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China Phasing Out JV Rule Limiting Foreign Auto Plant Ownership

Rule has been major chafing point with foreign manufacturers – also helped build up domestic Chinese auto industry.

by on Apr.17, 2018

China is phasing out the rules requiring foreign automakers to adopt a Chinese company for a joint venture to do business.

China announced plans to phase out rules requiring foreign automakers to partner with domestic Chinese companies if they want to open an assembly plant in the booming market. The announcement comes barely a week after President Xi Jinping indicated the country would begin rolling back its 25% tariff on foreign-made autos.

The rule required companies like General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota to give local companies like GAC and SAIC a 50% stake in their Chinese operations. That approach not only limited their profits but effectively also helped fund the development of the domestic Chinese auto industry, a number of those manufacturers now setting up brands of their own that they hope to turn into worldwide competitors.

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“Following a five-year transition period, all ownership restrictions will be lifted,” the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement. (more…)

Slot Car-Like eRoad Debuts Outside Stockholm – Could Eliminate Range Anxiety

System would allow an EV to constantly stay charged.

by on Apr.16, 2018

A truck using the eRoad heads from Stockholm out towards the city's Arlanda Airport

Battery-cars are great – as long as you don’t worry about running out of power without a place to charge back up. But a consortium set up by the Swedish Transport Administration may have come up with a solution for range anxiety it has dubbed eRoadArlanda.

The pilot project, which stretches for 1.2 miles between the capital city of Stockholm with Arlanda Airport, allows electrified vehicles to draw power from an underground electrical grid so that their batteries never run down.

Electrifying News!

It works much like an oversized slot car track, explained Hans Säll, the chief executive of eRoadArlanda, who said, “There is no electricity on the surface. There are two tracks, just like an outlet in the wall. Five or six centimeters down is where the electricity is.”

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Caddy Triggers Battle of the Behemoths with $10,000 Escalade Discounts

Fighting off the new Lincoln Navigator.

by on Apr.16, 2018

A Cadillac Escalade Platinum can top $100,000.

If you’re looking for one of the biggest, baddest luxury utes on the market, Cadillac is hoping to lure you into one of its U.S. showrooms. Aiming to shore itself up against an assault by Lincoln’s newly updated Navigator SUV, Caddy is firing back with discounts of up to $10,000 on its own Escalade model.

GM has traditionally dominated the full-size SUV segment, both mainstream and luxury, and it gained significant traction when it introduced an all-new version of the ‘Slade for the 2014 model-year. But that’s a lifetime ago in today’s hotly competitive market and Lincoln has been building momentum fast with the all-new version of the Navigator it launched last year.

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While the two models don’t generate a lot of volume they serve up substantial profits for their respective manufacturers, providing plenty of room to load up the incentives. The question is whether Lincoln will now fire back with big givebacks of its own.

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First Drive: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

No, VW hasn't gone all-SUV, at least not yet.

by on Apr.13, 2018

The R-Line version of the 2019 VW Jetta.

Volkswagen officials have been talking a lot about SUVs, such as the new Atlas, these days. And when they change the subject, they’re as likely as not to focus on battery-electric vehicles like the upcoming I.D. Buzz microbus.

That might seem worrisome for fans of traditional VW sedans and hatchbacks. The good news is that the people’s car brand isn’t abandoning its traditional line-up. True, you won’t be able to get a diesel in the U.S. anymore, but there are some solid alternatives under the hood of offerings like the all-new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta that we had a chance to spend some time with in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina earlier this month.

The Last Word!

“It’s one of our most important products in the U.S.,” said Jan Dickmann, head of the compact car line, before we headed off into a Carolina countryside just starting to burst with spring color. Worldwide, VW has sold 17 million Jettas, including 3 million in the U.S. alone. So, while the automaker might be gaining traction with products like the Atlas and smaller Tiguan, it has a lot riding on the success of the seventh-generation Jetta sedan. (more…)

Big Changes Coming at VW, Says New CEO

Diess targeting “slimmed down company” and focus on new technologies.

by on Apr.13, 2018

VW's new CEO Herbert Diess wants to both cut costs and shift focus to new technologies.

Volkswagen Group is likely to be a very different company in the coming years, at least if new CEO Herbert Diess has his way, the new chief executive outlining some of the key changes he has in mind during a Friday media briefing that followed a management shake-up the day before.

The one-time BMW board member has been viewed as a change agent since joining VW in 2015, just months before a scheme to rig diesel emissions tests was revealed by the U.S. EPA. Diess has already trimmed what is often described as a bloated workforce, in the process slashing almost $5 billion in costs.

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He is expected to further attack costs at the German giant while also putting more emphasis on new technologies and services. And VW officials suggested they could move to trim assets, though they cautioned that a rumored spin off of their truck business isn’t in the cards – yet. (more…)

Despite Problems, Musk Promises Tesla Profit in Second Half of 2018

Stock up, but not everyone convinced.

by on Apr.13, 2018

CEO Elon Musk shown exiting the back seat of a Model 3 at its debut. Musk still needs to dig out of trouble caused by Model 3 delays.

It’s been a tough few weeks for Tesla, the battery-electric automaker again missing production targets, being accused of improperly firing nearly 1,000 factory workers and being scolded by federal safety regulators for its role in investigating a fatal crash involving its semi-autonomous Autopilot system.

But that has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of CEO Elon Musk. After earlier this week suggesting Model 3 production isn’t delayed but in a “time shift,” the South African-born exec on Friday tweeted a promise that Tesla will be both profitable and produce positive cash flow by the second half of this year.

Promises, Promises!

Musk’s latest tweet came in response to a harsh Twitter post by British news magazine The Economist, which warned Tesla would need to raise more cash this year. “The Economist used to be boring,” Musk responded, “but smart with a wicked dry wit. Now it’s just boring (sigh). Tesla will be profitable & cash flow+ in Q3 & Q4, so obv no need to raise money.”

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Mueller Out, Diess In at VW – And More Shake-Ups Likely

Automaker restructuring into three groups and may be readying spin-off of truck group.

by on Apr.12, 2018

New VW CEO Herbert Diess unveiled two EVs, including the Buzz microbus, at CEO.

Matthias Mueller, the executive often given credit with steering Volkswagen Group through the worst crisis in its post-War history, has been pushed aside, replaced as CEO by Herbert Diess, the head of the flagship VW brand.

The elevation of Diess comes at a time when Volkswagen is charting a path that calls for greater sales and profits, lower costs, and a decreasing dependence on the diesels that had been a foundation, albeit a troubled one, for the company. Diess will also oversee a restructuring that will reform the parent company into three groups and could lead to the eventually spin-off of its truck and bus division.

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Shaking Things Up!

The 64-year-old Mueller was elevated to CEO in 2015, following revelations that VW had rigged its diesel engines to illegally pass emissions tests. He “has done outstanding work for the Volkswagen Group,” the automakers said in a statement, work that included dealing with angry regulators, shareholders and owners and negotiating settlements, fines and buybacks that ultimately are expected to cost VW about $30 billion in the U.S. alone.

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Waiting to Take Delivery of a Tesla Model 3? You May be Caught in a “Time Shift”

Apparently, there are no “delays” in Elon Musk’s dictionary.

by on Apr.12, 2018

Tesla CEO Elon Musk at the Fremont plant.

Last we checked, there were more than 400,000 folks waiting to take delivery of the Tesla Model 3, a potential problem considering the slow ramp-up of production. But even though some potential buyers might now have to wait until 2019 – perhaps beyond – they shouldn’t consider that a delay but simply a “time shift,” according to CEO Elon Musk.

The South African-born entrepreneur famously predicted his company’s Fremont, California assembly plant would go through “production hell” when it launched its first mainstream model last July. And, indeed, it had to largely hand-build them for the rest of the year. Tesla recently released numbers that showed first-quarter production reached 2,000 a week, but even that was 20% below the company’s target. And that’s leading some frustrated shoppers to cancel their advance reservations.

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“You’ll definitely get your car,” Musk declared during an interview on CBS on Thursday, suggesting customers shouldn’t think of what’s happening as a delay, but “a six- to nine-month time shift. That’s literally it, and three of those months have already passed.” (more…)

Lincoln Planning Five New Models for China in Bid to Catch Rivals

China destined to become brand’s top market, said new Lincoln chief.

by on Apr.12, 2018

The Lincoln Aviator made its U.S. debut last month and should reach China by 2019 or 2020.

Struggling to catch up with rivals now dominating the world’s largest luxury car market, Lincoln plans to start building five new models in China by 2022, according to a report by the Reuters news service.

That’s in line with comments made to TheDetroitBureau.com by Lincoln’s new boss, Joy Falotico, who said she expects China to soon become the brand’s largest market, much as has happened for other luxury marques, including Detroit-based rival Cadillac.

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Global News!

It appears that the new models Lincoln will build in China will also be produced and marketed in other countries, including the U.S. During a backgrounder on the new Aviator SUV prior to its debut at the New York International Auto Show late last month, Falotico revealed that Lincoln plans to launch two new SUVs by 2020, “followed closely by four more vehicles.”

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All-New Lexus ES Bound for Beijing Motor Show

New model meant to "radically transform the concept of comfort for luxury consumers."

by on Apr.11, 2018

Lexus is pushing even further with the "spindle grille" design on the next ES sedan.

We’ve barely gotten past the New York Auto Show but halfway around the world, automakers are getting ready for the season’s next big event. That includes Lexus, which has dropped a partial teaser of what appears to be the next generation ES model.

While many folks think of the ES as a fairly base-level vehicle, Lexus clearly has more upscale ambitions for a model whose name, after all, is short for “Executive Sedan.” And while Toyota’s luxury brand isn’t saying much about what it will be showing in China, it appears buyers have something to look forward to.

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The new ES, Lexus hints, “aims to radically transform the concept of comfort for luxury consumers all over the world.” That may explain why the brand saved the new model for Beijing where luxury buyers have, indeed, become some of the world’s most demanding.

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