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+++ BMW has reportedly settled on the long-rumored i5 to be its next mainstream electric vehicle, but buyers are said to face a 5-year wait before it arrives on the market. The company earlier this year outlined plans to shift its focus away from electric powertrains, instead placing top priority on bringing advanced autonomous driving technology to market by 2021. Later reports pointed to a disagreement between company leaders, some eager to launch another EV and others wary of wasting more money after the i3 turned out to be a sales flop. Sources now tell the company has finally narrowed its list to one specific model that will attempt to fulfill both objectives. The report claims the vehicle will be known as the i5 but, contradicting earlier rumors, will take the form of a crossover rather than a sedan or hatchback. Separate reports suggest engineers are developing an electric version of the next-generation X3, along with a battery-powered Mini model. Both are expected to offer at least 400 kilometers of electric range. BMW has already developed electric powertrain technology for the i3 and i8, however the company appears to be waiting until its self-driving technology is ready before launching its next EV. Sales and marketing head Ian Robertson reportedly confirmed the timing, noting that a 2021 arrival will allow the model to benefit from the “next big steps” in autonomous technology, batteries and electric powertrains. +++

+++ The chairman of Chinese car maker Geely has confirmed that his company spoke to LOTUS ’s parent brand Proton 2 years ago, but said the talks never moved beyond the topic of technological cooperation. Just days after rumours broke that his brand wanted to buy Lotus, Geely chairman Shufu Li said at a roundtable interview in Shanghai: “Lotus’s parent company was seeking a partnership with other companies, but our conversations were just on the technological cooperation – we never talked about the purchase of equity. I learned of these latest rumours of an acquisition like you, through the media”, he said. While Li denied that his brand had proposed purchasing Lotus, he suggested Geely was interested in working with the British sports car maker in some way. “Of course we are facing with different options”, he concluded, but wouldn’t reveal any more. Li added that he is a fan of motor racing himself and is building a new race track in China. When asked if his interest in driving and racing could influence a decision for Lotus, he said “I try to avoid that personal hobbies will influence business decisions”. Geely’s parent company Geely Holding Group also owns Volvo and the London Taxi Company. Li said that there were no plans to add another brand to that list at the moment. Volvo and Geely are currently moving closer together by sharing model underpinnings and production facilities. Li said focusing on this partnership is a priority for the two brands to increase their global presence and improve efficiency. +++

+++ MAZDA sold a record 775,000 vehicles in the first half of its 2016-17 fiscal year, slightly more than the previous record set last year. Europe contributed 123,000 units, up 12% year-on-year thanks above all to robust sales of the CX-3 and MX-5. The company also reported solid growth in China (+22% to 133,000), the ASEAN region (+18% to 54,000) and Australia (+4% to 60,000). First-half revenue of ¥1.55 trillion (€13.1 billion) was down in yen terms because of the strengthening Japanese currency but up in both euros and dollars. Mazda reported an ¥88.3 billion (€748 million) operating profit between 1 April and 30 September and net income of ¥56.1 billion (€475 million). The carmaker continues to make steady progress with new models and technology, having launched two new SUVs: the CX-4 in China and the CX-9 in North America, Australia and elsewhere. Model updates now being rolled out in Europe include the Mazda6 and Mazda3, both of which feature the innovative new SkyActiv-Vehicle Dynamics control technology. Production of the all-new MX-5 RF, the power retractable hardtop version of the legendary roadster, began in October, and the all-new generation of the CX-5, currently the brand’s top-selling model in Europe, will be unveiled later this month at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show. Mazda is also developing zero-emission vehicles as well as autonomous driving systems, taking a human-oriented development approach to find the solutions best suited to the brand’s well-known driver focus. The carmaker reaffirmed its global sales target of 1.55 million vehicles for the fiscal year ending on 31 March 2017. It revised other full-year forecasts to reflect the stronger yen, noting that negative currency effects would be at least partially offset by cost and efficiency improvements. Mazda now projects revenue of ¥3.15 trillion (€27.2 billion), expecting an operating profit of ¥150 billion (€1.29 billion) and net income of ¥100 billion (€862 million). +++

+++ MERCEDESAMG performance division is planning to unveil a uniquely styled and engineered, 600 hp-plus four-door saloon as part of its extensive 50th anniversary celebrations next year. Set to make its debut as the Vision concept at one of a series of celebratory events next year, the new twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8-powered super-saloon is expected to carry the name GT 4 when it reaches showrooms in 2019 at a likely starting price of around 200,000 euro. The GT 4 will become AMG’s third dedicated series production model line, following on from the SLS and the existing GT. The arrival of the four-seat saloon in concept form will complement the planned unveiling of AMG’s recently announced limited-volume, F1-inspired hypercar in what is set to become a pivotal year for the brand. Targeted at the more sporting variants of the Bentley Continental GT and Porsche Panamera, the new saloon, codenamed X290, is the brainchild of AMG boss Tobias Moers. Original plans for a model in the mould of the GT 4 were first aired in a series of patent applications filed by AMG in 2012. At the time, plans centred around a long-wheelbase version of the SLS featuring two gullwing doors and a pair of small, rear-hinged rear doors. More recent plans for the performance four-door model subsequently became more closely linked to the current GT. But while the latest addition to AMG’s line-up will share key styling cues and elements of its mechanical package with the company’s headlining two-door, sources say it will be based on a different platform from the bespoke aluminium structure used by the Porsche 911 rival. The basis for the GT 4 is parent company Mercedes-Benz’s modular rear architecture (MRA), as used beneath the C 63, E 63 and S 63. It has been specially modified for the GT 4, with what insiders at AMG’s Affalterbach headquarters describe as “unique” wheelbase and track width measurements. Other dedicated features include the added use of lightweight materials within the floorpan and body structure, most notably aluminium and hot-formed high-strength steel, the adoption of which is aimed at lowering the weight of the new model to below that of Mercedes-AMG’s existing MRA-based models in the search of greater performance potential and enhanced handling characteristics. Power for the GT 4 will come from the latest evolution of AMG’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, already confirmed for the new E 63. Among its developments is the adoption of new twin-scroll turbochargers mounted between the cylinder banks. The new turbos are claimed to provide improved induction qualities over the more conventional units used in the existing version of the M177-designated engine. The engine is tipped to be offered in 2 states of tune from the start of sales, with both standard 4Matic+ and S 4Matic+ models. In initial range-topping S 4Matic+ guise, the GT4’s engine output is expected to top the 612 hp of the new E 63 S 4Matic+. It is understood that Mercedes’ performance car division is considering coupling the engine with a newly developed integrated starter generator (ISG). The move would not only provide it with the ability to deliver short periods of added performance via a 20 hp electric motor mounted within the gearbox but also offer instantaneous start-up, with what one engineer with knowledge of the new system referred to as “seamless” stop-start qualities. The ISG operates via a 48V electrical system, suggesting the GT 4 could adopt a moderate-sized lithium ion battery as part of its arsenal of high-tech developments. The engine will also feature dynamic mounts designed to suppress load changes during hard cornering and be combined with the latest version of AMG’s Speedshift MCT automatic gearbox. The transmission will be coupled to the latest version of Mercedes-AMG’s 4Matic four-wheel drive system, which features a fully variable apportioning of power between the front and rear wheels. It will also incorporate a ‘drift’ feature that allows the driver to channel power exclusively to the rear wheels in a move aimed at promoting oversteer. The GT 4 will be underpinned by a largely bespoke suspension system that is being developed to provide unique dynamic characteristics, with greater camber adjustment and wheel control than those delivered by the suspension used on other MRA-derived AMG models, along with revised steering rates. It is not yet clear whether the GT 4 will include the three-chamber Air Body Control air springs used by the latest E 63. AMG is on a roll at the moment, with booming global sales. Moers, who was made chairman in 2013, said the performance division is approaching the size that Stuttgart neighbour Porsche was in 2010 before the Macan was launched. In recent years AMG sales have boomed, with sources suggesting that the recent addition of models such as the turbo 3.0-litre V6-powered C 43, E 43 and GLC 43 will help to push AMG volumes to well over 80,000 units this year. The AMG line-up currently supports 31 models, with a plan to expand to 48 models in the future. +++

+++ The Note e-Power has been revealed as NISSAN ’s first range-extended electric vehicle. Although the Note e-Power is for the Japanese market only – Nissan will discontinue the Note once the new Micra goes on sale next spring – the tech could make it into a number of upcoming models from Nissan. Nissan’s e-Power system couples a small petrol engine to the electric powertrain developed in the Leaf to create the brand’s first range-extended electric vehicle. The car has been developed for the Japanese market using research and data collected in Japan. Nissan said the system is aimed predominantly at urban markets. A Nissan spokesman couldn’t reveal whether the powertrain will be used on other models but did confirm that the system can be adapted to fit into cars occupying different segments from the Note’s. This implies the system could appear in any of Nissan’s upcoming cars. As a result, range-extended electric versions of the next Juke, Leaf, Qashqai and Micra are all possibilities. “We’re not ruling anything out”, said the Nissan spokesman. A range-extender system is typically better suited to smaller vehicles, so it’s likely that this is where it will be used in the Nissan range. Nissan sister company Renault recently revealed a more capacious battery pack for its updated Zoe electric vehicle, although it’s not yet known if this will make it into any Nissan cars. Nissan is also pursuing other alternative fuel sources and powertrains and is continuing to develop its ‘solid oxide fuel cell’, which is powered by electricity generated from reacting bioethanol and air electrochemically. +++

+++ After Autointernationaal.nl revealed that TOYOTA could be planning a hot version of its new Yaris, the standard version of that next-generation has been spotted out in the open for the first time. The new Yaris hatch will have to face off against a range of fresh-faced rivals like the all-new Nissan Micra revealed at the 2016 Paris Motor Show as well as next-generation Ford Fiesta and Polo models. Little is known about the new Yaris model but, if the images are to be believed, the design and shape shouldn’t stray too far from the current version. Inside, quality is expected to be improved and we could even see interior design influences from the all-new C-HR crossover, which goes on sale at the end of 2016. Toyota’s Touch 2 infotainment system could also make its way into models further down the range, as it is currently reserved for marque’s higher-end cars. Engine-wise, the next-gen Yaris could come with a small capacity naturally-aspirated petrol, to furnish the lower end of the car’s price span. As is the trend in small cars at the moment, we could also see the Yaris demonstrate the use of turbocharging with an engine to rival the new 1.0-litre turbo unit that will soon make its way into the Honda Jazz. A smaller version of the 1.2T seen in the Auris family hatch would be a possibility. Plus, as it’s Toyota, there’ll undoubtedly be a hybrid model in the future. Where the current Yaris excels is in the space department, but it will have to compete with the new Jazz’s frankly enormous 354 litres of boot space to be among the best in its class. Toyota is bringing this Yaris into the World Rally Championship fray, too, after it tied up with software giant Microsoft to take on the new Citroen C3 WRC car. I expect to see the all new car undisguised for the first time towards the end of 2017. +++

+++The VOLKSWAGEN Group is in pole position when it comes to stealing the world’s largest carmaker crown from Toyota. According to Automotive News Europe, the Germans have already taken an important step into this direction, as the entire Group’s sales sit at 7.61 million cars globally, from January to September, a 2.4 percent increase over 2015. During the first none months, Toyota managed to deliver ‘just’ 7.53 million vehicles worldwide, up 0.4 percent over the same period last year. Both automotive giants bet on their overseas markets when it comes to either maintaining or stealing the global sales lead, and while Volkswagen cannot match Toyota’s sales in the United States, the Japanese brand’s deliveries in China, which remains the largest market in the world, are topped 3-to-1 by the Germans. Pulled by theincreased SUV demand and the success of the Audi, Skoda, and Porsche brands, the Volkswagen Group’s potential success in topping Toyota comes despite of the massive cheating emissions scandal, which has not only made it bleed money over fines, repairs and buybacks, but it also lose customers in some global markets. +++

+++ Geely boss Shufu Li has denied rumours that his brand is in talks to buy sports car maker Lotus, but hinted that more track-focussed VOLVO ’s could appear in the future. The news comes just hours after he unveiled a contradictory chauffeur-centric long-wheelbase S90 – built in China for export across the globe. Speaking from the reveal of the new S90 Excellence, chairman Li confirmed speculation that his company had been in contact with Lotus, but denied any suggestion it was ready to buy the British brand. “We never talked about acquisition”, he said. “We have not made any arrangements and that is it”. He went on to discuss the future of Volvo, with a distinct push towards its goal of offering a fully autonomous car to the public by 2021. We would like to grow ourselves. We will grow through breakthroughs in technology”, he said. Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson added: “We will provide more mobility; both short term and longer term. Connectivity will enable that. These areas are examples of where Volvo will exist in the future”. However, Li did then shed some light on his passion for driving outside of work: “I love driving”, he said, later letting slip that he is building a race track that will be put into operation next year. When pushed as to whether this was purely for personal enjoyment, or whether Volvo would use the facility to test its cars, Li replied: “The race track is open for everyone”. Last year, Volvo bought Swedish tuner Polestar in its entirety. In response to Shufu Li’s admission, Samuelsson told us: “A premium car maker also has to develop emotional value to justify the higher price. This is where a brand like Polestar comes into play. “We have bought that brand and we are going to develop it in the direction of premium, pure performance cars. They will be developed in the direction of electrification”, he said. “They will give a very high performance to our customers”. Samuelsson refused to give a time frame for the track-tuned plug-in Polestar models, but said they are in the plans “for the next few years”. It’s likely an S90 would be first on the list, as the SPA platform – which underpins both S90 and V90, as well as the XC90, has been designed from the outset with electrification in mind. The 408 hp T8 Twin Engine S90 – also shown in China this week – is a hint at what’s to come from the brand, meaning a Polestar version could have upwards of 500 hp. The smaller CMA architecture, which will form the basis of the next-generation V40 hatchback, will also feature plug-ins and pure EVs. +++

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