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+++ The upcoming F1-based hypercar won’t be Mercedes – AMG ’s only plug-in hybrid, as the brand’s chief, Tobias Moers, recently revealed. In fact, the high-performance model will be just the icing on the cake, as the production version of the AMG GT Concept, shown in Geneva earlier this year, will follow, under the EQ Power+ moniker, which was introduced on the W08 F1 car. Moers said that it “is the next level, because the hypercar is a very dedicated layout. With the GT Concept, it gives you and understanding of how we define the future of performance in our standard platforms, in our so-to-speak more normal cars”. Forced to confront with the stricter emissions requirements and regulations, Mercedes-AMG will eventually adopt the plug-in hybrid technology in the rest of their products, as this is seen as the way “to move forward and find new innovative solutions”, according to the brand’s chief. And full electric models are also seen in the company’s future, Moers said, but he did not give a timetable: “I would be wrong to tell you no. I don’t know when down the road. But we are not changing the future. It Is going to happen”. +++

+++ The CHEVROLET Corvette faithful are eagerly awaiting the unveiling of the ZR1 but fans who want to check out the Corvette factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky better act fast as General Motors is temporary halting tours for the next 18 months. In an interview with the Bowling Green Daily News, National Corvette Museum Marketing and Communications Manager, Katie Frassinelli, said the plant is gearing up to go through a series of extensive changes and tours will be halted after June 16th. Details are limited at this point but Frassinelli says the plant will be reconfigured and equipped with a new paint shop that is integrated into the assembly line. This should help to streamline production as the current paint shop is “on the opposite side of the plant”. General Motors isn’t talking but the pause in factory tours concedes with the rumored launch timing of the mid-engine C8. Rumors suggest the car could be unveiled at the 2018 North American International Auto Show and be powered by a familiar V8 engine. The model is expected to go on sale approximately 1 year later and could eventually be offered with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Unfortunately, the switch to a mid-engine platform could cause the company to ditch the manual and offer the C8 exclusively with a dual-clutch gearbox. +++

+++ Samsung Electronics has got permission from South Korean authorities to domestically test a DRIVERLESS VEHICLE fitted with its electronic parts and software, as the tech giant aims to muscle into the automotive industry in search of a new growth driver. The land ministry, in a statement issued on Monday, said the car is a modified version of a South Korean car maker’s vehicle using Samsung’s own components such as cameras as well as its artificial intelligence software. The firm plans to use the car to develop a self-driving algorithm capable of driving in adverse weather conditions and next-generation components for autonomous cars, the ministry said. “We would like to clarify that the company has no plan to enter the car manufacturing business”, Samsung told Reuters in a separate statement, adding the vehicle will further its development of “deep learning algorithms for autonomous operations”. Samsung has identified the auto industry as a new source of growth as the market for its key products such as smartphones matures. It completed the $8 billion acquisition of Harman International Industries earlier this year, a move that analysts say may help Samsung scale up quickly by taking control of an automotive parts maker with a proven track record. It may take years for the auto industry to become a big enough business to rival its mainstay memory chip and smartphone operations, however. Samsung has not clinched any major supply agreements with car makers yet. +++

+++ Spies have spotted another prototype of the next-generation MERCEDES A-class testing in southern Europe. In this case, it’s a higher-performance version, but not quite the replacement for the all-singing, all-dancing A45. Spotted testing with a variety of other AMG production cars and prototypes, this go-faster model is thought to be an upcoming A40 variant, a competitor to the likes of the Audi S3 and VW Golf GTI. Clues as to its uprated performance over cooking A-class models include a large additional air intake in the front bumper, larger ventilated brake discs and two exhausts at the rear. The fourth-gen Mercedes A-class range as a whole is due for official reveal in the spring of 2018, engineered upon a brand-new platform. Early spyshots suggest a wide, dual-screen digital instrument layout along the lines of the S-class and E-class. Plenty of physical buttons on the steering wheel, however. If you’d previously been tempted by the A-class, but found it wanting in terms of space, then you’re in luck as the fourth-gen version is set to offer more room inside. Mercedes’ upcoming hatch will reputedly ditch the current A-class’s MFA platform for a new version, dubbed ‘MFA2’. It grants a longer wheelbase, increasing interior space. The new MFA2 platform will also also be slightly lighter than the outgoing platform, and offer more flexibility when it comes to powertrains. The rear light clusters will be redesigned. In the current A-class they’re a wide one-piece design, resulting in a narrow opening in the tail, meaning it’s hard to load bulky items. It looks to be the case, however, that the new car will feature split tail lights, with standalone clusters in the tailgate and rear wings, making the aperture wider, improving access to the A-class’s boot. Mercedes is also planning a four-door version of the A-class, this time around, but we’ve no official word as to whether this’ll make it to The Netherlands yet. There’ll be the obligatory four-cylinder petrol and diesel options, as well as a few AMG derivatives. Our sources suggest an A40 AMG with around 300 hp will sit alongside the A45 AMG, which in its second iteration will pack around 400 hp. Mercedes may also roll out a 3-cylinder petrol version of the fourth-gen A-class, along with a plug-in hybrid version ideal for company car drivers. The MFA2 platform is expected to find its way under the next generation of CLA, B-class and the mooted upcoming GLB SUV.+++

+++ MG ’s all-new small crossover, called the ZS is most markets, will be rebadged as XS when it arrives in the UK this year. The Nissan Juke rival is also set to receive plug-in hybrid and fully electric powertrains within 18 months. The XS name will be officially announced at the London Motor Show later this week, along with prices and specifications. The ZS name was originally meant to form part of a more cohesive naming strategy which began with the GS SUV, but it clashes with the Rover 45-based ZS of the early 2000s. According to bosses, the electric and PHEV versions of the crossover will also beat the production version of the E-Motion sports car concept to market. There are no details on what the powertrain for both model will comprise, but MG is able to turn to its Chinese parent company SAIC for assistance with powertrain development. A plug-in hybrid system available to MG is found in the Roewe eRX5, which is a China only SUV – it features a 170 hp 1.5-litre turbo and 41 hp electric. The powertrain is likely to be detuned for MG’s smaller crossover to help reduce cost. The front of the XS has a familiar small SUV design, with the large grille and deep bumper echoing rivals such as the CX-3, especially thanks to the swept-back headlights. The rear looks more closely related to the MG GS, the XS’s larger platform-sharing brother that’s already on sale. There are no firm details yet on the UK version, but for now Chinese reports are indicating that the car will use two petrol engines at launch: a 1.5-litre four-cylinder and a 1.0-litre three-cylinder. That matches previous spy shots, where a number plate check revealed that the test mules in Britain were using the small petrol unit. The 1.0 engine is claimed to have 125 hp and 170 Nm of torque, and while the 1.5-litre petrol in the GS could be carried over with 166 hp and 250 Nm, the reports suggest a de-tuned version with 120 hp and 150 Nm of torque will appear in the car. It’s also suggested that the car will get the same 6-speed manual and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearboxes as the GS. MG’s head of marketing Matthew Cheyne told us that the explosion in popularity of SUVs and crossovers has meant it’s a market the brand cannot ignore – and the platform also supports larger cars, which means we could see a seven-seater rival for the Nissan X-Trail in the MG line-up in the future. With the GS starting at around 5,000 euro less than the rival Nissan Qashqai, I expect the XS to cost significantly less than the Nissan Juke. Expect to see the car launched next year. +++

+++ MITSUBISHI ’s new chief operating officer has a host of plans for the company’s future and is pondering bringing a new sedan and pickup to the U.S. With the company revitalized by entering into the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Mitsubishi is expected to return a full-year profit for the year ending March 31, a dramatic turnaround from internal forecasts prior to Trevor Mann becoming the new COO. Mann revealed that the United States as well as China and Southeast Asia are considered as the primary drivers of its ongoing recovery and is well aware of the added flexibility the automaker has after partnering with Renault and Nissan. According to Mann, it would be conceivable for a pickup based around a Nissan platform to be launched while Renault-Nissan could also receive a tap on the shoulder to help Mitsubishi create a new sedan in the wake of the Lancer’s impending death. “It’s something that we should look at. As we go forward and start to have common platforms, an alliance pickup platform would be quite an appropriate thing for us to do”, Mann said. As it stands, Mitsubishi already offers a pickup overseas. Bringing a similar model to the U.S. could prove to be a winning move by the marque. Beyond the potential of these 2 new vehicles, Mann suggested that it could restart manufacturing in North America after shutting down its sole facility on the continent last year. “One of the things that we have to start looking at is perhaps further industrialization. We don’t have a plant in the U.S. anymore. Maybe using Nissan’s capacity”, he said. +++

+++ Looking for an ‘easy’ yet alluring career in the motor industry? Then get yourself a sharp suit before landing a job selling dream cars costing at least 6 figures. Positions for such men and, increasingly, women are on the up in the SUPERCAR world. That’s largely thanks to eye-wateringly wealthy buyers in New York City and Los Angeles, because the US still ranks as the most important and influential market for wheels like this. So it was appropriate that the small but perfectly formed Supercar Forum stand at the recent New York Auto Show was considered the most expensive piece of real estate in the city. On the grounds that I have what the US organisers describe as a “cute Dutch accent”, I was the Forum’s appointed moderator. Inevitably, the scene was blessed with Koenigsegg’s presence, and its sales boss, Tariq Ali, confided in me that many of his clients don’t have to be persuaded to purchase his car over a rival. “If they like the Koenigsegg plus the Spyker and Rimac”, he told me, “they’ll order all three”. Victor Muller agrees that it’s generally “a very easy sell” to shift his Spykers: “A typical customer? When he was young, he bought a Porsche 911. But all his peers had them, too. So he goes for a Ferrari, Bentley or Aston Martin. Then he moves to suburbia and finds that ‘everyone’ has a Ferrari 488. That’s very embarrassing. So that’s when he goes to a boutique brand like Spyker”. Rimac’s Chief Operating Officer, Monika Mikac, has a very different approach. “I always say to a potential customer, they have to try our car. Then they will love it”. Is it really the case that a supercar manufacturer occasionally deals with a would-be client who argues he could do with an expensive painting or sculpture instead of yet another supercar? “Yes, that’s true. But I tell the client that if he buys a Rimac he can drive it and position it as a piece of art in the home, on the drive, in the garage or car collection or wherever. A lot of time, effort, passion and money is invested in producing our cars”, the most articulate and convincing saleswoman I’ve ever met in the global auto industry rightly says. I just pray a giant, wealthy predator like Volkswagen Group doesn’t swoop in and grab her impressive but comparatively tiny Croatia-based company. Mind you, she’d probably prove to be a better VW chief than its disgraced and departed chairman, Martin Winterkorn of Dieselgate fame. +++

+++ The TVR Griffith name has been trademarked ahead of the launch of the British sports car brand’s first new model since its resurrection in 2013. Sources close to TVR suggest that the Griffith name is a strong contender to make it to the production model, although others, including an entirely new name to TVR, are mooted. If the Griffith name makes it onto the production car, it will be the model’s third iteration, following the original (named after American dealer Jack Griffith) and the second-generation, V8-engined Griffith of 1991. The new, as-yet-unnamed model’s launch in September will likely be the first time the production name is confirmed; it’s suggested that the TVR team is still undecided, despite the car having been shown to an exclusive group of buyers earlier this year. The name Griffith was first re-trademarked in late 2015, alongside Tuscan and Grantura, the latter being the first car TVR ever made, back in 1958. Griffith is the only name to have been trademarked again since, though. +++

+++ Major automakers and other groups are raising objections to the way VOLKSWAGEN wants to spend 2 billion dollar on electric vehicle infrastructure and projects, as part of the German automaker’s atonement for diesel emissions cheating. Volkswagen plans to install hundreds of EV charging stations nationwide as part of the 10-year plan. About 800 dollar million of the total will be spent in California as part of a settlement with the government after the German automaker admitted to secretly installing cheating software in 580,000 diesel vehicles allowing them to emit excess pollution. The California Air Resources Board is considering whether to approve the 200 million dollar spending plan for the first 30 months and is reviewing the 120 comments submitted, said spokesman Dave Clegern. Automakers object to the proposed locations of some charging stations in areas that already have many electric vehicles and have concerns about competitive advantages VW could get from the program. An environmental group said more of the stations should be built in low-income areas. Also, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai wrote a joint letter urging California to require Volkswagen to spend a “significant portion” of the money on hydrogen fuel cell fueling stations, saying the current commitment by California to get 100 such stations in place by 2020 is “not on track”. In its initial California spending plan, Volkswagen wants to allocate 120 million dollar to build more than 400 highway and community EV charging stations by 2019 in high-traffic areas. Several automakers said in their comments that they would prefer that the new charging stations be installed instead in areas that have little electric vehicle traffic. Ford said it “has reservations about having a key electrification driver dependent on and ultimately controlled by one automotive competitor”. Ford added VW should target areas where “demonstrated market interest does not already exist”. BMW said Volkswagen “should not be afforded an implicit comparative advantage through its ability to control day-to-day operations of consumer charging events” such as waiting times, pricing and billing. Under the agreement with California and the Justice Department, funds spent on education and outreach must be brand-neutral and cannot feature Volkswagen vehicles. Charging stations must be accessible to all vehicles. The 3 automakers who want Volkswagen to spend more on building hydrogen fueling stations are trying to sell fuel cell vehicles. Volkswagen declined to comment on the automaker letters, but said its goal is to “make it easy for as many (zero emission vehicle) drivers as possible to enjoy the collective charging networks available”. The Sierra Club in a letter to California urged VW to “rethink its infrastructure proposal to include more investments in community-based charging in disadvantaged communities”. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this month approved VW’s initial 300 million dollar spending plan for EV projects outside California through 2019, including having 450 charging stations in place by then. VW will also launch a 44 million dollar “Green City” initiative to pilot future concepts. It expects the city to be Sacramento. In December, Volkswagen agreed to add 3 additional electric vehicle models in California by 2020 and must sell an average of 5,000 electric vehicles annually through 2025 in the state. +++

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