+++ ALFA ROMEO is planning to add 2 new SUV models to its expanding product line-up to bookend the popular Stelvio in the range, and both newcomers will be on sale in the next 3 years. The 2 new models will give the Italian brand almost complete coverage of the SUV market and will play a pivotal role in helping the marque achieve its target of 400,000 annual sales by 2022. Neither of the SUVs has been named yet, but the smaller one is likely to become the best-selling model in Alfa Romeo’s 108-year history. The car will be tasked with stealing sales from the Volvo XC40, BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque, competing in the fastest growing segment of the new-car market. It’s likely the baby SUV will be based on the shrunken version of Alfa’s Giorgio platform, which currently underpins the Stelvio and Giulia. As a result, the SUV will be rear-wheel drive, with customers being offered the option of four-wheel drive as well. Alfa Romeo will be one of the last premium car makers to market with a compact SUV when the Audi Q3 rival arrives, but the new model will launch with electrified powertrains and Level 3 autonomous driving technology, allowing the driver to hand over total control to the vehicle for certain periods of time. The electrified powertrains are expected to comprise regular hybrid units that will be a replacement for the diesel engines the company has stopped developing. Plug-in hybrid technology is also a possibility. The larger of the SUVs will be Alfa Romeo’s flagship model and a rival for the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. “There are 2 key segments: compact SUV and full-sized SUV”, said Alfa Romeo boss Timothy Kuniskis. “These segments represent 81 % of global premium market growth. We will ensure each new product embraces our brand principles”. The large SUV is likely to be the first model at Alfa to feature a performance-focused plug-in hybrid powertrain. Engineers are promising an all-electric range of 50 kilometres and a 0-100 km/h sprint time of less than 5 seconds. The expansion of the SUV portfolio and the 10 % profit margin the Italian brand hopes to be achieving on cars by 2022 will also allow Alfa Romeo to develop a pair of new performance vehicles. “Our future depends on staying true to sports car roots. We will bring to market an aspirational supercar”, Kuniskis added. A return of the 8C sports car has been earmarked for 2022. The mid-engined hybrid supercar will be based around a new carbon-fibre monocoque chassis and powered by a twin-turbo V6 engine. Even though this is some years away from showrooms, Alfa Romeo has confirmed it will be 4-wheel drive, thanks to an electrified front axle much like the set-up in the Honda NSX, and develop upwards of 700 hp. Alfa has already set a 0-100 km/h target time of around 3 seconds, which will put the 8C in direct competition with models such as the McLaren 720S, Ferrari 488 GTB and Lamborghini Huracan when it arrives. Also in the pipeline at Alfa Romeo is a new generation of GTV, a model originally dropped from the range back in 2005. The sports coupe will fundamentally be a 2-door version of the Giulia saloon although, in a bid to mark it out as a completely new product, Alfa has confirmed it will be engineered as a performance hybrid. The coupe will carry over many of the design features found on the existing Giuila, but the 2-door body will give Alfa a credible rival for the Audi RS 5 and BMW M4. It will incorporate Alfa’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 with E-boost technology, which is designed to help eliminate turbo lag and boost overall power. Like the 8C supercar, it will also be 4-wheel drive, but the Giulia will allow seating for 4 people. +++

+++ ASTON MARTIN is preparing to go public with a €5.5 billion float on the stock market, confirming year-old rumours that the rejuvenated British brand would seek to cash in on its recent financial turnaround. The manufacturer has confirmed it started the floatation process, with the aim of launching its Initial Public Offering on 20 September. Further details will be issued by the Financial Conduct Authority later. “Today’s announcement represents a key milestone in the history of the company, which is reporting strong financial results and increased global demand for its award-winning sports cars”, Aston Martin Chief Executive Andy Palmer said in a statement. Aston Martin’s first half revenue in 2018 rose 8 % to almost €500 million. Underlying profits rose 14 % to almost €120 million. Last December it was mooted that Aston’s current ownership structure (a group of Kuwaiti investors and the Italian private equity firm Investindustrial who own more than 90 % of the marque combined) had begun a preliminary plan to explore a public offering of Aston stock in the third quarter of 2018. Existing investors will sell shares in the offering, placing around 25 % of the company’s stock on the London Stock Exchange. Aston’s 2,700 staff will be offered the chance to sign up for a share scheme. The move to float Aston Martin on the stock market follows in the footsteps of Ferrari, which was publicly listed in 2015. Daimler also owns a 5% share.  With interest globally, there was debate about whether the company should float its shares in London or New York. The decision to float Aston Martin has been long been mooted as sales continue to grow, with new products such as the DB11 and Vantage ensuring the company’s financial outlook is strong. There is more to come, with the Gaydon-based car maker’s ‘Second Century’ plan seeing one new ‘core’ model launched every year until 2022, such as the DBX cross-over and an all-new Lagonda saloon. Each model will have a seven-year life cycle before being replaced. The financial results published today show seven consecutive quarters of profitability, with CEO Andy Palmer leading a turnaround that marks an end to a tumultuous period in the brand’s 105-year history. Aston spent years losing money, with the threat of bankrupcy recurring several times. Last year, it turned its first profit since 2010. Aston Martin claims that it is on track to produce between 6.200 and 6.400 cars in 2018, with up to 65 % of those being produced in the latter half of the year. Rival car maker Ferrari had great success with its stock market flotation in 2015, doubling the company’s value to around €17 billion in little less than a year. McLaren has also considered a stock market entry in a bid to further boost investment. +++

+++ The second-generation BMW X1 has been with us ever since 2015, which means the nameplate is about ready to receive a facelift from its manufacturer. The all-new Audi Q3 raised the bar in the sub-compact premium cross-over segment, and with Mercedes currently working on a brand new generation of the GLA, BMW desperately needed to make the X1 more tech-savvy. It will feature a massive infotainment display, spanning the entire width of the center console. On the current X1, the screen is considerably smaller. As for its engine range, I expect better fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions on both diesels as well as petrol models, while a plug-in hybrid version (likely called xDrive25e) could arrive sometime after the regular models break cover, meaning 2019. The updated BMW X1 is expected to be unveiled before the end of this year. +++

+++ FORD ’s plan to kill all its sedans in the United States may rely on the growth of the cross-over / SUV and pick-up segments, but it appears that it might have misjudged the whole situation. You see, many Ford sedan owners typically stick with the brand for their future car purchases, but the company’s decision to kill sedans might alienate them for good. A Cox Automotive study reveals that Ford could have difficulty keeping some customers in the United States after discontinuing the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, and Taurus. That’s because many Ford owners who took part in the survey said they would likely look elsewhere when the time comes to acquire their next vehicle. Half of them said they would switch to a new or used car from another manufacturer for their next purchase, and only 10 % admitted they would pick a new Ford cross-over or SUV. Furthermore, 5 % of respondents said they would get a Mustang, and only 3 % said they would opt for a new Ford pick-up. Most responders said they opposed Ford’s decision to discontinue sedans in the U.S. and were taken by surprise. This should worry the top dogs in Dearborn, even though the survey’s sample size is rather small. There were 2,697 responders in total, of which only 104 owned Ford vehicles. The study goes to highlight the challenges Ford faces as it reshuffles its North American lineup. It also sheds light on the fact that the public might not understand Ford’s strategy to replace its sedans with similarly priced new cross-overs and SUVs, even though the market clearly favors the latter over the former. Adding to the problem is a worrying statistic revealed by data from Kelley Blue Book: 53 % of owners who trade in a Ford Fusion (Mondeo) already go to a different brand. The most likely cars they choose? Honda’s Accord, Civic and CR-V or Toyota’s Camry or RAV4. +++ 

+++ Even with the newly unveiled Aventador SVJ, LAMBORGHINI is falling behind other exotic carmarkers when it comes to offering a standalone, limited production hypercar. Mercedes-AMG has the Project One, Aston Martin the Valkyrie and McLaren the Senna. However, that could change, sooner rather than later, as Lamborghini is reportedly interested in such a model. The information was confirmed by the company’s head honcho, Stefano Domenicali, who wasn’t too keen on dropping more details except for the fact that they’re considering an “extreme aero” hypercar offered in very limited numbers. If given the green light for production, then it would be “in the same vein of Centenario and Veneno”, said Domenicali. Still, it’s a big step between being interested and actually making a limited production hypercar, as Lambo’s boss eventually admitted that their main priority is series production supercars. +++

+++ LAND ROVER is gearing up for the launch of the second-generation Evoque, hoping the new model will continue selling like hot cakes. It’s not easy to replace such a popular car in the first place, and that’s why Land Rover opted to maintain the trademark styling with the distinctive sloping roofline and the high shoulders. Compared to the current Evoque, the new model will get a cleaner look that borrows cues from the larger Velar, including a set of pop-out door handles, better integrated bumpers and sleeker front and rear lights. The second-generation Range Rover Evoque will ride on a revised version of the current D8 architecture. The updated platform is reportedly going to improve things like ride quality and comfort in order for the new Evoque to offer that “mini Range Rover” vibe in more ways than one. Hopefully the available space for rear passengers will also grow. The new dashboard is expected to make use of the brand’s latest technologies, including the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system that combines 2 touchscreen displays. The instrument cluster is also set to get its own configurable digital display, raising the number of screens inside to a total of 3. The engine range will include the existing Ingenium turbocharged petrol and diesel powerplants, featuring small updates for better fuel economy and CO2 emissions. As before, base models will be offered with front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available in more expensive versions. The platform revisions will also allow the next-gen Evoque to host JLR’s upcoming mild-hybrid powertrain, which pairs a 3-cylinder 1.5-liter petrol engine with a small electric motor. The new electrified Evoque will use a 48-volt electrical architecture as well. However, fitting an electrified powertrain into the Evoque’s platform requires significant revisions, pushing the launch of the hybrid version into the early 2020. Land Rover is expected to reveal the new Evoque towards the end of the year, with sales in Europe set to begin in early 2019. +++ 

+++ Indian car maker MAHINDRA is seeking an injunction against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, asking the court to block them from proceeding with FCA’s patent violation complaint against the Roxor. In early August, FCA filed a complaint against Mahindra, seeking to block the company from selling the Roxor, a compact off-roader that does indeed look like the original Willys Jeep. According to Fiat Chrysler’s complaint, the Mahindra Roxor infringes key features of Jeep’s signature design. However, Mahindra fired back at them, saying that FCA’s complaint was “without merit” in an official statement. The North American unit of Mahindra has also begun proceedings in a Michigan court, in order to enforce a design agreement that it had signed with Fiat Chrysler in 2009. “On August 22, 2018, Mahindra filed a complaint in Federal Court in Michigan on the issue of the applicability and enforcement of our 2009 agreement with Fiat. We are asking the court to block Fiat from participating in the International Trade Commission (ITC) claim, an injunction, because of the fact that they agreed in 2009 to never bring such claims if we use a grille that they approved”, the company said in its statement. “The Roxor uses that grille. We are also arguing that Fiat is using the ITC case to harm our Roxor business by creating negative publicity, damaging our reputation and our stature in the marketplace”. FCA has said that the imported Roxor threatens them with substantial injury as they’re underselling Jeeps and that Mahindra manufactures its products in India and then imports them as “knock-off kit cars” in the U.S., where they’re assembled in Detroit. Mahindra rejects the notion that the Roxor is a low-quality “knock-off” kit car, saying that their model is the result of more than three years of research and development. The Indian car maker also added that the Roxor doesn’t even compete with FCA’s models (it’s not even road-legal). The 1.377 kg, 3.759 mm long, 1.574 mm wide Roxor is 480 mm shorter and 303 mm narrower than the smallest, 2-door Wrangler and is nearer the size of the Suzuki Jimny. The Roxor uses a 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine producing 62 hp and 220 Nm. These give the Roxor a top speed of 75 km/h. The Roxor is priced from $14,999 in the US; around half of what Jeep charges for the entry-level Wrangler. +++ 

+++ Ford celebrated the production of the 10 millionth MUSTANG earlier this month, but fans waiting to see the next-generation pony car are in for something disappointing news. Ford CEO Jim Hackett has delayed the next-generation Mustang by about a year. There’s no word on why the car was pushed back, but the delay means redesigned model isn’t expected to arrive until 2021. Little is known about the next-generation Mustang, but the publication talked to several people who are involved in the project. While they won’t go into specifics, they did drop a few hints about the car. Since Ford wants to base all future models off 5 modular architectures, it’s likely that the Mustang will no longer be built on a bespoke platform. Instead, the next-generation pony car will likely ride on the same architecture that underpins the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator. Fans will probably cringe at the idea of a Mustang based on the same platform as a crossover, but the Mustang chief designer Darrell Behmer promised the potential switch won’t “bastardize” the pony car. As he explained, the “Mustang is still going to be a strong, well proportioned vehicle” and “The modular architectures will still give us flexibility”. His sentiments were echoed by Mustang chief engineer Carl Widmann, who told “The general layout of rwd has morphed over time, but it’s still the general architecture that it has been”. He went on to say, “As you tune it (the platform) and put a top hat on it, you can get different combinations and can define a lot of the emotion”. One of the key benefits of basing the car on the same platform as the Aviator and Explorer would be the ability to offer an all-wheel drive variant. Rumors about an all-wheel drive Mustang surfaced earlier this year and the variant could help to increase the car’s appeal in colder climates. It would also give Ford a competitor to the all-wheel drive Dodge Challenger. +++ 

+++ The electric version of the next-generation PEUGEOT 208, due next year, will not get its own bespoke look, the company’s design boss, Gilles Vidal, has told. Vidal said the new electric supermini will receive very few modifications, such as a flat front grille and some EV-specific submenus in its infotainment system. “We do not need to shout about the fact that this car is the electric version”, he said. “The powertrain will complement the rest of the 208 range, rather than become its own version”. Peugeot’s owner, the PSA Group, and its Chinese joint-venture partner, Dongfeng, have developed an EV-specific version of the Common Modular Platform (CMP) that will underpin the new 208. The so-called e-CMP architecture will be the basis for many of PSA’s planned EVs. Vidal didn’t believe that establishing an electric vehicle sub-brand under a different name, as Volkswagen is doing with its forthcoming ID range of cars, is something that would work for Peugeot. “We have no intention of launching a stand-alone electric brand for now”, he said. “For us, the e-CMP platform means the cars can take several powertrains as part of our plan to offer an electric version of each model by 2025”. Vidal admitted that the design and technical challenges of creating a 208 with an electric powertrain are influencing the development of the rest of the model range due to the fact that “noises you wouldn’t normally hear” are audible in the EV. “The sound of the gearbox and the tyre noise are more noticeable, so we’ve worked hard to lower those sounds on the 208”, he said. +++ 

+++ The Volkswagen Group is thought to have been one of the investors which could have seen TESLA go private. In a premature tweet published on August 7, Elon Musk claimed to have the funding secured to take Tesla private at $420 a share. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. In the ensuing weeks, the automaker hurriedly put together a team to see if the money could be found to go through with the plan. A move to take Tesla private would have necessitated a buyout of the technology mutual funds that hold considerable stakes in the car manufacturer. Bankers for Musk lined up Volkswagen, alongside others, to potentially offset the loss of these mutual funds. In a matter of days, a proposal was made to Musk that included a heap of investors, including Volkswagen and Silver Lake, that had agreed to contribute as much as $30 billion to take Tesla private. The outspoken chief executive wasn’t all that thrilled with the proposal as he would have had to relinquish some control in the company. He was also reportedly wary of rival automakers taking a share in Tesla. Late last week, Musk made the call for keeping Tesla public on the back of pressure from existing investors and his belief that it’s the best path forward. “In my opinion, the value of Tesla will rise considerably in the coming months and years, possibly putting any take-private beyond the reach of any investors. It was now or perhaps never”, Musk explained. Volkswagen wouldn’t be the first car maker to hold a stake in Tesla, with both Toyota and Daimler investing in the EV start-up’s early years. Meanwhile, Musk could face an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission after tweeting about taking Tesla private at $420 per share, claiming funding to do so was “secure”. No board statement or regulatory filings had been made to confirm this. The attempted move by Volkswagen to invest in a major EV player such as Tesla could be seen as a quick way to gain market share in the EV market; a particular desire for both Volkswagen’s US operations and overall long-term strategy. The firm is expected to launch “practically one new electric model per month” by 2022, according to CEO Herbert Diess. The Volkswagen ID hatchback, called Neo, is due to be the company’s first purpose-built EV, launching in the eind of 2019. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will return to the luxury class at the turn of the next decade with an all-electric Mercedes S-Class rival based on the I.D. Vizzion concept. Bosses have tasked the unnamed model with helping to instill the brand with a sense of luxury that failed to stick with the Phaeton back in 2002. VW has been without a flagship saloon since that model was axed in 2015. “Phaeton is a symbol of what VW needed at the time. It was the positing of VW into the upper market and showed the capability of the brand, in terms of quality and tech”, sales and marketing boss Jürgen Stackmann told. “I.D. Vizzion takes the same position; it shows our leadership ambition for EVs and, in the more distant future, for autonomous driving”. The new electric saloon will lean heavily on the I.D. Vizzion concept seen at March’s Geneva Motor Show. It will also rival the Tesla Model S, and will retain the concept’s long body and wheelbase, made possible by the flexibility of the VW Group’s new MEB platform. Stackmann added: “We want to put I.D. Vizzion into a reality, but not with Level 5 autonomous driving, and the timing is planned for around 2022. We did not even think for a second about what powertrain system we should put into the flagship model; it’s a flagship for the next generation”. The flexibility of the MEB platform will allow VW to offer a range of battery sizes and drivetrain configurations. Having one electric motor on the front axle and one on the rear can create the possibility of four-wheel drive. Bosses have previously confirmed VW’s upcoming electric vehicles will be capable of at least 400 km on a single charge, with 600 km set as the target for larger vehicles such as the Vizzion. Stackmann told: “Luxury will get a new definition in the EV space. I think EVs provide a lot of opportunities to position luxury in a new field because the platform provides a new dimension of space in the interior, and space is perceived as a luxury by many people”. When the Vizzion lands in 2022 it will join an existing fleet of electric VWs, spearheaded by the I.D. Neo hatch at the end of 2019 and the Crozz SUV the following year. +++ 

+++ Car makers are racing to ensure their ranges are compliant with the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure ( WLTP ) for emissions and fuel consumption before it comes into force on 1 September. The WLTP test will replace the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) procedure and includes real-world testing and a greater focus on individual models and lines. Cars sold after 1 September must have passed the new test and that has led to certain models, particularly those with heavily tuned, downsized engines and more strained high-performance units, being withdrawn from sale while they are reconfigured to meet the new WLTP test. Doing so has been hugely costly for manufacturers. Volkswagen estimates the profit burden of meeting the new rules will be more than €1 billion. Mercedes-Benz has also warned that it expects its profits to fall later this year as a result, although it now says that it has tested all models according to the new standards. To gauge the impact of WLTP, an survey of car firms revealed that, while most were expecting no issues or delays due to WLTP, several have been forced to suspend production or axe models to meet the new rules. Volkswagen Group brands have been particularly affected by the change in tests. Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW all issued a similar statement that they are restricted from disclosing exactly which model linesare due to change or are experiencing delays. Several key VW models have had their emissions or fuel consumption ratings changed by the WLTP tests. The emissions of the Up GTI were increased to 127-129 g/km from 110 g/km. The Golf R’s power output has been reduced from 310 hp to 300 hp due to WLTP, a decline understood to be due to a more restrictive exhaust system to cut NOx emissions. The Seat Leon Cupra R will also have its output reduced by 10 hp. Several models have been suspended from sale or withdrawn because of the new test. Porsche suspended orders for its entire range due to the WLTP switch and has yet to confirm the engine range for its recently revised Macan. The most notable car removed from sale is the VW Golf GTI, which won’t be replaced, with the next-generation model due next year. The Audi SQ5 is suspended and the 1.4-litre TFSI-engined Audi A4 has been replaced with a 2.0-litre TFSI unit with the same power output. Skoda’s range-topping Superb has had its output cut from 280 hp to 271 hp, and the 1.4-litre TFSI Kodiaq engine has been swapped for a 1.5-litre version. The delays in switching production to WLTP-compliant cars has caused deliveries to fall behind: Seat sources estimate a 4 to 8 month wait for bestselling models. Elsewhere, Peugeot halted production of the 308 GTi 270 in May and build of a WLTP compliant version will not resume until October. Similar production suspensions have affected 130 hp and 165 hp versions of the 2008, 3008 and 5008. +++

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