+++ If BMW releases a new and exciting model, you can bet your bottom dollar that ALPINA will look to create its own version of it and bring it to the market. According to Alpina chief executive Andreas Bovensiepen, this was almost the case with the i8. According to Bovensiepen, Alpina got its hands on a stock i8 and set about modifying the stock rear subframe to allow room for a 4-cylinder as opposed to the turbocharged 3-cylinder the car is sold with. Alpina was able to get the job done and created an i8 with approximately 460 hp, roughly 100 hp more than standard. Alpina started testing the car on public roads with the prototype adorned with Alpina wheels, a new front spoiler and a fixed rear wing. Unfortunately, BMW didn’t allow Alpina to pursue the project and killed it due to issues with brand identity. It’s also reported that BMW thought the Alpina i8’s “prominently exposed exhaust was a problem”. Bovensiepen went on to indicate that the purpose of the Alpina brand is to fill niches within the BMW family and that a 460 hp i8 would have directly competed against vehicles from the M brand. Alpina’s most recent model is the B7 xDrive based around the 7-Series. It features a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine with 608 hp and 800 Nm. +++

+++ The new mid-engine ASTON MARTIN Vanquish looks likely to be sold with a manual transmission. Chief executive Andy Palmer was asked whether the new Vanquish would get a stick-shift. While he didn’t specifically say ‘yes’, it seems as though he wants to see the option of a manual. “I’ve already made a commitment that I want to be the last manufacturer in the world to offer manual sports cars and I want to honour that commitment”, Palmer said. High-performance cars have been moving away from manual transmissions in recent years in the pursuit of quicker acceleration and faster lap times. The previous-generation Aston Martin Vanquish was sold exclusively with a 6-speed automatic in its early years, though from 2014 onwards an 8-speed auto became the default transmission. While it may seem a little odd to introduce a stick shift on a car like the Vanquish, Aston Martin has made no secret of the fact that the new Vanquish will be much faster and more driver-focused than previous iterations. Offering the vehicle with a stick-shift would also make it stand out against rivals such as the McLaren 720S and Ferrari F8 Tributo that are dual-clutch only. That’s about as high as manuals will go, though: when Palmer was quizzed about whether the Valhalla hypercar could also be sold with a manual, he responded that “no, now that car will only come with a paddleshift transmission”. The new Vanquish will utilize an aluminum platform and a twin-turbocharged V6 with a small electric motor, and while the company hasn’t said how much grunt it will have, something in the vicinity of 800 hp or so seems quite reasonable. +++

+++ BMW has hinted that the recently unveiled Vision M Next concept might reach the production line in approximately 3 years. According to director of development Klaus Fröhlich, there will be no direct successors for the i3 and i8, opening up the potential for a vehicle like the Vision M to top the company’s range of electrified performance vehicles. “M is fast and furious and fun and that always works, but there is no direct successor for the i3 and no direct successor for the i8”, he said. Fröhlich said that it has to perform like a proper M car and that the company has already established a business case for it. Underpinning the concept is largely the same carbon fiber and aluminum structure of the outgoing i8. Whereas the latter features a turbocharged 3-cylinder engine and a single electric motor, though, the Vision M Next features an 4 and a pair of electric motors. This results in a total of 600 hp and allows the hybrid sports car to hit 100 km/h in approximately 3.0 seconds and max out at 300 km/h. BMW had reportedly been considering making its next performance vehicle all-electric but decided against it due to the weight of the large battery pack that would necessitate. “Any M car has to perform like an M car. If you do a pure electric sports car you need such a big battery that it would be a 2.1 or 2.2-tonne sports car to get to 600 hp. And these 2.1-2.2 tonne cars don’t behave well on the Nürburgring. Being fast is not only about longitudinal acceleration. That part is easy”, Fröhlich said. +++ 

+++ Sir James DYSON alleged that he wanted to build his forthcoming electric vehicle at Honda’s UK production site in Swindon, but the Japanese car manufacturer refused the proposal. Dyson sent a letter to a local MP in Wiltshire, which said he wanted to make the most of unused parts in Honda’s local factory. “The most annoying thing is that 12 months ago we went to see Honda at Swindon”, he wrote. “We knew that they were only using one of their assembly buildings and we asked if we could rent the unused one. They refused”. However, Honda appears to see things differently and, in a statement, stated, “We are aware of a letter between Dyson and James Gray MP, the contents of which are factually incorrect”. In the 12 months since talks between Honda and Dyson fell through, the Japanese carmaker has announced that it will close its Swindon factory in 2021 at the expense of 3.500 local jobs. Additionally, Dyson has already committed to building its electric vehicles in Singapore and recently moved its global headquarters to the island city-state. Dyson does still have a significant footprint in the UK thanks to its engineering institute in Hullavington, Wiltshire. The company best known for making vacuum cleaners rocked the automotive world in September 2017 when announcing its intention to launch a family of electric vehicles and, in May this year, patent sketches were released of an electric SUV being developed by the company. Dyson hopes its plant in Singapore will become operational in 2020 and intends to launch its first model in 2021. +++ 

+++ FORDis developing a family of electric vehicles aimed at European markets. The automaker is working on the vehicles at its European development center in Cologne, Germany, Ford of Europe president Stuart Rowley told. No timing for any launch was given, but a source close to the automaker said the vehicles would arrive “in the next couple of years”. Rowley would not comment on size or body styles. Next year Ford will begin European sales of an upscale electric SUV said to be inspired by the Mustang sports car and potentially called Mach E. The vehicle will imported from the U.S. The new EVs will be built in an unidentified plant in Europe. Ford would not comment on whether the new family of EVs would use VW’s MEB electric platform as part of a collaboration between the 2 companies, whose relationship includes working together on commercial vehicles. VW has said it’s keen to widen the customer base for MEB outside its own brands as it seeks to spread the high cost of electrification by improving the economies of scale. In January, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said EVs could be a fruitful area of collaboration between the 2 companies. “Both the EV and AV [autonomous vehicles]   are big costs for investment”, Hackett told investors during a conference call. “Both are really important to both companies’ future. That is part of the incentive to find ways to cooperate”. At first, Ford was slow to offer electrification in Europe, after slow sales of an all-electric version of the previous Focus. But the company recently announced plans to offer 3 plug-in hybrids in Europe. PHEV versions of the new Kuga, Explorer and Transit Custom van are expected to be on the market by early next year, while a full-electric version of the Transit will be launched in 2021, Ford has said. Automakers are being forced to ramp up electrification plans in response to tough new European legislation beginning in 2020 that sets average carbon dioxide targets of 95 g/km, down from an average of 120.5 g/km last year. However, automakers fear that the push from legislation won’t be matched by customer demand for EVs, which are more expensive than vehicles with an internal-combustion engine. “Electrification is going to grow over the years, but it’s not going to grow to the extent all the experts are telling you”, Ford’s former CEO, Mark Fields, told a mobility conference in Israel. Fields said that would be a problem for automakers already struggling to create sustainable profits. “They are going to have to first restructure the margins of the business”, he said. “And on top of it, you’re going to have to incentivize demand. If you throw in, during that time period, a recession that’s going to happen at some point, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on the OEMs”. Ford of Europe plans to cut 12,000 jobs, or around 20 % of its workforce on the continent, by 2020 as it seeks to improve margins and cut losses. It will close or sell six plants by the end of next year, including the Bridgend engine plant in south Wales, a transmission plant in France, a transmission joint venture with Magna International in Slovakia and 2 assembly sites and an engine plant in Russia. Ford also announced last week that it would introduce 2 more SUV nameplates in Europe within the next 5 years. The vehicles are expected to be built in Europe, rather than imported, the source close to the automaker said. +++ 

+++ It didn’t take long for BMW to put the new 8 Series GRAN COUPE into production following the model’s official reveal in mid-June. BMW’s Dingolfing factory has begun building the largest 8 Series model ever, the 4-door Gran Coupe. However, that’s not the only 8 Series model that goes into production. The Gran Coupe version is joined by the new M8 Competition Coupe and the M8 Competition Convertible. This brings the total number of 8 Series models built at the Bavarian plant to 5, including the regular 8 Series Coupe and 8 Series Convertible. There’s also a 6th model on the horizon, the M8 Gran Coupe which will have its world premiere later this year, most likely at the Frankfurt Motor Show. BMW describes the 8 Series Gran Coupe as a “genuine sports car that combines spaciousness in the rear with all the benefits of a luxury sedan”. That’s made possible by the increased dimensions compared to the 2-door coupe: 231 mm of added length and 61 mm of added height. The 4-door 8 Series model also sets a new production record: its 28 mm wider rear axle is the widest rear axle of all BMW models currently in production. The larger footprint makes the 8 Series Gran Coupe around 70 kg heavier than the 2-door model; a “moderate” gain according to BMW. This is made possible by the intelligent mix of materials: the doors and flaps are made of aluminum and the boot lid formed from SMC plastic. BMW expects the Gran Coupe to become the most successful member of the 8 Series family, making up over half of the total volumes. This would make it the most produced 8 Series model. A third of sales is expected to come from the United States, followed by the Middle East and the UK. At market launch this fall, the 8 Series Gran Coupe will be available with 3 engine variants: a 530 hp 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 gasoline unit in the range-topping M850i, a 340 hp 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-6 gasoline unit and a 320 hp 3.0-liter straight-6 turbo diesel. Later on, the M8 Gran Coupe will offer up to 625 hp from a souped-up 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. +++ 

+++ Electric power for cars “has its limits” and cars will be HYDROGEN powered from 2030, an automotive-industry expert has said. Felix Gress, head of corporate communications and public affairs at automotive technology firm Continental, told an audience in Germany that electric cars represent poor value for money compared to petrol or diesel alternatives. “For the customers, it will be difficult to accept such a car in the market: you pay a higher price, you get less of a car, so it will be a tough sell”. And, while EVs may be grabbing the headlines and industry attention, Gress predicted that focus will be reversed within a decade or so. “The fuel cell is not ready to kick in yet”, Gress added. “By 2030, we’ll see that coming, especially in passenger cars that run long distances, or trucks”. Gress added that manufacturers need to focus on electric cars in order to lower their fleet emissions and meet upcoming regulations in various markets, many of which have plans to limit or ban the sale of new conventionally powered petrol and diesel cars. While these motivations may be driving the automotive industry, Gress warned drivers may not actually buy electric cars large numbers, partly due to what he perceives as their inherent limitations. “The battery technology, according to our estimations, has its limits”, he admitted, adding that “it doesn’t generate enough range” for some people’s needs. Circling back around to the topic of hydrogen vehicles, Gress said this was something Continental is considering. “Fuel cell is not out of reach, I would say. The question is when it would kick in. We are working on that area, too”. +++ 

+++ Vital statistics of LAND ROVER ’s all-new Defender family have been leaked online. The big news is that there will be 3 versions of the new Defender. The first 2 versions (the 90 and 110) will be launched for the 2020 model year. Like all future JLR models, the Defender family is based on the new aluminium MLB platform, which can be engineered as a conventional mild hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and a pure EV version. There’s no detail as to whether all Defenders will be mild hybrids as standard and just one plug-in hybrid will be offered in 2020 and 2021. The Defender 90 is described in the slides as the “halo image icon” of the Defender family and is aimed at “the young, affluent fun seekers”. The shortest Defender will be available in 5 and 6 seat options, which suggests that a 3 abreast front seat is possible. The 90 is also a surprisingly compact machine, measuring just 4.323 mm long. It is marginally the tallest of the 3 versions, at 1.927 mm. The wheelbase measures just 2.587 mm. All 3 Defenders are the same width at 1.999 mm, though there’s no detail on whether this is measured across the mirrors. Also on sale in 2020 will be the new Defender 110. Land Rover describes this as the “definitive” model in the family. It will be available in 5, 6 and 7 seat forms. It’s aimed at “couples, the self-employed and adventurers”. The 110 is 4.758 mm long and has a longer 3.022 mm wheelbase, and is a tad lower at 1.916 mm. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the Defender 130, which is destined for launch in 2022 and so unlikely to be seen testing until the very end of 2019. This is designated by JLR as a “Premium Explorer” for “families and active lifestyle and travel” and will come with eight seats. The 130 is a significant 5,1 meter long, although it has the same 3.022 mm wheelbase as the 110, suggesting a long rear overhang and substantial boot space. Under the bonnet of the 90 and 110 models, there will be a choice of 3 petrol and 3 diesel engines in 2020 and 2021 and all Defenders will come as standard with an autobox and all-wheel drive. The diesel units will be offered in D200, D240 (4 cylinder) and D300 300 hp (straight-6) forms, with 0-100 km/h times of around 10.0 seconds, 8.3 seconds and 7.4 seconds respectively. It’s understood the D300 will be the only diesel engine offered in North American markets and arrives for the 2021 model year. 3 petrol Defender engines (the P300, P400 and the P400e Plug-in Hybrid) will be on sale immediately. These are thought to all be straight-6 units and will be sold in the US, where many states adhere to the same strict ‘SULEV’ pollution regime as California. According to the leak, the plug-in P400 offers a torque boost from 400 Nm to 645 Nm and a 5.9 seconds 0-100 km/h time, understands. There will be 3 base models in the Defender line-up, the first-year production X, Standard and, for 2021, the X-Dynamic. The high-end X will offer a fixed spec and “limited options” for 2021, before being offered with a wider spec. The Defender X will be sold in powerful P300 and P400e petrol forms in 2020, with the D300 diesel being added to a lengthened options list in 2021. The Defender Standard will be available with the full range of engine options from launch, aside from the D300 which arrives in 2021. Customers will be able to select a further 3 specification levels: S, SE and HSE. According to the leaked presentation slides, the Standard specification Defenders will get 18 inch wheels, LED headlamps, 8-way adjustable fabric front seats, a 140W audio system with 6 speakers, a 7 inch instrument cluster and a 10 inch touchscreen. ‘S’ specification Defenders add front fog lamps, 12-way adjustable “semi-powered” seats in “Performance” fabric and a 12 inch digital instrument cluster. The SE gets 20 inch “Apollo” wheels, Premium LED headlights with high beam assist, powered rear-view mirrors and a passive entry system, 14-way adjustable electric front seats, a 370 Watt Meridian audio system with 10 speakers and automatic parking. Defender HSE models gets Matrix LED headlamps, 18-way adjustable Windsor leather electric memory seats with climate control and what JLR calls a “Drive Pack and Park Pack”. The launch ‘X’ model gets darkened 20 inch wheels and tail-lights, more highly-specced front seats and a “Co-Pilot” pack. On top of this, JLR will offer 4 option packs (Capability, Interior Upgrade, Exterior and Convenience) as well as stand-alone options. Accessories (badged as Explorer, Adventure, Urban and Country) will also be offered by dealers. Clearly, JLR is looking to take advantage of the likely enthusiasm around the new Defender by trying to attract high-spending private buyers. There’s no definitive news on pricing, though has heard from one source close to JLR that the ‘Standard’ spec Defender 90 with be priced from €65,000 in The Netherlands, suggesting the higher-spec versions will be distinctly premium-priced. Some sources are also suggesting that the Defender will succeed with affluent families where the Discovery has failed to catch buyer’s imaginations. The more authentic styling (inside and out), more advanced technology and new-generation platform could see Land Rover more convincingly challenging new-generation rivals such as the Volvo XC90 in this lucrative market. The distinctive post-modern exterior and interior (not a million miles away from the 2011 DC100 concept car) will also help the Defender distance itself from the lucrative Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models. +++ 

+++ LUCID MOTORS said it hired Peter Hochholdinger, a former Tesla production executive, as vice president of manufacturing, its latest high-profile hire from the electric-car maker. Newark, California-based Lucid Motors had in April named here Peter Rawlinson, former chief engineer of Tesla’s Model S, as its chief executive officer. Hochholdinger, who was vice president of production at Tesla’s Fremont factory, left last week after 3 years with the company. At Tesla, he was tasked with improving production for Tesla’s Model S and Model X as well as helping build a cost-effective manufacturing program for the Model 3. His departure is the latest among a string of senior executives to leave Tesla in the past 2 years, as the company struggles to deliver the Model 3 efficiently in international markets. The car is seen as crucial to the company’s long-term profitability. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said in May that the company was on course to deliver a record number of cars in the second quarter, beating the 90,700 it sent to customers in the final quarter of last year. Tesla is expected to report its quarterly delivery and production numbers this week. Lucid, which has more than $1 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, was founded in 2007 as Atieva by Sam Weng and Bernard Tse, a former vice president of Tesla. The company positions itself as being less of a direct competitor to Tesla than with luxury car makers such as Audi or BMW, Rawlinson had said. Rawlinson said Hochholdinger’s experience in manufacturing would help the company in launching Lucid Air and other future models. +++

+++ MERCEDES-AMG has chosen the Goodwood Festival of Speed to pull the cover off the all-new A 45 S and CLA 45 S. The 2 high-performance compact cars will be unveiled on Thursday, July 4. The 2.0-liter turbo-4 pushes out a massive 421 hp and 500 Nm. However, a lesser version of the same engine, with 387 hp and 480 Nm, will power the base version. Aside from their ability to challenge supercars to a straight-line duel, the A 45 S and CLA 45 S feature a tuned chassis, bigger brakes, different suspension setups; even a drift mode that has already been teased by AMG. The exciting feature was made possible by the new, configurable all-wheel drive system, which connects to the engine via an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. Visually, the 2 models sport specific body kits that include the addition of the Panamericana grille, with vertical slats that’s a staple of modern, high-end AMGs. Other compact vehicles from Mercedes’ redesigned family that will get the 45 treatment are the A-Class Sedan, GLA and GLB. +++ 

+++ I do love stats which tell a story, and some I’ve come across recently are rather relevant to what is happening in the current used car market. According to some figures from Indicata, petrol engines dominated the list of the fastest-selling used cars for April, accounting for 70 % of the top 10 compiled by Indicata. So yes, petrol is the fuel that the used car buyer truly understands, and they remain terrified of diesel. Forecourt sales staff will tell you of the reluctance they encounter when it comes to oil-burners. The models at the top end of the fast sellers list include the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Ford Ecosport and Opel Mokka. The used car market is therefore PETROL SUV shaped at the moment, in particular the dinkier, more compact ones. That inspired me to go super-cheap-car shopping for something similar, but rather more Banger. I may be odd but I’m always looking at Land Rover Freelanders, not least because I can’t help thinking that the new Defender should look like this, but probably won’t. But Land Rover’s marginal reliability is a worry for some, including me, and that might send me into the welcoming, alt-Defender style of a Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin GDi. It too is from 2003. 5 doors, spare wheel on the tailgate. Fantastic. Then there’s an old-school Kia Sportage 2.0, which actually does not look so cool now. Just old. The dealer is selling it with a year’s breakdown cover. Then again, there’s a Honda HR-V 1.6, which is way cooler than the latest one. This 2000 example had covered just over 160,000 kilometres and seemed quite tidy, although they can cause trouble if less than pristine. Quite an old vehicle now but I’d still take the risk. A bright spot in the stats is the BMW 3 Series, which is the only saloon in the top 10. Obviously that is the sort of transport I’d buy, and the bigger the engine the better. So there we have it: the fastest-selling used cars are petrols, usually with faux off-road bodies on top. We can save the day, though, by turning towards 6-cylinder Bavarian saloons. There is hope. +++ 

+++ By 2035 half of VOLKSWAGEN ’s sales in China will be new energy vehicles (NEVs), CEO Herbert Diess told a conference, according to a company statement. Volkswagen intends to offer 14 electrified models in China this year. By 2028, more than half of the Group’s planned 22 million electric cars will be produced in China, the statement added. Volkswagen previously said it aimed to sell 400,000 NEVs in China next year and to sell around 1.5 million new energy vehicles in China in 2025. Volkswagen has joint ventures in China with FAW Group, SAIC Motor and JAC. +++

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