+++ Authorities have raided the offices of BMW Korea as part of their investigation into a string of vehicle fires in the country. 30 investigators from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency descended on the company’s local headquarters to gather evidence about whether or not BMW officials hid information about vehicle defeats. The raid reportedly comes in response to a complaint earlier this month which sought a criminal investigation into the matter. South Korea’s transport ministry is also investigating the issue and a report suggested the government agency wanted to ban approximately 20,000 vehicles that were included in a fire recall but haven’t received their safety checks yet. The recall was launched earlier this year and involved 106,000 vehicles in South Korea. The recall included 42 different models and called for the replacement of the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system which could potentially be faulty. The recall eventually spread to Europe, where an additional 324,000 diesel-powered vehicles were recalled. Less than a year ago, 1.4 million BMW vehicles were recalled in the United States due to fire risks. That recall involved a separate issue where the wiring in the air conditioning system could overheat or a fire could be called by an issue related to the positive crankcase ventilation valve. BMW Korea chairman Kim Hyo-Joon has already apology for the issue, but his pleas have fallen on deaf ears. 1,226 owners in South Korea have joined forces to file a lawsuit against the automaker. They’re reportedly seeking compensation of €11,528 each. +++ 

+++ BUGATTI seems to be working on a 4-door model. It will feature the characteristic horseshoe-shaped front grill and Chiron-like headlights. The current W16 could be fitted behind the seats, so the vehicle adopts a mid-engine layout, but the car might also be all-electric. Bugatti will probably start with showing a concept. Compared to the Chiron, the car’s wheelbase will be significantly longer. The roof also seems more elongated than existing Bugatti models. In an interview with Automotive News last year, former Bugatti president Wolfgang Durheimer said the idea of a 4-door Bugatti isn’t dead and appeared to leave the door open for the Chiron’s successor to be a sedan of some kind. +++

+++ Chinese start-up BYTON showed a prototype called M-Byte at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. No one had heard of the firm before and many questioned its ability to make the concept a reality. Byton promises the model is well on its way to production. Byton has started testing the M-Byte on the roads around Nanjing, China. It will continue to put the crossover through its paces this coming winter as it prepares to release the model in China before the end of 2019. Byton still hopes to sell the M-Byte (a name that may not make it to production) in the United States and Europe, but the model will first launch in China. The specifications sheet tentatively lists a 71 kWh battery pack that feeds an electric motor positioned over the rear axle. It delivers 250 hp / 400 Nm and the pack stores enough electricity for up to 400 kilometres of driving range. The optional 95 kWh battery pack brings dual-motor all-wheel drive, 470 hp and up to 520 kilometres of range. Made in China, the Byton M-Byte will start at about €55,000 when it goes on sale in The Netherlands in 2020. Of course, bringing a car to production is easier said than done and hiring car industry veterans from BMW doesn’t guarantee simplicity. I’ll keep you posted on how the project advances. +++

+++ FORD ’s plan to sell the jacked-up version of the new Focus in the US market has been scrapped, thanks to the tariffs imposed on Chinese imports by the Trump administration. The China-built Focus Active and the Mustang were supposed to become the only cars with a low driving position in Ford’s US model range but the market conditions have changed drastically, forcing the company to pull the plug on the Focus completely. “Given the negative financial impact of the new tariffs, we’ve decided not to import this vehicle from China”, said Kumar Galhotra, Ford president of North America, to Detroit News. “The significant thing that moved was the tariffs going up substantially higher. We’re choosing to deploy resources elsewhere”. GM has already asked the U.S. government for an exemption from the tariffs for the Buick Envision but Ford didn’t seek a similar exemption for the Focus Active. “Many models will be withdrawn from the U.S. market, and many won’t be built in the U.S. at all”, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research. “There are a whole lot of implications for the automotive industry and for consumers in terms of choice and prices”. The new Ford Focus, which is produced in Germany and China, will be sold exclusively in Europe and China. The company expected to sell fewer than 50,000 examples of the Focus Active in the US, which means that the impact of dropping the model from its future range will be marginal. Ford’s transition to SUVs includes axing models like the Taurus, Fusion/Mondeo, C-Max and Focus Sedan. The company will instead pursuit greater profit margins by staying away from entry-level vehicles, but stressed that it will replace the sedans with new, similarly-priced crossover models. +++

+++ HYUNDAI ’s N performance brand will only release a range-topping halo model when it is confident it can fulfil expectations placed upon it, according to the division’s boss, Albert Biermann. In development since 2013, the Korean firm’s N division officially launched with the release of the i30 N hot hatch last year. That model has now been joined by the Veloster N for the US and Korean markets, with an N version of the i30 Fastback nearing production as the final model in ‘phase one’ of the division’s growth strategy. With the initial launch phase of N nearly complete, Hyundai’s challenge is how to grow the division in the future. The firm is already evaluating N versions of the i20, Kona, Tucson and Ioniq. Thomas Schemera, Hyundai’s vice-president for high-performance cars and motorsport, has confirmed the firm is also working on its first bespoke N model, and is currently considering a number of ideas for it. Sources suggest the car is most likely to be either a sporting 4-door similar to the Kia Stinger GT or a 2-seat sports car. No timeline has been set for that model, and Biermann cautioned against introducing it too quickly: “Right now, we don’t need a halo car in N. We have to get in a routine with N cars, and not just hit a peak. This is the stage we have to bring consistency to this. We need to be careful with this initial success and with whatever we do next. We should not create any expectations we cannot fulfil: this i30 N was exactly the opposite to this”. Part of the reason the firm’s plans remain fluid, publicly at least, is because Biermann wants N to be more reactive. He noted there was originally no plan to do an N version of the i30 Fastback, but said: “When we saw the first model, we said ‘this car needs the N’, and we just made it”. The N division was conceived as Hyundai’s equivalent of the Volkswagen R and Ford RS brands, helping to prove the motorsport and performance credentials and serve as a halo for the firm’s wider line-up. Nearly 3.000 i30 N models were sold in Europe in the first half of 2018, and the company expects to double its predicted sales of the model for what is its first full year on sale. Hyundai said that the i30 N was a key part of a 43.4% growth in i30 sales in the UK in the first half of 2018. The follow-up models are also on track to perform well in terms of sales. Biermann said early Veloster N sales in Korea are 6 times higher than Hyundai’s expectations: “We can’t build enough N models. The package is difficult to compete with and the cost is extremely competitive”. Biermann said the early success of N is driven by a focus on making cars that are fun to drive, with engines tuned for “good dynamic response” rather than maximum power, and cars that handle well in corners. “Speed is just boring. It’s about the corners”, he said. Biermann said the i30 N is already having a positive affect on the public perception of the Hyundai brand in Europe, calling it “one of the strongest halo cars we’ve ever had”. He added: “This is a halo car that can make the company money, so what better halo can we get? We’re just starting with N, and we’re getting a whole new breed of customer in Hyundai showrooms”. Hyundai has also launched a new N-Line trim level, which, in the style of Ford’s ST-Line, introduces N-brand styling features and some mild performance tweaks to the standard i30. +++

+++ JAGUAR is set to release a facelifted version of the XE next year. The current XE has been on sale since 2015 with only mild model year tweaks, so a more extensive upgrade programme is needed to help the car keep pace with newer rivals such as the Audi A4, Alfa Romeo Giulia and upcoming BMW 3 Series. The facelifted XE will receive a series of  to the exterior design, with some inspiration taken from the styling of the recently launched I-Pace. Alongside this, we can expect improvements to the cabin, centring on boosting material quality and general fit and finish. Technology is also an area in which the XE is starting to fall behind some key rivals, so alongside infotainment and connectivity upgrades, we’re likely to see the introduction of some semi-autonomous driving features. Fitting in with Jaguar Land Rover’s intention to ensure every model will be offered with the option of electrification by 2020, it’s also expected that 48v mild hybrid technology will make its way onto many of the XE’s engines, boosting the efficiency of the four-cylinder petrol and diesel line-up. The recently introduced range-topper, the 4-wheeldrive 300 Sport, is expected to carry over largely unchanged. Minor upgrades to improve refinement should feature, too, while tweaks to the suspension would ensure the XE balances ride comfort and handling with even more aplomb than the current car. Nothing has been officially confirmed yet, but we could see the updated XE at the 2019 Geneva motor show prior to an expected sales debut in the latter half of next year. +++

+++ The successor to the mighty KOENIGSEGG Agera will apparently draw its name by the Norse mythology and could deliver as much as 1.440 hp. A source close to the Swedish manufacturer says that the new hypercar shall be named Ragnarok, which is supposed to be the battle at the end of the world, the death of the Norse gods and the fall of Asgard. Not exactly what you’ve seen in the Marvell Studios movie, as the mythology is much darker, but still a fitting name for Koenigsegg’s new beast. Beyond the vehicle’s potential name, it is claimed that the Swedish hypercar will pump out 1.440 hp, a small bump from the 1.360 hp delivered by the Agera RS when optioned with the One:1 power upgrade. Despite the current crop of hypercars going hybrid or all-electric, the Koenigsegg Ragnarok will make all of its grunt from a twin-turbocharged 5.0-liter V8 that’s basically a revised version of the Agera RS’s powertrain. Koenisegg offered the world a glimpse of the Ragnarok at the opening of a dealership in Australia. The teaser showed that the car will have a large fixed rear wing, a familiar-shaped cockpit, and an extremely large rear diffuser. Like the Agera RS, the Ragnarok will be track-focused and probably the fastest vehicle to ever wear the Koenigsegg badge. The car will be sold alongside the Regera, which is positioned as more of a hyper-GT. The Ragnarok is expected to be a limited series and come outfitted with the automaker’s finest carbon fiber work, and almost certainly cost more than $2 million. +++ 

+++ The latest ultimate machine made by LAMBORGHINI is called the Aventador SVJ, and it’s the current record holder for production cars at the Nurburgring. Presented to the world at the Monterey Car Week a few days ago, it builds upon the Aventador S, to which it adds a few aerodynamic and mechanical enhancements, in addition to a bump in power. The Aventador SVJ benefits from the active aerodynamic system that originally premiered in the Huracan Performante. There’s rear-wheel steering, too, which improves handling at low speeds and allows it to corner better under pressure, and engineers optimized the seven-speed gearbox to suit the increased power and torque. The naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 now has an output of 770 hp at 8,500 rpm, and 720 Nm at 6,750 rpm. Weighing 1,525 kg dry, the supercar goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds and maxes out at more than 350 km/h. The Aventador SVJ is offered solely as a Coupe. Production is limited to 900 units. With its body style limited for now, it was obvious that someone, somewhere, would render it as a Roadster. The open-top model is the work of Aksyonov Nikita, and you don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to figure out the changes compared to the fixed roof version. So far, Lamborghini hasn’t said anything about an open-top SVJ. However, given that the Huracan Performante is offered as a Roadster, too, we wouldn’t totally rule that out. +++

+++ It’s no secret that MCLAREN is in the early stages of developing its first series-produced battery-powered car. Its chief executive shed insight into some of the goals the firm set for itself as it prepares to ditch gasoline. “A McLaren EV has got to be usable. It shouldn’t be that we offer a powertrain solution that compromises. It won’t just be lower emissions, it’ll be a better sports car”, affirmed company boss Mike Flewitt in an interview. To that end, the company’s upcoming electric model will need to be capable of running flat-out on the track for at least half an hour without depleting its battery or overheating. Enthusiasts shouldn’t have to wait more than 30 minutes for a full recharge. As it stands, the technology needed to achieve those goals isn’t ready. That’s why Flewitt doesn’t believe we’ll see an electric McLaren in showrooms before 2025. The British brand will focus on developing powerful gasoline-electric hybrid powertrains in the meantime. “China is very aggressive about emission standards. The world is going in that direction. I think legislation will drive us in that direction, and we need to be ready”, Flewitt pointed out. +++

+++ The diesel variant of the MITSUBISHI Outlander have been axed from the brand’s line-up, with no replacement planned, with the brand choosing instead to focus on alternative powertrains such as plug-in hybrids. Mitsubishi says the dieselengine has reached the end of its lifecycle, and the decline in diesel sales means it “makes more sense” for electrification to take priority. This move makes Mitsubishi petrol-only, as the Pajero has been cancelled alltogether. Mitsubishi is the latest manufacturer to trim diesels from multiple model lines, as the industry moves away from the black pump. In 2015, almost half of all new car registrations were diesels, but this has dropped to less than a third so far in 2018. +++ 

+++ The next-generation PORSCHE 911 could resign an illustrious line of race-bred naturally aspirated performance engines to the history books, according to sources close to the German car maker who suggest the successor to today’s GT3 is in line to adopt a twin-turbocharged powerplant. The move, not yet officially confirmed by Porsche, would bring the new 911 GT3 and its more heavily focused 911 GT3 RS sibling into line with other models in the new 992-series 911 line-up, which are already confirmed to received updated versions of today’s turbocharged 3.0-litre and 3.8-litre units. The Stuttgart-based source, with direct links to Porsche Motorsport, contends plans are for the GT3 to adopt a heavily reworked version of the existing 911 Turbo’s twin-turbocharged, 3.8-litre horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine. In the new 911 Turbo, due to be revealed during the latter half of next year, the revised engine is expected to kick out 580 hp, giving it the same output as the outgoing 911 Turbo S. However, suggestions are it could be tuned to deliver somewhere in the region of 520 hp for the new 911 GT3. With the naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre flat six engine used by today’s 911 GT3 rated at 500 hp, the twin-turbocharged engine would undoubtedly have to the potential to not only lift the power output of its successor but also bring a wholesale increase in torque. In today’s 911 Turbo, the twin-charged 3.8-litre unit delivers 700 Nm between 2.200 and 4.000 rpm compared to the 480 Nm between 6.000 and 9.000 rpm for the naturally aspirated 4.0-litre in the current 911 GT3. As well as considering big changes to the 911 GT3, Porsche boss Oliver Blume has reportedly also provided a definitive greenlight to a new hybrid-powered 911 model within the new 992 series. Details remain scarce, though the new petrol-electric powered 911 is expected to feature the upcoming Carrera’s turbocharged 3.0-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine in combination with a 100 hp electric motor for a combined output of around 485 hp. Energy for the electric motor is rumoured to come from a 11 kWh lithium-ion battery. +++ 

+++ TESLA is set to reveal a new model at next week’s Grand Basel motor show, with the long-awaited new Roadster the most likely candidate. An invite sent to owners reveals a part of the car’s side profile, which looks to be lower and sleeker than any saloon or SUV we’ve seen from the brand. Given the “automotive masterpieces” theme of the show, the brand’s flagship model is expected to bow in when doors open next week at the Swiss car event. The Model X is the current flagship of the range, and no further luxury models are planned in the near future, meaning the possibility of the Basel-bound car being a limousine-like flagship is slim. Full styling of the Roadster was revealed last year, and the production version is expected to remain true to the prototype’s look. Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed after the pre-production car’s reveal that the new Roadster is a “base model”, so faster versions are due. On the weekend that followed the Roadster’s surprise reveal, the company boss said that the successor to Tesla’s first production car will be offered with a special upgrade package. However, Musk hinted that producing a faster version of a car that is already claimed to be capable of accelerating from to 100 km/h in 2.0 seconds may cause some safety concerns. “An upgrade is just a question of safety”, Musk said. “Rocket tech applied to a car opens up revolutionary possibilities”. Musk also revealed that the 2+2 sports car, which was a surprise debutant during the launch event for the new Tesla Semi lorry in California, has 10,000 Nm of torque from its 3 motors. It can hit 100 km/h half a second quicker than the current fastest-accelerating Tesla, the Model S P100D. It is also claimed that the Roadster, which has a removable glass lid and wraparound rear section to give it a look similar to the Mazda MX-5 RF, will have a top speed of more than 400 km/h. Musk revealed that the car’s 200 kWh battery pack enables it to have a 1.000 km range, which is another new record for production electric vehicles. The previous highest-capacity battery produced by Tesla is the 100 kWh pack with a maximum range of 545 kilometres miles in the Model S P100D, according to the American EPA test. “The point of doing this is to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars”, continued Musk. “Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche”. The Tesla Roadster is pegged to arrive on roads in 2020, initially priced from €300,000 in The Netherlands for the first 1.000 cars, which will be sold as Founders Edition models. Reservations for these cars are now open. Subsequent units will be priced from €240,000. Like the rest of Tesla’s range, the Roadster will be equipped with the brand’s latest autonomous driving technology. Since the last quarter of 2016, all Tesla cars have been equipped with eight surround cameras to provide 360-degree visibility around the car up to 250 metres away. There are also 12 ultrasonic sensors, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects, as well as a forward-facing radar that can see through heavy rain, fog, dust and even underneath the car ahead. The Roadster will be updateable via over-the-air software, meaning the performance, autonomous features and safety systems may be boosted even after a car has been purchased. Recent examples of Tesla updates have enabled quicker 0-100 km/h times and enhanced Autopilot functionality. The Roadster’s unveiliing cams at a time when Tesla had been working to clear a production bottleneck for its Model 3. More than 400,000 orders have been placed but production slowed when a parts supply issues arose. Musk described the scenario as “production hell” and 220 Model 3s were delivered in the third quarter of 2017 compared with the target of 1.500. The issue, along with heavy investment in its new Gigafactory, contributed to Tesla recording a $619 million loss in the third financial quarter of 2017. In a statement, the brand said: “While we continue to make significant progress each week in fixing Model 3 bottlenecks, the nature of manufacturing challenges during a ramp-up such as this makes it difficult to predict exactly how long it will take for all bottlenecks to be cleared or when new ones will appear”. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA now wants to triple its car production in China by the year 2030, as it strives to keep up with its competitors in the world’s largest market. The Japanese automaker is aiming to build 3.5 million vehicles per year in China, while also boosting imports to half a million vehicles, according to people familiar with this plan. Currently, Toyota is only producing 1.16 million cars in China, selling 1.3 million there for a 4.5% market share. Meanwhile, rivals such as Volkswagen and General Motors sell more than 4 million cars each, which goes to show how much ground there is to be made up by Toyota. Now that Chinese officials are all for green technologies, Toyota feels as though it can make a bigger push in a country that is now aiming for a fifth of its car sales to be “new-energy vehicles” by 2025. In order to get there, Toyota will boost its Chinese capacity to 2 million units per year by the early 2020s, moving towards their 3.5 million vehicles per year target by the end of the next decade. Part of their plan is to expand capacity in Tianjin by 120,000 units annually, which will require a $258 million investment. Additionally, a new factory capable of producing 200,000 vehicles per year will be built in Guangzhou, as part of a joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group. Existing facilities will also be expanded, boosting the annual capacity to 1.7 million units by 2021. Last year, Toyota sold more than 2.4 million vehicles in the U.S., which is almost twice as many as they have in China, which only goes to show that they have lots of room for improvement in the People’s Republic. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN R performance variants are now so important to the car maker that the R division is involved from the start of a standard model’s product development. Division boss Jost Capito said Volkswagen’s executives have been “pushing” him for more input into each new model because they’re aware of the positive impact a halo variant can have on overall sales. “R has become so successful, we’ve sold nearly 100,000 Golf Rs alone, that we are thinking about this version of a car as soon as the process begins”, he said. “If we did it differently, if we had to adjust cars at a more advanced stage of development to make the R model, we wouldn’t be able to create the fast and well-rounded cars we do”. However, despite R having built up a high brand value since the first model, the R32 version of the Mk4 Golf, arrived in 2003, Capito does not believe it would be right for his division to split from its parent brand, as Seat’s Cupra arm has. He explained that “an R will always be a Volkswagen” because instead of offering something completely different, it “builds on the strengths of the base car”. “For us, it’s about enhancing the car, both in performance and its design”, he said. This philosophy is already having an impact on Volkswagen’s first electric models, which will appear under the ID name, starting with the Neo hatchback next year. Capito said R engineers have had input to the ID project, helping them to learn about the unique challenges a performance EV presents. +++

+++ Volkswagen says just half of its existing models have gained type approval under the latest emission regulations, following delays in a new certification process. From 1 September all new cars sold within the European Union are obliged to fulfil tough new regulations as part of the so-called Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure ( WLTP ) developed to provide a more realistic measure of fuel consumption and emissions. However, Volkswagen’s head of sales and marketing in Germany, Thomas Zahn, has confirmed the company has only achieved type approval for seven of the 14 model lines sold in Europe. “The new tests are more cumbersome and take 2 to 3 times longer than in the past. Even limited edition models need to be tested separately”, Zahn said in a conference call with journalists, adding, “The coming months will be challenging for us”. Significantly, Volkswagen’s best selling model, the Golf, is among the models yet to have gained total clearance. The volume-selling variants are expected to be certified in the next 2 weeks, with the brand’s test bench running 24 hours a day to clear the certification process. The delay has left Volkswagen with growing customer unrest as delivery times on popular models are forced to be extended, with some Golf variants delayed by as much as 6 months, according to German dealer sources, who described the situation as “disastrous”. Zahn said he expects the full Golf range to gain certification clearance by the end of September. Even so, some customers are already being quoted delivery times into 2019. A Volkswagen spokesperson has confirmed that the average lead time for most Golf variants is around 14 to 15 weeks, up from 6 to 10 weeks before WLTP was introduced. In anticipation of the delay in deliveries due to the WLTP certification, Volkswagen has begun stockpiling new cars produced at factories around Europe. 80% of those cars are already sold, however. The German car maker recently revealed it had rented ground space at Berlin’s new international airport, which has yet to open, to accommodate thousands of newly produced cars with the intent to begin delivery as soon as they have been granted type approval by authorities. +++

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