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Toyota in pole position as Warsaw kick-starts electric car road trip

Toyota has picked the region of Silesia in southern Poland as the site for a new car factory. As Europe turns its back on diesel cars, the rush is on for electric and hybrid cars and Poland wants to be in on the action. Toyota has started production of hybrid electric transaxles at its Walbrzych plant in the southwest of Poland. The launch of the production line a few days ago means the Japanese car giant for the first time manufactures this key component, used to link electric motors and combustion engines, outside Asia, and it's a new step for both the Japanese auto giant and the eastern European country. Production at Walbrzych comes as Toyota introduces its advanced hybrid technology and the Toyota New Global Architecture to its Polish manufacturing facilities. The new assembly line is part of an investment of over 4.5-billion zloty (€1.1 billion, $ 1.4 billion). Toyota said it aimed to keep production close to its sales markets in Europe. The transaxle will be fitted to the new Corolla Hybrid, built at Toyota's Burnaston factory in the UK, and the C-HR Hybrid, made in Turkey. "In 2000, with the premiere of the first hybrid model, we have paved the way to electrification of cars in Europe," Johan van Zyl, president of Toyota Motor Europe, told Business Insider Polska. Almost every second car leaving Toyota showrooms was already a hybrid car, van Zyl added. Toyota focused on Europe Toyota's operations in Poland started in 2002 with the production of gearboxes for the Yaris model in Walbrzych, mainly for customers from Turkey and the UK. In 2017, Toyota's two Polish factories, Walbrzych and Jelcz-Laskowice, merged and since then Toyota has been able to service its car assembly plants in the Czech Republic, the UK, France, Turkey, Russia, South Africa and Japan with parts produced at its Polish facilities. Toyota is seeing a significant increase in sales of its hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles in Europe. The share of hybrid vehicles among its total sales in October reached 45 percent, double the levels before Volkswagen's (VW's) "Dieselgate" scandal. Growth at the Japanese manufacturer has been driven by hybrids — led by the C-HR compact SUV and the RAV4 SUV — and it's targeting European sales of more than 1 million vehicles. Tighter rules The market for diesel-powered cars has weakened in the wake of VW's emissions-cheating scandal and tougher pollution regulations introduced by the European Union. By 2021, the fleet CO2 average emissions for automakers in Europe must drop to 95 grams per kilometer (g/km) from 118.1g/km today and companies that don't reach the target will be hit with fines. In 2016, Toyota's fleet average was 105.4g/km. "The more hybrids we sell, the better our chances" of reaching the target, Toyota Europe Chairman Didier Leroy said. Poland's new industrial revolution Polish automotive plants are no longer purely assembly plants, playing a role in the development of new technologies. A Warsaw-based think tank, Exact Systems, expects Poland to catch up with the most advanced automotive markets within five years, although this may be a tad too optimistic. But Polish manufacturing is making its mark in the electric bus market with companies such as Solaris, Ursus and Solbus. China's biggest producer of electric-vehicle batteries, LG Chem, has already built its largest European manufacturing site in Poland. Today, electric vehicles (EVs) account for just a small fraction of car sales in Poland — 1,068 new ones were registered last year, up from 569 in 2016 and out of 216,566 in the EU as a whole, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association. "We are extremely pleased that Toyota has decided to start production of a key hybrid drive component in Poland," Jan Wisniewski from the Polish Association of Alternative Fuels, PSPA, told DW. Other EV projects by foreign manufacturers include a factory in Wrzesnia, where German carmaker Volkswagen will build its electric e-Crafter model, and truck maker MAN its eTGE fully-electric van. In the region of Wroclaw, premium automaker Daimler is preparing to start a factory that will produce engines for, among others, Mercedes plug-in hybrids. US auto group Fiat Chrysler (FCA) is also reportedly considering starting production of a zero-emission version of Fiat 500 in the Polish town of Tychy. "The potential of Poland in the field of electromobility is very large and we hope that in the near future we will become one of the European leaders in this sector," Wisniewski said. Big plans Poland's Electromobility Development Plan, adopted by the government of prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki in 2017, plans for one million electric cars on the road by 2025. The Prime Minister said that electric cars are to account for 10 percent of cars in the public administration by 2020, rising later to 50 percent. To support the increase in electric cars, the government wants to build 6,000 charging stations by the end of 2020, plus 400 fast-charging stations. Warsaw wants to make electric mobility an "integral part of Poland's economic development, combining scientific research, entrepreneurship and state support." Already home to electric bus manufacturing plants and a big EV battery plant, Poland is aiming to become the motor for electrifying transport in Europe. "We are really pioneers," said Marta Gajecka, head of energy advisers to the President of the Republic of Poland. "Electrifying transport has the potential to enable cheaper and more reliable access to mobility. Electromobility forms a central component of the EU's ambition to decarbonize its economy in line with the Paris Agreement," she recently told the European energy industry weekly, The Energy Post. An increase in EVs in Poland is urgently needed to improve air quality, especially in the capital Warsaw, where road transport is the main source of air pollution. Poland is also almost entirely dependent on imported oil, most of which comes from Russia (76 percent in 2017, down from 96 percent in 2012), to meet transport demand. A shift to more electric vehicles on its roads would help lower that burden. The emergence of a new industry in Poland could also have a wider economic impact. According to a report by Cambridge Econometrics and the Warsaw-based Electric Vehicles Promotion Foundation, the electrification of transport in Poland could create 50,800 jobs and boost the economy by 0.3 percent by 2030.

Toyota has picked the region of Silesia in southern Poland as the site for a new car factory. As Europe turns its back on diesel cars, the rush is on for electric and hybrid cars and Poland wants to be in on the action. Toyota has started production of hybrid electric transaxles at its Walbrzych plant in the southwest of ... Read More »

EU regulators raid auto giant BMW in German cartel case

The bloc's anti-trust officials have searched the offices of the premium carmaker this week in a probe investigating BMW and four other German automobile firms for suspected anti-competitive practices. BMW confirmed on Friday that EU anti-trust regulators had searched its offices in Munich this week, after the European Commission had earlier in the day refused to name the company involved. The EU, in its statement, said that the inspection related to the Commission concerns that several German car manufacturers may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices. "Inspections are a preliminary step in investigations of suspected anti-competitive practices. The fact that the Commission carries out inspections does not mean that the inspected companies are guilty of anti-competitive behavior, nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself," the Commission added. A group of leading German carmakers including Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, BMW and Daimler stand accused of holding illicit meetings since the 1990s to coordinate vehicle technology, cost, suppliers, markets and strategy. Daimler comes clean In July, German media reported that the cartel's secret working groups hashed out and decided the most important details of the auto business, including the inadequate size of the AdBlue tanks that could not adequately feed their diesel cars' exhaust treatment. One of the aims of the cartel was to avoid "an arms race" of AdBlue tank sizes. Meanwhile, the cartel case has turned into a race for who rats out whom first. Luxury carmaker Daimler on Friday confirmed it had applied for the status of principal witness in the EU probe. Daimler chief financial officer (CFO) Bodo Uebber told journalists that the application "principally concerns coordination in breach of anti-trust legislation which was discussed in the press a while ago." As it was yet unclear whether the EU opened an official investigation into the carmaker, Daimler saw "no need presently to make financial provisions for any possible fines," Uebber added. Rat-out-race According to German media reports, Volkswagen had also attempted to apply for the principal witness status. But Daimler was first in coming clean with Germany's and Europe's cartel watchdogs, and it could avoid a multi-billion euro fine. Volkswagen's voluntary declaration is dated July 4, 2016, but Daimler's came significantly earlier. Still, Volkswagen could get a rebate on the punishment. BMW, one of the least suspicious in diesel emissions fixing, is kept holding the bag. BMW has said from the outset that there is nothing unusual in working with other carmakers on certain components if they "do not contribute to differentiation of the two brands and are therefore not relevant to competition." According to EU law, the first co-operating co-conspirator in an anti-trust matter could walk away unpunished. The second one to break the silence would get a maximum 50 percent rebate, but only if "evidence with considerable value-add" will be delivered.

The bloc’s anti-trust officials have searched the offices of the premium carmaker this week in a probe investigating BMW and four other German automobile firms for suspected anti-competitive practices. BMW confirmed on Friday that EU anti-trust regulators had searched its offices in Munich this week, after the European Commission had earlier in the day refused to name the company involved. ... Read More »

VW manager pleads guilty in US ‘dieselgate’ case

A Volkswagen (VW) manager, currently jailed in connection with the German automaker's emissions scandal in the United States, has pleaded guilty in a Detroit courtroom, hoping for lesser punishment. US prosecutors confirmed Friday that charges against Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt would be reduced after he pleaded guilty to his part in covering up the German carmaker's "dieselgate" emissions-cheating scandal in the US. Schmidt, who led the German automaker's US regulatory compliance office until 2015, appeared in a Detroit court to enter his plea. He had pleaded not guilty before his change of mind. US prosecutors said they would drop a wire fraud charge, which carried a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. But they retained a fraud conspiracy charge and a charge of violating the US Clean Air Act, which together carry a maximum sentence of seven years. Also under the plea agreement, Schmidt may have to pay a fine of between $40,000 (34,000 euros) and $500,000. The final verdict is due December 6, 2017. In 2015, VW admitted it had equipped about 11 million cars worldwide with defeat devices to evade emissions tests, including about 600,000 vehicles in the United States. Diesel cars marketed as clean were in fact emitting 40 times the permissible limits of nitrogen oxide during normal driving. Altogether eight managers from the German car group are facing charges by US authorities for the company's breach of emissions regulations. Many of the other managers charged are believed to be in Germany, making extradition to the US unlikely. Schmidt was the second VW employee to plead guilty, after former company engineer James Liang admitted last year to helping devise the defeat devices. An FBI affidavit cited him as a cooperating witness. In March, VW agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties after pleading guilty to conspiring to violate the US Clean Air Act. That was on top of $17.5 billion in civil settlements. The carmaker still faces an array of legal challenges in Germany and worldwide, and has so far set aside more than 22 billion euros to cover dieselgate costs.

A Volkswagen (VW) manager, currently jailed in connection with the German automaker’s emissions scandal in the United States, has pleaded guilty in a Detroit courtroom, hoping for lesser punishment. US prosecutors confirmed Friday that charges against Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt would be reduced after he pleaded guilty to his part in covering up the German carmaker’s “dieselgate” emissions-cheating scandal in ... Read More »

Australia sues Audi, ignores Skoda

Australia's consumer watchdog has launched court action against Germany's Volkswagen brand Audi over the carmaker's emissions cheating scandal. It said it was seeking proper compensation for deceptive conduct. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced Wednesday it had begun legal proceedings in the country's Federal Court against German carmaker Audi over allegations that it misled clients about diesel emission levels in their cars. The watchdog said legal action was leveled at local subsidiary Audi Australia as well as Audi's German owner, Volkswagen. The ACCC alleged that between 2011 and 2015 Audi had "engaged in misleading conduct by not disclosing the existence and operation of defeat devices in certain Audi-branded vehicles." Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement the software used to manipulate emissions tests in the laboratory breached Australian consumer law. Skoda off the hook Roughly 12,000 Audi cars would be affected by the current proceedings, the ACCC reported. By contrast, Volkswagen's Skoda cars would not be affected as the commission decided not to pursue the matter due to the low volume of Skoda car sales in Australia. The watchdog is seeking pecuniary penalties and corrective advertising. The latest action followed court proceedings launched against Volkswagen-branded cars last year. In that lawsuit, the commission claimed that more than 57,000 vehicles sold in Australia did not operate as Volkswagen advertised. Since then, Volkswagen and Audi have announced voluntary recalls to update the software in question.

Australia’s consumer watchdog has launched court action against Germany’s Volkswagen brand Audi over the carmaker’s emissions cheating scandal. It said it was seeking proper compensation for deceptive conduct. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced Wednesday it had begun legal proceedings in the country’s Federal Court against German carmaker Audi over allegations that it misled clients about diesel emission ... Read More »

Crisis could spread for VW beyond US

Volkswagen troubles could spread to important Chinese and European markets, as share prices tumble and the German auto giant faces hefty fines. As Volkswagen stocks plummeted after it admitted to rigging U.S. emissions tests, the auto giant could face further investigations in Europe and the important Chinese market where sales slipped earlier this year, say analysts. Volkswagen lowered its yearly sales forecast in July following weakened demand in China, where the German automaker delivers more than 40 percent of its vehicles. The latest revelations that it fitted some diesel cars in the US with software that gave false emissions data could be a further hit for the group in an "extremely important" market, Sven-Michael Werner, an attorney specializing in the automotive sector at the Bird & Bird's law firm in Shanghai. "I'm sure the Chinese regulators are looking into the matter in the US very closely and at whether similar instances would have occurred here," Werner told DW. "That's the typical pattern with overseas compliance issues. They will probably look at it unofficially at first and if they find anything there would be a formal investigation," said Werner, although, he added diesel cars are much less popular in China compared to other markets. US environment regulators ordered the German auto giant to recall nearly 500,000 diesel cars, including the VW Golf, when it emerged it used in-car software that met clean-air standards during testing but not during real-world driving conditions. The company could also face up to $18 billion (16 billion euros) in fines and its stocks tumbled more than 2o percent on Monday morning at the Frankfurt stock exchange. Diesel: Popular in Europe Diesel cars are immensely popular in the European Union where carmakers have been touting it as efficient and relatively clean fuel following improvements in quality over the past few years. In 2013, 53 percent of all newly registered cars in the EU had diesel-powered engines, while the diesel VW Golf has been the most popular car model in Europe for a number of years, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). But now the German government is also calling on carmakers for information to ascertain whether they were involved in falsifying car emissions data. "We expect from manufacturers reliable information so that the Federal Motor Transport Authority or KBA can investigate whether similar manipulation has taken place in Germany or in Europe," a spokesman for the environment ministry, Andreas Kuebler, told reporters on Monday. German rivals Daimler and BMW said the accusations directed at VW did not apply to them. Still analysts say it remains unclear whether other automakers had broken the rules. The scandal could also do untold damage to Germany's reputation as a leading car-making economy. "This has to be taken exceptionally seriously," Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, a professor at Duisburg-Essen University, said. "This impacts the entire German automotive sector." US: Further struggles In the first half of 2015, Volkswagen surpassed Toyota as the world's largest automaker. Despite reaching that long-standing goal, the group has struggled in the US market where its strategy has been to promote its "clean diesel technology" as being better for the environment. In 2013, the VW America launched its "newest, most fuel efficient, TDI Clean Diesel engine" to power the 2015 Golf, Beetle, Passat and Jetta - all of which have been part of the U.S. recall – underlining its diesel strategy there. VW car sales have slipped in the North American market over the past few years, with diesel vehicles making up around a quarter of sales in the US. Ingo Speich, a fund manager at Union Investment, which owns about 0.4 percent of VW shares, said he expected the crisis to spread for the carmaker that makes vehicles from budget Seats and Skodas to luxury Bentleys and Lamborghinis. "The market is anticipating more than just the U.S. issue. We have to admit that just looking at the facts there is a huge loss of trust in management. That is the main issue," he said.

Volkswagen troubles could spread to important Chinese and European markets, as share prices tumble and the German auto giant faces hefty fines. As Volkswagen stocks plummeted after it admitted to rigging U.S. emissions tests, the auto giant could face further investigations in Europe and the important Chinese market where sales slipped earlier this year, say analysts. Volkswagen lowered its yearly ... Read More »

VW CEO under pressure as stock crashes

Shares in German carmaker Volkswagen have nosedived after it admitted to rigging US emissions tests. VW has halted all sales of diesel vehicles there and calls are mounting for CEO Winterkorn to resign. Shares in German auto giant Volkswagen (VW) fell more than 20 percent in morning trading at the Frankfurt stock exchange on Monday in reaction to revelations that some of its diesel cars in the United States had been fitted with software that gave false emissions data. In a statement on Sunday, the carmaker had said that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) had "detected manipulations that violate American environmental standards" while testing VW diesel cars. Chief executive Martin Winterkorn issued an apology and said he had ordered an external investigation into the matter. "The board of management takes these findings very seriously. I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public," Winterkorn said. Sales stop Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Group has ordered its dealers in the United States to halt all sales of the latest diesel models of its Volkswagen and Audi brands. The EPA said on Friday the software in these models deceived regulators measuring toxic emissions. Cynthia Giles, an enforcement officer at the EPA, said the cars in question "contained software that turns off emissions controls when driving normally and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emissions test". On the road, the cars were emitting as much as 40 times the level of pollutants allowed under clean air rules, Giles added. Volkswagen could face civil penalties of $37,500 (33,100 euros) for each vehicle not in compliance with federal clean air rules. Some 482,000 four-cylinder VW and Audi diesel cars sold since 2008 are involved in the allegations. If each car involved is found to be in noncompliance, the penalty could amount to $18 billion, an EPA official confirmed during a telephone conference on Friday. VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said the German carmaker would fully cooperate with US regulators, and added that the company would "not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules of law." Calls for the CEO to resign According to Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, automobile expert with Germany's Duisburg-Essen University, the chief executive is part of VW's problem and not the solution. He assumes Winterkorn must have known about the manipulations. "This component has received official clearance for all markets from the VW Development Department. The head of this department is Martin Winterkorn," Dudenhöffer told DW. "VW's board of directors needs to go on the offensive during a meeting scheduled for Friday to stem the fallout of the scandal. But this can only be achieved without CEO Winterkorn, I believe," he added. Bärbel Höhn, the head of the German parliament's environment commission, also said she thinks the deceptive software device couldn't have been installed without the CEO's approval. Höhn, a member of the environmentalist Greens Party, added she wouldn't be surprised if other carmakers are also found to have resorted to manipulations to meet tightened emissions standards in the United States and Europe.

Shares in German carmaker Volkswagen have nosedived after it admitted to rigging US emissions tests. VW has halted all sales of diesel vehicles there and calls are mounting for CEO Winterkorn to resign. Shares in German auto giant Volkswagen (VW) fell more than 20 percent in morning trading at the Frankfurt stock exchange on Monday in reaction to revelations that ... Read More »

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