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+++ ASTON MARTINhas revealed its plans for a new model onslaught, with the company to have 7 new models by 2020. Speaking to media, CEO Andy Palmer detailed the product strategy that will see at least one new model every year from now until the end of the decade. With the DB11 already launched this year, Palmer confirmed 2018 will see the arrival of the replacement for the Vantage, while the current Vanquish will be taken over by a new-generation model in 2019. From 2019 through 2020 Aston Martin plans to expand its portfolio beyond its 3 core luxury sports models, introducing the production version of the DBX cross-over, while 2 new uber-luxe Lagonda models will make their debut at the turn of the decade to rival Bentley and Rolls-Royce. The Valkyrie hypercar (formerly known as the AM-RB 001), meanwhile, will commence its first deliveries in 2018. Palmer also revealed that a mid-engined sportscar is in the pipeline, set to be released closer to the 2020 mark, which will also be the first vehicle of its type from the British marque – likely to compete with the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren, but still staying true to the brand’s core values of combining high-end luxury and performance. It’s still unknown at this stage what form the new mid-engined model will take, though Palmer says like all of the company’s models it will aim to be the “most beautiful in its segment”. The future of the Rapide, however, isn’t as prosperous, though Aston Martin’s boss confirmed the all-electric RapidE will replace the V12-powered version in the line-up in 2019. From 2020, the Rapide’s flagship role in the line-up will be filled by either the DBX crossover or one of the upcoming Lagonda models. Palmer added that each year we can expect 2 special-edition models (à la Vantage GT12 and Vulcan) and 2 bespoke vehicles (like the GT12 Roadster presented at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed). Despite the expansion plans, the company doesn’t intend to build more than 7.000 vehicles a year. As a point of reference, last year Aston Martin built around 3.700 cars. This latest development comes a week after Palmer was quoted saying he’d like a mid-engined sports model to take on Ferrari and some high-end luxury offerings to take on Bentley and Rolls-Royce. +++

+++ By 2020, AUDI will be throwing out not just 1 but 3 fully-electric vehicles. One of which will be pitted against the BMW i8. This new information was revealed by Rupert Stadler, Audi’s chief executive, during the recently concluded Geneva Motor Show. In an interview, Stadler confirms that the electric sports car will be introduced along with Audi’s upcoming SUV and new compact EV. It is understood that the SUV will come out beforehand in spite its more complicated architecture. Stadler reiterates the growing trend for SUVs about 2 or 3 years ago which helped them arrive to this decision. “There will be a very emotional shape”, the chief executive said as he describes the SUV. It is unclear however if the new SUV will be another Q6 but more or less, it will have some significant similarities. According to Stadler, Audi’s fully electric SUV will be using VW ID’s 170 hp electric motor with a battery range that can go between 320 and 600 kilometers. Afterwards, Audi will soon embark on the new sport EV. As also stated, this will follow shortly after the launch of the new electric SUV. Last year, the German marque has pulled the R8 e-tron out of the market after its unsuccessful sales performance. It was reported that the R8 e-tron didn’t sell very well after selling fewer than 100 examples. Meanwhile, many believe that BMW will be upgrading the i8 for its new generation lineup. This might include some major overhauls to make the new i8 more powerful. If so, Audi needs to step up its game especially after the Audi R8 e-tron’s less than stellar market premiere which eventually led the company to end its production. It is also believed that the 2nd generation BMW i8 should arrive by 2022, which explains why Audi is bent to come up with a new hybrid sports car within that timeframe. Audi unveiled the production-ready R8 e-tron at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show which was built around the 2nd generation R8. During its premiere, the R8 e-tron uses 2 rear mounted electric motors that deliver up to 460 horsepower with an output of 900 Nm of torque. Power is then transferred to the rear wheels with the use of a single transmission. The sports electric vehicle could reach 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds before reaching a top speed of 250 km/h. Unfortunately, though, it failed to impress the majority. However, with Audi’s 3 new fully electric vehicles soon in the offing, we’re pretty sure that none of its efforts will go up in smoke. +++

+++ In the last few years, the advent of compact premium sedans and crossovers has become quite overwhelming. Even 2 of the major manufacturers that “started it all” have to admit that there is not enough space left in their lineup. Mercedes-Benz and BMW have finally realized that their coupes and cabrios are quite too many. This made them come onto a decision to get rid of some of their models in the near future. In a separate interview, both Mercedes-Benz and BMW admitted that a great deal of their convertibles and coupes are becoming endangered with newer, more in-demand BODYSTYLES. Ian Robertson, BMW’s head for Sales and Marketing, explained that though the company may still have the upcoming X7 and X2 along with a few more models, BMW has also decided that they will be removing some body styles in the coming years. The segment, he said is “rather full”. Likewise, Mercedes-Benz’s Dieter Zetsche said that the company’s recent “expansion into China” including some of the “emerging markets” gave them better opportunities most especially for the sedan. Unfortunately, some of their coupes and cabrios no longer measure up to their expectations. BMW went on to say that their market for convertibles hasn’t improved since 2008. Also, their convertibles never became famous with the Asian market from the very start. These are some of the reasons why the company has co-developed the Z4 roadster’s successor together with Toyota. There is also the inevitable fact that the 4-door coupes are becoming highly in-demand as opposed to BMW’s 2-door models. According to Robertson, they have built the Gran Coupes which actually worked for most people. However, with the new models they are adding in, the large coupes may also be at stake. For Mercedes, Zetsche confirms that the upcoming versions of their coupes and convertibles would not be as many as what we have at the present. All the same, we can still look forward to seeing some of its four-door coupe models most especially the Mercedes-Benz 6 Series Gran Coupe. After all, there remains a fairly reasonable demand for the German marque’s large coupe models. Good news is, both Zetsche and Robertson agree that they are not eliminating the cross-overs in their lineup. Rather, both BMW and Mercedes’ first round of elimination will be focusing more on their so-called “niche vehicles” or specialty cars. +++

+++ Members of the PEUGEOT family have revealed more of the rationale behind the PSA Group’s purchase of the bulk of GM’s European operations, including Opel and Vauxhall. Jean-Philippe and Robert Peugeot sat down for an interview, and presented further thoughts on the 2.2 billion euro ($3.1 billion) deal. Robert Peugeot, chairman of the PSA Group’s strategy committee, said: “All large carmakers have a volume of 3 million cars in 1 important market”. Once PSA’s takeover of Opel/Vauxhall is completed, it’s estimated that the combined automaker will have a combined European market share of around 17 per cent, second behind the Volkswagen Group’s 24 per cent. With its larger share of the European market, the PSA Group hopes to wring out improve economies of scale. At the announcement of the deal, the automaker estimated that there would 1.7 billion euros of annual savings by 2026, and that Opel should be profitable by 2020. Although Opel, Vauxhall, Peugeot and Citroen are all mass market brands, Robert Peugeot says that “there is very little cannibalisation between the brands”. For example, in both the German and UK markets, Opel/Vauxhall both out sell Peugeot, Citroen and DS combined. Jean-Philippe Peugeot added that the purchase of Opel/Vauxhall will allow the French automaker to “conquer the rest of the world step by step”. It’s not clear if the deal between GM and PSA contains a non-compete clause. Rumours ahead of the deal’s signing indicated that PSA would be barred from selling vehicles based on GM platforms outside of existing markets and in competition with GM’s remaining brands. Currently Opel operates in Europe and South Africa, so there is potential for it to expand into China, Asia and Latin America. At present, the Peugeot family owns 13.68 per cent of the PSA Group. Unlike the French government and Chinese car maker Dongfeng, both of which also own 13.68 per cent of PSA, the family controls 22.19 per cent of the company’s voting rights. The deal to buy Opel and Vauxhall is expected to be closed towards the end of 2017, barring any unforeseen regulatory or legal issues. +++

+++ Geely has withdrawn its bid to enter into a partnership with PROTON, leaving the PSA Group, parent company of Peugeot, Citroen and DS, as the Malaysian national car maker’s only remaining partner candidate. An Conghui, Geely’s president, confirmed the news to the South China Morning Post, although he didn’t tell the newspaper why Geely decided to withdraw from the bidding process. Li Shifu, Geely’s chairman, complained earlier this month that Proton “haven’t decided what they want”, and that the company was considering pulling out of a potential deal. Prior to its withdrawal, Geely was widely seen as the candidate most likely, and was said to be most interested in the technologies and engineering expertise offered by Lotus, a subsidiary of Proton. With Geely officially out of the frame, the PSA Group is the only car maker with a registered interest in Proton. The PSA Group recently completed a deal to purchase the Opel and Vauxhall brands from General Motors, as well as most of the American automaker’s European operations. That transaction is expected to close by the end of 2017. Once Opel and Vauxhall become part of the PSA Group, the French car maker will have a market share of around 17 per cent in Europe, second behind the Volkswagen Group on 24 per cent. If PSA Group does gain a stake in Proton, it will likely use its new partner to gain better access to the South-East Asian market. With its production facilities in Malaysia, Proton is able to sell cars tariff-free across ASEAN. At present, it’s estimated that Proton has the ability to produce between 400,000 and 600,000 cars per year, although it only sold around 120,000 vehicles last year. DRB-Hicom, Proton’s parent company, has indicated that it would like to choose Proton’s new partner by the end of the first half of 2017. The Malaysian conglomerate would like to keep a stake in Proton, although it’s unclear if it wants to retain control. +++

+++ SEAT has confirmed it will add a large SUV to its range in 2018, a new model that will further push the Spanish nameplate up-market. Based on the Skoda Kodiaq, the new Seat will have its own sheet-metal and unique interior with both 5-seat and 7-seat layouts to attack a market segment above the new Ateca. A name has not been confirmed, but Seat boss Luca de Meo said that “there are plenty of Spanish cities that are suitable”. Sized from around 4.7 meter long, the new Seat SUV is relatively compact for a 7-seater; a characteristic that it shares with its platform twin, the Skoda Kodiaq. If Seat’s new SUV stays true to the satisfying dynamic characteristics of the Ateca, it could set new standards of agility for a 7-seat crossover. Based on the scalable MQB platform, the Seat SUV will also be powered by a range of VW group engines and built at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg plant in Germany. Four-wheel drive and a DSG dual-clutch gearbox are set to be options. The SUV will shift Seat’s highest price-point north of 45.000 euro, where it will compete with the entry-point models from premium brands. But the main target will be successful seven-seat SUVs like the Hyundai Santa Fe. SUVs are emerging as the main battleground for Seat to fight back. The C-segment Ateca, which rivals the Nissan Qashqai, launched last year to critical acclaim and a smaller B-Segment crossover called the Arona, which rivals the Juke, goes on sale later this year. The B-SUV and C-SUV market segments are the fastest-growing in Europe taking an increasing market share. Seat is currently still committed to the Alhambra, but it seems likely that a successful launch of a 7-seat SUV will put pressure on investment in a next-generation MPV. The Spanish brand confirmed today that last year, it made its first positive operating profit since 2007. Finance boss Holger Kintscher said: “We are back in the black. Infact, this is the best result since Seat became oart of the VW Group”. +++

+++ BMW’s head of sales and marketing has expressed his doubt about the upcoming TESLA Model 3. While talking at the Geneva Motor Show, Ian Robertson hinted that the Model 3 will be the biggest competitor to the BMW iNext EV but doesn’t seem too concerned about it. “The Model 3 will come, but I’m not sure of what volume it will come with, I’m not sure of the price point it will come with, and I’m not sure how good the car will be”. Although Robertson isn’t yet sold on the Model 3, he did admit that he is very supportive of what Tesla and Elon Musk have done in shaking up the industry. “In many ways, I’m very supportive of what Tesla has done. The world needs that sort of new competitor. That isn’t to say that we’re not going to be very competitive with them as well, of course, but Elon Musk has achieved a lot, and I admire what he has done. “I think that Musk is moving from being a startup to being a full-blown company, and he’s beginning to understand some of the challenges that brings. Those are the sort of challenges we don’t have. We are able to productionize things and move quickly in that regard”, Roberston commented. At this stage, not much is known about the BMW iNext other than the fact that it will be introduced in 2021. BMW says that it will be fully-electric and fully-autonomous and could give t he brand an edge over its competitors. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is now racing against time to come up with electric vehicles that will be able to pass Europe and China’s stringent emission standard. The car company powerhouse set a timeline that by the year 2020, it should already have introduced the first line of I.D.-influenced electric cars to the worldwide market. Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess reiterated to the analysts present at the Volkswagen headquarters that even though their future plan seems “very tight” in nature, the said electric cars must be unveiled to the public to adhere with their fleet targets and urgency is set to high to be able to achieve the launch dates without delay. The automaker intends to give the green light for the design of the first electric vehicle around August this year. This flagship EV is based solely on MEB electric platform- this platform will also be used with a whole array of electric vehicles. For those readers who don’t have a clue on what MEB is, it is the German acronym for the Modular Electric Model line-up. The first EV will bear the design of a Golf-Sized hatchback based on the I.D. concept revealed at the Paris auto show last year. Production of the first EV MEB will possibly commence at the last quarter of 2019 and will be classified as a 2020 model vehicle. Volkswagen also has agreed to launch 2 new additional models that is still based on the same MEB outline, an SUV and a minibus respectively. The SUV will debut at the upcoming Shanghai Showcase in April, and is expected to be rolled out by 2020. On the other hand, the minibus fitted with self-driving capacity that’s largely influenced by the I.D. Buzz Concept at the Detroit car show in January is set to be available to the public hopefully in 2022. Recently, the EU is urging the car manufacturers to cut down the standard CO2 emissions to a mere 95 grams per kilometre by the year 2021. In China, where EVs are eyed to be distributed especially the I.D. SUVs, is requiring to significantly reduce the average fuel consumption to only five litres per 100 kilometres which also translates to 117 grams CO2 per kilometre. Volkswagen China Chief Jochem Heizmann disclosed that they find meeting the new condition of targeting fuel consumption up to 5 liters challenging; the same can be said of the cutting down CO2 emissions to only 95 grams in Europe for 2020. He added that Republic of China is in the process of bringing to play the new emission regulation even though they deem it as challenging. It appears that the vehicle market is open and ready for these electric vehicles, and several challenges are expected on the path of fully adopting to these recent technologies. Price and range of batteries equipped with these vehicles, charging infrastructure and further performance vs non-electric cars are some of the considerations, and many are expecting the continued growth of creation of more hybrid vehicles in the coming years. +++

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