+++ The ALFA ROMEO Mito will be canned early next year as the brand makes way for a new era of SUVs and sports cars, Europe boss Roberta Zerbi has confirmed. In June, Alfa Romeo’s parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, laid out a 5-year plan for the Italian maker, which includes 2 new SUVs, a range-topping 8C sports car and a modern-day GTV (a 4-seat coupe)́. The Mito did not feature in the plans but no more details were given. Now, Zerbi has confirmed that it will be withdrawn from sale by early next year. “Mito is a 3-door and people are choosing more and more 5-door cars”, she said. Zerbi added that previous buyers of the Mito would hopefully migrate into the Giulia or upcoming small SUV, which will sit below the Stelvio in its range. She said the small SUV was the upcoming model she was most excited about: “This is the one that will allow us to talk to a wider audience, a younger audience of 30- to 40-year-olds. It can help fill the gap between the Giulietta and Stelvio. And people that bought a Mito in the last couple of years: people grow up, start having children [and need a bigger car”. Zerbi confirmed that it won’t look like a smaller Stelvio, in the vein of Audi and its Russian-doll SUV styling, saying it will “look like a family of cars”. She would not confirm when the small SUV will be launched but I expect to see it in the next 2 years. +++

+++ The next generation BENTLEY Flying Spur will gain a V6-powered plug-in hybrid variant at the start of next year.The Rolls-Royce Ghost rival has again been spotted testing in PHEV form. It’s clear that this is no ordinary Flying Spur due to its 2 fuel filler caps, one of which hides a charging port for the car’s lithium ion battery pack. Bentley will equip the Flying Spur PHEV with an electrified powertrain borrowed from the Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, instead of the system found in the Bentayga Hybrid. The plug-in SUV will also not arrive until early next year, as the new WLTP economy testing regulations mean Bentley needs to fine-tune the car’s powertrain. The Flying Spur PHEV is expected to have an electric-only range of around 50 kilometres. This will be an essential feature if it is to comply with ever-stricter global emissions regulations, particularly in China. The plug-in hybrid will be part of the next-generation Flying Spur range, which will be launched next year with a more distinctive design in order to clearly carve out its own identity among its stablemates. The model will also be offered with V8 and W12 petrol engines, but there won’t be a diesel option. Bentley’s push to electrification will also lead to the launch of an electric model that will have a technical relationship with the Porsche Mission E via its J1 electric architecture. This and other electrified cars, including versions of the Continental GT and Bentayga, form part of a plan to produce a plug-in variant of each of Bentley model by 2025. +++

+++ BMW is reportedly considering a 4-cylinder engine for the next-generation i8’s hybrid powertrain. The i8 has been subject to several seemingly contradictory rumors, some pointing to an all-electric future and others hinting at a more powerful hybrid system. The current model integrates a three-cylinder gasoline engine, with a total hybrid output of 362 hp and 420 Nm. The company’s leadership is now leaning toward a more powerful hybrid setup. The report cites previous rumors pointing to a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 300 horsepower, before adding in extra power from electric motors. Earlier rumors raised the possibility of a pure battery-powered i8 with around 750 horsepower and a range of 500 kilometres. The next-generation i8 project is said to be still in the feasibility stage. If approved, a redesigned model is unlikely to arrive until 2022 or later. +++ 

+++ CADILLAC has gone on a trademarking spree, securing almost a dozen names for the CT and XT families. The automaker filed trademarks for CT2, CT3, CT4, CT5, CT7, and CT8 alongside XT2, XT3, XT6, XT7, and XT8 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office last month. While it remains to be seen what Cadillac intends on using the trademarks for, it’s likely that most of them have been secured either for upcoming or future products or to ensure no other company can use them. With that being said, reports indicate that at least a few of the trademarked names will be affixed to upcoming models in the not too distant future. For example, a CT5 is known to be just around the corner to fill the space left behind by the CTS and a smaller CT4 sedan is also on the way, designed as an entry-level replacement to the ATS. As for the XT names, they denote Cadillac’s range of SUVs which already comprises the XT4 and XT5. It’s entirely possible that the car manufacturer is planning a large SUV to slot above the XT5 as well as models smaller than the XT4. Whatever the case may be, it’s obvious that Cadillac doesn’t intend on switching up its current naming scheme for quite some time. Reports from June indicated that Cadillac was investing some $175 million into its Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant to produce the CT4 and CT5 sedans. The CT5 should arrive first as a 2020 model year in 2019, while the CT4 will probably land in 2020 as a 2021 model. +++

+++ The car industry expands into new segments frequently, with new bodystyles popping up all over the place. What’s the best-selling in each one, though? I’ve got the latest data from market analyst JATO Dynamics to bring you the best-selling cars in EUROPE (EU countries), sorted by bodystyle: City car: Fiat 500 (110,585 sales), Supermini: Renault Clio (185,234), Family hatchback: Volkswagen Golf (257,550), Mid-size saloon/estate: Volkswagen Passat (93,252), Executive: Mercedes-Benz E-Class (65,112), Luxury: Mercedes-Benz S-Class (8,250), Small SUV: Renault Captur (121,235), Mid-size SUV: Nissan Qashqai (134,547), Large SUV: Peugeot 5008 (44,633 sales), Small premium SUV: BMW X1 (62,287), Mid-size premium SUV: Mercedes-Benz GLC (66,850), Large premium SUV: BMW X5 (19,174), Small MPV: Fiat 500L (33,770), Mid-size MPV: Renault Scenic (57,559), Large MPV: Mercedes-Benz V-Class (15,717). Small sports car: Mazda MX-5 (8,545), Mid-size sports car: Audi TT (8,068), Large sports car: Porsche 911 (12,734). +++

+++ FORD is developing its most engaging Focus ST yet with the proven 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine, making the future model its last non-electrified high-performance Focus. Replacing the old ST’s 2.0-litre engine, the 2.3-litre unit will have close technical links to the aluminium four-pot used by the 350 hp Focus RS but will be adapted for life in the front-wheel drive ST to offer around 280 hp. Since the next RS is due to kick-start hybrid power for Ford’s hot models from 2020, the upcoming ST will serve as the final chapter in pure combustion power for Focus hot hatches. Ford is understood to have chosen the 2.3-litre powerplant, rather than a more powerful version of the 1.5-litre three-cylinder featured in the new Fiesta ST, because the smaller engine would have to be run close to its reliable limit in this guise. The Focus ST competes against the Renault Mégane RS and Peugeot 308 GTi, which come with 280 hp and 270 hp respectively. The 2.3-litre, on the other hand, which offers up to 375 hp in the Focus RS Red Edition, can be more practically tuned for the Focus ST. It’s due to come mated exclusively to a 6-speed manual gearbox, with no Powershift automatic option. This change signals a clear driver focus for the new model, suggesting that the next Focus ST will be a more enthusiastic and playful car to drive. The latest Focus arrived in April with claims from Joe Bakaj, Ford of Europe’s vice president for product development, that it will offer “that fun-to-drive feel” earlier Focus models were famous for across the line-up. The ST will, of course, take this to the next level. Styling will also be more subdued than present, too, with the latest development car showing that the Focus will get a more conventional twin-exhaust setup in place of the car’s current polygonal tailpipe. The new Focus is also said to be 88 kg lighter, like-for-like, than the old car, suggesting the ST could shed some kilos from the old car’s 1.437 kg figure. Its structure is claimed to be 20 % more rigid, with a 50 % improvement around the suspension elements, which should provide Ford engineers with the opportunity to improve the ST’s agility without compromising ride quality. This has certainly been the case with the new Fiesta, which has received similar improvements over its predecessor. Ford had planned to launch its next Focus ST at the end of 2018, but the Blue Oval brand has pushed back the car’s arrival into 2019. It’s expected to be revealed in the run up to the 2019 Geneva motor show, with a public debut at the March event. Sales should kick-off by next summer. The Focus ST will remain the most potent version of the Focus on sale until the next-generation Focus RS arrives in 2020. That car will use a smaller 2.0-litre engine mated to a hybrid powerplant that’s based around 48V architecture to offer 400 hp. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES’ AMG performance car division is putting the finishing touches to a facelifted version of the GT, some 4 years after the German car maker’s front-engined rear-wheel drive sports car first made its public debut at the 2014 Paris motor show. The reworked AMG model is expected to be unveiled at the upcoming Los Angeles motor show in a move aimed at stealing the limelight from one of its key competitors, the new 2019 model year Porsche 911. The lightly disguised US-specification prototype pictured here reveals the GT is in line for some subtle styling changes, including a slightly larger ‘Panamericana’ grille and an altered splitter with additional elements within the leading edge of the front wheel arches. Further changes include newly designed headlamp graphics, likely incorporating the latest multi-beam functions recently brought to other Mercedes-Benz models. The tail lamps also feature altered graphics as well. Although the changes to the appearance of the GT are mild, sources at Mercedes-AMG suggest it is in line to receive a number of mechanical upgrades, including a more powerful twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine. In the least powerful version of the existing GT, the 4.0-litre unit delivers 476 hp. However, the same engine also produces up to 585 hp in the range-topping GT R, indicating there is sufficient scope for power increases across the range. Nothing is official just yet, though the facelifted version of the base GT model is expected to see a 34 hp increase, taking its reserves up to around 510 hp. Similar increases in the GT S and GT C, should also raise their power output close to 550 hp and 590 hp respectively. At the top of the line-up, the facelifted GT R is set to adopt wet sump lubrication; a development already seen on the latest E63 S 4Matic. This provides the basis for an increase in power beyond the 585 hp of today’s model to somewhere in the region of 630 hp, exceeding the super saloon. In 2020, AMG is expected to unleash an even more powerful version of the GT with the introduction of a Black Series model. Hinted to by AMG chairman Tobias Moers at the Geneva motor show back in March, it has been conceived to take on the Porsche 911 Turbo S with an expected 670 hp and a number of aerodynamic developments, including a larger fixed rear wing element than that used by the GT R, to increase downforce. +++

+++ MITSUBISHI is remaining optimistic in the face of potential tariffs from the Trump administration. The Japanese company imports every vehicle it sells in the U.S. and could be hit hard by a 25 % tariff on foreign-made cars sold in the country. Nonetheless, chief operating officer Trevor Mann says the automaker has some things up its sleeve. For starters, it is planning a host of new models to launch from 2020. These will include the next-generation Outlander and a selection of other models using platforms and engines from Renault and Nissan. Mann believes these vehicles will boost Mitsubishi’s appeal. Further helping Mitsubishi is the fact that the United States is still a very small market for it. Just 10 % of the brand’s worldwide sales originate from the U.S. and the country contributes less than 10 % to Mitsubishi’s profits. “It’s not going to be a corporate disaster for us. The impact on us would be less than on many other brands. It’s a bump in the road that we’re going to have to repair”, Mann said. Mitsubishi operated a production facility in the U.S., but closed it down in 2016. Once 2020 comes around, Mann revealed that the manufacturer may think about restarting U.S. production to protect it from long-term tariffs. Despite its optimism, the brand does want to increase its footprint in the country. In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020, Mitsubishi intends on bumping up North American sales by 23 % to 190,000. Such a figure outpaces the 18 % growth target which it is aiming for globally. +++ 

+++ The Chinese EV car maker NIO will float on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in a bid to raise new funding from the sale of shares. The brand, formerly known as NextEV and closely associated with the Formula E team sharing this name, will use the funds to ramp up its model range, adding a second SUV, the ES6, which is due the first half next year, and then a saloon due in 2020. Nio’s product portfolio currently includes only the EP9 hypercar and the ES8 SUV. It has no plans to sell mass-market cars outside of China, but it does plan to launch one car per year. Deliveries of the ES8 began in June, and as of the end of July, 481 cars had been delivered. Nio claims to have more than 17,000 reservations for the ES8 in total. In the NYSE filing, Nio lauded its charging facilities, including a battery swap scheme, mobile charging truck service and pick-up and drop-off charging service. The company posted net losses of €430 million euroacross the first half of 2018, with sales revenues of €6 million across the same period. Nio chiefs hope the figures will even out as it delivers more ES8s to customers, although rival electric brand Tesla has proven that achieving this is easier said than done. Tesla also floated itself on the stock exchange, but has faced controversy in recent weeks with company CEO Elon Musk’s announcement of his intention to make the company private once again. With the funds raised by the flotation, Nio aims to also increase its manufacturing capacity to better fulfil orders, increase its nationwide charger network, currently at 214,000 points, and invest in research and development into new technology. +++

+++ The first model designed as a dedicated Cupra will be unveiled late next year, although a SEAT badged version of it could follow. The Spanish company turned its performance division into a separate brand this year, targeted at premium buyers who want sporty machines. The first Cupra-badged model will be a re-engineered high performance version of the Ateca SUV, and company chiefs are aiming to rapidly develop a full line-up of models. Talking about the decision to launch the Cupra range with a reworked Seat, design chief Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos said: “At the start of a brand, you need to go in stages. When we decided to start Cupra,you could wait until you have a car born 100 % as a Cupra, or you can start the brand going in steps. This is what we have done with Cupra Ateca. It’s the first step of where we are going. You will see the first car that was 100% designed as a Cupra next year”. He wouldn’t comment on what form the car would take but, at the Cupra brand launch, the firm showed a sketch of a sleek coupé crossover concept. Such a machine would fit into the brand’s ‘lifestyle performance’ positioning and, as with the Cupra Ateca, would target a segment with relatively few rivals in. Mesonero-Romanos said the new model, due on sale in 2020, is being developed purely for Cupra by dedicated designers and engineers. He added: “It has been thought from the beginning with the DNA of Cupra. That doesn’t mean Cupra Ateca is not a Cupra. But for my team, and the engineers, the next car was born with 100 % Cupra philosophy. It’s a Cupra. It will have its own identity”. For example, the new model is likely to have a distinct Cupra grille that will better fit the brand logo. Mesonero-Romanos said “there could be Seat versions” of the car in the future, but added that ensuring it will fit in Seat’s line-up isn’t a consideration during development. He said: “The focus is on developing it as a Cupra”. Future Cupra models being considered include performance versions of the Ibiza and Arona. While the Ibiza might seem a more natural choice, the competitiveness of the hot hatchback market and greater margins possible with a crossover could make the Arona a more attractive proposition. +++

+++ A former TESLA worker has filed a whistleblower claim with the Securities and Exchange Commission, accusing the company of covering up an alleged drug trafficking ring. Former security team member Karl Hansen claims the Drug Enforcement Administration had received an anonymous tip accusing several Gigafactory workers of distributing “substantial quantities” of cocaine at the plant, according to a Jalopnik report citing the August 9 complaint. Some level of illicit substance dealing is presumably not uncommon at factories with thousands of workers. The complaint outlines a much deeper operation, however, leading the DEA and Storey County Sheriff’s Office to issue a notice to Tesla “alleging that several Tesla employes may be participants in a narcotics trafficking ring involving the sale of significant quantities of cocaine and possibly crystal methamphetamine at the Gigafactory on behalf of a Mexican drug cartel from Sonora Mexico”. Hansen claims his security team had “corroborated connections” between certain Tesla employees and alleged cartel members. He allegedly encouraged Tesla to report the findings to law enforcement, but the company brushed the issue aside and opted to hire “outside vendors” to further investigate. The complaint apparently suggests Tesla erred in not firing the workers or reporting the investigation to the public. Hansen also says the company did not report $37 million worth of material theft and installed specialized equipment to “capture” employee cellphone communications. “It seems that the manner in which it was handled, in telling my client not to report it back to the authorities that requested it be investigated raises an issue of potential obstruction of justice, which is a serious crime”, said Hansen’s attorney, Stuart Meissner. “If senior people at Tesla were involved in that, well, I think that’s very material for shareholders to know”. It is unclear if the SEC has decided to act on the former worker’s complaint. The agency is reportedly pursuing a separate investigation into CEO Elon Musk’s claims that funding had been secured for taking the company private. +++

+++ VOLVO ‘s sporting offshoot, Polestar, has updated its Polestar Engineered Optimisation Accessory software to help push more torque to the rear wheels in Volvo’s all-wheel-drive cars. The software only activates when the car is in its sportiest Dynamic drive mode or when the driver turns off the electronic stability control. Through the tweaked system, more torque is pushed to the rear and more often, meaning the car takes on a more rear-wheel drive-like feel that Volvo claims results in a sportier drive and better handling. In addition to the new torque vectoring feature, Polestar Engineered Optimisation Accessory also sharpens up automatic gearshifts, holds gears around corners, speeds up the throttle response and makes the engine more powerful. It is available to all of Volvo’s four-wheel-drive, non-hybrid models. It doesn’t apply to Volvo’s plug-in hybrids because they use only electric power for the rear axle. Polestar Engineered Optimisation Accessory costs €900, with the software update adding no increase to the price. A current promotional offer has temporarily reduced the pack to €750. +++

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