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+++ ALFA ROMEOis confident the new Giulia will change the way people think about its cars. The Italian brand has earned an unenviable reputation for rust and unreliability in the past. But in launching the new Giulia range the company is confident that it can change that view. Alfa Romeo salesmanager Steve Zanlunghi has ruled out a longer warranty for the new model, instead it is confident that it will win over critics with the quality of the Giulia. “You’ve got to start with the product and the product has got to stand on its own”, Zanlunghi said. “I think when people – and this is our job to get the product in front of people – when they sit in it, drive it, feel the quality the vehicle is made of and step on the gas, that’s what is going to do it”. Zanlunghi said that is a key part of the strategy to rebuild the brand in order to take on the established German players Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. “Can Alfa Romeo be premium? In order to be premium you need a couple of things”, he explained. “Number one, you need the product. The product has got to be right and it’s got to be a premium experience which is why we prepared our network to where it is”. While Zanlunghi concedes the Italian brand won’t be a threat to its German rivals on the sales charts any time soon, he does want to be competitive and start luring buyers away and into the Giulia. “The aspirations for the car are to compete in the luxury mid-size segment”, he said. “We’re not looking to take over the world, we have modest sales goals. We’ve had some pretty good demand to start with and we’re looking forward to a successful launch”. He added: “This was not a brand that was born on an assembly line with badge engineering. This is a brand where we knew the heritage, we knew the DNA, we knew what went into it and that’s why we took all the engineers and product managers and pulled them off-site and gave them a blank piece of paper and said ‘let us build the best product that we can’. And that’s what we’ve got with the Giulia”. Beyond the Giulia, Alfa Romeo has plans to launch 7 all-new models by 2020 as it rebuilds itself after scaling down to just offering the Mito, Giulietta and 4C. The Stelvio mid-size SUV will be the next new model to arrive and will be followed by 2 more SUVs (a smaller BMW X1 rival and a larger BMW X5 competitor), a large sedan (to compete against the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class), a hatchback (tipped to be a rear-wheel drive replacement for the Giulietta) and a pair “specialty” models (most likely a sporty coupe and convertible). +++

+++ With the flagship vehicle now being an SUV (a successful one) it’s no wonder or secret that BENTLEY will move to deliver an entire range of crossovers: – yeah, luxury purists can just write the company off their Christmas list. According to the latest report on the matter, the next SUV might even reach out to a completely new category of clients as it may very well deploy battery-only technology. Bentley’s CEO Wolfgang Durheimer has already hinted at the arrival of new crossovers during a model introduction – the Continental Supersports. “I can assure you that Bentley – on the long term view – will not stay with one model only in the SUV lineup”, the boss explained. “We have clear indications that a smaller Bentayga as a Bentley SUV would find great acceptance”. In addition, the British manufacturer is looking for entirely new clients to adopt their brand – this is why they need to be vastly different from the Bentayga. “If you are looking for such a car, then we are looking to that in combination with the possibilities to go full electric”, explained Rolf Frech, Bentley’s board member for engineering. “It only makes sense if you get really new customers into the brand”. But getting a battery-only vehicle is some years from now – as the company is at first going to deliver plug in hybrid versions of all of its model lines. +++

+++ The Norwegian government has announced its ambitious plans to reduce vehicle emissions, including a goal to have all new cars sold by 2025 to be ELECTRIC , hydrogen-powered or plug-in hybrids. Norway’s authorities are driving a push for vehicles with lower emissions and will continue to bring in new incentives to get its vehicles into cleaner cars. There are several zero-emissions incentives already in place, including access to bus lanes, lower road tax, free municipal parking and no charges on toll roads or ferries. In 2015, EVs had a 22 per cent market share in Norway and are forecast to hold 30 per cent in 2020. To cater for the ever-increasing numbers of electric vehicles on its roads, the Norwegian government has launched a program to fund the installation of at least two multi-standard fast-charging stations for 50km on all major roads by the end of 2017. By 2020 the country hopes to have one charging point for every 10 electric cars – which means around 25,000 chargers if EV sales reaches Norway’s forecast 250,000 EVs by the end of the decade. +++

+++ A prototype believed to be the upcoming JAGUAR F-Pace R or SVR has been spotted again during development testing this week, giving us a teaser of what to expect from the performance SUV. Distinguishing this F-Pace from the current line-up, apart from the obvious swirly black-and-white camouflage, are the large air intakes up front (covered by a thin mesh), the large alloy wheel and brake package, along with the concealed quad-tailpipe outlets at the rear. While it’s been speculated that the production version of this vehicle will be named the SVR, it’s also possible the first performance version of the F-Pace will be called the R – in line with Jaguar’s regular naming conventions. Going by the F-Type sports car, an SVR would appear later on as a more hardcore version, though it’s unknown whether Jaguar would release an even hotter version of its hottest SUV considering there is no other SVR model in its range. Under the bonnet of the F-Pace R will likely be the same supercharged 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol engine that does service in the F-Type and Range Rover Sport SVR, which develops 550 hp of power and 680 Nm of torque. With the same engine the heavier Range Rover Sport can sprint from 0-100 km/h in just 4.7 seconds, so expect the V8-powered F-Pace to hit triple figures in the low 4.0-second bracket. It’s also possible the more powerful 575 hp / 700 Nm version of the supercharged V8 from the F-Type SVR could feature depending on whether Jaguar plans to release the new model as an R or as an all-out SVR. +++

+++ SKODA considered its own version of the first-generation Volkswagen Amarok, but it was deemed that the market relevance where the Czech brand was present was too small. The Volkswagen-owned brand didn’t proceed with its plans, according to Skoda director Michael Irmer, because it didn’t have the presence it needed in markets where utes, or pick-ups, are most popular. “There are only really three markets in the world that are big in this market, in these size utes, which is South America where Skoda is not, there’s South Africa where Skoda is currently not, and there’s Australia”, Irmer said. “There were debates in the previous generation, I know, but they did not come to fruition”, Irmer revealed. “Whenever the next generation of the product is developed, and commercial products have a long life-cycle, we will see what the outcome is going to be”. Irmer confirmed that the second-generation Volkswagen Amarok arrives around 2020 and could be shared with Skoda. +++

+++ TESLA is finally setting a more ‘definite’ schedule with regards to the official launch of the Model 3. A ‘limited production’ is said to be slated to begin in July of this year although it appears that the first group that will come out of production has been earmarked for investors and employees at Tesla. CEO Elon Musk however did also say that customers may be able to begin configuring their vehicle within 3 to 4 months. Production trials though have already started with the company stating that material sourcing and crash testing of the Model 3 continue to be on schedule and will likely be able to support the volume deliveries expected in the second part of 2017. The actual volume production though is not expected to start until September. Tesla disclosed that it expects to deliver around 5,000 units per week by the fourth quarter of this year with the goal of increasing it to 10,000 units weekly sometime in 2018. During a conference call, Musk revealed to reporters that the brand will slowly speed-up the production of the Model 3, in fact looking like an “S curve” that will increase the speed as initial bugs are detects and problems are fixed. However the launch of the Model 3 would mean that Tesla will need to have addition floor space in order to manufacture the car. Currently, the company intends to assemble the Model 3 at the Gigafactory 1 located in Nevada. However the company also plans to open new facilities and it hopes to settle the final locations for the Gigafactories 3, 4 and maybe even 5, within the year. For those who may be wondering where Gigafactory 2 is, it is in New York and acts as Tesla’s solar plant. It was in the early part of February this year when Tesla first revealed that it was starting the production of the most affordable electric vehicle to date. A deadline was given with regards to retooling the factory in order to prepare for a run of its pre-production units. Because of this, its facility in Fremont, California, will put a stop to production for a week. This stoppage is expected to enable Tesla to increase the capacity of the factory, update the current paint shop, and conduct general maintenance. The company however assured that the pause is not expected to affect the first quarter sales of the Model S or even the Model X. Once production officially begins, Tesla estimates that it will have assembles of about 400,000 cars by 2018 considering that the pre-orders have already exceeded 370,000. This is higher than what the company has actually sold in 2016. Price of the Model 3 is estimated to begin at $35,000. +++

+++ The higher performance versions of the Swedish VOLVO , tuned by the Polestar division, are reportedly going to feature even more oomph thanks to the addition of electric assistance. According to the latest rumor off the mill, the expected Volvo S90 and V90 Polestar versions won’t arrive until at least next year because the company is busy tweaking them to use a new high-performance hybrid system. This comes as part of the strategy deployed by the luxury automaker to distance itself from the offerings of its rivals – mainly the German automakers. Volvo seemingly wants people to consider the Polestar versions as an alternative, not a competitor to Audi’s RS, BMW’s M and Mercedes’ AMGs. But going down a different route takes time, so the reports are pointing to a launch that is at least one year away. “Polestar is going to come out with something very exciting and a little bit different. We think it is going to shake up the market”, comments Volvo UK’s managing director, Jon Wakefield. No indications towards the power source have been given so far, but the logical assumption is the engineers will look at the T8 hybrid system, which is offered on all new generation Volvo cars using the new Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA). The mill has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine good for 320 hp and featuring both supercharging and turbocharging as well as an electric motor with 82 hp. +++

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