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January 17, 2018 News of the Day: Nissan's Infiniti to Electrify its Models, China's GAC Plans to Sell Cars in the U.S. in 2019

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【Summary】January 17, 2018 News of the Day

Eric Walz    Jan 17, 2018 12:42 PM PT
January 17, 2018 News of the Day: Nissan's Infiniti to Electrify its Models, China's GAC Plans to Sell Cars in the U.S. in 2019

Nissan's Infiniti to Electrify its Models

DETROIT — Japanese carmaker Nissan Motor Co. plans to transform its upscale Infiniti brand of vehicles into a primarily electrified offering, Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa said at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

Saikawa said that all new Infiniti models launched from 2021 will be either electric or so-called "e-Power" hybrids. "We are going to make Infiniti the premium and highly electrified brand," Saikawa said on Tuesday.

Nissan and alliance partner Renault took an early lead in battery-powered cars with models such as the 2011 Leaf, which remains the world's top-selling electric vehicle.

Although Tesla has been in the limelight in recent years, German automakers are leading a $90 billion wave of investment in electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

Nissan dropped the earlier electric Infiniti program in mid-2014 over concerns it would threaten the financial goals in its "Power 88" mid-term plan, according to people involved in those discussions.

Nissan is one of a number of Japanese carmakers seeking to jump-start a higher-end brand. Toyota is launching a revamped version of its Lexus LS flagship, while Honda has been redesigning its Acura line in the hope of boosting sales.

China's GAC Plans to Sell Cars in the U.S. in 2019

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DETROIT — This week at the North American International Auto Show, visitors may see a name they may not be familiar with —GAC, or the Guangzhou Automotive Co. Group, as the cars are not currently sold in the U.S. However the company plans to offer its vehicles for sale here in 2019, company executives said in a press conference.

If GAC is successful in recruiting American dealers, we may see its sedans, SUVs and minivans driving on American roads a year from now. It will be the first major jump into the U.S. market by a Chinese company.

China's auto industry is now the biggest and most important car market in the world, but many of its nameplates are unfamiliar people living in the U.S.

However, given the importance of the Chinese auto industry, Chinese cars in America have long seemed inevitable. China's GAC has been hinting at a move to the U.S. for at least five years, but now the company says it's finally happening.

GAC must demonstrate that its vehicle meets U.S. safety requirements, although GAC has received praise for quality in China. J.D. Power's Initial Quality study has ranked GAC the top-scoring Chinese automaker for the past five years.

The company currently sells the Trumpchi brand in 14 countries. However, GAC acknowledged that the U.S. would be the toughest export market of all.

"The U.S. market has the most restrictive rules and the fiercest competition," advisor Michael Dunn said. "Therefore, entering the U.S. market is a great opportunity for us to challenge ourselves in order to become a world class brand."

GAC is opening a technical center in Silicon Valley, and plans a design studio in Los Angeles and engineering operations in Detroit.

Tesla Model 3 to Get Expanded Voice Control

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As Tesla slowly begins delivering the Model 3 to reservation holders, Elon Musk announced on Twitter the company is working on improvements it can introduce in future software updates, including voice commands. Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed this week that the Model 3 will expand its voice control capabilities.

Responding to a question on Twitter, Musk said drivers will be able to control "pretty much anything" on the Model 3 just by using voice commands.

"Software team is focused on core Model 3 functionality right now, but that will be done soon, then we will add a lot more features," Musk also wrote.

Other automakers have announced recently that they will integrate Amazon's Alexa voice control into their vehicles.

Last week at CES, Japanese automaker Toyota said it will integrate Amazon's Alexa voice assistant into some of its cars as the auto industry increasingly adopts the tech world's hottest offerings to improve the vehicle experience.

"Voice services are rapidly becoming more popular and through our integration with Amazon Alexa, Toyota and Lexus customers will soon be able to easily speak to Alexa in their cars while on-the-go," Toyota chief information officer Zack Hicks said in a statement.

Others, including Hyundai and Ford, have already made similar moves.

Tesla is also expected to update its navigation system early this year as well. Musk said the new system will be "light-years" ahead of the current one.

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