+++ A new entry-level ALFA ROMEO is being evaluated to sit below the Giulietta and upcoming Tonale, the brand’s European boss Roberta Zerbi has revealed. The firm has axed the Mito and did not include a replacement for that model as part of its 5-year business plan revealed last June. But when asked about a new entry-level model at the Geneva motor show, Zerbi said: “We are looking below what we have and above what we have; that is all I will say”. Zerbi refused to elaborate further, but said: “If we want to hit our sales target of 400,000 cars a year we need an entry-level model. For sure I am not talking about another Mito, but what it is we will see”. That raises the possibility of the firm either developing a hatchback to sit below the Giulietta (which Zerbi confirmed would be replaced) a compact SUV to sit below the Tonale, and which is due to launch in production at the end of 2020, or a crossover which combines the merits of a high-riding hatchback. With SUVs and crossovers rising in popularity and able to command bigger margins in the premium market, that would be the most likely option for Alfa Romeo, especially given the ability to use architecture from other FCA Group firms including Jeep. At present, Alfa sells around 150,000 cars a year, although former boss Sergio Marchionne once set a target of 500,000 sales by 2014, which was then put back to 2020. The larger model referred to by Zerbi is believed to be a stretched version of the Stelvio, potentially accommodating up to 7 passengers in a bid to woo buyers, especially in the American and Chinese markets. The firm’s 5-year business plan included both a long wheelbase version of the Stelvio, and a separate E segment large SUV. +++ 

+++ The future of the AUDI TT is under review, according to CEO Bram Schot. Prospects for the well-known sports car have long been in question, hampered by ongoing issues over profitability in the relatively low-volume sports car segment. When asked whether the TT will continue, he said: “That’s a very good question. I think there’s a future for an Audi icon but I don’t know if it’s a TT. My heart bleeds when you ask that question!” He added: “I’ve got some things cooking which could replace TT, though not necessarily directly”. Sources have told that a future TT could take the shape of a 5-door liftback. Schot flagged the ongoing investment demands of electrification, mobility and technology as reasons for the re-evaluation. He explained that since taking over as CEO last year, he has reduced complexity in the Audi line-up by 27 % through simplifying variants and engine line-ups but said there is more to do. “Audi has to be really prominent in future, but electrification has to be financed. I cannot afford to be in every country, in every segment”, Schot said. The current, recently facelifted TT is expected to stay on sale until 2022. +++ 

+++ Battery-electric technology may not develop sufficiently to give larger BENTLEY cars the capability needed to appeal to customers, according to Werner Tietz, its head of engineering, adding the firm could look to hydrogen fuel cell technology. Tietz said that current battery technology made it difficult to envisage a wholesale switch by the brand to battery-powered cars in the near future. The company has begun electrifying its range, last year launching a plug-in hybrid version of the Bentayga. “We are looking at several concepts, but it is by no means certain that battery-electric is the right way to go”, said Tietz. “One point we see is that some cars in our line-up (the Bentayga, for instance) are used for towing horseboxes and boats. With the current EV technology, that wouldn’t work. So what we are looking for is a step in technology that doubles battery capability. We have looked at solid-state batteries for nearly 5 years now; they should be able to achieve these goals, but they are not yet ready. If solid-state achieves its goals, then it becomes interesting, but only then. That’s why we are also evaluating fuel cell technology constantly, even if it is probably 10 years away from reaching a point it can be practical, and also seeing what possibilities there are with the development of synthetic fuel”. Tietz highlighted the potential for synthetic fuels to be made using clean energy, such as wind power, as being especially appealing. “The evidence is that these fuels could be CO2-neutral, and that raises interesting possibilities”, he said. “Already we see the airline industry looking into this quite seriously (the electric plane doesn’t look like becoming a large-scale reality soon) and that could help us open up possibilities. We have open minds”. +++ 

+++ Stricter emissions laws in Europe will kill off CITY CARS such as the Volkswagen Up because there will be no business case for them, according to VW sales and marketing boss Jürgen Stackmann. The European Union is proposing to cut CO2 emissions by 37.5 % on cars from 2021 levels by 2030. By next year, car makers, including VW, must have average CO2 emissions of 95 g/km, which a non-CNG- (or non-electric-) powered Up already exceeds on the new, tougher WLTP emissions standards that all car makers are to be judged on. In effect, it means that VW will be selling its Up, which already has very slender profit margins, over the stricter emissions limits, and other cars in its range (namely electric cars) will have to be sold under the limit to compensate. Given that profit margins will be even slimmer on first-generation electric cars based on the new MEB platform, the business case for city cars is effectively removed. “If Europe is pursuing this legal target, there is no single business case for cars the size of the Up”, Stackmann told. “They are too small for the new technology and the engine can’t meet the CO2 targets. You’d need to sell an EV like an ID.3 just to be able to sell a city car. So the life of small cars with conventional engines is very hard. It’s a problem. I don’t think the politicians have picked this problem up yet. What do you buy in the future when you cannot afford a new car?” Stackmann said he still sees a “very strong life for the foreseeable future” for the Up, likely over the next 3 to 4 years, as well as a significant upgrade to the all-electric e-Up. To that end, the company will focus on the e-Up to try to make it more affordable, but it will still not be as cheap as the entry-level city cars of today. That means many will be forced out of being to able to afford a new car in the future due to the prohibitive cost of fitting electric technology to small cars, and the legislation killing off combustion engined-versions. The e-Up will remain as the car’s name because it will not adopt the ID badging of VW’s range of new electric cars based on the MEB platform. Stackmann said the e-Up will remain VW’s entry point to electric mobility and it has huge potential as an urban vehicle. +++

+++ The FERRARI F8 Tributo is set to be the last non-hybridised V8-powered Ferrari supercar. Sales and marketing boss Enrico Galliera told that while it was “unfair to say it will be the last, it is fair to say the next will be hybrid”. To that end, Ferrari has already confirmed plans to launch hybrid models as well as a new downsized V6 engine. Michael Leiters, Ferrari technical chief, said: “V6 is the next step to follow downsizing without losing emotion or speed of the car”. It’s likely the next mid-engined supercar will use a hybridised V6 powertrain, meaning the turbo V8 of the F8 will be given its swansong in the current car. Ferrari’s first hybrid model will be revealed within the next 3 months, Galliera confirmed, 1 of 5 Ferraris due this year and one of 15 planned before 2022. In 2022, the firm will launch its long awaited SUV model. Company boss Louis Camillieri said he was “not concerned on being too late” to marker with the car but “more concerned on being the best and I’m quite confident we will be”. He added: “It takes time to get the best thing. I’m confident it will be spectacular and within our DNA”. +++ 

+++ An electric FIAT 500 city car, the 500e, will be launched at the Geneva motor show in 2020, the firm has confirmed. The next-generation 500 will be a key part of Fiat’s transformation in Europe into a brand focusing on small electrified city cars. The new 500 will be joined by a 500 Giardiniera, although the firm didn’t say if that would also appear at next year’s Geneva show. Ahead of the 500e arriving, a mild hybrid variant of the 500 is due to launch later this year. The aim is to consolidate the brand’s dominance of the city car segment (the 500 and Panda hold a third of this market) while developing technologies that allow these models to satisfy emission regulations. This focus also means other, less successful Fiat models will be axed. These include the Punto (axed after a 13-year production run) and, while unconfirmed, the Tipo. The reinvention of the 500 was announced at an FCA Group financial conference in mid-2018. The company said that it wanted to “leverage the iconic status and technology of the 500” into a full line-up of small electrified models, which would include the 500 Giardiniera. The firm added that it would be “very well-placed to exploit battery-electric city car opportunities in jurisdictions where access for internal combustion vehicles will be increasingly restricted”. FCA reckons that it will be able to exploit the premium prices paid for the 500 to enable it to profitably offer both electric and mild hybrid versions. The 500 typically sells for prices 20% above the segment average. The new electric and mild hybrid 500 models will be based on a completely redesigned 500 that will debut within the next year and include the Giardiniera. It references to the tiny wagon of 1960 and will offer the best space efficiency in its class, says Fiat, and “unmistakable design”. It too will get electric and mild hybrid variants. The 500’s new platform architecture can also cope with a mild hybrid system. That unit consists of a belt driven, 12V starter-generator, although little detail has been provided on the electric drivetrain to be used in the 500. Lower-emissions petrol engines will also be offered in the 500 and Panda. Given the limited space for batteries and the 500’s urban appeal, range of the 500e is likely to be less than EVs such as the Nissan Leaf, which offers around 400 kilometres. The 500e will be a rival to a growing number of small EVs: Mini’s first series-production electric car is due in 2019, at the same time as the Honda Urban EV. The 500e will be 1 of 4 electric powertrains offered by FCA. It will sit use a ‘City Car’ powertrain, while a ‘Mainstream’ powertrain will be launched in the Jeep Grand Commander. A ‘Performance’ powertrain will feature in the 2020 Maserati Alfieri and a ‘Premium’ EV powertrain will power the 2022 Maserati Quattroporte. The push for electrification comes amid Fiat Chrysler’s abandonment of diesel; by 2022, there will be no diesel options in the FCA catalogue. These will be replaced by numerous hybrids, both full and plug-in, the first of which will be the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, landing in 2020. The production capacity released by the deletion of the Punto and other unspecified Fiat models (such as Tipo) will be used to build more Alfa Romeos and Maseratis, whose premium prices can withstand the electrification costs. Some Italian capacity will be used to build some plug-in hybrid models, including certain Jeeps for global sale. +++

+++ HONDA shocked a bruised and battered Britain last week. First by saying its Swindon factory will shut, then stating that the controversial closure isn’t Brexit-related. Instead, the company insists there are huge economies of scale and other obvious benefits in removing production lines from the UK and Turkey, prior to Japan, North America and China becoming its preferred global centres for car building. But there are other awkward, often-ignored reasons behind Honda’s devastating decision to shut up shop in Swindon. First, let’s be honest, Western Europe isn’t the best, most convenient or cheapest part of the world to bolt together basic cars for the global masses. Eastern Europe, Asia and parts of North America (particularly Mexico) usually make more sense. And, continuing the brutally honest theme, Honda is a shadow of its former gloriously quirky self. It’s lost its way, gone out of fashion, put off a lot of potential car buyers. For all this we can, in part, blame ugly styling (a new design chief is desperately needed) mated to daft prices. But also taking their toll are Honda’s serial failures in Formula 1, where too many of its engineers are spending too many billions of dollars trying (and repeatedly failing) to recapture the company’s F1 glory days of 3 decades ago. Just like GAP, Next and Timberland, Honda was big, strong and important in an eighties UK, but somehow looks and feels small, weak and inconsequential in the late 2010s. This company would’ve, could’ve, probably should’ve been allowed to become the legal parent of the wayward child once known as MG Rover. It had a healthy collaborative relationship with the troubled British firm which, much to Honda’s distress, somehow fell into the hands of BMW. Shame; Honda lost out as an adoptive parent. Equally important, the proudest of all Japanese firms lost face. True, it politely continued to make a few cars in Swindon, playing third fiddle to Sunderland’s Nissan and Toyota of Burnaston. But its UK love affair was over. In fact, the writing was on the wall at the end of last year when, in the Who’s Who in the Motor Industry bible, entries for Honda United Kingdom Manufacturing and Honda Motor Europe were conspicuously absent. Honda allowed me to drive or travel in its electric and autonomous cars in Japan 2 or 3 decades ago when it was a leader in the field. But even the likes of Nissan and Renault have beaten it in the showrooms at what was once its own EV game. Another slap in the face comes courtesy of Hyundai and Kia, who now design and build cars that are as good as, if not better than, Honda’s. In the mid-nineties, when the Japanese firm was on a roll and busily churning out Swindon-made cars, the South Koreans were almost irrelevant. Now, Hyundai outsells Honda nearly 2 to 1 in Britain, and Kia does the same. Swindon can only work with what it’s got: the cosmetically challenged Civic. It deserves better. McLaren, Aston Martin and others should look at utilising at least some of the site and workforce. Despite Dyson’s iffy decision to build its EVs in Singapore, it must do the same. +++ 

+++ MASERATI will launch its long-awaited Alfieri sports car at next year’s Geneva motor show, company boss Harald Wester has confirmed. The model was first previewed as a concept car back in 2014 and the big gap means radical changes: it will come with a choice of 3 different electrified powertrains as Maserati looks to position itself as both a high-tech performance car maker and the technology leader in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group. However, the production version of the 2-seater will not follow until 2021/22. The time will be taken in the meantime to launch updated versions of the Ghibli, Quattroporte and Levante, according to Wester. They, too, will then be replaced with new versions by the end of 2022 and those new versions will also each come with a fully electrified powertrain option alongside mild- and plug-in hybrids. “Any product we touch or make will have significant electrification”, said Wester. “The main launches for new products are in 2021/22 and by the end of 2022 we will have a completely new range. For each and every line-up, we will have a full battery electric version. Not only that but at least one”. The powertrain options on the Alfieri will include an electric version, which will use a tri-motor, 4-wheeldrive system with torque vectoring and 800V battery technology, and a plug-in hybrid. Wester believes that Maserati is one of a few brands that can make a commercial success of electrified drivetrains in the medium term. “For a long time, it will not be a business. We are all dreaming”, he said. “Maserati is one of the few brands who can sell cars at the cost and reality of the technology and still make money. You need hundreds and thousands of sales from major car makers to make the same money and also hit the 95 g/km CO2 emissions target. The only way to do this even is part of a big group with a mix of high and low products, but ultimately profitability will still go in one direction”. Wester didn’t sound hopeful about a long-term future for diesel in Maserati’s range as politicians look to legislate it out of existence and confuse customers about its future and viability. “It’s not personally about what I believe but what politicians believe”, said Wester. Maserati has sourced its petrol engines from Ferrari and, after Ferrari’s separation from FCA, Wester said the firm would “not necessarily” continue sourcing from there. But he added that you’d need to “do something exceptional” to match Ferrari’s engines. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN will launch an all-new, mid-engined grand tourer model later this year, with CEO Mike Flewitt confirming that it could be the first of several more practical McLarens to be launched. The surprise announcement was made during McLaren’s press conference at the Geneva motor show by Flewitt, who confirmed: “It will be a car that combines competition levels of performance with continent-crossing capability, wrapped in a beautiful lightweight body. It’s a car that has been designed for distance, and one that will also provide the comfort and space expected of a grand tourer, but with a level of agility never experienced before in this segment. In addition, it will be the lightest of grand tourers and, by also having the best power-to-weight ratio, I promise it will be one of the quickest. In addition, it will be the only grand tourer to share its DNA with the 400 km/h McLaren Speedtail”. The new GT will be the 4th car under McLaren’s Track25 business plan to reach production. The €1.35 billion Track25 plan was revealed last year, and set out a path to the firm launching 18 new models by 2025. This will include the first mainstream hybrid McLaren, but the GT is expected to be powered by a derivative of the firm’s current V8. While Flewitt spoke in Geneva, a video played showing the new car testing. It was in heavy camouflage, bearing the words #newrules and hashtagged numbers, thought to refer to how McLaren perceives the car to be rewriting the rulebooks for current GTs. “It is a 4th segment for us, and it has come about as a result of listening to customers”, said Flewitt. “It is a more refined, has more luggage space, better entry and egress and sits a bit higher from the ground than the 570 GT. It is also more powerful, and yet almost as light. Where that car was a varient of an existing model, this is a specific design”. Flewitt would only describe the GT as having “a sleek, beautiful and boldly elegant car, one keeping to the McLaren philosophy of every design detail being present for a reason. The interior will feel spacious, uncluttered and modern with only authentic, high-quality materials employed”. McLaren has long vowed that it would never make an SUV, saying that such a family-oriented car would not sit comfortably with its sports car-oriented focus. However, it did launch the 570GT (a more usable version of the 570S) in its line-up in 2016. The car is tuned to be less track-focused, is more refined and features a side-opening cover above the engine for luggage. It has been a significant sales success for the firm, earning it plaudits beyond its core audience, with the majority of buyers new to the brand. Suggesting that the new GT could be the first of several such models, Flewitt also confirmed that it would sit outside its established, 3-tier line-up of Sports Series, Super Series and Ultimate Series families, instead saying that the car will be “a unique, tailored model”. Given the 570GT currently sits in the firm’s Sports family, this suggests that it is planning to open up a 4th line to promote grand tourers more visibly within its line-up. Neither the name of the car nor its final design was revealed, although Flewitt confirmed they would be announced in the next few months ahead of the car going on sale this autumn. Although McLaren has trademarked the GTZ name recently, insiders suggest this is to futureproof potential names of products, rather being specific to either the GT or a potential collaboration with Zagato. +++ 

+++ MORGAN has sold a stake in its company to Italian venture capitalist firm Investindustrial. The “significant new capital investment” makes Investindustrial the single biggest shareholder in the Morgan Motor Company. The Morgan family will retain a share in the 110-year old company, while management and staff will also have a share in the now Italian-owned business. Investindustrial also owns a large stake in Aston Martin. It bought a 37.5 % stake in Aston in 2012, since reduced following the company’s stock market listing, and was a key player behind the appointment Andy Palmer to lead that company in 2014. Palmer devised the Second Century plan to see Aston Martin launch 7 all-new cars over 7 years, including new mid-engined models, SUVs and the rebirth of Lagonda as an electric-only brand. Aston Martin released its own statement on the news. “We would like to congratulate both Investindustrial and Morgan Motor Company on this agreement. It is encouraging that another independent British car company is flourishing and attracting high quality investors”. +++

+++ NISSAN has revealed it will be bringing a range-extending hybrid powertrain, which cannot be plugged into the mains, to Europe by 2022. Called e-Power, the system has been on sale for a while in Nissan’s home market, serving in the Note supermini and Serena people carrier. It’s been the volume-selling powertrain in both models, so the Japanese firm has decided to bring it to Europe. The IMq concept, which is taking pride of place on Nissan’s Geneva motor show stand, uses a high-performance 4-wheeldrive version of the e-Power system, mating a 340 hp dual electric motor system with a 1.5-litre range extending petrol engine of unknown output. The system uses the engine alongside a power generator, an inverter, a battery and an electric motor. The petrol engine is only used to charge the high-output battery, which Nissan claims produces greater economy and lower emissions than a conventional combustion engine. Nissan has yet to embrace the existing plug-in hybrid in the same way as a number of rivals, and the e-Power system exists to bridge the gap between conventional power and the brand’s popular Leaf. Given the IMq serves as a preview to the next-generation Qashqai e-Power is likely to be used in that car, albeit in a watered-down form. +++ 

+++ PEUGEOT will develop “as complete a line as possible” of electrified performance models, according to Peugeot Sport boss Bruno Famin. The French firm has unveiled the 400 hp 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered concept at the Geneva motor show. It features a high-performance plug-in hybrid powertrain that emits only 49 g/km of CO2. Famin said the concept previews a production version that’s due in late 2020 and it will be followed by a number of similar models. Although the second model to receive the electrified Peugeot Sport treatment has not been decided yet, Famin said possibilities include the 3008 or a performance version of the new electric e-208. Famin said the need to develop low- and zero-emission electrified models has given Peugeot “an opportunity”, with the electric driveline of the hybrid 3008 providing ready-made hardware that produces substantially more power than the 263 hp version of the 1.6 THP engine, which is the most potent petrol engine the company makes. The 508 concept uses a 200 hp version of this engine mated to an electric motor producing the same amount of power. The electric solution “allows us to develop what we couldn’t do before”, according to Famin. The strategy also allows the development of a performance car range. “Previously, we had one-shot models, like the 308 GTI”, said Famin. “We’ve never had a complete line-up before”. Peugeot Sport is developing the models because that is much quicker than using the PSA Group’s mainstream product development operation. “Because we are a small team, and we do one project after another, it’s much quicker”, said Famin. The hot 508 will go on sale just 2 years after the idea was hatched at the Paris motor show last autumn. One of Peugeot’s aims for these models is to develop a performance sub-brand that will enhance the Peugeot image, reduce its fleet emissions and generate profits. The need for profitability will mean that the models won’t feature bespoke bodywork elements. Famin said: “Using existing components and hardware means reasonable costs and short development times”. Laurent Blanchet, Peugeot’s head of product development, added that the company has yet to devise a brand name for these sporting Peugeots and is interested in suggestions. +++ 

+++ TESLA announced it will introduce the Model Y crossover during an event scheduled to take place on March 14 at the company’s Los Angeles design studio. Writing on his personal Twitter account, company co-founder and CEO Elon Musk explained the Model Y will be about 10 % bigger than the Model 3, so it will cost approximately 10 % more. That means pricing will start in the vicinity of $38,500, though entry-level variants might not be available until later in the production run. It’s reasonable to assume buyers will be able to reserve the model by sending Tesla a deposit. The Model Y will share about 75 % of its parts with the Model 3, including battery packs, but it will offer slightly less driving range because it will be heavier and not as aerodynamic. Musk promised to announce full specifications and pricing during the unveiling event, and he noted those attending will get the opportunity to ride in the car. Model Y production will take place at the Gigafactory on the outskirts of Reno, Nevada. Tesla is currently creating the tooling it will use to build the model. Using existing parts should help Tesla ramp up Model Y production smoothly and quickly; mass-producing the Model 3 was anything but. Musk and his team are betting big on the Model Y. They predict between 50 and 100 % more demand for the crossover than for the Model 3, which Tesla claimed was the best-selling premium car in 2018. Crossovers easily outsell sedans in the United States, so this estimate may not be wide of the mark. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , the new car market grew slightly in February, the first time sales had risen year on year following 5 straight months of decline. There were 81,969 new cars registered in the UK last month; a 1.4 % increase on 2018. While February is always a quiet month for sales, with buyers often waiting until the new plates in March, the rise will provide some cheer to the struggling car industry. So far, new car registrations in 2019 are down 0.6 % on last year. Notably, while diesels continued to decline in February (with a 14.3 % drop in year-on-year registrations) sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) were up 34 %; the 22nd consecutive month of growth. A total of 4521 AFVs (among them electric and plug-in hybrid models) were registered in February, including 731 full electric cars. However, in the 4 months since the government removed grants for plug-in hybrid models, sales have only increased by 1.7 %; compared with 29.5 % growth in the first 10 months of 2018. The Ford Fiesta was again the UK’s best-selling new car in February, with 3399 registrations. The Ford Focus was second, with 2537 registrations, just ahead of the Volkswagen Golf (2410) and Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2059). +++

+++ In the UNITED STATES , February is usually an unimpressive sales month just by virtue of its length, but this past one also saw more record-setting weather throughout the U.S., further depressing what is already the least-remarkable volume entry on the calendar. Just 2 months in, there aren’t too many conclusions we can reach about 2019 quite yet, but some OEMs have offered some insights we find worthy of repeating. Volkswagen’s SUV sales represented 50 % of its total volume, lending even more credibility to past calls for the company to offer a more compelling suite of larger cars. Honda is quite proud of Acura, and has every reason to be. The subsidiary has cracked off 2 straight months of noteworthy gains in a challenging market, and remains up more than 10 % so far this year. On the domestic front, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is really my only source of news, and perhaps the most noteworthy item aside from Ram’s continued surge is the fact that every current non- Fiat model sold by FCA outsold the entire Fiat brand with only 2 exceptions: the Alfa Romeo 4C (only 16 units sold) and the Jeep Gladiator (not yet even officially on-sale). Subaru continues to roll, much to nobody’s surprise, while Mazda and Volkswagen appear to be stalled out (especially the former). On the luxury front, BMW managed to pull out a win for the month, though the Bavarians lag Mercedes-Benz so far in year-to-date volume with Lexus consistently in third in both categories. +++ 

+++ The new 8th generation VOLKSWAGEN Golf, which will be unveiled later this year and has already been spied testing, will offer a ‘huge leap forward’ with its interior and digital technology. Volkswagen sales boss Jurgen Stackmann said the new Golf maintained the heritage of previous versions, but with the benefits of new technology. “The new Golf will be everything people loved for years, but now made digital”, said Stackmann. “People want a Golf, it’s iconic, but now there’s a huge leap forward in the digitisation inside it. It’s still a Golf, but now digital. It’s kept what people have loved, and moved it to the next phase”. Stackmann also confirmed there would be no e-Golf in the next generation to avoid overlap with the ID hatch, and the range would instead “end with the GTE” in terms of electrification, with all future electric VWs would be based on the firm’s dedicated electric platform. The GTI and R will be replaced, with the latter again the range-topper. That means there will no huge power boost for the hybrid GTE, and Stackmann said there would be an announcement on the GTD, without confirming whether or not it would return. +++

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