Newsflash

0

+++ The new AUDI A8 may use ‘geofencing’ to activate and deactivate its autonomous technologies to comply with regional laws, a senior source at the company has suggested. The 4th generation of the Ingolstadt brand’s range-topper uses more than a dozen sensors, including a front-mounted laser scanner, to offer at least the capability of ‘Level 3’ autonomy. Audi’s implementation of this, called Traffic Jam Pilot, would allow the driver to focus on other activities – including, the firm claims, watching movies on the in-car infotainment system, at speeds of up to 50 km/h on multi-lane roads where the oncoming traffic is at the other side of a barrier. However, global legislation is fragmented on autonomous tech, even within Europe, where every country has been making different rates of progress on the laws required to allow drivers to ‘switch off’ behind the wheel. America is potentially even more complex, because legislation rests with states instead of federal government, so Level 3 could, for example, be legal in California and then outlawed a few miles later in Nevada. Speaking at the A8 reveal, Audi’s board member for Sales and Marketing, Dietmar Voggenreiter, admitted that the car will have redundant aspects of its autonomous tech, depending on where the vehicle is being used. “We will use the car’s systems to offer the best assistance services available in any given market”, he said. “This means that the Traffic Jam Pilot will work perfectly but in a lot of countries, because of the legislation, you will have the responsibility, not the car. You’ll have to be close to the steering wheel, keep your hands on the wheel… you know, these things like the 10-second limit between having your hands on the steering wheel. This is the difference between assistance systems and autonomous systems. “In some markets, or even a lot of markets, we won’t be able to sell a full autonomous driving option. But over the life cycle of 6 or 7 years of the car, we will see in a lot of markets changes in terms of legislation for autonomous driving. And then our car is prepared. The hardware is in, the redundant solutions like steering and braking systems; all of this is in. The car is prepared for Level 3. So if the legislation allows, we can switch it on. Voggenreiter stated that the A8 will be able to activate and deactivate its own features if it crosses a country or state border that brings a change in regulation. “We would then use geo-fencing for this”, he said. “We know where the car is and when the car crosses the border we would then switch it (Level 3) off or on, as appropriate. This technology is available. But our wish, hopefully, is that every state in the US and every country will allow autonomous vehicles in the long run”. Voggenreiter also conceded that other manufacturers may be less willing to assist with lobbying, now that Audi has brought a Level 3-capable vehicle to market. But he added, “It was always clear for us to be first with the technology in the market, and then we have to adapt it to the legal situation. We are now leading, but unfortunately the environment is not prepared yet for this leading technology. We have to see what happens over the lifetime of the A8”. +++

+++ If you believe the headlines in some of the media over the past week the end of the road for cars with an COMBUSTION engine (petrol and diesel) is nigh. I’m delighted to set the record straight: that’s utter tosh! Many people mis-read Volvo’s announcement that all new models post-2019 will feature some form of electrification. That doesn’t mean every Volvo will be fully electric. Eventually, maybe, but not for a good while yet. We’re big fans of what electrification can bring to our cars; we love the environmental and cost benefits it can bring, as well as the actual driving experience. And fair play to Volvo: by making this announcement it has further cemented its position as a leader in advanced technology. But the simple fact is that the good old internal combustion engine still has a fair bit of life in it yet. Battery technology won’t be at a stage for a while where it can power larger cars for longer distances; at least not at affordable prices. It’ll happen and it may come sooner than some people think such is the amount of resource being piled into battery research right now, especially with pretty much every manufacturer focusing so much effort on EV programmes. Demand for electrified cars (full EVs, plug-in hybrids and mild hybrids) is increasing rapidly and the talk of the industry is the tipping point when more buyers start to put these models on their shopping lists. I think that could happen soon, too. The biggest barriers to EV ownership (price and range) are being overcome with each new launch. But all this talk of cars with plugs brings another issue: charging. The new Audi A8 introduces a novel solution: inductive charging. However, the number of charging points needs to keep pace with the growing number of electric cars. That’s something the industry and government need to address fast, or they risk halting the electric car charge. +++

+++ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has confirmed that the doors to the DODGE Viper factory in Detroit will be shut on August 31. In a notice issued to the state, FCA confirmed the impending closure of the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant and said that it intends on offering the 87 employees impacted by the closure positions at its selection of other plants. Interestingly, FCA spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said that the Conner Avenue facility will remain part of its commitment to Detroit but failed to elaborate on what the future holds for the factory. Killed off predominantly due to weak sales, the Dodge Viper has been in production since 1992 and built at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant since 1995, albeit for a hiatus between 2010 and 2012. Despite dwindling interest in the Viper, sales are actually up 33 percent this year as enthusiasts look to purchase one of the final units to be built. +++

+++ HYUNDAI will use the technical knowledge gained during the development of its i30N hot hatch to make all of its models more engaging to drive, the brand’s director of high performance vehicles has said. Klaus Köster explained that Hyundai’s N division was helping the wider brand transition with a new, sportier identity as it bids to become the biggest Asian car maker in Europe. “We have already established our self as a reliable, quality car maker, that makes cars with good designs”, he said. “But now we have the knowledge to add sportiness to that image, which is something us Europeans like”. Köster said the i30N, which spent much of its development time at the firm’s European technical centre at the Nürburgring, would act as a halo product for this image change. He said all of Hyundai’s models would follow that car’s trend by being assessed at the Nurburgring during development. “It would be very nice if in 10 to 15 years we can have people on the street seeing Hyundai as a brand that makes cars which are fun to drive”, he added. “We have worked hard to develop this i30N into a car with a broad character and this can help us with all Hyundai models”. Köster said that it was this broad, flexible character that was key to ensuring the brand succeeds on a global scale. “In some markets like Korea they want a softer car, but others want a stiffer one”, he explained. +++

+++The new JAGUAR E-Pace will go on sale later this year. The second SUV to come from Jaguar in as many years will be followed by a third, the all-electric I-Pace, within months. Poised to rival the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3, the E-Pace is expected to become Jaguar’s biggest-selling model and result in the fast-growing firm selling more SUVs than saloon and sports cars combined. The E-Pace is smaller and more keenly priced than the F-Pace. Its design, one of the most expressive in its class, is very distinct from that of the larger F-Pace and will be, along with its dynamic ability, among the car’s key selling features. But despite pushing the styling and dynamics of the E-Pace, Jaguar says the model gives nothing away to its competitors in terms of practicality and usability. “At Jaguar, we have to do more than anyone else to prove that we’re good on the attributes that we weren’t in the past”, said design chief Ian Callum. The small SUV is derived from the D8 architecture used to underpin the Land Rover Discovery Sport. However, updates to the on-road dynamics have created what Graham Wilkins, the E-Pace’s chief engineer, describes as a “Jaguar version” of the Discovery Sport. The 5-door, 5-seater will be built under licence by Magna Steyr in Austria, rather than alongside the other transverse-engined cars in the Jaguar Land Rover range: the Discovery Sport and its Range Rover Evoque sibling. The plant at Halewood that builds the Land Rover pair is at capacity, with no room  to produce the expected six-figure annual production run of the E-Pace. Magna will bring back a steel-bodied, transversed-engined, front-wheel-drive Jaguar to the range for the first time since the X-Type. Front-wheel drive will only be offered on the entry-level 150 hp 2.0-litre diesel model with a 6-speed manual gearbox, however. The rest of the range will come with all-wheel drive and a 9-speed automatic gearbox. An all-wheel-drive version of the 150 hp diesel will be the only other model offered with a manual box. “The front-wheel drive model is still fun to drive, as the access model to the car and the Jaguar brand”, said Wilkins. Jaguar Land Rover’s full range of turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel Ingenium engines will be offered in the E-Pace, including a range-topping 300 hp 2.0-litre petrol version. This engine helps propel the E-Pace from 0-100 km/h in 6.4 seconds and to a top speed of 243 km/h. Audi’s 370 hp RS Q3 Performance is the most potent in a class of cars generally not focused on dynamic ability. Although the top E-Pace does not match those outputs, Jaguar is talking up the dynamic ability of the range as a whole. Wilkins said that being natively front-wheel drive was no barrier to the E-Pace handling how Jaguar thinks its cars should. “If we do a car like this, it needs to drive how it looks”, he said. “We needed no excuses. We chose an architecture that could do the looks and the drive with all the changes we’ve made, and there’s a 300 hp petrol version. There’s no excuse”. The E-Pace has MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension, and Jaguar has tuned the chassis, along with the four-wheel-drive control system and Adaptive Dynamics dampers, for a sporty on-road drive. To that end, the camber has also been changed on the front axle and there is a semi-solid mounting for the front sub-frame for a more connected steering feel. “It has a high driving position and great all-wheel drive, but it drives like a Jaguar”, said Wilkins. Alongside standard all-wheel-drive, top-of-the range diesel and petrol models have Active Driveline all-wheel-drive. Wilkins explained: “The Active Driveline system and the torque bias make it feel rear-wheel drive. It’s tuned to feel fun and energy like in a rear-wheel-drive car. It has all-wheel-drive capability, but it drives like a Jaguar”. The car, which weighs 1.700 kg, is much heavier than its main competitors. Jaguar counters by saying that its D8 architecture has authentic SUV capability, unlike that of its road-biased rivals. The use of high-strength steel in the structure helps to reduce the weight, says Wilkins, while aluminium is used for the boot lid, bonnet and fenders. The E-Pace is 4.345 mm long, 1.984 mm wide and 1.649 mm high, with a wheelbase of 2.681 mm. This makes it one of the shorter cars in its class (the BMW X1 is 4.439 mm long and the Audi Q5 4.388 mm) but boot space is above average among its peers at 480 litres. That is 25 litres down on the X1 but 60 litres up on the Q3. The extent of the front overhang is disguised by clever design tricks such as the chamfering of the front corners and the long horizontal front headlights. The E-Pace has a roofline and a side swage inspired by that of the F-Type. “It’s sporty and tough looking”, said Callum. The F-Type influence is also felt in some of the details at the front and rear, particularly at the front, where Callum describes the E-Pace as “unashamedly F-Type”. At the rear, there are large LED lights with a ‘chicane’ graphic. Alloy wheels up to 21-inch in diameter are offered; the standard size wheel is 17-inch. For the interior of the car, Jaguar has made the front cabin driver-focused. The low grab rail from the F-Type has made it in, along with a stick shifter for the automatic gearbox rather than a rotary controller. “We wanted sporty, so we took inspiration from the F-Type”, said Callum. “We also worked hard on the interior perceived quality, with the right use of metals and materials”. There is the staple SUV raised driving position up front; while, in the back, Jaguar is claiming kneeroom closer to an Audi Q5 than a Q3. There is also plenty of storage and cubby holes, with practicality a selling point Jaguar wants to push. The rear seats fold to create a total capacity of 1.234 litres. “The important thing, the raison d’être, is practicality”, said Callum. “We worked hard on storage like never before. We’ve embraced it and worked hard on it, as we were not known for it before. Now it’s class-leading. There’s lots of space in the car and it has a stylish exterior. It’s a very usable car”. A large amount of infotainment and connectivity functions have been fitted to the E-Pace in an attempt to attract younger buyers. A 10,0-inch touch screen housing the firm’s InControl Touch Pro system is offered as standard alongside 3 rotary controllers. Talking about the rotary controls, Callum explained that he is a “great believer in tactical controls with that mechanic feel”. He added: “It’s not quite right for Jag to only have touchscreens”. There driver’s instrument binnacle contains an optional widescreen TFT display to house information including navigation. There is a 4G wifi hotspot to connect up to eight devices, five USB charging ports and the option of a wearable key, as seen on the F-Pace. “The car is fully connected”, said Wilkins. “It’s important to offer this to the customer as the car will be on sale for a while, and this is all now necessary technology”. Callum has ruled out Jaguar creating an even more rakish 3-door version of the E-Pace, claiming that there is no market demand for it. There is a 3-door version of the Evoque, made by Land Rover, but sales volumes are tiny compared with the 5-door model. The E-Pace will go on sale in late 2017, with the first deliveries due around the end of the year. Europe will get first dibs on the car, with production starting in China a year later. Cars made in China will be for the home market. +++

+++ The next-generation TESLA Roadster appears to be inching closer to production as it is reporting that the model will become a prize for owners who make a lot of referrals. The reward is part of the company’s popular Referral Program and people who have already made a number of successful referrals have noticed a special loot box in the Tesla app. The loot box says “You’ve unlocked the first secret level. Refer 5 more friends for the ability to purchase a Founder’s Series next gen Roadster at a 10% discount. Unlock new levels with every 5 referrals for an additional 2% off per referral and amazing adventures that money can’t buy”. The loot box went on to say owners can eventually knock off 100% percent from the purchase price of the upcoming roadster to receive the car for free. That works out to be 50 referrals but the program appears to be limited to just the Model S and the Model X. Giving away cars doesn’t seem like a sound idea until you consider the entry-level Model S 75 starts at $69,500 so 50 new orders would net the company millions. +++

+++ Auto imports from the UNITED STATES will have to become more appealing in their design, more affordable or fuel-efficient in order to benefit from President Trump’s attempts to renegotiate a trade deal with South Korea. Trump met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week and said that the U.S. would look to fix trade imbalances with their key ally, thus creating a level playing ground for U.S. automakers, among other things. Despite brands such as Ford, GM and Chrysler registering nearly double the imports last year, their sales account for just 1% in the South Korean market, where Hyundai and Kia dominate. “Addressing non-tariff barriers would not fundamentally raise the competitiveness of U.S. cars”, said a senior Korean government official, who preferred to remain unnamed, in an interview. “What we really want to say to the United States is: make good cars, make cars that Korean consumers like”. With that in mind, in South Korea, U.S. models are seen as inferior to German cars in terms of brand image, sophistication and fuel economy, with the exception of Tesla Motors and General Motors’ Bolt (Opel Ampera-e), as electric vehicles have grown in popularity. According to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, there’s a quota in the current trade deal that acts as an obstacle to boosting imports. This quota allows U.S. automakers to bring in 25,000 vehicles each year that meet U.S. safety standards. Should an automaker decide to modify its cars to meet Korean safety standards in order to bring in more than their quota of one model, it would cost them up to $75 million. +++

+++ Thousands of VOLKSWAGEN Group vehicle owners who have had the diesel emissions fix carried out have complained of problems with their car, according to new findings. The UK law firm Harcus Sinclair said that out of 9,500 owners, 5,052 reported problems with their car after the fix. Over half of those said it was to do with reduced fuel efficiency, while another 41 percent said their cars came with reduced power and acceleration. Another 14 percent of drivers also said their cars had gone into ‘limp mode’ (where the car rapidly decelerates to low speeds of around 35 km/h) following the fix. The legal firm has filed a lawsuit against the VW Group on behalf of more than 40,000 affected owners in the UK, and has shared the findings with the Department for Transport. In a statement, Damon Parker, head of litigation at Harcus Sinclair said: “These results show that the fix intended to reduce NOx emissions may in fact have a detrimental impact on the car’s performance and running costs”. The news comes after a BBC Watchdog investigation found several owners had complained of their car going into limp mode, resulting in accidents and other dangerous situations on the road. The BBC Watchdog was contacted by several VW owners complaining their car had gone into limp mode after having the voluntary recall carried out. A mother who recently had the fix carried out was driving with her son in her Volkswagen Passat when the car went into limp mode. As she tried to manoeuvre the car off the road it was hit by a lorry. Both escaped unharmed. Owners have also complained of reduced engine performance and poorer fuel economy following the Dieselgate emissions fix. The Watchdog program cited results of independent engine testing before and after the technical fix as showing that the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valve was working harder than it should be. The findings follow earlier evidence from the Volkswagen Diesel Customer Forum to the Transport Select Committee that called for the VW recall to be halted after members reported issues with models shortly after having the fix done by their local Volkswagen dealer. Figures reveal 87 percent of the 542 owners who had the emissions fix carried out experienced mechanical problems: 66.9 percent had EGR problems, and 14 percent had Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) issues. Data shows EGR failure has been most common on vehicles with more than 65,000 kilometer on the clock, with repairs costing an average of 900 euro. A forum spokesman said: “We cannot simply stand by and allow VW’s fix to be further rolled out to an uninformed public”. Volkswagen defended its position, stating: “The Volkswagen Group has implemented the technical measures in more than 720,000 vehicles and in over 5 million vehicles across Europe. To be clear, there is no systemic problem. The overwhelming majority of our customers have been fully satisfied. Implementation of the technical measures does not cause limp mode to engage nor does it increase the incidence of limp mode occurring”. Volkswagen added: “Relevant authorities have confirmed that the technical measures have no adverse impact on the mpg figures, the CO2 emissions figures, engine output, maximum torque and noise of the affected vehicles. Nor does the implementation of the technical measures have a negative impact on the durability of the engine or the emissions control system”. Despite Volkswagen reaching a 15.3 billion dollar settlement with around 500,000 US owners, as well as agreeing to paying a further 4.3 billion dollar to settle a US Department for Justice investigation, the Group has no intention to compensate the millions affected European owners, due to different emissions laws and no noticeable effect on residual values of affected cars. The statement of Volkswagen has led to some politicians to accuse the carmanufacturer of blatantly lying to the European people: “I have seen all sorts of evasive witnesses, but I think we have just seen somebody tell us absolute blatant lies”. +++

+++ VOLVO ’s relaunched Polestar division is considering at least one, and possibly two, bespoke performance models with their own bodystyles. One of these vehicles is understood to be a coupé featuring a high carbonfibre content and a powertrain with around 600 hp. The nature of the second model is unknown. Volvo relaunched Polestar as a standalone brand last week and confirmed none of its models will wear the Volvo badge. The coupé is tipped to be revealed at the Frankfurt motor show in September. Suggesting that Polestar’s cars will be heavily based on existing Volvo models, rather than pure standalone vehicles, a Volvo statement said: “Polestar will enjoy specific technological and engineering synergies with Volvo Cars and benefit from significant economies of scale as a result of its connection to Volvo. These synergies will allow it to design, develop and build world-beating electrified highperformance cars”. However, the investment by Volvo and parent company Geely in 2 flexible platform architectures for all of its large and small cars does raise the possibility of Polestar developing models that are heavily bespoke. The new S60 saloon, due next year, is one candidate for morphing into a Polestar-only coupé. Engineering more power will be quite a task, but developing a more bespoke Polestar model is an even bigger commitment and comes at a time when Volvo’s development programme is flat-out. But there’s no question that an individual Polestar model would generate far more impact than tuned mainstream models, impressive though some of these have already been, and it would make better use of the Polestar operation. More ambitious plans for Polestar have been under development since Volvo bought the racing and performance tuning brand outright in mid-2015. Its bespoke models would be powered by hybrid drivetrains. Volvo and Polestar insiders have already confirmed that the brand intends to specialise in high-performance petrol-electric drivetrains. Hybrid drivetrains will also be used for the high-performance versions of Volvo’s mainstream range, partly to underline the marque’s commitment to plug-in hybrid technology and partly to further distinguish its offerings from those of Mercedes-AMG, BMW’s M division and Audi’s RS brand. To achieve the 600 hp target, Polestar will need to extract a lot more from the plug-in hybrid drivetrain currently fitted to the XC90 T8, whose supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol produces 326 hp and 400 Nm alongside the 81 hp and 240 Nm of an electric motor. There’s scope for producing a more powerful electric motor, if at the potential expense of range. Polestar insiders have already suggested that some range might be traded for performance. In a further move that underlines just how keen the company is to differentiate itself from rivals such as BMW M, Audi Sport and Mercedes-AMG, Thomas Ingenlath, formerly Volvo design chief, will become Polestar’s boss. Ingenlath will be joined at Polestar by new chief operating officer Jonathan Goodman, who switches from being Volvo’s communications chief. +++

Reageren is niet mogelijk.