+++ The Mercedes EQ C is the first of 10 fully electric vehicles from the newly formed sub-brand and a rival for the Audi e-Tron and Jaguar I-Pace. Also in the pipeline is an EQ A electric hatchback and flagship EQ S saloon, among with “several other sedan” silhouettes, understands. Speaking at the 2018 Paris Motor Show, Ola Källenius, Mercedes board member for research and development and future CEO, told me AMG variants of the all-electric EQ family are in the plan. “EQ is a product and technology brand for electric intelligence”, Källenius explained, “but I can see a pairing between EQ and AMG as well”. Mercedes-AMG’s first foray into the world of electrification will come with plug-in hybrid technology called EQ Power Plus. Källenius described the powertrain as a “KERS system for performance cars” and is understood to comprise the firm’s 4.0 litre V8 engine with a powerful electric motor. It will launch in 2020. A future AMG version of the fully electric EQ C is likely to use the existing 80 kWh battery and more powerful electric motors at the sacrifice of range. A power figure well in excess of the standard model’s 408 hp output is expected. +++

+++ ASTON MARTIN has confirmed a third mid-engined hypercar is currently under development and that it will be designed to sit alongside the Valkyrie and Valkyrie AMR Pro. Yet to be named, the rival to the McLaren Senna and Ferrari LaFerrari is currently known under the codename Project 003. And Red Bull Racing will be involved with the car’s development. The project is still in an early state and Aston Martin says that the new model will arrive in 2021, and while both right-hand and left-hand-drive production is planned, the car will be limited to 500 examples globally. It will slot into the range beneath the Valkyrie, of which only 175 editions are being produced. Aston boss Andy Palmer revealed that car is an additional part of his 7 year plan. “It falls into the category of a ‘special’ ”, Palmer told. “It’s the connector, it’s the dot between the Valkyrie and the Ferrari 488 competitor (also under development, red.). Let’s put it as a LaFerrari competitor so it’s in that kind of realm, like the McLaren Senna and Porsche 918. As for power, it would more than compete with those”. Aston Martin says that Project 003 will be mid-engined, built around a lightweight structure, and road legal. A V6 turbocharged petrol-electric hybrid engine will provide power. “In the 003 it’s a turbocharged V6”, Palmer said. “There will be hybrid power in there, but very much tuned from a KERS perspective than a normal hybridisation perspective; think of it as race-tuned. Obviously it’s a new engine, designed by Aston Martin. We’re demonstrating that in that V12 arena we have mastery, so V12 and V6 is obviously closely related”. Power output should sit somewhere between that of the DBS Superleggera and Valkyrie, at around 1,000 hp. That should translate to a 0-100 km/h time of less than 3 seconds and a top speed upwards of 320 km/h. Technology will be borrowed from the Valkyrie project, such as active aerodynamics and active suspension. Aston Martin promises that Project 003 is being designed to be a more practical offering than the Valkyrie with space for luggage. Palmer added: “If you go from Valkyrie to our 488 rival, from €5 million to €400,000, that jump probably isn’t enough to give you the view of the mother and the father. When you see the design language for 003, it’s really interesting. We’re designing 003 and what we call AM9 (the 488 competitor, red.) side by side so you see that bloodline”. The 003 is the latest in a long line of new models being developed by Aston Martin. The next big launch from the British firm is its first SUV previewed by the DBX concept; it’s expected to be called Varekai when it arrives early next year. Project 003 will follow shortly after Aston’s other mid-engined model, the AM9 Ferrari 488 competitor. +++

+++ BMW has confirmed that it will produce an i4 in 2021 to sit above the i3 hatchback in its growing ‘i’ range of electric cars. The Tesla Model 3 rival will have a range of up to 700 km, and will “redefine what is possible today for 0-100 km/h times”, according to BMW chairman Harald Krüger. “The leading factors that will set it apart are fantastic design, which is very different to anything else on the road and the fact that it is lighter and therefore more dynamic than anything we see on the market today, thanks to the materials we will use. Couple that with the connectivity technology we are constantly developing and we are confident it will lead the market”, said Krüger. It will be 1 of 5 pure electric cars the firm has committed to make by 2021: i3, Mini EV, iX3 (2020) and i4 (2021), plus more than 10 PHEVs. He described the i4 as a 4 Series Gran Coupe style car. By 2025 he says they’ll have more than 25 PHEVs on sale and 12 pure EVs: “you can see that in 2022-2025 there will be a quick ramp up that we think will reflect the market and which is anyway a necessity to hit the emissions targets we are being set”. Previously, during the company’s press conference at the Geneva motor show, Krüger said the model, which is expected to arrive close to the upcoming iX3 electric SUV in the early part of the next decade, will be built in Munich. The i4 will be based on the 4 Series GT’s structure to enable it to have more space and sportier driving dynamics than the i3. The i4 will use BMW’s 5th generation electric powertrain architecture, which is currently being developed in an X3 test car and is confirmed to hit the market in 2021. Power for the i4 could come from a single electric motor that’s located on the front axle but can send power to the back wheels via an electric propeller shaft. It’s thought that this layout is more desirable for the i4 because it would give the car a front-biased weight distribution, which is more comparable with combustion-engined BMW models and beneficial for handling balance. An alternative possibility is a more expensive twin-motor set-up that applies direct power to each axle. This is the layout that will be employed by the iX3, but it may prove to be needlessly costly for the i4. BMW insiders have told that the i4 will be engineered to achieve similar performance to the current 335d xDrive GT, so a total power output of around 350 hp is possible. A range of 500 kilometres would place the i4 near the front of the running order among its electric competition. The i4 will be followed by a larger i5 model, which was previewed by the i Vision Dynamics concept. The new electric models will come at a time BMW when is growing its EV range at an unprecedented rate. An iNext model is also due in 2021 with the marque’s most advanced autonomous technology, while electric variants of other cars are also likely due, following a long list of patent applications that reserved the right for BMW to use names spanning from i1 to i9, as well as iX1 to iX9 for SUVs. BMW’s electric ambitions will also lead to the launch a Mini EV, called the Mini Electric. Due in 2019, the hatchback is expected to borrow technology from the current i3. +++ 

+++ The European Parliament has approved a draft law that will force carbon dioxide ( CO2 ) levels for new cars to be cut by 40 % by 2030, and 20 % by 2025. It has also voted that electric cars and ZLEVs (Zero Level Emission Vehicles; cars that emit under 50 g/km of CO2) should make up 35 % of new car and van sales by 2030, and 20 % by 2025. CO2 emissions are calculated based on individual car makers’ fleet averages, meaning emissions for each company are comprised of the average amount of CO2 produced by every vehicle they sell. Commenting on the new CO2 limits, EU Parliament spokeswoman Miriam Dalli said: “This legislation goes beyond reducing harmful emissions and protecting the environment. It looks at setting the right incentives for manufacturers”. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) was critical of the new targets, however, with the organisation’s secretary general, Erik Jonnaert, saying he is “concerned about the extremely aggressive CO2 reduction targets and the imposition of sales quotas for battery electric vehicles that MEPs have backed”. Jonnaert also warned “consumers cannot be forced to buy electric cars, without the necessary infrastructure or incentives in place”, adding he hopes national governments bring some “realism” to the table when “adopting their common position on the future CO2 targets next week”. Previous intermediate legislation targeted a 15 % reduction of CO2 by 2025, though this was increased in September this year to a 30 % reduction target by 2021, with industry and environmentalists calling for more relaxed and stricter targets, respectively. +++

+++ JAGUAR has axed its XJR 575 high performance super saloon. The British firm has killed off the V8 powered limo due to ever more stringent WLTP emissions testing. The XJR 575’s niche appeal and small sales numbers also made homologating the car for the new emissions tests not cost effective. The move brings an end to XJR name too; the high performance model has been offered in the XJ range since 1994. Jaguar has also quietly removed the 340 hp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol version meaning the XJ can only be ordered with JLR’s perennial 300 hp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel. Apart from a celebratory XJ 50 model the trim range remains the same, however, with Luxury, Premium Luxury, Portfolio and R-Sport offered. It’s the first time the XJ has been offered solely with a diesel engine in the model’s 50-year history. It also means the XJ will remain diesel-only until a new 9th generation arrives in around 2 years time. That car is expected to be an all-electric halo model for the British brand. The decision to axe the XJR 575 has come earlier than expected, however. It was launched less than 12 months ago and saw the XJR’s 5.0-litre supercharged V8 tweaked from 550 hp to 575 hp (hence the ‘575’ name) and a raft of extra cosmetic touches added including 575 badges, red stitching to the seats and distinctive Velocity Blue paintwork. The XJR 575 and supercharged V6 XJ models’ demise carries on from similar model deletions. JLR removed the 3.0 litre supercharged V6 from the XE S, XF S and the Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Velar earlier this year. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is continuing to invest in and develop hydrogen fuel cell technology but believes its first realistic chances of mass production lie in commercial vehicles, such as buses. Mercedes has been developing fuel cells for more than two decades but has thrown its resources behind making battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) on a mass scale. By 2025, it expects 15-25 % of its sales to be BEVs, according to development boss and future Daimler chairman Ola Källenius. But speaking at the Paris motor show, Källenius said Mercedes was still invested in bringing fuel cells to reality beyond the limited-volume GLC F-Cell it has put into series production. “We are one of the veterans from the fuel cell business over 25 years and have seen it evolve, develop and find its place” said Källenius. “Now we’re demonstrating with GLC F-Cell that it really works. On the way to 2025, what to scale first. BEV, FCV fuel cell vehicle or both? We’re talking hundreds of thousands, a big industrial play. We believe the scale is BEV first with the EQ family. It doesn’t make sense to scale them both at the same time. We still believe fuel cell is part of the solution to zero-emissions mobility in the future. I’ve told our fuel cell engineers to make the unit more compact and with more performance. We’ve come a long way already, though, and I believe we are the most complete between the performance and range combination. We need to make it more compact and take out cost. But our engineers need a vehicle to focus on. There is more energy used by a bus in northern Europe in winter on heating it than powering it, so that energy density really helps. So the next fuel cells will go to commercial vehicles rather than passenger ones. It’s a flexible strategy, though. We’ll do BEV first and are developing FCV and staying in the game to see if the market swings in that direction”. Källenius said Mercedes was also part of the Hydrogen Council, which discusses the industrialisation of the fuel. To that end, it doesn’t want to be involved in providing infrastructure to support hydrogen but does want to work with companies to help deliver it. +++

+++ PEUGEOT is the latest brand to confirm it is halting development of diesel engines until the market stabilises, and it may remove them altogether if demand continues to fall. The PSA Group’s product director, Laurent Blanchet, told at the Paris motor show that the future of diesel is “uncertain” and that “we will have to see if the market is going to delete or give up on diesel”. The company has recently launched a new 1.5 litre diesel engine that meets the most stringent emissions regulations for the next few years but may not be adapted beyond that. “We have decided not to develop more evolutions of diesel technology, because we want to see what’s going to happen”, Blanchet confirmed. Speaking separately, Peugeot CEO Jean-Phillipe Imparato admitted that the company had “made a mistake with pushing diesels,” as its aggressive development and substantial investment may not pay off in terms of the fuel’s future market share. The market share of diesel engines in European car sales has fallen from around 50 % at the start of 2017 to roughly 36 %. Fallout from the Volkswagen dieselgate emissions cheating scandal is cited as one reason buyers are staying away, alongside threats of increased taxation and concerns over particulate pollution. Other manufacturers, such as Kia, have also halted further diesel development. Blanchet continued: “We have decided that, if in 2022 or 2023 the market is, say, 5 % made of up diesel, we will give up on it. “If the market is 30 %, the question will be very different. I think nobody can say yet where the market will be. But what is clear is that the diesel trend is going down. “As you know, we have launched a new 1.5 litre diesel engine, which will keep things going for now. The question is not our products, because we know we have very good diesel engines and we know that diesel is very competitive in terms of CO2 emissions”. Peugeot’s focus now is on electrification, Blanchet said. The PSA Group plans to offer a plug-in hybrid or electric version of every Citroën, DS, Peugeot and Opel/Vauxhall model launched from next year onwards. Peugeot has already presented plug-in hybrid versions of its 3008, 508 and 508 SW, with more to come. The focus for smaller models, such as A and B-segment superminis, will be on offering battery electric powertrains in addition to petrol engines. PSA is predicting a tenfold growth in plug-in sales to around 10 million units by 2025, driven by markets such as China. +++ 

+++ A Mégane-sized electric car will be crucial to RENAULT ’s electric growth plans in Europe, according to the company’s electric boss, Gilles Normand. The Zoe is currently the best-selling EV in Europe ahead of the Nissan Leaf, while the recently revealed Twingo-sized K-ZE is also likely to arrive in Europe by 2022. However, Normand said that Renault “definitely needs something bigger”. “Zoe is B-segment, So we need to go down with A-segment, the K-ZE, and we need to go a little bit up. Our strategy is very clear: we want to cover the key segments in Europe in the A, B, and C segments”. Normand hinted that the C-segment electric car would be an electric equivalent to the Kadjar. “The worldwide industry trend is SUV, so clearly going in an SUV direction is a good trend”, he said. Such a car would also have a longer range than the Zoe and K-ZE, which claim 300 kilometres and 240 kilometres respectively. “If you look at Zoe buyers’ profile, 80 % of users fit with the current range”, continued Normand. “For C-segment, it’s only 60 %, so here we need more range. “By 2022, we want more than 500 kilometres real usage, so we are working on it”. The model will be built on a new common platform, shared with Nissan and Mitsubishi, called CMF-EV, which will arrive before 2022. The platform will be modular for use on numerous vehicles. However, the next-generation Zoe isn’t expected to use it. CMF-EV-based cars will be built at Renault’s Douai plant in France. +++ 

+++ The next-generation SKODA Octavia RS, arriving by 2021, will have a hybrid variant to sit alongside internal-combustion engine options such as petrol or diesel. Talking about a hybrid powertrain on the next Octavia, Christian Strube, Skoda R&D boss said: “Octavia is a good possibility. Perhaps in an RS version, because it’s a good mix between sustainability and performance. If you drive 70 km, you can drive everyday to work electrified and if you want to haves some fun at the weekend you have an RS version. It’s really nice”. Skoda is launching its first plug-in hybrid next year in its Superb model. Strube said the PHEV would be “more or less” the same powertrain as previewed in the Vision RS concept shown at the Paris motor show. This combines a 150 hp 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine and a 102 hp electric motor to give a total output of 245 hp and a claimed 0-100 km/h time of 7.1 seconds. An Octavia RS hybrid would use a similar set-up but naturally get more overall power to make it performance-car-worthy. The fastest current Octavia RS is a 245 hp petrol and achieves the benchmark sprint in 6.6 seconds. Any future model will no doubt look to trump that time. The only RS models currently on sale are the Octavia RS and the new Kodiaq RS. There is no word on other RS models but a Karoq RS has been mooted. Strube said he would like to see one in the upcoming Rapid replacement, previewed in the Vision RS concept. “I think this fits perfectly. But you could also do one on the Superb. We are selling a lot of RS. I have 2 directions: to push the development for sustainability, such as electrification and on the other side, of course, I’m pushing all these RS versions because these makes the brand much much more emotional which is important for economical sustainability”. Skoda also has plans for pure electric RS models. Sales and marketing boss Alain Favey has previously told a performance version of its upcoming electric SUV will arrive in 2022 likely badged eRS. Ahead of the next-generation Octavia vRS arriving, the 4th-generation Octavia will launch by 2020. The model is easily Skoda’s biggest selling car so is crucial to its success. The standard Octavia is also set to get a plug-in hybrid powertrain as 1 of 5 electrified vehicles confirmed by the brand to arrive by 2020. +++ 

+++ TESLA has released a new over-the-air software update for the Model S, X and 3, said to be the most substantial the brand has ever released. The new ‘Version 9.0’ software upgrade brings a raft of new features, including new hardware functions, simplified menus and additional ‘Easter eggs’. Alongside this, a new mobile app update function allows owners to initiate a software update remotely without being in the car. Most notably, a new Dash Cam function has been added to Model S, X and 3 vehicles built from August 2017, allowing owners to use the forward-facing camera to record and store captured video. Tapping the new dash cam icon allows a clip of up to 10 minutes to be stored, or recording to be paused. Additionally, all 8 external cameras from Tesla’s full self-driving system have been activated, enabling what it calls “better situational awareness on the road with a 360-degree visualisation of surrounding vehicles”.  Blind spot monitoring now relies on the side and rear facing cameras, alongside the previously used ultrasonic sensors, to detect vehicles and display them on the car’s screen. If there is a vehicle in the car’s blind spot when the driver indicates, it shows the lane as red on the digital display. New types of vehicles, including bicycles and large trucks, are also displayed to aid safety. A new application launcher simplifies the applications on offer by bringing them altogether in one place, and allowing quick access to the last-used app. Owners can also access the controls for cold weather features, such as rear seat heaters and the steering wheel heater, all in one place. Alongside the more practical software updates, Tesla has added in some new ‘Easter eggs’, or hidden features, to its models’ large central display screen. Classic arcade games from Atari are now discoverable when the car is in Park. Finding them changes the controls on the steering wheel and touchscreen to that of a games console. The Model 3 follows on from the Model S and Model X by achieving the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested by the USA’s safety body, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Previously, the S and X were given the lowest and second lowest probability of injury by the NHTSA, but now the Model 3 has beaten both of those models with a perfect 5 star rating in every category. The results come from the NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Programme, which used a Long Range Rear-Wheel Drive model in a series of crash tests, including front, side and rollover crashes. The probability of injury is less than 6 %, a figure around 2 % better than the Model X. +++

+++ TOYOTA is expected to offer a hot hatch version of the new Corolla as part of a strategy to reintroduce high-performance models to its range. While a GR (Gazoo Racing) model has yet to be confirmed, insiders reckon that a hot version will “inevitably” be offered as part of company boss Akio Toyoda’s mission to bring more interesting and desirable cars to market. Both the C-HR Hy-Power concept shown at the Frankfurt motor show last year and the Gazoo Racing Yaris Sport, displayed with the Le Mans-winning Toyota and the new Supra coupé, illustrate the direction being taken. So does the fact that the new Corolla is already available with a choice of two hybrid powertrains, the more powerful of these providing 180 hp. Also significant is that the new Corolla is based around the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, which offers a usefully lower centre of gravity and wider track than that of the outgoing Auris; features that improve its basic dynamic performance before any special tuning is carried out. The improved dynamics of this platform are one reason why Toyota is already offering a higher-powered hybrid option with the car. Toyota will also be keen to link the brand-sharpening effects of its World Endurance Championship, World Rally Championship, Nürburgring and Dakar activities to the Corolla, which will complement the GT86 and tuned Yaris models already in its performance portfolio. That Hyundai has embarked on an already successful assault on the hot hatch market with its i30 N won’t have gone unnoticed either. Given that Toyota has already sold a limited-edition GRMN version of the Yaris that uses the same supercharged 212 hp 1.6-litre engine found in the Lotus Elise, it’s highly likely that a Corolla GR would be offered with a hybrid powertrain more potent than this. Indeed, an output of at least 280 hp will be essential if the car is to be competitive with established rivals such as the Seat Leon Cupra. +++

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , September’s new car sales figures have revealed that 20.5 % fewer cars were sold last month compared to September 2017. Diesel cars saw the most significant fall in favour, with 42.5 % fewer people opting for an oil burner. A total of 338,834 new cars were sold last month, down from 426,170 in 2017. The last time so few cars were sold in September was 2011, when the industry was still reeling from the effects of the global financial crisis. Economic headwinds such as Brexit-related uncertainty may be impacting consumer confidence, but much of last month’s decline can be ascribed to delays surrounding tough new WLTP (World harmonised Light vehicle Testing Protocol) emission and economy assessments. The new WLTP assessments require cars to travel for longer distances and at higher speeds than they did when undergoing certification under previous NEDC rules, and car makers have had to recertify every model they offer (including trim derivatives) by 1 September 2018. With such a high number of cars requiring recertification, test centres across Europe are understood to have been experiencing significant backlogs as car makers queue up to retest their cars. A closer analysis of September’s sales reveals 53.4 % fewer Audis, 36.7 % fewer Seats, 55.2 % fewer Volkswagens and 31.3 % fewer Skodas changed hands last month compared to the same time in 2018. Volkswagen Group companies were not the only marques to suffer such sales declines. Nissan was down 41.6 % for example. But the VW Group is understood to have been hit hard by the onerous task of recertifying its vast range of cars according to the longer, tougher, WLTP tests. A number of German manufacturers, meanwhile, have reportedly faced issues in the certification of plug-in hybrids, partly as these types of car must go through longer, more stringent tests than conventional vehicles. That wasn’t enough to stop sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) rising by 3.9 % last month. With petrol sales down 6.7 % in September, cars with hybrid, EV and PHEV powertrains were the only type of car to see an increase in popularity last month. That contrasts sharply with August 2018, however, when AFV sales shot up by 88.7 %. The figures were released by the Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders (SMMT), whose chief executive, Mike Hawes, blamed the demands of recertification for September’s sales slump: “With the industry given barely a year to reapprove the entire European model line-up, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen bottlenecks and a squeeze on supply”. Hawes said September saw the industry face “exceptional circumstances with similar declines seen in other major European markets”. He voiced optimism, however, that WLTP backlogs would ease, leaving consumers to look forward to “a raft of exciting high-tech cars and a market keen to recover lost momentum”. Ford Fiesta remains the top seller, with 12,227 units sold. The Vauxhall Corsa and Mercedes-Benz A-Class are in second and third place. +++

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