion while helping the environment. “Quarters aren’t as important as getting this technology right so when you roll it out, you gain customer trust and usage”. She is convinced GM’s carmaking prowess honed over 100 years combined with Cruise’s work on autonomous technology, all under one roof for seamless integration, is an asset the competition does not share. “Having that together, doing deep integration, it’s frictionless how we work together and then having the ability to build vehicles at scale puts us in a unique position”, Barra said. They have changed 40 % of the components in the vehicle to ensure safety and build in the right backup systems in a vehicle where there is no longer a driver to intervene in the myriad of situations that can arise. “So I’m very pleased at the progress we’ve made on AVs and we’ll continue to make”, Barra said. Hand in glove is progress on electric vehicles. “We believe all AVs should be EVs”, Barra said. It is part of a larger commitment to electric vehicles, autonomous or not. General Motors has produced hybrids and plug-in hybrids, but Barra wants to avoid the inherent cost of 2 powertrains: a combustion engine and electric motor/batteries, in the same vehicle. The company also believes in the science of global warming and wants quick adoption of EVs as part of the solution. “This is not a 2 year problem”, Barra said. “It’s a decade. It’s a generational problem. So the quicker you get to our goal of zero emissions, the better, and EVs get you there faster. So why dedicate a lot of capital and engineering into a segment that doesn’t get you to the end game when we know how to do the end game?” Barra may not like plug-in hybrids, but she recognizes they are necessary in the transition to electric vehicles, especially in China, to meet emissions regulations. Not only are they just a partial solution, but they are also a business challenge. Customers don’t want pay for the additional hybrid technology. The drop in demand in the U.S. led to the decision to stop producing the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid earlier this year. Conversely, GM is working on the next generation of the pure electric Bolt. “If you’re a customer-focused company and you’re a company that believes in the science of global warming, why wouldn’t you get to EVs as fast as you can?” Barra asked. +++ 

+++ Toyota expects its GLOBAL vehicle sales to stay at record highs in 2020, even as demand shows signs of slowing in China and the United States, the world’s top car markets. The Japanese automaker said it planned to sell a record 10.77 million vehicles next year, including cars sold under the Toyota, Lexus and Daihatsu brands along with Hino trucks, a touch higher than its plans to sell 10.72 million units for the year ending December. Competition to sell more vehicles is tight among the world’s biggest automakers as they try to boost sales to achieve economies of scale and reduce costs at a time when they are investing heavily to develop next-generation technologies including self-driving vehicles and electric cars. Volkswagen has been the top-selling automaker for the past 5 years, delivering 10.83 million vehicles including its MAN and Scania heavy trucks in 2018. +++ 

+++ HONDA may be prepared to make its first big step into the world of self-driving technology as soon as next year. Honda plans to launch a Level 3 self-driving system with the Legend sedan next year in Japan. The technology will supposedly let drivers take their hands off the wheel and even look away from the road when in use. However, Level 3 systems, ranked on the SAE scale of autonomy, have to hand controls back to drivers whenever there’s a problem; a reason so many companies have skipped this level and moved straight to Level 4. A Honda representative noted the timing is in line with the company’s goal to produce autonomous technology in 2020. Any autonomous system will likely make its way to an Acura in the US first, since luxury marques can absorb the cost premiums associated with the technology. The report claims the Legend with the L3 system will sell for around $91,000 at current exchange rates. That’s one expensive Honda. Japan has vigorously pursued autonomous technology and plans to commercialize L3 systems next year, lending more credit to the report. Automakers and companies alike have quickly dialed back expectations for fully autonomous cars in recent years. Although Alphabet’s Waymo division plans to expand self-driving rides without human backup drivers, automakers like GM failed to commercialize its own technology as once previously planned. GM does, however, offer its Super Cruise system that lets drivers take their hands off the wheel while driving on mapped US Interstates. +++ 

+++ JAPAN will oblige domestic automakers to have all new and remodeled passenger cars equipped with automatic brakes from November 2021 amid a rise in the number of traffic accidents involving elderly drivers, the government said. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism will also apply stricter standards on automatic brake systems compatible with a U.N. international standard that is set to come into effect next month. “Accidents caused by elderly drivers are a pressing issue that needs to be tackled by mobilizing every possible measure”, transport minister Kazuyoshi Akaba told a press conference. At the same time, Akaba warned of accidents that can be caused by having too much trust in automatic brake systems and reiterated calls for careful driving. Subject to the ministry’s new regulation are new and remodeled cars that are manufactured in Japan and will be sold from November 2021. Models already on the market will be required to be equipped with automatic brake systems from December 2025. For imported vehicles produced by foreign automakers, new vehicles will be required to be equipped with the brakes from around June 2024 and for existing models from around June 2026, taking into consideration time for manufacturers to prepare. More than 80 percent of new domestic vehicles have already been equipped with automatic brakes in 2018, according to the ministry. The new international standard on automatic brakes, compiled in June this year by a committee of the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, an affiliate of the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, will be reflected in Japan’s road transport vehicle law. The new standard includes requirements such as preventing a car traveling at 40 kph from colliding with a stationary car ahead or a car traveling at 30 kph from hitting a pedestrian crossing a road. The ministry also said a total of 80 car accidents reported in Japan in January to September this year were caused by drivers apparently placing too much confidence in automatic brakes, with 18 of them resulting in injuries or death. In 2018, such accidents totaled 101 and 72 in 2017, according to the ministry. Automatic brakes use a radar system to detect and monitor vehicles and other objects ahead and can alert the driver to the danger of a collision before the brakes are applied automatically. But automatic brakes do not operate if the camera installed in the car cannot recognize objects in the dark, or if a pedestrian or another car emerges abruptly, or if a driver stamps on the gas pedal, the ministry said. +++ 

+++ The Consumer Electronics Show is right around the corner and MERCEDES-BENZ will use the event to stage the “world premiere of a pioneering concept vehicle”. The company is keeping details under wraps, but said the model has been “inspired by one of the most innovative brands of the entertainment sector”. Mercedes went on to say the concept will have “creative and trendsetting features”, and this will help to set new standards for the future of mobility. here’s no word on specifics, but the concept will be eco-friendly as it promises to redefine “sustainable modern luxury”. As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if the concept is an electric vehicle and part of the EQ sub-brand. Besides the mysterious concept, Mercedes will showcase the EQ C. That’s a bit of an odd choice as the company recently delayed the US launch to 2021. Mercedes will also display the Vision EQ S concept which previews an all-new production model. The road-going model is slated to debut next year and ride on the new Modular Electric Architecture. The company has been tight-lipped on details, but rumors have suggested the car will have 2 electric motors and all-wheel drive. The base EQ S is slated to have around 400 hp, while a rumored AMG variant could have 600 hp. The car is also slated to have a range in excess of 500 km. In other CES news, Daimler CEO Ola Källenius will give a keynote speech where he will provide a “visionary outlook of the future interaction between man and machine”. Design boss Gorden Wagener will also be on hand to discuss the design and interior of the new concept. +++ 

+++ The NETHERLANDS , a small European country, is punching well above its weight on electric car sales. The government now plans to give tax advantages for at least the next 5 years as a way to reach a long-term goal to have only clean cars in the country by 2050. For now, the Dutch system is a hotchpotch of incentives that includes exemptions on a road tax, and a much lower sales-tax rate applied to the first €50,000 of the price tag of an electric car. Local governments have also put in place their own measures. In Amsterdam, electric car or delivery van buyers could get as much as €5,000 toward their purchase while investment in battery-powered buses or trucks could net as much as €40,000 per vehicle. +++ 

+++ While NORWAY is set to lose its crown to Germany this year as Europe’s largest market for full-electric cars, countries in the region have blazed a trail as early adopters because they were among the first to offer purchase incentives. Norwegian government sweeteners include exemption from duties such as import taxes, value-added tax and the annual road tax, while local authorities have also offered free parking, toll exemptions and allowed electric cars to use collective transport lanes. +++ 

+++ In SWEDEN , electric car buyers get a bonus of as much as 60,000 kronor ($6,300) at purchase. The 2 countries’ different approaches on incentives have had unintended consequences, with some Swedes cashing in on the bonus and then exporting their electric car to Norway, where usage is more generously subsidized. In Denmark, the Social Democrat government decided to cancel planned tax increases on electric cars and has increased tax deductions for driving an electric car to work. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA plans to first deploy advanced self-driving features in commercial vehicles before adding them to cars meant for personal use, a senior official at the Japanese auto major said. It will be easier to apply self-driving technology that does not require constant and direct human-monitoring to taxis and vehicles Toyota is developing, including on-demand ride services, mobile shops and ambulatory hospitals, said James Kuffner, chief of Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD). The operators of these vehicles could control when and where they are deployed and oversee their maintenance, he told reporters at the opening of its new offices in Tokyo. “It will take more time to achieve ‘Level 4’ for a personally-owned vehicle”, Kuffner said, referring to the automation level at which vehicles can drive themselves under limited conditions. “Level 4 is really what we’re striving for to first appear in mobility as a service”, he added. Toyota is set to release its first so-called ‘Level 2’ autonomous car capable of driving itself on the highway, as part of its strategy to develop self-driving cars over the next few decades. Toyota and its suppliers, including Denso Corp, which also invests in TRI-AD, is adopting a longer view toward cars with self-driving technology and artificial intelligence (AI) than many competitors that already market vehicles capable of autonomous highway driving. Many of Toyota’s rivals, however, have pared development targets after fatal accidents in Tesla Inc cars have shown the complexity of autonomous technology even as they need to clear high regulation hurdles. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN Group’s production planners and managers are having a tough time these days as the carmaker does not seem to have made the best choices for plant locations recently. Following the controversy surrounding the allocation of a new assembly plant to Turkey and the subsequent suspension of those plans caused by the Turkish military’s invasion of Syria, VW’s plant in Algeria has now come under fire. The automaker has temporarily suspended production at the assembly plant due to the tense political situation in the North African country. In addition, deliveries of assembly kits to VW’s joint venture partner in Algeria, SOVAC, have also been suspended. The country has been seeing mass protests against the political leadership since February. The political crisis aggravated last week when presidential elections were accompanied by mass protests and riots. Protesters accuse the power elite around the military and the resigned president Abdelaziz Bouteflika of manipulating the election. In recent weeks and months, many activists and business leaders have been arrested, culminating with long prison sentences on corruption charges for several former ministers just days before the election. While all this unstable political climate is a good enough reason for VW to suspend its activities in the country, things are probably more complicated than that. That’s because the managing director of VW’s joint venture partner SOVAC, Mourad Oulmi, is among the arrested business leaders. Detained since June, he is awaiting trial on corruption charges. Mind you, Volkswagen said it is not aware of any investigations into its employees. SOVAC has been VW Group’s official partner in Algeria for 10 years. In 2016, the German giant opened an assembly plant in a joint venture with SOVAC. The facility built around 50,000 vehicles last year, including VW Golf, Skoda Octavia, VW Polo, SEAT Ibiza, Skoda Fabia, and VW Caddy. +++

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