Newsflash II

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+++ ASTON MARTIN has officially confirmed that the Valhalla hypercar will play a starring automotive role in the upcoming James Bond film. Rumours began to circulate earlier this week, with newspapers reporting that an example of the mid-engined hybrid model had been delivered to the Bond studios. The British brand has now confirmed it will feature in the as-yet-unnamed 25th Bond film, due to be released in April 2020. It’s not the only Aston Martin to feature in the film, however. Also confirmed to appear in some capacity will be the DB5, returning after its explosive featuring in the 2012 Bond film, Skyfall. There will also be an Aston Martin V8, first seen in The Living Daylights back in 1987. Aston confirmed its hypercar, sitting underneath the faster and pricier Valkyrie, would take the Valhalla name earlier this week. Taking its name from the warriors’ paradise referred to in Norse mythology, it’s powered by a V6 hybrid powertrain expected to make 1.000 hp. It’ll enter production in late 2021. The first Aston Martin to appear in a Bond film was the DB5, which featured in Goldfinger in 1964. It boosted sales dramatically and started a relationship between the franchise and the brand that has spanned over 5 decades. +++ 

+++ AUDI is looking to broaden its range of compact models by developing a new jacked-up, off-road-inspired version of the next A3 hatchback. The model has been conceived to help offset falling sales of the Q3 and plug the gap between it and the Q2, which is significantly smaller in size. The project, known internally as Cityhopper according to a senior company source, will see Audi apply the Allroad treatment that features on the A4 and A6 Avant estates to its big-selling hatchback. However, Audi is unlikely to use the Allroad name because the model won’t use quattro 4-wheeldrive, chiefly to keep CO2 emissions down. Instead it will be a heavy cosmetic overhaul to appeal to those buyers wanting SUV looks without the associated running costs. The rugged A3 will adopt a rough-and-ready look, with chunky front and rear bumpers, a raised ride height and plastic wheelarch extensions. While the off-road makeover gives it a more robust look, it will remain a relatively compact car, at 4.3 metres long; that’s about 200 mm shorter than a Q3 but 110 mm longer than a Q2. The new vehicle should be a unique addition to the ranks of compact executive hatchbacks when it arrives, because neither BMW nor Mercedes has plans to develop such a model. The Ford Focus Active is similar, although it isn’t as premium. Under the skin, the A3 will be one of the first cars to move to the VW Group’s new MQB Evo platform, a development of the architecture that currently underpins everything from the Audi TT to the Volkswagen Passat and Skoda Kodiaq. The updated platform will allow the wider rollout of hybrid technology. It’s expected that every version of the A3, including the Cityhopper, will come as standard with a 48-volt mild-hybrid set-up to go with its petrol and diesel engines. These will comprise 1.5 and 2.0-litre four-cylinder TFSI turbocharged petrol motors with 130 hp to 252 hp. The diesels, 1.6 and 2.0 TDI four-cylinders, should range from 120 to 231 hp. The platform also brings practicality improvements, particularly for those sitting in the back. Boot capacity should also grow. We’ll get our first glimpse of the new A3 hatch at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. However, this off-road-inspired variant is unlikely to be available from launch. In fact it the model isn’t expected to arrive until around 2022, and it’s likely to be priced from around €40,000 in The Netherlands, placing it directly between the Q2 and Q3. +++ 

+++ The all-new BMW M3 and M4 are, reportedly, scheduled to launch in mid-2020 as 2021 models. The 2 models will be powered by the same 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged straight-6 engine announced with the new X3 M and X4 M. This means they will offer up the same 480 hp in standard guise, a full 49 hp more than their predecessors. The new models should also be available in Competition guise from launch with a hearty 510 hp, which is identical to what the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 delivers. One key difference between how the M3/M4 and X3 M/X4 M perform is set to be how they send their power to the pavement. The new high-performance SUV models come with an all-wheel drive system just like the current M5 but cannot be driven in rear-wheel drive mode like they the M5. According to some reports, the M3 and M4 will be sold in base form with rear-wheel drive but, should customers wish to send power to the ground in an easier-to-control manner, all-wheel drive will be offered as an option. The M3 and M4 should also differ from most other current BMW M models as they will arrive as standard with 6-speed manual transmissions and a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic as an optional extra. A key change is also set to be made for the new M4 Convertible: it will ditch the heavy retractable hardtop in favor of a simpler, and much lighter, power-operated soft top. +++ 

+++ Herbert DIESS breaks the rules. I’m about to spend 60 minutes of his valuable time talking in his office (the hour has been strictly agreed with his minders) and given the exactness of the interval, plus the implied challenges and strictures of his massive job as head of the Volkswagen Group, I’m expecting him to be a serious, driven, time-poor and somewhat humourless individual. His predecessor, Matthias Müller, nice guy though he was, was rather like that. So it’s quite a surprise to find that within a couple of minutes, Diess and I are chatting cheerily about the plus points of the classic Triumph TR6, a car he says he owned, loved and sold for too little money. He also had several Minis and Beetles and still has a small collection of “non-group cars I don’t talk about” that just happens to include a Land Rover Defender. Within seconds, I’ve gleaned that Diess is a proper car enthusiast. In a mind-flash I remember him from his 4 “very happy” years at Rover (1999 to 2003) where he was instrumental in launching the new Mini. We are going to be okay. We’ve been trying to organise this interview for a year, not least because Diess (who moved from BMW in 2015 to run VW just before its troubles became public) got applause for brilliantly progressing a marque hamstrung by Dieselgate so that it hardly lost sales or market position. His non-arrival at last year’s awards event and limited availability since is the result of his rapid promotion to VW’s biggest job. Diess works in a comfortable but unostentatious suite of offices atop a monolithic building in Wolfsburg, looking out on one of the world’s largest car-building operations. He is a slightly built man of 60 whose frame betrays no evidence of self-indulgence. I’d put him down as a golfer or tennis player, if he ever gets time. He smiles easily, speaks perfect colloquial English and has an Anglo-Saxon liking for conversational informality. I’ve heard a lot about Diess’s reputation for decisiveness, so I ask about a meeting early in his VW time for which he’s famous, just after the diesel thing broke. At this gathering, a plan for the bold, electric-specific MEB platform, which now looks ever more likely to win VW a large global advantage in electrification, was raised, discussed, formulated and agreed. “It was soon after I arrived, about a fortnight after diesel happened”, he says. “I called the team together for a 2-day workshop and together we created the MEB toolkit. “We were in a very specific situation. We were strong in China and China is huge in electric cars. It seemed possible for us to be the first major company to create a specific electric architecture and use it across all our marques. Most people were using existing platforms for their electric cars because that needed less investment. It was a chance to overtake others”. Despite the strength of this idea, Diess refuses to talk up its prospects because it has yet to deliver. “We hope it will work”, he says. “At present, we are still selling electrified models based on our MQB platform, but from next year, we may have an advantage”. Future winning designs will have what Diess calls “chocolate bar” chassis, known to others as ‘skateboards’, with flat floors, long wheelbases and plenty of unimpeded space for batteries between the axles. Ride heights will lift cars by 100 mm to 150 mm, he says, although engineers at Porsche and Audi are already at work cutting that down. Despite the reality of higher-riding cars, Diess believes classic tall SUVs won’t necessarily maintain popularity. Taming aerodynamic drag is becoming vital to preserve battery range. It’s one reason, Diess believes, why Tesla hasn’t sold nearly as many Model X SUVs as other models. What’s the shape of the future, I ask. Will electrified and conventional cars just fight it out? Will car makers try to force the market? There’ll be no forcing, Diess insists. Progress will be variable and depend heavily on government incentives. “Tesla couldn’t have made its way without the $7.500-a-car US government incentive”, says Diess, “or in Norway without their tax credits. But ultimately, the company that can make electric cars with positive margins will win. That’s where I think we have some chances”. Talking future sales, Diess estimates that by 2021, between 5 % and 6 % of new European cars will be electric. That should expand to 20 % by 2025 and between 30-40 % by 2030. It’s an enormous change. How does it feel, I ask, knowing you’ll soon be shutting engine plants forever? “It’s true that in the next 10 years, we’re going to need to close about half our engine and gearbox plants”, he says, “but we’ll ramp up battery production enormously to compensate. We believe we’re covered for battery cell production until 2023 or 2024, but we will still need more capacity. That’s the big challenge. We have just launched the Audi e-Tron and the constraint on delivery is the battery. We will see this for quite some time”. If engine plants are going, when will diesels disappear for good? “Not yet”, the chairman answers carefully. “They’re still the best answer for bigger cars that travel long distances at higher speeds. They’re also the most economical, cleanest and best for CO2. Remember, even in 2025, 80 % of new cars will have combustion engines”. Like all his recent predecessors, Diess began talking about reorganising the VW Group within weeks of taking the big job. Is this, I wonder, because Porsche and Audi appear to make all the money? Again, the careful answer. “It’s very difficult to look at Porsche or Audi on their own”, he explains. “There’s huge interdependence these days. Many Porsches are made in VW plants. Other Porsches use Audi platforms. Audi makes its 17-18 % margin with the help of the MQB platform, which is used in around 400,000 of its cars. And that platform supports about 8 million of our total output, so the synergies are enormous”. Is size important? During the pre-diesel days of the Martin Winterkorn era, the VW Group stunned everyone by rapidly bumping Toyota off top spot as the world’s biggest car maker, a position it still narrowly holds. Does the target matter? Predictably, the answer is complex. “I think in many places we are big enough”, the chairman replies. “Of course, there are markets where we must improve. We have about 19 % in China and 20 % in Europe, but we are limping along at 4 % in the US. That should improve. “Having said that, I do believe scale matters, and in the next decade, it will matter even more. In some ways, conventional economies are smaller in electric cars because material costs are so huge (about twice the cost of conventional cars) and the materials themselves are subject to market fluctuations. But a car is rapidly becoming a software product, a microprocessor, and in that game, size really matters. You have a one-time cost, a one-time expenditure spread over many products. But we think we are big enough to play that game, so we really don’t have to grow any more”. +++ 

+++ Renault CEO Thierry Bollore said there is currently nothing happening between the French automaker and FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA), 2 weeks after the collapse of merger talks aimed at creating the world’s third-largest automaker. “For sure, regrets in this type of situation are quite normal”, Bollore said in New Delhi, addressing reporters during the launch of the Triber car in India, where the company aims to double sales by 2022. “At the moment, there is nothing. The offer has been withdrawn”. The 56-year-old executive, who took the top job in January after the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, declined to discuss a recent rift with partner Nissan over board representation, but said reducing Renault’s 43 % stake in Nissan is “not at all” on the agenda. The 2-decade partnership between the companies has become increasingly fraught since the November arrest of Ghosn, who oversaw both companies and their alliance. The merger discussions with FCA ended abruptly after the French government, Renault’s most powerful shareholder, sought a delay to gain the explicit assent of Nissan. FCA blamed “political conditions in France” when it withdrew its proposal, and a signal from the French state that it would give up its sway over Renault would be necessary for a resumption of talks, people with knowledge of the situation have said. For Renault and the state, repairing the relationship with Nissan will take priority over a FCA deal, officials have said. France in particular views securing the Japanese automaker’s explicit backing as crucial for the success of an FCA – Renault combination. Despite the finger-pointing that followed the failed talks, Renault, FCA and France have left the door ajar for a possible deal as they brace for the costly changes sweeping the industry, such as developing electric and autonomous vehicles. “What will be the future, I don’t know”, Bollore said in reference to FCA. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) has given its strongest indication yet that the company will not be sold to PSA or any other motor manufacturing groups hoping to buy their way into the premium car and luxury SUV markets. Ralph Speth, JLR’s CEO, concedes that his British-based company is currently going through a financially tough period. But there are many good reasons for this; including the politically-driven collapse of diesel car sales that he has, in the past, relied so heavily on; multi-billion pound spending on cleaner future products; plus massive construction works and other investments in his UK and overseas plants. Speth also pointed out that the likes of PSA and FCA have suffered extremely worrying financial problems of their own in the recent past when, ironically, he says JLR could afford to buy them if it wanted to.  “Today it’s very simple. Jaguar Land Rover is not for sale”, Speth assured me over a lunch. “We are owned by Tata Motors. This is the way things will stay. Tata Motors, with Jaguar and Land Rover, is a leader, producing leading products that have won a total of 6 World Car Awards in the last 3 years”. Speth is looking forward to welcoming Tata’s godfather, Ratan Tata, plus other senior members of the clan to the British Midlands this summer. These hugely powerful industrialists are expected to view and give the production go-ahead for several Jaguar and Land Rover products (including a mini Land Rover) destined for the showrooms of Britain and the rest of the world in the mid to long-term future. Meanwhile, Jaguar design director Ian Callum, who’s due to retire from JLR on June 28 insists that at 64 he still has plenty of automotive and non-automotive design ideas and ambitions. Significantly, he did not shy away from my suggestion that he might go as far as forming his very own Callum Car Company which could build the first-ever Callum-badged car in strictly limited volumes. +++ 

+++ Thatcham Research has released the second set of results for its new security test, which has seen cars from a number of major manufacturers criticised for having KEYLESS ENTRY SYSTEMS that are vulnerable to external relay attacks. 7 new models were each given 2 results for the test: 1 with a ‘keyless penalty’ and 1 without. The BMW 7-series, the BMW X7 and the Porsche 911 all performed well, receiving the maximum rating of ‘Superior’ both with and without the penalty. This was because all three cars have motion sensors fitted in their keyless fobs, which effectively puts the key to sleep when it isn’t being used, meaning there’s no signal for any would-be thieves to hijack. It wasn’t such good news for other brands though. The Volvo S60 earned a ‘Superior’ rating, but this dropped to ‘Poor’ when the keyless penalty was added. It was a similar story for the DS 3 Crossback, Mazda 3 and Toyota RAV4, which were all classed as ‘Good’ without the penalty, but ‘Poor’ with it. Thatcham’s chief technical officer Richard Billyeald said: “Theft claims paid by insurers in the first quarter of this year were at their highest for any quarter since 2012, with a payment made to a car crime victim every 8 minutes”. He called on the automotive industry to “move to secure keyless entry and start systems, many of which offer criminals the chance to quickly and silently circumvent otherwise robust physical security”, adding that the “fixes” seen on some models should be applied to all cars. In a statement, Mazda said it was important to note that the 3 is fitted with a Thatcham Category 1 Alarm and immobiliser that complies with the latest published guidelines and that the test is “only a perceived score” of how well the car would perform if the 2021 criteria (which will see keyless security systems taken into account when deciding insurance groups) were in place today. It also pointed out that the Mazda 3’s keyless fob can be turned off by the driver when not in use and that Mazda is continuing to “work in close partnership with Thatcham, SMMT and the Police to ensure engineering solutions are put in place to combat new theft trends”. A Volvo spokesperson said: “This method of theft can affect any make or model of car which operates a keyless entry system, and is extremely rare. Volvo uses industry standard technology with its keyless systems and applies advanced encryptions to limit any remaining risks”. The Swedish brand pledged to “continue working to improve and enhance our vehicles in line with the latest technological developments”, adding that it is “introducing new technology to keys of new Volvos later this year to enhance the car safety system significantly and further reduce the risk for our customers”. Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders), said manufacturers were “continually investing and developing new security features, to try and stay one step ahead of criminals” in an “ongoing and extremely costly battle”. He added: “There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and brands will have their own individual strategies to combat vehicle theft with lead-times to engineer, test and source new countermeasures varying across the industry. Ultimately, however, technology can only do so much and this is why industry continues to call for action to prevent the open sale of devices used by criminals to steal cars”. Toyota issued a statement saying it is working closely with the SMMT, its peers and the Government to tackle vehicle theft. “Manufacturers are investing billions in increasingly sophisticated security features (ahead of any regulation) to try and stay one step ahead of the criminals”, it said, while declaring its support for the SMMT’s call to stop the open sale of equipment with no legal purpose which helps thieves steal cars. DS has been contacted for comment. +++ 

+++ Renault, which is looking to preserve and strengthen its alliance with NISSAN , said it would vote in favor of a move by Nissan to grant Renault’s representatives a seat on the committees of the Nissan board. “Groupe Renault welcomes Nissan’s decision to grant Renault’s representatives a seat on the committees of the Nissan board, which will be presented to the general shareholders’ meeting on June 25”, Renault said in a statement. “The agreement reached on Renault’s presence in Nissan’s new governance confirms the spirit of dialogue and mutual respect that exists within the Alliance”, added Renault, whose merger talks with Fiat-Chrysler broke down this month. The French state has a 15 % stake in Renault, while Renault itself owns 43.4 % of Nissan. French ministers have consistently highlighted the importance of ensuring the Renault-Nissan alliance remains strong, before planning any further consolidation with the likes of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The 20-year-old partnership between Renault and Nissan has been strained since former leader Carlos Ghosn was arrested for suspected financial misconduct last year. Ghosn denies wrongdoing. +++ 

+++ As the car industry rushes towards electrification, the different technical approaches from the car makers are as intriguing as they are exciting. As well as buyers getting their heads around the differences between mild-hybrid, full hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full EV (along with an array of even more confusing acronyms) manufacturers are taking different approaches to their electric cars. Some think the right thing to do is to have a bespoke EV architecture, while others are modifying existing platforms that also feature, or were initially made for, internal combustion engines. How can we tell what’s best? Analysing what’s good, and not so good, is harder than ever. Which makes this job so exciting right now! PSA , which introduces us to the smart new Peugeot 2008 this week, is taking a third approach with its CMP small car platform. As with the 208, it thinks we should have the choice of petrol, diesel or all-electric with all its new small models (the same applies to the Opel Corsa, DS 3 Crossback and upcoming small Citroens, too). The idea seems sound: you choose your car, trim and whichever power source suits you. My view is that, whenever you use one architecture for either an internal combustion engine or batteries and motors, there’s a degree of compromise. As is the case with the 2008; its range of less than 320 kilometres is below what I think some buyers might want. And because of the CMP platform it sits on, a bigger battery option with a longer range can’t be fitted; we’ll have to wait for battery tech to improve for these cars to be able to go further. Peugeot says its EVs will be priced according to range, hinting that the 2008 could be cheaper than longer-range rivals. The new car is good enough to appeal in many other ways, too, and I admire PSA for its efforts to normalise EVs. As the 2008’s designer Yann Beurel told me, “We want to make cars for everyone, not just geeks!” +++ 

+++ The next generation of Land Rover’s flagship RANGE ROVER isn’t due for another 2 years, but we’re already seeing prototypes of the new car on British roads. It will get a modified platform, with different suspension and exhaust components. Alongside this, we can expect stretched rear arches and a slightly longer wheelbase. It’s safe to assume that Jaguar Land Rover’s all-new Ingenium straight-6 will feature in the range, alongside a V8 rumoured to be adapted from BMW’s 4.4-litre unit as production of the outgoing ‘AJ’ 5.0-litre supercharged motor winds down at Ford’s Bridgend factory, closing next year. With competition from the Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan as well as upcoming, more mainstream models such as the BMW X8, Land Rover’s task with the fifth-generation Range Rover is to create a vehicle that surpasses all of these rivals. It will attempt do so using not only its unique heritage but also technological advancements in powertrains, autonomous driving systems and infotainment. Last year, the firm revealed that the upcoming Range Rover, alongside the next Range Rover Sport, will use an all-new aluminium-intensive architecture. To prepare for these models, its Solihull plant has gone through a major refit to accommodate the advanced technology that will be used in future Range Rovers. As a result, production of the Discovery has moved from Solihull to Jaguar Land Rover’s new plant in Nitra, Slovakia, also freeing up room for the potential production of the first electric Range Rovers. The new Range Rover platform will be significantly lighter than the current model’s D7u architecture, and the lightest of all Jaguar Land Rover platforms. Called Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA), the aluminium platform will be used on all future Jaguar Land Rover models ranging in size from the Jaguar XE to the Range Rover. By the middle of the next decade, next-generation versions of Jaguar Land Rover’s transverse-engined models are even expected to be switched to MLA too. MLA’s weight saving is crucial to allow for the extra heft of battery packs for electric and hybrid models, plus the technology and drivetrains that MLA has been designed to accommodate. It is understood the next Range Rover, codenamed L460, will closely match the size of the current car, which is 4.999 mm long, 1.983 mm wide and 1.920 mm tall, with a wheelbase of 2.922 mm. That is slightly smaller than the Bentayga except in terms of height, where the Bentley SUV sits lower. The exterior design will be evolutionary, given the Range Rover’s iconic look and the company’s keenness to capitalise on this. The current generation is softer and less angular than the third-generation model, and this pattern is set to continue. Luxury rivals such as Rolls-Royce and Lagonda, Aston Martin’s revived marque, are readying electric models for launch, perceiving a perfect synergy between peaceful electric powertrains and luxury motoring. However, even though MLA can accommodate a fully electric drivetrain, as well as petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid variants, it is understood that the next Range Rover will not initially be offered with one. Instead, Land Rover wants the first electric Range Rover to be a stand-alone model. This will be a tall estate with more car-like qualities than other models in the line-up, and more limited off-road prowess. Electric variants of other Range Rovers will subsequently be offered as part of normal model line-ups, including a version of the full-size Range Rover set for launch before 2022 and aimed chiefly at Asian megacities. While Land Rover readies an electric Range Rover, the new model will continue with plug-in hybrid technology recently introduced in an update to the existing Range Rover. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has added to its model range in India with the Triber, a small 7-seat crossover that is less than 4.000 mm long. The Triber is based on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance’s CMF-A platform, which underpins the Kwid, which was an instant success when it was first introduced in 2015, selling more than 100,000 units in its first full year on the market, but sales have declined since then to about half that rate. In addition to the Kwid and Triber, Renault sells the Duster and Captur. The Triber will be built at Renault’s factory in Chennai and go on sale in the second half of this year “at a competitive price” to comparable 5-seat models, the company said. The Triber is part of Renault’s Global Access Range of low-cost vehicles. It will also be sold elsewhere, Renault CEO Thierry Bollore said in a news release. “The Triber was conceived, developed and produced in India, for Indian customers first, before we take it to the world”, he said. The Triber is the second new Global Access car this year, following the Arkana 5-door coupe crossover, which will be sold in Russia, South Korea and China. The Triber’s exterior styling contains SUV cues such as roof bars, skid plates and black plastic wheel arches. Ground clearance is 182 mm, which Renault says gives it the ability to handle rough roads. Inside, the Triber has a digital instrument cluster and an 8 inch central touch screen with connectivity features. Renault is emphasizing the Triber’s modularity, with dozens of different seat combinations, including removal of the third row. 7 adults can fit “comfortably” in the car, Renault says. That seating configuration is important for India, said Harikrishnan Chandran, Renault’s product planning manager in India, who noted that more than half of car-owning households in India have at least 4 adults. The Triber will have a 72 hp version of Renault’s 3-cylinder gasoline engine used in European models such as the Clio and Dacia Sandero. It is 3.990 mm long, 1.739 mm wide and 1.643 tall. By comparison, Renault’s smallest crossover in Europe, the Captur, is 4.139 mm long, 1.778 mm wide and 1.556 mm tall. India is the world’s 4th largest automotive market, after China, the U.S. and Germany, and many analysts predict it will soon be No. 3. However, sales have fallen sharply this year, with passenger-car registrations down by 16 % in April compared with 2018. Renault’s sales have fallen 13 % through May to 31,398 units, compared with the same period in 2018. Renault’s goal is to reach annual sales of 200,000 by 2022. A report this month from LMC Automotive attributes the decline to uncertainties ahead of May’s general election, a slowing economy, a weak rupee and tight credit conditions. The convincing victory of the incumbent prime minister, Narendra Modi, is reason for optimism in the second half of the year, LMC said. Nonetheless, LMC said it was revising downward its forecast for India through 2026. Light vehicle sales, including commercial vehicles of 6 tons or less, are likely to reach 3.97 million units; a 0.3 % decline from 2018, with passenger vehicles down by 1 %, to 3.19 million sales. By 2026, light-vehicle sales should reach 5.91 million units; a 6 % annual growth rate. +++ 

+++ After surveying both car owners and non-owners around the world, between the ages of 18 and 65, Nissan found that the sedan segment is still going strong, especially in the eyes of younger buyers. Among those who don’t own a SEDAN , 75 % said they would consider buying one either now or in the future. For millennials, that number goes up to 8 in 10, while the number for Gen Z buyers is nearly 7 in 10 (68 %). Even now, the Japanese automaker is continuing to build new sedan models with bold design characteristics. “Our newest sedans speak directly to the needs of buyers, particularly young people who may be looking to buy their first car”, said Nissan vice-president of product strategy and planning, Ivan Espinosa. “As some of our competitors walk away from sedans, we’re seizing the opportunity”. +++ 

+++ Research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) finds motorists are often confused by the SEMI AUTONOMOUS TECHNOLOGY found in a growing number of cars. These systems (including Tesla’s Autopilot technology) often carry misleading names that suggest they’re more capable than they actually are, and rely on vague graphics to convey information. “The names manufacturers use for these systems can send the wrong messages to drivers regarding how attentive they should be”, the study found. The IIHS surveyed 2,000 motorists about five different level 2 systems: Tesla’s Autopilot, Traffic Jam Assist (a name used by both Audi and Acura for separate technologies), Cadillac’s Super Cruise, BMW’s Driving Assistance Plus, and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist. It found many survey participants believe Autopilot does exactly what its name suggest: drive a car on its own, without human input. 48 % of the participants believed it’s okay to take their hands off the steering wheel when using Autopilot, compared with 33 % or less for the other systems. The IIHS also asked participants whether they thought it was acceptable to talk on the phone, send a text, watch a movie, and nap while using semi-autonomous technology, and Tesla scored markedly higher than its rivals in every area. The same study found many motorists are confused by the driving aid-related information displayed in their instrument cluster. Using a 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class as an example, the IIHS found that “certain key pieces of information eluded many of the participants”. Notably, they were unable to figure out why the lane centering system turned itself off in some circumstance (like when it’s no longer able to read the lane markings). Participants who received basic training before looking at videos of the E’s instrument cluster were far less confused. The IIHS hasn’t revealed information (like age and driving experience) about the motorists it surveyed. “If people aren’t understanding when those lapses occur, manufacturers should find a better way of alerting them”, the IIHS concluded. +++ 

+++ Goldman Sachs cut its price target on TESLA by 21 %, to third lowest on the Street, on concerns about the sustainability of demand for the electric car maker’s models. Earlier this month, chief executive officer Elon Musk told shareholders that Tesla was on track to hit its volume production goal for the year and had “a decent shot at a record quarter on every level”. Goldman Sachs analyst David Tamberrino believes although the second quarter has been witnessing a better environment for demand for Tesla’s cars, he doesn’t think it is sustainable. “While there is potential upside surprise from a faster ramp or pull forward of Model Y ahead of schedule, there is likely cannibalization of current Model X and Model 3 product demand with a crossover variant”, Tamberrino wrote in a note. Analysts have questioned if there is global demand for the hundreds of thousands of Model 3 sedans and other vehicles Tesla aims to produce, after deliveries fell 31 % in the first quarter. “We believe that is the largest question for investors to underwrite at this point (what are sustainable demand levels for the Model S, Model X, and Model 3) and how does that change with the introduction of Model Y production”, Tamberrino said. The brokerage maintained his “sell” rating on the stock and cut its target by $42 to $158; 34 % below the median target, saying the Street is “still modeling too optimistic sustainable volumes for Tesla”. Tesla stock has seen more session wins in June than losses, a rare for the company which has lost 33 % in value so far this year. However, led by Musk’s near-term delivery promises, shares have bounced back lately. June so far has been the best month since October for Tesla stock. Tamberrino expects the downward spiral for shares to resume as it becomes more clear that sustainable demand for Tesla’s products are below expectations. 12 of 31 brokerages covering the stock rate it “buy” or higher, 7 “hold” and 12 “sell” or lower, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. +++ 

+++ A number of upcoming TOYOTA and Lexus models may share a rear-wheel drive platform and inline-6 engine with Mazda. Toyota’s first Mazda-based model could be a successor to the Mark X sedan it sells primarily in Japan and other Asian markets. Lexus could then use the same underpinnings for a new coupe to sit between the RC and LC in its existing line-up. The platform sharing won’t stop here. It is claimed that the next-generation Lexus IS and RC will use Toyota’s TGNA chassis but when these models are replaced, perhaps sometime after 2026, a new Mazda rear-wheel drive large architecture may be used alongside a Mazda Skyactiv-X inline-6 engine. It may seem a little far-fetched that Toyota, Lexus, and Mazda will all collaborate and share a common architecture and 6-cylinder engine, but increased consolidation across the automotive industry and Toyota’s penchant for platform-sharing means it is within the realms of possibility. Mazda confirmed in May that it is developing a family of straight-6 Skyactiv-X engines for use in its premium models in both petrol and diesel guises. These engines will be used in a number of rear- and all-wheel drive models. Developing these engines, as well as its upcoming large architecture, represents a significant expense for the car manufacturer and selling these components to Toyota and Lexus would certainly help it recoup some of its development costs. +++ 

+++ Aston Martin chief executive Andy Palmer has said that the British car manufacturer will probably set a lap time at the Nurburgring with its VALKYRIE hypercar. Palmer said that the Valkyrie isn’t being developed with a Nurburgring lap in mind but the company knows it will be very fast at the German circuit. “In most cases a Nurburgring lap is not important. However, in some markets, I’m thinking China strangely, a time around the Nurburgring is important to the prowess of a supercar”, he said. “In reality we’re not developing it for that. It’s not what it’s meant for but we’ll probably end up setting a time”. Most cars manufacturers looking to set production car, or outright, lap record at the Nurburgring spend millions of dollars doing so in development and renting out the circuit all to themselves. According to Palmer, Aston Martin may adopt a different approach. “We already know it will be fucking quick there. I’m thinking maybe we’ll do something cool, like turning up to an open session, something crazy like that”. This isn’t the first time the Valkyrie and Nurburgring have been mentioned in the same sentence. Approximately 12 months ago, Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner said the track version of the Valkyrie “could be a contender” to beat the outright Nurburgring lap record of 5:19.545 set by the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo. Aston Martin is still developing the Valkyrie on its simulators, focusing on the Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps circuits. +++ 

+++ Renault and Nissan have announced initial details of a new partnership with self-driving technology development company WAYMO . The 2 car makers, sharing autonomous vehicle development as part of the Alliance, will work with the California software giant to “explore all aspects of driverless mobility services” in France and Japan. The companies offered no details of any planned vehicle testing, but said research will be carried out to assess the issues surrounding driverless transportation. The Alliance said its diverse global line-up of commercial and passenger vehicles will allow it to explore the potential uses of autonomous technology in both the passenger transportation and goods delivery sectors. While initial research will be carried out in the two car makers’ home countries, expansion to other markets is planned, with China a likely future option. Thierry Bolloré, Groupe Renault CEO, said: “We believe this partnership will accelerate our commitment to deliver new shared mobility services and benefit the automobile ecosystems by placing us at the forefront of driverless mobility new business streams in our key strategic markets”. The 3-way deal comes after weeks of speculation that the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance is in dire straits. Carlos Ghosn’s forced exit late last year set off a chain reaction that, reports suggest, has resulted in drastically under-occupied departments, a confused future plan and unequal product output. A Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles merger was on the cards until recently, one of the benefits of which would have been that Renault could have gained learning from FCA’s existing deal with Waymo. This now seems unnecessary, given Renault-Nissan’s own partnership with the tech developer. Renault’s own autonomous ambitions have come to play an integral role in its product development strategy. In 2017, the company revealed the Symbioz as a vision of what an autonomous, connected vehicle would look like in 2030, and 2018’s futuristic EZ-Ultimo concept took the form of a self-driving mobile lounge. The alliance aims to have 15 cars with autonomous capabilities on the market by 2022, as part of a 6-year ‘Drive the Future’ expansion programme. Waymo, Google’s self-driving arm, ramped up its efforts to bring autonomous vehicles to the mainstream last year when it obtained 20,000 I-Pace electric SUVs from Jaguar. At the time, company boss John Krafcik said the new partnership made the UK a more likely test location for self-driving technology. +++

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