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+++ Well, well, well, it looks like General Motors may have finally tipped its hand as to what’s lurking under the hood of the upcoming CHEVROLET Corvette ZR1. An RPO code for the long-rumored LT5 V8 engine has been discovered in GM’s order system. The LT5 engine has been rumored to displace 6.2-liters and potentially usher in a DOHC configuration, which would harken back to the original LT5 V8 found in the C4 Corvette ZR-1. However, this new information does not mention DOHC technology. It does, however, provide plenty of new information. The engine will in fact displace 6.2 liters and feature a supercharger. It will also employ spark ignition direct injection as well as variable valve timing. As for the forced induction, the original report points to the recently revealed Eaton R2650 as a potential partner for the LT5 engine. Along with the larger blower, an updated fuel system will likely send power past the 6.2-liter LT4 supercharged V8’s 650 horsepower. Circling back to the potential DOHC configuration, previously leaked documents showed an LT5 V8 engine arriving for the 2018 model year with a DOHC design. Said documents also listed direct injection and variable valve timing as part of the engine’s features, but made no mention of a supercharger. The new information certainly makes more sense, since it would likely be hard to match the LT4 V8’s power figure sans a supercharger. That’s not to say a DOHC configuration isn’t ruled out for the next-generation, mid-engine Corvette, though. The ZR1 has long represented the king of the Corvette lineup, and the C7 ZR1 looks poised to fulfill the nameplate’s duty. If rumors prove true, we may see the new Corvette ZR1 debut this coming August. +++

+++ MERCEDES-AMG will in the future launch a greater number of bespoke performance models separate from the regular Mercedes-Benz range, but not at the most affordable end of its line-up revealed a local spokesperson. Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy said that AMG’s future focus would be to create stand-alone vehicles for more expensive models that were able to more easily deliver a return on investment. “AMG’s ability to do stand-alone cars is fairly limited obviously”, he said. “GT is a stand-alone car. SLS was a stand-alone car. Recouping the development cost on those models, because, whilst sales are good, it is easier because by their nature those cars are more expensive”. It has been all but confirmed that Mercedes-AMG will make a production version of the GT Concept shown at the Geneva motor show in March as a large 4-door version of the 2-door GT already on-sale. However, asked whether a 4-door Mercedes-AMG GT could replace the Mercedes-Benz CLS (which is due for imminent replacement given its E-Class donor vehicle switched to a new generation more than one year ago) McCarthy replied: “No”. “The CLS has been very successful”, he added. “If that other model (4-door GT) is made that adds to the AMG portfolio. My understanding is CLS will continue in a new model”. Given that both a four-door GT and the CLS conform to a large, coupe-style sedan configuration, McCarthy agreed that Mercedes-AMG would become a more separate brand from Mercedes-Benz in the future. “Yeah, I think you see that”, he concurred. “SLS and GT and GT Roadster, and all those variants, they don’t have a Mercedes-Benz equivalent. It’s a Mercedes-AMG as opposed to a Mercedes Benz. I would only see that trend continuing. “AMG sales in Australia are very, very strong and pretty much in all the other markets they operate in as well. There’s an opportunity for AMG to do more. They (Mercedes-AMG) are in charge of the V8 engine development and V12. It would make some sense that if you’re doing new models that are going to fill a niche, or be it a larger niche, that AMG is the likely one to do it”. However, economies of scale all but rule out the Mercedes-Benz performance division (with its Affalterbach headquarters positioned a half-hour’s drive north of its parent company’s Stuttgart base) delivering more affordable sportscars. Responding to rumours that the Mercedes-Benz SLC (the recently renamed version of the long-running SLK) is not due to be replaced, Mr McCarthy said: “We haven’t had confirmation of that”. Although the Mercedes-AMG GT openly targets the Porsche 911, the smaller Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 roadster has long lagged behind the cheaper Porsche Boxster and Cayman rivals in sales and media evaluations. A stand-alone Mercedes-AMG version could close the gap between competitors, but it is still unlikely that a potential next-generation iteration would be produced solely by Mercedes-AMG. “We don’t know about SLC”, McCarthy continued. “Certainly in markets that it sells well, those markets will be wanting it to be replaced. Whether an SLC is part of that product planning we haven’t actually been told. Whether it’s done by Mercedes-Benz or whether it’s done by AMG we don’t know. 2-seater convertibles are not big sellers, particularly the higher up the price point they get”. +++

+++ The PSA Group is in talks to build Toyota-owned supplier Aisin’s automatic gearboxes at one of its own plants, company sources told, in what would be an early reward for the Peugeot maker’s purchase of Opel. The combined scale of PSA and Opel has added impetus to negotiations with Aisin, the 3 sources said, helping to overcome the Japanese company’s reservations. The Opel acquisition announced in March, which valued the General Motors business at 2.2 billion euros, brings “a larger sales volume and therefore more profitability for an investment”, one source said. PSA currently buys 6- and 8-speed Aisin gearboxes made in Japan and China for its Peugeot, Citroen and DS brands. Assembling the 6-speed in France would secure a competitive supply, reduce currency risk and help fill its own plants. For Aisin, 34 percent-owned by Toyota and affiliates, it would establish a first European production base amid growing demand for automatic gearboxes, which currently equip about one in five PSA cars sold. Automatics are less popular in Europe than in the United States, but their growth is set to accelerate with tighter emissions rules and demand for electric, hybrid and increasingly automated cars, to which manual gearboxes are unsuited. PSA and Aisin both declined to comment, but Aisin has previously signalled an openness to partnerships. “We’re absolutely not averse to joint programs with non-Toyota companies”, president Yasumori Ihara said in January, the same month that PSA CEO Carlos Tavares told workers at his company’s Metz transmissions plant that an unspecified production deal was under consideration. But the proposal had made little headway until the tie-up with Opel, the sources said. An agreement could now be finalized within months, subject to successful closing of the Opel acquisition later in the year, and PSA managers may discuss the plans with unions in works council meetings next month. PSA plans to redevelop future Opels with its own technology as 3 models already have been under an earlier partnership, boosting purchasing clout and economies of scale. Bringing production of automatic gearboxes in-house underlines their importance. Under Tavares, PSA has been outsourcing activities including some research and development to prioritize core profitability and future growth areas. One option would be for PSA and Aisin to invest jointly in a new production line at a French site. But PSA-owned production under license is more likely, reflecting the Japanese supplier’s wariness over investing, sources said. That could evolve into a joint venture or outright sale once the plan had proved its worth. Either way, the production investment would pit PSA’s Tremery factory near Metz, eastern France, against the northern Valenciennes plant. While Valenciennes has more automatic gearbox expertise, Metz has more spare capacity. “There’s easily enough room on the Metz site,” said Christian Lafaye, an official with the Force Ouvriere union. “They can come and install their tooling tomorrow if they want”. +++

+++ RENAULT has revealed its vision for the future of electric car recharging. The French brand has detailed a new system that allows wireless vehicle charging as you drive. Developed in conjunction with telecommunications equipment company Qualcomm and urban mobility research organisation Vedecom the concept takes the principles behind static wireless charging and applies them to moving vehicles. However, this is a blue sky idea as widespread infrastructure changes would be required to make dynamic wireless charging a reality as specialised equipment would need to be embedded in the road surfaces. Vedecom, with the help of Qualcomm, has constructed a 100 metre charging-capable test track in Versailles, France, while Renault and Qualcomm collaborated on a pair of Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric vans fitted with the required charging hardware. The facility will be used to conduct testing that would collect data on the system’s safety, ability to identify and correctly invoice vehicles, charging alignment issues and power transfer capabilities between the vehicle and the road. Advantages of dynamic wireless charging extend to reduced recharging down time, which potentially could lead to never having to plug an EV in again. Away from the dynamic charging road the Kangoo Z.E concept vehicle acts as normal electric vehicle which would circumvent the eventual issue that mot all areas may be able to be converted to powered roadways. 9 European countries and 25 partner companies will undertake testing of the system throughout 2017. +++

+++ A hot SKODA Karoq vRS performance SUV could be the brand’s next vRS badged model, according to boss Bernhard Maier. The Karoq is a compact SUV that Skoda is targeting squarely as a practical family car, but company CEO Maier said they could respond to demand for a performance version to be made. Maier said: “We have from our we have from our customer base very clear feedback that there is obviously a demand in having an SUV with our vRS logo as well, and that has all the ingredients which make the Skoda a vRS. We are investigating. We have not made a final decision as of yet. But there might be at least a substantial discussion about that”. The development comes following reports that called into question the future of the vRS brand. The Fabia vRS hot hatch was discontinued for this generation of the supermini. Two generations of Fabia vRS were made, but now the only remaining vRS model in the Skoda range is the Octavia. If the Karoq vRS were to make it to market, it’d likely share the same 300 hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine as is found in the Seat Ateca Cupra; the closely related cars would also be each others’ main competitor in the still fledgling hot SUV market. The Volkswagen T-Roc R would also fall into the same category. Such a niche product would be a bold move for Skoda, whose brand usually focuses upon practicality and family-friendliness, although being one of the pioneer cars of the segment would be positive for the Karoq vRS’s sales prospects. Maier also said that a hybrid Karoq could be developed. Skoda will launch its first plug-in hybrid, a version of the Superb, in 2019. Maier added: “The MQB platform on which the Karoq is built on is prepared for that, but there’s no decision made so far. Until we launch the plug-in Superb we have enough opportunities to really check and balance what car is ready for the market at that time”. +++

+++ Elon Musk once chose to sleep on TESLA ’s factory floor to prove to his employees that he worked harder and put in even more hours than they did, “because that’s what I think a manager should do”. He wasn’t the only with his head on the ground, apparently. Since that revelation in 2016, some of Musk’s minions have also been found laid out next to the assembly lines, but for altogether different reasons. Galescu was one of several workers who told that they had seen co-workers collapse or be taken away in ambulances. “We had an associate on my line, he just kept working, kept working, kept working, next thing you know, he just fell on the ground”, said another worker. The mixed feelings toward Tesla that emerged in story were captured by Richard Ortiz, another production worker, who said, “It’s like you died and went to autoworker heaven”, but “everything feels like the future but us”. There’s wasn’t much upside, however, in how Michael Sanchez, who is on disability leave, described his workweek. “You can make it through Monday”, he told. “You can make it through Tuesday. Come Wednesday you start to feel something. Thursday is pain. Friday is agonizing. Saturday you’re just making it through the day”. For his part, Musk defended his hard-driving style. “We’re a money-losing company,” he was quoted as saying in the story. “This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing. It’s just a question of how much money we lose. And how do we survive? How do we not die and have everyone lose their jobs?” +++

+++ The idea of flying cars has likely been around since first vehicles began putting the world on wheels. However, despite leaps and bounds in technology, the flying car is still largely a pipe dream (save for a few daring companies aiming to redefine air transportation) but TOYOTA has now thrown its hat into the winged-car ring. A report from Nikkei claims Toyota has officially provided funds for a group of its top engineers that moonlight on a flying car project. The 30 Toyota employees call themselves Cartivator and have been pursuing flying vehicle technology since about 2012. Cartivator has long relied on crowd-source funding for its dreams, but Toyota itself was reportedly swayed by the business pitch. “Things will not progress if you wait and provide money only when the technology is ready”, Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada said of the project. The project’s working title, SkyDrive, reportedly tests as a 1/5 scale model at the Cartivator headquarters, but a full-scale prototype will be revealed as early as July, according to those involved. The prototype will seat one person and house rotors at each corner for flying duties. When tasked to perform as a car, it features a three-wheel design. The team targets a top speed of 100 km/h in the air. Judging from some patent drawings, the design looks a lot like flying jelly bean, hardly the prettiest thing to look at. Though, the final product shown in a concept drawing looks properly futuristic. The team has lofty goals for SkyDrive. With Toyota’s money, the company plans to put a full-scale vehicle in the air by the end of this year with a pilot onboard. Following that, Cartivator hopes to remotely pilot a SkyDrive in 2018. All of this is ultimately in preparation for the 2020 Olympic games which will be hosted in Tokyo, Japan. Cartivator hopes to light the iconic Olympic torch with the SkyDrive. +++

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