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+++ 2 new electrified AUDI cars have been caught red handed at the charging point: the upcoming Q5 e-Tron and A7 Sportback e-Tron. The cars will help kick-start a new electrified era for the brand, and look ready to be revealed. With Audi set to show its all-electric e-tron SUV at a special event in San Francisco on 17 September, and pulling out of the Paris Motor Show next month, it’s likely that these 2 new plug-ins will be revealed as supporting acts for the company’s forthcoming Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace rival. The Q5 and A7 e-Tron are expected to borrow the powertrain found in the soon-to-be-launched plug-in A8 limo. This is a turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol V6 with an electric motor, developing a combined 450 hp and 700 Nm, while enabling an all-electric range of 50 kilometres. However, Audi is also rumoured to be working on a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder plug-in hybrid powertrain, which could also make its debut in these 2 vehicles. Every new Audi will eventually be offered with an electrified powertrain, but the top of the range is the priority. Audi will also begin to use plug-in hybrid technology in its performance vehicles, beginning with the RS7 Sportback. 2 variants are expected to be launched, with a regular car to feature alongside a more potent Performance-badged model. The cheaper, lower-powered RS7 Sportback is likely to use the same twin-turbocharged 4.0 V8 that features in the Lamborghini Urus, while the RS7 Sportback Performance will borrow the electrified version of this powertrain, currently found in the Porsche Panamera Turbo S-E Hybrid. Upwards of 600 hp is expected from the new model; such figures would make it one of the most powerful cars in Audi’s history. +++

+++ The BMW X7 was expected to be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, but now the company has confirmed the crossover will actually debut one month earlier. A BMW spokesperson said the full-size crossover will be revealed in “mid-October”. It’s possible that the mid-October date only indicates when information will be published online. This could potentially mean the SUV will still have its auto show debut in Los Angeles. Regardless, BMW has teased the X7 on multiple occasions and patent photos have already revealed the model’s final design. It will resemble a super-sized X5, but come equipped with a handful of unique styling details to distance itself from its smaller counterpart. At the front, the SUV will have slender headlights and a more conservative bumper than X5. The model will have also longer rear doors, a flatter roof and more squared off third quarter windows. The rear end will also be unique to the range-topping crossover. Engine options are expected to be shared with the X5 and include a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with 340 hp and 450 Nm of torque. There could also be a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 producing 530 hp and 750 Nm. European models will likely be offered with a handful of diesel engines including a turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder with 320 hp and 680 Nm of torque. We can also expect M Performance variants including an X7 M50d with a quad-turbo 3.0-liter 6-cylinder developing 400 hp and 760 Nm. +++ 

+++ This is when the ELECTRIC car starts to get really serious. This week Mercedes has revealed its first, bespoke, all-electric car to the world and later this month, Audi does the same. Rest assured, it’s not stopping there. It all comes hot on the heels of Jaguar getting its I-Pace to customers before its rivals, and Hyundai launching an affordable all-electric Kona small SUV with a real-world range of more than 480 kilometres. Of course, cars like the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoé and Tesla Models S and X have been with us for a while, but it’s going to take more mainstream and premium brands to come to the party to make wary buyers really sit up and take notice. The biggest barrier to EV ownership remains range; unfairly so, these days. The perception of ‘under 200 kilometres’ will soon change as closer to 500 kilometres becomes the new norm, while interest will increase as more and more appealing cars like the EQ C are launched on the market. Mercedes is going at it with real gusto: EQ is set to become a Mercedes brand in the same way AMG and Maybach are. EQ stands for ‘electric intelligence’. It also stands for a range of electrified models that’ll line up against rivals from every other maker in the coming years. In spite of all that, every time I sing the praises of electric cars, my inbox chimes with messages from people who say they’ll never provide the fun we get from internal combustion-engined cars! To those people I say simply: go and try one. We had a similar situation 20 years ago with diesel. Once we’d experienced it (and seen the benefits) we were hooked. That’s the same with an EV; it’s hard not to be impressed and excited once you’ve had a go. +++ 

+++ FERRARI is planning to unveil a new model on September 17th and it appears the car could just be the tip of the iceberg. Ferrari could be working on a handful of different models that are based on the 812 Superfast. One of the cars is rumored to be the same vehicle that will be unveiled on September 17th at a private event. Nothing is official, but previous reports have suggested the “icon” that Ferrari recently teased is the 812 Monza. There are conflicting reports about the car’s purpose, but one insider claims it will be a speedster which will have its production capped at 200 units. Another insider claims the car will pay tribute of the 250 Testa Rossa and have a unique exterior with so-called “pontoon” fenders. Yet another, claims the car will be a hardcore model.  The latter seems the most likely as the car draws its name from the Autodromo Nazionale Monza which has hosted the Italian Grand Prix on numerous occasions. If the 812 Monza doesn’t turn out to be a roadster, fans might not need to worry as there are also rumors about 812 Aperta with a removable targa top as well as roofless speedster with a short windscreen. It’s possible that some of the users could be talking about car, but that’s far from certain at this point. That being said, it’s likely Ferrari will eventually introduce some sort of roadster as the previous F12berlinetta spawned the F60America and F12 TRS. Regardless of what happens, the 812 Superfast has a 6.5-liter V12 engine that produces 800 hp and 718 Nm. It is connected to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission which enables the coupe to rocket 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds before hitting a top speed of 340 km/h. +++ 

+++ FORD is working on an assortment of new crossovers. One will be the successor of the EcoSport, which dates back to 2012. The cross-over will traditionally be based on the same platform that underpins the Fiesta. Ford also introduced the redesigned Fiesta 2 years ago, so it’s not too surprising that a new EcoSport is in the works. Autointernationaal.nl expects it to debut in October 2020 at the Paris Motor Show. +++ 

+++ A number of luxury automakers have launched subscription services in the United States and it appears GENERAL MOTORS could be readying a more mainstream version of Book by Cadillac. In a trademark filing, General Motors submitted an application for the DriveScription moniker. If the name wasn’t revealing enough, the filing says it would be used on goods and services such as “automotive subscription services, motor vehicle rental services, motor vehicle sharing services and, namely, providing temporary use of motor vehicles”. There’s no guarantee that General Motors is actually planning to launch a service called DriveScription, but the company has been ambitiously expanding its efforts to reach consumers who don’t want to purchase or lease a new vehicle. The company was among on the first automakers to launch a subscription service in the United States when it introduced Book by Cadillac in New York City last year. For a flat monthly fee of $1,500, the month-to-month service allows users to subscribe to a handful of different vehicles including the ATS-V, CTS-V, CT6, XT5 and Escalade. Like other subscription services, the vehicle’s registration, taxes, insurance and maintenance costs are covered by the fee. More recently, GM’s Maven launched a peer-to-peer car-sharing beta which is being billed as a rival to Turo. It enables owners of late model GM vehicles to list their cars for rent on the Maven app and then receive 60% of the earning from each rental. The service was launched in 3 cities earlier this year and a larger roll out is scheduled for this fall. +++ 

+++ Activist investor Elliott Management has reignited a campaign to force HYUNDAI to overhaul its corporate structure. The overtures follow months of wrangling between the 2 sides, starting in April when Elliott disclosed that it held a $1 billion stake in Hyundai. The announcement set the scene for a public flare-up in May when the US hedgefund, alongside a handful of other foreign investors, forced Hyundai to abandon its own preferred restructuring plan. The investors argued that this plan did not have a clear business rationale, while critics said the proposal was simply a means to ease the transfer of power in the company from chairman Chung Mong-koo to his son Chung Euisun. Hyundai at the time said it would re-evaluate the situation and return with an “updated plan”. Now, Elliott appears to be growing impatient with the lack of progress. In its letter to Hyundai, Elliott called for intragroup mergers to boost stakeholder value and simplify the company’s web of cross-shareholdings. One proposal outlined by the fund was for Hyundai Mobis, the parts-making unit at the centre of the group’s complex ownership structure, to sell its after-sales service business to Hyundai Motor. +++ 

+++ The heavily revised LAND ROVER Discovery Sport, likely to be revealed by early 2019, will get a heavily updated platform to deliver much-improved ride comfort, greater boot space and room for underbody lithium ion batteries for new hybrid models. The addition of hybrid drivetrains is the key development for the Discovery Sport’s future. Although details are still scarce, the range-topping hybrid line-up will use a new 3-cylinder Ingenium engine coupled to an electric motor/transmission. The 300 Volt plug-in version has lithium/ion batteries mounted under the central floor section and could have CO2 emissions as low as 45 gram/km. There is no news yet on whether the cheaper mild-hybrid models will use electrified turbochargers or a belt-assist starter/generator, but both will be essential offerings as diesel comes under further scrutiny from legislators. Jaguar Land Rover’s bestseller (like its Halewood stablemate, the Evoque) will be built on a significantly updated platform called the Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA), which is notably stiffer than the current D8 platform. Small revisions to body design is said to have reduced wind noise and cut drag by around 10 %, helping to improve cabin refinement. Also promised is a “40 % better” throttle response thanks to a newly engineered engine mount design and transmission. The new electrical architecture allows a projected virtual reality view of the ground obscured by the car’s nose and a new “smart rear- view mirror”. The reworking of the interior and exterior remains secret but Discovery-series brand values call for “versatility, intelligence and breadth of capability” so expect a more rugged exterior treatment with less resemblance to today’s Range Rovers. Another possibility is a notable improvement in interior quality and design, as its sophisticated Volvo XC60 rival is selling extremely well. In March 16,227 XC60s were sold worldwide, compared with 14,671 Discovery Sports. By June, monthly XC60 sales had soared to 19,534. In the first 4 months of 2018, Discovery Sport sales fell 18 % compared to the same period in 2017. +++

+++ There is no shortage of fast and/or luxurious SUVs out there. In a sense, Bentley kicked things off with the Bentayga, followed by Rolls-Royce with the Cullinan and more recently the Lamborghini Urus. Even though those 3 models don’t necessarily compete with each other, the Urus will at one point meet up with a direct rival courtesy of Ferrari. Now, if that segment is to grow, does that mean MCLAREN will join the party too? The answer to that question is “no”. McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt recently told that “there’s more than enough SUVs in the world, and we don’t need another one. That’s sort of the flippant side. Effectively when we look at products, and we’re always looking at product concepts, is that there are 3 measures. 1 is around the brand, 1 is around the technology and the other 1 is around the financials”. “So, the brand: an SUV is only going to dilute the McLaren brand. Our brand and heritage is motorsport and great drivers’ cars. SUVs are great, they have their place, but they’re not great drivers’ cars. They utterly dilute the driving experience so it makes no sense”, said Flewitt. He then went on to note how many of the big, luxury SUVs are made by the same group (referring of course to the Volkswagen Group), which is an approach McLaren can’t compete with right now. “Nothing wrong with them, but we don’t have a technology set that suits an SUV, so we’d be starting from scratch. And we’re not arrogant to think we can go up against the Range Rovers and Cayennes of this world with a better can than them overnight”. Last but not least is the financial side of things, where Flewitt argued that since McLaren don’t have the tech ready and they also wouldn’t even be first-to-market with this type of product, there genuinely wouldn’t be any reason for them to begin mass-producing a people hauler. “You have to invest from scratch and we wouldn’t make any money out of it. After all that, why the hell would we do this? The customers too aren’t really chomping at the bit to get a McLaren SUV. The customers love what we do”. While I can understand all the reasons for which McLaren is unwilling to build an SUV, a lot of them could apply to Ferrari as well, and as we all know, the boys in Maranello are already working on a Lamborghini Urus rival. +++ 

+++ Future electric cars from MERCEDES-BENZ will feature far more distinctive styling than the recently revealed EQ C, according to sales and marketing boss Jorg Heinermann. The EQ C is the German firm’s first dedicated EV and the first of 10 battery-electric vehicles it will be launched by 2022. Those models will fall under Mercedes’ new EQ sub-brand, along with the firm’s mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid machines. While some manufacturers are creating dramatically different-looking EVs, Mercedes has decided to tread carefully, not wanting to alienate those who like Mercedes’ existing design. “The EQ C has a close link to the similar-sized GLC, but for some of the future EQ models you will see more distinct design”, said Heinermann. “We have deliberately decided to take a step-by-step approach here”. Mercedes interior designer Hartmut Sinkwitz added: “The EQ C is the starting point for the electric family. We felt this is the right amount of revolution to start with for this car. You will see more with other EQ models. We believe this is a good starting point”. One design element that will remain across the EQ models is the front grille; despite electric cars not needing them for cooling as with combustion-engined cars. Exterior designer Robert Lesnik said: “The grille is important, because otherwise the car would be faceless; it doesn’t matter if there needs to be an air intake or not. We believe that every EQ car needs a certain shape in the front. There are many other car companies that are experimenting without a grille, because they don’t have 130 years of history. That’s not what we’re going to do”. Talking about the broader design of EQ models, he added: “We need time for a few cars, then you will see a familiar line through them”. Between now and 2022, the car maker will launch the EQ A hatchback (already seen in concept form), the EQ B small SUV and an EQ S flagship saloon. 3 Smart electric vehicles (Fortwo, Fortwo Cabriolet and Forfour) will bring the count to 7. An electric V-Class, a passenger version of the Vito van, already confirmed to go electric, will also arrive by 2022. The final 2 cars are not yet certain. Most likely is an EQ A based saloon, vital for the burgeoning electric market in China. Mercedes R&D boss Ola Kallenius said: “The EQ family will have several saloons in its portfolio, but the EQ C was the right place to start strategically. It’s right at the heart of premium SUV volume”. Electric configurations are also easier to package into high-riding vehicles such as SUVs, because of the battery placement along the floor. Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche added: “With those 10 vehicles, we cover 60 % of our relevant segments”. He said that any future vehicles could address the remaining 40 %, depending on demand. More broadly, Zetsche said that in the future, as electric car sales ramp up, it might be that Mercedes drops the EQ brand and instead there would just be EQ versions of its other key lines: Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Maybach and standard Mercedes cars. Zetsche added that an electric AMG performance car was inevitable, but first we would see more hybrid AMGs. “At some point in time there will be an electric AMG”, he said, hinting that it would be launched in the next 5 years. Alongside the 10 electric vehicles being launched by 2022, Mercedes has also confirmed 50 electrified vehicles in that timeframe, including mild hybrids and plug-in hybrids. It has invested 10 billion euros into the programme. +++

+++ During a recent interview, NISSAN ’s senior VP for global design, Alfonso Albaisa, revealed that he’s currently working on an all-new Z car and that there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. While rumblings about a 370Z replacement have been circulating the web for a while now, this marks the first time that a senior Nissan official has gone on record about what this car means to the Japanese automaker, while also confirming that the new model is on its way. Albaisa stated: “The Z car, oh my god. Huge pressure. You can imagine I’m completely excited that I am in the position to work on that”. In case you’re not familiar with his work, we’ll remind you that he’s the one that designed that 1940s-themed Prototype 9 show car for Pebble Beach last year. He also worked on the Infiniti Q Inspiration concept, unveiled earlier this year in Detroit. Yet, working on the 370Z’s successor means having to deal with huge expectations, not only from inside the firm, but from driving enthusiasts all around the world. Thankfully, Albaisa is well aware of how iconic Nissan’s Z models are. “Democratization of the sports car, the 240Z, unforgettable”, he said. “Even in the modern day, the 300ZX of 1989, this Japanese simplicity was impressive”. While there’s been no official word as to when we can expect to see a next-generation Z car break cover, it’s quite possible that Nissan will look to give us a sneak peak during next year’s Tokyo Motor Show (October 2019), which marks the 50th anniversary of the 240Z’s launch. +++

+++ RENAULT will reportedly phase out the practice of selling rebadged Dacia models outside Europe, including Russia and Brazil, as part of its plan to go upmarket. The French car maker is currently selling models like the Dacia Logan and Sandero under its own brand in these regions but the practice will be phased out, according to Renault’s design chief Laurens van den Acker. “My goal is to have a global Renault lineup”, Van den Acker said on the sidelines of the Moscow Auto Show. But what about the Renault-badged Dacia models? “I want that to stop”, he said. The only exception to this plan will be the Duster, which will likely remain in Renault’s lineup globally. The Duster “is the only exception; it’s one of our best-selling cars”, Van den Acker said. Renault’s design chief added that the company will replace the Logan and Sandero with their own models, once Dacia introduces their successors in Europe, without providing a timeframe. The models will continue to be sold under the Dacia brand in Europe. Renault has revealed the new Arkana coupe-SUV at the Moscow Auto Show, which is the company’s second standalone model with emerging markets in mind, following the Kaptur compact SUV. It will go on sale in Russia early next year. The Russia-exclusive Kaptur is slightly longer that the Captur sold in Europe but it’s based on the lower-cost B0 platform. Renault is currently being pressured by the improving quality of their own Lada budget brand in the region, with Van der Acker saying that Steve Martin, Lada’s chief designer, is “making my life miserable. So we are forced to push up the Renault brand so we do not end up cannibalizing each other”. The French car maker plans to sell the Arkana in China, Latin America and South Korea. Renault is currently considering offering the Arkana in Europe too, but it’s not decided yet at the moment, according to Van der Acker. +++

+++ TOYOTA said it is in talks with Chinese automaker Geely about cooperation in gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle technology, but nothing has been decided on the matter. The move comes as Japan’s biggest automaker has been increasingly embracing new automotive technologies for future growth, and has also embarked on a strategy to ramp up sales in China, the world’s biggest auto market. Toyota said in a statement that it and Geely are currently “communicating with each other” about gasoline-electric hybrid technology. It was not immediately clear in what aspects of the hybrid technology Geely and Toyota are discussing cooperating. A person familiar with the matter, however, said that the talks apparently involve a Chinese supplier of electric battery technology both companies have already been associated with but separately. Toyota declined to comment on the specifics of the cooperation. “Toyota has been conducting the business with the open policy which also applies to the area of electrification technologies. The relationship with Geely (Toyota is exploring) is also based on this open policy”, the statement said. Toyota’s response comes after a Chinese media report said Geely was working with Toyota on the conventional hybrid technology. The report said details on the joint effort would be announced soon. A Geely spokesman declined to comment. Toyota, which bet big on gasoline-electric hybrid technology in the late 1990s when it began selling the Prius, has since localized production of conventional hybrid cars in China and has been selling them here since 2015 under the Corolla and Levin names. The company has said it plans to sell plug-in hybrid versions of the Corolla and the Levin next year. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has a dilemma on its hands for the midsize pickup it intends on launching in the United States. The German car manufacturer recently secured a global strategic partnership with Ford to co-develop light commercial vehicles. Through this partnership, it could sell a rebadged body-on-frame version of the Ford Ranger. However, the company also has the option of building a unibody pickup based on the Atlas SUV and previewed by the Tanoak concept launched in March. Volkswagen is weighing up its options but does believe that building a Ranger-based pickup will help to minimize costs. “I wouldn’t rule out anything on the car side, but the focus is let’s first get the LCV projects running. We want a concrete project vehicle that has a start of production and a certain volume, and then can talk about other issues”, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles chief executive Thomas Sedran said. However, selling a Ranger-based VW pickup wouldn’t be as simple as it may seem. As Volkswagen is a more up-scale brand than Ford, it would have to price its pickup at a significant premium over the Ranger and this could turn away customers. If VW were to put the Tanoak into production, it would be able to price it as it sees fit. Some are concerned that a unibody pickup like this wouldn’t hold the worldwide appeal of a body-on-frame vehicle like the Ranger, leaving Volkswagen in a bit of a quandary. VW chief strategy officer Michael Jost said a final decision has yet to be made. “Whether it’s a unibody or body-on-frame is something we’re still examining”. +++

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