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+++ AUDI is bent on building a full electric version for the new A8 model. This next generation of the A8 is currently under development and will be the series’ fourth instalment to date. Audi will be releasing the full details of the car sometime by the end of next year. Much has been said about the new A8 and how it will be taking its cue from Audi’s Prologue concept vehicles. Thus, we can get a good picture of it somehow. Technically speaking, the upcoming Audi A8 will be using the MLB evo blueprint otherwise known as the MLB 2. The Bentley Bentayga has already used the same architecture as with the Volkswagen Group’s A4 and Q7. Soon after Audi introduces the new A8 model, the German brand will shift their attention to manufacturing the Audi e-tron in Belgium. The e-Tron is Audi’s first all-electric vehicle. Having said that, the e-tron is also an electric SUV and will be sharing the same MLB evo platform just like the one used in Audi’s Q7. In line with this, Audi has finally confirmed that they will also include a luxurious sedan and an electric hatchback in the lineup. But we can expect this to come a bit later or probably following the e-Tron’s official launch. Whether the sedan will be called as just another Audi A8 or an A9 still has no definite answer. But we’re leaning towards another A8 sequel especially since this is the first time that Audi will be introducing an electric variant. Since Audi is under the Volkswagen Group, the odds are high that the next A8 will be fully electric. Volkswagen has been seriously cutting down on costs after the emission scandal went out of control. This has led the company to sort out their priorities by completely removing some models from their line-up. It may be so devastating for them that they may also have to withdraw their World Rally Championship Programme after Audi walked out from the World Endurance Championship. There are no words yet regarding the full specs of the electric powered sedan. Either way, we’re no longer expecting a brand new design to ever come out of this. Since the company is cutting down on costs, they won’t probably redesign the saloon as much since it only needed a new electric propulsion system to run. At least, they have confirmed this early that the A8 will definitely come out with an electric version. +++

+++ The refreshed BMW i3 range will bring a new look, more range and a sporty new performance model in 2018. The updated electric car will make its debut at next year’s Frankfurt motor show in September, headlined by a new ‘i3S’ electric hot hatch which will become the new flagship. According to the article, the i3S will get an uprated version of the standard i3’s 125kW/250Nm synchronous electric motor. With the more powerful unit, the hot i3 will improve on the current car’s 7.3-second 0-100km/h time, to the point where it would rival conventional hot hatches like the Ford Fiesta ST – though the price points will obviously be worlds apart. In terms of styling tweaks, the updated i3 range is expected to sport a refreshed look inside and out, though not markedly different from the car currently on sale. The new i3 will likely feature new bumpers, revised headlights and an updated infotainment system. However, the overall look should be fairly similar to today’s car. +++

+++ Just as Porsche and Audi have fought for supremacy on the race track, the Volkswagen brands are now locked in a cut-throat battle to develop and manufacture the next generation of ELECTRIC cars at a group embroiled in the “Dieselgate” scandal. Volkswagen Group denies that the kind of internal rivalry that it encouraged at the Le Mans 24 hour race is getting out of hand in the boardroom. But senior executives told that in-house conflict, particularly between Volkswagen and its premium brands, is intensifying over which factories will develop next generation cars while the German group has to cut costs elsewhere to pay for cleaning up its emissions cheating scandal. “There is a cut-throat battle for resources. Every brand with engine-manufacturing capacity now wants a leadership role when it comes to electric motors, battery packs and battery-cell expertise”, an executive at one of the Volkswagen divisions, who declined to be named, said. Since returning to top-line racing 3 years ago, Porsche has beaten Audi to the world championship for sportscars and at Le Mans for the past 2 seasons. Porsche will again seek to defend the titles in 2017 with its ultra-sophisticated petrol hybrids. But Audi, whose hybrid racers showcased the group’s troubled diesel technology, has pulled out after winning the French race 13 times. In the broader competition, Porsche also appears in the ascendant as Audi (which since the 1990s has achieved rapid sales growth to rival Mercedes-Benz and BMW) now struggles with the Dieselgate fallout and a series of negative press leaks. Jobs are at stake as the group (whose brands also include Skoda, SEAT, Bugatti, Bentley and Lamborghini) moves to new technology and faces up to Dieselgate penalties and lawsuits which analysts say could cost as much as 30 billion euros. Because electric cars are far less complex to assemble than traditional combustion engine vehicles, manufacturers may not be able to guarantee the same level of employment in future – a thorny issue in an industry dominated by a workforce with multi-year collective wage agreements. Volkswagen and its unions agreed to cut 30,000 jobs at the core Volkswagen brand in exchange for a commitment to avoid forced redundancies in Germany until 2025. The executives at Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche, who all declined to be named, said conflict between group brands is not new and healthy internal competition can push them to greater technical and commercial achievements. However, some critics said the scramble has become more intense partly because the company last year lost a powerful central figure who controlled the balance of power between the brands, their managers and worker representatives. That balance is now being redefined, pitting Volkswagen, one of the group’s least profitable mass market brands, against its highly profitable siblings Porsche and Audi. Volkswagen dismissed this analysis, and denied that an unhealthy power struggle was underway at all. “This is pure speculation which lacks any kind of foundation and is something which we emphatically reject”, spokesman Eric Felber said. Group chief executive Matthias Müller has previously worked as Audi’s head of product management and Porsche boss. But since getting the top job after the scandal erupted last year, he has yet to build the level of power once enjoyed by former chairman Ferdinand Piech, whose extended family controls the firm. Piech, who spent years cultivating ties to Volkswagen ’s powerful labor leaders, was an engineering genius who inspired fierce loyalty from staff because of his willingness to take risks. He masterminded the Porsche 917 racer, which starred alongside Steve McQueen in the 1971 movie “Le Mans”, as well as the legendary Audi Quattro rally car of the 1980s. Piech also turned Audi into one of the main research and development hubs for the 12-brand group, although eventually he lost a separate power struggle, quitting as chairman last year. While the main contributor to Volkswagen group profit, Audi has lost some battles in recent years for developing vehicle components to the smaller Porsche brand, and is also competing with the Volkswagen brand to develop next generation zero-emission cars. Since diesel cheating was exposed, Audi has lost 2 research and development chiefs and the head of its automotive electronics division who did pioneering work in the area of autonomous driving and battery technology. It appointed a new development chief but Audi and its Chief Executive Rupert Stadler remain under fire for the brand’s involvement in the cheating in emissions tests. Meanwhile, Porsche (a firm that Volkswagen swallowed up in 2012) has emerged as a strong rival engineering center. Porsche’s MSB platform, used for its four-seater Panamera model, has been adopted for the next generation Bentley Continental even though Audi had developed a similar offering. Porsche has also taken over production of eight-cylinder gasoline engines for large sportscars for the Volkswagen group, even though Audi has its own engine factory in Hungary. “For Audi, it has always been difficult to accept if Porsche gets something. They tried to resist the Porsche platform but in the end, a business decision was made”, a Porsche source said. Audi is not out in the cold. It remains the centre of excellence for SUVs, a lucrative and growing market, where it supplies platforms to Porsche and other brands such as Bentley. With self-driving vehicles likely to play a major future role in the industry, Audi also develops autonomous cars for the group. On the race track, Audi will compete in the Formula E electric-car championship. Nevertheless, analysts say Volkswagen must not neglect it in allocating resources. “Some successful divisions like Audi need to be nurtured,” said Jürgen Pieper at Metzler Bank. A separate internal race has begun to become an engineering hub for electric vehicles, a field which includes research and development of battery cells, battery packs and electric motors, in the hope of preserving local jobs. Porsche has developed the J1 electric cars platform, creating 1,000 jobs at its plant outside the southwestern city of Stuttgart, while the Volkswagen brand made its own MEB platform for conventional passenger cars in Lower Saxony, and pledged to create 9,000 jobs in developing autonomous and electric vehicles. The Volkswagen brand will spend 2.5 billon euros to develop electric cars, the company said. Audi is working on its own electric car at its Bavarian base but it is unclear whether it will develop its own electric car platform now that the Volkswagen brand is to establish itself as a centre for battery cells, battery packs and electric motors. Some senior executives say the fierce competition between brands is nothing unusual. But others point to press reports that appeared during the final days of Volkswagen’s future pact negotiations as an example of a more abrasive power struggle, although the source of the leaks remains unclear. In July, German paper Bild am Sonntag reported that internal auditors had ordered Stadler to repay 12,500 euros in expenses spent on a beer-drinking contest. Then on Nov. 6 it said California’s Air Resources Board had discovered a new software-cheating device in Audi cars. The report appeared as Audi tried to secure a final deal with U.S. regulators on compensating owners of cars with Audi-built motors. On Nov. 11, Der Spiegel weekly said VW supervisory board members were discussing possible successors for Stadler, but a senior source dismissed this. “There is no reason why Rupert Stadler cannot continue as Audi’s chief executive”, he said. +++

+++ If you ordered a FERRARI 488 GTB or Spider today, it probably won’t arrive until late 2018. And it’s the same scenario with the California T and pretty much every car in Ferrari’s stable. Even the latest model, the GTC4 Lusso T, released just this week, already has a waiting list, meaning, if you order one today, don’t expect delivery until 2018. Sales are unprecedented, thanks in part to there being more models in Ferrari’s line-up than ever before in the marque’s official 69-year history. Any new addition to the range spells good news for smaller markets like Australia, as it provides more volume and more opportunity to welcome new clients to the Ferrari family, according to Herbert Appleroth, CEO of Ferrari Australasia. “The GT4 Lusso T is important for us, because it’s our first V8, front-engine, four-seater from Ferrari, so it’s an additional model to the range. And, of course, like the California T, it has the potential to attract new buyers to our brand. And when you know that 85 percent of the volume in the GT segment is V8, this car is an important part of our line-up. It also provides a great opportunity to attract a lot of those buyers to Ferrari for the first time, now we have the product that suits them”, he added. Unlike its V12-powered GTC4 Lusso sibling, Appleroth says the V8 Lusso offering has been positioned to appeal to a completely different buyer set. “We have ‘V12-isti’, who like for a particular style of driving and generally don’t use the car daily, whereas with the GTC4 Lusso T, it’s about a more youthful, dynamic inner-city buyer who might use the car for the daily school run on the way to work, as well as picking up the shopping, but still able capable of an intensely spirited drive on a weekend away. It’s also perfect for inner-city driving, with the added benefit of four-wheel steer, which makes this car feel more agile and able to deal with small city lanes, because after about five minutes behind the wheel, it starts to feel small”. Ferrari also believes the new Lusso will pull buyers from other up-market brands who are looking at the next level in the daily drive. “This is a car that will attract buyers from the traditional British brands, but it’s also a nice stepping stone for clients to come to Ferrari, who might drive a luxury SUV or even a Porsche Panamera or Aston Martin Rapide, someone who wants to step up to the next level in terms of automotive ownership”, Appleroth told. Of course, if you want one, you’ll need to get your order in quick-smart, because like the entry-level Ferrari California T, which is already sold out for 2017 for Australia, supply is almost always outstripped by demand. “We’re trying to get more, because that’s the car that brings all the new-to-Ferrari buyers to our brand, and that’s exactly what the GTC4 Lusso T will also do – bring those GT buyers to Ferrari. “The marketplace is changing. It used to be a big step for other luxury car owners to get the Ferrari-like 500,000-600,000 euro mark, but now you’ve got brands that have moved into that space, as well as some luxury SUVs for around 200,000-300,000 euro, so it’s a natural step up for those buyers. Same goes for the sports car market, the gap between Porsches and Ferraris has become smaller with some models. “It’s a great marketplace now, one that is up 35 percent, and we’re getting the lion’s share of that. We’ve currently got the youngest model range in our segment, and possibly in the business. There’s been 2 new models every year for the last 2 years from Ferrari, which is almost too many cars”, said Appleroth. Asked about moving away from naturally aspirated engines to turbocharged powertrains, Appleroth was quick to point out that turbocharging was nothing new to Ferrari, “We produced the F40 in 1987, so it’s not something new to us. There were rumblings that maybe the traditionalists wouldn’t like the new turbo engines, but that’s certainly not the case if you look at the 488 and California T – we’ve never had more success, more demand for our cars. The demand is unprecedented, because it’s the perfect technology for the everyday user in these times. High torque, low rpm – that still feels naturally aspirated, which is just what you need for a blend of city and urban driving” he added. Ferrari also offers a unique warranty program for its clients, which not only includes a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty, but also adds 7 years of no-cost scheduled servicing – transferable to another owner. “That’s important, as it adds to our industry-leading residual values for our clients, which is currently 92 percent, which again, is quite extraordinary”. +++

+++ Top carmakers in GERMANY have agreed to jointly invest in thousands of ultra-fast charging sites across Europe to boost mainstream acceptance of electric cars, the companies said. Spurred on by the success of U.S. rival Tesla which has received huge pre-orders for its Model 3 car, German rivals such as Volkswagen and Daimler’s Mercedes are accelerating their own electric car programs. But scarce charging points and sticker prices for electric cars that still exceed those of comparable combustion models stifle mass-market demand despite sales incentives. To help turn the tables, Volkswagen, its Audi and Porsche luxury brands, BMW, Daimler and Ford’s European division are planning a joint venture to fund the setting-up of charging sites starting next year, the 6 carmakers said in a joint statement. The manufacturers want to create about 400 charging sites in a first step and, by 2020, ensure that customers have access to thousands of charging points, they said, citing a memorandum of understanding. The network will be based on so-called combined charging system (CCS) technology, enhancing existing AC and DC charging standards and allowing for ultra-fast power levels of up to 350 kilowatt (KW) hours. “The availability of high-power stations allows long-distance electric mobility for the first time and will convince more and more customers to opt for an electric vehicle”, Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said. Executives across the industry predict electric cars will become increasingly popular thanks to advances that make batteries get cheaper and more powerful and the Volkswagen emissions scandal, which has sparked a regulatory backlash against diesel-engine vehicles. The 6 carmakers said they will be equal partners in the initiative and also asked other competitors to participate in the project, adding the joint venture will cooperate with regional partners. +++

+++ MERCEDES might replace the CLS with 2 separate models, a recent report finds. The first model will be a direct replacement for the second-generation CLS, though it will likely adopt the CLE moniker. Design-wise, the CLE will feature an evolutionary look with a slinky silhouette and fascias inspired by Mercedes’ recent design language. It will share its Modular Rear Architecture (MRA) platform and an array of high-tech electronic driving aids with the new E-Class. The CLE will exclusively be offered as a four-door coupe. That means the Shooting Brake model won’t be replaced, which is hardly a surprise considering it’s not sold in the United States and it’s unpopular at best in China, two of the nameplates’ largest markets. The arrival of the CLE doesn’t mean the CLS emblem will be retired: it might be used on a new Mercedes-AMG model that will be more upscale and more powerful than the CLE in a bid to take on high-end variants of the Porsche Panamera. If that’s the case, the CLE and the CLS will be presented as completely separate models and they will not look anything alike, though both will feature a swoopy four-door coupe silhouette. Rumors claim the Mercedes-Benz CLE will be presented in 2018, meaning it will likely be previewed by a thinly-veiled concept next year. As of writing it’s too early to tell when the AMG-built CLS will make its debut. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has agreed to extend a 20 billion-euro bank credit line, part of the German carmaker’s efforts to maintain its financial strength while it counts the full cost of its emissions scandal. Europe’s largest automaker secured the 1-year bridge loan last December after the biggest corporate scandal in its history wiped billions off its market value and made it much more expensive for Volkswagen to borrow in the debt market. “We have now decided to extend the credit line until June 2017”, Volkswagen told. The credit line will protect the financial framework for the group’s operations and increase its financial flexibility, the carmaker said. Volkswagen faces a record-breaking corporate settlement with regulators and vehicle owners in the United States where in September 2015 it was found to have cheated diesel engine emissions tests. A U.S. judge last month approved Volkswagen ’s $14.7 billion settlement with authorities and owners of 475,000 polluting 2.0-litre diesel cars and is due to discuss proposals for buybacks and fixes for 80,000 3.0-litre vehicles on Wednesday. Volkswagen said it will return to the unsecured bond market in due course and was still taking advantage of ABS (asset-backed securities) transactions and commercial paper. 2 sources in the financial industry told Reuters that Volkswagen had drawn up to half of the loan by the summer, but the carmaker said the bridging loan was currently undrawn. Sources had told Reuters in April that Volkswagen was hoping to return to the bond market as early as May of this year as it sought to replace the costlier bank borrowing. At the time it decided against a such move. But Volkswagen is still looking to return to the bond market and once a settlement deal for its 3.0-litre diesel engines is approved by the U.S. court, it should be able to outline its emissions scandal liabilities in a bond prospectus, the sources said. Volkswagen and lawyers for owners of larger diesel cars agreed earlier this month on a buyback of about 20,000 older vehicles and a software fix for 60,000 newer models. Volkswagen’s credit rating has suffered since the emissions scandal broke. S&P, for example, downgraded the carmaker in two steps to BBB+ from A. That compares with an A rating for Daimler and A+ for BMW. “Theoretically Volkswagen could launch a bond sale in December, but they’ll wait for the best market window,” one of the sources said, adding that the company was flush with cash. The second source said that Volkswagen is most likely to resume its borrowing on capital markets early next year by launching a multi-billion-euro bond. +++

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