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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

IHS: Renesas maintains dominance in $26.7B automotive semiconductor market

April 18, 2014

Renesas remained the leader in the automotive semiconductor market in 2013, with the company’s dominance in microcomponents and logic integrated circuits (IC) helping it to hold a half-billion-dollar gap over the second-place competitor, according to analysis by IHS Technology. Japan-based Renesas posted automotive semiconductor revenue of $2.9 billion last year, giving the company a market share of 11%. This compares to $2.4 billion in revenue and 9% share for the Nº 2 contender, Infineon of Germany, allowing Renesas to maintain the leading position it held in 2012.

Although the IHS ranking shows Renesas experienced a 14% decline in revenue for the year, the drop was entirely driven by a fluctuation in the exchange rate between the Japanese yen and the US dollar. When measured in terms of its native yen, Renesas’ automotive semiconductor revenue actually rose by about 5% in 2013 compared to 2012, according to IHS. The overall automotive semiconductor market expanded by 5% in 2013, according to IHS. Market revenue last year rose to $26.7 billion in 2013, up from $25.4 billion in 2012.

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EIA Annual Energy Outlook explores implications of behavior and demographics on light-duty vehicle energy demand

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Light-duty VMT is beginning to decouple from traditional drivers. Source: EIA. economic Click to enlarge.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) is in the process of staging the release of the full Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (AEO2014), its annual report on projected energy use and analysis of select energy topics. The roll-out began on 7 April and will conclude on 30 April. Included in AEO2014 is a set of eight “Issues in Focus” articles, exploring topics of special significance, including changes in assumptions and recent developments in technologies for energy production and consumption.

The most recent of these In Focus articles explores the impact of demographics and behavior on light-duty vehicle (LDV) energy demand. LDVs accounted for 61% of all transportation energy consumption in the United States in 2012—8.4 million barrels of of oil equivalent per day—and represented nearly 10% of world petroleum liquids consumption. LDV energy use is driven by both LDV fuel economy and travel behavior, as measured by vehicle miles traveled (VMT). LDV VMT per licensed driver peaked in 2007 at 12,900 miles per year and has since decreased to 12,500 miles in 2012.

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Scientists discover potential way to make graphene superconducting

March 20, 2014

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Adding calcium atoms (orange spheres) between graphene planes (blue honeycomb) creates a superconducting material called CaC6. A study at SLAC has shown for the first time that graphene is a key player in this superconductivity: Electrons scatter back and forth between the graphene and calcium layers, interact with natural vibrations in the material’s atomic structure and pair up to conduct electricity without resistance. (Greg Stewart/SLAC). Click to enlarge.

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University and University College London have discovered a potential way to make a monolayer of graphene superconducting, a state in which it would carry electricity with 100% efficiency. Their open access paper is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers used a beam of intense ultraviolet light to look deep into the electronic structure of calcium intercalated graphite (CaC6)—a material made of alternating layers of graphene and calcium. While it’s been known for nearly a decade that this combined material is superconducting, the new study offers the first compelling evidence that the graphene layers are instrumental in this process, a discovery that could transform the engineering of materials for nanoscale electronic devices.

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APTA reports record public transportation usage in US in 2013; growth outpacing population and VMT growth

March 10, 2014

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Growth in public transit ridership since 1995 has outpaced population and VMT growth. Data: APTA. Click to enlarge.

In 2013, Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation—the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years—according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3%, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1%.

Since 1995 public transit ridership is up 37.2%, outpacing population growth, which is up 20.3%, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 22.7%.

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Study finds that EV-specific factors rather than socio-demographic variables better predictors of EV uptake

February 19, 2014

A study by researchers at the Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands) examining the impact of financial incentives and other socio-economic factors on electric vehicle (both plug-in hybrids and battery electrics) adoption in 30 countries found that financial incentives; the number of charging stations (corrected for population); and the presence of a local manufacturing facility were positive and significant in predicting EV adoption rates for the countries studied.

Of those, charging infrastructure was the best predictor of a country’s EV market share. However, the team cautions in their paper in Energy Policy, descriptive analyses indicated how country-specific factors such as government procurement plans or the target recipient of subsidies can significantly affect the adoption rate. In other words, neither financial incentives nor charging infrastructure ensure high electric vehicle adoption rates. However, on the whole, they conclude, the analysis tentatively endorses financial incentives and charging infrastructure as a way to encourage EV adoption.

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Making driving less energy-intensive than flying

January 09, 2014

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Energy intensities of flying (blue) and driving (green), 1970-2010. Data: Sivak, UMTRI-2014-2. Click to enlarge.

Currently, the energy intensity (BTU per person mile) of driving is 57% greater than that of flying, according to a new analysis by Dr. Michael Sivak, Director, Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). To make driving less energy intensive than flying, the fuel economy of the entire US fleet of light-duty vehicles would have to improve from the current 21.5 mpg (10.9 l/100 km) to at least 33.8 mpg (7.0 l/100 km) at the current vehicle load, or vehicle load would have to increase from the current 1.38 persons to at least 2.3 persons.

In the report, Sivak considered domestic operations of all certified air carriers were considered and all light-duty vehicles (cars, SUVs, pickups, and vans) over the past 40 years. During that period, the energy intensities of both driving and flying decreased. However, the improvement for driving (17%) was substantially less than for flying (74%).

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CAR report quantifies automotive’s position as a leading high-tech industry

January 08, 2014

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Percentage of Global R&D Spending by Industry, 2013. Source: Booz & Company “Global Innovation”; Battelle R&D Magazine; Center for Automotive Research 2012. Click to enlarge.

A newly-released report by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) concludes that the automotive industry is not only “high-tech,” it is frequently a leader in technological developments and applications. The report, supported by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, measures the technological nature of today’s auto industry and compares it to other sectors of the economy often viewed as technologically advanced.

The report authors acknowledge the difficulty of defining “high-tech” in an ever-changing economic environment. After reviewing of the works of several researchers and government agencies, CAR developed a working definition to differentiate high-tech industries from other sectors. Broadly, high-tech industries generally have the following characteristics:

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DOE releases three reports showing strong growth in US fuel cell and hydrogen market

December 20, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released three new reports showcasing strong growth across the US fuel cell and hydrogen technologies market. According to these reports, the US continues to be one of the world’s largest and fastest growing markets for fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. In 2012, nearly 80% of total investment in the global fuel cell industry was made in US companies.

The three reports are (1) the 2012 Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report, which describes data compiled in 2013 on trends in the fuel cell industry for 2012 with some comparison to previous years; (2) States of the States, Fuel Cells in America 2013, which provides an updated snapshot of fuel cell and hydrogen activity in the 50 states and District of Columbia; and (3) 2013 Pathways to Commercial Success: Technologies and Products Supported by the Fuel Cell Technologies Office, which updates the results of an effort to identify and characterize commercial and near-commercial (emerging) technologies and products that benefited from the support of the Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) and its predecessor programs within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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Canada files to define outer limits of expanded Atlantic continental shelf; preliminary filing on Arctic, targeting North Pole

December 10, 2013

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Overview of the outer limits of the expanded Canadian continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean. Click to enlarge.

On 6 December, Canada filed a submission to define the outer limits of its expanded continental shelf area in the Atlantic Ocean with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. At the same time, Canada also filed preliminary information concerning the expanded outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, which could include the North Pole.

In a news conference on the submission, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that Canada will indeed try to extend its territorial claims to the North Pole. “What we want to do is claim the biggest geographic area possible for Canada.”

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Volkswagen Group to invest €84.2B (US$114B) in automotive division over next 5 years; China JVs to invest separate €18.2B (US$24.7B)

November 22, 2013

The Volkswagen Group will invest a total of €84.2 billion (US$114 billion) in its automotive division over the coming five years. Investments in property, plant and equipment in the automotive division will amount to €63.4 billion (US$85.9 billion).

The Group will spend €41.2 billion (US$55.8 billion)—about 65%—of the total amount to be invested in property, plant and equipment on modernizing and extending the product range for all its brands. The main focus will be on new vehicles and successor models in almost all vehicle classes, which will be based on the modular toolkit technology and related components. This will allow the Volkswagen Group systematically to continue its model rollout with a view to tapping new markets and segments.

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Daimler takes 12% stake in Chinese parter BAIC Motor; first non-Chinese automotive company to acquire an interest in a Chinese OEM

November 19, 2013

Daimler AG is taking a major step forward in its China strategy with the closing of the company’s 12% investment in long-standing partner BAIC Motor, the passenger car unit of Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC Group), one of the top automotive companies in China. This marks the first investment by a non-Chinese automotive company in a Chinese OEM.

The official closing of the transaction followed a short time after the signing of the investment agreement between the two companies in Stuttgart earlier this year and a smooth approval by the relevant Chinese authorities. Daimler’s investment will take place through the issuance of new shares corresponding to a 12% stake in BAIC Motor. With this investment, Daimler is proving its strong support for BAIC Motor’s intention to launch an initial public offering (IPO) in the future.

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Study finds rates of LDV fuel consumption in US peaked in 2004; indications of peak motorization

November 16, 2013

In a follow-up study to his earlier analysis of trends of light-duty vehicle registration and distance driven in the US (earlier post), Dr. Michael Sivak of The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) finds that fuel consumption rates—per person, per driver, and per household—are declining, as are ownership and driving. The bottom line, he concludes in this third report, is that “We drive fewer light-duty vehicles, we drive each of them less, and we consume less fuel.”

Sivak examined the period from 1984 through 2011. Based on the present data, his best estimates of the current annual fuel-consumption rates are: 398 gallons (1,507 liters) per person, 585 gallons (2,214 liters) per licensed driver, 1,033 gallons (3,910 liters) per household, and 530 gallons (2,006 liters) per registered vehicle. These rates are down 16% to 17% from their peaks in 2004, except that the rate per vehicle is down 13% (from its peak in 2003).

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Daimler/Renault-Nissan collaboration expanding

September 12, 2013

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The smart fourjoy introduced at Frankfurt is being developed on the basis of a Daimler/Renault-Nissan shared architecture. Click to enlarge.

The chief executives of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler AG said during an annual briefing at the Frankfurt Motor Show that their companies’ partnership (earlier post) is advancing quickly, and the scope of the collaboration is increasingly global.

The French-Japanese-German partnership began in April 2010, with three “pillar projects” primarily focused on Europe. Since then, the portfolio has increased to ten significant projects, including major initiatives from North America to Japan. In addition, relevant business units are working together in best-practice sharing and other forms of cooperation.

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Ricardo study predicts that BRIC automotive markets will be eclipsed by the “Rising-15”

September 05, 2013

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Positioning the Rising 15. Source: Ricardo Consulting. Click to enlarge.

A study by Ricardo Strategic Consulting has concluded that while sluggish automotive demand in Europe, Japan and North America will be balanced by the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) markets through 2020, thereafter the ‘Rising-15’ nations become the engine for profitable growth—assuming political stability.

Ricardo’s Rising-15 automotive markets include: Argentina; Egypt; Indonesia; Iran; Malaysia; Mexico; Morocco; Nigeria; Peru; the Philippines; South Africa; Thailand; Turkey; Ukraine; and Vietnam.

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EIA: world energy consumption to grow 56% 2010-2040, CO2 up 46%; use of liquid fuels in transportation up 38%

July 25, 2013

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World energy consumption by fuel type, 2010-2040. Source: IEO2013. Click to enlarge.

The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) International Energy Outlook 2013 (IEO2013) projects that world energy consumption will grow by 56% between 2010 and 2040, from 524 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) to 820 quadrillion Btu. Most of this growth will come from non-OECD (non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, where demand is driven by strong population and economic growth; energy intensity improvements moderate this trend

Renewable energy and nuclear power are the world’s fastest-growing energy sources, each increasing 2.5% per year, according to the biennial report. However, fossil fuels continue to supply nearly 80% of world energy use through 2040. Natural gas is the fastest-growing fossil fuel, as global supplies of tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane increase. Given current policies and regulations limiting fossil fuel use, worldwide energy-related CO2 emissions rise from about 31 billion metric tons in 2010 to 36 billion metric tons in 2020 and then to 45 billion metric tons in 2040, a 46% increase over the 30-year span.

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UMTRI study finds US diesel vehicles generally have lower total cost of ownership than gasoline vehicles

June 28, 2013

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TCO for selected gas and diesel vehicles over a 3 year timeframe. Source: UMTRI. Click to enlarge.

Diesel vehicles generally saved owners between $2,000 to $6,000 in total ownership costs during a three to five year period when compared to similar gasoline vehicles, according to data compiled by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). The studyTotal Cost of Ownership: A Gas Versus Diesel Comparison—was conducted for Robert Bosch LLC; the results were released at the 2013 Alternative Clean Transportation Expo in Washington DC.

The report reviewed the role diesel vehicles play in the current vehicle fleet by analyzing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for clean diesel vehicles and comparing their TCO to their gas vehicle counterparts. The UMTRI researchers—Bruce M. Belzowski and Paul Green—built the TCO model by developing three and five year cost estimates of depreciation by modeling used vehicle auction data and fuel costs by modeling government data.

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UMTRI study concludes number of LDVs in the US likely has not yet peaked

June 20, 2013

A brief study by Dr. Michael Sivak, Director, Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) concludes that despite the absolute number of vehicles in the US having reached a maximum in 2008, it is highly likely that—from a long-term perspective—the absolute number of vehicles in the US has not yet peaked.

However, he notes, the rates of vehicles per person, licensed driver, and household reached their maxima prior to the onset of the current economic downturn. As a result, Sivak concludes, it is likely that the declines in these rates prior to 2008 reflect other societal changes that influence the need for vehicles (such as, increases in telecommuting and in the use of public transportation). Therefore, the recent maxima in these rates have better chances of being long-term peaks as well, he suggests.

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EPRI: lifetime cost of ownership of plug-ins is roughly comparable with conventional vehicles

June 11, 2013

Consumers who purchase an electric vehicle will find that lifetime costs to own the vehicle are competitive with conventional and hybrid vehicles, according to an analysis conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The study is based on pricing for the automotive products for the 2013 model year.

The baseline analysis relies on a cost-of-ownership model that examines only current vehicles; current fuel prices; and a relatively conservative set of customer values. In particular, the report analyzes the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF in comparison with a limited set of current conventional and hybrid vehicles. The EPRI analysis focused on the LEAF and Volt because the plug-in vehicles have been on the market the longest, have generated the greatest sales volume and provide data on real-world performance.

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SEC issues cease-and-desist order against split-cycle engine developer Scuderi Group for violations of Securities Act

June 01, 2013

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued a cease-and desist order against split-cycle engine developer Scuderi Group (earlier post) and its president, Salvatore Scuderi, as well as a $100,000-fine against Salvatore Scuderi for violations of the Securities Act including unregistered stock offerings and “misleading disclosures regarding the use of offerings proceeds.”

The Scuderi Engine is a split-cycle design that divides the four strokes of a conventional combustion cycle over two paired cylinders. Intake air is compressed in the compression cylinder and transferred to the power cylinder for combustion. The engine has two crossover passages that connect the two cylinders, which separate the four strokes of the pistons. The combination of discrete, asymmetrically sized cylinders and fully variable valvetrain promises the ability to vary displacement ratios, bore-stroke ratios, compression-expansion ratios, compression-expansion phasing, and gas transfer phasing for engine optimization—i.e., a more efficient internal combustion engine.

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Freescale S12 MagniV Mixed-Signal MCUs supporting mid-class vehicle growth in China

May 31, 2013

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Freescale’s S12 MagniV block diagram. Click to enlarge.

China’s automotive market is now the largest in the world by volume, with some 22 million units produced last year, and expectations of 22-23 million units this year. Automobile sales alone in China posted a 13% year-over-year gain for April 2013, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

At the same time, the amount of electronic content per vehicle continues to increase as automakers add features to differentiate themselves in this highly competitive market. To help address the need for cost-effective vehicle electronic systems, the Freescale Semiconductor S12 MagniV mixed-signal microcontroller (MCU) portfolio (earlier post) offers Chinese automakers highly integrated, single-chip solutions that are reliable, easy to develop with, and energy and weight efficient, helping to reduce the bill of materials and hence, overall manufacturing costs.

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National Academies issues interim report on overcoming barriers to PEV deployment

May 22, 2013

The National Academies has issued a pre-publication version of an interim report on Overcoming Barriers to Electric-Vehicle Deployment. A final, comprehensive report will be published in late summer 2014.

Given recognized technical, social, and economic barriers to widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles (plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles), Congress had asked the Department of Energy (DOE) to commission a study by the National Academies to address market barriers that are slowing the purchase of electric vehicles and hindering the deployment of supporting infrastructure. As a result, the National Research Council (NRC)—a part of the National Academies—appointed the Committee on Overcoming Barriers to Electric-Vehicle Deployment.

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Roskill forecasts increasing dependence of Li market on batteries; switch from portable electronics to hybrids

May 20, 2013

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Consumption of lithium in rechargeable batteries by end use, 2012-2017, kt LCE. Source: Roskill. Click to enlarge.

In a forecast of the Lithium market through 2017, Roskill Information Services estimates that rechargeable batteries will, in the base-case growth scenario, contribute 75% of the growth in forecast lithium demand to 2017, when total demand for lithium is expected to reach slightly more than 238,000t lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). Roskill is an international metals and minerals market research firm.

Batteries accounted for 27% of global lithium consumption in 2012, up from 15% in 2007 and 8% in 2002. This end-use was responsible for 44% of the net increase in lithium consumption over the last ten years, and 70% over the last five years.

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Reports highlight ongoing advances in vehicle technology, consumer demand for fuel efficiency in US and Europe

May 02, 2013

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4-cylinder engines and hybrid vehicles as a percent of cars sold in the US. Source: CFA. Click to enlarge.

Two separate reports highlight the ongoing improvement in vehicle technologies and the growing trend toward consumers purchasing more fuel efficient vehicles in the US and in Europe. In the US, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) released an analysis—“On the Road to 54.5 MPG: A Progress Report on Achievability”—of the response of consumers and automakers as both begin to experience the effects of the newly adopted federal fuel economy standard.

In Europe, a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) found that the average car sold in the EU in 2012 was 9% more fuel-efficient than the average three years before, due to improved technology and an increase in the share of diesel cars.

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Honda and Ford separately launching smart home demos

April 24, 2013

American Honda Motor Co., Inc. will create the Honda Smart Home US, a showcase that demonstrates Honda’s vision for sustainable, zero-carbon living and personal mobility, including the use of solar power to charge a Honda Fit EV battery electric vehicle. The site is on the campus of the University of California, Davis; the building process will be documented and shared through the Honda Smart Home US website.

Separately, Ford Motor Company and KB Home announced that products from the Ford-led initiative MyEnergi Lifestyle (earlier post) will be featured in the homebuilder’s ZeroHouse 2.0 model home in San Marcos, Calif., and potentially in additional KB Home markets.

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GM outlines plans for China with 17 launches this year; developing advanced propulsion and electrification tech in China

April 21, 2013

General Motors discussed its future plans in China during a press conference in conjunction with the start of Auto Shanghai 2013. GM and its joint ventures are launching 17 new and upgraded models in China this year, including the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback; the new Wuling Sunshine; two new Jiefang light-duty trucks, the S230 and F330; and the Insignia Sports Tourer, Zafira Tourer and Astra GTC from Opel.

GM is also in the process of bringing Cadillac’s entire global portfolio to China, adding one locally produced model per year through 2016. Earlier this year, it introduced the locally produced XTS luxury sedan as well as the refreshed SRX luxury SUV, which is Cadillac’s best-selling model in China.

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