Newsflash: BMW komt volgend jaar met stekker hybride versie van X2

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+++ If you like the new ASTON MARTIN DBX, but want more than its 550 hp, you might not have to wait too long for something more powerful. In an interview, CEO Andy Palmer reiterated the company is “committed to doing an AMR” version of every model in their range. As a result, the DBX is “an obvious candidate” to get the AMR treatment. There’s no word on performance specs at this point, but Palmer hinted “we’ll probably do other engine derivatives”. The most natural candidate is the company’s twin-turbo V12, which the executive confirmed will fit under the hood of the DBX. In the DB11, this engine produces 608 hp and 700 Nm. The DB11 AMR kicks the horsepower rating up to 639 hp, though the torque remains unchanged. The V12s are a big improvement over the DBX’s twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that produces 550 hp and 700 Nm. This means a V12-powered DBX would be significantly faster than the standard model, which can run from 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 291 km/h. However, a V12 model isn’t necessarily a sure bet, as the company could instead opt for an upgraded version of the Mercedes-AMG-sourced V8. It remains unclear if Aston Martin would go that route, but the GLE 63 and 63 S debuted at Los Angeles Auto Show with a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 pumping out 571 hp in base trim and 612 hp in the S variant. Thanks to the extra power, the GLE 63 S is 0.7 seconds faster to 100 km/h than the DBX. However, because of a speedlimiter, its top speed is lower at 280 km/h. +++ 

+++ AUDI wants to cut thousands of jobs to fund a costly transition to electric vehicles, but talks with powerful labor representatives have hit a logjam, 2 sources familiar with the matter told. Parentcompany Volkswagen tapped former BMW executive Markus Duesmann to take the helm at Audi from April next year after the German premium brand lost key engineering know-how and influence in the wake of the 2015 diesel-cheating scandal. Audi is pushing for 4,000 to 5,000 positions to be eliminated in negotiations, which are led by Audi’s interim boss Bram Schot. Audi, which has a 61,000 strong workforce in Germany, declined to comment, as did its works council. A sticking point is the demand by organized labor to extend an existing moratorium on forced redundancies from 2025 until 2030, the sources said. +++ 

+++ BMW has been slapped with a patent infringement lawsuit by U.S. hybrid engine tech provider Paice, which is based in Maryland. According to a suit filed in the U.S. District Court, infringement is being claimed on a total of 8 BMW hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, including the 330e iPerformance, 530e iPerformance, 750e xDrive iPerformance, i8 Roadster PHEV and Mini Countryman Cooper S E. “Paice shared intimate details of our hybrid vehicle technology with BMW in good faith”, said Paice CEO Robert Oswald in a statement. “Rather than negotiate a license for our technology, BMW took what it learned from Paice and used it for its own gain”. The German automaker has yet to comment on this ongoing litigation. Paice had previously sued the likes of Ford, Toyota, Hyundai and Kia too, and subsequently got those brands to pay in order to license its technology. Their relationship with BMW however goes back to the early 2000s. Back then, Paice allegedly taught BMW how its patented technology could maximize fuel efficiency and reduce emissions without impacting driving performance, as per the suit. “BMW readily expressed interest in Paice’s technology because BMW was still pushing its diesel technology and was years behind other leading automakers that were actively pursuing hybrids”, said the 31-page complaint, which also adds that after BMW experimented with a hybrid version of the X6, the automaker began “employing Paice’s critical teachings, adding hybrid and plug-in hybrid models to its vehicle lineup with notable success”. One of the new hybrid models from BMW is the electrified X2. It will get the same plug-in powertrain as the forthcoming X1 xDrive25e. So it should feature a 125 hp turbocharged gasoline engine on the front axle and a 95 hp electric motor on the rear axle for a system power of 220 hp. This arrangement provides all-wheel-drive capability when both power sources are working together. Under normal driving conditions, power is sent to the front wheels. A 9.7 kWh battery is also part of the powertrain and it provides an EV driving range of more than 50 kilometers in the X1. Expect a similar electric range for the X2 xDrive25e as well. BMW has announced it will add ten new electrified models to its lineup by 2020 and the X2 xDrive25e is definitely one of them. As for the market launch, expect it to arrive after the X1 xDrive25e which is scheduled to reach European dealerships in May 2020. +++ 

+++ The new CHEVROLET Corvette Stingray has been named as the 2020 Motor Trend Car of the Year following a multitude of tests. Awards have also been announced for the publication’s Truck of the Year, SUV of the Year, and Person of the Year. Motor Trend determines its best vehicles from a given year based on how they perform across 6 key criteria: safety, efficiency, value, advancement in design, engineering excellence, and performance of the intended function. Judges included a host of Motor Trend staffers as well as ex-Jaguar design chief Ian Callum, former Ford and Chrysler engineering executive Chris Theodore, former head of Audi of America, Infiniti and Cadillac, Johan de Nysschen, and the former head of Chrysler design, Tom Gale. The publication says the new mid-engine Corvette was the “clear choice” for Car of the Year. It was highly praised for its quiet cabin, quality interior design, and everyday function. In addition, it has “shockingly good ride comfort and around-town manners” while also being a superb performance machine. “The C8 represents the biggest step-change since the original Acura NSX in terms of being a usable everyday mid-engine supercar”, Motor Trend international bureau chief Angus MacKenzie said. “It brings the Corvette closer to the Porsche 911 in terms of being an attainable and credible 24/7 supercar than any time since the ’60s”. +++ 

+++ CHINA ’s New Energy Vehicle (NEV) market is likely to see a sales rebound next year as automakers roll out more new products to lure buyers, but more supportive government policies are needed, auto executives said. China has been a keen supporter of NEVs and has implemented production quota requirements for automakers. However it cut subsidies for NEVs substantialy this year as part of an overall plan to reduce subsidies, making the vehicles costlier. In October, NEV sales fell 45.6 % from year-ago levels. Prior to the subsidy cut, China’s market for NEVs (which include plug-in hybrids, battery-only electric vehicles and those powered by hydrogen fuel cells) had been a bright spot, with sales jumping 62 % last year. “For next year, we foresee the NEV market will continue to grow, maybe not as dramatic as it was in the past”, Stephan Wöllenstein, Volkswagen Group’s chief in China told in an interview on the sidelines of the Guangzhou Autoshow. A key part of the revival is linked to more big automakers launching NEV models, he said, as it help NEVs become more mainstream. “This normally makes a difference and will also change consumer perception and drive the market”. Carmakers such as Volkswagen, Toyota’s Lexus, Daimler’s Mercedes Benz and Tesla came out in force at the Guangzhou Autoshow to showcase newly launched electric vehicles with fresh designs. Brian Gu, president of Guangzhou-based electric vehicle start-up XPeng which just raised $400 million from Xiaomi and other investors, said he believed that improvements to the country’s charging infrastructure would help NEV sales to recover next year. Another positive is the falling prices of NEV as more automakers started producing vehicles, he added. “In about 2 years time, from my perspectives, electric vehicles will be significantly cheaper than ICEs (internal combustion engine cars), as battery costs come down very rapidly and volumes will drag down cost”. However, not all executives were optimistic. Ma Fanglie, general manager of BAIC Group’s electric vehicle unit BAIC BluePark, said the industry is “feeling a lot of pressure” and that more supportive policies were needed. Fu Bingfeng, executive vice chairman of China’s top auto industry body China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) told government bodies were discussing ways to support the industry in the mid-to-long term. “Our works now will focus on boosting real consumption-side demands, including improving infrastructures and supply chain”. +++ 

+++ Tesla’s launch of its futuristic CYBERTRUCK pickup suffered a setback when its “armored glass” windows shattered, but it was the overall look of the electric vehicle that worried Wall Street. In the much-anticipated unveiling to cheering fans, Tesla boss Elon Musk had taken aim at the design, power and durability of mainstream trucks, only to be shaken when his boast about his new vehicle’s windows backfired. “Oh my f—–g God, well, maybe that was a little too hard”, Musk said, after his head of design, Franz von Holzhausen, cracked the driver’s side window with a metal ball in a series of tests for the crowd at the event in Los Angeles. He allowed von Holzhausen another throw to the rear passenger window, only to see that crack as well. “It didn’t go through, so that’s a plus side”, Musk said, adding: “Room for improvement”. Some Wall Street analysts praised the launch on Friday, but others doubted the futuristic design’s mass appeal. “Musk has been enthusiastic about his Blade Runner inspired design for months, but we were still surprised how futuristic he went with this one and believe it may shatter his dreams”, Cowen analysts wrote in a note. “While we are pleased to see Tesla enter the most profitable segment of the North American passenger car market, we do not see this vehicle in its current form being a success”. The U.S. pickup truck market is one of the world’s most profitable vehicle segments and is dominated by Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Pickup buyers are fiercely brand loyal and are viewed as traditional in their choice of vehicle. JP Miller, CEO of Paul Miller Ford in Lexington, Kentucky, sells an average of 100 new Fords a month, around 40 % of which are pickup trucks. Many of them are work trucks, and Miller said when watching Tesla’s unveiling, he could not see any of his customers wanting a Cybertruck. “I have to say, I was a little confused”, Miller said. “Pickups are critical for building America and I couldn’t see how that could apply to Tesla’s truck”. Online critics also made fun of the pickup’s space-craft style look. “I wish Elon Musk hadn’t blocked me on Twitter after I said his Mars colonization idea was dumb, so I could tell him how ugly his new #Cybertruck is”, tweeted author @MarkDice, who has 1.5 million YouTube followers. With a starting price of $39,900, the Cybertruck takes aim at the heart of Detroit automakers’ profits, while drawing familiar support from Tesla watchers online. “Yes, it looks like a retro version of the future. It’s supposed to”, said @AElchamaa. Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, said Musk was trying to sell too much: a new technology and an outlandish design. “There are fans out there who’ll buy anything with a Tesla badge on it, but this will unlikely pierce the meat of the truck market”, Brauer said. “Tesla is putting up too many barriers for people nervous about stepping out of their comfort zone”. +++ 

+++ DACIA is working on the third-generation Sandero, which will finally switch to the Renault-Nissan CMF-B platform, shared with the youngest Clio, second edition Captur and new Nissan Juke. It will continue to be a more affordable version of the architecture, doing away with the latest technology features for cost-related reasons, in order to not cannibalize sales from the Clio. Nonetheless, it’s expected to pack a new infotainment system, as well as a generous selection of petrol and diesel engines. Don’t expect to see the 115 hp dCi diesel and 1.3 liter TCe petrol with 130 hp, as they probably won’t become available in the Romanian hatchback. Thus, you will have to make do with the 75 hp and 100 hp petrol burners, as well as the 85 hp dCi diesel. In a not-so-surprising maneuver, the next generation Sandero Stepway will allegedly go down the electrified route, featuring a 1.6-liter naturally aspirated mild-hybrid setup that’s expected to produce a combined 140 hp. The new-generation Sandero will reportedly debut next summer, with the model’s public debut expected to take place at the 2020 Paris Auto Show, where it will be joined by the third-gen Logan as well. A new iteration of the Dokker is also being planned, although based on the current M0 platform. The vehicle is thought to be introduced next spring, probably at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show in March. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER ’s main Chinese joint venture partner BAIC Group has signaled its intention to increase its stake in the German luxury car manufacturer, sources briefed on the matter said, after it built up a 5 % Daimler holding in July. Officials at BAIC’s listed company said at investor conferences in mid-October that “both sides are willing to increase stakes in the other”, responding to questions about future relationship between BAIC Group and Daimler, the sources said. Daimler said in a regulatory filing that HSBC held 5.23 % in Daimler’s voting rights directly as well as through instruments such as equity swaps as of November 15. BAIC has used HSBC to help it build its initial 5 % stake. Sources declined to be named as they are not allowed to speak to media. A Daimler spokesman said that the company had received notification from HSBC that the voting stake of 5 % has been exceeded. While the spokesman would not say whether BAIC played a role in the transaction, he added that Daimler welcomed long-term shareholders such as BAIC, who support the carmaker’s strategies. “Daimler appreciates BAIC as long-standing partner and long-term investor”, the spokesman said in a written statement. “Such shareholders help us to further safeguard and strengthen the capitalization of our company”, the statement continued. Geely, Daimler’s biggest shareholder with a 9.7 % stake, said: “We are a long-term investor in Daimler. We do not react spontaneously to any volatility and we support Daimler’s management and their strategy”. BAIC has been Daimler’s main partner in China for years and operates Mercedes-Benz factories in Beijing through Beijing Benz Automotive. 2 months before its July stake deal was announced, sources told that BAIC wanted to invest in Daimler to secure its investment in Beijing Benz Automotive. In March, sources told Daimler had asked Goldman Sachs to help it explore increasing its stake in BAIC’s Hong Kong-listed company. The partners also planned to revamp manufacturing facilities to make Mercedes Benz-branded trucks via their commercial vehicle joint venture. The companies also said Daimler and BAIC’s new energy vehicle unit BluePark have jointly developed a battery research lab in Beijing. State-owned BAIC built its stake after Li Shufu, chairman of rival private automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, built a 9.69 % stake in Stuttgart-based Daimler in early 2018. By using Hong Kong shell companies, derivatives, bank financing and structured share options, Li kept the plan under wraps until he was able, at a stroke, to become Daimler’s single largest shareholder. Since the investment, Geely and Daimler have said they plan to build the next generation of Smart electric cars in China through a joint venture. Zhejiang-based Geely owns Volvo while BAIC in addition to Daimler has a partnership with South Korea’s Hyundai. Daimler said it had collaborated with BAIC in areas such as production, research and development and sales since 2003. +++ 

+++ Tesla boss Elon Musk and his spacy Cybertruck have ignited a frenzy over ELECTRIC PICKUPS , and at least 7 other U.S. automakers expect to build new battery-powered trucks by 2021. The question is who will buy them. Companies ranging from General Motors to startup Lordstown Motors have said they plan to introduce electric pickups over the next 2 years and are scheduled to build up to 250,000 a year by 2024, according to industry analysts. Sales of those battery trucks, however, may not exceed 70,000 a year, even when many of the plants hit full production, according to AutoForecast Solutions analyst Sam Fiorani. If demand falls that far short of production targets, “there are going to be a lot of auto execs crying in their beer”, predicts IHS Markit analyst Joe Langley. Musk indicated on Twitter that Tesla has received 200,000 reservations, requiring $100 deposits, within 72 hours after unveiling its Cybertruck, and plans to build up to 50,000 a year. The wedge-shaped pickup is expected to go into production in late 2021, and to start selling for a price of just under $40,000. The total U.S. market for conventional pickups powered by internal combustion engines is just over 3 million. Many of the EV pickups are being touted by newcomers, including Bollinger Motors and Hercules Electric Vehicles, both based in the Detroit area, and Atlis Motor Vehicles, in Mesa, Arizona. Projected prices range from $45,000 to $125,000. Lordstown Motors has a licensing deal with Ohio-based Workhorse to build an electric pickup called Endurance at GM’s former assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Lordstown executives have said they plan to start production in late 2020, with prices starting at $52,500. Perhaps the most important new electric pickup is the R1T from well-funded newcomer Rivian, the Michigan startup that includes Ford and Amazon among its investors. The R1T is slated to go into production late next year at a former Mitsubishi plant in Illinois and will be priced from $69,000. In its first full year of production, Rivian plans to build about 25,000 pickups, but is installing capacity to build up to 260,000 vehicles, including a companion electric SUV and an electric delivery van for Amazon. GM and Ford both expect to begin building premium electric pickups in late 2021 at Detroit-area assembly plants. Each company expects annual electric truck production to hit around 40,000 by 2024, analysts said. +++ 

+++ A shortlist of 7 nominations for the EUROPEAN CAR OF THE YEAR (ECOTY) 2020 award has been announced, chosen from 30 eligible candidates. Eligible cars must essentially be new models, and available in at least 5 European countries at the time of voting. Some 60 judges, representing 23 European countries, select the shortlist in a simple vote. Second-stage voting takes place in the new year, with the winning car announced at the Geneva motor show in March 2020. On the shortlist are: the BMW 1-series, the Ford Puma, the Peugeot 208, the Porsche Taycan, the Renault Clio, the Tesla Model 3 and the Toyota Corolla. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) has already started 90 % of the investments earmarked for Italy, the auto maker’s chief operating officer for the EMEA region Pietro Gorlier said. FCA announced last year it would spend €5 billion in Italy up to 2021. The plan is aimed at helping the group launch its first electric and hybrid models and to fill capacity utilisation at its Italian plants. Gorlier said that despite unfounded speculation, FCA has “consistently confirmed the plan through action, with no delays”. “Around 90 % of investments have been kicked off”, he said, according to the text of a speech he gave at the Italian car industry association ANFIA assembly, in the FCA plant in Melfi, southern Italy. As part of its €5 billion plan, FCA will launch form next year its full-electric 500 and hybrid / electrified models of its Maserati, Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands. +++ 

+++ FORD has been at pains to tell us why the recently-launched Mustang Mach-E is fitting of the iconic ‘Mustang’ nameplate from the moment the all-electric crossover was unveiled. However, many Ford Mustang enthusiasts and traditionalists are extremely upset at the company’s decision. A look over at the Mustang Club of America on Facebook, which has no less than 2.1 million likes, includes hundreds of comments from enthusiasts angry at Ford for calling the crossover a Mustang. In a lengthy statement, president of the Mustang Club of America, Steve Prewitt, vehemently defends the vehicle’s nomenclature saying, “the Mustang Mach-E is not a Mustang Pony car in the typical sense, but is is a logical move in continuing the legacy of Mustang, specifically in design and innovation in the electric car market”. Responding to this, Facebook user Michael Newton wrote the following; “Shame on you Steve Prewitt. Carol Shelby once said “There is no replacement for displacement”. That statement embodies what a Mustang has always been. To hang the Mustang name on an SUV is blasphemous. You may sell a few SUVs to the hipsters, but you are seriously alienating the Mustang enthusiasts”. There are hundreds of other comments with similar sentiments with one member even asking “How much money did Ford give the club to give this positive review?” while another says “It’s almost as if a team of lawyers from media relations wrote this out and you simply shared it”. Steve McCarley, a past president of the Mustang Club of America, added that he too is unimpressed with the crossover’s name. “I am not happy with it personally”, he told, “Even today, if I close my eyes and picture a car, I picture a ’65 Mustang. Telling me you’re coming with an electric Mustang, you’re not spinning my wheels”. A couple of days ago, Ford executive chairman Bill Ford said even he wasn’t sold on the idea of calling the electric crossover a Mustang, at least at first. “They came to me and said, ‘We really think we can make this Mustang-inspired, really Mustang-like’. I said: ‘You guys aren’t telling me you want to call this a Mustang’. No one would say yes, but nobody would say no, either. I said: ‘No, I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt the brand. This is not going to be a Mustang’ ”. Eventually, however, Ford was allegedly won over by the vehicle’s handling dynamics and decided it was indeed fitting of a Mustang name. We have a feeling hardcore Mustang enthusiasts won’t be so easy to convince. +++ 

+++ The JAGUAR E-Pace will receive a major mechanical and technological update for 2020, as part of a Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) push to systematically revamp the brand’s line-up almost entirely by 2021. The update will be similar to the new Land Rover Discovery Sport, with the compact SUV adopting an all-new platform, fresh plug-in and mild-hybrid powertrains, a substantial interior technology update and a minor cosmetic redesign. Like the recently revised Land Rover Discovery Sport, the new E-Pace will move onto JLR’s Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA), which will give the crossover access to the brand’s current range of hybrid powertrains. Jaguar’s smallest SUV is the only remaining JLR product still based on the firm’s aging D8 underpinnings, which can trace its origins back to the company’s spell under Ford ownership. The E-Pace’s platform migration will allow the SUV to accept Jaguar Land Rover’s latest 48 volt mild-hybrid architecture, which is currently offered on all automatic variants of the new Range Rover Evoque. The MHEV system comprises a 0.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a belt-driven starter-generator, which is capable of delivering an extra 100 Nm on demand. Following the update, E-Pace buyers will be offered JLR’s 200 hp, 250 hp and 300 hp turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol engines, along with either a 150 hp, 180 hp or 240 hp 2.0-litre turbo diesel. All 6 engines will be paired with the brand’s new MHEV architecture and mated to a 9-speed automatic gearbox and a 4-wheeldrive system. Jaguar’s updated compact SUV will also be offered with plug-in hybrid technology for the first time, making use of the new 1.5-litre 3-cylinder petrol-electric powertrain which is destined for the new XE, the facelifted Discovery Sport and the Range Rover Evoque. Specifications are yet to be confirmed for the new PHEV powertrain but it should produce around 250 hp. The E-Pace’s platform migration will also bring a host of interior updates, including JLR’s latest Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, which comprises a 10.2 inch central screen and a separate lower display for the car’s heating and airconditioning systems. Elsewhere, the SUV’s cabin design will be adapted from the all-electric I-Pace and the new Range Rover Evoque, adding a new steering wheel and a subtly reworked dashboard. +++ 

+++ The new MAZDA3 has bagged yet another award: the 2020 China Car of the Year. The Japanese compact was chosen chosen by a panel of 38 judges among 194 vehicles eligible for the award, which were eventually trimmed down to just 10 for the final. The Mazda 3 is only available as a Sedan in the People’s Republic and has been manufactured at Changan Mazda Automobile for the local market since August this year. The Mazda 3’s latest success comes a week after it was voted Thailand’s Car of the Year. It also won the 2019 Women’s World Car of the Year award, which was presented at the 2019 Dubai International Auto Show last weekend, and is a nominee for the 2020 European Car of the Year, alongside 34 other vehicles. The winner of the ECOTY will be announced on the eve of the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, on March 2, 2020. Mazda’s win in China was a departure from previous years, when judges favored larger and more premium cars. Last year, the Lexus ES was declared the China Car of the Year, after it beat the Toyota Camry and Audi A8 L. The 2018 award went to the Volvo S90, which was favored over the BMW 5-Series long-wheelbase and Range Rover Velar, whereas the year before, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class long-wheelbase won the golden medal, with the podium being completed by the Audi A4 L and Geely Bo Yue. The 2016 award went to the Geely GC9, which was followed by the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class and Jaguar XE, and the 2015 crown went to the Honda Odyssey, as it impressed the jurors more than the Mercedes-Benz C-Class LWB and Infiniti Q50. +++ 

+++ The business case for a rotary engine-powered MAZDA RX-9 sports car is stronger than ever thanks to the development of a new rotary engine designed for use in electrified powertrains, according to company bosses. An RX-9 has long been rumoured, with 2015’s RX-Vision concept thought to mark the Japanese car maker’s intentions to launch a range-topping sports car powered by a rotary engine. No such car has yet appeared, but the revival of Mazda’s rotary engine to aid electrification means the case for an RX-9 becomes much more persuasive. The new rotary engine will first launch in a range-extender variant of Mazda’s MX-30, recently revealed in pure-electric form. However, the rotary can also be used for plug-in hybrids and hybrids and works with fuels including LPG and hydrogen, meaning it can be employed, over time, by many Mazda vehicles. Mazda R&D boss Ichiro Hirose said: “The flexible rotary engine is a major solution for electrification technologies. It’s compact and lightweight with outstanding NVH. By using the rotary engine in a variety of ways, we can improve the cost efficiency – that means we can lower the hurdle of putting the rotary engine on a sports car. I really wish that we can justify this car. We have that dream, of course”. Increasingly strict emissions legislation means that a rotary-engined RX-9 would need some form of electrification, according to brand and design boss Ikuo Maeda. “If we just look at the rotary engine, to meet current environmental requirements, technology-wise, it will be difficult for a rotary to meet these”, he said. “Mazda is looking at combining different technologies in our vehicles. If we can look at some suitable and fitting combination for a sports car, then that might be a good solution”. Talking about the justification for a top-of-the range sports car, Maeda added: “It is hard just to focus on studying high-performance sports cars with a rotary engine, but we wanted to see how we can evolve the technology by going through this type of trial with the range extender. “And, of course, we share the same dream that in the future we would like to have an RX-type sports car”. While the car is not officially confirmed, Mazda recently filed a chassis design patent for a spaceframe-like structure that hosts features most common to a sports car. These include a double-wishbone front suspension and a relatively small engine bay (which would be ideal for a compact rotary motor) as well as lightweight carbonfibre-reinforced plastic and aluminium components applied throughout the structure. The Japanese brand has a long history of producing rotary-engined cars but hasn’t had one in its line-up since the RX-8 went out of production in 2012. +++ 

+++ NISSAN ’s X-Trail is a family hauler that does most things well, albeit in a rather uninspiring fashion. In its current form, it launched in 2013 and is getting on in years, but a replacement is finally just around the corner: better late than never. Whereas the out-going X-Trail is blandly inoffensive, the 2021 redesign brings a much more youthful attitude to exterior design as seen on its Juke sibling. Frontal styling is dominated by a rectangular split-headlamp setup, with the main units positioned just above the side intakes. Nissan’s signature V-Motion grille is bigger and more angular than ever, with the upper portions blending into the slim LED daylight running lights. Sheetmetal surfacing is muscular and toned, while the angular rear pillars and black contrasting roof make for a handsome appearance. The rear view has a staunch appearance with chunky bumpers and full-width boomerang-effect tail lights. Outlines seen under camouflaged prototypes suggest a twin exhaust system, however, they’re non-functional and decorative only. One big criticism of the current car is its mediocre interior. Looking like a pillow factory injected with hard plastics, it could never be praised for its aesthetic or tactile qualities. Nissan sources say that these wrongs will be rectified with a thoroughly high-quality and spacious 7-seat cabin. A large tablet-style infotainment screen sits high on the dash incorporating WiFi and smartphone integration; along with a row of hard buttons below for quick access to camera modes, maps and menus. A fully digital instrument cluster features, as does heads-up display, and multiple terrain modes for AWD models. I anticipate Nissan’s ProPilot suite of driver assists to be standard; including pedestrian & cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and blind-spot intervention which brings the X-Trail back into its lane. Whilst I know how it will look, there’s still conjecture about which powertrains it’ll employ. Expect Nissan’s 2.0-litre variable-compression turbo petrol engine to be offered in the X-Trail for the first time. Power will be fed through a continuously variable transmission to the front wheels, or all 4 as an option. As part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, the X-Trail will share its underpinnings with the upcoming Mitsubishi Outlander. In doing so, Nissan will have access to a plug-in hybrid powertrain that could offer up to 70 km of electric-only driving. An official reveal date is yet to be announced, however, I expect the covers to fall within the next few months, with sales starting in late 2020. +++ 

+++ PANASONIC has no plans to build a new battery plant for Tesla in China, the Japanese company’s chief executive said, as it struggles to make profits from its existing battery business with the electric vehicle maker. “We don’t have any plans at the moment to set up a production site in China for Tesla’s Chinese business”, CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga told reporters at a strategy briefing. “It is up to Tesla to decide whether it would use Chinese-made batteries from other manufacturers or get batteries from our Gigafactory 1 (in Nevada)”, he said. The comments reflect Panasonic’s growing caution about its joint battery business with Tesla, which has yet to show sustained profits. Tsuga earlier this year admitted he underestimated risks associated with Tesla. Tesla is in advanced talks with South Korea’s LG Chem to source batteries for vehicles to be made in its Shanghai plant. +++ 

+++ In 2017, Carlos TAVARES was CEO of a French automaker that sold barely more than 3 million cars annually and was just 3 years removed from near-bankruptcy. Today, Tavares is poised to become the leader of the world’s fourth-largest car company, if the proposed PSA Group merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles comes to fruition. The combined company would produce more than 8 million vehicles a year under more than a dozen brands, challenge Volkswagen for dominance in Europe and have global revenue of about $200 billion. In the interim, the Portugal-born Tavares picked off General Motors’ European operations, which were losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and within 18 months, Opel was turning a profit. He has led PSA Group to record margins even as global car production and sales have dipped. His recipe? A relentless focus on profits and efficiency as well as creating a work environment that lets employees unleash their full potential. And a willingness to be humble: “The CEO is only a tool to make things happen”, the 61-year-old Tavares said in an interview this month at PSA headquarters outside Paris, soon after the FCA proposal was announced. “And the toolbox is very, very big”. At a time when many in the industry are talking about the need to consolidate, but actual deals have been scarce, Tavares has forged ahead. In Opel, he found an additional 1 million vehicles a year on which to spread out development costs, increase platform utilization, multiply the effects of r&d and drive savings on purchasing. An FCA merger could amortize those costs across more than 8 million cars, with Tavares and FCA boss John Elkann promising an initial $3.7 billion in synergies without closing any plants. If that seems like a tall order, Tavares can point to revivals at both PSA and Opel. “The task would be huge, the politics messy and lots would probably go wrong on the way”, Bernstein analyst Max Warburton said in a note. “But Tavares and his team have a track record of turnarounds, have been talking about a deal for years and would bring huge energy to the task”. In the proposed merged company, Tavares would not only be the CEO: he would be the 11th vote on a board that would be made up of 5 directors appointed by PSA and 5 by FCA, making him the de facto leader (FCA chairman Elkann will hold that title for the whole company, not just FCA, and would be one of the 10 board members in addition to Tavares). And he would be granted a 5-year term from the closing date. Tavares said that far from being a king, he would be making sure “the new company is moving forward, in terms of sustainability, technology investment, profitability and work-life balance. Success for all of us would be that after a few years, nobody remembers where the board members come from”. Tavares said that the conditions for a merger could not be better. “These are 2 great companies looking at public numbers on both sides”, he said. “Neither is in a crisis. Can we do more if we are together and create more synergies?” he asked. “The answer is yes, and that’s why we are planning to come together”. Tavares says that the recovery of PSA gave him confidence to make a bid for Opel, and likewise, that the lessons learned from reviving Opel and integrating 1 million extra vehicles into PSA’s annual production will help with an FCA merger. Still, he said, “There is no way we will get that job done if one guy comes in and says, ‘Let me teach you’. I have nothing to teach and everything to learn”. Energy and focus have been Tavares’ trademarks. Born in Portugal, he went to France in 1975 to finish his education, graduating with an engineering degree from the prestigious Ecole Centrale in Paris. He joined Renault as a test-drive engineer in 1981 and at the same time indulged his passion for motorsports. In 2004, a few years after Renault acquired a controlling stake in Nissan, Tavares moved to the Japanese side of the alliance, and by 2005, he was an executive vice president for the North and South American operations. Four years later, he became president of Nissan North America, and in 2011, he was appointed No. 2 at Renault Group to Carlos Ghosn. But after a short honeymoon, relations between the “Two Carloses”, as the French press dubbed them, turned cool. The catalyst was a 2013 interview with Bloomberg in which Tavares admitted that he probably wouldn’t succeed Ghosn, who was just 59 at the time, at Renault and stated his desire to run his own car company, mentioning General Motors by name. “Anyone who is passionate about the car industry comes to the conclusion that there is a point where you have the energy and appetite for a No. 1 position”, he said. Perhaps sensing disloyalty, Ghosn facilitated that desire by pushing out Tavares, who landed at crosstown rival PSA Group just a few months later. But it was a job few probably coveted: The maker of Peugeot and Citroen was losing an estimated $250 million per month, and the Peugeot family had just agreed to relinquish control after nearly 200 years, selling 14 % stakes in the company each to the French government and to Chinese automaker Dongfeng. Tavares quickly announced a recovery plan called ‘Back in the Race’; a nod to his motorsports hobby, that laid out his foundational vision for success in the auto industry: Improve pricing by raising quality and eliminating unprofitable sales channels; enact a global “core model strategy” that focuses on only the most profitable segments and shared platforms; and enhance competitiveness by lowering wage costs, raising factory utilization rates and trimming manufacturing costs per vehicle. He promised positive cash flow by 2016, a 2 % operating margin by 2018 and €2 billion of free cash flow from 2016 to 2018, because “cash is king”, as he’s often said. Those targets were reached well ahead of schedule as PSA recorded a $1.32 billion profit in 2015; a 5 % margin. Tavares was hailed as a “miracle worker”, although some analysts said they thought his targets were too conservative: “underpromise and overdeliver” has been a mild complaint levied against him. Others noted that the turnaround was accompanied by a surging European automotive market. The proof, they said, would come when Tavares was faced with a recession. A recession hasn’t yet come, but global auto sales and production are slowing, especially in China: the one area where Tavares has not been able to fulfill his promises. China was once PSA’s largest market outside Europe. But sales there have slipped to barely 15 % of what they were in 2015, when they topped 700,000. “China is probably the most delicate region we have today”, he said last year, vowing to fix problems in operations, which he admitted ran deep. “Caution and optimism must go hand in hand here”, FCA, and especially Jeep, could be a tool to tackle China. That slump and the purchase of Opel have led PSA to be heavily weighted toward Europe, with 80 % of revenue coming from the region. In response, Tavares has tried to expand elsewhere, but South America has proved fitful with the collapse of Argentina’s economy, and PSA lost around 400,000 annual sales when the U.S. backed out of the Iran nuclear pact and reimposed sanctions on companies doing business there. And one other tantalizing goal remains: the U.S. market, the world’s second largest, with its rich trove of SUV and pickup buyers. That would be addressed in a merger with FCA and its 10.6 % margins and estimated 13.1 % market share. +++ 

+++ A few days after the unveiling of the TESLA Cybertruck, Elon Musk took to Twitter to announce how many people have already secured a build slot in exchange for a $100 refundable deposit. According to the company CEO ‘s most recent tweet, that would be 200,000. In a previous tweet when he revealed that 146,000 pre-orders had been received in the first 24 hours, he said that 42 % chose the dual-motor variant, 41 % for the tri-motor setup, with only 17 % going for  the less capable single-motor model. Theoretically, those are impressive numbers, but what do they really mean given that that the deposit is set at only $100 and it’s fully refundable? Tesla could receive a million reservations and it wouldn’t mean much in practice since there’s no real commitment on the behalf of those who expressed interest. This sounds more like a marketing gimmick to drum up attention and convince the market and investors that all is good and well, than anything else, something Tesla has proven to be extremely clever and effective at over the years. The electric pickup, which rivals Detroit’s traditional work horses, has a starting price of $39,900 for the entry-level model, which promises 0-96 km/h in 6.5 seconds and more than 400 km of range. The mid-spec cuts 2 seconds from the base version’s 0-96 km/h time and adds 80 km to the range, for a price of $49,900. Meanwhile, the range-topper offers supercar performance. 0-96 km/h takes a jaw-dropping 2.9 seconds, according to Tesla. This version has a 209 km/h top speed, 800+ km of range with the battery fully charged and will set you back at least $69,900. The Cybertruck should enter production in 2021, but Tesla has a long history of delaying products, so not many eyebrows will raise if, for one reason or another, they decide to follow this tradition. The top-of-the-line variant is scheduled to follow one year later. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen has pushed back its decision on a new factory in TURKEY until the end of the year, despite it being in its economic interests, chairman Herbert Diess said. “As long as people are being killed, we are not laying the foundation stone next to a battlefield”, Diess said, referring to Turkey’s ongoing military operations in Syria. He added that VW shares the assessment of the German government and the EU on the military conflict in the region. The new factory in Turkey was planned to produce the next generation Passat and Skoda Superb models, with production launch originally scheduled for 2022. The new factory will have an annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles. Since VW first announced the delay of their final decision on the factory, many countries have reportedly approached the car maker, including Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, to express their interest. In addition, VW’s powerful labor unions appear determined to block any plan to build the $1.4 billion factory in Turkey, at least until the country puts a stop to its military offensive in northern Syria. “With its large market and good industrial base, Turkey is a very suitable production location for us”, Diess added. “However, we are convinced that if businesses think that international law and human rights are the sole responsibility of governments, the market economy loses its ethical foundation. The purpose of building an automobile plant is not to secure the existence of a government. But it secures the existence of thousands of people. A safe workplace under fair conditions. An income that enables your children to get a good education and to have a brighter future. These people rightly expect that their hopes will not become the plaything of political action”. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN seems very serious about its shift to electric mobility and has decided that its future motorsport activities will be electric-only. While we’re still a long way from VW offering an all-electric lineup consisting of ID models of all shapes and sizes, the brand’s race cars will achieve complete electrification much sooner. VW says it is focusing its motorsport strategy electric mobility, bidding farewell to factory-backed commitments using internal combustion engines. According to the automaker, the Modular Electric Drive Toolkit (MEB) will be used as a future motorsport platform. Besides the ID.R electric racer, which has already proven itself by setting records at Pikes Peak, Nürburgring, Goodwood and Tianmen, VW Motorsport will develop new motorsport concepts for the ID family based on the MEB architecture. “Volkswagen Motorsport broke new ground with the ID.R, and with its records around the world it demonstrated the enormous potential of electric drive. Now is the time for the next step towards the future: in motorsport, Volkswagen is resolutely committing to e-mobility and will say goodbye to factory-backed commitments using internal combustion engines”, said Frank Welsch, member of the board of management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars Brand with responsibility for Technical Development. While the ID.R will remain a technological pioneer, in the future the MEB will be the second, production-related pillar in Volkswagen’s motorsport program, he added. The electrification will regard both factory-backed efforts and customer sport programs. VW will pull the plug on the Golf GTI TCR at the end of 2019, when the touring car racer will go out of production. While it won’t get a successor, VW says that customer service and spare parts supply will be guaranteed in the long term. As for the Polo GTI R5 rally car, it will remain in production for privateers for the foreseeable future, but there will be no factory-backed entries. +++

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