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+++ ALFA ROMEO will to reveal a new compact SUV called the Tonale at the Geneva motor show. Italian media suggests the car will be electrified, likely using a hybrid system set to be introduced in the Jeep Renegade shortly. Tonale is the name of a mountain pass in northern Italy, which sits at an altitude of 1883 metres. The Stelvio pass (which lends its name to the firm’s larger SUV) sits another 900 feet higher. Speculation is rife that the use of this name, seen on the firm’s stand by journalists given early access to the show, confirms a smaller SUV will be revealed. Alfa’s parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), announced plans to build two new SUVs alongside a new GT4 coupé and 8C sports car, by 2022. Launching the small SUV first would be crucial given the segment’s popularity. Serving as a smaller sibling to the Stelvio, which has sold well alongside relatively weak sales of non-SUV models such as the Giulia and Giulietta, the new model is said to be the priority car to be launched by new group CEO Mike Manley. Manley is credited with putting the Jeep brand back into a position of strength by launching more attainable SUV models, such as the Renegade. Details of the new Alfa Romeo are scarce, but we can expect it to share styling cues and interior details with the Stelvio, while it’s unclear as yet if it will use that car’s platform or move to a more affordable front-wheel-drive layout. Rumours suggest it will make use of the Jeep Renegade’s platform, meaning front-wheel drive is likely. +++

+++ AUDI will expand its collaboration with sister brands Volkswagen and Porsche to help lift its returns within 18 to 24 months, its CEO said. The VW Group premium brand aims to trim costs, increases efficiencies and renews its focus on China. “We can get better synergies out of the group”, Audi CEO Bram Schot said. In the next 2 years Audi will offer 5 full-electric and 7 plug-in hybrid cars. The CEO also wants to restore the brand’s technological cachet by switching an existing model line to battery power. He declined to share details on which model line it would be because he wants to “surprise competitors”. Since taking over as CEO after the arrest of his predecessor, Rupert Stadler, Schot has widened an efficiency push at VW Group’s largest profit contributor. The brand accounted for 28 % of VW Group’s operating profit before special items in the first 9 months of 2018. To maintain that level of contribution, Schot aims to save €15 billion at Audi by 2022. This will happen while he simultaneously orchestrates a broader shake-up to keep Audi from falling further behind luxury rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW Group. Audi was the world’s second-largest global premium automaker until it was passed by Mercedes-Benz in 2015. Audi has remained in third place while Mercedes has also overtaken BMW to become the world’s top-selling premium automaker. Audi plans to ax about one-third of its engine variants, cull its bloated management ranks and avoid expensive night shifts at its main German plant in Ingolstadt. Schot sees potential for market share gains in China despite a broader slowdown that could drag continue because of tension between the world’s largest car market and the United States. Schot views higher U.S. tariffs as potential challenge, not a threat, and says “we’ll manage”. VW Group CEO Herbert Diess , who is also Audi supervisory board chairman, told last month that he is confident Audi’s new management team has the right strategy in place. He cautioned, however, about the challenges that loom in 2019. Audi will show the full-electric Q4 e-tron design concept in Geneva as it seeks to boosts its lineup of low-emissions models to help meet stricter clean air rules. Plug-in hybrids versions of the Q5, A6, A7 Sportback and A8 flagship sedan will also be on display. Schot said Audi is also considering a hybrid version of the Q8. +++ 

+++ A shock new FIAT Panda concept car is set to be unveiled at the Geneva motor show. The firm’s stand at Geneva has a covered model on labelled the Concept Centoventi. The Centoventi name refers to the firm’s 120th anniversary. The concept will give early clues as to how the firm plans to update the ageing but still popular icon of its range. Hinting at how it will evolve from today’s car, reports suggest the concept is both substantially bigger than the car it replaces and more focused on practicality over aesthetics, giving it a rugged, utilitarian look. Today’s Panda is 3705 mm long, 1662 mm wide and 1635 mm tall and has a wheelbase of 2300 mm. The current Panda remains a strong seller for Fiat, especially in Italy. Around 170,000 Pandas were sold in Europe last year and registrations this January were up year on year. The third-generation Panda was unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in 2011. However, it hit the headlines last December when safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded it a zero-star rating. The car expected to be shown in Geneva is said to be aimed more as a concept rather than being close to production, in order to give the firm time to determine reaction to its new look. If it gets the go-ahead for development for sale, the new Panda would likely sit on a new small car platform being developed by the firm, which it would share with the Fiat 500, 500L and 500X. There are no details regarding the next-generation Panda’s powertrain options, although Fiat is expected to unveil a major push towards hybridisation and, potentially, full electrification at the Geneva motor show this week. Parent firm FCA previously revealed plans for Fiat to focus on small electric and electrified city cars. +++ 

+++ FORD has reduced its UK Fiesta model line-up from 92 trim variants to 55, raising the price of the cheapest model. Although the Fiesta ranked as Britain’s best-selling car in 2018, reducing the number of options and trim packages available with the segment-leading supermini will allow Ford to cut construction costs and maximise efficiency in production. As announced at the beginning of the year, Ford plans to redesign its European business strategy in an effort to improve its competitive position and boost profit margins in Europe. Taking what company president Steven Armstrong called “decisive action”, Ford will discontinue its slowest-selling European models to make room for more popular replacements imported from overseas. As evidenced by the firm’s online configurator tool, Ford has stopped selling 3-door versions of the Fiesta. Titanium models can no longer be specced with the Bang & Olufsen trim package. A Ford spokesperson said: “Ford is working to reset its business to return to profitability as quickly as possible, including a portfolio of cars targeted closer to customer demand and preferences”. While the Fiesta is the only model to be affected in this way so far, Ford has already put in place cost-cutting measures in the UK. In February, the firm announced plans to cut up to 400 jobs at its engine plant in Bridgend, Wales, as part of a strategy to eliminate “surplus labour” across its workforce, and shortly after warned Prime Minister Theresa May that it may take production out of the UK entirely in the event of a no-deal Brexit. A Fiesta-based compact SUV will replace Ford’s Ecosport in 2020, which could help the company to strengthen its competitive position in the growing crossover segment. +++ 

+++ Former Nissan and Renault chairman and CEO Carlos GHOSN has been granted bail by a Japanese court, four months after being arrested for financial misconduct, with Japanese media reporting that could be released from prison today. Ghosn was arrested last year, and has been charged with a number of misconduct charges relating to his time in charge of Nissan. He has repeatedly denied all the charges. After having several previous bail requests denied, the 64-year-old recently appointed a new legal team. A fresh appeal has now been successful, with the Japanese court setting bail at €8 million. The terms of the bail have not been revealed. It had previously been denied because he was considered a flight risk, and is only granted if the court considers a suspect is unlikely to flee or destroy evidence. While the charges Ghosn has been arrested for relate solely to his time leading Nissan, he has also been removed from his chairman and CEO role at Alliance partner Renault. +++ 

+++ Euro NCAP, the organisation famous for crash testing, has launched a new programme to show consumers the difference between cars’ official and real-world efficiency. Dubbed GREEN NCAP , the new campaign aims to help buyers make more informed decisions by publishing the results of thorough ‘real-world’ economy and emissions tests, which are said to  “go well beyond legislative requirements”. It is hoped that the test will encourage manufacturers to make their emissions-reducing solutions work in the real world, and not just in lab-based economy tests. Like the Euro NCAP crash tests, the Green NCAP scheme will award cars a star rating depending on their performance, with the most eco-friendly models achieving a 5-star score. As part of that, Green NCAP looks at the ‘tank-to-wheel’ energy efficiency, as well as the substances emitted from the exhaust. At present, that means electric cars are effectively guaranteed a 5-star score, but Green NCAP plans to look into electric vehicles’ range and consider the whole-life energy costs in future. That could close the gap, as it would mean the energy used to build or scrap a vehicle would be considered alongside the energy efficiency while the car is in motion. So far, just a dozen cars have been tested, including the BMW X1, Ford Fiesta and Audi A7. As electric vehicles, the BMW i3 and Hyundai Ioniq scored top marks, while the Volkswagen Up GTI received a respectable 4-star rating thanks to its “good energy efficiency and pollutant control”. At the other end of the scale, though, there was a disappointing showing for the Volvo XC40 T5 and Audi A7 50 TDI , both of which only managed 1 star. But they still fared better than the Volkswagen Golf and Fiat Panda. Both cars slumped to 0 star ratings when tested in their 1.6-litre diesel and 0.9-litre petrol guises respectively. Pierre Castaing, the chairman of Euro NCAP, said the new tests would provide clarity for motorists. “For years, there has been a mismatch between the way cars perform in regulatory tests and how they perform on the road,” he said. “Consumers often don’t get the fuel economy officially claimed for their vehicles and end up paying for the difference in fuel. Now, legislation is tightening up, but consumer testing can complement it and go a step further: it can really encourage car manufacturers to beat their competitors by innovating in the field of energy efficiency and emission reduction. We’re confident that they will respond to the challenge, to the benefit of car-buyers and the environment”. +++ 

+++ The HONDA plant in Swindon was making preparations to build the next generation Civic when news of its closure broke, it has been revealed. The Wiltshire factory (which will be shut down in 2021 at the cost of 3,500 jobs) was bidding to be allocated production of the next Civic, which will feature a petrol-electric drivetrain. In order to make its bid more successful, the factory had begun installing new equipment to build the hybrid model, as well as making necessary changes to the plant’s layout. The reason for this was the equipment in question had a particularly long lead time, so needed to be ready in advance if the model was going to be allocated to Swindon. In a statement, Honda said: “Honda UK was in the feasibility stages of new model allocation and had begun preparation to bid for the next generation of Civic. The new Civic was to feature a petrol-electric hybrid within the model line-up. In order to prepare for future models, installation of some equipment and changes to the layout of the plant had to take place before the model allocation was confirmed. This was due to the long lead time for ordering and installation of this equipment”. However, these efforts eventually proved to be fruitless, as it was confirmed in February 2019 that the factory will indeed be closing. David Hodgetts, managing director of Honda UK, told that the inherent issue faced by the Swindon plant was that the only model it produced was the Civic, making it a “single-sourced factory”. Nevertheless, he admitted the closure was still “a big shock” for the workforce. Hodgetts reiterated the claim that the closure of the plant was “a global decision” and said that while he had not been aware that equipment had already been installed at Swindon to build the new Civic, he could “believe that was the case” due to the time constraints involved. Honda has confirmed it will permanently close its Swindon manufacturing plant by the end of the current Civic’s life cycle in the 2021. The plant currently produces around 150,000 cars per year and employs more than 3,500 workers, many of whom will be made redundant. The Swindon plant is currently Honda’s only factory in the European Union. It is also the only location globally that builds the Civic 5-door which, in 2018, was the third best-selling UK-built car in the world. According to Honda, its decision to close its UK manufacturing arm is a response to the current market push towards electrification, with the company undergoing a “global restructure” to cope with demand. Apparently, Swindon’s plant doesn’t meet the demands of this strategy. Katsushi Inoue, President of Honda Europe, said: “In light of the unprecedented changes that are affecting our industry, it is vital that we accelerate our electrification strategy and restructure our global operations accordingly. As a result, we have had to take this difficult decision to consult our workforce on how we might prepare our manufacturing network for the future. This has not been taken lightly and we deeply regret how unsettling today’s announcement will be for our people”. The news on Honda’s Swindon plant closure follows the company’s announcement from early February, confirming 500 temporary jobs would be axed from the same factory. Conservative MP for North Swindon, Justin Tomlinson, told that the Swindon plant’s closure was totally unrelated to Brexit, with Honda also apparently set to close its Turkish factory where it builds the Civic 4-door. “This decision has been made because of global trends and is not related to Brexit”, said Tomlinson. “The Turkey factory will also close as all European market production is being consolidated to Japan where the company is based. This consolidation is made easier by the new EU-Japan trade deal which will allow Honda to produce its cars in Japan and import them into the EU, rather than produce the cars in Europe. Honda have told us today that they will be consulting with all staff and there is not expected to be any job losses or change in production until 2021”. On 1 February 2019, a new trade deal between the EU and Japan came into force. The deal will bring an end to the 10 % tariff currently applied to Japanese cars imported into the EU, although this change is being introduced gradually over a period of seven years in order to allow European carmakers to prepare. Honda UK was founded in 1985 and production at the Swindon engine plant started in 1989. Over the years, Honda has invested a total of around €1.7 billion in the 370-acre site, with models such as the Accord, CR-V and Jazz all being produced there over the years. +++

+++ Fears over carbon-monoxide poisoning have prompted American lawmakers to introduce a bill that aims to regulate KEYLESS IGNITION technology. Proponents of the legislation claim people are dying after drivers accidentally leave a car running in their garage, allowing carbon monoxide to accumulate and potentially drift into homes. Known as the Protecting Americans from the Risks of Keyless Ignition Technology act, the bill would force the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to finalize a rule that mandates automatic engine shutoff provisions for vehicles equipped with keyless ignition systems. “NHTSA’s inexplicable failure to act has led to fatal consequences”, said Senator Richard Blumenthal. “This legislation will require NHTSA to do what it should have done nearly 8 years ago: protect American drivers and families from injury and death by finalizing some basic safety standards that compel automakers to address the risk of carbon monoxide and rollaways associated with keyless ignitions”. Carbon monoxide was blamed for nearly 400 deaths in 2015, according to the National Vital Statistics System, however the vast majority of such incidents are from other causes. Data on deaths tied specifically to keyless-ignition vehicles is murky, though The New York Times could only identify 28 deaths spanning a 10-year period. Automakers already have technology to remind drivers if they get out of a running vehicle, typically sounding an audible chirp or the horn. +++ 

+++ POLESTAR , the new electric performance brand separated from Volvo, has unveiled its second production car: the Polestar 2. The new model, described as the “first electric car to compete in the marketplace around the Tesla Model 3”, is a 5-door fastback taking design inspiration from the pricier Polestar 1 and Volvo models such as the S90. Polestar claims a “guide price” of €39,900 for the eventual base model, but, similar to the Model 3, the first 12 months of production will be dedicated to a fully loaded launch edition, priced at €59,900. On display at the Geneva motor show, the 2 sits on Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform, which is also used by cars including the Lynk&Co 01 and Volvo XC40. It has 2 electric motors, mounted across both axles for 4-wheeldrive, and a 27-module, 78kWh battery pack integrated into the floor. Polestar claims the pack contributes to chassis rigidity and helps reduce road noise by 3.7dB compared with a traditional chassis. The powertrain produces 408 hp and 660 Nm of torque, translating to a 0-100 km/h time of “less than 5 seconds”. It’s not clear yet if cheaper variants will receive a detuned version. The range “target” is quoted at 500 kilometres on the new, tougher WLTP cycle; a figure highly competitive alongside the Model 3. The interior also takes inspiration from current Volvo models, but it features bespoke technology, including a new Android-powered infotainment system. One of the first cars on sale with this operating system, Polestar claims Android “provides a solid and adaptable digital environment for apps and vehicle functions to coexist”. It brings with it a suite of Google services, including the Google Assistant, Google Maps with EV-specific features and the Google Play Store, all controlled via a new 11.0 inch touchscreen. Further tech, such as numerous connected services and the facility to use your smartphone as a car key, also feature. Like Volvo’s models, safety features such as Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving, LED matrix adaptive high-beam lights and automatic emergency braking also feature. The 2 also follows the latest trend by having as standard a vegan interior, which head of design Maximilian Missoni claims features “progressive textiles that will appeal to the forward-thinking audience who will subscribe to Polestar 2”. Like all Polestar models, the 2 will only be available for online ordering. Pre-orders are open now on the marque’s website. Production of the 2 will begin in China in early 2020. +++ 

+++ The new 5th generation Clio is RENAULT ’s most advanced supermini to date, with an evolutionary exterior design but dramatically overhauled interior fitted with new technology. The Clio, which was announced last month and makes its debut at the Geneva motor show, is smaller outside yet bigger inside, with a lighter body built on the CMF-B platform; Renault’s first car to do so. At 4048 mm long, it is 14 mm shorter than before, with a 6 mm shorter wheelbase and a roof that’s up to 30 mm lower. The body-in-white is 22 kg lighter, with higher strength steel for improved passive safety, and an all-new electrical architecture for additional assistance systems. The Clio will make its debut this autumn with a 1.0-litre, 75 hp naturally aspirated petrol engine, as well as the 1.0-litre turbo already seen on the new Nissan Micra with which it shares a platform. The turbo will be available in 100 hp form with either a manual or CVT automatic gearbox. Apart from that, there will be a 1.3-litre turbo with 130 hp solely with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. A 1.5-litre diesel will follow with 85 hp and 115 hp. In 2020, though, it will become the first Renault to use a hybrid powertrain. The system, known as E-tech, will use an 90 hp petrol engine mated to a 40 hp electric motor and 1.2 kWh battery. The brand claims it will drive “like an EV” and be 70 % electrically powered in town, with 3 driving modes and regenerative braking. The same drivetrain but with a 9.8 kWh battery will make the Captur the first B-segment plug-in hybrid, with an electric-only range of almost 50 kilometres. It will also be the first car from the brand to be offered in a new Renaultsport-inspired R.S. Line trim package. These Clios will gain a wider, more aggressive front grille, and a faux diffuser for the rear bumper. It also gets a larger exhaust and bespoke alloy wheels, while much of the chrome-effect exterior trim panels are replaced with Renaultsport-specific gunmetal grey versions. R.S. Line cars also receive black and red interior trim accents throughout the cabin, including on the rear seats. As to whether a full-bore Clio RS was on the way, Renault’s spokesperson would only confirm that the turbocharged 1.8-litre engine seen in the Megané RS would ‘physically fit’ inside the new CMF-B platform, although the presence of Renault Sport program director Mickael Grosjean at the pre-launch preview gives a good indication of Renault’s future plans. Renault says the new Clio has been developed along 3 lines: evolutionary exterior design, revolutionary interior design and innovative technology. Across its 4 previous generations, the Clio has become Renault’s best-selling model. Unusually, the Clio 4 increased its sales every year from 2012 to 2018 to become the second-best selling car in Europe, largely thanks, Renault thinks, to its design. “The top reason buyers give for choosing Clio is always design”, said Vincent Dubroca, the Clio’s product manager. “Way more than in other market segments, but also against its direct competitors”. Senior vice president of design Laurens van den Acker, whose first Renault was the 4th-generation Clio, said: “When I arrived at Renault, the Clio was looking for its soul. This time, we have so much to build on it would be a shame to throw it away”. From a design perspective, then, the 5th-generation Clio seems to pick up from where the old car left off, even though it’s actually entirely new. The interior is where the bigger changes take place. Van den Acker accepts Renault “dramatically needed to improve perceived quality” and reckons 70 % of the time he spent with the new Clio was on its interior. Of the Clio 4, he said: “The hard plastic was in your face. Now what’s soft is close and what’s hard is far away. We’ve benchmarked against our competitors, but we’re reaching towards premium-segment cars”. The dashboard is now finished in soft-touch material and is more driver-oriented, with the raised centre console bringing the gearstick closer to the driver. A new airbag allowed for a smaller steering wheel, which in turn makes the instrument cluster easier to read. Thinner seats have increased rear legroom by 26 mm, while the glovebox is bigger and the 330-391 litre boot is claimed to be the best in its class. If the headline objective for Renault’s resurrection of Alpine was to save every gram, for Clio that objective was to save every millimetre. “The interior is where the emphasis is”, said van den Acker, “but the difference between today and tomorrow is cars become smart”. To this end, the Clio will be available with a raft of infotainment and driver assist features but, said van den Acker, they will be easier to use, with items like the temperature controls returning to dashboard buttons. “The Clio 4 instrument cluster was rich on decoration but not information”, he said. “Designers like the idea of getting rid of buttons because Apple takes buttons away. But in a smartphone, you’re concentrating, and in a car, you’re doing 120 km/h”. The instrument cluster is now fully digital, with a customisable 7 inch screen in place of traditional dials. A 10 inch digital cluster will also be available as an option). The centre console has been redesigned with a 9.3 inch touchscreen that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It uses all-new software, dubbed Easy Link, that will eventually make its way into every new Renault model. Instead of traditional menus, features like multimedia, navigation and drive modes are presented as widgets on a series of home screens, that can be reorganised like a smartphone. The portrait orientation makes text entry easier, and requires fewer steps than the previous generation car to enter a navigation destination. While other manufacturers often save technology debuts for premium models, the Clio was first in the queue for Renault because the car is “emblematic” for the brand, according to connected car product marketing manager Pierre Loretta. “We do a lot of volume, and I think we’ve done something really beautiful with the new car’s interior, so the system perfectly suits the new design. It’s a system that will be deployed in the future across all Renault cars, but we didn’t want our customers to wait too long for a new Clio. They can enjoy the freshest technology we can offer from the very beginning”. A range of passive and active safety systems will be standard on all Clios, including lane keep assist, autonomous emergency braking and blind spot monitoring. Traffic sign recognition, 360-degree parking cameras and distance warnings also make it one of the most advanced cars in its class. Stop-and-go cruise control will be an option for DCT-equipped cars, and the whole range now includes LED headlights as standard. “There are features that must be added to get the best safety, but the feedback these systems give isn’t something that NCAP dictates”, Clio product manager Vincent Dubroca said. “We want our customers to be as well-informed as possible to the car’s surroundings. All Clios have radar, but the fact we display the distance to the car in front on the instrument cluster is something we choose to do. We are able to also add things like stop-start cruise control. Drivers might not know they need it, but it’s beneficial for them. Our duty to make driving safer; we know people will do things like check their phones, but this could keep them safe if they decide to break the rules”. Not all Clio customers are tech lovers, so there needed to be a balance between adding new features and making them easy enough to use. “The trend among automakers is to add more and more features, but sometimes it gets too complicated, so we wanted to have something very simple”, Dubroca explained. “We use icons for the safety systems, for example, so you can understand easily what will be the impact of selecting early, standard or late lane detection”. +++ 

+++ The last TAURUS has rolled off the assembly line at the Blue Oval’s Chicago facility, marking the end of a 34-year run. The Ford Taurus is officially dead in North America, after more than 3 decades on sale and over 8 million examples produced. It marks the start of a new era for the Blue Oval, which is now shifting its focus to crossovers and utilities in the US – spelling the end of all its passenger models bar the Mustang. First shown at the Los Angeles motor show in 1985, the Taurus “represented the latest in Ford engineering and design”. By 1992, the Taurus was America’s top-selling car. The Taurus soon became a long-running entrant in the Nascar series from 1998, winning “many championships” for various race teams and also for Ford itself. It’s not the first time the Taurus has been retired, either. In 2006 production ended for 2 years, before an all-new model was introduced in 2008. Despite production of the big sedan having ended this month, Ford is investing $1 billion into its Chicago Assembly and Chicago Stamping plants, also adding 500 new jobs in the process, to produce the new-generation Explorer and Police Interceptor Utility. The new Lincoln Aviator (which is based on the same platform as the Explorer) will also be built at the Chicago facility. “Ford aims to replace 75 % of its US lineup, including Escape / Kuga, Explorer and F-150, by the end of 2020, building on its strengths in trucks, utilities, commercial and performance vehicles and investing in new propulsion and technology”, the company said in its press release. “Like the original Taurus met changing consumer preferences, Ford is also expanding its lineup with new and returning nameplates tailored to today’s consumers, including the all-new Ranger, all-new Bronco, a yet-to-be-named rugged off-road small SUV, a Mustang-inspired fully-electric performance utility and more still to come”. While production has ended in North America, the Taurus nameplate will continue to live on in China, at least for the time being, where a region-specific version is produced by the company’s Changan Ford joint venture in Hangzhou. +++ 

+++ Following TESLA ’s announcement that the $35,000 Model 3 is now available to order, the company has rolled out significant price cuts for the Model S and X. Now sold in dual-motor configuration only, the base Model S now starts at $79,000 with 430 kilometres of range and a 4.4-second 0-to-100 km/h time. The 535 kilometre Long Range and Performance trims have dropped by $13,000 to $83,000 and $99,000, respectively, while the flagship Ludicrous Mode has shed $18,000 for a new price tag of $132,000. Similar discounts have been applied to the Model X, which starts at $88,000 with 295 miles of range and tops out at $119,000 for the Performance package with Ludicrous Mode acceleration. Tesla claims the price cuts are tied to its decision to shutter its retail stores in favor of online-only ordering, significantly reducing overhead costs. Buyers now have a full week and 1,500 kilometres to return the vehicle for a full refund. +++ 

+++ German start-up e.Go Mobile has become the first company to secure the rights to use the VOLKSWAGEN Group’s MEB platform as the basis for its own electric vehicles. Volkswagen is gearing up to launch the first vehicle based on the MEB electric architecture, the ID.3 , later this year, and has been open about its desire to provide the platform to other firms to build vehicles on. Based in Aachen, Germany, e.Go was founded in 2015, and is currently developing a small four-seat EV city car called the Life, which has been designed to make extensive use of off-the-shelf parts from outside suppliers, including Bosch for its electric motor, to reduce development costs. The starting price is €15,900 including taxes but other versions are offered with greater range, including a 60 kW version for €19,900. The company is aiming to develop a new longer version of the e.Go Life called the Life L that would use an entry-level version of the MEB architecture as it’s base and the company’s distinctive aluminium spaceframe body and plastic panels on top of the VW running gear, company boss Gunther Schuh told. Schuh said: “We can contribute e.Go’s agile product development and our strength in building small series vehicles”, adding: “the MEB platform will make us faster, more robust and cost-efficient”. To that end, the company will incorporate several MEB components into its small 3.35 metre long Life city car but that car is too small to be wholly based on the MEB architecture. The larger L model will also still be smaller than the VW ID hatchback, meaning there will be no overlap between e.Go and VW models in size. As well as developing his own MEB car and using its components on another, e.Go is also understood to be in the running to build a production version of the Volkswagen ID Buggy concept that would see e.Go engineer and build the car for VW using its expertise as a low volume car making specialist. That is 1 of 3 models that VW is assessing for low volume production for which it could use e.Go’s expertise. Schuh, who used to do consultancy work for VW earlier in his career, added: “It’s not that complicated to build an electric car but it is difficult to build an affordable electric car. But an electric car must be emotion, not just rational. It’s not rational to have a buggy but you want one and can’t live without one when you’ve had one”. Before starting e.Go Schuh developed an electric delivery vehicle, named the Street Scooter, for the German post office. He subsequently sold that machine’s design to Deutsche Post, and is offered as an urban delivery vehicle. The company has previously made an electric kart, and is also working on an electric shuttle. Schuh revealed that VW Group personally approached him a year ago to see if he would be interested in combining his technology with VW’s own, and after deciding it was possible, spent 6 months working with the giant to pass its competency tests. +++

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