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Mercedes to recall entire EU diesel fleet

Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche

Virtually Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicle sold in the EU since 2011 will be recalled, Daimler has announced.

The move comes after allegations that the Mercedes-Benz had faked emissions tests were published in a German newspaper last week, and an investigation into Daimler in May.

Daimler refuses to say the announcement is a recall, dubbing it a “service action” in a statement.

Owners of nearly every model produced since 2011 will be asked to return their cars to their local dealer so the engine can be adjusted to reduce emissions.

Altering the 3 million cars on European roads will cost the German car maker $346 million, the Telegraph reports. The recall includes popular C-Class and E-Class Mercedes vehicles.

“The public debate about diesel engines is creating uncertainty,” chief executive of Daimler Dieter Zetsche said in a statement.

“We have therefore decided on additional measures to reassure drivers of diesel cars and to strengthen confidence in diesel technology.”’

The software update is expected to take approximately an hour, and will extend emissions controls on the engine so it will activate under wider conditions.

Zetsche said the action wasn’t the end of the diesel engine for Mercedes, and that the company is “convinced that diesel engines will continue to be a fixed element of the drive-system mix, not least due to their low CO2 emissions.”

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Porsche may discontinue diesels

According to an announcement by Porsche chief executive Oliver Blume, Porsche could discontinue diesel-fuelled cars in the near future.

Blume said in an interview at the Nuerburgring motorsports complex in Western Germany, that the company was looking into the issue and had not made a firm decision either way yet.

He said that the car manufacturer would offer a mix of combustion, plug-in hybrid and purely battery-powered cars.

Diesel-powered vehicles still make up approximately 15 per cent of global sales for Porsche, while they make up 35 per cent of sales for BMW vehicles.

Meanwhile, Porsche is spending $(US)1.2 billion in overhauling its main Stuttgart plant in order to build its first battery-only vehicle. The four-door Mission E saloon is due to be released in 2019. This will contribute to a projected plan for battery-only vehicles to account for a quarter of Porsche’s sales by 2025, according to Blume.

Porsche sales rose six per cent to a record 238,000 cars in 2016 and the company may deliver another zero-emission model off the Mission E platform, at its Zuffenhausen factory in the near future. Blume told Reuters an electrified version of the top-selling Macan SUV was also possible.

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Tesla driver says Autopilot didn’t cause crash

The driver of a Tesla vehicle involved in a crash in the US over the weekend said it was not due to the Autopilot system, according to an email released by Tesla on Monday.

A local Minnesota Sheriff’s Department said on Sunday that the driver of the 2016 Tesla told authorities when he engaged the Autopilot system, it caused the vehicle to suddenly accelerate and roll over, which resulted in minor injuries for himself and four passengers.

Shares in the car maker fell on Monday at the news, but the driver wrote in an email he believed he had disengaged the Autopilot system at the time of the crash.

“I did not intend to put the blame Tesla or the auto pilot system as I am aware that I need to be in control of the vehicle regardless if the auto pilot system is engaged or not,” Clark wrote.

In a statement, Tesla said the company had no reason to suspect the system was at fault.

“Every time a driver engages Autopilot, they are reminded of their responsibility to remain engaged and to be prepared to take immediate action at all times, and drivers must acknowledge their responsibility to do so before Autopilot is enabled,” the car maker added.

It’s not the first time Tesla’s Autopilot function has been involved in an on-road incident. Last year, Joshua Brown was killed in Florida when his Model S collided with a truck while engaged in Autopilot mode.

In January, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it found no evidence of defects with the Autopilot system.

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Europe to go electric by 2035

ING Bank has predicted that all new vehicle sales in Europe will be electric as soon as 2035.

The Dutch bank said that pure electric cars would “become the rational choice for motorists in Europe” between 2017 and 2024, due to falling prices, an increase in vehicles on offer, and growing charging infrastructure.

The report follows a pledge made earlier this month from France’s ecology minister, Nicolas Hulot, that the sale of petrol and diesel cars would be banned in France by 2040. It also follows Volvo’s announcement that all cars manufactured from 2019 onwards would contain an electric motor.

Analysts forecasted that in Germany, the cost of owning an EV would be on par with a conventional petrol vehicle by 2024, and ‘range anxiety’ will dissipate as more EVs are able to travel beyond 500km on a single charge.

However, ING warned that European car makers could lose their market share to manufacturers in the US and Asia who are aggressively developing and releasing EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

“Europe’s competitive advantage in internal combustion engine powertrains disappears with the shift to battery electric vehicles,” the report said.

The report matches research undertaken by Tony Seba at Stanford University and reported by The Guardia. Seba claimed that, worldwide, “essentially all vehicle miles travelled will be electric by 2040.”  

“The car industry faces an imminent technology disruption by AEVs in the early 2020s. Even without autonomous technology, the internal combustion engine car industry will have been long decimated by 2040,” Seba added.

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Holden launches Aussie ride-sharing trial

General Motors has announced over the weekend that it will test its car-sharing operation, Maven, in Australia in conjunction with Uber.

“We are testing the adoption of one Maven product – Maven Gig – in Australia through a pilot program in Sydney renting Holden cars to Uber drivers,” communications director at GM Holden, Sean Poppitt, said in a statement.

In March, GM began an in-house car-sharing scheme in Melbourne for employees who needed to use a vehicle for a short period of time, or who wanted to test different models in the Holden line-up.

Maven Gig is a GM programme which allows drivers to rent vehicles on demand for one-off jobs such as deliveries and ride-sharing.

In the US, drivers can borrow a Chevy Bolt for $311 per week. It’s not known which Holden model is being used in the Sydney pilot.

Currently, the firm operates in San Diego, and in May, GM said it would launch Maven in San Francisco and Los Angeles later this year.

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Honda debuts Accord in Detroit

Honda debuted their tenth-generation Accord in Detroit on Friday in a bid to revitalise the slumping family sedan market in the US.

The car maker promised a suite of cutting-edge technologies, and the new Accord comes with two different powertrain options. The range opens with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, as currently seen in the Civic hatch, which generates 143kW of power and 260Nm of torque matched to a front-wheel drive CVT automatic transmission.

The next-level Accord contains a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine reminiscent of the just-released Civic Type R, producing 188kW of power and 370Nm of torque. This engine is matched to a world-first driving configuration of a ten-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.

A longer wheelbase and lower profile means an extra 7 centimetres of leg room in the cabin, Honda says. Inside the car, a 7.0-inch TFT screen and an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen offers Bluetooth connectivity, smartphone mirroring and a Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless charging.

Honda says the new Accord will also be available as a hybrid, with details of the motor to be announced.

Within the US, all models will contain Honda’s suite of driving assistance features, which include autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition.

The Accord is due to launch in the US in several months. No announcements have yet been made regarding an international release, but company director of Honda Australia, Stephen Collins, told Drive magazine the team are working to bring the Accord down under in 2018.

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Mercedes-Benz under investigation

A German newspaper has reported that Mercedes-Benz is under investigation for possibly selling over a million cars with excess emissions in Europe and the US.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung, citing a search warrant issued by a court in Stuttgart, Germanny, says prosecutors were examining the possible use of illegal software to manipulate emissions test results in Mercedes-Benz vehicles between 2008 and 2016.

Both the prosecutor and Daimer, Mercedes’ parent company, declined to comment to Reuters regarding the report, but Daimler said the firm was fully cooperating with authorities and did not believe cars will lose certification.

“We take comfort from the fact that this is a European issue, not a US investigation. We also do not believe these Merc cars will lose their certification,” analysts from Bernstein Research told Reuters. “Our judgement is that Merc will be asked to recall these cars for a ‘software fix.’”

Bernstein estimated that if Daimler faced penalties at a similar per-car level to Volkswagen, the total fine would amount to $275 million to $400 million.

Stuttgart prosecutors conducted raids on 11 different sites in Germany as part of a wider probe into possible excess diesel emission from Daimler, and two employees are under investigation.

Mercedes-Benz has dropped plans to seek US approval to sell its 2017 diesel models, and investigations from the US Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are ongoing.

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Car makers urge rethink on China’s EV policy

Car markers around the world have urged China to delay their planned quotas for electric and hybrid cars, saying it is impossible to meet current proposals and it would cause a huge disruption to their businesses, according to Reuters.

The policy includes a goal for hybrid and electric cars to make up at least a fifth of Chinese vehicle sales by 2025, with escalating quotas beginning in 2018. Chinese government officials have pledged to increase the buying of new-energy vehicles to 2 million units by 2020.

A report published last month, based on data from the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, forecasted that new car sales in China would reach 29.7 million by 2020 and account for 30 per cent of the global car market.

A letter seen by Reuters and dated June 18 was addressed to China’s minister of industry and information technology, Miao Wei.

“The proposed rules’ ambitious enforcement date is not possible to meet, and if unchanged would lead to a widespread disruption of the product portfolio of most automakers operating in China,” the letter states.

“At a minimum, the mandate needs to be delayed a year and include additional flexibilities.” 

The letter is sighed by the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA).

Last year, 870,000 electric vehicles were produced worldwide, with 43 per cent manufactured in China, 23 per cent in Germany and 17 per cent in the US.

As well as a delay in implementing the quotas, and a reconsideration of the harsh policies for not meeting them (which include a ban on importing and producing combustion-powered vehicles in China), car makers have called for equal treatment of Chinese and foreign manufacturers.

Currently, foreign car makers are secluded from government subsidies for batteries and new-energy vehicles (NEVs), which they claim “undermines the environmental goals of the regulation, puts imports at a competitive disadvantage, and risks opening China up to international trade disputes.”

In response to China’s quotas, car makers are trying to ramp up local production of EVs and negotiate around high tariffs on imported vehicles.

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Honda confirms Takata death

Honda has confirmed an 11th death in the US involving a faulty Takata airbag inflator.

This now means at least 17 deaths and 180 injuries worldwide are now tied to the defect. Vehicles manufactured by Honda have been responsible for all but one of the deaths.

The car maker said the incident occurred in Florida in June 2016, when an individual was repairing a 2001 Honda Accord and the airbag ruptured. The victim died a day after sustaining injuries when the airbag spontaneously deployed.

The Honda Accord was one of over 300,000 vehicles still on US roads that were yet to receive repairs. Honda said the vehicle’s registered owners had received at least 12 recall notices, but never brought the vehicle in for repairs, Reuters reports.

Takata filed for bankruptcy last month, and the chief operating officer of the supplier’s US unit, Scott Caudill, said the company faces “insurmountable claims” relating to the recalls.

Caudill said that Takata has recalled, or expects to recall, 125 million vehicles worldwide by 2019.

In New Zealand, over 110,000 affected vehicles have been identified, which includes both new and used cars. As of March this year, just 22 per cent of owners have been told a replacement is available.

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Mazda recalls 680,642 cars in China

China’s FAW Car Co Ltd, a partner of Mazda Motor Corp, from Japan, will recall 680,642 Mazda cars due to faulty air bags supplied by Takata.

The recall includes domestic Mazda 6 vehicles manufactured between September 2008 and January 2016 in China, the country’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) said in a statement on Friday.

The issue was found in the front passenger airbag, which the GAQSIQ called a “safety risk.”

The Chinese safety watchdog also requested on Friday that car makers General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen fulfil their recall obligations in China and replace cars affected by faulty Takata airbags.

The airbags have been linked to at least 16 deaths and 180 injuries worldwide, with over 100 million vehicles recalled.

Takata filed for bankruptcy in June, and was purchased by US-based Key Safety Systems for $2.2 billion. Takata’s legal liabilities, which include a $1.2 billion settlement with major global car makers, will be left behind in a separate company.

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EU approves sale of Opel to PSA Group

The PSA group has secured EU antitrust approval to acquire General Motors’ European division Opel and Vauxhall.

The European Commission concluded the deal did not pose any competition concern, Reuters reports.

PSA strategy director Patrice Lucas described the decision as “an important step” and said that the companies’ teams are now concentrating on fulfilling other conditions necessary to close the deal, expected before the end of the year.

The terms of sale between GM and the PSA Group, which manufactures Citroën, Peugeot and DS-branded vehicles, were finalised on March 7 after weeks of negotiations.

The European company was valued at $3.4 billion, and the acquisition of Opel/Vauxhall gives PSA a 17 per cent share of the auto industry in Europe.

The merger means research and development and manufacturing costs will be slashed for the struggling German car maker, and PSA expects the Opel/Vauxhall division will reach a two per cent operating margin by 2020.

The Holden brand, also owned by GM, was not part of the sale. PSA has said the existing supply agreements between the Australian marque and Opel, who manufactures the Holden Astra and will begin manufacturing the Commodore from early 2018, will continue.

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