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+++ Lotus isn’t the only British sports car marque pulling in a profit this year. ASTON MARTIN , thanks in part to the success of the new DB11, has returned to profit and nearly doubled revenue in the second quarter of 2017. According to the company, pre-tax earning were a cool £15.2 million ($19.5 million), compared to the £52.6 million ($67.8) loss the company was experiencing just a year earlier. This is the third consecutive quarter that Aston Martin has reported a profit, with a revenue increase of 94 percent to a whopping £410.4 million ($528.9 million) pounds. “Aston Martin is accelerating financially with our third successive quarter of pre-tax profit”, said CEO Andy Palmer. “Our improving performance reflects rising demand for our new DB11 model, as well as for special edition vehicles and the ongoing benefits from our Second Century transformation plan. Throughout the first half of 2017, Aston Martin’s global wholesale volumes rose by 67 percent to 2,349 vehicles. Orders in the U.K., mainland Europe, the Americas, and China remain at the top of the sales spectrum. The average selling price per model, not including special editions, rose 25 percent to £149,000 ($192,000). The company will continue to build on the success of the DB11 with special models like the Vanquish Zagato Speedster and Shooting Brake, as well as more mainstream models like the upcoming V8 Vantage. The new Vantage will share a striking semblance to Bond’s DB10 from Spectre, and likely feature an AMG biturbo V8 with as much as 500 horsepower when it debuts in just a few months. The lineup will be joined by DBX crossover in 2018, which will be built at Aston Martin’s state-of-the-art Wales production facility. The facility alone will add 750 employees before completion, and also include production of the DB11 sports car. +++

+++ German media report that some AUDI documents that were found during a raid of the German automaker’s office last March explain why thousands of vehicles are being exported to China, Korea or Japan. Apparently, the vehicles that are being exported to Asia have duplicate VINs. As we all know, a car’s Vehicle Identification Number (or VIN) is a unique combination of 17-digit numbers that are assigned to every vehicle. With a VIN, it will be easier for one to track the vehicle throughout its lifetime. The general rule that the European Union and German laws implemented is for every car to have its own unique VIN. It is only this car that can have this number for at least 30 years, and it cannot be duplicated or transferred to another model. After the raid, an Audi spokesperson said that they were not aware of the duplicated VIN number that have been assigned to more than one car. The reason for the raid was because investigators were searching for papers that were related to the Dieselgate scandal that affected the Volkswagen Group 2 years ago. And in June, Audi was accused of also cheating diesel emission regulations by the German Transportation Authority, pointing at the 2009 to 2013 models of the A7 and A8. Naturally, Audi defended its name saying that there’s no reason to produce vehicles and assign them the same VIN. They said that they are currently working with a Chinese firm through a joint venture where they produce and assemble vehicles. Furthermore, the German automaker added that the Chinese market has a thing for imported Audis. Whether or not investigators find out the reason why Audi will produce duplicate VINs, the documents really do not look good. The fact that Audi was already accused of disobeying emission regulations already makes them look bad. This also means that investigators will really look into the paperwork to look for other illegal acts. But as of now, the duplicated VIN issues are only based on paperwork, and so far, investigators have not found an actual duplicate VIN vehicle just yet. Let us hope that these are just errors that were made on the documents. Imagine you as a kid; your parents snoop through your things while you’re away. And instead of finding something bottles of alcohol hidden somewhere, they’ll find cash, drugs and passports of you with different aliases and nationalities. Basically, what we are trying to say is that not because evidence was found in your hands, it does not necessarily mean that you are an international drug dealer. +++

+++ CADILLAC may be branded as an underdog in North America, but in China the luxury division is a big player. In fact, China is Cadillac’s top market these days. Combine Cadillac’s success in China with a growing demand for fuel-efficient vehicles, and we have the Cadillac XT5 Hybrid. It represents the brand’s first mild-hybrid vehicle in the country. Full details surrounding the powertrain itself weren’t revealed, but Cadillac says it will feature an electric motor and General Motors’ latest 9-speed automatic transmission to help improve fuel economy. The motor can aid the engine and recover energy during braking or cruising. Additional improvements include a start/stop system, and an additional gear for the transmission to improve acceleration in congested traffic. Cadillac says the XT5 Hybrid sips 2.1 gallons of gasoline per 62 miles, which is about 29.5 mpg. While it’s unclear if the Cadillac XT5 Hybrid will make its way to other markets outside of China, Buick introduced the 2018 LaCrosse with a standard mild-hybrid system earlier this year. It replaces the 3.6-liter V6 as the entry-level powertrain and also reduces the price by just over $2,000. Cadillac’s only hybrid vehicle sold in the U.S. market is the CT6 Plug-In. The unloved ELR plug-in hybrid quietly exited production last year. In China, the XT5 Hybrid replaces the XT5 28T Platinum 4WD and 28T Advanced 4WD trims with new XT5 28E Platinum 4WD and 28E Advanced 4WD variants. Both will go on sale with identical prices to the outgoing non-hybrid trims. +++

+++ FORD in 2015 committed to launching 13 electrified cars by 2020. And in January, we got an idea of what seven of those 13 electrified cars will be. For luxury fans, there will be hybrid versions of the Lincoln Navigator and MKC, with the latter said to be the plug-in type. The two SUVs’ respective Ford twins, the Expedition and Escape, will also likely offer the hybrid options. Note, Ford sold a hybrid version of the Escape from 2004 to 2012, though the option was dropped when the C-Max arrived on the scene. The MPV offered hybrid and plug-in hybrid options. The 4 new hybrid SUVs are expected to be introduced in 2019. The Blue Oval is investing $4.5 billion to develop and manufacture its 13 electrified vehicles. A rundown of seven confirmed vehicles is as follows: F-150 Hybrid (The hybrid pickup truck will be sold in North America and the Middle East and be produced at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan. The vehicle promises powerful towing and payload capacity and the ability to operate as a mobile generator), Mustang Hybrid (A gasoline-electric version of the Mustang is confirmed for launch in 2020, initially in the North American market. It promises V8-like performance, suggesting the internal combustion component will be smaller than a V8. An inline-4 is the more likely option), Transit Custom plug-in hybrid (An eco-friendly commercial vehicle to be offered in Europe from 2019), Electric SUV (A small SUV promising 480 kilometers of range. The vehicle will be introduced by 2020 with production to take place at Flat Rock plant in Michigan. Sales are planned for North American, European and Asian markets), Self-driving hybrid (A high-volume vehicle with self-driving capability due in 2021. Production will take place at Flat Rock plant. The vehicle will initially be used for self-driving taxi service), Ford Police Responder Hybrid (Based on the Ford Fusion/Mondeo Hybrid, one of the biggest benefits to police squads (and the environment) is the ability to turn of the gas engine while idling. Often, cop cars are left running during an entire shift), Police hybrid 2 (No further details provided). +++

+++ Japanese giant Toyota is poised to announce a full-blown performance sub-brand, much like Lexus’ hard-core F Series range. The carmaker plans to announce to a “new sports car series” at an event in Japan next month, but there’s a question-mark as to whether it will be rolled out to markets outside Japan. We actually got a peak at Toyota’s high-performance side at this year’s Geneva motor show, where the brand showed off a GRMN (Gazoo Racing tuned by the Meister of Nurburgring) version of the Yaris, as a possible introduction into the hot-hatch segment. The tiny hot hatch is powered by a supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine developing more than 210 hp, going to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission. It’s also got a Torsen Limited Slip Differential and 17-inch wheels, plus bespoke body panels. Inside, there are heavily-bolstered front seats and a race-style metal shifter along with special badging. A GRMN version of the C-HR might be the next step. +++

+++ Chinese-backed, Swedish-based NEVS has forged 2 new alliances as it prepares to start production of electric cars based on former Saab platforms. NEVS’s goal is to become an electric car company and provider of mobility services. One of NEVS’s future mobility services is likely to be intertwined with ride-sharing, as the electric car startup in June signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Didi Huaxing. No details on the collaboration between Didi and NEVS have been revealed as the 2 parties don’t expect to have a binding agreement until the fall. In a statement, NEVS said Didi will be a major partner. Didi, which counts tech giants Apple, Alibaba and Tencent as major investors, is considered the Uber of China. Didi is also closely linked with Uber. The Chinese ride-sharing giant acquired Uber’s Chinese operation in 2016 after the American firm pulled out of the market in 2016. Expect NEVS to initially offer electric cars for a ride-sharing fleet. Eventually, the fleet may be made up of self-driving cars which NEVS is hoping to develop. Separately, NEVS said it has a new partner for its Chinese joint venture that will be responsible for producing cars in the Chinese port city of Tianjin. The new partner is technology investment firm Beijing Zhenghuon Technology which just bought a stake worth $108 million in the joint venture. “This is really good news for NEVS”, CFO Jörgen Scribe said in a statement. “This means we get new money and that we get an active owner in our JV”. Scribe added that Beijing Zhenghuon Technology has “a lot of competence” with banks and firms looking to invest in new technologies. This is important as NEVS is developing not only new cars but also new machinery and plants. NEVS is the company that bought the assets of Saab following the Swedish firm’s bankruptcy in late 2011. NEVS’s original plan was to revive Saab, but after running into its own financial difficulties and losing the rights to the Saab name, NEVS formed its own brand and started focusing on electric cars and mobility. NEVS is hoping to start production of the 9-3 electric sedan in 2018. +++

+++ German car manufacturers have been put on notice by a senior political figure who is urging the country’s auto industry to challenge TESLA in the field of electric vehicles. Peter Altmaier, who is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, said he was disappointed no car manufacturer had come close to matching Tesla’s electric vehicle performance parameters. “When is our automobile industry, which is so good, actually going to be in a position to build a car that travels 50 kilometres further than a Tesla and costs 10,000 euros less?” said Altmaier. “It must be possible to set this as a goal”. Tesla cars are a touch on the expensive side in Germany. A Model X 75D lists on the manufacturer’s German website for €92,650. In comparison, Mercedes-Benz GLS large SUV lists on Merc’s German website starting at €75,154. And this disparity is rankling with German government officials, particularly in light of the looming general election later this month where the incumbents’ main opponent, the Social Democrat’s Martin Schulze is a vocal proponent of electric vehicles. German Chancellor Angel Merkel had earlier issued a target of 1,000,000 electric vehicles on Germany’s roads by 2020, but conceded in May that that target was not going to be met. Germans have been slow on the electric vehicle uptake, citing range anxiety and price as major factors. German carmakers too, have been dragging their heels when it comes to electric vehicles. Currently, the only electric car manufactured in Germany is the BMW i3, which lists for €36,800 and has a claimed range of less than 200 kilometres. It’s a point not lost on Altmaier who said, “If the automobile industry doesn’t grasp the fact that it has to invest more in electric vehicles, especially in cities, then it will be very hard to defend combustion engines (gasoline and diesel) over the long term. We must do all we can now, so that the best electric cars are built in Germany”. Over to you, Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen Group. +++

+++ TOYOTA has been silently preparing for the eventual comeback of the Supra sportscar for some time now. Because of this silence, it has been left to discerning fans and enthusiasts as well as potential customers to dig further into the details about the next generation. Just recently, some juicy details sprouted in a certain online forum about the upcoming Supra. These details were divulged to forum member Canyonero by a certain Toyota representative who goes by the name of Dave. It turned out that Canyonero had dinner with Dave, and that was when the Toyota rep started spilling the beans. The information about the next generation Supra was rather short, but it already tells a lot. According to Canyonero, Dave said that Toyota will commence sales of the new Supra sports car in early 2019. Power would be sourced from an engine jointly developed by Toyota and BMW. This engine (definitely not the German premium carmaker’s ubiquitous 3.0 twin turbo inline 6 unit) will be tuned to provide more than 400 horsepower for the Supra. Dave also disclosed that the Supra might be powered by a 3.5 V6 turbo engine and a hybrid version could also be offered by Toyota. Customers may opt to have the power sent to the wheels through an available manual transmission. According to Canyonero, Dave is a reliable insider, considering that he was involved with product development for every car that Toyota makes for the North American market. Canyonero said that this gave Dave some interesting insight into Toyota product planning, development, and execution. The revelations made by Dave could be true, but there are some contradictions to some internal documents from BMW that were recently leaked. The documents (with around 177 pages) indicate a list of BMW designation for cars and motorcycles as well as details of partners like Rolls Royce, Land Rover, and Toyota. According to the documents, the Supra would only be available in automatic transmission, with power sent to the rear wheels. United States-bound Supra will be powered by any of the 2 available engines: a 4-cylinder unit that delivers 252 hp and a 6-cylinder mill that provides 340 hp. Europe-bound Supra will have another four-cylinder option (190 hp). However, it seems that the documents are still incomplete (it is a few months old) which means that some models might have not been listed. This gives rise to the hope that a manual version of the Supra would be available. Moreover, if Dave is to be believed, a manual version of the Toyota Supra would be available for the market. Of course, all of these are either insider information or based on leaked documents, the authenticity of which have yet to be confirmed. +++

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