General Motors Is World’s Third Largest, And Nearly Landed In #4

General Motors is (semi) officially world’s third-largest automaker. As part of its earnings release, the Detroit automaker today said it delivered 9.97 million vehicles worldwide in 2016.

A stronger-than-usual 4th quarter brought GM closer to number one Volkswagen, and number two Toyota. Still, with some 250,000 units behind Toyota, GM, has to make do again with its long-held #3 rank.  It nearly was put into fourth place by the Renault-Nissan Alliance. The acquisition of Mitsubishi brought the Alliance within 3,891 units of GM, I was told today in Paris. The Alliance is expected to release these data later today.

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FCA Referred To French Prosecutor On Dieselgate Charges

Fiat Chrysler is officially in dieselgate trouble in Europe. French investigators referred the carmaker for possible prosecution over abnormal emissions of nitrogen oxide pollutants from some of its diesel engines, Reuters reported today. While many EU states appear to protect their automakers, France is taking a hard stance. Last November, French investigators referred partially state-owned Renault to the prosecutors on similar charges. At around the same time, reports appeared that the French anti-fraud agency DGCCRF was wrapping up its investigation into FCA, “with disturbing results.”

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In A Surprise Upset, Nissan’s e-Powered Note Tops Japan’s Charts

Powered by a simple, but stunningly effective series hybrid called e-power, Nissan’s lowly Note MPV has upset Japan’s usually Toyota-dominated sales charts. In January, Nissan’s Note became Japan’s best-selling car, a title usually monopolized by Toyota’s Prius. To make the blamage extra painful: Place two was taken by Nissan’s semi-autonomous Serena Minivan.

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Surprise: Trump Could Be Fantastic For Honda And Toyota, Total Disaster For Mazda And VW

If you talk to Japanese automakers in private, without sticking a recorder in their faces, they all seem to be seriously worried about what is going on in Washington. Officially, they try everything not to attract attention, and to avoid the tweeted wrath of President Donald Trump. On closer inspection, maintaining cover might be a smart strategy. This way, Trump hopefully won’t realize too soon that Honda and Toyota could profit from a border tax with Mexico, while Volkswagen would get creamed, as per an analysis by the Swiss bank UBS.

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Piech Throws Winterkorn Under Volkswagen Bus

“The noose tightens” for Volkswagen’s deposed CEO Martin Winterkorn, wrote Germany’s Welt: Ferdinand Piech, Volkswagen’s powerful patriarch, testified against his former protégé Martin Winterkorn. This according to a widely-quoted report by Germany’s Spiegel Magazin. At the very least, the testimony could cost Winterkorn his freedom, and Volkswagen a few additional billions. In the extreme, it could shift the power in Berlin to the left.

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CA DMV Report Sheds New Light On Misleading Tesla Autonomous Drive Video

On October 20th of last year Tesla Motors published an official blog post announcing an important development:

“as of today, all Tesla vehicles produced in our factory – including Model 3 – will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.”

Tesla backed up this bold claim with a slick video, set to The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” which depicted one of the company’s Model X SUVs driving itself from a home in the Bay Area to the company’s headquarters near the Stanford University campus, apparently with no driver input. In a tweet linking to the video, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk described this demonstration in no uncertain terms:

“Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway to streets, then finds a parking spot”

After months of negative news about Tesla’s Autopilot in the wake of a deadly crash that the system had failed to prevent, the video prompted a return to the fawning, uncritical media coverage that characterized the initial launch of Autopilot. And by advertising a new sensor suite that made all existing Teslas obsolete, the company was able to bolster demand for its cars even as it discontinued the discounts that had driven sales in the third quarter. Like so many of Tesla’s publicity stunts, the video was a masterpiece of viral marketing that drove the company’s image to new heights… but like so many of Tesla’s publicity stunts it also turns out to have been extremely misleading.

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It’s Official: Volkswagen World’s Largest Automaker 2016. Or Maybe Toyota

If you have been dying to find out whether Toyota defended its title of World’s Largest Automaker in 2016, or whether Volkswagen fulfilled its dream of becoming the world’s largest, you now have the official answer: This year, World’s Largest Automaker is whoever you want it to be. Volkswagen has beat Toyota. Or maybe not.

This will be a long story, full of numbers. If your eyes glaze over already, I will let you go with the news that Volkswagen is finally ahead of Toyota — if you believe the published numbers. If you share my perverse fetish for car counting, and if you read the rest of the story, expect your beliefs to be shaken.

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Tesla Fires German Supplier, Says It’s Not To Please Trump

Last Tuesday, shares of SHW, a maker of engine pumps and brake discs, plummeted when the company announced that a maker of fully electric cars had canceled an order of parts worth more than $100 million.  Today, Californian carmaker Tesla Motors confirmed that it was behind the order, “but denied the move has anything to do with U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic policies,” as Germany’s Handelsblatt wrote today.

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