+++ AUDIis set to launch an all-new and more powerful RS6 Avant and has invited members of the Audi Sport Drivers Club to an exclusive viewing on 5 September prior to its public unveiling at the Frankfurt motor show. Spyshots revealed that the wider body of the recently launched A6 Avant won’t swell as much as the outgoing car, but chunkier wheelarches still feature alongside the trademark growth in air intake and wheel size. Like its bigger brother, the RS6 will pack a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol unit, as used by the Porsche Panamera Turbo and Lamborghini Urus, to offer around 605 hp. That’s the same power output quoted for the limited-volume RS6 Avant Performance and 45 hp more than the previous regular RS6. The new engine is also said to deliver an extra 50 Nm, at 800 Nm. By comparison, the M5 offers 600 hp and 750 Nm, and the most powerful version of the E63, the S, delivers 610 hp and 850 Nm. Drive for the RS6 will be sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox and traditional Torsen torque-sensing quattro system. It will be built alongside the technically related RS7 at Audi’s Neckarsulm plant in Germany. The new RS6 is also set to have a near 80 kg reduction in kerb weight largely thanks to the use of a second-generation MLB structure. As a result, it looks good for a 0-100 km/h time of around 3,6 seconds; 0.1 second quicker than the time quoted for the RS6 Performance. Refinements in aerodynamic efficiency are also set to give an incremental rise in top speed to 306 km/h. Like all RS branded models, the new RS 6 gets a major exterior overhaul, with more aggressive front bumper borrowed from the new RS 7, a fresh rear bumper, flared wheel arches, wider side skirts, larger alloy wheels and a pair of huge oval exhaust tips. The standard A6’s chrome grille and door trims have also been swapped for gloss black units. Audi is also planning a more powerful electrified version of drivetrain with almost 700 hp. Should this powertrain reach production, the RS 6 will be one of the fastest estate cars on the market. Inside, expect a pair of deeply-bolstered sports seats and a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, as well as Audi’s latest infotainment system. As the RS 6 sits at the top of the model’s range, expect only the larger 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 10.1-inch dash mounted infotainment screen to be offered. +++
+++ BMW ’s 2020 model year revisions for the 6 Series Gran Turismo have been seen on a testing prototype. The Audi A7 rival is being withdrawn from the North American market alongside its 3 Series Gran Turismo sibling. The latter is no surprise given the 3 Series has now moved to a new generation, but it’s unlikely to be replaced. The niche positioning of the 6 Series GT has meant it’s struggled to find homes all over the world, but the SUV-focused US market has been particularly unkind. Just 65 examples found homes over there in July, compared with 3800 X5s during the same period. By comparison, 428 examples were registered across Europe in July. A BMW spokesperson confirmed that there are no plans to discontinue the 6 Series GT in Europe “within its life cycle”. The model, which shares parts of its underpinnings with the 5 Series and 7 Series saloons, is expected to get similar updates to its siblings (the 2020 5 Series was only seen last week). That will mean external modifications to bring its styling into line, alongside technology upgrades including an updated iDrive operating system. All petrol engines will receive emissions-reducing upgrades including petrol particulate filters. There’s a likelihood a new plug-in hybrid variant could be brought in, too, as part of BMW’s ever-increasing electrification roll-out. Expect more details to emerge before the car arrives some time next year. +++
+++ Close to 10,000 people gathered near a Cistercian abbey north of Paris in June, not for a religious festival, but to celebrate a Romanian automaker named DACIA . Eric Lanneau, a 57-year-old former plumber, attended the Renault brand’s annual picnic, which featured a performance by French pop star Jenifer. He bought a Dacia Duster in May, won over by the SUV’s design and affordability. “I had been a Ford customer for almost 30 years”, said Lanneau, who lives in a suburb of Paris. The Duster was Europe’s second bestselling small SUV after the Renault Captur last year. Dacia has built a devoted following for its often spartan, low-cost vehicles, making it one of Renault’s fastest-growing consumer brands. Yet the unit, which prides itself on its penny-pinching ethos, could now become a drag on Renault as it faces the costly hurdle of meeting the European Union’s toughening pollution standards. Dacia’s 2018 lineup had more ground to make up before meeting the EU’s 2021 emissions targets than other brands, according to Evercore ISI estimates. Overhauling its models to meet the rules “could disproportionately hurt profitability”, even as Renault as a whole is better positioned than some rivals to meet the regulations, Philippe Houchois, an analyst at Jefferies in London, wrote in a note. The new standards are among myriad challenges facing Renault, which is struggling to sustain its troubled alliance with Nissan while also grappling with a slump in European auto demand. Renault cut its forecast for 2019 revenue last month. Starting in 2020, auto fleets will need to comply with new limits on carbon dioxide emissions, or face penalties. In one scenario laid out by Jefferies that assumes a continuing slowdown in auto sales, fines at Renault due to partial non-compliance could amount to €450 million, or 17 percent of next year’s estimated profit. The penalties will be based on emissions for all the cars made by Renault Group. On average, thanks to cleaner technologies, Renault brand cars emit less carbon dioxide than Dacias.
Dacia may introduce a hybrid SUV as a step toward lowering its average emissions, people familiar with the matter said. Olivier Murguet, head of sales at Renault, said “it’s hard to imagine that Dacia would remain on the sidelines of the movement” to electrify cars. Owned by Renault since 1999, Dacia has been a bright spot for the French automaker. Its cheapest model, which lacks electric windows or a stereo and comes in just two colors, starts at about 8,000 euros in western Europe, less than the baseline offerings from rivals Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group. Lanneau paid about €22,000 for a fully-loaded “prestige” version of the Duster. Renault does not disclose profitability by brand or model, but some analysts estimate the Duster generates an operating margin of more than 10 %; beating the usually more lucrative premium automakers like Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Dacia sales climbed 7 % last year, while Renault-branded cars slid 5 %. Carlos Tavares, the current CEO of PSA and the former No. 2 at Renault, once called the Romanian automaker a “cash cow”. Founded in 1966 in the then-communist country, Dacia has a manufacturing base in Romania and North Africa. Its sales account for almost a fifth of Renault’s total. “Dacia proved that you can make money while being frugal”, said Jean-Louis Sempe, an analyst at Invest Securities in Paris. “The low-cost business model requires very specific skills”. Still, costly investments in hybrid or electric technologies to improve Dacia’s emission performance could hurt its profit margins. Arndt Ellinghorst, an analyst at Evercore ISI in London, reckons complying with emission targets for the next 2 years will cost Dacia some €671 million, or €1,269 per unit, with little leeway to pass those costs on to its price-conscious customers. A spokeswoman for Renault declined to comment on the impact of future regulation. Renault already offers electric vehicles, including its Zoe, starting at around €33,000 and is planning to begin selling a hybrid version of its cheaper Renault Clio in 2020; a possible litmus test for an electrified Dacia. +++
+++ HYUNDAI says its latest i10 will come with one of the best safety packages in its segment. The third-generation i10 will debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September. Its safety equipment will include forward collision avoidance that uses a radar sensor to detect cars and pedestrians in front of the vehicle and a rear-view camera. Lane keeping assistance and a feature to monitor driver fatigue will be standard, Hyundai said in a news release. The i10 will also offer connectivity features such as Hyundai’s Bluelink that allows owners to lock or unlock their car remotely via a smartphone, along with Apple Car Play, Android Auto and wireless smartphone charging. European sales of the i10 fell 12 % to 38,375 in the first 6 months. The latest i10 will arrive just as other brands are pulling their smallest models from the European market because of the increasing costs of developing them to meet tougher emissions and safety regulations. Ford is ending European sales of the Ka+ while Opel is dropping its Karl and Adam minicars. PSA has hinted that the Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1 might be dropped after the current generation. Volkswagen Group is not expected to directly replace its VW Up, Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii minicars and is instead working on how to sell affordable battery-powered city cars with zero emissions. +++
+++ MERCEDES-AMGhas reportedly delayed deliveries of the F1-powered One hypercar until 2021 due to ongoing difficulties making the engine suitable for street use. There are a number of elements of the One’s powertrain that need to be refined and engineers underestimated the difficulties of posed by this very challenging task. One of the most significant challenges facing engineers is just how to make the F1-derived 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 meet WLTP emissions regulations. In addition, AMG is struggling to ensure the engine doesn’t require electric pre-heating before it turns over, like the race engine does. A V6 engine with such small displacement and high output is also reportedly quite fragile. Mercedes-AMG presented the One in concept form 2 years ago at the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show, with the promise of commencing deliveries in 2019. That date was clearly overly ambitious, and with the Aston Martin Valkyrie still on target to reach the hands of customers this year, the delay with the Mercedes-AMG One is certainly embarrassing for the company which has dominated Formula 1’s hybrid era since 2014. According to the original release, the One’s ICE would be combined with four electric motors to pump out a combined 1,035 hp. This would allegedly be enough to send the hybrid hypercar to 200 km/h in less than 6 seconds and through to a top speed exceeding 350 km/h. It wouldn’t come as a surprise, though, if those numbers change for the production car, especially since compliance with the new, stricter emissions standards is a prerequisite for it to get type approval. +++
+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , the car industry is, once again, getting ready to face the consequences UK’s exit from the European Union on October 31. The UK was originally scheduled to leave in late March, but that date was pushed back in an attempt to help the nation secure trade deals with the European Union. Last year and into 2019, the leaders of various car manufacturers across the country said they were bracing for the impact a no-deal Brexit could have on the UK’s car manufacturing industry.David Caro, the owner of Birmingham-based Qualpast, a maker of flock coating used for cars parts in vehicles from the likes of Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Bentley, says his company has seen a fall in orders from many of its major customers due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. “The industry is holding its breath waiting to see what will happen with Brexit”, Caro told. “I would be surprised if there’s any new substantial investment before they know what’s going to happen with no deal”. Qualpast imports all of its materials from mainland Europe and says that it cannot purchase the things it needs from the UK, which will force them to start a second round of stockpiling for the October 31 date after it previously built up supplies in preparation for the original date in March. Honda has already announced the closure of its Swindon plant in 2021, BMW is moving some of its engine production abroad and, last month, the PSA Group disclosed that it had found a site in southern Europe to produce the Opel/Vauxhall Astra if the UK government fails to provide trade deals that won’t adversely affect the company. +++