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+++ ASTON MARTIN is set to produce more high-performance models in the spirit of the Valkyrie hypercar after strengthening its partnership with Red Bull Racing, and is seriously considering a Formula 1 engine programme for 2021. The British firm has sponsored Red Bull’s F1 squad since 2016 as part of a tie-up that involved Red Bull designer Adrian Newey penning the Valkyrie. This relationship has now been expanded in a deal that will involve the two firms collaborating on more products and Aston Martin serving as the F1 team’s title sponsor. No details have been disclosed about what products Aston Martin and Red Bull will collaborate on, but Aston Martin referred to the Valkyrie as the “first in a line of incredible products” resulting from the agreement, suggesting similar limited-run machines could eventually follow. A new Aston Martin Advanced Performance Centre will open later this year at Red Bull Racing’s Milton Keynes HQ. It will be a base for engineers working on sports cars and a design centre and employ around 110 Aston Martin staff. Although the F1 team will be known as Aston Martin Red Bull Racing next year, it will still use Renault engines, which are currently branded as TAG Heuer units. However, Aston CEO Andy Palmer has confirmed an interest in entering the sport as an engine manufacturer in 2021, when new technical rules are set to be introduced. Aston Martin has been in talks with other manufacturers and F1’s governing body about the new rules. Palmer said any Aston entry was dependent on firm cost controls being put in place. He said: “We are not about to enter an engine war with no restrictions in cost or dynamometer hours, but if the FIA can create the right environment, we would be interested in getting involved”. Strengthening the links with Red Bull would also give Aston Martin an opportunity in F1 supplying engines to one of the top teams on the grid. Red Bull has used Renault engines since 2007, and claimed 4 drivers’ titles with Sebastian Vettel from 2010-2013. But there has been ongoing tension between the 2 firms, with Renault feeling it didn’t receive enough credit for its contribution to those titles. That has led to Red Bull’s Renault units being badged as TAG Heuers through a sponsorship deal. Renault recently secured a deal to supply engines to McLaren from 2018 onwards. +++

+++ BENTLEY chairman Wolfgang Dürheimer is to be replaced by Adrian Hallmark, currently strategy director at Jaguar Land Rover. Rumours of an imminent departure of Dürheimer from Bentley have been circulating for some weeks now, with earlier reports suggesting Audi Sport boss Stephan Winkelmann could be in line to take control of the British car maker, which, together with Porsche and Bugatti, forms part of the Volkswagen’s so-called premium car division. But while Winkelmann appears set to replace Dürheimer as president of Bugatti, insiders suggests the Volkswagen Group has selected Hallmark to head up Bentley. Hallmark previously served on the Bentley board in a position responsible for global sales and marketing. He has also acted as executive vice-president for Volkswagen of America and regional director for Volkswagen Asia. The Volkswagen Group has declined to comment on the speculation linking Hallmark with Bentley. Officials close to Dürheimer say he has already expressed a desire to step down as Bentley chairman and Bugatti president. +++

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) will stun the automotive world by launching a new model line, the Road Rover, before the end of the decade. The first production vehicle will be a premium all-electric model, aimed primarily at markets such as California in the US and China. The first Road Rover is understood to be a Mercedes-Benz S-Class rival in terms of outright luxury and interior craftsmanship but with some ‘all-terrain’ capability. The car will also be tuned for impressive on-road dynamic performance, taking advantage of the potential delivered by electric motors. The car could make its public debut at the Los Angeles motor show in late 2019, with sales starting soon after. Prices are expected to be pegged at around 140,000 euro for the top-line versions. Over time, the Road Rover line-up is expected to develop into a series of more car-like and road-friendly, but still rugged, vehicles. Road Rover is, like Velar, the name of an experimental model from the company’s past. It was first proposed at the beginning of the 1950s as a bridge between Rover cars and the original Land Rover. The concept was revived in the 1960s as a 3-door estate and provided the intellectual basis for the concept that became the original Range Rover. Hard details about JLR’s plans for the new model line are very limited and tight secrecy around the project has enabled it to progress to 2 years before launch without becoming public. Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern is well known for identifying potential for new models (what he describes as “the white space” around existing ones) as seen by the successful Range Rover Evoque and recent Range Rover Velar. In a 2015 interview with Director magazine, McGovern said: “By 2020, there’s going to be 22 million SUV-type vehicles sold globally. So that’s a massive market. We’re asking: what are the products we could be creating that don’t actually exist yet, like the Evoque, which we didn’t have in our portfolio before”. The result was the Velar.  McGovern is also thought to be planning a more luxurious and different-bodied Range Rover to take on the upcoming Rolls-Royce Cullinan. In 2014, Wolfgang Ziebart, then group engineering director, hinted at JLR’s electrification plans, predicting that the market for EVs was going to split into inner-city vehicles and a “second or third car for a wealthy family”. Ziebart suggested the latter segment had potential for JLR and that any EV would be the size of a “Jaguar XJ” and “aimed at the US and China”. In fact, it is understood that the first Road Rover model is being developed in parallel with the next-generation XJ. The underlying structure for both of these vehicles is a new-generation aluminium architecture that can accommodate both battery packs and piston engines. It’s thought that the new XJ and the Road Rover will both be pure-electric vehicles with twin electric motors and on-demand all-wheel drive. The Road Rover will emphasise extreme luxury (the huge success of the current S-Class has proved that SUVs have not pushed super-luxury saloon cars out of the market) and it is also expected to have height-adjustable suspension for a degree of all-terrain ability. A range of at least 500 kilometers is predicted, as well as a 0-100 km/u time of under 5.0 seconds. JLR has to compete head-on with premium-brand rivals such as Porsche and Audi, which are both launching luxury EVs in the next 2 years. Perhaps the closest rival to the new Road Rover is Audi’s E-tron Sportback, which is due to be launched in 2019. This also has all-wheel drive and an expected driving range of 500 kilometers in ideal conditions. There is no hard news on whether the Road Rover will have its own stand-alone design language. However, it is likely to build on the look of the Velar, emphasising taut and very clean surfaces, and it will have more of a shooting brake profile than other high-end electric SUVs. The new XJ and Road Rover, along with Jaguar’s electric I-Pace compact SUV, will be part of JLR’s plan to meet stringent new Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) sales targets in California. The calculations behind the ZEV programme are extremely complex and intended to ensure there are at least 1.5 million electric or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on California’s roads by 2025. It is thought that JLR will need to ensure that somewhere between 16 percent and 25 percent of all its sales are of battery-electric cars by 2025. Moreover, at least 9 other US states have adopted California’s ZEV plans, putting extra pressure on car makers. The adoption of a new brand for a range-topping electric vehicle might be seen as an unnecessary risk, especially considering the profile and strength of the Range Rover brand. However, there are a number of reasons why JLR bosses concluded that an electric Range Rover was a stretch too far. First, the off-road ability of a Range Rover model cannot be compromised and a fully electric vehicle with a substantial battery pack would have been a significant technical challenge, especially in terms of waterproofing the powertrain. Second, extracting the maximum real-world range from a battery-powered car is essential and this makes aerodynamic performance a crucial part of the calculation for a new model. The frontal areas of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport are far too large to work efficiently as battery-powered vehicles. Indeed, the Tesla Model X is probably about as tall as any EV is likely to get. Third, JLR strategists have a clear eye on the longer-term future of the brand and what’s expected to be a medium-term aim of hitting annual sales of one million units. Although Jaguar has made huge strides thanks to the F-Pace (and the upcoming E-Pace will also boost the brand significantly), sales of Jaguar road cars are becalmed. According to JLR’s figures, Jaguar sold 94,000 XE, XF and XJ models in the 2016/17 financial year. Even with a sales boost from the XF Sportbrake, Jaguar’s road cars are unlikely to make up serious sales ground in the next few years. JLR bosses have clearly concluded that, in order to meet the million vehicle target, they need to continue to exploit the huge market shift towards crossovers and SUVs, while also hedging their bets by building premium vehicles that are more fuel efficient and less like conventional off-roaders. A significant underlying issue for JLR’s business is the risk that the market could turn against what are often parodied as ‘Chelsea tractors’: large and imposing SUVs such as the 3 biggest Range Rover models and the F-Pace. By establishing a new brand that is a genuine ‘cross-over’ between luxury road cars and all-terrain-capable vehicles, JLR would not only improve its chances of growing significantly and profitably from last year’s sales of 604,000 units, but also spread the risk of any customer shifts in the global new-car market. The most recent financial report makes clear just how much JLR is spending on expanding the business for the future. The company says that in fiscal year (FY) 2017/18, it will invest between £4 billion and £4.35bn in new products and the factory that is being constructed at Nitra in Slovakia. This will specialise in the construction of aluminium-bodied vehicles and the first model to be built there will be the new Discovery, according to JLR’s annual report. Such is the rate of investment that JLR’s profit margin will slide significantly. In the first quarter of FY 2017/18, the profit margins were down to 7.9 percent from the 12.5 percent in the first quarter of FY 2016/17, even though revenues crept up to £5.59bn from £5.35bn and sales grew by 4.7 percent. Between April and June this year, sales jumped by 16 percent in North America and 30 percent in China but fell 14 percent in the UK and 14 percent in other overseas markets. However, JLR is well placed to power over these setbacks. Sales of the Velar are ramping up and the E-Pace will go on sale towards the end of this year. +++

+++ The PSA Group’s next electric passenger vehicle will be an electric version of the next-generation PEUGEOT 208. This will be revealed at the Geneva motor show in March and go on sale in the second half of 2019. Thus far, PSA’s most notable foray into electric cars was with the Citroën C-Zero and Peugeot iOn, rebadged versions of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, in 2011. Kicking off PSA Group’s latest electric push will be electric versions of the next generation Citroën Berlingo Multispace and Peugeot Partner in the second half of 2018. Meanwhile, a plug-in hybrid variant of the Peugeot 5008 will be launched at the end of this year. It will be one of the first mainstream large SUVs to offer a PHEV variant. Also revealed in PSA’s 4-year plan is the release of the next C4 Cactus, which arrives in early 2018, a C5 Aircross PHEV in the second half of 2018 and a DS 3 Crossback, complete with full electric variant about a year later. Finally, an electric variant of the next generation 2008 will be released in 2020. What could prove to be one of the most expensive cars in the PSA portfolio will be a DS saloon, due in 2019, to rival the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. This car will likely replace the DS 5. That model was introduced in 2011 as a Citroën but rebadged a DS with the separation of the luxury brand in 2015. The new DS saloon will almost certainly have at least a PHEV variant and perhaps also an electric version, although the product plan doesn’t specify either. +++

+++ In an interview with just-auto at the Frankfurt Motor Show, PSA chief Carlos Tavares warns of productivity gaps across the Opel manufacturing network that will require work to bring plants into line with PSA efficiency levels. He also says the company is planning several post-Brexit scenarios in the absence of any guidance from the UK government and European Commission. It’s only been a few months since PSA clinched the deal to take Opel-Vauxhall off General Motors’ hands but Carlos Tavares, boss of the French carmaker, has found gaps in productivity. Big gaps. He has only visited 2 Opel plants (in Zaragoza, Spain, and Russelsheim, Germany), but it has been enough to tell him that work needs to be done to bring efficiencies into line with PSA operations. “The gaps are quite big”, he said. “PSA plants are more productive and efficient but it is something we can work on, it’s all about the processes. We are already talking about this and the reaction we are getting is that people are energised; after all we are not from another planet. If we work on the efficiencies, then we become more profitable and more sustainable”. One barrier to moving forward, however, is the uncertainty over the UK’s exit from the EU. Tavares said: “As far as Brexit is concerned we are getting no guidance from the UK or the European Commission so we are working on a number of different scenarios because we just don’t know how things will unfold. We don’t know how customs issues may change, effects on currencies or how high or low local content will be required. All of these issues can change our business model. “By Christmas we hope to have narrowed this down to 2 scenarios based on a soft or open Brexit and one on a hard market. I would prefer that we had more guidance from the UK and the Commission. We are in a business that works on 3 to 5 year lead times and we need to know what’s happening. So far we have had no opportunity to discuss this with the Government or the EC and we would at least like the opportunity to share our thoughts with them”. Back to bringing the businesses together, he said there would be an acceleration in plans to build more Opel vehicles on PSA platforms and use the French carmaker’s engines which he believes would make the business more profitable and lower CO2 emissions. However, he has no plans to stifle creativity and innovation among the individual brands. “One rule: make money”, he added. On the PSA side, electrification plans are also accelerating with 50 percent of the Peugeot, Citroen, DS ranges electrified by 2020 and 80 percent by 2023. He added: “As for Opel, they will have their own numbers but we are moving into an environment which is instruction led rather than technology led. With governments all around the world telling us that the internal combustion engine will be dead by 2040, new technologies and scientific responsibilities are now in the hands of the governments. Electrification has to be profitable (if the technologies are too expensive we have to push up vehicle prices and if people then cannot afford to buy then we are not profitable and go into the red) what do you think happens next? The trouble when you instruct technology, you are killing innovation”. PSA, Tavares said, is continuing to grow into new markets and could make a decision on the US within 3 years. He added: “We already have a foothold in the US with our mobility services and we are already engineering our cars to be US compliant for the the next generation. So, we could push the button in 3 years if we want”. He admitted that PSA was still too reliant on Europe for profits, but it’s brands are growing particularly in the Middle East and Africa with plants in Iran and Morocco. “We also have a new ventures in India and we are growing in Eurasia, Russia and Latin America”. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will launch a 310 hp T-Roc R to rival group stablemate Seat Ateca Cupra. Much will be shared with the hot Golf, because the T-Roc is based on the same MQB A underpinnings as the hatchback. But even with the same outputs, the T-Roc R’s additional weight and higher centre of gravity will ensure it falls short of matching the 4.6 seconds 0-100 km/h time and dynamic handling of its smaller sibling. In typical Volkswagen R style, the future performance T-Roc’s styling will likely remain restrained, giving it an understated look like the Golf R. VW chairman Herbert Diess revealed earlier this year that the fastest T-Roc would bypass the GTI name because “GTI is for us the hot hatch; a sporty car, classless and accessible for many. It should be this car: a hot hatch”. For an SUV, Diess said “we have another sub-brand: R”. The T-Roc R would sit above the current most potent 190 hp T-Roc, which Diess believes will help the model stand out in its busy segment. “We have a 190 hp T-Roc, which is more than the competitors offer,” he said, “and we’ll see if lots of people take that”. The commonality of parts for cars using the MQB A platform on which the T-Roc sits also raises the prospect of the new SUV being sold in plug-in hybrid GTE form along with, potentially, a warm GTD set-up. However, the future of diesel engines in smaller cars remains up for debate as manufacturers weigh up the cost of meeting new emissions regulations for diesels against how much of a premium buyers will be willing to pay. A pure-electric version of the T-Roc is unlikely, however, as VW is set to launch a bespoke family of electric models on its MEB platform from 2020. Welsch’s openness to branding a fast T-Roc as an R model rather than a GTI also signals a clear policy to reserve the latter badge for its famous hot hatches. Even so, the firm is looking to broaden the appeal of its GTI range, with the entry-level Up GTI set to launch early next year. As the SUV sector booms, car makers are looking to exploit sales niches while creating halo models that attract attention to a line-up. For example, Nissan launched Nismo models of its Juke, but Volkswagen’s decision to launch an R version of the T-Roc would signify a step up in the mainstream performance SUV stakes. +++

+++ VOLVO ’s new car subscription service will account for 20 percent of its volume in 5 years’ time, boss Håkan Samuelsson has said. Volvo has launched this model of car ownership in response to the changing habits of the public, in which subscription services, for example for mobile phones and TV streaming, are increasingly popular. Called Care for Volvo and launching on the new XC40, the subscription service includes insurance, taxes, maintenance and roadside assistance. It also includes wi-fi access and a concierge service. Over time, more services will be added. For example, Samuelsson said that next year, food shopping will be able to be delivered to the car. There is no deposit to pay and the fee is not affected by the buyer’s age or location. Care by Volvo also allows customers to share their car with up to 3 friends or family members with a new digital key technology. When asked whether he could envisage a time when cars would only be available on subscription, Samuelsson said there would be “a long period where both (traditional sales and subscription) will work” but that it would very much depend on customer demand. The service will not be profitable for Volvo in the beginning. “We’ve priced this attractively for the market and then we will work on costs so to make it profitable in future”, Samuelsson said. Care by Volvo is also a tentative stop towards a car sharing programme for Volvo. While this service only allows a handful of designated people to share a car through an app, the technology could be used more broadly. Volvo digital boss Atif Rafiq said: “You can imagine lending to a stranger. We need to develop the network, for example, by having a car fleet that we own”. He added: “If you’re a car company and you’re not thinking about car sharing, there’s a problem”. Volvo’s forthcoming sister brand, Lynk&Co, is set to launch next year with a similar purchasing system. Senior vice president Alain Visser said earlier this year: “Our aim is to enrich and simplify ownership by redefining how cars are bought, owned, connected, serviced and used”. +++

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