+++ The new AUDI RS Q3 has taken to the Nürburgring during development and will retain the charismatic 2.5-litre 5-cylinder unit from the current generation, albeit boosted to the 370 hp of the RS Q3 Performance model. Other than upcoming in-house rivals such as the 306 hp Volkswagen T-Roc R and Ateca Cupra, which are both far less powerful, the RS Q3 faces competition only from the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45. That car is nearing the end of its life cycle and will not be replaced until months after the regular GLA is revealed in 2019. Sources have revealed that the new Q3 will be built in Györ, Hungary, so the RS Q3 will follow suit. The 5-cylinder engine is also assembled at the plant, so is almost certain to be used for the upcoming hot variant. It’s not yet known if an SQ3 will join the range as a warm version, although no such model was made last time around; the SQ2 is the closest model in the range and is due in the coming months. The RS Q3 will join a growing number of 3-badged cars as Audi prepares to replace the axed 3-door A3 with a 5-door liftback coupé, which is also expected to get S3 and RS3 variants. There’s no word yet on whether an even hotter RS Q3 Performance will top the range as per the current generation. If that were to be the case, power could come close to the 400 hp of the RS3, given the 30 hp increase in power the current-generation RS Q3 Performance has over the standard RS Q3. The standard Q3 arrives on roads in November, but the RS Q3 will not be offered until a few months after this. A reveal is anticipated to take place early in 2019, so a Geneva motor show debut, like for the previous car, is possible, but not confirmed. +++ 

+++ For as long as I’ve known of the upcoming C8-generation mid-engine CHEVROLET Corvette, speculation has been rife about the model. This includes what it will look like, what kind of engines it will be offered with and whether or not it will receive a special name. During a recent search of various patent databases around the world, it was discovered that Chevrolet has been registering the name ‘Zora’ in various markets, perhaps suggesting that the car will indeed receive a rather special name. Trademark filings for the name were found in the United States, European Union, UK, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and China, all markets which could receive the new vehicle if Chevrolet wants to ensure it’s a true rival to the European alternatives. For those that don’t know, the name Zora holds a special meaning among Corvette enthusiasts and the vehicle’s history. Zora Arkus-Duntov was the first chief engineer of the original Corvette and helped bring the iconic American car to life. Additionally, he was a strong believer that the Corvette should be mid-engine to fully rival the very best from Europe. Arkus-Duntov ultimately built the XP-819 mid-engine Corvette prototype in 1964 but the car never received the green light for production. While it’s entirely possible Chevrolet has trademarked the Zora name simply to protect it, we’d be very pleased to see it affixed to the long-awaited supercar. In all likelihood, the new Corvette C8 will be unveiled next year and sold in a selection of guises. +++ 

+++ DYSON ’s road car project has taken a step closer to production following the appliance company’s trademarking of the ‘Digital Motor’ terminology for automotive use. Previously used only on its household products, the Digital Motor moniker describes a brushless permanent-magnet synchronous motor – the same type found in many electric vehicles currently on the market. The trademark, filed recently and for the European market, applies to both cars and non-road-going machines, although the use of the trademark in an automotive context is a first for the company. It’s first car is due next year and the brand also wants to grow its EV programme workforce by 300 people in a bid to ramp up the pace of development before the vehicle reaches the market. The British brand, a leader in vacuum cleaners and hand dryers, already has 400 employees focused on the project, but is now “looking to fill an additional 300 automotive vacancies” as it moves into a new location at Hullavington Airfield, a 750-acre campus that will be Dyson’s second research and development site in Britain. The EV project has been working to produce 3 electric models for more than 3 years now. Its first car will be a low-volume model produced in fewer than 10,000 units. Company founder Sir James Dyson said this model will carry a premium price tag but will not be a sports car. Dyson will use its low volume first model development and production period to establish relationships with suppliers, so that when it focuses on future models, which will include mass produced cars, it will already be an established manufacturer. It plans to produce 2 mass produced EV models after its low-volume debutant. If all goes well, the brand then intends to continue developing electric cars into the future. Dyson is working to produce its cars with solid-state battery technology. This advanced battery chemistry, which uses higher energy density cells that are quicker to charge and store more energy than current liquid cells, is predicted to make it to market in time for the brand’s second car, possibly at the start of the next decade. This would place Dyson at the front of the race to bring solid state batteries to market. Of the existing car makers, Toyota has been most vocal about its plans to introduce the technology within the coming decade. A BMW spokesman recently claimed that the company is also making fast progress, while Porsche has hinted that solid-state EVs are in its product plans. Dyson’s solid state development appeared to take a hit when its battery expert, Ann Marie Sastry, left the company in late 2017. Dyson told that it doesn’t “get into specifics on personnel matters” when questioned on the matter. The brand is also invested in artificial intelligence technology along with a long list of other cutting-edge digital technologies, including robotics and machine learning. Although not officially linked to its car programme, it suggests the brand will be well placed to integrate autonomous technology that can ‘learn’ as it goes into its earliest vehicles. The first car’s development is being funded by a €2.2 billion investment from Dyson and the project has received support from the British Government. Dyson is keeping specific details such as performance and range secret, but the first model won’t be a mass-market car such as the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf; instead, it will be aimed at a more tech-oriented market. Dyson’s existing 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. There’s no definitive word yet on where the car will be built, but Sir James revealed to Reuters last year: “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. In the announcement of Dyson’s electric car plan, Sir James took swipes at the 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”, he said. “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 billion 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. +++

+++ FORD has warned that a €850 million decline in European revenues last year, much of it attributed to the weaker pound pushing down the value of earnings in the United Kingdom (UK), could lead the company to take “whatever action is needed” to remain profitable. Ford warned of the potentially drastic action amid rising fears of a no-deal Brexit, with ever more UK-based car makers fearing for their businesses with the threat of increased costs. Other manufacturers that have issued similar warnings include Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), parts supplier Unipart and BMW, which have all suggested that a no-deal Brexit could have severe consequences on their UK operations. In 2017, Ford’s earnings dropped by €850 million in Europe, and the brand said €500 million of this was down to the falling value of the pound since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. Ford has 3 facilities in the UK; transmissions are made in Halewood, Merseyside petrol engines are put together in Bridgend, Wales, and diesel engines are constructed in Dagenham, Essex. “If I’m forced to go out because we don’t have the right deal, then we have to close plants here in the UK and it will be very, very sad. This is hypothetical, and I hope it’s an option we never have to go for”, said JLR boss Ralf Speth earlier this year. McLaren boss and former Ford manufacturing vice-president Mike Flewitt also expressed concerns about post-Brexit automotive logistics, saying: “How will we be able to import components? Export cars? Well, we don’t actually know how to trade with each other under those terms. These are genuine fears. The people I feel most sorry for are some of the car companies that came and invested in the UK through the 1980s and 1990s to make Britain their base for trading in Europe. If all of a sudden their trading terms change, that whole investment is almost called into question”. +++

+++ GEELY Automobile, parent company to Volvo, Lotus and more, has become the third highest-earning automaker in China, surpassing rivals like Nissan, Honda and Toyota. The car maker reported a 54 % increase in net income for the first 6 months of 2018 and it will beat its target of 1.58 million units for this year. Geely currently trails Volkswagen and General Motors in China as far as sales are concerned. Geely is seeking success on a global scale, focusing on new technologies like electrified powertrains and automation, but also keeps an eye on leadership in its home market. Geely has been expanding with brands such as Lynk & Co, which offers models jointly developed with Volvo. “In view of an even stronger new products pipeline ahead, the Group should be in a good position to secure higher market share in China’s passenger vehicle market in the near future”, a spokesman from Geely said. The company’s mainland market share increased to 6.4 % during the first half of the year, from 5.0 % in 2017. Geely sold 766,630 vehicles during that period, beating Nissan’s 720,447. Geely sold a total of 1.25 million vehicles in 2017. Li Shufu, the Chinese billionaire who controls Geely, has been expanding the company for some years now. After buying Volvo from Ford, he also acquired a controlling stake in Lotus and Proton. Li also bought a 9.7 % stake in Daimler, making him the largest shareholder in the German manufacturer. Geely plans to launch Lynk & Co in Europe soon, marking the start of its expansion plans. The plan is to sell their vehicles in the region by 2020. The company’s performance comes at a time when the Chinese market slowed down for a second consecutive month in July, as a slowing economy and the trade dispute with the United States kept customers away from showrooms. The market dropped by 3.7 % in June and by 5.4 % in July. +++

+++ US electric car company LUCID MOTORS is in investment talks with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the PIF. The 2 parties have drafted a non-binding agreement under which PIF would make a $1 billion investment and assume majority ownership. The initial investment would be of $500 million, with subsequent funding coming as Lucid achieves production milestones. In 2016, the company stated its ambition to begin production of its first model, the Air, this year at a new, $700 million facility in Casa Grande, Arizona. However, it has since pushed that goal back to 2020 while it raises the necessary funds. The Air, which exists in prototype form, is a sporting luxury saloon that is claimed to offer a 640 kilometre driving range, up to 1000 hp and a 0-100 km/h time of 2.5 seconds. The proposed price range is €75,000 to €125,000 in The Netherlands. The Saudi Arabian fund is said to have reserves of around $250 billion and has been investing heavily in order to diversify the country’s portfolio away from oil. For example, it has sunk $45 billion into a multinational technology group, including Apple and Qualcomm, that will focus on artificial intelligence and robotics. However, Reuters’ sources cautioned that the deal with Lucid isn’t certain to proceed. Lucid was formed in 2007 under the name Atieva by Bernard Tse, a former board member and vice president of Tesla, and engineer Sam Weng. Its chief technology officer is Peter Rawlinson, a former head engineer at Jaguar, Lotus and Tesla. Tse left in 2015 as a result of friction with Chinese state-owned BAIC, which had a 25 % stake. This was sold to an anonymous investor in 2016. Lucid’s other connections include a battery supply deal with Samsung and development of technology for the next-generation Formula E car along with McLaren and Sony. +++

+++ After launching an entirely new generation of the A-Class, MERCEDES is now working on the AMG derivatives of its compact hatch. I use the plural because, for the first time ever, besides the A45, Affalterbach is also prepping a lesser version, dubbed the A35. The Mercedes-AMG A35 is currently in development and was scooped lapping the Nurburgring. It still keeps its front and rear ends covered, but we know what to expect: a body kit that’s more toned down compared to the A45, but aggressive enough to set it apart from lesser, non-AMG models. With the Audi S3 Sportback in its sight, the Mercedes-AMG A35 will be powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. The internal combustion engine is believed to be joined by the EQ Boost technology, in a recipe that makes 299 hp and 400 Nm in the E 350. With that kind of power, the A35 should hit the 100 km/h mark in a little over 5 seconds and top out at 250 km/h, while the electric assist should offer instant throttle response. Mercedes-AMG will probably bring the A35 to 2018 Paris Auto Show, in October, before launching it in early 2019. The A45 (or A50, as Merc may change the name) will follow, probably alongside an even more potent S version. +++

+++ SEAT and Volkswagen are continuing to sell cars with a potentially dngerous seatbelt fault, despite a recall being in place. The issue was identified in May and affects 2018 modelyear examples of the Volkswagen Polo, Seat Ibiza and Seat Arona. If 3 people are in the rear seats of either car, during a high-speed lane change the middle socket seatbelt socket can push down on the rear-left seatbelt socket’s release button, unlatching the seatbelt. But affected cars are still being sold to customers with a temporary fix in place, rather than a permanent one. The temporary patch involves simply securing the central and back-left seatbelts together, changing their heights relative to each other, and minimising the chances of the buckle being inadvertently released. A permanent fix involving a redesigned seatbelt lock has been designed, but is not due to be rolled out until November, and cars are still being sold with the temporary patch in place. New customers are asked to sign a disclaimer when buying the affected cars, warning them not to carry 3 rear passengers, and are also provided with a warning sticker for their cars. A joint statement by Volkswagen and Seat said the 2 companies “have confirmed a technical issue on the new Polo, Ibiza and Arona (model year 2018)”. Because of this, “the brands advise their customers not to use the middle seat of affected vehicles until they are equipped with the redesigned belt lock fixture”. Volkswagen and Seat have stressed the circumstances in which the rear seatbelt could unlatch represented an “extremely low risk” which could occur during “exceptionally specific and rare driving conditions”. They also emphasised that safety remains a “top priority”, and that “the Polo, Ibiza and Arona are legally homologated and safe to drive. Road testers from Finish auto magazine Tekniikan Maailma first noticed the issue when group testing the Arona, and subsequently replicated it in the Ibiza and Polo, all of which are based on MQB A0 Volkswagen Group architecture and are fitted with seatbelts made by Takata. Tekniikan Maailma was unable to replicate the fault in the Volkswagen T-Roc, which has a similar rear buckle arrangement, but features seatbelts made by a different company. As a result of this, the magazine concluded: “The reason for unlatching is a combination of buckle layout and too sensitive release buttons in the buckles manufactured by Takata”. Having investigated the issue, Seat later admitted the Finnish publication was right. A company statement at the time read: “Seat has confirmed a technical issue on the new Ibiza (2017 and 2018 models) and Arona (2018 model year): there is the possibility that in rare situations (e.g. sudden quick lane changes with 5 passengers on board) and when the rear center seat and the rear left seat are occupied at the same time, the left seat belt could be unintentionally released. At Seat, safety remains a main priority and the brand has already identified a technical solution which will prevent this from happening”. +++ 

+++ Less than 3 weeks after claiming that he had secured the required funding and was taking TESLA private, Elon Musk says the electric carmaker will remain a public company. The outspoken CEO said he changed his mind after discussions with current shareholders about the best course of action to secure Tesla’s future. “Given the feedback I’ve received, it’s apparent that most of Tesla’s existing shareholders believe we are better off as a public company. Additionally, a number of institutional shareholders have explained that they have internal compliance issues that limit how much they can invest in a private company. There is also no proven path for most retail investors to own shares if we were private. Although the majority of shareholders I spoke to said they would remain with Tesla if we went private, the sentiment, in a nutshell, was “please don’t do this”, Musk wrote. Musk went on to assert that the process of taking Tesla would have been more challenging than he initially expected, distracting the company from its immediate aims of ramping up Model 3 production and becoming profitable. After pondering the best way to move forward, Musk said he approached Tesla’s Board of Directors and said that he believed the best decision was to keep Tesla public. The directors agreed. Musk caused chaos on August 7, when he published a tweet that he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share. This led to a spike in the company’s share price before trading was halted. Shortly afterwards, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it was investigating the matter. During a recent interview, Musk confirmed that he issued the tweet without informing the board. He has since taken lots of flak both for his erratic behavior, as well as being capable of running Tesla. It remains to be seen whether his critics will be silenced now that the status quo will be maintained. +++

+++ With the collapse in value of the Turkish lira and the tension between US and TURKEY still rising, the automotive industry in the country is bracing for some potentially serious consequences. Vehicle production in Turkey has grown steadily over recent years, to around 1.5 million units annually. But the new political turmoil fires a warning shot for Turkey’s automotive industry. Ford runs there the only European factory for the Transit, along with the Transit Courier and the large Cargo truck, which is made for the local market. Fiat also builds cars and small vans there, such as the Tipo and Doblò. Toyota builds the C-HR in Turkey, which is then shipped to Europe and the US, while Renault’s local factory is the main production location for the Clio, as well as some bodystyles of the Mégane. Hyundai uses Turkey as its European supply point for small models like the i10 and i20, planning to add a B segment SUV to the production facility from 2021. In total 5 manufacturer run big manufacturing operations in the country, along with a small Honda factory which also ships cars (the Civic Sedan) to Europe but mainly supplies the local market. Turkey’s automotive industry accounts for around $30 billion in export value this year, making it the largest of any industry in the country. The fall of the Turkish lira makes exports more competitive in theory but imported parts will be more expensive. The vertically integrated nature of some of the Turkish factories will help with that, but Toyota, Ford and Honda import their engines from the UK. The 3 car makers can mitigate such financial hurdles but having such important production facilities in a market that’s currently in a political and economic tension and uncertainty is hardly an attractive proposition. Up until now, the manufacturers not only have maintained their investments but some also added to them. Hyundai’s move to add a new B segment SUV shows that the Korean company expects the country’s current problems to go away. Ford said it will invest $52 million for the expansion of its Turkish plant, while Honda is doing the same in order to make its factory capable of building the new Civic Sedan. The main problem however of the Turkish automotive industry is that there has been no greenfield investment in the sector for over 20 years. BMW is building a new plant in Hungary, Mercedes also expands its operations there, while PSA and Renault are building massive facilities in north Africa. By contrast, Turkey has to make do with the existing operations and their add-on investments. With President Trump slapping a 25 % tariff on Turkish steel and Turkey responding with a range of tariffs on US imports, including cars, there’s little chance that the country will win a major all-new investment for some time to come. On top of that, the Turkish auto industry will also have to deal with the uncertainty of Brexit. Despite Turkey being outside the EU, its economy will be far from immune to the practical consequences of Brexit. The whole situation might turn to be alright in the end but, given all the issues, the Turkish auto industry has to worry about its future. +++

Reageren is niet mogelijk.