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Negotiating Deal VW is a “Delicate Dance,” Says Ford CEO Hackett

First project could be announced before year-end.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.15, 2018

Ford CEO Jim Hackett described the talks with Volkswagen as a "delicate dance."

A deal between Ford and Volkswagen focusing on joint efforts in the light commercial vehicle market could come together quickly, but in his first official acknowledgement that the two carmakers are exploring a wide range of additional options, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said those negotiations involve a “delicate dance.”

Like a growing number of competitors, Ford has opened up to the possibility of teaming up with erstwhile rivals on a variety of projects. And, in recent weeks, sources have indicated it is discussing deals that also could see them team up on everything from autonomous and electrified vehicles to joint production and marketing efforts in markets such as Europe and Latin America.

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“(VW CEO) Herbert (Diess) and I had a great discussion” about a possible alliance on commercial trucks, Hackett said in an interview with the Reuters news service, noting that things are “going better than we thought it would.” (more…)

Automakers on Edge Over Possibility of New Tariffs

Commerce Dept. findings key to Trump administration's plans.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.14, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is leading the Section 232 investigation into whether or not imported automobiles and parts represent a threat to the United States.

While the U.S. midterm elections have passed, carmakers are waiting on a final decision from the Trump administration on the Section 232 investigation. Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 allows the White House to use national security grounds to impose tariffs on vehicles and auto parts imported into the U.S.

The industry’s lobbyists have said they were expecting the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is responsible for the investigation, to issue its ruling soon, perhaps this week well ahead of the February deadline fixed by the statute. The general assumption is the report will offer Trump a chance to impose new tariffs on autos and auto parts made in Europe and Asia.

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The 232 query has become a major issue for the Japanese government of Shinzo Abe, which has spent weeks trying to defuse the administration’s threat to impose tariffs that could have a major impact on the Japanese auto industry. (more…)

Faraday Future Insists it Isn’t Going Away

New plan calls for leaner management, second product, even an IPO – if it can stay in business long enough.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.14, 2018

In better days: Jia Yueting and Nick Sampson, helped unveil the FF91 at the 2016 CES.

Only a matter of weeks ago, battery-carmaker Faraday Future seemed ready to turn out the lights, co-founder Nick Sampson resigning and then declaring in a blog post that the company was “effectively insolvent.” But, despite a seemingly endless series of crises, including one that forced it to cancel a planned assembly plant in Nevada, Faraday’s new management team continue to project a surprisingly bullish take on their future.

Late Tuesday, in fact, the California-based company released a statement outlining its plans for the future, which included a new, “lean management” structure, and “fortified product plans” that not only include the original FF91 supercar but a second, more mainstream crossover.

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Of course, there is the minor issue of finding the necessary cash. Faraday’s latest crisis was kicked off when China’s Evergrande Health Industry Group backed out of a deal that was supposed to generate as much as $2 billion in capital. For the moment, the automaker says it is on the hunt for $500 million to get it back on track.

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Aston Martin Confirms DBX Name, Shows New SUV Testing

Production model set for Q4 2019 reveal.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.14, 2018

Aston Martin is bringing the DBX sport-utility vehicle to market after showing a concept a few years ago.

File it under “No Big Surprise”: Aston Martin has confirmed that its first-ever SUV will retain the name of the original concept ute, DBX. That said, there have been plenty of significant changes since the prototype was initially revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2015.

For one thing, the original, three-door show car now has a more conventional, five-door layout, albeit retaining a coupe-like roofline that, while not as exotic as the new Lamborghini Urus is certainly more sporty than the stolid Bentley Bentayga.

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The pics here show what is described as a DBX prototype being put through its paces on a Welsh rally stage by Aston Chief Engineer Matt Becker. And, according to a statement by the British marque, “signifies the start of an extensive testing program, (o)ne that has begun in Wales, as a nod to Aston Martin’s new St. Athan production facility in the Vale of Glamorgan.” (more…)

Chinese Automaker Zotye Planning to Sell SUVs in US by 2020

Maker, which partners with Ford in China, doesn't specific what SUV.

by Michael Strong on Nov.13, 2018

Could this be Zotye's first entry in the U.S. market in 2020? An SUV will be first, the company said today.

The race to be first is getting tighter as a new contestant has entered the fray: Zotye Automotive says it will begin selling SUVs in the U.S. in 2020.

Zotye sells several SUV models in China, but did not reveal which one it plans to export to the U.S. Until today, it was best known as one of Ford Motor Co’s partners in China, but the two companies are not working together on this project, according to officials on both sides.

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The Chinese firm is establishing its U.S. sales and distribution arm in Lake Forest, California, and plans to sell vehicles in the United States through franchised dealers. Zotye USA is owned by HAAH Automotive Holdings, headed by President and Chief Executive Duke Hale, who has held top spots at several automotive import companies. (more…)

GM Expanding Maven Peer-to-Peer Rentals to Include Other Brands

Other brands will be available in mid-2019.

by Michael Strong on Nov.13, 2018

General Motors Vice President Urban Mobility and Maven Julia Steyn said the company will be adding non-GM vehicles to its peer-to-peer rental fleet.

Maven, General Motors’ private ride-sharing service, is undergoing an expansion early next year. Before gig-based entrepreneurs around the country begin salivating, the expansion is product-based not geographic.

The company is going to allow non-GM brand products to be rented on the platform starting in the middle of 2019, a GM official revealed.

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According to Julia Steyn, vice president of GM Urban Mobility and Maven, said Monday during a presentation at the UBS Global Technology Conference in San Francisco, that Maven plans expand the platform to micro-fleet entrepreneurs. (more…)

New Mercedes GLC F-Cell: World’s 1st to Combine Fuel-Cell, Plug-In Hybrid Tech

New model gets a combined range of 300 miles.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.13, 2018

The new Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell combines two technologies to help mitigate worries about running out fuel.

The new Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell is designed to help motorists address one of the biggest problems facing alternative powertrain technology: a lack of infrastructure.

The new crossover is the world’s first production vehicle to combine fuel-cell and plug-in hybrid technology in the same vehicle. That means a motorist will be less likely to be stuck somewhere without a source of power.

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“The innovative plug-in fuel cell drive combines the advantages of both zero-emission drive technologies and, thanks to its intelligent operating strategy, continuously optimizes the use of both energy sources in line with the current operating situation,” Mercedes said in a statement announcing the launch of the new F-Cell, which will officially go on sale in Germany next spring. (more…)

CEO Says VW Ready to Build 50 Million EVs

German automaker expects to spend nearly $60 bil on batteries alone.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.12, 2018

VW's CEO Herbert Diess said the company made arrangements to buy 50 million electric vehicle batteries.

Even though it won’t launch its first long-range battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, until next year, Volkswagen’s CEO is forecasting massive growth in the sector, the German automaker already having “booked” plans to build 50 million BEVs.

Precisely how long it will take to hit that target Volkswagen Chief Executive Herbert Diess didn’t say during an interview with German trade publication Automobilwoche. But the VW Group is expected to sell 10.7 million vehicles this year, a figure that includes a broad range of powertrain technologies, primarily diesel and gasoline.

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The launch of a Golf-sized all-electric model next year will put Volkswagen in direct competition with Tesla, and the Germans are preparing to roll out an array of other BEVs, including a reborn Microbus set to be called the I.D. Buzz. Sibling brand Audi, meanwhile, just introduced its first BEV, the e-tron SUV. All told, the various VW Group brands, ranging from entry-level Seat and Skoda to high-line Bentley and Lamborghini, plan to have at least 40 all-electric models in showrooms by 2025. (more…)

VW Reportedly Set to Undercut Tesla Model 3 Price with Entry Long-Range EV

Entry model could come in around $23,000, according to report.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.09, 2018

VW plans to have two dozen fully electric vehicles, like this I.D. Crozz concept, in production.

Volkswagen is set to launch a base-model, long-range electric vehicle for less than $23,000, according to a report by Reuters, a price that would undercut the long-awaited entry-level Tesla Model 3 by more than a third.

Initially reluctant to enter the electrified vehicle market, the Volkswagen Group has now laid out an aggressive strategy that will include more than 40 all-electric models, as well as dozens of hybrids and plug-ins, for sale through its dozen different passenger vehicle brands. Meanwhile, the Wolfsburg-based carmaker is in discussions with Ford Motor Co. that could see them cooperate on EV development.

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The VW brand itself will cover a wide range of model segments with pure battery-electric vehicles through a new sub-brand dubbed I.D. These will include a reborn version of its legendary Microbus set to be marketed as the I.D. Buzz, as well as mid-sized and smaller offerings. The base model, TheDetroitBureau.com confirmed, is being referred to internally as the “MEB entry.” (more…)

Volvo’s Care Subscription Program Key to Growth Plans

VCNA chief acknowledges reliability concerns but says problems, warranty costs, are tumbling.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.08, 2018

Volvo Cars North America CEO Anders Gustafsson with images of some of the first workers at the automaker's new Charleston plant.

U.S. new vehicle sales are on course to post their second consecutive decline as 2018 draws to a close, but you’d have a hard time telling that if you were just looking at Volvo’s numbers.

The Swedish automaker has posted a 27% jump in demand through the end of October and, with more products ready to land in U.S. showrooms, Volvo Cars USA CEO Anders Gustafsson said Thursday he is optimistic the company can keep its momentum growing.

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Several factors could give meaning to his forecast, including not just the launch of the new Volvo S60, but the start of production at the Chinese-owned automaker’s first U.S. assembly plant in Charleston, South Carolina. Then there’s Care by Volvo, the subscription program the carmaker launched late last year.

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