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FCA, VW, Patching up Differences, Could See Joint Opportunities

Volkswagen CEO opens door to “conversation.”

by on Mar.15, 2017

VW CEO Matthias Mueller has been struggling to dig the maker out of its diesel scandal.

Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller, apparently picking up on recent comments by his counterpart at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, opened the door to “a conversation” on Tuesday, something some observers suggest could lead to merger talks between the two companies.

Mueller’s comment, which was made during a news conference called to discuss VW earnings, came barely a week after CEO Sergio Marchionne said a merger between FCA and some other manufacturer “will happen” in the coming years.

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Talk of mergers, acquisitions and alliances in the global auto industry has escalated in the wake of General Motors’ decision to sell its long-troubled German-based Opel/Vauxhall unit to France’s PSA, the parent of the Peugeot and Citroen brands.

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Major Management Changes Coming at Nissan

Nakamura retires, Albaisa gets promoted, BMW’s Habib to take on Infiniti styling.

by on Mar.14, 2017

Nissan's Shiro Nakamura helped build the maker's reputation for strong designs.

More big managements changes are in the works at Nissan Motors Corp., barely three weeks after Carlos Ghosn relinquished his title as CEO of the Japanese automaker.

The latest wave impacts Nissan at a variety of senior levels, both at its headquarters in Japan and in the critical U.S. market. That starts with the announcement that Shiro Nakamura, the well-respected Nissan Chief Creative Officer, will be retiring. He will be replaced be Alfonso Albaisa, who had been overseeing design at the maker’s Infiniti division. In turn, Albaisa will be replaced by former BMW Design director Karim Habib.

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Still other major management shifts come as Nissan moves to cement its control over Mitsubishi, the long-troubled Japanese automaker that was rescued by a Nissan bailout late last year. Four more Nissan executives will move over to the smaller maker starting in April.

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VW Brand Profit Slammed by Diesel Emissions Scandal Costs

U.S. remains "core market," says CEO Mueller.

by on Mar.14, 2017

VW CEO Matthias Mueller holds the wireless fob for the Sedric robotic car at the Geneva Motor Show.

Volkswagen revealed a classic good news/bad news scenario on Tuesday morning. After reporting record group profits last month for 2016, the automaker now says operating earnings at the flagship VW brand took a sharp hit as a result of the maker’s diesel emissions scandal.

The automaker has so far agreed to spend nearly $25 billion on fines and settlements in the U.S. alone as a result of the scandal, and that doesn’t include a hefty increase in marketing costs since the diesel engine rigging was revealed in September 2015.

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Nonetheless, Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Mueller put a positive outlook on the maker’s current situation, insisting it was “back on track” after one of the worst crises in its eight-decade history. Mueller himself took home 7.8 million euros, or $8.5 million, in pay and other forms of compensation for 2016.

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Lincoln Plans to Build All-New SUV in China

New model set to debut by late 2019; would sidestep import tariffs.

by on Mar.13, 2017

Lincoln won't say what product it plans to build in China, but it is expected to be smaller than the Navigator Concept shown in NY last year.

Lincoln plans to develop and launch an all-new SUV model in China by late 2019, the automaker has confirmed, a move that is seen as critical to maintain the rapid growth of Ford Motor Co.’s luxury brand in the booming Asian nation.

The automaker isn’t offering specific details about the planned vehicle, but sources tell TheDetroitBureau.com they expect it will be targeted at the midsize segment and offer three rows of seating. It is likely to become the primary seller in Lincoln’s Chinese line-up, in part by eliminating the 25% tariff on imported automobiles.

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“The move to local production is a key next step in Lincoln’s evolution in China and will complement continued imports from North America,” the automaker said in a statement announcing the new SUV project.

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Intel Buying Smart Car Tech Firm Mobileye for $15.3b

Move positions chipmaker as key player in smart, driverless cars.

by on Mar.13, 2017

Based in Jerusalem, Mobileye was founded in 1999.

U.S. computer chip and processor giant Intel will acquire the Israeli smart car tech firm Mobileye in a deal valued at $15.3 billion.

Supplying such automotive giants as General Motors and Volkswagen AG, Mobileye is one of the key producers of the onboard vision systems that anchor current advanced driver assistance systems – as well as tomorrow’s autonomous vehicle technology. The acquisition will help position Intel as a major player in the development of smart and driverless car systems.

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“The acquisition of Mobileye completes a virtuous circle of growth,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said during a conference call on Monday morning, adding that he sees a natural fit between the two companies, combining the “eyes of the autonomous car with the intelligent brain that actually drives the car.”

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VW Set to Plead Guilty as Buyback Accelerates

Court move would lock down $4.3b criminal settlement.

by on Mar.10, 2017

A new VW Arteon prototype makes its debut at this week's Geneva Motor Show.

Volkswagen is expected to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Detroit today, wrapping up a settlement with the federal government for cheating on diesel emissions tests.

The move follows a series of civil settlements, and will cost the automaker $4.3 billion, the figure announced in January at a news conference by government regulators just days before the end of the Obama Administration. Seven current and former Volkswagen employees have faced criminal charges for their role in the diesel rigging, though one has already pleads guilty. Only one of the others is currently in custody.

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All told, the German automaker has so far agreed to spend more than $20 billion in civil and criminal fines and other costs. It is currently ramping up the buyback of around 475,000 2.0-liter diesels equipped with so-called a “defeat device” meant to reduce emissions during emissions testing. A separate deal covers more than 40,000 vehicles with 3.0-liter turbodiesels, though VW believes it can repair some of those.

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Honda Set to Unveil All-Electric, Plug-in Versions of Clarity at NY Auto Show

New models complement Clarity fuel-cell model.

by on Mar.09, 2017

Honda teases the three versions of the Clarity model it will show off at the 2017 NYIAS.

The first version of the new Honda Clarity has only just gone on sale but Honda is already rolling out two other variants.

With the Clarity FCV, Honda became the third automaker to launch a fuel-cell vehicle in the U.S. market last year. Now, it says, it will debut both the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid and the Clarity Electric at the 2017 New York International Auto Show. All three models are based off the same, unique midsize platform, and all are equipped to carry five passengers.

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Honda boasts Clarity will be “the first vehicle series to offer customers an expanded array of electrified vehicle choices with fuel cell, battery electric and plug-in hybrid powertrains.” But other makers are also working up multi-use platforms, including both Hyundai and its Korean sibling Kia.

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Uber’s Autonomous Cars Heading Back to California

Chastened ride-sharing service stops “greyballing.”

by on Mar.09, 2017

After facing legal threats, Uber removed its San Francisco test fleet last December.

Hammered for months over a variety of ethical and legal slips – as well as its poor financial numbers – ride-sharing giant Uber appears to be taking steps to soften its macho corporate image while also being more cooperative with regulators.

Forced out of San Francisco last December after refusing to get the requisite state permit for its autonomous vehicle test drive program, Uber is now ready to return to California after having filed the necessary paperwork. Meanwhile, the company now says it will stop “greyballing,” a process it developed to make it more difficult for regulators in cities ranging from Boston to Paris.

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But Uber still faces a variety of other challenges. It has hired former U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder, for one thing, to handle a probe of sexual harassment within the mostly male company. And Uber CEO has said he plans to seek “leadership help,” after being caught on a dashboard cam raging at one of the company’s drivers who had questioned corporate payment policies. Such issues have been playing into the hands of critics and competitors – including Lyft, which last week announced a new $500 million fundraising bid.

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Infiniti Taking F1 to the Street with Project Black S

“I want to make it,” says CEO.

by on Mar.08, 2017

The Infiniti Q60 Black S is just a concept - for now, but company officials want to build it.

Infiniti has long been envious of rivals like Mercedes and BMW, with their high-performance sub-brands AMG and M, but the Japanese maker hasn’t been able to come up with the right formula for its own sports line.

It spent a couple years toying with the Eau Rouge concept, but now it’s moving from red to black – Project Black S, that is – and may have found a performance concept it can call its own. The Geneva Motor Show marks the debut of Infiniti’s Project Black S, with a specially modified version of its Q60 using an electric boost system derived from the maker’s Formula One program.

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“The future of performance cars involves electrified drivetrains because they offer instant torque,” Infiniti President Roland Krueger told TheDetroitBureau.com, following the Q60 Black S Concept’s Geneva debut.

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Opel Insignia Offers Strong Hint of Next Buick Regal

Plans could be complicated by sale of Opel to PSA.

by on Mar.08, 2017

Opel designer Mark Adams rehearses his line before the Geneva debut of the Opel Insignia.

Opel could definitely use a lift. The once-grand European automaker has been struggling for years, and it didn’t help when General Motors announced last month that it was likely to sell the German-based brand to France’s PSA.

That deal was announced just a day before the opening of the annual Geneva Motor Show, but as far as Opel was concerned, the big news was the launch of two critical new products, the Crossland X crossover, and the newly redesigned Insignia.

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The latter sedan is, in itself, particularly important because it not only lands a new family sedan in product-hungry Opel showrooms, but it also offers a strong hint of what’s to come when GM’s Buick brand unveils its own Regal sedan at the New York International Auto Show next month.

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