Newsflash: vernieuwde Jaguar F-Pace krijgt diesel hybride variant

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+++ Gordon Murray, the creative genius behind the iconic McLaren F1, wasn’t planning on benchmarking another car against the upcoming T.50 hypercar, but that changed when he had his personal ALPINE A110 delivered to him. Murray confessed that he would originally use the 30,000 miles he’s done in a McLaren F1 as a point of reference for the development of the T.50 hypercar, which he labels the F1’s spiritual successor. But then his Alpine A110 arrived and Murray felt more than impressed with the qualities of the French mid-engined sports car. “A year ago, I bought an Alpine A110, and it has the best ride and handling compromise of anything I’ve driven since the Lotus Evora, which was top of my list before this”, Murray said. “When you analyse the A110, and we did, we pulled mine apart for 2 months, we benchmarked it: that car’s got nothing trick on it. It just does the basics really well”. That’s quite the praise for any car, especially if it comes from the man responsible for arguably the greatest supercar ever created. Murray’s Alpine has since apparently been put back together as he continues referring to it as his daily driver, together with a current Suzuki Jimny. This isn’t the first time Murray used a personal car as a benchmark. In the past, he owned a Honda NSX for more than 6 years, which was used as a benchmark against the McLaren F1. The thinking was similar with the A110; Murray was so impressed by the Honda’s ride and handling, he pitched against the much more powerful McLaren in order to ensure the latter had the handling characteristics he was aiming for. +++ 

+++ BMW and Daimler said they plan to exit the North American CAR SHARING market, with the joint venture partners halting operations in Montreal, New York, Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, as they focus on the European market. Share Now and its Car2Go unit, a joint venture of the 2 German automakers, are ending operations on February 29 in the United States and Canada, citing the “volatile state of the global mobility landscape” and the costs of operating in North America. The company also said it was halting operations in 3 European cities, Florence, London and Brussels. It said it would focus on “our remaining European cities in which we, along with our shareholders, believe show the greatest potential for profitable growth and mobility innovation”. DriveNow, part of the combined firm, started in London in December 2014, but “had to face the hard reality that we could still not convince enough people to do so”, the company said in announcing its exit from the UK market. It is the latest sign of financial struggles in the broader mobility market and a setback to those who view car-sharing as a way to reduce carbon pollution and congestion, because unlike ridesharing services, the vehicles are not on the road between trips. A 2016 study found that each U.S. Car2Go resulted between 7 and 11 fewer privately owned vehicles. Car2Go had 1 million North American members and 3 million worldwide. The service allowed consumers to rent vehicles by the minute and park them on city streets or at parking meters without charge. The service faced tough competition from ride-hailing firms such as Uber, Lyft and electric scooters. In October, the companies ended operations in Denver, Austin, Portland and Calgary, and announced an end to Chicago operations. In 2018, Daimler bought Europcar’s remaining 25 % stake in Car2Go for €70 million. Last year, BMW and Daimler merged their car-sharing units Car2Go and DriveNow as well as ride-hailing, parking and charging services. BMW’s chief executive, Oliver Zipse, said last month that “there are potentially ‘disrupting’ business models that rely on car usage rather than car ownership. But they are focused on very specific areas with high population densities to ensure high utilization rates”. +++ 

+++ CONSOLIDATION within the automotive space shows no signs of stopping and according to data and analytics company GlobalData, will continue through 2020. The final quarter of this year has been marked with the huge alliance formed between PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to create the world’s 4th largest automaker. The former head of FCA, the late Sergio Marchionne, had been seeking to align with another car manufacturer for a long time and, earlier this year, FCA almost joined forces with Groupe Renault. GlobalData automotive editor David Leggett says the merger between PSA and FCA shows the increased importance of economies of scale. “The planned merger between these 2 big vehicle makers is not over the line yet, but they have moved rapidly to get to this agreement”, he said. “The deal also highlights the importance of scale and shared investment in expensive advanced technologies (such as electrification and autonomous drive) as the auto industry faces up to transformation over the next 10 years. “Scale economies are key drivers. Some two-thirds of production volumes in the larger FCA / PSA entity will be concentrated on 2 vehicle platforms with around 3 million cars each year built on each of the small platform and compact/mid-size platforms”. According to Leggett, this is “another move that has been prompted by broader industrial trends and the identification of savings that can flow from greater scale and complementary geographical presence and product lines. GlobalData’s analysis of the industry suggests that we will see more strategic collaborations in the auto industry in 2020 as competitive conditions intensify and companies come under increasing pressure to take action to both control costs and position for transformational change in mobility and the structure of the automotive industry”. +++ 

+++ Unions at carmaker FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) said management had given assurances at a meeting on jobs and a €5 billion investment plan in Italy following the group’s planned merger with French rival PSA. The meeting at Fiat Chrysler’s Mirafiori plant in Turin follows confirmation that the 2 groups had agreed a binding $50 billion tie-up to create the world’s fourth-largest carmaker. “They assured us that all 400,000 employees of the new group would be guaranteed. There will not be redundancies”, said Rocco Palombella, head of the UILM metalworkers union. The 2 groups have targeted €3.7 billion in cost savings from the merger but have promised that it will not lead to plant closures. The French and Italian governments have welcomed the tie-up but are keen to see jobs protected. Francesca Re David, leader of the FIOM-CGIL labor group, one of the most important union bodies representing the company’s workers, said before the meeting that “not shutting down plants does not mean guaranteeing job levels”. However labor group representatives said not only had management promised to avoid redundancies, they had also pledged to get all group employees off special furlough arrangements and back to work by 2022. In addition, a €5 billion investment plan for Italy by 2021 would be maintained, with most of the investment coming next year. “What we gathered was that absolutely nothing will happen for a year but in 2021 decisions will be taken on platforms, motors and technology”, Palombella said. However Re David, whose union has taken a harder line than the other labor groups, said her group wanted to see new models to ensure workers would be taken out of the so-called “cassa integrazione” wage guarantee fund for furloughed employees. “Industrial plans have never been respected in the past. We have a lot of worries. The announcements on new models are positive, but we’ll be vigilant about the implementation of the plan”, she said. Marco Bentivogli, head of the FIM-CISL union, said unions would work to agree how to select a worker representative for the board of the combined group. “It will have to be a representative authorized to represent the interests of the workforce and not chosen by the company”, he said. Under the merger agreement, 2 labor representatives (1 from the Italian side and 1 from the French side) will sit on the 11-member board of the combined company. +++ 

+++ In FRANCE , automakers criticized the government for raising a tax on heavier and more polluting vehicles, a measure that comes on top of tough new European rules being phased in next year to lower car emissions. Under a law adopted by the French parliament, cars emitting carbon dioxide above a certain threshold will be subject to a €20,000 penalty in 2020, higher than the existing €12,500. At the same time, the government is considering reducing cash incentives for the purchase of electric cars. The measures will impact SUV prices. SUVs are among the most polluting passenger vehicles because they are heavier and less fuel efficient. Despite this, they are popular, making up 30 % of sales in France in the first 11 months, according to Paris-based consultancy Inovev. While electric-car sales are growing quickly, they still make up a tiny proportion of the overall market. The measures have come under fire from the French industry. “It’s a double penalty for consumers”, Luc Chatel, head of French automotive organization PFA, said in a statement, which called the policy “incoherent”. “The electric-car market won’t take off without strong purchasing incentives”, Chatel said. “Everyone has something to lose: The industry, the environment and the purchasing power of the French”. Subsidies to consumers for electric vehicles can be costly to taxpayers. France’s bonuses reached 550 million euros last year, according to the French auditor. Germany has also put in place similar incentives, which could cost as much as €2.6 billion by 2025. France’s SUV levy comes as the European car industry prepares for the phasing in next year of emissions rules that will see carmakers fined if their total annual vehicle sales exceed an average carbon limit. The French finance ministry has estimated its SUV penalty could yield €50 million a year in revenue for the government, which will be used to help carmakers shift to cleaner cars. Finance minister Bruno Le Maire has also criticized SUV advertisements, saying they should warn consumers of the detrimental effects of the cars on the environment. France is seeking to reduce subsidies for electric and hydrogen cars in the years to come on the assumption  that prices will drop. In 2020, the central government will give as much as €6,000 toward the purchase of an electric car costing less than €45,000. The handout is set to drop in 2021 and 2022, the environment ministry has said. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR is working on a facelift for F-Pace, which will be available with a new diesel-electric hybrid powertrain in addition to a petrol-electric variant. We could see it making its debut as early as next March at the Geneva Motor Show or April at the New York Auto Show. The facelift is expected to introduce new headlights and taillights employing the latest advancements in LED technology, redesigned bumpers and side skirts, plus a whole slew of updated active safety features. The interior is also getting a refresh similar to that of the facelifted XE. What this means is that the F-Pace is getting a bevy of new displays inside, including a digital instrument cluster, a bigger infotainment screen and a touchscreen for the airconditioning controls. The new onboard tech will be paired with new trim and color options, a redesigned steering wheel and gear selector, as well as ambient lighting. In the powertrain department, the F-Pace will continue being offered with a range of turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder petrol and diesel units. The big news is that Jaguar is expected to add the new inline-6 mild-hybrid 3.0-liter petrol unit with 48 Volt tech, which makes 400 hp and 550 Nm in the case of the Range Rover (Sport) and Land Rover Defender. There’s also talk of a new diesel-electric hybrid powertrain, though, at this point, it’s unclear if it will use a 4-cylinder unit like the Discovery Sport or a new 6-cylinder lump. I still don’t know if the V8 powered F-Pace SVR will survive the facelift but if I had to take a guess, I would say it will since the high-performance SUV has been on the market for less than a year. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN is working on an all-new architecture that can accommodate electrification from the get-go, and could reveal more about it at March’s Geneva Motor Show. Chief executive officer Mike Flewitt echoed statements from earlier this month that the brand is working on a new lightweight V6 hybrid powertrain and architecture. This new architecture, tipped to underpin all future McLaren models as it transitions its entire range to hybrids, will come complete with a new electronics system capable of managing features from the hybrid powertrain to various other advanced safety systems, including predictive braking tuned to improve safety and performance. The first new model using this architecture will be a flagship all-wheel drive supercar that’ll hit the road before the end of 2020. It should have an EV range of between 40 km – 50 km, and be capable of hitting 96 km/h in just 2.3 seconds, making it the most accelerative road car ever produced by McLaren. In the past, McLaren has suggested that it was considering an all-electric model and while such a car could still be on the agenda, it will not arrive anytime soon. According to Flewitt, batteries remain too heavy to be used by the types of lightweight performance cars that McLaren intends to keep on building. +++ 

+++ PEUGEOT , PSA Group’s bestselling brand, is making a rapid transition toward electrification. Leading the way are the full-electric versions of the new 208 and 2008, and plug-in hybrid versions of the 3008 and 508. At the same time, Peugeot is broadening its lineup by adding a pickup and performance models. When asked about the 508 Sport Engineered concept, a high-performance 4-wheeldrive plug-in hybrid, which was shown at the Geneva auto show this year, CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato says: “The 508 Sport Engineered will be released next year, with orders opening in March, and the first one will be delivered in October 2020. There will be a liftback and a SW stationwagon, as part of a line of high performance vehicles. I think it will be a success, because the total cost of ownership (TCO) of this car (with 360 hp, 4-wheeldrive and emissions of less than 50 grams of CO2 per kilometer) will be only €300 a month more than the standard 508 plug-in hybrid. It will be the first Peugeot to have more than 300 hp. For us it’s a way to send 2 messages: That we are ready technologically for the future, and also that we don’t want the future to be boring”. When asked if there will still be a GTi range, Imparato says: “No, this is our top level. This car is something I have been targeting for years, and I know that Jean-Marc Finot (the head of PSA Motorsport, which helped develop the 508 Sport Engineered) has been looking forward to it. That is because if you want to build a future in motor sports, you have 2 constraints: First, it must be electrified, because no one will understand why, if the whole automobile market is switching to electric, that racing series aren’t. And second, it must not be dependent on sponsors: it needs to generate its own money. Developing and selling this type of car will create profits that will help support the racing team, like AMG does for Daimler, for example”. Imparato says Peugeot’s E-Legend electric, an autonomous coupe concept inspired by the 504 Coupe from the 1970s which was also very well received, could still be built but not on the short term: “The E-Legend was a great message for us, but to go into series production would cost us about €250 million. We decided that we needed to deal with the shift to electrification first. After that we will see if it’s worth spending the money. But all the elements are in place to say ‘yes’ “. When asked about the coming 1-ton pickup, Imparato says: “We will launch the pickup next year. I don’t know what kind of volumes it will generate. I’m very conservative about that, therefore, we aren’t saying that we will take 5 % of the 6 million worldwide pickup market. We are focusing on matching our competitors’ features and reliability. The truck must be unstoppable. We won’t launch it, however, until the global ecosystem, such as spare parts, is ready, because it must be able to be maintained anywhere in the world, for example in Africa”. When asked about the regional revenue mix of Peugeot, Imparato says: “In 2018, before we lost Iran because of sanctions, we were at 50-50 Europe and rest of the world. Turkey and Argentina were down last year so we are now at 60-40 or 65-35. To protect my country mix, I need to be stronger in the maximum number of countries. We are preparing the North American project (targeting sales there by 2026). Next year we can be more precise on what type of product we could have”. When asked about the next 308, Imparato says: “It will be on the EMP2 platform. It will be a plug-in hybrid first, but could perhaps later have a full-electric drivetrain. Our compact and midsize cars will have plug-in hybrid drivetrains because it’s a smoother way to switch from internal combustion to electric. When it comes to diesel, its share was 43 % last year and we are at 41 % now. Until Euro 7 emissions regulations come in, probably in 2024, we will let our customers choose their powertrain, whether it be gasoline, diesel or electric. After Euro 7, I think the diesel will die off, but if demand is still there, we will be there”. When asked about the new 208, Imparato says: “We launched the car in October in France. We had 12.000 orders in just 1 country; 52 % were in the upper 2 trim levels for models with a traditional powertrain and 12 % were for the electric version. I’m targeting around 10 % electric, and those aren’t pre-orders. They are real orders. I don’t know what the global mix will be, but if we are around 4 % to 5 % electric in a country such as Italy, it will really help our emissions average in Europe. The residual value of an e-208 is €2,500 more than an internal combustion one. That’s because the energy mix of the market will be changing in the next several years. In terms of total cost of ownership, in France it’s €326 a month for both electric and internal combustion (the 100 hp gasoline version with an automatic transmission) because electricity is less expensive than fuel, and the maintenance costs are lower. We can make money on electric cars if the level of incentives for electric is consistent with the difference between electric and internal combustion. Right now in Europe, there are purchase incentives in France, Germany and the Netherlands, for example. If that changes I will have to pull other levers, but I will never sell a car that loses money”. When asked if Peugeot considered introducing a plug-in hybrid version of the new 2008, Imparato says: “We considered that, but the usage of the 208 and 2008 are very similar. We have found that it’s 70 % urban driving. When it comes to the plug-in hybrid versions of the 3008 and 508, we are targeting 15 % to 20 % of total orders, based on a similar TCO between the plug-in hybrid and a 180 hp diesel. Those 2 versions will compete in the fleet market. Fleet managers are now building their budgets for next year. We are working with them, and we will see the fleet profile at the beginning of 2020, but I think it’s credible to expect this level of mix”. When asked about the 108 and the future of the A segment, Imparato says: “Emissions regulations have hit the segment hard, because the cost of compliance is disproportionately high. I can’t leave the segment at the moment (we want to be the best high-end volume brand) but in the long term this segment will be 100 % electric or disappear”. That’s my feeling. We could envision a world where we will be driven not by the customer but by regulation. Therefore, we have to adapt our offers to the situation”. When asked about Peugeot’s overall production level, Imparato says: “I’m running effectively above 100 % and with the first information about 208 orders, I think it will be the same in 2020. I’m very happy to be in this situation. If we have to build cars on nights and weekends, we will do so. We prefer to do that than to have overcapacity, because you always pay in that case. But, I’m not pushing to be over 100 %. I don’t allow countries to have more than 90 days of stock. I don’t want dealers to have to push the metal. It will be a different situation at the end of December, however (because the EU fleet emissions target of 95 g/km takes effect on January 1, 2020). I think it will be the biggest December ever for sales. We have been preparing for this situation for months, monitoring every high-emissions car that is in stock or in the dealer network. If automakers don’t register high-emissions cars before January 1, they may have to pay fines. I don’t know how other automakers will manage their operations, but we will be compliant in January. However, you will see us losing market share in October, November and December, then gaining share in January and February, just as we saw in August 2018 with WLTP certification My forecast for the European market next year is stable, but we will have a seasonal effect because of the emissions regulations in the first quarter. I’m not sure all the automakers are ready for them. Fleet emissions of CO2 will have to be 30 g/km lower on January 1 and the average now is 122 g/km. So if you are not ready now in terms of product, production and stock management, you will be dead in January”. +++ 

+++ After 3 years of battling the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Opel Astra and Peugeot 308, the 4th generation RENAULT Mégane is in for an update. Like practically all mid-cycle refreshes, the car will bring new front and rear ends, which will probably comprise of redesigned bumpers and lighting units. As for the interior, it will probably feature a new infotainment system and digital instrument cluster, which will bring it up to speed in the hotly contested C-segment. The biggest change over the outgoing iteration, though, will be the addition of a plug-in hybrid powertrain with a charging port on the left front fender. Not much is known about this Mégane, except that the powertrain was developed in-house and that it should have a zero-emission range of roughly 50 kilometres. It will be part of Renault’s electrified strategy. The facelifted Megane is thought to premiere at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show next March, although an earlier online unveiling is possible too. +++ 

+++ Assembly lines at SOUTH KOREA ’s 3 smaller carmakers (General Motors Korea, Renault Samsung and Ssangyong) idled for almost half of this year. The Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association said the average factory operation rate of the 3 automakers stood at just 59.4 % from January to November. Their total output capacity was 1.09 million cars, but only 650,000 rolled off their assembly lines, accounting for just 18 % of total car output in South Korea. The last time their operation rate fell below 60 % was in 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when it plunged to around 52 %. Industry analysts say the rate must surpass 75 % if the companies are to make a profit. That signals more layoffs ahead. GM Korea’s operation rate stood at 55.5 %, Renault Samsung’s at 55.4 % and Ssangyong’s at a healthier 86.2 %. Already last year, GM shut down an assembly plant in Gunsan and laid off around 3.000 workers, but domestic sales and exports kept plummeting, so the remaining factories got no busier. The carmaker hopes to boost the operation rate of its Bupyeong plant in the first half of next year by producing the new mid-sized Chevrolet Trailblazer, but the Changwon plant will have to run at half-capacity until 2022, when a new SUV vehicle will go into production there. After accumulating W4 trillion of losses over 5 years, GM had hoped to break even this year, but decided recently that the target is unattainable. A GM Korea staffer said operations “will normalize once new car production resumes”. But some industry watchers are betting that GM will eventually pack up and leave Korea. Renault Samsung and Ssangyong may end up walking down the same path. Since 2007, Ssangyong achieved a profit only once, in 2016, while suffering losses the rest of the time that added up to W1 trillion. The SUV maker could not afford to invest in new car development and has no new models lined up next year. “Ssangyong should have shifted its diesel-centered business to hybrid and electric cars but didn’t have the resources”, an industry insider said. Yet Ssangyong has more pressing concerns since it faces W70 billion in maturing bonds. Investments are needed from parent company Mahindra, but that is also suffering losses due to declining car sales in India. The head of Ssangyong’s labor union recently visited Mahindra’s headquarters to seek fresh investments but was apparently told by management that the majority shareholder and the Korean government must both offer support. Last year, state-run Korea Development Bank set an unfortunate precedent by pumping W800 billion into GM Korea, so Mahindra is making the same demand. Renault Samsung, meanwhile, lost a big outsourcing job (making the Nissan X-Trail) and has nothing else lined up. Renault Nissan headquarters has naturally been reluctant to allocate new jobs after a drawn-out labor strike at the Busan plant earlier this year. It is capable of producing 300.000 cars annually but rolled out only 210.000 last year, dwindling to an estimated 160.000 this year and just 120.000 next year. A clear deficit is forecast in 2020, but unionized workers are revving up to strike again. Renault Samsung recently started taking applications for voluntary retirement to lay off 400 workers, but fewer than 100 jumped and the rest may have to be pushed. The global car industry is undergoing a tectonic shift. A supply glut amounts to 25 million conventional vehicles amid the growing popularity of car sharing and eco-friendly cars. GM, Volkswagen and other global automakers announced plans this year to lay off around 80.000 workers. In South Korea, car factories suffer from chronic inefficiency, while militant labor unions and antiquated labor laws make it extremely tough to lay off staff. Yet the average salary at Korea’s 5 automakers is higher than at Toyota and Volkswagen, so the ratio of labor costs to revenues is also higher. +++ 

+++ The Mahindra chief is set to retire amid talks on the fate of SSANGYONG . The Indian automaker is reportedly working on W230 billion fund injection for the ailing local unit. Following the massive executive reshuffle at Mahindra, the Indian auto giant that acquired SsangYong in 2010, market insiders are speculating whether it will hamper investments in its ailing South Korean subsidiary. According to the Indian company, current chairman Anand Mahindra will complete his term and take over a non-executive role as a chairman of the board from April 1. The group said that he will serve as a mentor and the board’s managing director to manage issues that involve strategic planning, risk mitigation and external interface. Pawan Goenka, who currently serves as chairman of SsangYong’s board, has been redesignated as CEO and managing director of Mahindra to fully oversee the group’s entire business from April 1, for a 1- ear term. From April 2, 2021, Anish Shah will take over as CEO and managing director of the group. He has been appointed to join the Mahindra board as CFO and deputy managing director from April 1, for a year. Market insiders are closely watching Indian conglomerate’s leadership transition and speculating whether additional investments will be make in the Korean automaker that it acquired for 522.5 billion won ($450.7 million) 10 years ago. Since the acquisition, Mahindra injected 80 billion won in 2013 and 50 billion earlier this year, raising the Indian company’s stake in SsangYong to 74.7 %. Mahindra said in a statement that the new executives will maintain the group’s values and culture “while ensuring rapid and profitable growth”. Meanwhile, SsangYong’s unionized workers said in a statement that Mahindra has promised 230 billion won of direct investment in the company, but based on preconditions of the investment from the Korean government and the automaker’s main creditor Korea Development Bank. But company officials refuted such claims, saying that Mahindra has made no such commitment. “Both Mahindra and SsangYong have made it clear that a self-rescue plan, such as reducing welfare benefits of employees, should come first before asking for help from the largest shareholder”, an official told, adding that the labor union will seek an agreement from its members on its self-rescue plan next week. “But M&M’s investment amount, if confirmed, will be above 200 billion won, considering that it costs up to 400 billion won to develop a new vehicle model over the three-year period”, he added. SsangYong aims to develop electric vehicles next year by working with a Chinese firms to launch them by 2021. Industry insiders say at least 500 billion will be required for the automaker to stay afloat until then. In recent years, the automaker has been seeking financial aid from the government and the state-run bank as its earnings have been in a free fall. The automaker has been recording operating losses for 11 consecutive quarters. In the third quarter this year, its operating loss came at 105.2 billion won, almost sixfold jump from a year ago. In September, SsangYong and its labor union agreed on a self-rescue plan by cutting welfare programs for employees. It has slashed the number of executives by 20 % and sold its facilities and real estate to save a total of 300 billion won in capital. +++ 

+++ Elon Musk has announced that TESLA will introduce a new media computer upgrade in the coming months that’ll be offered to existing owners. Curiously, he doesn’t recommend owners opt for the upgrade. In 2018, Tesla started building its vehicles with a new system that’s roughly twice as fast as the computer and infotainment used in older cars. For some time, Tesla has been promising owners of its older vehicles that it would be available as an upgrade. Taking to Twitter, Elon Musk said he hopes to see the new computer available as an upgrade soon, despite the issues they’re facing. “This is quite a thorny hardware problem, as there are many diff versions of mcu & autopilot computer & supporting hardware. Cars last so much longer than phones! Hopefully able to upgrade mcu1 & ap2.0 in a few months”. Musk went on to reveal that upgrading to the new computer will set customers back roughly $2,000. According to the Tesla boss, though, it isn’t recommended as the new computer isn’t needed for full self-driving and only includes “limited entertainment improvements”. Among the features only available through the upgraded computer are video streaming, TeslaCam, and the popular Sentry Mode. In a bid to offer its existing customers a slightly more capable interface, Tesla is working on a new software update for the old system, although hardware limitations will likely mean it won’t benefit from all of the new features found in the latest piece of kit. +++ 

+++ A recent survey of 14.383 Australians shows that TOYOTA is the most trusted automotive brand Down Under, something that’s also reflected by the new vehicle buying intention data according to Roy Morgan, as well as sales figures for 2019. Second place on the most trusted car brands list is held by Mazda, followed by Honda, Subaru, Nissan, Hyundai, Tesla, Mercedes, Kia and Ford. The fact that the top 5 brands are all Japanese is also quite telling. Of course, having Tesla in 7th place ahead of the likes of Mercedes, Kia and Ford is extremely impressive, and goes to show just how much Australian motorists appreciate the EV-maker’s reputation as an innovator. Perhaps the biggest surprise comes from Holden, as their absence cannot go unnoticed with this type of survey. Same for BMW, Audi and Volkswagen, 3 names that made the cut just 5 years ago. “The poor result for Holden comes as Australia’s most iconic car company announced that its most recognizable car, the Commodore, will be phased out over the next year”, said Roy Morgan’s chief executive, Michele Levine. “Without a local manufacturing base, Holden has become just another importer and has fallen well behind other car brands over the last few years. The low Net Trust Score for Holden highlights the risk facing the General Motors subsidiary over the next few years without solid local support”. She added that carmakers need to keep a high level of trust in order to support or grow their sales: “It’s well known that Australia’s automotive market is in a rough spot at present with sales of cars in dipping in the last 2 years after reaching a record 1.189 million in 2017”. Those numbers went down by 3 % in 2018 and have continued to decline in 2019 as well. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN took 2 raps in Australia as a court slapped a $86 million fine on the German car maker as part of a global emissions cheating scandal and a regulator launched a civil lawsuit against a unit. The federal court fined Volkswagen a record sum for breaching Australian consumer law by making false representations about compliance with the country’s diesel emissions standards. The fine exceeded the $60 million the company said it had agreed to with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Volkswagen said it was undecided on whether to appeal the court decision and would make an announcement in the coming weeks. The penalty follows revelations that Volkswagen was using prohibited engine-control software to pass pollution tests. The company has already paid billions of dollars in legal costs around the world. ACCC chairman Rod Sims told reporters that the fine imposed on Volkswagen was just a taste of what companies could expect in the future. The agency would use its new expanded powers to punish illegal activity with the largest fines possible and penalties of more than $75 million would not be unusual, he said. “Volkswagen firmly believes that the penalty of $60 million agreed in principle with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to resolve the regulatory proceedings was a fair amount and is carefully reviewing the Court’s reasons for deviating from that amount”, a company spokesman said in an emailed statement. Separately, the country’s corporate watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), said it started civil penalty proceedings in a federal court against Volkswagen Financial Services Australia Pty Ltd for not making appropriate checks before giving out 49,380 loans to consumers. ASIC said that the unit, which operates nationally to provide borrowers with consumer loans to purchase new and used cars, did not make required inquiries into borrowers’ living expenses or if the loans were unsuitable for them. These instances of breaches in lending laws occurred between December 20, 2013 and December 15, 2016, ASIC said. The maximum penalty for one contravention equates to $1.2 million in the period till July 31, 2015, and to $1.2 million for a contravention in the period after that, the watchdog said. ASIC said proceedings will commence on a date to be determined by the court. A spokeswoman for the unit said it takes its compliance obligations seriously and that it was cooperating with ASIC. +++

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