+++ It looks like AUDI is doing the exact same thing with this second-generation Q7 as they did with the original, which is not to mess too much with its exterior styling. Then again, that’s perfectly understandable since the automaker’s main focus is to bring their large SUV up to speed with the latest in connectivity and driver-assistance systems so as to give it a proper fighting chance against the likes of BMW’s all-new X5 or Mercedes‘ latest GLE. What’s different about it? For starters, the design of the grille has been updated in a way where it now looks a little bit less like the SUV is wearing a mask. The grille (visibly smaller) is now a little more flush with the headlights, which have also been slightly redesigned to feature a downwards kink, sort of like the ones on the all-new Q3, albeit not that exaggerated. At the rear, the SUV is still wearing its old taillights, but I expect that to change sometime in the future, as more production-ready prototypes will take to the streets. The interior, while visible through the windows, is heavily camouflaged, which means that changes are coming inside as well. Still, it’s a little unlikely that Audi will do a full dashboard swap and install something like in the Q8. Odds are, interior upgrades will be similar to those received by the A4 facelift, which means a new steering wheel, new software, better materials, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t mind being wrong though. As for any powertrain upgrades, no official info has surfaced as of yet, although we expect any future iteration of the Q7 to be more fuel efficient and also kinder to the environment, compared to the current model. Audi will probably unveil their refreshed signature large SUV sometime next year, sending it out to battle the likes of the X5, GLE, XC90, Range Rover Sport and so on. +++

+++ Trying to ascertain overall safety with regards to AUTONOMOUS vehicles (AVs) is not easy, despite carmakers and tech companies touting their self-driving systems will greatly reduce the total number of road accidents. While that may be true, a new study by the Rand Corporation points to a safety framework being absolutely necessary as automakers get ready to deploy their self-driving products through our cities. “No standard definition of safety exists in regard to AVs”, the study issued by the Rand Corporation and sponsored by Uber points out. “The public and the policy making community have an important interest in comparing AV safety with the safety of conventional vehicles, but there are limitations on the breadth and depth of comparable data collected for each type of vehicle”. Among their findings are recommendations such as how regulators and the public should focus their concerns on the safety of the public and not on how development is progressing, or how a protocol for information-sharing between developers should be encouraged; such a protocol would have to incorporate measures, format, context, frequency, governance, data security and other factors. Another strong point was made about how to measure the evolution of this technology once it’s been deployed for commercial use. “Research is needed on how to measure and communicate AV system safety in an environment wherein the system evolves through frequent updates. AV safety measures must balance reflecting the current system’s safety level with recent (and perhaps non-recent) safety records”. +++

+++ On the surface, the entire automotive industry appears to agree that electric vehicles (EVs) are the way forward. Not all executives seem to agree with that way of assessing the future, though. BMW board member for development Klaus Fröhlich had some interesting things to say about EVs at the Paris Auto Show. The R&D boss issued a wake-up call to those who believe the global rollout of electro-mobility will happen overnight. “I think the discussion about electro-mobility is a little bit irrational”, Fröhlich said, adding that it is optimistic to assume all markets will adopt EVs simultaneously. He cited a “very optimistic” scenario that says 30 % of BMWs will be all-electric or plug-in hybrids and 7 % will be combustion by 2030. “If you assume that, from this 30 %, half of them are plug-in hybrids, I have 85 % in my portfolio in 2030 with a combustion engine”, the executive pointed out. While BMW is prepared for that scenario, Fröhlich said that a large portion of the world will continue to use combustion engines for a very long time. In that context, he reaffirmed the company’s commitment to diesel powertrains. According to him, BMW builds the cleanest diesels at the moment. However, that doesn’t prevent EU politicians from waging war against all diesel engines, something Fröhlich doesn’t believe is right. “We have a spiral in Europe where every politician sees only one solution: diesel bashing. From a CO2 and customer perspective, a modern diesel is a very good solution. Especially for heavy, high-performing cars”, the executive explained. While BMW is committed to oil-burners, Fröhlich admitted that the future might bring fewer diesel variants in the lineup. For example, high-performance powertrains such as the M50d will disappear because the market for them is small. In addition, they’re a challenge to adjust to future emissions regulations. +++

+++ China’s Beiqi Foton Motor plans to sell a 67 % stake in BORGWARD as losses escalate at the German brand it revived 4 years ago. The move is intended to attract new Borgward investors, Shanghai-listed Foton said in a statement. Borgward, once Germany’s third-largest automaker, was liquidated in 1961. Foton, a truck subsidiary of state-owned Chinese automaker BAIC Group, acquired the rights to the brand in 2014. In the past 2 years, Borgward has launched 2 gasoline-powered crossovers, the BX7 and BX5. In May, the battery-electric version of the BX7 also went on sale in China. The vehicles are assembled at Foton’s renovated plant in suburban Beijing where the automaker is headquartered. Borgward re-entered its German home market in July with the BX7 TS. It is the first vehicle the brand has sold in Germany since 1961. In 2016, Borgward said it planned to open a factory in Germany to build 10,000 cars a year. Borgward’s sales have shown no signs of improving. In the first 7 months, the brand’s deliveries slumped 23 % year on year to 18,996 vehicles, according to the China Passenger Vehicle Alliance, a Shanghai consultancy. Because of limited sales, Borgward suffered a loss of more than 1.6 billion yuan ($231.5 million) as of August this year, according to Foton. +++

+++ The now-defunct CITROEN C4 could make a return as an all-electric vehicle to rival Volkswagen’s upcoming I.D. range. Linda Jackson, Citroen’s CEO, said a C-segment hatchback is at the top of the company’s priority list given the strong sales volume in that part of the market. “We haven’t actually said when the C-segment hatchback is going to be, but given the strength of that segment, given the importance of it, clearly that’s going to be a priority for us”, she said. Currently, the toned-down C4 Cactus facelift has taken the combined role of small hatchback and crossover in the company’s line-up overseas, competing with everything from the Volkswagen Golf to the T-Roc. PSA’s vice president of engineering, Gilles Le Borgne, told the next-generation small car will be based on a longer version of the group’s CMP platform for compact vehicles, including the DS3 Crossback, along with the next-generation Opel Corsa and Peugeot 208. “We have a very important programme on C-segment that is based on CMP, the next-generation C4, for example”, he told. Le Borgne confirmed the new C4 will offer an all-electric version alongside the combustion-powered range, based on the same e-CMP electrified architecture as the DS3 Crossback E-Tense. The C4 EV would serve as a rival to the likes of the Renault Zoe, with Le Borgne hinting a battery pack of “up to 60kWh” could be on the cards offering around 350 km per charge. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER and BMW have offered concessions to address EU antitrust concerns about their plan to combine their car-sharing businesses, the European Commission said. The 2 automakers want to merge their car-sharing units Car2Go and DriveNow to better compete with U.S. rival Uber and China’s Didi Chuxing. The Commission is expected to seek feedback from customers and rivals before deciding by Nov. 7 whether to accept the concessions, demand more or open a full-scale investigation. +++ 

+++ KIA has confirmed it will add a plug-in hybrid version of its all-new Ceed Sportswagon during the second half of next year, with further models tipped to get electrified powertrains in the near future as well. Kia Europe’s marketing boss, Artur Martins, said the Ceed PHEV will utilise the same hybrid system as the Niro PHEV crossover, which pairs a 104 kW / 147 Nm 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine with a 59 kW electric motor and an 8.9 kWh battery pack. Expect the wagon-bodied Ceed PHEV to better (or at least match) the Niro PHEV’s 1.3L/100km combined fuel claim (NEDC). “We are going to introduce it for the Sportswagon, and then decide if it makes sense on other body-types”, Martins told, indicating the hatchback could also be in line for the electrified powertrain. “We are going to need more electrification on other products in the future. We must get to a mix of around 25-30 % electrified models to hit the CO2 targets.” Like regular Ceed models, the plug-in hybrid wagon will be produced at the company’s Slovakian plant, making it the brand’s first PHEV to be built in Europe. In addition to the Ceed Sportswagon (and potentially the hatchback), Kia Europe is looking to add alternative powertrain technology to other models in its line-up, namely the Sportage and Sorento. The company already offers several hybrids in its European range, including the aforementioned Niro PHEV along with the regular Niro hybrid, and the Optima plug-in hybrid in both sedan and Sportswagon forms. Kia’s electrified line-up will be bolstered in Europe next year with the all-new Soul EV, scheduled for reveal at the Los Angeles motor show in November. In addition to its hybrid and EV plans, Martins said the company is looking into a fuel-cell vehicle that will be Kia’s equivalent to the Hyundai Nexo SUV, though it could be based on the larger Sorento. “We are looking at a fuel cell, in the future, in a bigger car, but it depends a little bit on how the European market goes”, he told. “It works better on a bigger car because the customer is prepared to pay more on a bigger car”. +++

+++ The MERCEDES-AMG One is an audacious project, aimed at caging Formula 1 power in a road-legal (but track-focused) body. Unsurprisingly, developing such a car hasn’t been simple. Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers admitted to delays caused by adjustments on the car’s powertrain. “My expectation was that we were going to have a time when we have some major issues and we have to solve them”, Moers said. “We promised. We are going to deliver. We get additional help from outside as well. So, we’re back on track. I’m confident, but we lost maybe 9 months or so”, he later explained, prodded on whether his team could deliver on their bold performance promises. Making an F1 powertrain work on the road is no mean feat. Where the engine in Lewis Hamilton’s Petronas racer can idle at 5.000 rpm without any issues, emissions regulations mean the road-going version needs to hold a stable idle at 1.200 rpm. Customers have, according to Moers, been informed about the 9 month delay, with the AMG boss telling the hold-up is “not a secret”. When it arrives, the One will make 740 kW from the combination of a 1.6-litre 6-cylinder petrol engine and a pair of electric motors. If the engine’s 11.000 rpm redline sounds insane, bear in mind the electric motor can spool up to 50.000 rpm when required. You’ll be able to do 25 km on pure-electric power, although AMG hasn’t revealed how big the lithium/ion battery will be to allow that. Power is put to the road through an AMG Performance all-wheel drive system combining hybrid power at the rear, EV power at the front and complex torque vectoring at all 4 corners. Just 275 examples of the AMG One will be produced. +++

+++ We’ve known for a while that NISSAN is mulling with the idea of electrifying their next-gen sports cars, and now one of the company’s officials has offered us some hints about that. The plan is part of Nissan’s strategy to offer approximately 40 % of their vehicles with electrified powertrains in Europe by 2022, and that includes the replacements of the 370Z and GT-R. “I don’t see electrification and sports cars as technologies that are conflicting. Maybe it’s the other way around, sports cars can benefit lots from electrification”, Jean-Pierre Diernaz, of the car firm’s marketing chiefs, told. “At the end of the day, a motor and battery are much easier to move from one platform to another, from one sub-segment to another, than a full internal combustion set-up”. Despite pressure from other vehicles within the sports car segment, such as the upcoming Toyota Supra, the future of the Nissan 370Z is still hazy. The question is not ‘if’ it will arrive, but rather ‘when’, as Diernaz described it as a work in progress: “Not everything is confirmed in terms of dates. Sports cars are part of who we are, so one way or another they have to be there”. Helping Nissan in achieving their electrified goals for road-going vehicles will be some of their Formula E technologies, as well as their Renault, Mitsubishi and Mercedes-Benz partners. The companies already share some technologies and powertrains in between them, and the tie-ups will likely continue into the electrified era. That doesn’t mean, however, that the successor of the current GT-R will share some oily bits with future AMGs, because that’s not going to happen. Instead, Nissan will develop its new supercar all by itself. “GT-R is GT-R. That’s Nissan. It has to stay specifically Nissan”, commented Diernaz. I couldn’t agree more. Just hoping that they make up their minds because the R35, as good as it may be and despite all the constant upgrades, is basically an 11-year old car. +++ 

+++ Germany’s Transport Ministry said it will order the recall of about 100,000 OPEL vehicles as part of a diesel-emissions probe. The announcement came after prosecutors searched the automaker’s offices. Germany’s KBA motor vehicle authority found 4 software programs capable of altering vehicle emissions in 2015 and ordered Opel to implement a software update in cars to remove them, the country’s Transport Ministry said in a statement. “After a 5th software device was discovered in early 2018, which KBA found to be illegal, there is currently an official hearing going on with the goal of imposing a mandatory recall for the Cascada, Insignia and Zafira models”, the ministry said. Opel said it was fully cooperating with authorities but that it could not comment on details of the investigation. “Opel reaffirms that its vehicles comply with the applicable regulations”, the automaker said. The transport ministry said Opel had dragged its feet on the hearing. The KBA had told Frankfurt prosecutors about the software device in April, it said. “The official recall of the affected roughly 100,000 vehicles will take place shortly”, it added. Opel said it rejected any accusation of using illegal defeat devices that can manipulate exhaust emission tests, also denying it was procrastinating. “Should a mandatory recall be ordered, Opel will challenge it legally”, said the automaker. German prosecutors searched offices at Opel’s sites in Rüsselsheim and Kaiserslautern. The Frankfurt prosecutor’s office said it was probing 95,000 vehicles equipped with Euro6d engines. PSA Group, which owns the Opel and Vauxhall brands, declined to comment. The Opel Insignia, Zafira and Cascada were developed when Opel and its sister brand, Vauxhall, were still owned by General Motors. General Motors sold Opel to PSA Group in 2017. Opel admitted in 2016 that its Zafira model contained engine software that switched off exhaust emissions treatment systems under certain circumstances. Opel insisted at the time that it was making use of a legal loophole. +++ 

+++ RENAULT and Chinese partner Brilliance plan to launch 3 electric delivery vans in 2 years, seeking to capitalize on robust growth in China’s commercial vehicle market and city center driving curbs on vehicles with combustion engines. The battery-powered vans will be part of a 7-model product offensive for the Renault-Brilliance joint venture that was created last December. The first 2 electric vans are to be introduced as commercial and passenger versions under Brilliance’s Jinbei brand. The first will be a full-electric update of Jinbei’s F50 model. A battery-powered Renault vehicle will follow in 2020. “Now with the expertise of Renault in electrified technology we will get it into the zero-emissions (zones) for last-mile deliveries”, Ashwani Gupta, commercial vehicles chief for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, told reporters on a call. The overall Chinese auto market shrank for the third consecutive month in September, recording its biggest year-on-year decline in 7 years. But Renault’s Gupta expects commercial vehicle sales growth to stay resilient, with an 11 % expansion to 3.2 million vehicles this year and a further 8 % to 9 % in 2019. +++

+++ I like the new SUZUKI Jimny and apparently I am not the only one: demand for the tiny new off-roader has been reportedly staggering, leaving Suzuki with a very pleasant problem to deal with. The new generation of the Jimny has already attracted 4,500 people to sign up as “interested” on Suzuki’s UK website. That’s 150 % of the previous Jimny’s best annual volume there. The problem however for Suzuki UK is that demand in Japan has also been “staggering”, meaning that the number of cars they can offer to customers will be limited. Suzuki UK’s boss Dale Wyatt estimates 1,100 cars in the first year, followed by 2,000 per year thereafter. The new Suzuki Jimny remains faithful to the simplistic nature of its predecessors: a robust ladder frame chassis is still present, along with a pair of rigid axles and a low-range transfer case. This means that that the new Jimny is not going to win a handling competition anytime soon, but it will leave much more expensive SUVs trailing behind when going off road. +++

+++ Germany’s carmakers only have a 50 % chance of remaining leading players in the auto industry unless they transform to meet new regulations and adapt their supply chains, VOLKSWAGEN Group CEO Herbert Diess said. Some carmakers could be pushed out of business by reforms required to shift production to electric cars from vehicles running on combustion engines and by introducing the changes needed to tackle new geopolitical threats, he said. “From today’s point of view the chances are perhaps 50-50 that the German auto industry will still belong among the global elite in 10 years’ time”, he said, referring to Volkswagen Group, BMW and Daimler. The intensifying push to cut carbon dioxide pollution and nitrogen oxide emissions amounted to a campaign against individual mobility and against cars, Diess said. “We are all used to the fact that we have flourishing industrial metropolises around the central manufacturing plants of German carmakers and their suppliers, places where people like to live and work, but that’s not guaranteed for eternity”, Diess told. “If you look at the former bastions of the auto industry like Detroit, Oxford-Cowley or Turin, you understand what happens to cities when once-powerful corporations and leading industries falter”, he added. To cut average fleet emissions of carbon dioxide in Europe by 30 % by 2030, VW needs to raise its share of electric vehicles to 30 % of new car sales, Diess said. Pollution from carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, would rise in Germany, given the country’s dependence on generating electricity from brown coal, he said. The shift from combustion engines to electric cars would also lead to the loss of 14,000 jobs at VW by 2020, Diess said, and require an overhaul of the carmaker’s in-house components business. VW’s in-house components division, which eats up the lion’s share of the €170 billion spent on procurement, develops and builds car parts at 56 sites across the globe, employing about 80,000 people. “From Jan. 1 onward, VW components will act as an economically independent entity”, Diess said. Each of the 56 plants would be free to evaluate partnerships and even to build components for other carmakers, Diess said. +++

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