Are automakers trying to establish yet another UK niche with models like this Kia Picanto X-line?

Are automakers trying to establish yet another UK niche with models like this Kia Picanto X-line?

Tesla seems always to be in the headlines, notably recently for its biggest ever quarterly loss, US$657m ("not much if you say it quickly", as a friend of mine used to opine on such red ink), but we've delved a bit beyond the attention grabbing stuff, concluding the automaker should be pouring engineering resources into not only additional cars such as the much hyped Model 3 but also the replacement for the original hit Tesla, the Model S. As we note, "this company must be running flat out just to try to comply with what its CEO has already announced is planned. Launching all of these vehicles plus a facelift for the Model X before 2021 is going to be an especially tall order". There's lots more.

It looks like the Brazilian trend to tart up your granny's/learner driver's A- or B-segment commodity hatchback to look like an SUV is spreading to Europe having already also conquered a slice of India. We've recently seen the Ka+ Active, known by varying names in other markets, but Kia's already there with a kitted-up, and very attractive looking variant of its year-old Picanto baby. Does a new sub-segment beckon UK buyers?

I'd expect that one of the most sought after engineering roles within the BMW Group would be the nuts and bolts supremo at Rolls-Royce. Motor Cars. This week, reflecting global nature of the car biz, the Germans named a Syrian-descent director of engineering for the famed English brand - still final assembled and lovingly wood 'n' leather crafted all but within sight of the white cliffs of Dover. We of the peasantry have yet to be granted an audience with the latest part German, part UK built Phantom but Mihiar Ayoubi has, having been involved with the engineering concept for the redesigned flagship, beloved of seven star Middle East and Asian VIP hotel fleets. Currently head of concepts, architectures and integration and having previously headed departments in acoustics and vibration, dynamics development, chassis control systems, drivetrain development, all wheel drive and driver assistance systems, Ayoubi is, as I like to say, "well seasoned" and it will be interesting to see what new models emerge under his expert technical guidance.

In an interview with a top ZF executive, we learned more of its modular approach to the development of automated driving functions. The goal: a system architecture which can be applied to any vehicle and tailored according to the application, available hardware and desired level of automation. And in which country are 'motorists'  most open to autonomous driving? Given how much tech their citizens make and export to us, the answer is probably not surprising.

It had been signalled for several months, especially given the GM country chief's record in a previous posting, but the axe falling on one of South Korea's assembly plants must still be a blow to the affected workers. Operating at 20% of capacity just isn't going to keep the doors open. As GM focuses on having capacity where it can make a buck and reducing it where it can't, such actions are inevitable. The former Daewoo operations were major suppliers to Chevrolet in Europe, a brand shut down here in recent years, and to GM Europe which is now in the PSA camp so such cuts have long been on the table.

Finally, we learned what can stop a ship unloading its car-go in New Zealand. Stinky bugs or, as an Antipodean correspondent informed me, officially stink bugs. These little insects have also delayed shipments into Australia. When your economies (no longer making or assembling cars) still depend on large exports of fruit and vegetables, the last thing you want to let in are crop destroying stowaways. Bring on the insecticide.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, just-auto.com

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