+++ DYSON has confirmed that the executive behind its solid-state battery technology has departed the company; a surprise twist that follows the brand’s recent announcement to produce an electric car model by 2020. A spokesman said that “Ann Marie Sastry is no longer with Dyson” but refrained from explaining why, stating that the company doesn’t “get into specifics on personnel matters”. Sastry joined Dyson when it purchased her battery company Sakti3 for 90 million dollar 2 years ago. Although the technology Dyson is developing remains shrouded in secrecy, Sastry previously suggested that the company was close to bringing solid-state batteries to production; a feat that could give Dyson first-mover advantage in the global race for more efficient electric vehicles. Solid-state battery packs have a higher energy density and are quicker to charge than liquid-cells, cooler while operating and potentially more powerful. Toyota is the only manufacturer with firm plans to introduce the technology in the coming decade, while Porsche has hinted that solid-state electric vehicles are in its product plans. It is not yet known how Sastry’s departure will impact on the progress of Dyson’s car, which marks a leap for a brand that is best known for making household goods such as vacuum cleaners and hairdryers. The car’s development will be funded by 2,2 billion euro from Dyson and the project has received support from the UK Government. A team of 400 people are working on the project at Dyson’s Wiltshire headquarters. Dyson is keeping specific details, such as performance, range and production numbers, secret but it will not be a mass-market car akin to the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf; instead, it will be aimed at a more tech-oriented market. Dyson’s existing line of household goods tend to be more expensive than the competition, suggesting that the car’s market position will be firmly in the premium segment, similar to that of Tesla. Dyson also confirmed that more than one car would come out of the project. There’s no definitive word yet on where the car will be built, but company founder Sir James Dyson recently revealed to Reuters: “Wherever we make the battery, we’ll make the car, that’s logical. So we want to be near our suppliers, we want to be in a place that welcomes us and is friendly to us, and where it is logistically most sensible. And we see a very large market for this car in the Far East”. Dyson has a large market presence in the Far East, so Chinese production isn’t an unrealistic prediction, although the car is being developed in the UK. No design or prototype has yet been produced. In the announcement of Dyson’s electric car plan, James Dyson took swipes at governments’ push for diesels and the Dieselgate emissions scandal: “Governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants. Major auto manufacturers have circumvented and duped clean air regulations. As a result, developed and developing cities are full of smog-belching cars, lorries and buses. It is a problem that others are ignoring”. He revealed that a major aim is to reduce air pollution from cars “at the source”, saying: “I committed the company to develop new battery technologies. I believed that electrically powered vehicles would solve the vehicle pollution problem. Dyson carried on innovating. At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product. We’ve started building an exceptional team that combines top Dyson engineers with talented individuals from the automotive industry. The team is already over 400 strong and we are recruiting aggressively. I’m committed to investing 2,2 billion euro on this endeavour”. Dyson’s car will be Dyson-badged, unlike Google’s Waymo project and Apple’s autonomous car efforts, which are focusing on components for other cars. Dyson is not planning to seek help from other manufacturers to bring the car to production. The firm is famous for its vortex vacuum cleaner but has been linked to the development of a car for almost a decade, despite having repeatedly denied the project’s existence. A Dyson spokesman previously told Autocar: “James Dyson did say that our new digital motor could power a car, but we are not working on, and have no plans to create, an electric car”. Dyson has been working on producing a car since the eighties and interested in the filtration of diesel emissions for more than 2 decades. In the run-up to the car’s announcement, Dyson upped the rate of development with the hiring of several high-profile figures from the automotive market. Dyson recruited Aston Martin’s former director of purchasing, David Wyer, to become its head of procurement in August. Wyer was the second Aston Martin executive in as many years to move to Dyson, after product development director Ian Minards took up the same role at the Wiltshire-based company. Wyer confirmed his exit from Aston Martin on professional social media site LinkedIn, saying: “So, after 22 years at Aston Martin, today is my last day as I leave one great company to take up an exciting opportunity with another, as head of procurement at Dyson”. The move caused a stir, as did Dyson’s hiring of Tesla communications executive Ricardo Reyes earlier this year, kick-starting a resurgence in speculation about the company’s development of an electric car. Last year, speculation was heightened after the revealing of a government document that read: “The Government is funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. This will secure 190 million euro of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering”. Soon after, the document was altered to say: “The Government is providing a grant of up to 18 million euro to Dyson to support research and development for battery technology at their site in Malmesbury”. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS essentially pulled out of Europe when it sold its Opel and Vauxhall divisions to Paris-based Peugeot earlier this year. Now, company CEO Mary Barra states the company could go back to the Old Continent sooner or later. “Nothing keeps us from going back to Europe”, Barra said while speaking to Detroit media. However, she explained the European market needs to become more enticing for GM to consider setting sail across the Atlantic ocean. “If we don’t see a path to generate appropriate returns we’re going to invest where we see better opportunities”, she added. GM’s retreat from Europe was slow and painful. First, the company sold Sweden-based Saab to Holland’s Spyker in 2009, sending the brand to get guillotined. Then, it ordered Chevrolet to walk out of the European market after 2015 to give sister company Opel more room to breathe. Finally, it announced the sale of Opel and Vauxhall on the opening day of this year’s Geneva Auto Show. The Camaro, the Corvette, and a handful of Cadillac models remain available in Europe, but few notice their presence. Lamborghini outsold Cadillac in Europe last year. The American brand can’t be bothered to build right-hand drive vehicles for England, instead asking British motorists to settle for a left-hand drive car. In short: GM doesn’t have a foot to stand on in Europe right now, and a return to the world’s oldest car market would need to be engineered from scratch. If it happens at all, which Barra didn’t guarantee. +++

+++ Daimler and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance co-developed a new 1.3-liter petrol engine that debuted on the Scenic and Grand Scenic. However, the powertrain will eventually be expanded to various cars within the Alliance, and it will also be used on several front-wheel drive models coming from MERCEDES . A Daimler spokesperson confirmed that the next generation A-Class is among the vehicles that will put the 1.3-liter lump to use, and different variations of the unit will be offered in the B-Class, GLA, and GLB as well, but no details surrounding the outputs or where it will be put together have been released so far. However, the small petrol unit is offered on the French MPVs in a choice of 3 power levels, starting with the TCe 115 hp and TCe 140 hp, and ending with the TCe 160 hp. The first one comes exclusively with a manual gearbox, whereas the mid-range can be had with an EDC dual-clutch automatic as well, and the latter is offered solely with an automatic transmission, so we won’t be surprised if Mercedes’ models will follow a similar route. Renault-Nissan and Daimler’s collaboration started 7 years ago, and so far it has seen the French brand’s 1.5-liter dCi diesel engines being used in the entry-level A-Class, B-Class, and GLA. Moreover, the 1.6-liter petrol unit developed by Renault is also used in the C-Class, and the Renault Kangoo has been rebadged by Mercedes and sold as the controversial Citan. +++

+++ SUBARU is developing its next WRX to be a driver’s car that takes influence from the striking Viziv Performance concept and comes with electrified powertrains. Company design chief Mamoru Ishii told that feedback had been good following the Viziv’s reveal at the Tokyo motor show, suggesting he has confidence in leaving much of the look unchanged for the final car, which is due in 2020. “Such a car brings lots of expectation, from within the company and from our customers”, said Ishii. “What we know is that our customers’ lifestyles are changing and we have to respond to that. The question was whether we have done that in a correct way with this concept. For instance, we know that autonomous and connective technology are coming, and for many customers that is great, but we don’t think that is what all of our customers want. For some, driving pleasure is still very important and that is what we are exploring”. Ishii said initial reaction had been positive and that he was eager to see design themes such as the taut body shape offset by flourishes such as the wheel arches and bonnet scoop; elements that he considered part of Subaru’s DNA. “We have built up this tradition with the Legacy, Impreza and WRX”, he said. “We want it to look fast even when it is parked”. Although the concept features Subaru’s boxer engine and symmetrical all-wheel drive, Ishii hinted that only the latter was critical to customers. The car sits on the new Subaru Global Platform, which will underpin the majority of its future vehicles and can, said Ishii, incorporate other powertrains and include a plug-in hybrid set-up. He explained: “Four-wheel drive is critical to the power and performance levels our customers expect, but on the engine we have more freedom”. +++

+++ On paper, TESLA Motors is currently worth more than Ford, but a well-known Wall Street veteran says the company is actually “worthless”. That valuation comes from Kynikos Associates founder Jim Chanos, who’s made a career out of short-selling stocks. According to Chanos, Tesla doesn’t have a viable path to producing its recently unveiled Semi and Roadster on the timelines given, casting serious doubt on the company’s current valuation. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said “the Semi would be available in 2019 and the roadster in 2020. Where is he producing those? Those production lines have to be up and approved years before we get into production”, he said during an interview. Chanos also pointed to Tesla’s lagging autonomous tech as a reason to doubt the company. While Tesla is currently offering Level 2 autonomous technology in its vehicles, Chanos notes that Audi has already moved on to Level 3 and Google’s Waymo division is operating at Level 4. Tesla’s stock price is up significantly this year, but Chanos says it will eventually go to zero. “We think the equity is worthless”, he said. Chanos isn’t the only one to recently cast doubt on Tesla’s future. Last month former General Motors executive Bob Lutz predicted Tesla would go out of business sometime in 2018, citing the company’s tremendous cash burn and lack of a “secret sauce”. Shortly after Lutz’s statement a new report estimated that Tesla is burning through $11.5 million per day, meaning the company would be out of cash by August 2018. +++

+++ Japanese media are reporting that a new hybrid-powertrain targa-top sports coupe based on the TOYOTA GT86 could reach production by 2019. The car is said to be based on the GR HV Sports Concept shown in October at the Tokyo Motor Show. That concept, of course, was itself based on the Toyota 86 sports coupe but was fitted with a different nose and a electric-hybrid powertrain. The report says that the targa top of the concept, reminiscent of the Supra, will make it to production. In addition, the powertrain will be a 2.0-liter gasoline engine mated to a TSH-R (Toyota Sports Hybrid-Racing) system derived from its TS050 hybrid Le Mans race car. Therefore, more power than the current 205 horsepower is expected. Interestingly, the article says the 2.0-liter gasoline engine could be the Subaru flat-four that powers the standard Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ, or a BMW inline-four. BMW and Toyota have collaborated on the the next-generation Z4 and an unnamed Toyota sports car, so further component sharing is not out of the question. Power figures were not disclosed, nor were they specified on the GR HV Sports Concept. In any case, it’s not at all clear whether such a model would reach the European market. A Toyota GT86-Subaru BRZ replacement will arrive in 2020. +++

+++ If you looked at the new VOLKSWAGEN Arteon and thought it’d make a solid basis for a performance sedan, you’re not alone. In fact, according to reports, VW is working on just such a beast: with over 400 horsepower. Volkswagen spokesman Martin Hube said that the company has a prototype for an Arteon R in the works. The prototype reportedly packs a (likely twin) turbocharged version of VW’s 3.0-liter VR6 engine, sending some 404 horsepower to all 4 wheels. “I’m totally convinced that this combination is extremely nice”, said Hube. “We’ve combined it with the last version of the Haldex four-wheel drive system, where you can provoke a bit of oversteer. This is a real agile, powerful car”. Hube even went so far as to suggest that it’d be a hotter performer than the Porsche Panamera, base versions of which also employ a 3.0-liter turbo six to the tune of 325 horsepower (434 hp in 4S spec). Here’s hoping that the bean-counters in Wolfsburg give it the green light. +++

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