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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.]

Mercedes-Benz Rastatt plant to produce compact electric EQ vehicles; 3rd center of competence for EQ models in Germany

May 29, 2017

Mercedes-Benz announced that its Rastatt plant—the company’s lead plant in global production of compact cars—will produce compact-class electric EQ models in the future. The decision is based on a declaration of intent, which the company has set up with the works council. All three German Mercedes-Benz car plants—Rastatt, Bremen and Sindelfingen—will now produce EQ-brand EVs.

Future EQ models can be integrated in the series production of existing Mercedes-Benz plants on four continents. With highly flexible structures, the plants already can produce vehicles with different drive types on the same line. The company will decide on the basis of market demand which foreign locations will produce further EQ models within the production network.

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Ford continues executive shuffling in wake of replacement of CEO; Marakby back from Uber to lead electrification

May 25, 2017

On Monday, Ford Motor Company announced the immediate replacement of Mark Fields as CEO by Jim Hackett, who had led Ford Smart Mobility LLC since March 2016. Ford also announced changes in roles for three top executives: Jim Farley (Global Markets), Joe Hinrichs (Global Operations) and Marcy Klevorn (Mobility). (Earlier post.)

Today, Ford announced another set of senior leadership changes around the world, completing the newly reorganized team led by President and CEO Hackett. Among those changes is the return of Sherif Marakby from Uber to become Ford vice president, autonomous vehicles and electrification.

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Six mobility start-ups launching Volkswagen’s incubator program at Transparent Factory

May 24, 2017

Volkswagen has selected the first six teams for the new start-up incubator at Volkswagen’s Gläserne Manufaktur (Transparent Factory, earlier post) in Dresden: the start-ups Smart City System from Nuremberg; LoyalGo from Dortmund; Tretbox from Berlin; and Ekoio from Leipzig were declared winners on Thursday evening following a pitch competition at the factory. Volkswagen announced the incubator program at CeBIT 2017 in Hanover earlier this year.

They will move into the Gläserne Manufaktur in summer, together with the start-ups Geospin from Freiburg and CarlundCarla.de from Dresden. There they will be able to develop their ideas for the market with support from Volkswagen experts and financial support from the state capital, Dresden.

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Ford Motor replaces CEO Fields

May 22, 2017

Ford Motor Company has appointed Jim Hackett as Ford Motor Company president and CEO, replacing Mark Fields, who is retiring, effective immediately. Hackett led Steelcase Inc.’s turnaround, served as interim Athletic Director at University of Michigan, and has led Ford Smart Mobility LLC since March 2016. He served on Ford’s board from 2013 to 2016.

Fields’s 3-year tenure as CEO, succeeding Alan Mulally, saw the share price of the automaker drop 39%. Ford’s US sales are down 5.1% year-to-date, with cars showing the steepest decline of 22.1%. Ford’s US hybrid and electric vehicle lineup—unchanged since 2013—has seen its sales volumes decline 10% from 2014-2016 to a combined 77,511 units in 2016 (with only 872 BEVs). At the annual shareholders’ meeting on 11 May, Fields had taken flak from investors over Ford’s share price and product performance.

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Audi to launch 3 new electric models by 2020; subsequent electrification in renewed core; targeting 1/3 electrified unit sales by 2025

May 19, 2017

At Audi’s Annual General Meeting yesterday in Neckarsulm, Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG said that Audi plans to launch three new electric models by 2020, after which the brand will gradually electrify models in each of its core series. First up will be the production version of the e-tron quattro SUV, due next year. (Earlier post.)

Stadler, whose was just reappointed as Chairman of the Board of Management for another five years, said that Audi will renew five existing core model series by mid-2018. “In addition, we will expand our successful Q family by 2019 with two new concepts—the Audi Q8 and the Audi Q4—and we will launch our battery-electric e-tron models.

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Tesla Q1 revenue more than doubles on record deliveries; losses up

May 04, 2017

Tesla reported record first quarter GAAP revenue of $2.7 billion on record vehicle deliveries of 25,051 units. Vehicle production in Q1 increased by 64% year-on-year. Automotive revenue was $2.3 billion, up 15% quarter-on-quarter and up 123% year-on-year. The 13% sequential increase in Q1 deliveries drove much of the increase in automotive revenue. In addition, average transaction prices (ATPs) improved from Q4 2016, driven primarily by a favorable product mix shift and higher option uptake.

Automotive gross margin increased because of improved ATPs and manufacturing efficiencies. Enhanced Autopilot revenue recognized in Q1 on cars delivered in Q4 contributed $35 million to gross profits. This was partially offset by $26 million in warranty reserve for the Takata airbag recall and equipment impairment charges.

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First $300M tranche of VW National ZEV investment targets charging infrastructure; 150kW+ fast charging on highway network

April 14, 2017

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published the plan for the first tranche of Volkswagen’s National Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Investment spending, directed at 11 cities nationwide—New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Portland, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Denver, Houston, Miami, and Raleigh—and several highway corridors.

As a part of the first cycle of investment, Volkswagen’s “Electrify America” program is earmarked to spend $300 million, with the most focus on the installation of hundreds of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at multi-family residences, workplaces, highway rest-stops, commercial and retail sites, and municipal lots and garages.

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Toyota invests $1.33B in Kentucky plant to introduce TNGA; 2018 Camry to be 1st TNGA car made in US

April 10, 2017

Toyota Motor is making a $1.33-billion investment in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK); the plant will be Toyota’s first in North America to begin producing vehicles using Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). (Earlier post.) In 2015, Toyota announced it was investing $1 billion in a new TNGA plant in Guanajuato, Mexico—the first designed from the ground up with TNGA production engineering technologies. The Guanajuato plant will begin producing the Corolla with Model Year 2020. (Earlier post.)

The TMMK-produced Camry, from the 2018 model year, will become the first Toyota vehicle made in the US fully to incorporate the new vehicle development and production technology.

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Porsche and Audi to work on shared vehicle architecture; electrification, autonomy, digitization

April 05, 2017

Within the Volkswagen Group, Porsche AG and AUDI AG now plan to cooperate more closely on future vehicle architectures, with a particular focus on electrification, digitization and autonomous driving.

Brands within the Volkswagen Group have been rolling out modular component matrices, or assembly toolkits, for their light-duty vehicles over the past few years. Until recently, the four main modular toolkits (modularen Baukästen) of the Group were: the MQB (transverse, driven by the Volkswagen brand); the MLB (longitudinal, driven by the Audi brand); the MSB (standard drive, driven by Porsche); and the NSF (New Small Family). (Earlier post.)

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Ford investing US$375M for R&D in Canada; doubling connectivity team, new research and engineering center

March 30, 2017

Ford is investing an additional C$500-million (US$375 million) in its Canadian research and development presence, adding connectivity software and hardware engineers and establishing a new Ottawa Research and Engineering Center. Ford is adding more than 400 connectivity engineers in Canada and the US—approximately 300 of whom will be based in Canada—more than doubling Ford’s mobile connectivity engineering team.

The new Ottawa Research and Engineering Center in Canada will focus on research and development across infotainment, in-vehicle modems, gateway modules, driver-assist features and autonomous vehicles.

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Ford investing $1.2B in 3 Michigan plants; focus on trucks, SUVs, big data & mobility services

March 28, 2017

Ford Motor Company is investing $1.2 billion in three Michigan manufacturing facilities to strengthen its leadership in trucks and SUVs and support the company’s expansion to an auto and mobility company.

Ford is investing $850 million in Michigan Assembly Plant to retool the plant to build the all-new Ford Ranger and Ford Bronco. Employees at Michigan Assembly Plant will begin building Ranger at the end of 2018 and Bronco in 2020.

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SAIC-GM Connectivity Strategy 2025 lays out roadmap to cloud-based connectivity, autonomy

SAIC-GM, GM’s Chinese joint venture with SAIC, announced its Connectivity Strategy 2025, which lays out a roadmap for its connectivity development from 2017 through 2025. The strategy will take advantage of its extensive customer base and global resources with a focus on vehicle information, infotainment and intelligent driving.

SAIC-GM will speed up the creation of a cloud-based platform and services, improve its vehicles’ connectivity to build a “people-vehicle-life” ecosystem, and aim to lead the development of a future intelligent vehicle society and lifestyle. In this effort, SAIC-GM is leveraging OnStar’s more than 20 years of experience. The high-level timeline is:

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Volkswagen partners with D-Wave on quantum computing; CeBIT premiere of research project for traffic flow optimization

March 14, 2017

Volkswagen partners with D-Wave on quantum computing; CeBIT premiere of research project for traffic flow optimization

Volkswagen Group IT is cooperating with leading quantum computing company D-Wave Systems on a research project for traffic flow optimization.

At CeBIT 2017 in Hanover, Volkswagen and D-Wave will be announcing their strategic cooperation and, as a world premiere, demonstrating a software program that optimizes traffic flow on a quantum computer. In the course of this project, experts from the Volkswagen Code Lab in San Francisco and the Volkswagen Data Lab in Munich and used data from approximately 10,000 taxis in Beijing.

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Volkswagen Group and Tata Motors Ltd. to explore strategic alliance for joint development projects; ŠKODA to lead

March 10, 2017

Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen AG, Bernhard Maier, CEO of ŠKODA Auto and Günter Butschek, CEO and Managing Director of Tata Motors Ltd., signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which forms the basis for exploring long-term strategic cooperation in clearly-defined fields. The goal of the strategic alliance is to bundle the expertise of both car manufacturers with a view to jointly developing vehicle components and possibly also vehicle concepts.

Under the terms of the memorandum, the Volkswagen Group and Tata Motors will explore possibilities for a strategic partnership in India. In order to share responsibility among the Volkswagen Group brands, ŠKODA Auto is to lead the project.

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Ford testing 3D printing of large-scale parts using Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer

March 09, 2017

Ford Motor Company is exploring how large-scale one-piece auto parts, such as spoilers, could be printed for prototyping and future production vehicles, as the first automaker to pilot the Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer.

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Honda Motor Europe: 2/3 of European sales to feature electrified powertrains by 2025; “Electric Vision”

March 07, 2017

Speaking at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, Honda Motor Europe’s President and COO, Katsushi Inoue outlined Honda’s commitment to an electric future in Europe, with a specific aim to have electrified powertrains in two-thirds of Honda cars sold in Europe by 2025.

Honda’s focus on electrification in Europe will initially be driven by a roll-out of hybrid technology across its automobile range. The first new hybrid model, which will feature Honda’s two-motor hybrid system, will go on sale in 2018.

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PSA to acquire Opel/Vauxhall & GM Financial Euro operations for €2.2B; partnering on electrification and maybe fuel cells

March 06, 2017

General Motors and PSA Group announced an agreement under which PSA Group will acquire GM’s Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary and GM Financial’s European operations in a transaction valuing these activities at €1.3 billion (US$1.38 billion) and €0.9 billion (US$0.95 billion, respectively. With the addition of Opel/Vauxhall, which generated revenue of €17.7 billion (US$18.75 billion) in 2016, PSA will become the second-largest automotive company in Europe, with a 17% market share.

GM will also own warrants to purchase shares of PSA. GM and PSA also expect to collaborate in the further deployment of electrification technologies. Existing supply agreements for Holden and certain Buick models will continue, and PSA may potentially source long-term supply of fuel cell systems from the GM/Honda joint venture.

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Volkswagen Group launches Future Center Europe: focus on future mobility concepts

March 04, 2017

The Volkswagen Group has taken an additional important step to implementing its digitalization strategy with the launch of the Future Center Europe, located in Potsdam, Germany.

Volkswagen says that it intends to link the automotive and digital worlds in a way that benefits customers, society and the economy—and to promote the Volkswagen Group to become the leading mobility provider by 2025. The Future Center’s functions therefore go beyond standard product development.

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Volkswagen names Infineon first partner under TRANSFORM 2025+ strategy

March 01, 2017

Germany-based semiconductor supplier Infineon is Volkswagen’s first partner under its TRANSFORM 2025+ strategy (earlier post). Under the new partnership, Volkswagen will further intensify its direct dialogue with Infineon in order to define the requirements for future semiconductor solutions and thus pursue new joint development approaches.

A modern automobile is equipped with as many as 100 networked electronic control units (ECUs) and thousands of electronic components. Powerful ECUs ensure outstanding driving comfort and safety. They operate and regulate everything from the air conditioning system to the interior and exterior lighting systems, the adaptive cruise control radar and a whole range of driver assistance systems. Thus, a significant part of all vehicle innovations is based on electronic systems.

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Volkswagen Group returns to profitability with new record for sales revenue and operating result in 2016

February 27, 2017

The Volkswagen Group made progress in 2016 in overcoming its self-inflicted diesel crisis. Sales revenue in fiscal year 2016 rose by €4.0 billion (US$4.22 billion) to €217.3 billion (US$229.4 billion). At €7.1 billion (US$7.5 billion), the Group’s operating result, which dropped into the red in the previous year due to the diesel issue, was back in strongly positive territory. Before special items, the Group’s operating result reached a new record and at €14.6 billion (US$15.4 billion) was substantially higher than the prior-year figure (up 14%); the operating return on sales rose to 6.7% (6.0%).

In spite of further challenges resulting from the diesel issue and the persistently difficult conditions in vehicle markets such as Brazil and Russia, the Group delivered 10.3 million vehicles to customers worldwide in the past fiscal year—up 3.7% from 9.931 million in 2015. The Group therefore reached not only its targets for 2016 but also a new record, helped in particular by increases in Western and Central European markets and in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Alfa’s first SUV: the Stelvio

February 23, 2017

Alfa Romeo is introducing its first SUV, the Stelvio. The Stelvio is Italy’s highest mountain pass and Highway 38, which crosses it, more than 20 kilometers in length and with more than 75 hairpin bends, has iconic status. The new SUV delivers sports-car-handling, with balanced weight distribution, the most direct steering ratio in the segment and state-of-the-art suspension with the exclusive Alfalink technology.

Stelvio features extensive use of ultra-lightweight, hi-tech materials including carbon fiber for the drive shaft and aluminium for the engines, suspension systems, hood, wings, doors and the tailgate. The Stelvio SUV also features the Alfa Romeo Q4 all-wheel drive system, and can be equipped with mechanical self-locking rear differential on request.

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Toyota’s new three-way catalyst reduces precious metal usage by 20%; improving uniformity of flow with FLAD

February 22, 2017

Toyota Motor Corporation announced the commercial availability of a new, smaller three-way catalyst for the treatment of NOx, CO and unburned hydrocarbons from gasoline engines that uses 20% less precious metal in approximately 20% less volume, while maintaining the same exhaust gas purification performance.

The catalyst uses the world’s first integrally-molded Flow Adjustable Design Cell (FLAD) substrate. FLAD features a different cell cross-sectional area at the inner portion compared to that at the outer portion. Innovative design and manufacturing technologies have allowed for the mass production of the new catalyst, which will gradually be installed in new vehicle models, starting with the Lexus LC 500h later this year.

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Ford investing $200M in next-gen wind tunnel complex

February 15, 2017

Ford is investing $200 million in a new aerodynamic testing complex that will house a next-generation rolling road wind tunnel and state-of-the-art climatic chamber. The new wind tunnel complex will sit on 13 acres next to Ford’s current Driveability Test Facility in Allen Park, Michigan. The complex will house new innovative technology that delivers state-of-the-art real-world driving simulations to advance improvements in fuel economy. Construction starts this year.

Ford’s new wind tunnel complex better positions its engineers to conduct testing that proves out advancements in vehicle design. A new five-belt conveyor system can replicate real-world drag through a rolling road aerodynamic tunnel that enables Ford to bring the road to the vehicle, rather than the vehicle to the road.

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Ford investing $1B in startup Argo AI to advance autonomous driving to SAE Level 4; potential for licensing

February 10, 2017

Ford is investing $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI—an artificial intelligence software startup founded by former Google and Uber leaders—to to develop an SAE Level 4 virtual driver system for the automaker’s autonomous vehicle coming in 2021 (earlier post), and for potential license to other companies.

Argo AI is bringing together some of the most experienced roboticists and engineers working in autonomy from inside and outside of Ford. The team of experts in robotics and artificial intelligence is led by Argo AI founders Bryan Salesky, Argo AI CEO, and Peter Rander, Argo AI COO. Both are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively.

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Honda establishes Marine Science Foundation

February 08, 2017

Inspired by the Japanese concept of sato-umi—the convergence of land and sea where human and marine life can harmoniously coexist—Honda has established the Honda Marine Science Foundation, a new initiative to address marine ecosystem restoration and the impact of humans and climate change on oceans and intertidal areas. Committed to marine conservation, the foundation will support science-based programs that improve and preserve coastal areas for future generations. Its first initiative is the Southern California Native Oyster Restoration Project.

The Southern California Native Oyster Restoration Project is being conducted in partnership with the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. The goals of the project include pioneering research to educate the public about the benefits of restoring native oysters for shoreline stabilization.

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Hitachi Automotive Systems and Honda to establish a joint venture for electric vehicle motors

February 07, 2017

Hitachi Automotive Systems and Honda Motor have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aiming to establish a joint venture company for the development, manufacture and sales of motors for electric vehicles. Initially, Hitachi will hold 51%, Honda 49% of the new JV, the name of which is still to be determined.

Subsidiary operations of the new Japan-based joint venture are planned for the US and China, each with manufacturing and sales functions. Together with the establishment of these operations, the new company will expand the global supply of motors by creating a robust response to demand from Honda and other vehicle manufacturers.

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Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen to produce EQ brand EVs

February 01, 2017

The Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant will produce electric vehicles in the new electric EQ brand (earlier post), according to an agreement the company and works council have signed after intensive negotiations. Mercedes-Benz earlier announced that its Bremen plant will build the first production EQ model by the end of this decade. (Earlier post.)

The new generation of electric vehicles will be based on a scalable architecture developed specifically for battery-electric models; it is suitable for all model series as well as sub-models, such as SUVs, saloons and coupés. Wheelbase and track are variable.

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GM and Honda to establish industry-first $85M joint fuel cell system manufacturing operation in Michigan

January 30, 2017

General Motors and Honda are establishing the auto industry’s first manufacturing joint venture—Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, LLC, FCSM)—to mass-produce an advanced hydrogen fuel cell system that will be used in future products from each company. Over the past three years, GM and Honda have been collaborating on next-generation fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems, aiming at commercialization in the 2020 time frame. (Earlier post.)

The co-developed new generation stack builds on the compact size and high-performance of Honda’s current generation stack in the Clarity (earlier post) by achieving significant cost reductions. FCSM will operate within GM’s existing battery pack manufacturing facility site in Brownstown, Michigan, south of Detroit. Mass production of fuel cell systems is expected to begin around 2020 and create nearly 100 new jobs. The companies are making equal investments totaling $85 million in the joint venture.

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Audi and EOS start development partnership focused on holistic approach for metal-based additive manufacturing

January 25, 2017

Audi AG has started a development partnership with EOS, a global provider of high-end Additive Manufacturing (AM) solutions. The EOS consulting division “Additive Minds" is supporting Audi in the holistic implementation of this industrial 3D printing technology and the development of a corresponding 3D printing center in Ingolstadt.

Audi recognized early on the potential of additive manufacturing for the automotive industry, and now promotes the application of the technology, working closely with EOS. For Audi, toolmaking and the casting technical center for planning are leading applications. Industrial 3D printing is first being applied to equipment and prototype building at Audi, as well as motor sports, where the technology is already in use today.

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KPMG Survey: execs say connected car generates 10x revenue than a conventional vehicle; market share based on units “outdated”; BEVs #1 trend

January 24, 2017

Advancements such as connectivity, big data, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence are driving new economic models for automakers, and most see tremendous revenue potential and consumer value in leveraging driver and vehicle data to offer mobility services, according to the 2017 KPMG Global Automotive Executive Study.

The KPMG research, which polled nearly 1,000 executives with the world’s leading automotive companies, found that 76% say one connected car generates more revenue streams than 10 conventional cars. In fact, expectations for data-driven revenue are so great that 71% say measuring OEM market share based on units sold is outdated.

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Audi & FAW sign strategic growth plan for China; focus on electrification and digitalization; 5 more e-tron models

January 17, 2017

Audi AG and FAW Group have crafted a strategic growth plan for China. Audi and its local partner FAW Group have defined 21 key strategy fields with respective goals in a 10-year plan. Audi will significantly expand its model portfolio locally produced at FAW VW and enter new segments, including electrified automobiles.

With a new dedicated company for mobility and digital services, the two partners want to advance their joint commitment in this expanding premium business segment. Furthermore, Audi and FAW will intensify their collaboration in financial services aiming to serve the rapidly growing demand from Audi customers in this field.

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New Opel Insignia to offer torque-vectoring all-wheel drive with Twinster system

January 11, 2017

The all-new Opel Insignia Grand Sport, arriving in the market early this year, will be available with a torque vectoring all-wheel drive system. The new Opel Insignia uses a GKN Twinster all-wheel drive system with a rear drive module that uses a twin clutch system without differential. The two clutches distribute torque between the front and rear axle and between the two rear wheels.

Torque vectoring provides intelligent control of the vehicle dynamics by sending precise amounts of torque to individual wheels; by over-speeding the outside wheel in a corner, torque vectoring can induce a yaw-moment, helping steer the vehicle. Conventional torque vectoring systems use a set of planetary gears either side of the differential to achieve only very low levels of over-speeding. Other systems use braking to achieve a similar effect—but waste energy and slow the vehicle in the process.

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Volvo Cars to establish new shared mobility business unit

January 06, 2017

Volvo Cars will establish a new shared mobility business unit as part of a broad expansion of its car sharing and mobility services strategy.

The new business unit will be based around Sunfleet, one of the world’s first car sharing companies that has been operated by Volvo since 1998. Based in Sweden, Sunfleet has around 50,000 subscribers generating approximately 250,000 transactions in more than 50 Swedish cities.

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Nissan CEO announces LEAF with ProPilot autonomy; other autonomous and connected technologies & partnerships

In his 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) keynote, Nissan chairman of the board and chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn made five key announcements of several technologies and partnerships as part of the Nissan Intelligent Mobility blueprint for transforming how cars are driven, powered, and integrated into wider society.

Among these is the plan to launch a new Nissan LEAF, with ProPILOT technology (earlier post), enabling autonomous drive functionality for single-lane highway driving. Nissan introduced ProPilot on the new Serena in Japan last year. Employing advanced image-processing technology, ProPILOT understands road and traffic situations and executes precise steering enabling the vehicle to perform naturally.

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Hyundai “Mobility Vision” concept for integration of car and home; Health + Mobility Cockpit

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 in Las Vegas, Hyundai Motor revealed its Mobility Vision concept that, in the future, will connect autonomous cars to living and working environments. Hyundai says that its Smart House technology blurs the line between mobility and living and working space, integrating the car into the daily lives of users.

The Smart House concept shown at CES places connected car technologies at the center of the home. The CES display suggests how the car could shed the image of a conventional vehicle, integrating itself with the living space when docked, before becoming a mobile living space when customers need to move around.

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Volvo Cars and Autoliv announce the launch of Zenuity JV for AD and ADAS; first ADAS products in 2019

January 03, 2017

Volvo Cars, and Autoliv signed a final agreement to establish a new joint venture called Zenuity to develop software for autonomous driving (AD) and driver assistance systems (ADAS), based on the letter of intent announced during fall 2016. (Earlier post.)

Both Volvo Cars and Autoliv will license and transfer the intellectual property for their ADAS systems to the joint venture. From this base, the company will develop new ADAS products and AD technologies. The new company is expected to have its first driver assistance products available for sale by 2019 with autonomous driving technologies following shortly thereafter.

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DOE awards LanzaTech $4M for low-carbon jet & diesel demo plant; 3M gpy; Audi evaluating fuel properties

December 30, 2016

LanzaTech has been selected by the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) to receive a $4-million award to design and plan a demonstration-scale facility using industrial off gases to produce 3 million gallons/year of low-carbon jet and diesel fuels. The LanzaTech award was one of six totaling $12.9 million. (Earlier post.)

The LanzaTech facility will recycle industrial waste gases from steel manufacturing to produce a low cost ethanol intermediate: “Lanzanol.” Both Lanzanol and cellulosic ethanol will then be converted to jet fuel via the Alcohol-to-Jet" (ATJ) process developed by LanzaTech and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). (Earlier post.)

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Volvo Cars adds Microsoft’s Skype for Business to 90 Series; looking ahead to autonomous cars

December 29, 2016

Volvo Cars will introduce Skype for Business, Microsoft’s collaborative productivity app, to its new 90 Series cars. Volvo Cars is the first carmaker to launch such an in-car productivity tool.

Skype for Business is actively used by millions of people at work around the globe. In Volvo’s 90 Series cars people will be able to view their upcoming meetings and participant details, and join meetings with one click via the large center display.

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Ford 2017 trends report: disruption the status quo, “never more difficult” to find objective information

December 25, 2016

For the past five years, Ford has issued an annual trend report exploring societal shifts expected to influence consumers and brands (e.g., earlier post). The reports have focused on microtrends in consumer behavior; the fifth anniversary edition report—Looking Further with Ford: 2017 Trends—revisits three that surfaced in earlier reports, and highlights seven that are emerging.

Sheryl Connelly, Ford global trend and futuring manager, says there is no escaping the fact that disruption is now the status quo. At a time in which truthfulness tends to be subjective, two-thirds of adults say it never has been harder to find objective, fact-based information, while just 55% say what they put on social media is what they really think. An abundance of choice matched with uncertainty in the marketplace is bringing about a reluctance to commit—giving rise to a “sampling society” that prioritizes trying over buying .

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Volkswagen plans integrated mobility concept in Rwanda; vehicle production in Kenya

December 23, 2016

Volkswagen is taking a further step to develop market potentials in Africa. The Hon. Francis Gatare, Director of the Rwanda Development Board, and Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Volkswagen Group South Africa, this week signed a memorandum of understanding for a new integrated mobility concept in Kigali in the presence of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen brand.

Volkswagen also this week inaugurated a vehicle production facility in Kenya. At the inauguration, Diess underlined Kenya’s key role within the Volkswagen brand’s Africa strategy: “After over 60 years of Volkswagen vehicle production in South and North Africa, I am delighted to now have a further site in Kenya. We will systematically continue to develop our position in the fast-growing African car market.

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Volkswagen Group receives all approvals from KBA for NOx fixes for EA189 TDI engines

December 22, 2016

The Volkswagen Group has now received all necessary official approvals within the remit of the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) for the modification of diesel vehicles with type EA189 engines. (Earlier post.) In close consultation with the relevant authorities, the Group brands concerned will successively notify European and international vehicle owners in the weeks ahead. All customers will then be able to make an appointment in the short term to have their vehicles modified at an authorized service center of their choice.

In Germany, customers are being notified in a two-step process. In the first step, all affected owners received a letter agreed with the authorities back in spring, notifying them that their vehicles are affected by the modification. Now that the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) has approved the technical solutions for all models, customers are to be requested with a second letter to arrange an appointment with a partner workshop of their choice.

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Honda R&D and Alphabet’s Waymo enter discussions on technical collaboration on full autonomous vehicles

Honda R&D Co., Ltd., the R&D subsidiary of Honda Motor Co., Ltd., is entering into formal discussions with Waymo, an independent company of Alphabet Inc. (earlier post), to integrate its self-driving technology with Honda vehicles. This technical collaboration between Honda researchers and Waymo’s self-driving technology team would allow both companies to learn about the integration of Waymo’s fully self-driving sensors, software and computing platform into Honda vehicles.

As part of the discussion on technical collaboration, Honda could initially provide Waymo with vehicles modified to accommodate Waymo’s self-driving technology. These vehicles would join Waymo’s existing fleet, which are currently being tested in four US cities. (Waymo will also receive 100 Chrysler Pacifica PHEV minivans from FCA built uniquely to support self-driving operation. (Earlier post.) Waymo CEO John Krafcik will have one of the autonomous PHEV minivans onstage for his keynote at NAIAS in January.)

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New Mercedes-Benz lab procedure shows MB car filters trap even finest allergenic particles

December 20, 2016

A new testing procedure developed by Mercedes-Benz, for which a patent application has been filed, has shown that even the minutest of allergenic particles are trapped by the charcoal fine particle filters in the vehicle. The results were confirmed by a medical study conducted by ECARF Institute GmbH in an innovative, mobile pollen chamber in the grounds of the Charité university hospital in Berlin.

Allergies are now the commonest form of chronic illness in industrialized countries. In Europe, around 30% of the population is affected. Airborne pollen, emissions given off by materials, or skin contact with them, can lead to a strong immune reaction with symptoms such as swelling of the nasal passages and bronchial tubes or swollen, itching eyes.

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FCA delivers 100 uniquely built Chrysler Pacifica PHEVs to Waymo for autonomous driving test fleet

December 19, 2016

Waymo (formerly the Google self-driving car project, earlier post) and FCA announced that production of 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans (earlier post) uniquely built to enable fully self-driving operations has been completed.

The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles are currently being outfitted with Waymo’s fully self-driving technology, including a purpose-built computer and a suite of sensors, telematics and other systems, and will join Waymo’s self-driving test fleet in early 2017. Waymo and FCA also revealed today the first images of the fully self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid vehicle.

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Audi sponsors AI conference NIPS 2016, demonstrates how car develops intelligent parking strategies

December 07, 2016

Audi is a sponsor this year of the annual Conference and Workshop on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) and is showcasing its expertise at the conference on artificial intelligence for the first time. Throughout this week, the automaker is showing, with the aid of a 1:8 scale model—the “Audi Q2 deep learning concept”—how a car develops intelligent parking strategies. On an area measuring 3 x 3 meters, the Q2 autonomously searches for and finds a suitable parking space in the form of a metal frame, and then parks itself there.

Self-learning systems are a key technology for piloted-driving cars, and Audi has already built up a body of know-how in machine learning. The company is the only automaker represented at NIPS 2016 with its own stand and a showcase. (Although engineers from Daimler are presenting a demonstration at NIPS 2016 on the detection of obstacles by an autonomous car.)

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Volkswagen Group launches standalone mobility services company MOIA; initial focus on ride-hailing

December 05, 2016

The Volkswagen Group officially launched its new mobility services company MOIA. Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller previewed the formation of the new business unit during a presentation of the Group’s new strategic plan—TOGETHER - Strategy 2025—in Wolfsburg in June. (Earlier post.)

“MOIA will help us gain a deeper understanding of new forms of mobility and how to make them even more attractive in future, to offer a much broader scope than at present and to tailor these services to suit very wide-ranging needs,” Müller said at the launch event in London. “Even though not everyone will still own a car in future, MOIA can help make everyone a customer of our company in some way or another.”

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BMW Group expands BMW i Ventures role with new €500M fund; widened scope of investment, greater independence

December 01, 2016

The BMW Group is expanding the remit of its BMW i Ventures venture capital unit and creating a new fund of up to €500 million (US$531 million) over ten years to support it. The new fund will allow BMW i Ventures to make investments in a wider range of areas, such as autonomous driving and digitalization, and to secure continued access to the technologies of the future.

BMW i Ventures’ previous focus on mobility services and electro-mobility will be expanded to cover the BMW Group’s full innovation spectrum in all areas of Strategy Number ONE > NEXT, even those outside of the traditional automotive value chain. Future topics for exploration will focus on “Enabling Technology and Digital Vehicle Technology”, “Mobility and Digital Services”, “Customer Experience” and “Advanced Production Technology”.

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Nissan announces new strategy for customer ownership experience; leveraging connected car, big data, and personalization

November 29, 2016

In Japan, Nissan announced a new, comprehensive strategy to transform its customer aftersales experience through innovative technology and enhanced services. The company anticipates that, as a result, connected car services and greater choice in accessories and personalization will increasingly drive growth in its aftersales business, anticipated to contribute 25% of aftersales revenue by 2022.

Connected car technology and expanding use of big data will enable Nissan to offer new services, improve the dealership experience and increase customer retention. In the future, Nissan cars will provide customers advance notice when servicing is needed, as well as automatically order parts to ensure dealership availability on customer visits. Connected car technology will also dramatically streamline Nissan’s global supply chain, bringing just-in-time logistics to increase manufacturing efficiency, from plants to the dealer.

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Some Volkswagen strategists see battery-electric, diesel cost lines crossing by 2023-2025; TRANSFORM 2025+

November 22, 2016

The increasing stringency of global emissions standards, both current and projected, is driving up the cost for internal combustion engines to meet those standards, although numerous technology pathways exist. (Earlier post.)

In a conversation with Green Car Congress at AutoMobility LA last week, Dr. Matthias Erb, Executive Vice President of the NA Engineering and Planning Center, Volkswagen Group of America, said that, as a result of those pressures, some strategists in the Volkswagen Group project that the cost lines between battery-electric vehicles and diesel will cross within the coming decade.

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Toyota to establish in-house venture company for EV development

November 17, 2016

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) will establish an in-house venture company responsible for developing electric vehicles (EVs). The venture company, which initially will be a virtual organization comprising four people—one each from Toyota Industries Corporation, Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd., Denso Corporation and TMC—and which will be independent of other internal structural organizations, is set to launch in December 2016.

The venture company will draw on the technological know-how and resources of the Toyota Group. Toyota intends that the small organizational structure will enable the new company to implement unconventional work processes, leading to accelerated project progress and fast-to-market products.

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Hyundai announces two more ways to get into an IONIQ Electric: ad-based car sharing and subscription ownership

At AutoMobility LA, Hyundai announced two new ways for drivers to get into the new IONIQ Electric: the “Ioniq Unlimited” electric vehicle subscription, and a partnership with car-sharing service Waivecar.

Under the “Ioniq Unlimited” electric vehicle subscription-based ownership experience, IONIQ Electric shoppers will be able to select one fixed payment that includes unlimited mileage, electric charging costs, scheduled maintenance, wear items and all typical purchase fees such as registration. The Ioniq Unlimited ownership experience begins availability in California in early 2017.

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RideCell introduces white-label global carsharing and ridesharing platform for automakers; used by BMW ReachNow

November 16, 2016

RideCell, Inc., the developer of a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platform for leading automakers and transit providers globally, unveiled today at AutoMobility LA the worldwide release of its white-label multiservice platform that allows car manufacturers to provide on-demand mobility when and where it’s needed. (A white-label product or service is produced by one company and rebranded by its customers.)

By integrating ridesharing and carsharing into a single platform, RideCell makes it easy for car manufacturers to create and launch a premium mobility service in a matter of months. The RideCell platform is being used by the BMW Group to power the ReachNow carsharing service. (Earlier post.) First introduced in April 2016, RideCell powers the service which has more than 370 BMW and MINI vehicles.

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BMW’s ReachNow car sharing expands to Brooklyn, launches pilot programs for new mobility services

During a press conference at AutoMobility LA, ReachNow, BMW Group’s free-floating premium car sharing service, announced its expansion into its third city: Brooklyn, NY. The service also introduced four new mobility services: Ride, Reserve, Share, and Fleet Solutions for residential buildings. The expansion to Brooklyn marks the company’s first expansion beyond the West Coast of the United States; the service currently operates in Seattle and Portland.

ReachNow is building on its premium experience by offering members greater versatility through a suite of convenient and easy-to-use transportation solutions, available in a single app for the first time. The four mobility services that will launch as pilots in select cities over the next month include:

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Hyundai adds Blue Link skill for Amazon Alexa

At AutoMobility LA, Hyundai announced the addition of a Blue Link skill for Amazon Alexa. (Earlier post.) Hyundai owners now have the convenience of locking, unlocking and remote-starting their vehicles from the comfort of their couch, kitchen or bedroom using voice commands. The new Blue Link skill for Amazon Alexa is available across Alexa-enabled devices and Hyundai vehicles equipped with the second generation of Blue Link.

Adding even more convenience to the ownership experience, owners of the all-new Hyundai IONIQ Electric and Plug-in Electric vehicles are able to start and stop the charge of their cars with the ease of simple voice commands with the Blue Link skill. Hyundai owners can request various functions of their car including:

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California ARB holding public workshop on how to spend VW’s $800M ZEV payment

November 15, 2016

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is holding a public workshop on Friday, 2 December 2016, to provide suggestions for Volkswagen’s $800-million 10-year zero emission vehicle (ZEV) Investment Commitment in California.

The ZEV Investment Commitment is a component of California’s partial settlement with VW resulting from VW’s use of illegal defeat devices in 2.0 liter (2.0L) diesel cars that were sold into the State from model years 2009 to 2015. During the workshop, staff will discuss:

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BMW begins Phase 2 of ChargeForward Program with PG&E to study advanced electric vehicle charging; results from Phase 1

November 14, 2016

In an effort to further understand and expand the possibilities of smart charging for electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), BMW of North America announced a second phase of its BMW ChargeForward program. BMW i3, BMW i8 and iPerformance owners in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area who are Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) customers are invited to apply for participation in a 24-month program focused on managed EV and PHEV charging. Funding for this second phase was secured through a competitive bid for a California Energy Commission (CEC) grant.

Phase 1 of the program demonstrated the viability of creating grid value by optimizing smart charging of EVs. (Earlier post.) BMW developed innovative solutions that utilize the existing vehicle communication system both to create value for customers and to help optimize the electric grid through demand response, which improves grid reliability, lowers costs and helps the environment by incentivizing customers to reduce usage during periods of high peak demand.

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Audi FAW China JV to intro 5 locally produced e-tron models within 5 years; Audi also in discussion with SAIC

Audi has outlined a growth plan for its joint business with FAW Group in China for the next 10 years, establishing a base course for sustainable growth in the brand’s largest global market.

Within the next five years, the joint venture, FAW-Volkswagen, will add five locally-produced Audi e-tron models to its China portfolio, including pure battery vehicles with a range of more than 500 kilometers. By 2025, Audi, with FAW-Volkswagen, will offer at least one locally-produced electrically powered SUV and sedan model in all volume segments and, with this, there will be an e-tron model in each of the six biggest segments.

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Mercedes-Benz launches new private car-sharing scheme: Croove

November 10, 2016

A new car-sharing platform from Mercedes-Benz will go online at the start of December. App-based Croove pairs up private vehicle owners and hirers. The Croove scheme will be launched in Munich to begin with and is open to any brand of vehicle.

The peer-to-peer car-sharing platform is another example of a CASE strategy project that has advanced from idea to implementation. The acronym CASE is the name given to the specific area of strategy at Mercedes‑Benz Cars that focuses on the future-oriented issues of “connectivity”, “ autonomous driving”, “sharing” and “electric drive systems”. (Earlier post.)

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Nikkei: Toyota to begin mass-producing 300+ km BEV by 2020

November 07, 2016

Without citing sources, the Nikkei reported that Toyota Motor intends to start mass-producing battery-electric vehicles capable of a range of more than 300 km (186 miles) on a single charge by 2020. According to the report, the platform underlying the Prius or Corolla is being considered for an electric SUV.

Up to now, Toyota has envisioned using all battery-electric powertrains mainly in short-distance, urban applications; longer-range electric operation was to be handled by fuel cell vehicles. With GM readying the release of the 383 km (238-mile) Chevy Bolt for this year, Tesla plowing ahead for a release of the Model 3 next year, and other rivals such as Volkswagen accelerating their long-range EV efforts, however, Toyota apparently is broadening its strategy.

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Ford developing new ADAS technologies for stress-free parking, collision avoidance, wrong-way driving alerts

November 04, 2016

Ford Motor Company is expanding its portfolio of driver-assist technologies with a range of next-generation features designed to ease parking hassles, improve collision avoidance, detect objects in the road and prevent wrong-way driving.

Cross-traffic alert with braking technology in development at Ford is being designed to help reduce parking stress by detecting people and objects about to pass behind the vehicle, providing a warning to the driver and then automatically braking if the driver does not respond. Rear wide-view camera, on the in-car display, will offer an alternative wide-angle view of the rear of the vehicle. Enhanced active park assist will parallel or perpendicular park at the push of a button.

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BMW has sold more than 100,000 EVs and PHEVs worldwide over three years

November 03, 2016

The BMW Group has now delivered more than 100,000 purely electric-powered cars and plug-in hybrids to customers worldwide since the launch of BMW i in November 2013. The BMW i3 alone has reached a figure of more than 60,000 units, making it the most successful electric vehicle in the premium compact segment. More than 80% of BMW i3 customers worldwide are new to BMW.

The BMW i8 ranks first among electrified sports cars, with more than 10,000 delivered since the middle of 2014. (For comparison, Tesla sold approximately 2,400 units of the Roadster.) Additionally, there are the approximately 30,000 plug-in hybrids (BMW iPerformance) sold to date.

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Toyota to establish car-sharing and other mobility services platform; collaboration with and investment in Getaround; smart key box

October 31, 2016

Toyota Motor Corporation will establish a Mobility Services Platform (MSPF) to collaborate with various service providers, as well as telematics insurance. Given on the proliferation and popularity of mobility services, such as car-sharing, the MSPF will have various functions to support these mobility services, and to leverage the Toyota Smart Center (TSC), the Toyota Big Data Center, and financial services.

Toyota also announced an investment in, and pilot car-sharing program with, US car-sharing company Getaround.

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Mercedes-Benz Vans shows pickup truck concepts; market launch in late 2017; diesel V6

October 25, 2016

Mercedes-Benz Vans unveiled two design variants of the Concept X-CLASS, previewing the coming X-Class pickup, in Stockholm. The introduction of the one-ton pickup with seating for up to 5 people will make Mercedes-Benz the first premium manufacturer to account for the changing customer requirements in the global segment of mid-size pickups.

With the pickup, Mercedes-Benz Vans will also expand its product range with a fourth model series. Daimler AG will make investments in the high nine figures (euro) in the new model series by the time of the market launch. The pickup will be launched in late 2017 in Europe under the name Mercedes-Benz X-Class. The key markets will be Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia with New Zealand, and Europe.

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Inaugural meeting of Volkswagen Sustainability Council; Group makes €20M available for projects

Recently appointed by The Volkswagen Group’s Sustainability Council, recently appointed and comprising nine members from several nations—including Margo Oge, former director of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Transportation Air Quality—set the agenda for its work at its inaugural meeting on Monday. The Council elected Georg Kell, Founding Director UN Global Compact, as its chair. The first areas of focus in 2017 for the body will be the challenges of global CO2 emissions and the corresponding regulations post-2025, plus the company’s transformation process.

The Volkswagen Group is proactively making €20 million (US$21.75 million) available for the first two years for the proposal and funding of projects.

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Nissan completes 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors; Mitsubishi joins Renault-Nissan Alliance

October 20, 2016

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. has completed an acquisition of a 34% equity stake in Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) (earlier post) and has become its largest shareholder. As indicated in May, when Nissan outlined the deal, MMC is also becoming part of the global Alliance with Nissan and Renault. With the addition of MMC, the Alliance will be in the world’s top three automotive groups by global volumes, with sales of 10 million units in fiscal year 2016.

The investment and alliance comes in the aftermath of revelations of MMC cheating on fuel consumption testing in Japan with mini-cars and other models. Nissan was the one which first brought the discrepancies in minicar testing to light; MMC produces minicar models for Nissan in Japan.

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Suzuki and Toyota to explore business partnership; environment, safety, and information technology

October 12, 2016

Suzuki Motor Corporation (Suzuki) and Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) have agreed to start exploring ideas that are directed towards a business partnership.

In a joint statement, the two companies said that, given the rapid change in the auto industry, the industry is required to work not only on conventional automobile R&D, but also on R&D for advanced and future technologies in the fields including environment, safety, and IT. In addition to the R&D that is conducted by individual companies, it is increasingly important to work together with other companies on areas such as infrastructure development, as well as the establishment of new industrial standards.

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GM makes strategic investment in car-sharing technology company Yi Wei Xing in China

October 11, 2016

GM has made a strategic investment in Yi Wei Xing (Beijing) Technology Co., Ltd. (Yi Wei Xing), a leading car-sharing technology solution provider in China, as another move in exploring personal mobility in China.

Yi Wei Xing’s product, Feezu, is based on mobile technology. It merges hardware and software to provide a convenient car-rental and car-sharing experience. It also offers car-rental companies a customized cloud-based car-sharing platform.

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Volkswagen Group opts for LNG-fueled car carriers

October 06, 2016

From 2019, Volkswagen Group Logistics will use two LNG-powered charter vessels from Siem Car Carriers AS, making it one of the first automakers to opt for low-emission LNG-powered vessels for the marine transport of vehicles. The two ships, with a length of 200 m and a capacity of about 4,500 vehicles, are to be used for vehicle shipment between Europe and North America. The use of LNG-powered roll on/roll off (RORO) car carriers on other routes is currently being considered.

Alternative LNG drive systems for ships reduce air pollutant emissions significantly—CO2 by up to 25% and NOx by up to 30%, particulate matter by up to 60% and SOx by as much as 100%. Emissions will be further reduced by the use of an advanced dual-fuel marine engine with direct injection and exhaust gas treatment.

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Volkswagen’s MEB for EVs: long electric range, open-platform, open-space, pricing for the volume market; “tablet on wheels”

October 05, 2016

Brands within the Volkswagen Group have been rolling out modular component matrices, or assembly toolkits, for their light-duty vehicles over the past few years. Until recently, the four main modular toolkits (modularen Baukästen) of the Group were: the MQB (transverse, driven by the Volkswagen brand); the MLB (longitudinal, driven by the Audi brand); the MSB (standard drive, driven by Porsche); and the NSF (New Small Family).

Development work on these continues; Audi, for example, is refining MLB evo—the second-generation of MLB and the foundation for the battery-electric e-tron quattro SUV due out in 2018. (Earlier post.) These four main kits are now joined by the all-new Modularer Elektrifizierungsbaukasten (“Modular Electric Drive kit”, or MEB), being developed by the Volkswagen brand. The MEB will be the foundation for an entirely new generation of battery-electric vehicles designed not only to be electric and feature extended range, but to be connected, autonomous, open and priced for the volume market as required by Volkswagen’s positioning.

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Cooperation between Daimler and Renault-Nissan Alliance deepening in 2016

October 03, 2016

At the Paris Motor Show, Carlos Ghosn and Dieter Zetsche said that the strategic partnership between the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler AG is maturing as it enters its seventh year in 2016.

One major milestone of the past year includes the EV versions of the new smart fortwo, smart cabrio and smart forfour (Electric energy consumption: 13.1 – 12.9 kWh/100 km; CO2 emissions, combined: 0 g/km). (Earlier post.) These all-new smart and the Renault Twingo were the first vehicles built on a common platform by Daimler and the Alliance.

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Audi opens €1B San José Chiapa plant in Mexico; 1st on N.A. continent; Smart Factory

October 02, 2016

Audi is further expanding its worldwide production network with the opening of the company’s first automobile plant on the North American continent. This will be the first time the company has produced a model for the global market at a location outside of the European continent.

Audi will produce the new generation of the Audi Q5 for the world market in San José Chiapa in Mexico’s federal state of Puebla. The €1-billion plant has an annual production capacity of approximately 150,000 premium SUVs. By the end of the year, a total of 4,200 jobs will be created locally at Audi México.

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Renault-Nissan and Microsoft enter multi-year agreement on next-gen connected driving

September 27, 2016

The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Microsoft Corp. have signed a global, multi-year agreement to partner on next-generation technologies to advance connected driving experiences worldwide.

The companies will work together to develop next-generation connected services for cars powered by Microsoft Azure, one of the company’s intelligent cloud offerings. These new services are intended to improve customer experience via advanced navigation; predictive maintenance and vehicle centric services; remote monitoring of car features; external mobile experiences; and over-the-air updates. The partnership will accelerate development of best-in-class infotainment and location-based services that will:

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Toyota develops new DNA analysis technology to accelerate plant improvement; boosting biofuel crop yield

September 23, 2016

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) has developed a DNA analysis technology it calls Genotyping by Random Amplicon Sequencing (GRAS). This technology is capable of significantly improving the efficiency of identifying and selecting useful genetic information for agricultural plant improvement.

This newly developed technology could thus lead to substantial time and cost savings in the agricultural plant improvement process. Toyota says that the promising technology has the potential to boost sugar-cane production, and to increase biofuel crop yields per unit area of land. The company worked with analytical materials provided by the Kyushu Okinawa Agricultural Research Center (KARC) of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO)

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New Audi paintshop at Ingolstadt; heating energy & water per car down by 20%, CO2 by 30%, VOCs by 90%; bell-bell

September 22, 2016

Audi has put a new topcoat paint shop into operation at its plant in Ingolstadt. The new paint shop incorporates technologies such as air recirculation, dry separation and exhaust air cleaning that enable a significant reduction in the use of resources. Heating energy and water consumption per car are reduced by 20%. Air recirculation also helps to reduce CO₂‑emissions per painted car by 30%, while the cleaning of exhaust air reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 90%.

The new topcoat point line‑in the north of the plant site also introduces state‑of‑the‑art painting technology at Audi: paint‑application equipment with robot technology and electrostatic high‑speed rotation spray guns carry out the “bell‑bell” painting process fully automatically.

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Mercedes-Benz Vans launches “Startup adVANce” competition for partners for future transport solutions

September 18, 2016

With “Startup adVANce”, a large-scale startup partnership challenge, Mercedes-Benz Vans is starting its search for intelligent solutions relating to the transport of goods and passengers. As part of its recently introduced strategic initiative adVANce (earlier post), the company is to invest a total of €1 million (US$1.12 million). The goal is to find new, innovative partners with whom Mercedes-Benz Vans can establish long-term partnerships without constricting the startups.

Digitalization, urbanization and the Internet of Things are just a few of the megatrends that are placing new demands on virtually every industry. General changes in consumer behavior and mobility patterns are directly affecting logistics providers and vehicle manufacturers. Online buyers, for example, expect new services such as same-day or time-definite delivery and want to know where their orders are at all times. Further, the number of deliveries is growing rapidly.

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Ford embeds researchers in new U-M robotics lab to accelerate autonomous vehicle research

September 16, 2016

Ford and the University of Michigan are teaming up to accelerate autonomous vehicle research and development with a first-time arrangement that embeds Ford researchers and engineers into a new state-of-the-art robotics laboratory on U-M’s Ann Arbor campus.

While the new robotics laboratory opens in 2020, by the end of this year Ford will move a dozen researchers into the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC), kicking off the first phase of expanded presence.

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CALSTART survey of major auto suppliers finds 70% don’t want US to change CAFE targets; split on amount of electrification needed

September 15, 2016

Major automotive suppliers see national fuel economy standards as important for long-term planning and investment and don’t want to see them altered by US policymakers, according to a first-of-its-kind industry survey commissioned by CALSTART and conducted by Ricardo Energy & Environment.

The firm polled and interviewed 23 suppliers, almost all of them global Tier 1 suppliers that sell parts directly to automakers. According to the survey:

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GM commits to 100% renewable energy by 2050

General Motors plans to generate or source all electrical power for its 350 operations in 59 countries with 100% renewable energy—such as wind, sun and landfill gas—by 2050.

This new renewable energy goal, along with the pursuit of electrified vehicles and efficient manufacturing, is part of the company’s overall approach to strengthening its business, improving communities and addressing climate change. GM is also joining RE100, a global collaborative initiative of businesses committed to 100 percent renewable electricity, working to increase demand for clean power.

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Audi deepening partnerships with Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent on connected cars in China

September 11, 2016

In China, Audi has signed tripartite memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent respectively. The partners will deepen their cooperation in the areas of data analysis, internet-vehicle platform building and urban intelligent transport.

The partnerships will be supported through the brand’s strong development capabilities in China. In Beijing, Audi operates its largest research and development facility outside of Germany. The R&D center is part of Audi China, a 100% Audi AG daughter-company, and puts a strong focus on key future technologies such as connected car, piloted driving, new energy vehicles and digital services.

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DENSO looks to increase holding in FUJITSU TEN, making it a group company

September 10, 2016

Auto parts supplier DENSO Corporation, Fujitsu Limited, and Toyota Motor Corporation have reached a basic agreement to start consideration of changing the capital structure of automotive electronics manufacturer FUJITSU TEN, in which the three companies have stakes. DENSO is part of the Toyota Group.

In the automotive field, the interface between the driver and vehicle is becoming increasingly important due to remarkable technological innovations. Against this backdrop, DENSO has agreed with Fujitsu and Toyota to review specific changes to make FUJITSU TEN a group company of DENSO and to enhance cooperation between the two companies in developing in-vehicle ECUs, millimeter-wave radar (earlier post), advanced driver assistance / automated driving technologies, and basic electronic technologies, among others.

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Ford acquiring SF-based crowd-sourced shuttle service, launching Ford GoBike

September 09, 2016

Ford is acquiring Chariot, a San Francisco-based crowd-sourced shuttle service, and is collaborating with bike-sharing provider Motivate to launch Ford GoBike, expanding its transportation solutions in city centers. Ford also is establishing a new City Solutions team to work with cities around the world on their transportation needs.

Ford’s acquisition of Chariot, subject to normal customary closing conditions, will serve as the cornerstone for its new global shuttle services business. The shuttle service is expected to be expanded beyond San Francisco to at least five additional markets in the next 18 months.

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Volvo Cars and Autoliv to create joint venture for next-gen autonomous driving software

September 06, 2016

Volvo Cars and Autoliv have signed a letter of intent to set up a new jointly-owned company to develop next-generation autonomous driving software. The planned new company will have its headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, and an initial workforce taken from both companies of around 200, increasing to over 600 in the medium term. The company is expected to start operations in the beginning of 2017.

The new company, which has yet to be named, will develop advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous drive (AD) systems for use in Volvo cars and for sale exclusively by Autoliv to all car makers globally, with revenues shared by both companies.

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Volkswagen Truck & Bus enters into strategic alliance with Navistar, takes 16.6% stake; entry into N. America

Volkswagen Truck & Bus has formed a wide-ranging strategic alliance with Navistar International Corporation, which includes an equity investment in Navistar by Volkswagen Truck & Bus and framework agreements for strategic technology and supply collaboration and a procurement joint venture.

Volkswagen Truck & Bus will purchase from Navistar newly issued common shares representing, pro forma for such issuance, a 16.6% stake (19.9% of pre-transaction outstanding common stock) in Navistar for a price per share of $15.76 and an aggregate purchase price of approximately $256 million (or approximately €229 million at current exchange rates). To underscore the long-term nature of the alliance, Volkswagen Truck & Bus has agreed to hold these shares for a minimum of three years.

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Volkswagen and Hamburg enter 3-year strategic mobility partnership; e-bus development with MAN

August 30, 2016

The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the Volkswagen Group will collaborate over the next three years to jointly develop innovative solutions for making urban mobility more environmentally-friendly, safer, more reliable and more efficient. The cooperation aims to develop Hamburg as a model city for forward-looking, sustainable and integrated urban mobility.

Urban mobility concepts and intermodality, traffic control and management, autonomous driving and parking, innovative vehicle concepts and alternative technologies as well as air pollution control are the cornerstones of the partnership.

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Ford targeting highly autonomous vehicle for ride-sharing in 2021; new tech company investments, staffing up in Silicon Valley

August 17, 2016

Ford intends to have a high-volume, highly autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service. To achieve this, the company is investing in or collaborating with four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development, doubling its Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus.

Autonomous vehicles in 2021 are part of Ford Smart Mobility, the company’s plan to be a leader in autonomous vehicles, as well as in connectivity, mobility, the customer experience, and data and analytics.

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BMW says electrified models exceeding sales expectations, especially in Europe

August 11, 2016

BMW said that its electrified models continue to exceed expectations, especially in Europe. While 4% of all BMW sales in Western Europe in July were electrified vehicles, that percentage increases significantly in markets where innovative electric mobility is supported through financial and infrastructure measures.

In the Netherlands, 43% of BMW 3 Series registrations are for the plug-in hybrid BMW 330e model and 26% of 2 Series Active Tourer registrations are for the BMW 225xe. In Scandinavia, those figures are even higher, with the plug-in hybrid versions accounting for 45% of all BMW 3 Series sales and 55% of all BMW 2 Series Active Tourer sales.

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2017 Range Rover picks up suite of ADAS and semi-autonomous driving technologies

August 10, 2016

For 2017, Range Rover receives a suite of advanced ADAS and semi-autonomous driving technologies. Additionally, Land Rover will introduce the new Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic model for the 2017 lineup.

Standard Range Rover driver assistance technologies include Rear Park Distance Control; Cruise Control and Speed Limiter; Lane Departure Warning; and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). This intelligent technology uses a forward facing camera to detect a risk of collision and warn the driver initiating full emergency braking if the driver fails to respond.

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Tesla posts $293M Q2 loss, up 59% from Q2 2015

August 04, 2016

Tesla reported a $293-million GAAP net loss for Q2, a 59% increase from the $184-million net loss for Q2 2015. This marks Tesla’s 13th consecutive quarterly loss. However, Tesla also completed a $1.7-billion equity raise to end the quarter with $3.25 billion in cash.

In Q2, Tesla delivered 14,402 new vehicles consisting of 9,764 Model S and 4,638 Model X. Tesla said that production and demand are on track to support deliveries of approximately 50,000 new Model S and Model X vehicles during the second half of 2016.

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Tesla acquiring SolarCity in $2.6B all-stock deal; expected close of transaction in Q4

August 01, 2016

Tesla and SolarCity reached agreement for the automaker’s purchase of the solar company in an all-stock deal valued at $2.6 billion—slightly less than the original $2.8-billion proposal made by Tesla just over a month ago. (Earlier post.) SolarCity will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tesla.

The all-stock transaction is valued based on the 5-day volume-weighted average price of Tesla shares as of 29 July 2016. Under the agreement, SolarCity stockholders will receive 0.110 Tesla common shares per SolarCity share, valuing SolarCity common stock at $25.37 per share based on the 5-day volume weighted average price of Tesla shares as of 29 July2016. The original proposal was an exchange ratio of 0.122x to 0.131x shares of Tesla common stock for each share of SolarCity common stock.

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Daimler ups its stake in the professional driver service Blacklane

Daimler AG is continuing to increase its stake in the professional driver service portal Blacklane. During the recently completed financing round, Blacklane received an eight-digit amount that it will use to further expand its global business. The parties agreed to keep the details of the transaction confidential.

Blacklane has approximately 200 employees and is represented in more than 200 cities and 400 airports in more than 50 countries worldwide. Daimler has invested in Blacklane since 2013. The global market for professional ride services is currently estimated to have a volume of about $30 billion per year and is rapidly growing and evolving.

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BMW provides some insight into Dingolfing eDrive competence center; motors, battery packs and more

July 29, 2016

During its Innovation Days 2016 event in Munich, the BMW Group provided some insight into its Dingolfing competence center for the manufacture of electric drive systems (eDrive). Dingolfing supplies the high-voltage batteries and other chassis and powertrain components for BMW i models and the BMW Group’s plug-in hybrid models—current (earlier post) and future.

Beginning with the launch of the first BMW i production models, the Dingolfing plant has produced high-voltage batteries and other powertrain and chassis components for these vehicles. Prior to that, the plant had supplied high-voltage batteries for the BMW Active E; BMW 3 Series ActiveHybrid; BMW 5 Series ActiveHybrid; and BMW 7 Series ActiveHybrid. Now, with the market launch of the first plug-in hybrid versions of the BMW core-brand models—for which the plant supplies the rear-mounted electric motors and all high-voltage battery packs—production of BMW eDrive components in Dingolfing is scaling up once again.

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BMW introducing fully-automated, optical measuring cell in pilot plant; digitalization for production

July 28, 2016

The BMW Group has introduced a fully-automated, optical measuring cell in its pilot plant in Munich. Freely moving robot arms use sensors to create a three-dimensional image of an entire vehicle and generate a 3D data model from the data captured, with an accuracy of less than 100 µm. This allows barely visible deviations to be identified at an early stage.

The optical measuring cell is deployed at the interface between development and series production. It forms part of the BMW Group’s digitalization strategy for production and supports the high quality standards for production of premium vehicles. The next generation of the BMW 5 Series Sedan will be the first to benefit from this new technology.

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Ford, MIT project uses LiDAR, cameras to measure pedestrian traffic & predict demand for new, on-demand electric shuttles

July 27, 2016

Ford Motor Company and MIT are collaborating on a new research project that measures how pedestrians move in urban areas to improve certain public transportation services, such as ride-hailing and point-to-point shuttles services.

The project will introduce a fleet of on-demand electric vehicle shuttles that operate on both city roads and campus walkways on the university’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus. The vehicles use LiDAR sensors and cameras to measure pedestrian flow, which ultimately helps predict demand for the shuttles. This, in turn, helps researchers and drivers route shuttles toward areas with the highest demand to better accommodate riders.

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Daimler chief Zetsche: Daimler working toward swarm organization; mobility services, digitalization and e-mobility

July 25, 2016

In an interview with Germany’s Wirtschaftswoche, Daimler CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche said that the company is implementing swarm organization management techniques to enable more rapid development in emerging critical areas such as digitalization, mobility services and e-mobility.

The swarm organization method, explained Zetsche, supplements the hierarchical-management pyramid with cross-functional and interdisciplinary groups and eventually replaces them.

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Musk’s “Master Plan, Part Deux”; expands Tesla to heavy-duty electric trucks and urban transport; integrated energy generation and storage

July 21, 2016

Elon Musk has, as promised, published his second “master plan,” composed with the help of all-nighters and the Gatsby soundtrack.

Master Plan Part 1—public now for ten years—outlined (1) the creation of an expensive low-volume electric car (Roadster) to fund (2) a medium-volume electric car (Model S, X) at a lower price to create (3) an affordable high volume car (Model 3) and (4) provide solar power. Master Plan v2.0 takes Tesla into integrated energy generation and storage (i.e., Tesla’s acquisition of Solar City, earlier post) as well as into heavy-duty electric vehicles and urban transport.

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ECS and Toyota North America announce 2016-2017 Fellowship winners for projects in green energy technology

July 16, 2016

The ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship Selection Committee has selected three recipients who will receive a minimum of $50,000 each for fellowships for projects in green energy technology. The winners are Professor Elizabeth Biddinger, City College of New York; Professor Joaquin Rodriguez Lopez, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Professor Joshua Snyder, Drexel University.

The ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship, a partnership between The Electrochemical Society (ECS) and Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), an advanced research arm of Toyota Motor North America, Inc. (TMNA), is in its second year. (Earlier post.)

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Mazda introduces SKYACTIV-VEHICLE DYNAMICS control technologies; G-Vectoring Control uses engine to enhance chassis performance

July 14, 2016

Mazda Motor Corporation is introducing SKYACTIV-VEHICLE DYNAMICS, a series of new-generation vehicle motion control technologies. The first in the series, G-Vectoring Control, will be introduced to all new-generation models starting with the updated Mazda Axela (known as Mazda3 outside Japan), which has just gone on sale in Japan. By adopting GVC, Mazda vehicles will exhibit even smoother transitions between G-forces in all driving scenarios.

Until now, lateral and longitudinal acceleration (G) forces have been controlled separately. GVC is the first technology to adjust engine torque in response to steering inputs in order to control these forces in a unified way and optimize the vertical loading of each tire to realize smooth and efficient vehicle behavior.

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California Air Resources Board rejects Volkswagen Group recall plan for 3.0-liter diesel passenger cars

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) on Wednesday rejected proposed plans submitted by Volkswagen/Audi and Porsche for repair of undisclosed Auxiliary Emission Control Devices (AECDs) and defeat devices in 3.0 liter, diesel passenger cars manufactured for model years 2009-2016. This decision affects about 16,000 3.0-liter diesel Volkswagens, Audis and Porsches sold in California.

CARB staff determined that the proposed recall plans submitted by the companies are incomplete and deficient in a number of areas. CARB said it, in conjunction with EPA, will continue the on-going technical discussions with the companies through the enforcement process to ensure a legally and technically acceptable resolution is reached which fully mitigates the excess emissions.

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BMW Group expands use of additive manufacturing processes in series production; planar technologies

July 13, 2016

The BMW Group has been using components from 3D printers in series production since 2012; more than 10,000 additively-manufactured parts are built into the Rolls-Royce Phantom. The Additive Manufacturing Center at the company’s Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) has also been using these forming processes to produce parts for the new Rolls-Royce Dawn since the beginning of the year.

The BMW Group is steadily pursuing the evolution and use of advanced additive-manufacturing methods, and says it will continue to expand the application of 3D printing in the future. Planar 3D printing technologies will enable much faster production times and more economical production.

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Volkswagen brand says it has met 2018 Think Blue. Factory. environmental targets; environmental compatibility of car production improved by 25%

July 09, 2016

The Volkswagen brand announced that it has reached the self-defined sustainability target for production set out in Think Blue. Factory. for 2018. (Earlier post.) At the brand’s production facilities throughout the world, vehicles and components are now manufactured in a way which is 25% more environmentally compatible than five years ago.

Taking the average of the five agreed environmental indicators for the Volkswagen brand, environmental impact has been reduced by 25.3%, with energy consumption down by 24.7%; CO2 emissions by 29.1%, waste production by as much as 46.5%; water consumption by 18.2%; and solvent emissions by 8.2% between 2010 and the end of 2015. These figures are determined per vehicle or component produced.

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