+++ New generations of the A1 Sportback and Q3 will be presented before the end of the year, alongside a performance version of the Q2, called the SQ2, according to an official product roadmap from AUDI . We’ve known for a while that Audi has been working on an SQ2 as spy photographers nabbed it testing on the Nurburgring. The most obvious styling changes compared to the regular Q2 will be the more aggressive exterior, and some trim updates to the interior, alongside the addition of the ‘S’ badges. Power is expected to come from the 2.0-liter 4 cylinder turbocharged petrol engine of the Audi S3, rated at 310 hp. Responsible for everything that wears an ‘R’ badge, Audi Sport is planning to launch 5 new performance models over the next 2 years. An RS Q2 could be one of them, alongside hotter versions of the Q5, Q7, and even Q8. We might see the SQ2 arriving first, possibly as early as the 2018 Geneva Motor Show in March. The new generation Q3 will rival the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 and Volvo XC40. Prototypes of the 2019 Audi Q3 continue to be seen testing in the wild, hiding their updated styling under camouflage. Underpinned by the VW Group’s MQB platform, the Q3 will drop some 50 kg and feature similar powertrains to the Tiguan. Lesser models are expected to be offered with front-wheel drive, whereas higher end versions will get the Quattro AWD system. Expected to arrive later this year, the new generation Audi A1 is present in the alleged road map as well. The premium supermini will arrive with evolutionary styling, but plenty of changes made beneath the skin. It will be powered by an assortment of 3 and 4 cylinder engines, including a 2.0 TFSI with 265 hp in the range-topping S1. +++

+++ A growth in use of fully AUTONOMOUS vehicles could cause global new car sales to flatline from the year 2030, new research has suggested. A study of the possible effects of driverless technology, car sharing and a growth in ride-hailing services on the automotive supply chain concluded that fewer people will need to purchase private vehicles, impacting the number of sales car makers achieve and therefore threatening business incomes if those car giants don’t adapt. The report, by financial services company Credit Suisse, stated: “Our global automotive production chain model forecasts global car production flatlining from 2030 with rising production in developing markets offset by declines in developed markets. Within that, we expect UK production levels to begin a structural decline from around 2030, falling about 1% per year from that year as autonomous vehicles comprise a greater proportion of the UK”. The study cited the cheaper cost of transport offered by ride-hailing services compared with car ownership as a key driver for the shift, with the use of fully autonomous vehicles “being disproportionately found in developed markets such as the UK and owned by ride-hailing companies such as Uber”. However, Credit Suisse also found that private car ownership will remain the cheapest option for transport in certain scenarios. It calculated that a person travelling 8.000 kilometres per year would spend 7.500 euro per year if they used a private car, as opposed to 9.000 euro if they travelled using a mix of ride-hailing apps for urban journeys and car rental for longer journeys. The figures include the cost of maintenance and assumes a used car costs 14.000 euro to buy; the current average price of a second-hand car in Britain. The study predicted that autonomous cars will account for 14% of the new car market from 2040, with semi-autonomous models representing almost one third, meaning brands that most deftly shift to production of driverless models will be most likely to survive. Credit Suisse said that the growth of autonomous cars will affect used car buying websites. Even a modest 1.5% growth in self-driving vehicles would lead to fewer people having to buy cars and “have a profound impact on the websites’ valuations” due to a reduction in car sales via their platforms. +++

+++ When Nissan introduced the Murano CrossCabriolet at the 2010 LA Auto Show and marketed it as the world’s first 2-door convertible crossover, everyone raised an eyebrow. Plus, the description was inaccurate, as the Japanese company somehow seemed to have “forgotten” that this title belonged to the Suzuki X90. Anyway, not many carmakers followed Nissan’s example. In fact, the only ones we can think of are Mercedes-Maybach with the luxurious and insanely expensive G650 Landaulet and Range Rover with the more affordable Evoque Cabriolet. Although the niche didn’t exactly take off, BMW appears to be interested in it. If a report posted by turns out to be true, then they’re considering chopping the roof off the X2 and marketing it against the open-top Range Rover Evoque. Now, if a X2 Cabriolet sounds unlikely, a rumored 3-door coupe version of the small crossover is a much more plausible option, though at this point BMW hasn’t said anything about it. But it does sound like a much more logical move from Munich, doesn’t it? +++

+++ What are the best-selling cars in (other) countries in EUROPE ? Austria: Volkswagen Golf. With no mainstream car manufacturers, Austria’s top-seller can’t be from a domestic manufacturer. 14,244 buyers flocked to the Volkswagen Golf in 2017, while the next 2 are also VW Group big-hitters; the Skoda Octavia, at 9,594, and the Tiguan at 9,095. Belgium: Volkswagen Golf. The same can be said for Belgium, but clearly being wedged between France and Germany has its effects: the Volkswagen Golf was the most popular car last year, followed by the Renault Clio and Hyundai Tucson. 14.304, 11.313 and 10.324 found owners respectively in 2017. Croatia: Skoda Octavia. It’s all change in Croatia; in 2016, the best-sellers were the Nissan Qashqai and Toyota Yaris, while last year, the Skoda Octavia, Renault Clio and Volkswagen Golf took the top3, with 2.448, 2.285 and 2.265 sales respectively. Czechia: Skoda Octavia. No 2 guesses which carmaker rules supreme here: the Skoda Octavia sold 27,051 units and the second-best-seller was the Fabia, which sold 21,281, in fact, half of the country’s top ten best-sellers are Skodas. The Rapid took third, with 12,407 sold. Denmark: Peugeot 208. Peugeot’s only top spot in Europe last year was in Denmark, where 9.838 208s found homes in 2017, while the next best-seller was the Volkswagen Up, of which 7.232 were sold. Trailing slightly in 3rd place was the Nissan Qashqai; 7.014 found homes last year. Estonia: Skoda Octavia. Estonia has a proclivity for larger cars, it would seem, as the Skoda Octavia took pole position having sold 1.328 cars, while 893 and 871 units put the Toyota Avensis and Toyota RAV4 in second and third place respectively. Finland: Skoda Octavia. Skoda claimed another victory in Finland with the Octavia: 5.692 were sold there in 2017. Second place was taken by the Nissan Qashqai, although only slightly less (5.059) were sold across the year. The Volkswagen Golf took third place with 3.989 sales. France: Renault Clio. Little surprise here; France’s top car for 2017 was the Renault Clio, and a whopping 117,473 took it right to the top. The Peugeot 208 takes second place, with 97,629 units being sold, while the other French supermini, the Citroën C3, was overtaken from third by the Peugeot 3008, with 74,282 sold. Germany: Volkswagen Golf. Volkswagen takes a 1, 2, 3 in Germany, with the Golf having sold 178,590 cars in the country. It sells so well that the second-place Tiguan sold less than half this number; 72,478, while the Passat follows just behind on 70,233. The success of both knocked the Mercedes-Benz C-Class off the podium altogether, despite being in second place at the end of the third quarter. Greece: Toyota Yaris. The Toyota Yaris took the top spot in Greece again, with 5.508 cars sold, compared to the second-place Opel Corsa’s 3.341 units sold. Third goes to the Fiat Panda; 3.139 have Greek homes across 2017. Hungary: Suzuki Vitara. Hungarian buyers are hungry (sorry) for the Suzuki Vitara, quite probably because it’s made there: the model sold 8.782 units there in 2017. Meanwhile, the Skoda Octavia sold 6.104 down in second place, and the Opel Astra has sold 4.301. Ireland: Hyundai Tucson. Hyundai has well and truly taken hold in Ireland; the Tucson was the best-selling car across the Irish sea in 2016, and grew by a staggering 11,323% over 2015, remaining at the top for 2017, having sold 4.907 units. The Volkswagen Golf, meanwhile, sold 4.495, and the Nissan Qashqai completes the top3, with 4.197 sales. Italy: Fiat Panda. Nationalism wins, once again: the Fiat Panda was the best-selling car in Italy last year, with 144,533 finding homes; the best-selling car in any single market. The Lancia Ypsilon was second, with a comparatively piddly 60,326. The Fiat 500, having shifted 58,296, was a close third. It was a 60/40 split between Fiat Chrysler group cars and other manufacturers in 2016, with the Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta, and Volkswagens Polo and Golf in the top10, too. Latvia: Nissan Qashqai. Another win for Nissan: the Qashqai claimed a small victory in 2017, with 803 sold overall. The Volkswagen Golf came in second, having sold 679 units, while the third-place Kia Sportage sold 569. Lithuania: Fiat 500. Fiat’s second pole position came in Lithuania, where the 500 found 3.488 homes, while the Fiat 500X overtook the Skoda Octavia to become second best-seller, on 1.231. The 500X sunk to third with 1.043. Luxembourg: Volkswagen Golf. It was almost another douze points for the Volkswagen Group from Luxembourg in 2017, right up until the third quarter; the Volkswagen Golf took top spot, while the Tiguan took second and the Renault Clio snatched third from the Audi A3. Sales were 1.859, 1.352 and 1.183 respectively. Netherlands: Renault Clio. It’s all change for the Dutch! The Volkswagen Golf has been ousted from its top spot and into 3rd place: the Renault Clio, Volkswagen Up and Volkswagen Golf make up the big3, with 11,782, 10,853 and 10,105 sales. Norway: Volkswagen Golf. Surprise! The Volkswagen Golf was the best-selling car in Norway last year, with 11,620 sold. The BMW i3 was in second place, but has sold less than half the Golf’s Norwegian total, at 5,036. The Toyota Rav4 took in third place, at 4,821. Poland: Skoda Octavia. Skoda took another top2 in Poland, with the Fabia and Octavia taking first and second place with the narrowest of margins separating the 2; the Fabia taking 18,989 and Octavia taking 18,876 sales in the country. Opel’s Astra took 3rd, on 15,971. Portugal: Renault Clio. French superminis find more homes than anything else in Portugal, as the Renault Clio sold 12,743 as the country’s best-seller and the Peugeot 208 sold 6,833, while the Renault Mégane sold 6,802. Romania: Dacia Logan. Dacia took its home market by storm last year, and continues to do so. The Logan and Duster made up 2017’s top two, with the former finding homes in 17,192 garages, and the latter parked in 6,791. The Skoda Octavia took 4th place, and Sandero slipped in at third in the Romanian market, with 3,821. Slovakia: Skoda Fabia. The Skoda Octavia took pole position in Slovakia, while its little brother, the Fabia, wasn’t far behind. The Octavia was bought by 5.337 Slovakians, and the Fabia was bought by 5.325. The Rapid, in third place, sold 3.846. Slovenia: Peugeot 3008. The Volkswagen Golf climbed to second in the Slovenian market in 2017, with 3.638 sales ensuring its lead over the Skoda Octavia, which sold 2.737. First place goes to the Renault Clio, though, with 3.828 sales. The Clio is built in Slovenia in facelifted form, which helps it maintain its lead there. Spain: Seat Ibiza. What’s Spanish for ‘quelle surprise’? The Seat Leon and Ibiza take gold and silver in Spain, with 35,272 and 33,705 finding a place in the sun last year, and the Renault Clio’s 21,920 sales give it third place. Surprisingly, though, the rest of the top10 is a healthy mix. The introduction of the Arona could make Seat’s footprint in Spain larger, though. Sweden: Volvo XC60. There was uproar in 2016 when the Volkswagen Golf took the lead in Sweden’s car market from Volvo, but 3 Volvos combined took second: the S80, V70 and XC70. Volvo was back on top in 2017 with the XC60 in pole position on 24,088, followed by the S90 and V90, with 22,593 sales. The Golf was pushed down into 3rd place; 18,213 leaves it well below the Swedes’ scores. Switzerland: Skoda Octavia. With no native carmakers of any large volume, the Swiss buy the Skoda Octavia, Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Tiguan more than any other cars. 10,010 have bought an Octavia so far this year, and 8,699 and 6,944 have bought Golfs and Tiguans. United Kingdom: Ford Fiesta. The Fiesta is perched atop the lofty list of the UK’s top-sellers, with 94,533 sold last year. 74,605 Volkswagen Golf and 69,903 Ford Focus sales cement second and third places for the best-seller regulars. +++

+++ FORD said its China chief, Jason Luo, has stepped down after only 5 months at the helm for personal reasons, a sudden resignation that raises questions over how the automaker will best tackle a sales slump in the world’s biggest car market. Luo had been poached from Key Safety Systems, and it had been hoped that he would reprise his work at the auto parts maker where he engineered a significant surge in China revenue. He also oversaw its $920 million sale to China’s Ningbo Joyson Electronic and the $1.6 billion purchase of assets from bankrupt Japanese airbag maker Takata. “Jason offered his resignation for personal reasons that predate his time at Ford”, Peter Fleet, head of Ford’s Asia Pacific operations, said in the statement. “Ford accepted Jason’s resignation as the right way for him and the company to proceed. Jason’s decision was not related to the business strategy or performance of Ford China”, Fleet said, adding that Luo’s replacement would be the subject of a future announcement. The departure, effective immediately, is a blow to Ford, which has been falling behind rivals in the market. Its China sales slid 6 percent in 2017 compared with a 3 percent rise for the industry overall. Luo was meant to help the firm improve ties with local joint-venture partners like Chongqing Changan Automobile and be nimbler in responding to local consumer demands. At Ford, Luo was in charge of the carmaker’s operations in Greater China including its import business, Lincoln, its passenger car joint venture Changan Ford, its commercial vehicle investment in Jiangling Motors Corporation, and its Taiwan operations. Foreign automakers in China are also battling fierce competition from local rivals, who are aggressively launching new models to grab market share. The market is also skewed by heavy government support for electric vehicles, prompting Ford and others to seek partners and expand local production. +++

+++ The JEEP Renegade will be facelifted in 2019, with light changes to its exterior styling and new technology inside. Exterior revisions will likely include revised LED daytime running lights and other such light tweaks, while the car’s rugged, retro-Jeep styling is a dead cert to remain. Inside, a larger infotainment screen will take the place of the current 6.5 inch unit, absorbing the buttons and controls previously surrounding it. The new unit is still housed in the shaped surround so takes up no more space than the complete previous unit. Jeep has previously confirmed that there will eventually be a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol, 48V mild hybrid version of every car in its line-up. This will include the upgraded Renegade when it goes on sale in 2019. The American brand also has plans to give each of its models a plug-in hybrid variant by the end of the decade. The Renegade is Jeep’s most successful model in Europe, being closely related to the Fiat 500X and occupying the same market segment as the huge-selling Nissan Juke. The new Jeep Compass, a Nissan Qashqai rival, is also pivotal to the brand’s success. A Jeep spokesman confirmed that the updated Renegade would arrive in September 2018, following a motor show debut, likely in the first half in 2018. Prices are expected to rise only slightly. Jeep CEO Mike Manley previously said: “With the Renegade growing in Europe, we are where we want to be. We have yet to complete the European rollout of the Compass, which is in Europe’s biggest segment. In 2018, I’m looking for significant growth on 2017”. +++

+++ LOTUS boss Jean-Marc Gales has revealed the company will launch 2 new sports cars in 2020. He confirmed one of the models will be a replacement for an existing vehicle. This means the car will be a successor to the Elise. Gales has previously said the company was working on a new Elise for 2020 and it’s a likely candidate as the current model isn’t offered in the United States. Gales didn’t say much about the car but he hinted it will use an updated version of the company’s bonded aluminum tub as “It’s still a benchmark for lightweight, crash resistance, and longevity”. The second vehicle will reportedly be a track-focused model that will replace the 3-Eleven and use a new carbon fiber tub. Gales said the car will be “much more civilized” than 3-Eleven as that car is “pretty raw”. Gales went on to say both models will be “absolutely stunning and gorgeous, in terms of design and aerodynamics”. He also said they will be more practical with improved entry and egress. Both models are expected to borrow from the Volvo and Geely parts bin but Gales declined to say whether or not engines would be sourced from the companies. However, Gales did confirm the vehicles won’t use Volvo’s infotainment system as he doesn’t think it is suitable for use in sports cars. Later down the road, Lotus will introduce its first crossover. Gales didn’t say much about the model but confirmed it will arrive in 2021 or 2022. +++

+++ MERCEDES sells a lot of cars in the United States. More than any other luxury automaker, in fact; and many times more than it sells in Canada, at any rate. But there’s at least one way in which Mercedes USA wants to emulate its neighbors to the north, and that’s AMG. Roughly 10 percent of the Mercedes sold in the United States last year were AMG performance models. In Canada, that number was more like 20 percent. “Based on that, we have more opportunity”, Mercedes USA CEO Dietmar Exler told. Getting to that level may not happen so quickly, and may not happen at all. “But I know there is potential with AMG to go above what we have been”. As it is, the Mercedes sold nearly 50 percent more AMG models in America last year than it did the year before. A big part of that came thanks to the mid-year introduction of the new 43 line to join the higher-end 63 and 65 models. They’ll now be available for the full model year, and soon be joined by the new hybrid 53 versions of the CLS and E-Class models as well. Of course, in raw numbers, Mercedes sells far more models (AMG or otherwise) in the United States than it does in Canada; by a ratio of roughly 7.5:1. Last year Mercedes sold over 375,000 new vehicles in the US, and crested the 50,000-mark for the first time in Canada. That works out to roughly 37,500 AMG models in the 50 states compared to roughly 10,000 in Canada’s 10 provinces (and 3 northern territories). The population of the US is nearly 10 times as large as Canada’s. If Mercedes could reach Canadian proportions in the US market, though, it would be looking at some 75,000 AMGs in the United States. That’s more than all the Porsches sold (or more than all the Bentleys, Jaguars, Alfa Romeos, and Maseratis put together) in America last year. +++

+++ RENAULT will expand its presence in Russia with a new “crossover coupe”, expected to arrive in the country later this year. 3 people familiar with the matter have reportedly confirmed the information to Vedomosti, which goes on saying that the mysterious vehicle is based on the same platform as the Renault/Dacia Duster. The crossover, the name of which remains unknown for now, is said to be assembled at the brand’s factory in Moscow, probably before the end of the year. It will apparently be unveiled at the 2018 Moscow Motor Show, which starts on August 29. Renault’s new crossover is believed to slot above the Kaptur, which is another product aimed exclusively at the Russian market, and built in the country’s capital city. Presented in spring 2016, and launched a few months later, the Renault Kaptur sits on a modified version of the Dacia Duster’s BO platform, with a larger footprint than the European Captur with which it shares its styling. More importantly, unlike the Captur, the Russia-only version has all-wheel drive, locking center differential, heavy-duty suspension, and a generous ground clearance of 204 mm. Setting it apart from the regular Captur are the reworked headlights and taillights, tweaked grille, and lower part of the front bumper, whereas inside, it uses the MediaNav infotainment system of the Duster and other Dacia models, instead of the R-Link. +++

+++ TESLA says it remains on target with Model 3 production despite reports that battery production is worse than acknowledged. Late last week, CNBC reported that Tesla has started to make batteries by hand and borrow employees from one of its suppliers to help reach production targets. The electric automaker most recently said that it intends on building 2.500 Model 3s per week by the end of the first quarter. Production will then ramping up to 5.000 vehicles per week by the end of the second quarter. “To be absolutely clear, we are on track with the previous projections for achieving increased Model 3 production rates that we provided earlier this month”, a Tesla spokesman told. “As has been well documented, until we reach full production, by definition some elements of the production process will be more manual”. In a damning report, CNBC claimed to have received word from Tesla employees that the brand is so eager to increase Model 3 production that it is neglecting the quality of its batteries. “2 current engineers told CNBC that they are concerned some of the batteries being shipped do not have the minimum gap required between lithium-ion cells. These engineers warned that this “touching cells” flaw could cause batteries to short out or, in worse cases, catch fire”, CNBC reported. In response, Tesla said the claims were completely false. “The implication that Tesla would ever deliver a car with a hazardous battery is absolutely inaccurate, contrary to all evidence, and detached from reality. It is irresponsible to suggest as much based on unnamed, anonymous sources who have provided no such evidence and who obviously do not have a complete understanding of the extensive testing that all batteries in Tesla vehicles are subjected to”. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN ’s dieselgate scandal took a bizarre turn last week when it was reported a lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico locked 10 monkeys in a chamber and had them watch cartoons while exhaust fumes from a Beetle were piped into the compartment. The experiment was conducted in 2014 by the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute with funds provided by the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT). The organization was funded by German automakers and suppliers including BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen. The EUGT was shut down last year but it was part of a “prolonged, well-financed effort to produce academic research that the German automakers hoped would influence political debate and preserve tax privileges for diesel fuel”. The EUGT funded studies which challenged everything from a World Health Organization decision to classify diesel exhaust as a carcinogen to whether or not removing diesel-powered vehicles from cities would reduce pollution. The companies initially backed the EUGT’s efforts as Daimler stated “All of the research work commissioned with the EUGT was accompanied and reviewed by a research advisory committee consisting of scientists from renowned universities and research institutes”. However as the scandal grew the companies were quick to distance themselves from the group and its tests. In a new statement, Daimler AG said: “We are appalled by the extent of the studies and their implementation” and “We condemn the experiments in the strongest terms”. The company went on to say they are distancing “ourselves from the studies and the EUGT” and have “launched a comprehensive investigation into the matter”. Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller weighed in by saying the “The methods practiced by EUGT were totally wrong. All this shows me yet again that we have to take ethical questions more seriously and sensitively. In our company and as an industry. There are things you just do not do”. Volkswagen said it “explicitly distances itself from all forms of animal cruelty” as “animal testing contradicts our own ethical standards”. The automaker added “We are conscious of our social and corporate responsibilities and are taking the criticism regarding the study very seriously. We know that the scientific methods used by EUGT were wrong and apologize sincerely for this”. Despite the wave of apologizes, the monkey business isn’t going away anytime soon as it is reported that Volkswagen’s supervisory board has called for an investigation into who commissioned the tests. VW supervisory board Chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch also released a statement saying “Whoever is responsible for this must, of course, be held accountable”. A number of environmental groups have already weighed in including Greenpeace’s Mel Evans who stated “These bewilderingly abhorrent lab tests on monkeys and possibly humans, show yet again that VW is wholly untrustworthy and will do anything to promote dirty diesel”. Evans went on to say that Volkswagen’s emissions cheating “has turned us all into test subjects”. +++

+++ ZENVO will unveil a new hypercar, the third model in its range, alongside the TS1 GT and TSR, at the Geneva motor show. Typically unrevealing shots show the car’s red bodywork with heavy use of carbonfibre in its construction, suggesting a higher level of focus than the TS1 GT. No details of engine or performance have yet been revealed, but power is likely to be in the same league as the 1.200 hp of that car. Pricing is likely to be in excess of the 1.8 million euro Zenvo charges for the TS1 GT. Small production numbers will go some way to justify that: Zenvo produces just 6 cars per year from its facility in Præstø, Denmark. Zenvo CEO Angela Kashina said: “With everything now in place to launch this fantastic new model onto the market, it’s hard for us to wait patiently for the Geneva motor show to share this car with the world. The fact that we’re holding back to the opening day of the exhibition on 6 March is a testimony to how much we value this event”. +++

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