BMW Group announces strategic partnership to provide electro-mobility options all across the city of Hamburg

BMW Group announces strategic partnership to provide electro-mobility options all across the city of Hamburg

The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the BMW Group have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form a strategic partnership concerning urban mobility.

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It aims to expand the Hamburg based fleet of electrified DriveNow vehicles to around 550 by 2019. DriveNow is the car-sharing joint venture between the BMW Group and SIXT SE. Plans call for around 400 pure electric vehicles and about 150 plug-in hybrids. At the same time, Hamburg intends to provide a total of 1,150 charging points in stages by 2019 and will become the first city in Germany to offer a significant number of parking spaces for car-sharing and electric vehicles.

"With Hamburg as our strong partner, we want to continue expanding our highly-attractive options for sustainable individual mobility in the city and help improve environmental conditions in urban areas," explained Peter Schwarzenbauer, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for MINI, Rolls-Royce, BMW Motorrad, Customer Engagement and Digital Business Innovation BMW Group. "DriveNow is already a genuine success story – in Hamburg and in other cities. I firmly believe this is an important step to win over even more users for electrified car-sharing," Schwarzenbauer continued.

"Hamburg is preparing for future mobility with state-of-the-art technologies. We want to make traffic cleaner, quieter and more efficient, thereby improving quality of life in the city. To achieve this, we are developing intelligent traffic systems and promoting electro-mobility all across the city – for example, by expanding charging infrastructure. This expansion programme will create the conditions needed to operate one of the largest electrified car-sharing fleets. This cooperation with the BMW Group will play a major role in systematically expanding e-car-sharing services. Integrated e-car-sharing, combined with classic public transport solutions, will ensure that future urban passenger transport offers greater flexibility and capacity, even at peak times," said Olaf Scholz, First Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.

Step-by-step implementation will get underway in the summer of this year to ensure that the availability of electrified vehicles and charging points develop in tandem.

"By the end of this year, we will have 200 BMW i3s available in the Hamburg fleet, almost three times as many as the 70 we currently have," said DriveNow Managing Director Sebastian Hofelich. "For us and our partners, this initiative is important to learn how and under what conditions rapid electrification is possible," Hofelich continued.

Hamburg and the BMW Group aim for this strategic partnership to leverage electro-mobility all across the city on the Elbe and lower overall vehicle emissions. At the same time, additional car-sharing options will ease inner-city traffic by optimising vehicle utilisation and reducing the number of miles driven by individual passenger cars.

The BMW Group competence centre for urban mobility was founded at the beginning of 2015. It aims to offer impulses and ideas, working together with cities and local mobility providers to develop sustainable concepts for urban mobility and sharing BMW Group solutions for innovative and scalable alternative concepts with the wider mobility sector. Hamburg offers an example of how cooperation between local authorities and private companies can lead to the active creation of innovative and sustainable mobility concepts.

Volvo Cars credit rating upgraded by Standard & Poor's

Volvo Cars credit rating upgraded by Standard & Poor's

Volvo Cars has had its credit rating upgraded from BB with a positive outlook to BB+ with a stable outlook, underlining S&P's faith in its ongoing global financial and operational transformation.

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The new rating places Volvo Cars one step below an investment grade rating. Volvo Cars is also rated Ba2 with a stable outlook by Moody's Investors Service, a global credit rating agency.

Volvo Cars has been implementing a broad transformation plan since it was acquired by Zhejiang Geely Holdings, the Chinese industrial holding company, in 2010. This transformation has seen it return to sustainable profitability and achieve a series of record sales years.

S&P's decision to upgrade the company's rating highlights its faith in the credibility of Volvo's ongoing transformation. The company expects to report another record sales year in 2017.

Volvo Cars reported an operating profit of SEK3.5 billion ($392 million) for the first three months of the year, up 11% from SEK3.1 billion during the same period last year. The increase was mainly driven by strong demand for the company's XC60 and 90 series cars.

It said its first quarter operating profit margin was 7.3%, down from 7.5% last year. Profitability was partly offset by costs related to the launch of the new 90 series cars and the new XC60, as well as continuous investments in new technologies and a rising number of employees. Since the first quarter of 2016, Volvo Cars has welcomed almost 5,000 new employees, bringing the total global work force to 33,000.

Global retail sales increased by 7.1% to 129,148 cars in the January to March period, resulting in a first quarter revenue of SEK47.6 billion, up 13 per cent from SEK42.0 billion last year.

Full speed ahead for Volkswagen with multi-billion investments in eco-friendly drives

Full speed ahead for Volkswagen with multi-billion investments in eco-friendly drives

The Volkswagen Group is pressing ahead with the transformation of mobility.

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"The future is electric. We intend to be the No. 1 in e-mobility by 2025", Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen AG (pictured above), announced at the Group's Annual General Meeting in Hanover. Throughout the Group, intensive efforts are underway to help achieve the breakthrough of this technology. At the same time, the Volkswagen Group is continuing to develop diesel and petrol engines, making them even more efficient and eco-friendly. Müller made it plain at the Annual General Meeting that "conventional engines will remain indispensable for the foreseeable future." The CEO also updated the 3,000 shareholders attending the Annual General Meeting at the Exhibition Grounds in Hanover on the status of efforts to deal with the diesel crisis and showed how the Volkswagen Group was successfully realigning for the future of mobility with "TOGETHER – Strategy 2025". Volkswagen became the first automaker to give a concrete insight into a fully autonomous vehicle when it unveiled Sedric (Self-Driving-Car) at the Geneva Motor Show.

"In order to provide affordable, sustainable mobility on a large scale we will continue to deploy the complete spectrum of drive types: from conventional to fully electric", Müller said, outlining the Group's drivetrain strategy. He explained that the 12-brand Group is sending clear signals for the expansion of e-mobility. The Group has invested some three billion euros in alternative drive technologies over the past five years and will be tripling this amount in the course of the next five years.

"This is how the Group will be rolling out more than 10 new electrified models by the end of 2018. By 2025, we will be adding over 30 more BEVs." The newly-established Center of Excellence in Salzgitter will bundle Group-wide competence in battery cells and modules. "At the same time, we are conducting intensive negotiations to establish partnerships in the field of battery cells in Europe and China. You will soon be hearing more about this", the CEO added.

According to Müller, modern internal combustion engines will nevertheless be indispensable for the foreseeable future: "This applies also and especially to the Euro 6 diesel, despite the current heated debate." In total, the Volkswagen Group will be investing around 10 billion euros in these technologies by 2022, Müller: "The internal combustion engine primarily is part of the solution, not part of the problem." And he added: "124 years after it was invented, the diesel engine still has plenty of potential. And we intend to exploit that potential. By 2020, we will have made our internal combustion engines between 10 and 15 percent more efficient, and therefore also cleaner. This will help protect the environment and conserve resources."

Müller highlighted how the realignment of the Group was gaining a foothold, citing numerous further initiatives: "Volkswagen is becoming faster, more focused, and more customer-driven." The guiderail for all this is "TOGETHER – Strategy 2025", the Volkswagen Group's program for the future. In Müller's words: "We are transforming Volkswagen from an automaker into a globally leading mobility provider." He added: "Volkswagen needs to transform, because our industry will see more fundamental changes in the coming decade than we have experienced over the past 100 years."

A new era calls for new ways of thinking: "More agile and courageous. More entrepreneurial and pragmatic." He emphasized that this was just as important as technological change: "I am convinced that an open culture, strong values, and integrity in our actions are essential for the future of Volkswagen." TOGETHER – Strategy 2025 has a clear goal: "What sounds great on paper must become part and parcel of everyday behaviour."

Another central element of the program for the future is partnerships to develop new business opportunities or advance new technologies. According to Müller: "Part of becoming the "new" Volkswagen involves opening up as a company. In recent months, we have forged many promising partnerships."

Müller referred to several examples such as the plans to enter the economy segment with Tata, the envisaged joint venture with JAC in China to develop attractively-priced electric cars, and numerous cooperation projects in the field of mobility services. "Building great cars is no longer enough" to secure the future. "Today's customers expect more with regard to mobility. And these new customer requirements also mean that we need to change."

Notwithstanding the diesel crisis, Volkswagen is well prepared to face fundamental change in the automotive industry. "In the last fiscal year, we laid the foundations for the most extensive transformation in the history of Volkswagen. And we put up an operative performance that was much better than many people had thought possible", Müller said: "For 2017, it's now 'full speed ahead'!"

GAC begins construction of new industrial park to boost EV business

GAC begins construction of new industrial park to boost EV business

Chinese automobile manufacturer Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC Group), the parent company of GAC Motor, has begun construction of a large industrial park for electric and intelligent vehicles to help boost its EV business.

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Located in Guangzhou's Panyu district in China's southern Guangdong province, the industrial park has a planned area of 5 square kilometers. More than 45 billion yuan ($6.5 billion) of investment, from both GAC Group and other enterprises that will locate there, are expected to be poured into the project. The new electric vehicle plant, part of the industrial park, is expected to be completed by the end of 2018 with a total investment of 4.69 billion yuan ($679 million). which will provide GAC Motor with a production capacity of 200,000 units per year.

With a focus on smart manufacturing, innovative technologies and the development of an environmentally-friendly town, the industrial park's aim is to become a collaborative, intelligent, open, innovative, and green centre of manufacturing for electric and intelligent vehicles. It is also plays a significant role in pushing forward GAC Motor's global branding strategy.

"The planning and construction of this industrial park is a concrete step to implement the Chinese government's green development goals for Guangdong and the national 'Made in China 2025' strategy," said Yu Jun, General Manager of GAC Motor (pictured above at the 2017 North America International Auto Show). "The move will help promote the development of the automobile industry and drive economic growth."

A leader in the development of electric vehicles, GAC Motor unveiled its first pure electric vehicle, the GE3, at the 2017 North America International Auto Show this January, and released the new plug-in hybrid sedan GA3S PHEV and plug-in hybrid SUV GS4 PHEV at Auto Shanghai 2017 in April.

"In the coming five years, we will push out at least seven new electric vehicle models and cover three product series including pure electric, range-extending and hybrid," said Yu Jun, adding: "Our goal is for GAC Motor to take the lead in the EV business and achieve sales of 20,000 electric vehicles by 2020."

With the aim of becoming a world-class brand with globalised research, production and sales, GAC Motor has signed strategic partnership agreements with the world's top 10 auto suppliers, including Aisin Seiki, Michelin, Continental and Faurecia during Auto Shanghai. The cooperation in product development, quality control, production supply and market expansion provides the strong support for GAC Motor to make the best quality automobiles.

GAC Motor is also commencing talent recruitment, gathering global top talents and experts in Silicon Valley, Detroit and Boston to conduct advanced research and development to create innovative future mobility.

"These resources and capabilities, along with the upcoming North America R&D Center," according to Yu," enable GAC Motor to better compete in the global market and to succeed on the world stage as an international auto brand with sustainable development capacity."

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has most successful first quarter of all time

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has most successful first quarter of all time

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter started the year 2017 with a new record: From January through March, Mercedes-Benz Vans delivered approximately 45,000 units of the large van to customers all over the world.

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This represents growth of about 10 percent compared with the prior-year period. The Sprinter therefore achieved its most successful first quarter in its history of over 20 years. The Sprinter posted especially strong growth in its core EU30 region (plus 12%), above all in the high-volume markets of Germany (plus 15%) and the United Kingdom (plus 10%). In both countries, unit sales of Sprinter vans increased faster than the overall market growth. Sprinter sales increased significantly also in other markets, including Latin America and Russia. With a total of approximately 3.3 million units delivered to date, the Sprinter is one of the most successful commercial vehicles of all time and one of the bestsellers in Daimler's product portfolio.

The current generation has been on the market since 2006, and demand is continuously strong ten years after it was launched. Mercedes-Benz Vans has been working continually to increase the appeal of the Sprinter for its customers. As of mid-2017 an additional equipment package for the Sprinter will be available.

Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans: "With the Sprinter, we have had a first-class product on the market for over 20 years, a product which defines an entire segment. Never before have so many customers decided in favor of a Sprinter. It is primarily due to our van icon that Mercedes-Benz Vans has posted its most successful first quarter of all time – in terms of unit sales, revenue and EBIT."

New records also for total unit sales, revenue and EBIT

Mercedes-Benz Vans also set a new record for unit sales across all its model series in the first quarter. Daimler's van division sold a total of 86,800 vehicles (Q1 2016: 76,600, plus 13%). March was the most successful month of all time for the division, with 38,000 vehicles delivered to customers (Q1 2016: 32,700, plus 16%). First-quarter revenue grew by 6% compared with the previous year to approximately €3.0 billion (Q1 2016: €2.8 billion). Earnings (EBIT) increased by 19 percent to reach approximately €357 million, which is significantly higher than in the prior-year period (Q1 2016: €301 million). The division's return on sales increased from 10.7% to 11.9%.

Orders from fleet customers and other large customers were a key driver of strong demand for the Sprinter also in the first quarter of 2017. For example, Europe's biggest car-rental company, Europcar, continued to favor the Sprinter. In March, Europcar received the first vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Vans from a major order for over 2,100 vehicles in the year 2017, including the Sprinter. The vans are to be rented by Europcar's customers in Germany. The Bavarian Red Cross received twelve ambulances based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in February. This delivery is also part of a new procurement contract for the entire ambulance service in Bavaria, which extends to the year 2020 and comprises 480 Sprinter vehicles. Germany's federal state of Bavaria uses solely the Sprinter as an ambulance – the clear market leader in this segment.

The future of the Sprinter: fully connected and electric

Mercedes-Benz Vans is currently setting the course for the future success of the Sprinter. The large van has always stood for great versatility, offering customers highly efficient and reliable transport solutions. With the next generation, Mercedes-Benz Vans would like to redefine this claim – driven by the strategic initiative for the division's future – adVANce. In the future, the large van will be fully connected and also available as a battery-electric version. The logistics company Hermes will be the first customer for the Sprinter with electric drive. By the end of 2020, Hermes Germany plans to deploy 1,500 Mercedes-Benz electric vans of the Sprinter and Vito model series in urban areas all over Germany. The two companies will first launch a pilot phase of battery-electric vans in the logistic provider's normal operations in Stuttgart and Hamburg in early 2018. Mercedes-Benz Vans will launch the next generation of the Sprinter before the end of this decade.

Preparations for production of the next generation

At present, Mercedes-Benz Vans is intensively preparing for the market launch of the next-generation Sprinter. Modification and modernization work is being done at the lead plant for worldwide Sprinter production in Düsseldorf, at the Sprinter plant in Ludwigsfelde in Brandenburg, Germany, and at the González Catán plant near Buenos Aires in Argentina. This year, Mercedes-Benz Vans will invest a total of about €260 million in the Sprinter-plants in Germany alone – mainly for the start of production of the next generation.

Volkswagen wins 2018 Automotive Innovations award

Volkswagen wins 2018 Automotive Innovations award

The Volkswagen brand received the award "Most Innovative Volume Brand" from the Center of Automotive Management (CAM).

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The established industry award was presented at a gala in Frankfurt to Stefan Gies, Head of Passenger Car Chassis Development at Volkswagen. In addition, Volkswagen received two further awards as the most innovative brand in the categories "Interface & Connectivity" and "Autonomous Driving & Safety.

According to a study by CAM in cooperation with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), this year the Volkswagen brand was the most progressive volume brand once again. This meant that the carmaker from Wolfsburg was able to successfully defend its position from the previous year. For years, the study AutomotiveINNOVATIONS has identified the future trends and innovation profiles of different car brands based on technical vehicle innovations. In the official justification for this year's award, CAM and PwC stated: "With 60 separate innovations Volkswagen is by far the most innovative volume brand. Highly rated features include Trailer Assist, which is available for the Golf and Tiguan for the first time, and also a worldwide innovation in the respective segments."

The current CAM study also emphasises that the innovative strength of the Volkswagen brand lies in the category "Interface & Connectivity" among others and provides the following justification for this: "For the first time in this class gesture control is available for the infotainment systems of the Golf update, enabling intuitive operation. In addition, innovations such as the Doorbird app, where the car can connect with the home intercom system, led to the success of the Volkswagen brand in this category."

According to the CAM study, the Volkswagen brand also confirmed its pioneering role in the field of "Autonomous Driving & Safety". "With 'Side Assist Plus', the Tiguan is the first vehicle in its segment to feature an active assistance package that monitors the blind spot among other features. Furthermore, Rear Traffic Alert can alert the driver to approaching vehicles and also brake autonomously should the driver fail to react."

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