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More future Chevys, H1 2019 and Frankfurt - the week

By Graeme Roberts | 6 September 2019

Trucks and SUVs dominate Chevrolets future in the US

Trucks and SUVs dominate Chevrolet's future in the US

Our future models analysis articles are often the most popular item on just-auto and this week's look at Chevrolet SUVs and trucks was no exception.

"Chevrolet remains the strong number three make in the US, some 64,000 units behind Toyota in the first half of 2019 (GM has stopped reporting monthly sales)," we noted. "China, the brand's other major market, is a different story, with Chevy ending H1 in 18th place. Which explains why GM's number one global division is adding so many SUVs in North America and China, while also making plans to fight back against FCA's Ram 1500, which has taken second place from the Silverado pick-up in the US market."

We list future crossovers and SUVs, and pickup trucks this time; cars were covered earlier.

The global light vehicle market is running out of steam in 2019 under the weight of trade tensions between the US and China and the broader impact on confidence and spending on consumer durables across the world. You knew that. GlobalData auto analyst Dave Leggett took a closer look at the numbers under the hood. If you didn't see it, his analysis of the first quarter is also well worth a look.

Frankfurt show is next week - where did two years go? - and, as always we have a briefing for you. The Volkswagen ID.3 will be the main attraction of the 2019 edition of the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA) (who else apart from the organisers ever calls it that?). Volkswagen even delayed the next Golf to be certain of no other vehicle stealing the thunder of this EV. The Land Rover Defender will also be making headlines, as will the Porsche Taycan although that was revealed to very select media audiences (not including us, of course) on 4 September, almost a week ahead of the show's first press day.

As VW dives at a cost of billions of euros into fully electrified vehicles, and associated battery production, Geely's Volvo Cars, readying its own separately branded Polestar line of full EVs, is also adding more electrified models to the Volvo line. A mild hybrid diesel is now available here in UK for the XC90 and the plug-in T8 variant gets a useful boost in electric only driving range from up to 21.7 to a maximum of 28.6 miles.

What do you think was the third best seller in the UK in the slow month of August, ahead of sales boosting, new number plate year identifier September? Amazingly, the vehicle listed as 'other' in the SMMT sales chart turned out to be Tesla's Model 3 behind the usual Fiesta and Golf and ahead of the latest Focus. An amazing 2,082 units. The new car market here declined by 1.6% in August, but there was a surge in electric car sales in the month, according to the SMMT data, a nearly five-fold increase and they took a record 3.4% market share. Zero emission cars saw the biggest percentage growth, up 377.5%, to 3,147 units as new models and some pent up demand boosted registrations, while 4,014 hybrid electric cars also joined UK roads, an uplift of 36.2%. However, the decline in plug-in hybrid registrations - which have suffered from withdrawn government grants - continued, down 71.8% to just 907 vehicles. The SMMT noted that in addition to the cleanest-ever petrols and diesels, the UK's alternatively fuelled offering now includes some 27 hybrids, 27 plug-in hybrids, and 24 zero emission battery electric and hydrogen models. Spoilt for choice, we are.

Volkswagen's Brazilian unit is developing its first vehicle for the international market. The New Urban Coupe was 100% designed and developed in Brazil. Its world premiere is planned for spring 2020. Production will commence at the Anchieta plant that year and the model will also be built in Europe from 2021. Until now, Volkswagen do Brasil has modified European vehicle designs and engines for local manufacture and sale but not developed a model from scratch. The automaker is spending BRL7bn (EUR1.5bn) in Brazil to the end of 2020 under its regionalisation strategy. The new vehicle is based on the MQB modular transverse 'toolkit'.

A team of researchers at Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has invented a coating to extend battery life. The researchers also dealt with the combustion issue by greatly limiting the tiny, needle-like structures, or dendrites, which pierce the separator between the battery's positive and negative sides. In addition to ruining the battery, dendrites can create a short circuit within the battery's flammable liquid. Lithium-ion batteries occasionally have the same problem, but dendrites have been a non-starter for lithium metal rechargeable batteries to date.

General Motors announced it would cut 327 jobs at its Rayong plant in Thailand as it looks to cut costs as financial losses continue. According to local reports, the US carmaker's local subsidiary, General Motors Thailand, sent out letters to notify employees of the layoffs, with both full-time and contract works said to be affected by the redundancies. In the letter, the company pointed out that it had continued to incur financial losses in Thailand despite an earlier restructuring launched in 2017, adding that the latest measures were necessary to reduce operating costs. Shades of GM Korea?

More bad news, this time from China, of a brand hardly known in the west. Reports in China claimed the financially troubled Zotye Auto had suddenly closed its Traum division. Staff salaries had supposedly not been paid for months and dealerships were said to be shutting their doors. Huanshan Jinma, the parent company of Ford local partner Zotye Auto, once had ambitious plans for the Traum brand. The T70, a seven-seat SUV, was developed with the A1 project code. It was followed by the Meet 3, an SUV which is based on the Zotye SR7. Another model, the Seek 5, was also launched in 2018 and the Meet 5 was due for a sales release several months ago.

More retrenchment: Nissan is yanking its premium brand Infiniti from Australia late in 2020 after almost a decade, local reports said. The company will keep selling and servicing cars through its five dealers (two in each of Sydney and Melbourne and one in Perth) until this time, or until existing stock is exhausted. Beyond this it must offer sales and servicing support on all sold vehicles for a decade. It will presumably do this through Nissan's Australia-wide service centres and parts facilities. "The company will confirm these arrangements in the months to come," Infiniti said.

And more: Brazilian automaker CAOA has agreed to buy Ford's assembly plant in Sao Bernardo do Campo as the plant workers union claimed the new owner would slash 1,300 jobs. A local report said Ford had announced back in February it would shut down the plant, its oldest in Brazil, which employs some 3,000 workers, as part of a global restructuring and a push to exit the heavy truck business. The plant has no product allocated after 2019 and production of the Fiesta there ended last July. CAOA, which builds the Hyundai Tucson at a plant in Anapolis, and Ford have been negotiating the purchase since late February when Sao Paulo state governor Joao Doria rushed to find a buyer for the plant in a bid to keep jobs in the city.

Interesting and difficult times.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, just-auto.com