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+++ BENTLEY is open to launching more Bentayga variants. The first variants will arrive after the Bentayga receives a face-lift in 2019. Currently, the Bentley Bentayga is offered with a 6.0-liter W12 engine or a turbodiesel V8. The British brand is open to expanding the lineup by introducing more variants of its first-ever SUV. “Derivatives are important to us because you have to be the newest kid in town for customers”, explained company CEO Wolfgang Durheimer in an interview. He explained launching new variants will help keep the Bentayga on top of its game when rivals like Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Maybach, and BMW finally break into the ultra-luxurious SUV segment. All 4 brands are scheduled to introduce a high-riding flagship before the end of the decade. The first off-shoot could arrive when the Bentayga receives a mid-cycle face-lift in 2019. However, Durheimer stressed how many variants Bentley will ultimately offer hasn’t been decided yet. Similarly, it’s too early to say what form they will take. Most of the options Bentley executives are looking at would take the Bentayga into a sportier direction. Notably, sources close to the company suggest a hot-rodded variant in the vein of the Continental GT3 R could be among the first derivatives launched. Other options include a four-door coupe model with a fastback-like roof line, and a long-wheelbase Bentayga with an even more luxurious back seat. +++

+++ Things are swell over at the brand with the prancing horse. FERRARI profit skyrocketed 36 percent during the first quarter of 2017. Demand substantially increased for Ferrari’s V12 powered offerings, up 50 percent during the first quarter. Interestingly, buyers shied away from the V8 powered Ferraris, whose sales slumped 3 percent. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, and depreciation totaled in at $265 million, up from $195 million this time last year. Demand for Ferrari’s priciest models, like the LaFerrari Aperta, and its 70th-anniversary special editions certainly helped boost profits. With V12 engines in demand, Ferrari is poised to take advantage with the recently revealed 812 Superfast. The 812 Superfast, an update from the F12 Berlinetta, features a 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V12 engine. With 800 horsepower on tap, the flagship Ferrari can sprint from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds. Those performance figures aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon, either. Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne recently went on the record to state it would be “nuts” to employ forced induction with the V12 engine. The future will be about hybrids, according to Marchionne. Looking further into the future, Marchionne will continue to strike a balance between exclusivity and open the Ferrari brand up to new customers. This comes after Ferrari itself was spun off from parent company Fiat-Chrysler, which has left Maserati and Alfa Romeo as FCA’s halo brands. Ferrari has typically capped annual production at 7,000 vehicles a year but the Italian supercar maker is currently on schedule to sell 9,000 cars by 2019. That bump up in production has sent first quarter profits soaring by 60 percent, according to the report. To induce further growth, Ferrari may even consider a V6 powered car and revive the “Dino” name for the 488’s successor, due in 2020. The V6 engine is rumored to be powered by the 2.9-liter engine found in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. +++

+++ HYUNDAI Motor Europe (HME) chief designer Thomas Burkle has revealed that coupe-SUV models are now high on the agenda, with the German-born former BMW executive explaining that the success of models such as the X6 now pave the way for a high-riding body style expansion. Burkle told: “I am more than happy to push forward with these things (a coupe SUV) and these ideas. Definitely it’s very interesting to open the door for body variants in the SUV segment. BMW X6, of course, I know the whole history of that car and I think we will see a bandwidth of cars in the SUV segment as well because it is a growing segment. But let’s say with the i30 fastback it’s some kind of a starting point to new body variants that are more on the emotional side, where Hyundai is known as a practical car, this is a new step and if it goes well we will build on that”. A swoopy, coupe-style 5-door i30 has been confirmed to replace the outgoing traditional 3-door hatchback on the switch from the 2012 GD to 2017 FD generation. Burkle said that Hyundai buyers were becoming more affluent, adding that the company was starting to pitch higher-grade versions of its vehicles to a greater degree than ever, and this would first influence models such as the i30, then progress to the SUV realm. “It is of course a success story if people buy the higher versions, it means they open their wallets and are really excited about the cars, not just to buy a cheap transportation device”, Burkle explained. “We have overcome this situation already and we know our customer base has a solid income, so we want to offer a more exciting range. For the company this really is a new stage now”. Asked whether SUVs were occupying a major space within Hyundai design at the moment, he replied: “Yes I can say so”. With the imminent launch of the brand’s Kona small SUV, its SUV portfolio will expand and add to the current Tucson and Santa Fe models. For Burkle, larger SUV models make more sense for a coupe spin-off. “I could imagine in many segments a coupe SUV version but we have to see the ratio of body size, of wheel size, of length, of rear overhang and so on”, he said. “You need for a coupe profile a certain length, and you need the ratio of height and length. We talk a lot about proportion and this is also something new, we never talked so much about proportion in the past. So now before we start making some sketches we start discussing what is the wheelbase, what is the height, what is the width of the car. “For us the early phase before we really sharpen the pencil is extremely important”. The oldest SUV in the Hyundai line-up is the Santa Fe. Asked if the next-generation of the largest Hyundai SUV could see a coupe-style spin-off, the chief designer replied: “Yes, but it could also be in a more compact segment”. Hyundai globally will also reveal at least 2 Genesis SUV models before 2020, the luxury-sports derivations of which could further see a coupe-style variant. +++

+++ The American automotive company KARMA Automotive has launched an online configurator for its brand new Revero: the newest plug-in hybrid sedan influenced by the now obsolete Fisker Karma. Only recently, Karma Automotive announced that it will officially launch the Revero and it then released all the specifications of the plug-in hybrid, including an updated interior. Karma Automotive will also kick-start its deliveries of the newest plug-in hybrid sedan later this month. The American automaker has secured its first television spot, which aired last weekend on CBS during the 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship – wherein Karma Automotive was one of the sponsors of the held affair. In the ad called “Delivery”, there were scenes of the Revero being shipped to California and Florida, so we can only assume that this is the beginning of the Karma takeover. Karma Automotive’s Chief Revenue Officer Jim Taylor said in his speech that the spot symbolizes the rebirth of one of the most renowned silhouettes in automotive history. They felt that this moment in time deserved to be recognized. New Karma Revero is the modernized version of the now defunct Fisher Karma plug-in hybrid vehicle. Produced in Finland, the Fisker Karma was considered a beautiful flop, with approximately 1,950 models sold before the Fisker Automotive went bankrupt. Afterwards, Wanxiang Group Corp which is based in China, purchased the company’s remaining assets in 2014 for $149.2 million. It then announced plans to build a new factory that will be located in Southern California. In the years that followed, the company talked to Fisker owners and finally gave the go-ahead for a new plant to re-invent the vehicle that will be considered the next-gen model. Karma will utilize the original design and hardware of the Fisker’s Karma extended range electric vehicle that was axed in 2012. In addition, the company has updated and modified its different elements. The modifications included a solar panel roof suited to charge the vehicle’s battery because of its fast charging capacity. It also comes with an improved infotainment system and a 2.0 L turbocharged inline 4. Two electric motor will deliver power to the back wheels and will produce a combined 403 hp. We’ve also learned that several models will be produced in California, where most units will be hand built. However, a larger factory located in China will build most of the upcoming vehicles. Previously, Karma Automotive hinted that the new Revero deliveries will begin in the first quarter of 2017. It also said that it aims to sell as many as 900 units the first year. Well, it’s already May so that means it experienced a slight delay. But then again, a wait of a few months isn’t that significant. This Karma Revero has a base price of around $131,400. +++

+++ The updated PEUGEOT 308 has been officially revealed and detailed, though only in a single image at this stage, bringing new driver assistance technologies and a new 8-speed automatic transmission for the sporty GT diesel. Design changes have been extended to all 6 trim versions that are available globally; including the Access, Active, Allure, GT Line, GT and GTi. The revisions include a new bonnet which extends into a vertical grille with a centrally-mounted Peugeot lion badge. Other changes include a new front bumper with revised foglights, while the tail-lights show “a proud three-claw light signature night and day”, suggesting the new 308 could be one of the first vehicles to feature rear LED daytime-running lights. An array of new driver assistance and safety systems from the 3008 SUV will be available on the hatchback and SW, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), active lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with stop/go function (a PSA Group-first), along with the ‘Visionpark 1’ system with 180-degree rear-view camera and park assistant. The interior also gets an updated infotainment system, which is available with a new 3D satellite navigation function with TomTom real-time traffic updates, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Several powertrain options will be offered globally, including a range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. The 308 GT’s BlueHDi 180 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine is now mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission co-developed with Japanese company Aisin. Meanwhile, the 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine gets major at-source and at-exhaust emission control updates to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. The PureTech 130 unit is claimed to enhance combustion efficiency, and exhaust gases go through a catalytic converter then a passive-regeneration gasoline particulate filter. The three-cylinder petrol is paired with a new 6-speed manual transmission, which the company says “reaps the maximum benefit” of the new engine technology. A new four-cylinder turbo-diesel (1.5-litre) dubbed Blue HDi 130 will also debut in the 308 range, marking another first for the PSA Group, which gets similar at-source and at-exhaust emission control technologies to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, anticipating the introduction of stricter Euro 6.c regulations. Further details of the updated 308 hatchback and SW range will be revealed closer to market launch. +++


+++ It’s no secret
TESLA CEO Elon Musk is a pretty ambitious guy who likes to look to the future, and his latest prediction keeps pace with those of the past. In only 2 years, Musk believes, fully self-driving cars will be on the road. Musk made the prediction during a recent TED talk where he also divulged details on a Tesla semi-trailer truck as well as plans for his new startup, The Boring Company. 2 years away certainly isn’t far, but Musk thinks that’s enough time to get the software in place to enable fully self-driving cars. You’ll recall that Tesla’s cars are already equipped with all the necessary hardware. Thus, Tesla could create a “Level 5” self-driving car without actually upgrading the existing cameras, radar, and sensors. If Musk’s vision comes true, drivers would effectively become passengers in 2019 and could be confident in knowing the vehicle could manage all duties human drivers are currently responsible for when piloting a car. It’s a stark contrast to conventional automakers’ thoughts, which peg fully driverless cars to arrive in five years or more. Even then, the technology may be limited to ride-sharing services until consumers cozy up to the idea of letting the car do the driving. There’s also one other major factor in Musk’s timeline: regulations. States currently don’t hold to one set of standards regarding driverless cars. Some states have given autonomous vehicles free reign, while others require that autonomous cars must be supervised by state police like in New York. By 2019, no one knows if the federal government will have stitched together cohesive standards for driverless vehicles to travel across the U.S. And there are still quite a few kinks to be ironed out with driverless cars. There’s no denying the technology has come a long way, but a handful of Autopilot accidents and hiccups keep many pessimistic about when the perfect autonomous vehicle will actually arrive. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is looking deeper into the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) auto market, especially on the Old Continent, where its diesels still rule consumer preference. The carmaker has recently inked a joint declaration of intent with CNG filling stations and gas networks to support the expansion of CNG usage in Europe. Initially the strategy will focus on Germany, aiming to raise CNG fleet vehicle usage to 1 million cars by 2025. To support the increase, the brand will support the initiative that aims to more than double the number of CNG filling stations from 900 to 2,000 during that time. They will also have a wide scope – cars and trucks, as well as public transportation in major cities. And besides Germany, the initiative will also promote CNG throughout Europe. “Due to its purview, Volkswagen Group recognizes its considerable social responsibility with regard to the energy revolution”, comments Ulrich Eichorn, Volkswagen’s chief of research and development. “Its short-term availability makes natural gas an important component of our overall strategy for eco-friendly mobility of the future. Owing to the addition of methane from renewable resources, the propellant can gradually become even greener”. Of course, VW would have remained satisfied with the levels of CNG usage if it weren’t for Dieselgate. Natural gas is cleaner by far compared to gasoline or diesel, and with the fuel being readily available thanks to new production techniques, there’s a good case for it. +++

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