+++ ALPINA is planning new models based around the BMW X4 and upcoming X7, BMW Blog reports. The automaker is said to have applied for trademarks for the names ‘XD4’ and ‘XB7′, believed to be in reference to the X4 and X7 and set to be added to Alpina’s existing SUV range which solely consists of the BMW X3-based XD3 BiTurbo. Typically when BMW releases a new model, Alpina quickly follows suit with its more premium version. However, it appears to be taking its time with BMW’s X4 which has been in production for two and half years. Nevertheless, the Alpina XD4 can be expected to follow a similar path to the XD3 and could be offered with a single powertrain, possibly the same 350 hp, twin-turbo aluminum 3.0-liter straight-six found in the XD3 BiTurbo. As for the XB7, it will be based around the X7 which itself isn’t expected to arrive until 2018, meaning Alpina’s version will probably come just before the turn of the decade. +++
+++ A special CRASH test designed to highlight the disparity between car safety standards in different nations will take place in the USA later this month. Organised by Global NCAP, the test will be a collision between 2 saloon cars of the same type, from the same manufacturer. Both will be entry-level spec, but one will be from the Mexican market and the other from the US market. Global NCAP – the UK-based non-profit organisation that supports the development of new car assessment programmes (NCAPs) around the world – predicts a graphic representation of the difference in standard safety features in the 2 countries, and warns that it’s a situation repeated around the world. It hopes the test will encourage governments to regulate for better standard car safety, prompt large global fleets to be more considerate about which vehicles they buy, and put pressure on manufacturers to voluntarily raise safety standards in all markets. “In Mexico at the moment, there are no crash test standards”, said David Ward, secretary general of Global NCAP. “They’ve announced this year that they will apply them, but not to all production cars until 2020. It’s very globally relevant. Roughly speaking, 50% of new vehicles worldwide are manufactured in emerging markets and sold both in those markets and back to high-income countries. However, there are large parts of the world where there are no effective vehicle safety standards”. The UN sets safety standards that are more-or-less the same as in high-income countries such as the US, UK and in Europe, but Ward said implementation of the standards in developing nations was “very hit and miss”. “We’re trying to encourage, by 2020, that all major vehicle producing countries apply appropriate UN-based or equivalent standards, so that you create a common level playing field of safety globally”, he said. Global NCAP is particularly looking to promote adoption of front and side crash test standards, which have been in place in Europe and the UK since the 1990s, and electronic stability control. “By 2020 we don’t want to see any new passenger cars at all that don’t have adequate crash standards and electronic stability control”, Ward said. This month’s special crash test, supported by the US’s Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Latin NCAP, will take place on 27 October at the IIHS headquarters in Virginia, as part of Global NCAP’s annual meeting. The two vehicles will crash into each other with a 50% overlap and a combined closing speed of 130 km/h. The manufacturer of the test cars will be announced next week, and is not officially supporting the test – indeed, at the time of writing, it isn’t yet aware that its cars are being used. Ward said the test isn’t a particular dig at that specific manufacturer, but instead is representative of several around the world. “We’re encouraging manufacturers to apply this globally across their fleets voluntarily,” he said. “They don’t have to wait to be forced to do it. Some companies are doing it – for example, Toyota are fitting airbags to all their production cars in India, ahead of requirements, so it can be done. However, others are not so good and continue to sell vehicles that would be illegal in our markets. Mexico is a good example. The best selling car is the Chevrolet Aveo, which when tested by Latin NCAP last year got zero stars. We think it’s wrong that manufacturers are continuing to sell models like that. They should upgrade them, and it would be simple to standardise airbags. Their response is that they do what the government requires them to do, but we thank that’s a little bit speaking with forked tongue. In the case of Mexico, there’s an industry association that has lobbied for years, firstly against having any crash standards and then tried successfully to delay them. You can’t be convinced that a company like General Motors is being very straightforward when it could perfectly well do what we want, apply better standards and encourage the government to regulate, when in fact they’re doing the opposite. We don’t think that’s acceptable and that it’s a rather stupid strategy”. Ward said he hopes the test will also raise awareness among governments, fleets and the public about the difference in minimum safety regulations around the world, and help promote improvement in developing countries. Large fleets are being deliberately targeted, as they have considerable influence due to the volume of business that they provide to manufacturers across the world. “In the UK there are more fleet sales than private car sales, so fleet policies are very important,” Ward said. “Companies’ own internal policies are often trying to buy the safest vehicles for their employees. There’s a major mining company that will only buy five-star cars, and Shell will only buy four or five-star cars around the world. That’s increasingly a trend, and you can make quite a good business case for it – insurance data and evidence shows that crash avoidance technology are very worthwhile investments”. Ward said the upcoming crash test – which will feature test dummies but won’t lead to any official safety ratings – should provide a stark example of Global NCAP’s case. “We haven’t had the crash yet but we expect that the body shell of the Mexican car will collapse”. he said. “It doesn’t have airbags, and the other car has a better bodyshell and airbags. You’ll see very graphically the benefits of the safer vehicle, and it should be a very interesting test”. +++
+++ DS ’s first all-new model will be an SUV, and will arrive next year with a debut at March’s Geneva Motor Show. Auto Express spoke to Director of Europe for the PSA Group Maxime Picat at the recent Paris Motor Show, and when asked if an SUV would be the first of DS’s 6 all-new global models, he told: “Correct, that is very possible. It will come soon, and after the SUV we will try to keep the pace of one brand new car per year, per region, per brand”. The SUV is expected to be a mid-sized Audi Q5 rival, while a smaller DS 3-based crossover will sit below it in the range when it follows in 2018. DS is expected to draw heavily on the Wild Rubis concept, first revealed at the Shanghai Motor Show back in 2013, for inspiration. The design of the SUV will also usher in a new design language for the brand that will go on to influence the 5 other all-new DS models. Picat also confirmed that DS would be the first brand in the PSA Group to get a fully electric model. “We have decided to start with the premium brand with DS”, he told. “All the electric and plug-in cars that will come on the market for PSA will come in 2019. Our vision is that in the future, electric powertrain will take an important part of the market, so clearly we want electric to be a powertrain to be available in any of our cars. To make it simple you will have gasoline and diesel throughout the range of all the segments. We will push plug-in hybrid in higher segments and electric in smaller segments, like B-segment or B-SUV”. That means plug-in hybrid technology is likely to be introduced to the mid-sized SUV at some point beyond 2019, while a pure electric version of the DS 3 could also be on the cards. “There will be no specific car fully electric or fully hybrid; you will always have a choice of solution”, Picat added. “Our platforms are making very big improvements in terms of architecture, so we are able to implant the batteries within the car, without having to decrease the trunk size or ability of roominess of the second row”. +++
+++ Scandal-hit MITSUBISHI is to get a new chairman in the form of Carlos Ghosn, the boss of the Nissan-Renault alliance. Ghosn has been nominated for the top job after Nissan took a 34 percent stake in in Mitsubishi, which has been rocked after it admitted falsifying fuel consumption. The Japanese car maker admitted in April that it had cheated fuel economy figure for decades on at least 620,000 cars, sending its shares crashing. The deal – which makes Nissan the largest shareholder in Mitsubishi after the 237bn yen (2.0 billion euro) purchase – is expected to lead to cost savings and higher profitability as the manufacturers work together, along with Nissan giving strategic and management support to the business. Mitsubishi will also become part of the Nissan-Renault alliance. Ghosn – who is known for his cost-slashing and admired for turning around struggling Nissan and Renault – said: “Through this transaction, we’re sending a clear message we believe in the underlying strength of Japanese car-making”. In the wake of the fuel consumption scandal and the massive “dieselgate” revelations at Volkswagen, a new high-powered role of director of global risk control is also being created at the Mitsubishi. Ghosn will not be the only Nissan executive taking a role at Mitsubishi. Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Nissan’s former R&D chief who joined Mitsubishi earlier this year, Hitoshi Kawaguchi, Nissan sustainability officer and head of global external affairs, and Hiroshi Karube, Nissan global controller and global asset manager, will also take board roles. Trevor Mann – a veteran of Nissan’s giant Sunderland plant and now one of the highest placed Britons in the company – will also join Mitsubishi as chief operating officer. There had been calls for Mitsubishi chief executive Osamu Masuko to quit because of the fuel consumption scandal by Mr Ghosn said insisted on him remaining in the job. “One of the reasons that I so much wanted Masuko to stay as CEO was because I wanted the people at Mitsubishi to know that Mitsubishi will remain Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi will not become a subsidiary of Nissan”, Ghosn said. “This sends a strong message that it’s not Nissan that’s going to transform Mitsubishi, it’s Mitsubishi that’s going to transform Mitsubishi”. Masuko said: “I welcome Nissan’s willingness to provide strategic, operational and management support as our new lead shareholder”. “As part of our board and management team, Nissan will help us to rebuild customer trust in our company and maximise potential future synergies through our deeper alliance”. +++
+++ Matthias Rabe, head of R&D at SEAT, has stated that the brand has “concrete plans for electric cars starting in 2019”. While it’s currently unclear what form its EV would take, Seat is sure to make use of the Volkswagen Group’s upcoming MEB platform – which is designed specifically for electric cars. Hybrids, however, do not appear to be on the list for the Spanish marque – at least, given its current target market and price range. Rabe said: “Today, a hybrid car for Seat would be too expensive” – thus ruling out any immediate thoughts of a Volkswagen Golf GTE-inspired Leon. Rabe stated that the brand was looking at returning to putting diesel engines in cars sporting the Cupra badge. This move would mark a significant about-face for the brand, given that the last Cupra diesel was the MK4 Ibiza Cupra TDI, which was launched in 2002 and removed from sale in 2009. As it stands, Seat’s most powerful diesel is the 184 hp 2.0-litre found in the Leon and Ateca. Any new diesel hot hatch launched by the brand would likely feature a modified version of this engine. The likely destination for any diesel Cupra engine could be the all-but-confirmed Seat Ateca Cupra, aside from the Leon and Ibiza. Due to the torque and potential economy offered by diesels, they pair neatly with larger, heavier SUVs. The sales figures reflect their popularity, with diesel SUVs far outselling their petrol counterparts – meaning a hot diesel would likely appeal the most to potential buyers. I certainly wouldn’t say no to the idea of an Ateca Cupra with the 240 hp BiTDI engine from the Volkswagen Tiguan… +++
+++ The SKODA Fabia SUV has been given the green light for production, according to the company’s head of research and development – and it will attempt to move beyond the recent formula for small crossovers by offering genuine practicality. The Fabia SUV – a rival for the Nissan Juke and the Renault Captur – has been under consideration for more than 2 years. As recently as last autumn, the firm teased a sketch of the car to journalists, but insisted it had not been approved for production. Now Christian Strube, Skoda’s board member for research and development, has acknowledged that the project is under way in earnest. When asked at the recent Paris Motor Show if Skoda could afford to continue ignoring the small SUV market, Strube said: “No, of course not. After Kodiaq and Yeti, we are talking about a smaller lifestyle SUV. I am already working on it”. Skoda is unlikely to be the first Volkswagen Group brand to bring a baby SUV to market; indeed, Seat confirmed at Paris that its own Juke rival will be called Arona when it arrives in the second half of 2017. Volkswagen’s Polo-based T-Roc is also likely to beat the Fabia SUV to showrooms. However, Skoda’s offering is likely to be a larger model than either the Seat or Volkswagen, as the firm tries to avoid one of the chief complaints about baby SUVs: that they don’t offer any more practicality than a supermini. No name has been revealed so far, although Skoda did apply earlier this year to register both Aratan and Airon. It is understood that the next Yeti will grow to become a fully fledged Qashqai rival with a clear link to the new Kodiaq, allowing space below for a car that’s longer and slightly wider than the Fabia. This would fulfil the Skoda trend of offering more space than the class average. The new car would be longer, wider and noticeably taller than the Fabia, as bosses are aiming to deliver a vehicle that is not simply a jacked-up version of the supermini. For that reason a unique front end and chunky body cladding will give it its own distinctive look. It’s conceivable that Skoda could base the car on the shortest version of the Volkswagen Group’s mid-sized MQB platform – although it can also draw on experience with the older component set, PQ25, which underpins the current Fabia. Ingenuity in this area helped Skoda to launch the original Yeti – a size of SUV that has yet to be replicated by any other brand in the Volkswagen Group. Skoda is exploring every possible mechanical option within the Volkswagen Group’s kit of components to deliver a car worthy of the brand’s reputation for offering practicality. “We have to find a compromise between the investment and getting the right car together”, Strube said. “We have to do this in an intelligent way. We are able to work with the other brands and we can develop using the modules to bring our own ideas to the Volkswagen Group.” Asked if this meant a ‘creative’ approach on platforms, similar to the one that spawned the first Yeti, he said: “Exactly”.
+++ Crossovers and SUVs are experiencing a sales boom and almost every automaker wants a piece (or 10) of the action. However, the SUV ascension could be eventually brought down by the arrival of self-driving cars, according to the VOLKSWAGEN Executive Director of Design, Klaus Bischoff. Bischoff believes that autonomous vehicles have what they need in order to break the increased SUV demand and sees the large four-by-fours compared to dinosaurs, in the not-so-distant future. “At the moment, we see the rise of SUVs, and the descent of sedans and MPVs. We’ve found something that attracts people, that answers a question customers maybe didn’t even know they had. Maybe SUV’s will start to look old at some point and people will point at them and say, “he’s driving a dinosaur”. We don’t see that now, but I strongly believe that we’re going to see much different vehicles when we get to Level 5 autonomy, and then it becomes much more open”. Volkswagen has already taken a first step closer towards launching a fully autonomous vehicle onto the road in less than 10 years, with the introduction of the I.D. Concept, at the 2016 Paris Auto Show. Besides its futuristic design and MEB (Modular Electric Drive) architecture, the study can tackle the road on its own, thanks to the four roof-mounted laser scanners, front and side cameras, radar sensors and ultrasonic sensors. +++