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+++ BORGWARD has confirmed that it will launch in Europe in the first quarter of 2018. The reborn German carmaker will first launch the BX7 in Germany and neighboring countries. The marque first unveiled the BX7 in September 2015 and in the 2 years since, has been refining the model and getting it ready for the road. The entry-level model is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder delivering 224 PS and mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. A plug-in hybrid version with a combined 401 PS has also been developed. Borgward recently launched in China ahead of its European arrival and according to chief design officer Anders Warming, this has provided the automaker with valuable experience before launching in its home country. Shortly after European deliveries of the Borgward BX7 commence, the smaller BX5 will arrive. +++

+++ China’s biggest domestic car maker, HAVAL , is planning to launch into Europe in the early part of the next decade as part of a 2-pronged assault outside of China alongside sister brand Wey. Haval has been China’s top-selling brand for each of the past 7 years, thanks to the success of its H2 and H6 models, which were joined today at the Guangzhou motor show with the launch of the Nissan Qashqai-sized H4 to sit between them in the range. Jens Steingraber, vice president of Haval’s parent firm Geely and CEO of its premium sister firm Wey, said “Haval would go abroad” into more mature markets. As for a timescale, he said: “The beginning of the 2020s to be realistic”. Steingraber, who joined Great Wall from Audi, has his main focus on Wey, which launched this year as the first attempt at a more premium Chinese domestic car maker. He says Korean and Japanese brands, the likes of Hyundai, Toyota and Honda, are the targets for Wey, which revealed its plans to launch in Europe earlier this year at the Frankfurt motor show. Steingraber said Great Wall was different from other Chinese firms in targeting a successful launch in more mature markets by “learning the lessons from mistakes of others before”. To that end, he said that you “only get one shot” at launching into a market such as Europe. He pointed to safety as the most crucial thing to get right, to dispel the myth Chinese cars were all cheap and unsafe. “Our brand is a safety brand with no failure allowed”, he said, adding that Wey could pass the most strict of US crash safety tests even now, and the cars had been designed and engineered from the start of their life to be ready to be exported overseas when the time was right. Design was also a crucial part to the success of Chinese cars overseas, said Steingraber. “You can build cars as good as you want, but if it doesn’t look good, no-one will buy them. It’s quality and safety”. Wey was planning its global launch with its full model range, which currently consists of VV5 and VV7 models, with a full range planned by 2021, including a larger VV8 model in March next year and a smaller VV3 to follow later in 2018. Autonomous technology is being developed, as are full electric versions, and fuel cells to launch by 2023, as well as plug-in hybrid versions of its models as soon as next year. Wey plans to be selling 400,000 cars a year by 2020. Great Wall sold more than 1 million cars last year, with the Haval H6 regularly topping sales charts. +++

+++ A facelifted LAMBORGHINI Huracan is said to be just around the corner and beyond receiving a refreshed design, it could launch with a host of new technologies. The updated Huracan may adopt the same rear-wheel steering system as the Aventador S to improve the vehicle’s low-speed ability and high-speed stability. However, sources within Lamborghini assert that there is still debate among executives whether or not implementing such a system in the entry-level Huracan is financially viable. Beyond a potential four-wheel steering system, the Italian marque may also implement a 48 volt electrical subsystem, just like the Audi SQ7 and Bentley Bentayga. This system could see the Huracan using adaptive anti-roll bars with small electric motors or Audi’s electric rotary dampers. Inevitably, Lamborghini engineers will also get hard to work at extracting even more power out of the 5.2-liter naturally-aspirated V10 engine. A figure around the 650 hp mark doesn’t seem out of the question. Just like the Gallardo, the facelifted Huracan will spawn a multitude of different variations, including a droptop and a rear-wheel drive Superleggera. +++

+++ LEXUS has confirmed that a 7-seat version of its flagship RX, to be called the RX L, will be launched at this month’s LA Motor Show. And it will be coming to European showrooms in the second half of next year. The RX L will give Lexus a rival for the likes of the Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90. The 2 additional seats will come from a third row of seating hidden in the boot. The car will feature different bodywork to that of the regular RX. It will, however, feature the same powertrains as the regular model. The news of the RX L follows comments from Lexus bosses that it intends to launch a small SUV based on the UX concept that debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 2016. +++

+++ PORSCHE has conducted the first successful tests of full prototype versions of its new 5-door electric sports-car-cum-saloon, which is due in production by the end of the decade. The car, codenamed J1, was closely previewed as the Porsche Mission E concept at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show. It will be Porsche’s first bespoke electric car and launched as a fifth model line. Although many other car makers are choosing SUVs as their first electric cars for packaging reasons, Porsche has opted for a more low-slung model to showcase that its electric car technology is as much about performance as it is about reducing emissions. Porsche R&D boss Michael Steiner confirmed that design work on the model is now complete and very close to the well-received Mission E concept. Development mules have completed testing and Porsche has begun tests of full-body prototype versions of the production car. The finished product will be revealed in 2019, with first deliveries in 2020, and priced at approximately 140,000 euro in The Netherlands. The Mission E has yet to be given an official name for production but it will not take the name of the concept car, according to Porsche boss Oliver Blume. It is pitched as halfway between a 911 and a Panamera in concept. Indeed, Porsche insiders refer to it as a “5-door sports car”, with Porsche keen to use electric technology on a completely new type of model to bring the brand to more customers. Steiner said the brief is “a really sporty sports car, a 4-seater that’s low on the road, with a low centre of gravity. A car that’s typically Porsche but electric”. The Mission E is the first step towards Porsche electrifying its entire range as part of a Volkswagen Group target of 2030 to have an electrified version of every model offered. Porsche has no plans to create an electric version of the 911 because the only way to store enough batteries for a viable range would be in the floor. That would mean having to raise the vehicle, rendering it no longer a sports car in the firm’s eyes. However, the next-generation 911, targeted for launch in 2018, is being readied with the availability of plug-in hybrid technology. But, although it is compatible with plug-in hybrid tech, Porsche has yet to decide when to offer a plug-in hybrid 911 to market, if at all. The Mission E’s launch is likely to come first. Steiner said the more an electric car has to perform as a sports car, the more weight comes into the equation. “The Mission E is the sweet spot of sports car performance that size-wise provides enough space for significant battery packages”, he said. The J1’s architecture is a bespoke Porsche development and differs from other electric platforms being engineered within the VW Group. Audi is developing an architecture called C-BEV, to be used first on its e-tron SUV next year. The J1 has its batteries much lower in the floor, with the C-BEV better suited to higher-riding SUVs. The 2 architectures use common lithium ion battery technology, though. The J1 architecture is also set to underpin Bentley’s first electric model at the turn of the decade, using the Speed 6e concept as inspiration in style, if not in size. The Speed 6e is a shorter, 2-door sports car. As a 5-door and a pure, dedicated electric car with no requirements for a combustion-engine version, the Mission E doesn’t suffer any of the packaging problems that Porsche would get from converting an existing model to be purely electric powered. The concept car used two electric motors (one on each axle) to produce a combined 600 hp and 900 Nm, drawing their power from lithium ion batteries mounted in the floor. The concept car was all-wheel drive, with the front wheels driven mainly to aid the acceleration, and the handling remaining rear biased, and using torque vectoring to control individual wheels. The 0-100 km/h time was quoted at 3.5 seconds, despite the concept’s kerb weight of more than 2.000 kg. Porsche’s electric tech is being developed in-house due to the specific need for an electric Porsche to focus on performance above all else. Its Zuffenhausen engineering centre is being expanded to support the new model and Porsche plans to sell around 20,000 Mission Es a year when production is ramped up. The firm will offer the Mission E with a range of power outputs and chassis set-ups. “We will offer different levels of performance”, said Blume. “There will be sporty, high- performance versions and a lower-powered one”. Porsche plans to equip it with state-of-the-art electronics that permit over- the-air updates to key systems such as the driveline and autonomous driving functions. This means power outputs could be increased remotely. The car will also be fitted with an 800V rapid-charging system, which will recharge 80 percent of the battery capacity in just 15 minutes. Porsche is understood to be working with Hitachi on the technology and is already trialling it with the fitment of two 800V DC fast-chargers at recently opened offices in Berlin. Porsche will not look to give the Mission E an overly excessive range because the recharging time is so favourable. So long as the Mission E hits its 500 km target, Steiner said, that will be sufficient. Adding more range means more battery packs, which increases the weight. Steiner said a slight loss in range would be compensated by faster charging times and Porsche is working with customers to decide exactly what the optimum range should be. “For people who don’t need a big daily driving range but do need an occasional longer range, how much is the cost of sacrificing some range for charging time?”, said Steiner. Further ahead, Porsche is investigating the use of solid-state batteries, which are lighter and more compact than lithium ion cells, as a possible future technology for an all-electric sports car, but production versions are several years away. It has tested the tech in a prototype Boxster, which handled well, but the weight impacted its lap time. On the car’s styling, Porsche design boss Michael Mauer has described the production Mission E as “a beautiful car”. Speaking more generally about electric cars, he said they gave designers “lots of possibilities”. He added: “So far, electric components are still pretty big. You get rid of the metal block of the engine but have to package batteries. Replace one with another. In the end, there will be more freedom for designers as the huge metal block disappears and batteries get smaller”. Porsche’s next electric car after the Mission E is set to be an SUV, a car Steiner said will have “benefits for Porsche as there’s still a trend for SUVs”. He added: “We made a clear strategy on electric cars to start with cars very close to the core of the brand. We will have a really sporty car between 911 and Panamera. It’s very well known that the SUV segment is growing faster but we didn’t want a ‘me too’ concept but a true Porsche concept. We’re convinced the Mission E will make its way in the market”. +++

+++ PSA CEO Carlos Tavares believes that it’s time to reconsider the way the car emissions are analysed. Speaking at the company’s roll-out of the next stage of its Push To Pass programme, which showcased PSA’s wide array of mobility solutions, Tavares admitted that the changing landscape presented difficulties on emissions. And he took the opportunity to advocate a change in the way emissions are considered. “Freedom of movement is undoubtedly a CO2 challenge”, admitted Tavares. “It is important to adopt a holistic approach to the environmental performance of mobility solutions, which means using ‘well-to-wheel’ rather than ‘tank-to-wheel’ analysis. The strong shift to electrification requires us to take into account the battery manufacturing CO2 footprint as well as recycling of the batteries, for example”. Tavares also hinted that he felt that car manufacturers are often unfairly singled out for criticism on emissions. “The automotive industry is in the headlines despite the scientific reality demonstrating a different reality”, lamented Tavares, pointing to the European Environment Agency statistics on CO2 emissions in 2016. They showed that the automobile contributes 13 percent of CO2 emissions in Europe and 7 percent in the world. “Overall transport emits 22 percent of CO2 in Europe, which is ranked third behind energy production with 31 percent and industry with 22 percent. The car is at the same level as CO2 emissions from agriculture. However, of course it is our duty to constantly progress”, he said. +++

+++ An even faster, four-wheel-drive SEAT Leon ST Cupra R could launch as soon as next year, with up to 340 hp from its tuned turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. Seat’s sales and marketing boss Wayne Griffiths told he’s currently running a bespoke Leon ST with extra power, an ABT aftermarket exhaust and 20-inch wheels. The stealthy prototype is painted black with subtle copper accents, while also featuring an upgraded sound system and other interior tweaks. Griffiths told that he sees a gap in the market for “cool, fast cars”. He said many people who buy Audi RS or BMW M models “have something to prove”, but Cupra customers prefer to exercise restraint in the pursuit of performance and handling. He insisted that despite his upgraded ST estate acting only as a mule for the time being, his engineers were happy with the tweaks and were looking to roll them out to customers in due course. While the upcoming front-drive Cupra R hatchback produces only 310 hp, by running the Cupra ST’s 4×4 system and DSG gearbox the 340 hp flagship Leon requires no mechanical renovations. The reaction has been very positive, apparently. Griffiths told: “People see it in the street and just jump on it”. The car will reach showrooms some point in 2018. Speaking from the launch of the Spanish maker’s new Arona, Griffiths told he’s looking forward to implementing his experience from the German giant as he lays the foundations for a rejuvenated Seat brand. The separation of Cupra will be a big part of the strategy, as Griffiths looks to add more depth across the product range. But despite wanting Cupra to find its own identity, he appeared keen to stretch its appeal in a similar fashion to Audi’s S line and BMW’s M Sport models. A “Cupra Line” could therefore appear on everything from the latest Ibiza and Ateca, to the forthcoming large SUV, whose name is set for reveal in the coming days. Cupra Line could build on, or indeed replace, FR and FR Sport trims, with subtle styling additions, racy personalisation options and more engaging handling. It’s unlikely these cars would offer any more power for fear of diluting the flagship full-fat Cupra models, however. +++

+++ Former vice chairman of General Motors, Bob Lutz, isn’t one to shy away from making bold proclamations. His latest? An assertion that TESLA is “going out of business”. Speaking shortly after Tesla unveiled both the next-generation Roadster and its all-electric Semi truck in California, Lutz claimed the event was simply a distraction to shift focus away from the brand’s production issues. “The company, folks, is going out of business. At this rate they’ll never get to 2019”, Lutz said. According to Lutz, Tesla has no distinct advantage over any other established automakers, including when it comes to producing electric vehicles. “There is no secret sauce in Tesla. They use the same lithium/ion batteries as everybody else. They are hemorrhaging cash. They’re going to have to go for another capital raise”, he said. It’s worth noting that Lutz has been a long-time skeptic of Tesla and may have made these comments in a bid to fluctuate the value of Tesla. However, I do partially agree that Tesla may have decided to unveil the new Roadster as a way to deflect attention away from its Model 3 woes. +++

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN Group has announced an investment of 34 billion euros for the development of electric cars, autonomous driving technology and mobility services up to 2022. The majority of that investment will be put towards new electric and hybrid vehicles, the company has said. By 2030 the VW Group claims that its entire product portfolio will be electrified; 1 in 4 of the company’s models will be dedicated electric vehicles. “We are reinventing the car”, said Matthias Müller, CEO of the VW Group. “We are, however, doing so without sidelining existing technologies and vehicle projects, since this is how we will earn our money for the foreseeable future”. VW’s Zwickau plant in Germany will be adapted to be the dedicated site for production of Volkswagen’s electric vehicles based on the new MEB platform. A production version of the I.D hatch concept will be first to arrive in 2019; it will be followed by an all-electric SUV based on the I.D Crozz concept in 2020. The third confirmed vehicle based on the MEB platform is the I.D Buzz. The modern day Microbus is scheduled for production in 2022 and should have an electric range of 500 kilometer. +++

+++ The compact plug-in hybrid system being developed by VOLVO and its Chinese sister firm Lynk&Co will be good for an electric range of up to 80 kilometers. The drivetrain is based around a 3-cylinder petrol engine, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, battery pack and electric motor. It will launch initially in the second half of 2018 with a 50 kilometers range on the Volvo XC40 and Lynk&Co 01, but is quickly being developed to offer up to 80 kilometers, which would be far in excess of any other similarly sized car in the segment, present or future. The Volvo and Lynk&Co models, compact SUVs developed in parallel on a new natively front-wheel-drive architecture called CMA, will also spawn full electric versions at the start of the next decade, with a range that could be as great as 600 km. Other ranges under consideration are 400 km and 500 km, with the firm set to pick one to launch with and then offer different versions as part of a range, similar to how Tesla sells its models. Product boss Yuebing Zhong confirmed Lynk&Co’s plans at the Guangzhou motor show, including plans to launch electric cars across several key segments. The 02 and 03 models will launch next year (as non-electric models), both also built on the CMA platform, the 02 coming in the first half of the year and the 03 the second. The 02 is another crossover SUV that’s smaller than the 01, while the 03 is a saloon, albeit one with a crossover look that’s been previewed by a concept car. The 01, 02 and 03 naming strategy is as simple as describing the order in which the models are launched. Zhong confirmed further models (so 04, 05, 05 and 07, for example) were under development, and by 2020 “there would be more than 5 or 6 cars”. Each will be a model will global appeal, ruling out the likes of a family hatchback to rival the Volkswagen Golf. To that end, Lynk&Co will follow its launch in China with one in Germany in 2019, with other European markets and the United States set to follow. European production could also be on the cards for Lynk&Co, which will initially make its models in China. Zhong said the models could be built alongside Volvo’s CMA cars in Volvo’s Ghent plant in Belgium. “We have the opportunity to build in Ghent, but it depends on the sales targets, the marketing needs and the production targets”, said Zhong. “If we decide to produce there, it’s doable”. Lynk&Co confirmed a starting price of 28,650 euro for the Lynk&Co 01 model, which goes on sale in The Netherlands. +++

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