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+++ ALFA ROMEO is entering the prestige SUV market with the Stelvio in 2017. A rival for the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, the Stelvio will aim to offer buyers a style-focused SUV which is still practical enough to deal with the rigours of family life. The Stelvio is Alfa Romeo’s first ever SUV model. Powering the Stelvio will be the same range of petrol and diesel engines that already feature in the Alfa Romeo Giulia, and topping the the range will be a 3.0-litre V6 petrol model badged as the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Both rear and four-wheel drive versions of the Stelvio will be offered. There is also the prospect of a plug-in hybrid version of the Stelvio joining the range in 2018. Inside, the Stelvio’s dashboard layout and equipment will once again reflect that of the Giulia – including that car’s infotainment and sat-nav system, controlled via a rotary dial on the centre console. In its most basic form, the Stelvio will rival premium mid-size SUVs including the Q5, X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. More potent versions of the car, however, are being targetted firmly at the Porsche Macan Turbo and Audi RS Q3 Performance. The Stelvio is expected to focus more on style and performance than the outright SUV practicality. The Stelvio is due to be launched at the start of 2017, with sales in The Netherlands starting just before the summer. Pricing has yet to be announced, but a figure of around 55,000 euro has been suggested. At that price, the Stelvio will be among the most expensive cars of its type. Alfa Romeo has said buyers will be drawn to the Stelvio thanks to its engaging driving style, suggesting the car will have an overtly sporting nature. A full reveal for the car is planned for the Los Angeles motor show, which takes place this November. +++

+++ The AUDI e-tron name has been confirmed for the compay’s first dedicated series production electric car by boss Rupert Stadler. The e-tron name will be carried without any specific model designation in a move evoking the naming of its original quattro launched back in 1980. Previewed by the e-tron quattro concept at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show, the new battery propelled SUV is among three pure electric models planned to be introduced by Audi through the end of 2020, including a smaller hatchback and large saloon. Commenting on the decision to provide the production of version of the e-tron quattro with the e-tron name without any link to an existing model line or newly established sub-brand like that chosen by competitors BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Stadler said: “It is comparable to the first Audi quattro, which was known simply as the quattro. In the long term the name e-tron will stand for a pure electric driveline structure”. As with the quattro name, however, Stadler confirms the e-tron name will subsequently appear on in combination with Audi’s more traditional model nomenclatures. “We will have models with the usual names, for example A6 e-tron, A7 e-tron, A8 e-tron and so on”. The Audi boss has also provided the first official hint that Audi is working on an up-market electric powered saloon to challenge the Tesla Model S. “I do believe that it makes sense for the Audi brand to be positioned in the top premium segment with this driveline technology”. However, Stadler quashed suggestions the planned electric saloon model may replace the company’s long planned A9. Instead, it is expected to form part of the three initial electric models already under development at Audi’s Ingolstadt headquarters, possible to take the name A8 e-tron. Asked whether the third Audi electric car due out before the end of 2020 could be a compact MPV style offering in the mould of aborted successor to the original A2, Stadler revealed his enthusiasm for an SUV with what he describes as a “space concept vehicle” twist.  “We are presently experiencing an upward swing in the demand for such electric concepts, primarily in large megacities. They would be well suited with ranges of between 350 to 450 km. The subject of space is an important one. That means we’ll see compact electric cars, but with vastly improved interior design. Customers want ease of entry, a command seating position and the feeling of safety”.  Intimating such a model could be based around the MEB platform structure unveiled by parent company Volkswagen underneath its ID concept at the recent Paris motor show, Stadler said: “We will engage with this intelligent concept in the middle term”. Despite Audi’s long held tradition of front- and four-wheel drive models, Stadler does not see the rear-wheel drive concept of the ID as a hindrance to the development of future electric powered model for the company. “A pure BEV (battery electric vehicle) requires different solutions to conventional models”. +++

+++ Since the Gripz concept was supposed to carry the genes of the Z family, it could also preview a future NISSAN Z model. In fact, even before Nissan unveiled it at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, various rumors suggested that the next Z will be a crossover instead of a coupe. Now, after more than a year and with the 370Z on its last legs, Car Advice directly asked Nissan Europe chairman Paul Willcox if the next-gen model would be a crossover. “That’ a good question. I cannot comment. I think the important point is, what is part of the Nissan brand? And I think dynamic performance is part of that heritage. I wouldn’t rule anything in or rule anything out, but we don’t comment on future products”. So, is that a yes or a no? Luckily, Willcox went on saying that Nissan aims to focus its strategy on growth segments, rather than tackling every existing niche. “The risk is to chase every single segment in the market. I have a line of product managers who come to me and want product in every segment. If we do that, the economics, engineering, design and trying to make a return… it doesn’t work. We have to be absolutely critical to make sure the car can deliver volume… we’re not looking for massive fragmentation”. One thing is for certain, the Japanese car maker is going to focus on crossovers, as Paul Willcox concluded: “Having more products, maybe companies including Nissan have made some mistakes there. We’re going to focus on vehicles such as crossovers, and having the right products to complement that”. +++

+++ A minnow it might be, compared to the Daimler and BMW groups, but TESLA has managed to beat both in the third quarter of the year – at least in the US. Specifically, it sold 9,156 units of the Model S, while sales of the 7-Series and S-Class were 3,634 and 3,138 units respectively. So, for now, Elon Musk’s all-electric saloon is the undisputed king of the large exec segment. According to Digital Trends, Tesla pointed out that the number could indeed be higher. “Our third quarter delivery count should be viewed as slightly conservative, as we only count a car as delivered if it is transferred to the customer and all paperwork is correct”, they said in a statement. The launch of the impressive P100D, which was rated by the EPA with a 507 km range, as well as the updated Autopilot might have something to do with this impressive result. Worldwide sales of the Model S during that period stand at 15,800 cars, while Tesla’s other model, the Model X, also posted an impressive Q3 result, with 8,700 deliveries. In just three years, Elon Musk’s startup has managed to increase its production five-fold, to 100,000 units. This is just the beginning, though, for the ambitious entrepreneur, who is targeting half a million sales once his 3-Series fighter, the Model 3, hits the market next year. Based on the spectacular reception, with nearly 400,000 pre-orders when the first prototypes were launched, this looks like a realistic projection – if Tesla manages to be on schedule this time, that is… +++

+++ TOYOTA sees the technological revolution shaking up the auto industry as a serious enough threat to its survival that the world’s most valuable carmaker will consider partnering with one of its fiercest Japanese rivals. In exploring collaboration between Toyota and Suzuki, chieftains Akio Toyoda and Osamu Suzuki seek to tie together companies with a history of failed alliances. The two will overlook Toyota’s short-lived partnership with Tesla and Suzuki’s acrimonious breakup with Volkswagen due to the daunting financial demands of keeping up with technological advances in areas such as electrification and autonomous driving. “Toyota is not really good at creating alliances” and in the past was “fixated on the need to be able to cover all of our own bases”, Toyoda, 60, said at a news conference Wednesday in Tokyo. “However, as the surrounding environment is changing drastically, we need to have capability to respond to changes in order to survive”. Toyoda and Suzuki, 80, said they began talking with one another last week and will slowly consider a potential capital alliance. While the two also have not decided on specific fields for joint research and development, it is clear which company will stand to gain most in this regard. Based in the city of Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, Toyota has budgeted ¥1.07 trillion this fiscal year, more than seven times Suzuki’s planned R&D spending. What Suzuki brings to the table is a leading position in India. Its Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. unit has long dominated the market with inexpensive cars like the Alto and Swift. Though Toyota has introduced budget models such as the Etios compact, its market share remains well behind the 47 percent reached by Maruti Suzuki last fiscal year. “There are great changes centering in the automotive industry and in that case we have to share things, otherwise we won’t be able to survive”, Suzuki said. “That’s the trigger for making the proposal”. Toyota completed a buyout earlier this year of Daihatsu, which is now taking on more responsibility for developing compact vehicles for its parent in emerging markets. Daihatsu’s top competitor in the domestic minicar segment is Suzuki, based in the city of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture. Joining with Suzuki will add to a multitude of tie-ups Toyota has forged with Japanese car and truck makers. Toyota said last year it would broaden technology-sharing with Mazda. It is also the majority owner of Hino Motors Ltd., the largest shareholder in Subaru maker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and has a stake in Isuzu Motors Ltd. The automaker also owns stakes in a web of suppliers making everything from engines to car seats. Toyota and Suzuki had a combined market share of 56 percent in Japan, 42 percent in India, 37 percent in Thailand, and 62 percent in Indonesia as of 2015, according to Nomura Holdings Inc. analyst Masataka Kunugimoto. The high market share suggests “the ability to drive the creation of specifications in these regions”, he wrote in a note Wednesday. Carmakers are forging partnerships as an industry under pressure to curtail pollution struggles with major self-inflicted scandals. Mitsubishi Motors’ improper testing for fuel economy dating back decades led the automaker to seek a rescue by Nissan, while Volkswagen has earmarked €18 billion to cover fallout after rigging its diesel engines with software to cheat emissions tests. Nissan’s plans to buy a stake in Mitsubishi Motor — already its partner for Japanese minicars — are centered on gaining a better foothold in Southeast Asia, where Toyota has a commanding presence. Just before Volkswagen’s emissions scandal broke, the German automaker parted ways with Suzuki following a years-long alliance that failed to yield a single joint project. Toyota, meanwhile, is about two years removed from winding down sales of the RAV4 EV, a plug-in SUV developed with Tesla. “The competition in R&D is very, very fierce”, said Koji Endo, a Tokyo-based auto analyst at SBI Securities Co. With regards to electrification, autonomous driving and other fields, Suzuki lags behind its peers, he said. “Without a partnership with a giant carmaker, it will be very challenging for them to stay in the race”. +++

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group has posted a 7.1% sales increase across its brands in September. The figure bucks expectations that sales would drop in the aftermath of the emissions scandal. Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) maintain that customers are unperturbed by the emissions scandal. Sales of diesel-engined cars failed to take the nosedive that was expected, instead declining slowly as sales of electrified vehicles ballooned. A global year-to-date growth of 2.4% was supported by large gains in central and eastern Europe, as well as the Asia Pacific region and in particular China, which grew by 10.7% across the year. A growth of 3.5% occurred in Europe, including a 2.1% growth in Germany, while a 1.1% decline was posted in North America across the year. Despite the year-to-date shrinkage in the US, sales actually grew by 1.3% compared with September of last year. The Brazilian recession bit a 36.6% chunk out of Volkswagen’s year, with a 59% decline compared with September last year. Volkswagen as a brand bore the brunt of the backlash, with UK sales down by 14.1% on September 2015, although Audi’s sales grew by 9.4%, Porsche’s by 12.7% and Skoda’s by 10.37%. Despite the shrinkage, the Golf and Polo maintained their positions in the UK’s top 10 best-selling cars in September. The Audi A3 become entered the UK’s top 10 most registered cars list in September, at number 10, with 33,240 registered since the start of the year. Meanwhile, the Vauxhall Mokka was pushed off the bottom of the chart, having been overtaken by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and A3. It’s likely that the Volkswagen brand’s sales will be boosted by the eighth-generation Golf, which is due to be revealed in the first weeks of November. Skoda should also see a spike with arrival of the hotly anticipated Kodiaq. A Skoda insider has revealed that ahead of the Kodaiq’s launch, it has attracted unprecedented levels of purchase interest. +++

+++ Worry less about the sometimes iffy predictions and promises from volume car producers across the globe. Instead, concentrate more on the products they can actually sell you and allow you to drive away in over the next six months or so. These genuinely on sale and available models (not to be confused with those that aren’t even in production, but can still be ordered) are the only products the WORLD CAR AWARDS is interested in at this time. And I can reveal that WCA has just concluded – in terms of mass-produced all-new cars for motorists across the globe between now and spring 2017  – that Germany, Japan, USA, South Korea, and Britain (in that order) rule. Why no mention of huge emerging car-producing nations such as China? Because it’s not yet making world-class cars for true global consumption by large numbers of buyers in, say, Britain, mainland Europe and North America. Give it time, though. The manufacturing giant with the most WCA nominations is the Volkswagen Group – thanks mainly to the rise and rise of Audi, aided and abetted by sister firms Bentley, SEAT, Skoda… and the still-troubled Volkswagen brand of diesel debacle notoriety. That just-published provisional WCA nominations list proves the still globally dominant German-based Volkswagen Group is being challenged by America’s GM, Japan’s Toyota, South Korea’s Hyundai-Kia and UK-based Jaguar Land Rover JLR). Production and sales-wise, homegrown JLR isn’t a top five international player. But in terms of frequency and quality of product, it’s right up there. The F-Pace must be one of the favourites to be crowned World Car of the Year in New York in early 2017 and although the new Discovery comes to market too late to be a contender, the head-turning Evoque Convertible is nominated and is surely a real contender for a class win. As is Suzuki, or Smart, in the World Urban Car category, plus forgotten but not gone Chevrolet which – surprisingly – has the most genuinely new contenders in the Green Car sector. Shockingly, Japan’s Nissan doesn’t earn a single WCA nomination (the Micra arrives in the showrooms too late) and America’s Ford just scrapes in with only one contender (the little Ka+) which is about as ‘un-America’ as a motor car from Uncle Henry’s firm could ever be. +++

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