+++ AUDI Sport may not be as much of a household name as Mercedes-AMG or BMW M, but the company’s recently-appointed head wants that to change, and fast. Stefan Winkelmann, the man who used to head up Lamborghini and who is now employed as managing director of Audi Sport (formerly Quattro GmbH), said at the Geneva motor show that the Audi Sport brand needs to make itself better known among potential customers. “Audi Sport is a great brand: it’s very focused, so we are having a lot to do. We have a lot of cars in the pipeline: we will launch 8 new models by the end of the year 2018”, he said. Audi Sport covers RS and R8 models only, so 8 models seems a lot. But included in the 8 are the new RS3 Sedan and the just-revealed RS5 Coupe. We may also expect all-new versions of the RS4, RS6 Avant, RS7 Sportback as well as – potentially – the first ever RS5 Sportback, new RS Q3 and the first-ever RS Q8, as presaged by the Audi Q8 sport concept unveiled at the Swiss show. Clearly having a lot of new models will help expose more people to the brand, but Winkelmann says the company needs to do more than that in terms of presence. “We will work a lot on the strategy for the brand – now we did a lot for the cars, the product: the next step is to do much more for the brand”, he said. “We did it last year: Quattro, in our opinion, after 25 years was not really saying that much to the people, and Audi Sport is a headline to everything that is under the umbrella of sportiness inside Audi”. “We want to become a global player”, Winkelmann said. “We want to have a pride, a proper presence around the world and for sure we have to establish the brand as a real brand, and it should be known to everyone. We say that our cars are athletes in a tailor-made suit, so we don’t to be too big, we don’t want to be too pumped up – this is, I think, crucial for the future of these cars. They have to look good, and they have to be fast, but it has to be a perfect combination”, he said. +++

+++ The head of product marketing at FERRARI has told that although some manufacturers are claiming to have genuine performance SUVs coming up or already on the market, none are at the level the iconic Italian marque would consider to be satisfactory. Nicola Boari said the question Ferrari needs to ask itself isn’t “why not enter the booming SUV segment?”, but rather “what is the basic need an SUV is answering, from a client point of view?”. “I think we need to start from that”, Boari said. “Even a luxury SUV, we need to start from that question, along with, I think, the word ‘Ferrari’. Because in any case, in everything we do, there’s an expectation – and it’s quite high – that we will do something different and not the same. “It’s not that we despise SUVs, per se. It’s just that today, physics is there, weight and rolling and length is there. So, how can we manage the key physics to create something which has the benefit of an SUV but not the bad? I think it’s the right challenging question that we should pose our self, not just, “Why don’t you adhere to a specific segment, and then try and make it Ferrari?” ”. Viewing any potential expansion into SUV territory as requiring the creation of “a segment which is not there”, Boari said the question of widening the brand’s range while ensuring all models remain respectably ‘Ferrari’ is not a new one for the marque. “The Lusso and the California came out from the same question: How can we create something which is not there? But answering a clearly existing and basic client need, which is I’d like to have a Ferrari to be driven every day, not just on the weekends. “So, as tempting as just embracing the SUV as we know it, can be – and even if we should believe what we are hearing about sport SUVs coming out, I think there are already some examples on the road – I don’t think that there has been a solution consistent with what we want to do so far in the market. So, I think we are still searching”. Importantly, and regardless of what comes out of Modena in the future, Boari is adamant all Ferraris are made up of four main elements: product architecture, vehicle dynamics or what Ferrari likes to call ‘driving emotions’, the sound or ‘soundtrack,’ and design. “And no matter if it is a Lusso or an 812, or if it is a 488 or a California too, we are quite consistent and quite disciplined on following this process”. +++

+++ Mary Barra, CEO of GENERAL MOTORS , has said that the company’s international operations still need further work. In the wake of the sale of Opel and Vauxhall to PSA, the parent company of Peugeot and Citroen, Barra told journalists: “There’s a little bit more work that we’re doing in the international markets. Our overall philosophy is that every country, every market segment has to earn its cost of capital”. During the call, the company presented a chart about where it might reduce investment with North American cars and ‘select’ international markets the only sections highlighted for cuts. Barra told reporters that profit potential and franchise strength would be key factors in determining where cuts will be made. That said, one large component of the General’s overseas profile is its South American business. Although its operations there are running at a significant loss due to a severe economic downturn, that region will actually receive greater investment as management sees its franchise value there as being high. Barra and Dan Ammann, president of General Motors, have refused to comment on which programs, models or, potentially, brands will be pared back, given less attention or axed. The company could choose cut back investment in certain market segments, such as city cars and large sedans, both of which are faring poorly at the moment in the US. The General could also save money by stretching out model life cycles or delaying updates. Ammann added: “We expect those architectures we introduced recently to carry us far into the future”. Freed up resources will be spent on the all-important pickup truck and SUV segments, Cadillac, China, GM Financial, and self-driving vehicles. +++

+++ The LAMBORGHINI Urus SUV is destined for its world premiere towards the end of this year, with the model going on sale in March 2018. Lamborghini says it will double overall sales with the new model, comfortably, without hurting the brand’s feeling of exclusivity. Lamborghini CEO, Stefano Domenicali, said that while the Urus will help stabilise the Italian brand, it is not necessary for its survival. “No, not at all”, Domenicali said when asked if the Urus was a do-or-die model for Lamborghini. According to Domenicali, Lamborghini will provide the same level of uniqueness to Urus customers as it does to its super sports car buyers, all of whom are seeking a different type of vehicle to what the competitors offer. “I believe that Urus is a complementary segment in which I do believe is a natural extension on our dimension, and how our brand is regarded today. If you think super sports car, it’s young, cool, exclusive… but SUV is the biggest segment in the world, you can use it extensively. It’s for people that want to have something different to other SUVs, that’s why it’s a natural position for our brand, different to the others”. While the Urus is not necessarily needed, it will help stabilise the brand’s profit cycles that have long relied on just 2 models, the Huracan (Gallardo before) and Aventador (Murcielago before). “This will help us to grow in this direction, this will help us to close the possible holes in the different life cycles of the 2 models. This will close that and give stability to the business”, Domenicali said. “What is important to say is that volume is not always a sign of profitability, if you don’t work in the right cycle life of the project. Therefore our task is to make sure this product will stabilise the profitability of the company, in a much stronger position”. As for maintaining a level of exclusivity, Domenicali says the brand will double down on maintaining its current volume for Huracan and Aventador in the midst of the Urus expansion. “While with the super sports car we want to keep things under control, last year we did 3.457 cars and our target is to be in the same region, maybe 100 to 200 cars more. That would be the numbers that we will perform, on the SUV. It is a different market, different segment of the customer, then it’s up to us to fulfil the capacity and the need the market requires in this car. “The exclusivity of our world is connected to the super sports car, our priority is to make sure we are exclusive with good quality and product in the super sports car segment”. Even so, the Urus will prove a challenge for the business as it looks to expand its capabilities. “For us this is a big challenge, we are going to double the cars that we are selling now in two years time, so we are going to do a big step, it’s a thing that.. where Lambo was a few years ago you wouldn’t think it was possible. It’s different for us and for our customers, but we don’t have to lose focus on the priority that we have to keep the super sports cars at the centre of our future because this is where we build our brand and this is the base which we can extend our brand leverage with the Urus car, but if we don’t focus on that? Then it won’t work”. The Lamborghini Urus (expected price in The Netherlands: 250,000 euro) will sit between the rear-wheel-drive and the four-wheel-drive Huracan, meaning it will go head-to-head with the likes of the Bentley Bentayga and upcoming models from Rolls Royce and Aston Martin. +++

+++ It has emerged that the newly-launched MITSUBISHI Eclipse Cross may spawn a family of models that includes different body styles and performance versions. During an interview at the Geneva Motor Show, Mitsubishi’s program director C&D-segment, Hiroshi Yamauchi, revealed that a number of different options are being explored for the Eclipse Cross. Asked about a possible Ralliart variant, Yamauchi said “It’s possible. I think that is one option, but first I want to get the feedback from the market and then I will decide which direction should be on the life-cycle management. “I am not sure at this moment which direction is appropriate for new Eclipse Cross… The Ralliart version is one option”, he said. Additionally, Yamauchi said that it would be possible for the Japanese marque to develop a 3-door version but hinted it would only become a reality if the standard 5-door Eclipse Cross sells in high numbers. “3-door version is interesting, that is my opinion. But business-wise it is difficult due to small unit volume. If we want to develop a 3-door version I need much more investment – a lot of money. To get more investment we need much more volume all over the world. So at this moment I think it would be very difficult to develop a 3-door version”. +++

+++ It seems the highly successful Renault-Nissan Alliance has led to more partnerships between carmakers. VOLKSWAGEN and Tata Motors have reportedly inked a longtime partnership deal. The 2 companies have allegedly signed a Mou or Memorandum of Understanding towards the development of new technologies, products and platforms. It has been more than a year since the manufacturers have been talking about the agreement. The German automaker has been eyeing the Indian manufacturer as potential partner in exploring new markets. Being the largest vehicle firm in India, Tata Motors is also looking to increase its sales margin within or outside its market range. Nevertheless, this new partnership will help Tata come out with more vehicle lineups by 2019. It should be noted though that Jaguar, Land Rover and Tamo (Tata’s sub-brands) are not part of the alliance. Tata’s latest AMP (or Advanced Modular Platform) is probably the most feasible architecture for the new collaboration. After the AMP received the EDAG approval, Volkswagen has found a more affordable alternative to its existing MQB-A platform. The AMP offers flexible architecture as well as definite cost advantage. At the very least, this will allow them to produce more extensive model range. With Volkswagen group’s ‘Together Strategy 2025’, the German car manufacturer plans to provide its brands with new responsibilities in both regions. Tata on the other hand has been consolidating its platforms from 9 to 6 down to just 2 modular platforms. However, it is still too early to speculate whether the Volkswagen-Tata partnership will be sharing one singular platform after the two inked up a deal. Whatever the case may be, this new collaboration gives Volkswagen the benefits of shared components and aggregates to save on cost. Also, the teamwork will not be limited to India alone, wherein, the co-developed products can be exported to other markets as well. Since Volkswagen has earned its reputation when it comes to higher efficient smaller displacement engines, Tata can take advantage of this particularly in enhancing its products in the near future. It’s been over 10 years since Volkswagen Group came to India but the German marque has yet to deliver an impressive sales figure. With its new alliance with the biggest Indian automotive company, Volkswagen can now look forward to a more cost-effective production of their vehicles without compromising their standards. Matthias Müller, Volkswagen AG’s chief executive, said the company aims to “achieve sustainable and profitable growth” in all parts of the globe. Guenter Butschek, Tata’s Chief exec and managing director on the other hand believes that through this new partnership, both the companies can take advantage of each other’s strong points in order to develop smart solutions both for the overseas and Indian markets. +++

+++ VOLVO has announced its first all-electric vehicle (EV) will offer a range of at least 400 km and start between 32,000-36,000 euro when it hit markets in 2019. In a new report by industry journal Automotive News, Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo Car USA, is quoted saying if the company wants to do well in the States with this vehicle, it needs to meet these targets. “That’s what I put in as the prerequisite for the United States”, Kerssemakers said. “If I want to make a point in the US, if I want to make volumes, that’s what I believe I need”, he said. It’s unknown whether the company’s first EV will be based on an existing model or if it will be a standalone offering, however Kerssemakers told the publication using Volvo’s existing modular platforms would allow it to meet the product timing schedule. The SPA platform underpins the 90 Series family, which includes the S90, V90 and XC90, while the smaller CMA platform will form the basis of the upcoming 40 Series range, including the soon-to-be-revealed XC40. In January, the company filed a series of trademark applications for new models in the US and Europe, including the names V20, V30 – possibly hinting at sub-compact models – along with P5, P6, P8, P9 and P10. The European document stated that the ‘P’ nameplates are for electric vehicles, while information in the US filing for V20 and V30 remains scarce. It’s likely the ‘P’ badging refers to Polestar, Volvo’s performance sub-brand, which Kerssemakers hopes to become an electrification specialist in the future. With that in mind, it’s logical to assume the first Volvo EV will be a derivative of a current model, though which one still remains a mystery. However, regardless of the form Volvo’s EV will take, Kerssemakers says it needs to have far more range than customers actually need. “Why are people reluctant to buy a full electric car? It’s between the ears. It’s that they believe there’s not sufficient range”, he told Automotive News. +++

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