Newsflash: nieuwe Opel Insignia wordt radicaal anders


+++ BMW is working on a plug-in hybrid version of the X2. The marketdebut will be combined wih a facelift for the crossover. One of the most noticeable updates will be an all-new, larger grille. The facelifted X2 will also feature modestly revised headlights and a redesigned bumper. The latter will eschew prominent fog lights. The facelifted X2 could also feature more extensive changes including a new rear bumper and restyled taillights. The model could adopt a digital instrument cluster and an updated infotainment system. Under the hood, we can expect an assortment of familiar petrol and diesel engines. Choices should largely carryover, but it’s possible some many receive minor modifications for improved performance or better fuel efficiency. Besides the conventional powertrains, we can expect a plug-in hybrid that features a turbocharged 1.5-liter petrol 3-cylinder petrol engine, a rear electric motor and a 9.7 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This setup should give the model a combined output of 220 hp and 385 Nm. +++ 

+++ General Motors can’t wait to show the world the fifth generation CADILLAC Escalade, and they won’t have much of a delay before pulling the sheet: The world premiere is set for February 4 in Los Angeles in the lead-up to the Oscars. As part of the debut, you can expect to see celebrities roll up to the red carpet on Oscar night in shiny new ’21 Escalades, as well as 4 minutes of commercials promoting the all-new luxury SUV. As for the new Escalade itself, GM CEO Mary Barra is a personal fan. “It’s kind of in a class all to itself and that’s why I’m so excited for people to see how we’ve taken Escalade to the next level”, she said in an interview. The technology and styling will make the Escalade an even more significant vehicle in a segment where GM is already strong”. Cadillac president Steve Carlisle says the Escalade will end 2019 as the top seller in its segment by a wide margin, even though the current generation is ending its run. The competition is strong, especially the new Lincoln Navigator, but can the new Escalade blow it out of the water? “I’m very confident about the next generation of Escalade. Let me just put it that way”, says Barra. She says the Escalade is “a vehicle somewhat unique into itself. Yes, there are many competitors coming into the segment, but I think Escalade has a special place and will again exceed people’s expectations with the next model”, she says. “It’s iconic”. Spy shots have revealed a giant grille with a family resemblance to the new CT4 and CT5 sedans. There are promises that the interior design and materials will be dramatically improved. There will be more powertrains, including an updated version of the 6.2-liter V8. Early plans to give the Escalade the 4.2-liter twin-turbocharged Blackwing V8 engine were shelved. Performance or V-badged versions of the Escalade are expected to use a version of GM’s 6.2-liter supercharged small-block V-8, and there will be paddle shifters for the first time in the Escalade (at least on some models). The SUV was developed on GM’s large T1 truck program that underpins light- and heavy-duty pickups for Chevrolet and GMC as well as full-size SUVs for Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac. Now that we have seen the new Suburban and Tahoe, we know the SUVs receive a new independent rear suspension to improve ride and handling and optimize interior space by providing a flat floor and more room for people and cargo. The Escalade will also have Cadillac’s Super Cruise technology, the hands-free semi-automated driving system for highway journeys. Super Cruise will come out a few months after launch, but still within the 2021 model year. When Super Cruise is added to the Escalade and the 2021 models of the CT4 and CT5, it will be able to do more, such as perform lane changes, and the number of miles of highway on which it is mapped for use continues to grow, says Carlisle. The improvements are in both hardware and software. As Cadillac goes full electric over the next decade, there will be a battery-powered large SUV similar in size to the Escalade but built on GM’s new electric architecture. It is still a few years out, and the “electric Escalade” may in fact get a different name; a real one and not an alphanumeric, Carlisle says. Barra would not provide further details on the electric vehicle. “We’ve said we believe in an all-electric future, but beyond that I’m not going to comment”. As Escalade leads the Cadillac portfolio, how important is the CT6 as a flagship sedan? Cadillac is redefining its lineup and what constitutes a flagship, Barra says. The CT6 retains importance, largely due to its tech, the Blackwing engine and Super Cruise. “I’ve never seen a feature on a car have so much customer interest”, says Barra of Super Cruise. “Over 90 % of customers are saying: ‘I either would not buy another car without this or I would strongly prefer it’. Rarely do you have that strong of a reaction”. The CT6 remains strong in China, where it’s also built. Asked if the CT6 could become a China-only product in the future, Barra said she continues to evaluate what the market wants and needs and what makes sense over the long term. For now, there are orders to be filled and enough inventory to sell the CT6 through the end of 2020 in the U.S. GM will stop building the recently refreshed CT6 in the Hamtramck plant next month. GM could decide to shift assembly to another plant, such as Lansing Grand River that makes the CT4 and CT5 sedans. “We can look at what makes sense”, Barra says. +++ 

+++ The boards of FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES and PSA Peugeot yesterday signed a binding merger deal creating the world’s 4th largest auto company with the scale to confront the challenges of stricter emissions regulations and the transition to new driving technologies. The companies said in a joint statement the new group will be led by PSA’s cost-cutting CEO Carlo Tavares, with Fiat Chrysler’s chairman John Elkann as chairman of the merged company. Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley will stay on, but it was not announced in what capacity. No name for the new company has been decided, executives said in a conference call, but both Tavares and Manley insisted that it was not a ”touchy subject”. The deal, which was unveiled in October, was announced as a 50-50 merger, but PSA has one extra seat at the board and Tavares at the helm, giving the French carmaker the upper hand in daily management. The executives said they expect the deal to take 12-15 months to close. It will give birth to a group with revenues of nearly €170 billion and producing 8.7 million cars a year; just behind Toyota, Volkswagen and the Renault-Nissan alliance. The merger is expected to create €3.7 billion in annual savings, which will be invested in “the new era of sustainable mobility” and to meet strict new emissions regulations, particularly in Europe. “The merged entity will maneuver with speed and efficiency in an automotive industry undergoing rapid and fundamental changes”, the carmakers said in the joint statement. New technologies includes electrified engines, autonomous driving and connectivity, part of what Tavares described as “the transition to a world of clean, safe and sustainable mobility”. No plants will be closed under the deal, the companies said. Savings will be achieved by sharing investments in vehicle platforms, engines and new technology, while leveraging scale on purchasing. But the executives also said there would be cuts. Decisions on where those will come will be made after the deal closes. “There is room for sharing a significant amount of existing platforms and avoiding excess investments for the future”, Tavares said. Both the Peugeot and Fiat brands are strong on small-car technology, with significant overlap in Europe. Manley said that the convergence of platforms would be “an early target” that will likely take 2 years to achieve. The company will be legally based in the Netherlands, and traded in Paris, Milan and New York. The executives played down the significance of the new entity’s name and headquarters location, but both are symbolic choices that go a long way to signalling who is in the driver’s seat, where engineering and management brains will be based, and the relative importance of each entity in the new company. The French and Italian governments as well as unions will be on the look-out for the responses, given the national significance of the auto industries to both economies. The French government helped bail out PSA in 2014 and owns a 12 % stake in the French company through the state investment bank. While the merger of Fiat and Chrysler has been a success, with the Italian-American automaker thriving on the strength of the U.S. market and the executive prowess of longtime CEO Sergio Marchionne, the history of car mergers is littered with failed tie-ups. Most famous among those is the Daimler-Chrysler merger, which foundered on cultural differences between the German and U.S. entities. Manley said the new name “is an exercise we’re embarking on now. We have 2 very historied companies coming together. I don’t think it will be a touchy subject, just an interesting process”. The new company will start with a strong base in Europe, where PSA is the second-largest carmaker, and while Fiat makes most of its profits in North America and has a strong presence in Latin America. It will be looking to strengthen its position in China, where both PSA and FCA lag. “That is part of the opportunities”, Tavares said. “We are not happy with our performance there. We think we should be doing better in China”. Tavares said the deal has the support of its Chinese partner and investor Dongfeng, which “understood what needed to be done”. As part of the deal, Dongfeng’s stake in the new company will be diluted from 6.2 % to 4.5 %, through the sale of 30.7 million shares. FCA will pay its shareholders a €5.5 billion premium, raising questions about whether the new company will be saddled with too much debt. Analysts estimate that PSA is paying a hefty 32 % premium to take control of FCA. Fiat Chrysler has long been looking for an industrial partner to shoulder investment costs as the industry faces a transition to electrified power trains and autonomous driving. A previous deal with French rival Renault last spring fell apart over French government concerns about the role of Renault’s Japanese partner, Nissan. Tavares said both the French government and unions backed the new deal from the beginning. FCA and PSA face the challenge of winning over regulators and delivering on a pledge to slash costs without closing factories after sealing a binding deal to create the world’s 4th biggest carmaker. Both tasks are likely to prove difficult, as 2 of the industry’s oldest dynasties try to combine major European operations under the gaze of politicians and trade unions who have vowed to resist any move to cut jobs. Success is vital to help both companies cope with a slowdown in demand and the cost of making cleaner vehicles to meet tougher emissions regulations. The companies sold a combined 8.7 million vehicles last year, but have potential manufacturing capacity of 14 million vehicles, according to forecasters LMC Automotive. They have yet to say precisely how they plan to tackle that potential excess, and which car platforms (or underlying vehicle structures) they will focus on, only detailing that most production would be concentrated on 2 platforms. NordLB analyst Frank Schwope said big challenges lay ahead. “The merged group will have to make massive savings and probably also close plants, even if the CEOs’ choice of words is different”, he said, adding large investment would be needed as both PSA and FCA are “currently lagging far behind the competition in terms of technology and product range”. In the short term, the combined group will use profits from selling Ram pickups and Jeep SUVs to U.S. drivers to fund the development of cleaner vehicles to sell in Europe and China. The finance ministers of both France and Italy welcomed the deal, but also said they would closely monitor any impact on jobs in their respective countries. Tavares said the 2 companies were already very competitive in terms of labor costs versus turnover. The companies expect to make about 40 % of savings from product-related expenses, 40 % from purchasing and 20 % from other areas, such as marketing, IT and logistics, they said in a statement. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS , like so many other large automakers, has long chased ever-greater global sales. However, under the leadership of chief executive Mary Barra has had a change of philosophy. Before the 2008 financial crisis, General Motors was the world’s best-selling automaker, but infamously filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and off-loaded the Hummer, Pontiac, Saab and Saturn brands. In the years since, global juggernauts including Toyota, Volkswagen, and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance have continued to grow, becoming the 3 largest global car manufacturers and relegating GM to 4th place. In 2016, General Motors sold a record 10.01 million vehicles, but that figure dropped to 8.38 million in 2018 and is expected to fall further this year. This decline in sales follows a move of strategic retrenchment headed by Barra that has seen the company abandon or almost fully abandon markets including Western Europe, India, Russia, and South Africa. Perhaps GM’s most significant pull-back came in August 2017, when it sold the Opel and Vauxhall brands to France’s PSA Group, drastically reducing its presence in Europe, where it had previously also dropped Chevrolet (2013), leaving only Cadillac behind. None of this is unexpected, though; in early 2017, Barra said the automaker would pursue the markets with the most profits and potential for expansion. In the same year, GM also shut down its last assembly plant in Australia, where its Holden brand is now selling import models having just recorded the worst sales in its entire 71-year history. “Globally, we are now in the right markets to drive profitability, strengthen our business performance and capitalize on growth opportunities for the long term”, she said. “We will continue to optimize our operations market by market to further improve our competitiveness and cost base”. As part of that strategy, GM may continue to scale back in the years to come and it’s thought that its presence in various parts of Latin America could also come under scrutiny. +++


+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER ’s Special Vehicle Operations arm has acquired Bowler, the off-road Land Rover tuner, securing its future following administration. Bowler rose to fame tuning Land Rover models and specialises in off-road performance cars and competition cars for rally-raid events. JLR, which bought Bowler for an undisclosed sum, said the all-terrain specialist has expertise in “all-terrain vehicle dynamics, low-volume production techniques, and proving the durability of components under extreme conditions”, all of which is “highly sought-after”. It added that SVO is a “fast-growing business that amplifies the key attributes of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles to create distinctive world-class products, including SV, Vehicle Personalisation and Classic”. Bowler, as a fourth business unit, is “a natural fit”, said the firm. In 2012, Bowler formed a brand partnership with JLR which led to the creation of the Defender Challenge by Bowler rally series in 2014 to 2016. Jaguar Land Rover SVO boss Michael van der Sande told that there was a 2-part plan for Bowler. The first is to stabilise the business for 6-12 months “giving it the organisation and investment it needs”. The business, which is based in Belper, Derbyshire, will remain at this location. The day-to day team of 26 staff will remain, but “some people will no longer be involved”, said a spokesman given the change in shareholders. In the meantime, JLR will develop plans for the business, but van der Sande disclosed no more details beyond the fact that it will become bigger. The likelihood is that the Bowler name will be used on Land Rover models as extreme, off-road variants. “We think it’s a cool company that shows there’s a great deal you can do with Land Rovers”, commented Van der Sande. The purchase will be seen by many as a shrewd move from Jaguar Land Rover, given its long-standing objection to Land Rover tuners taking business away. A number of tuning and styling firms exist predominantly for Land Rover models, including Overfinch, Twisted and Kahn. In 2017, Land Rover’s design director Gerry McGovern vowed to put third-party styling houses and tuners out of business by creating better variants of the brand’s models through the company’s own Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division. However, Bowler is somewhat of a niche firm given its all-terrain and rally expertise, an area on which JLR will be keen to capitalise. In an official statement announcing the acquisition today, van der Sande said: “For almost 35 years the Bowler name has stood for innovation and success, with a reputation forged by its participation in the world’s toughest off-road motorsport competitions. It’s exciting that we’re now in a position to participate in and lead the Bowler brand’s future as part of Jaguar Land Rover. At Special Vehicle Operations we are all eager to start working with our new colleagues at Bowler. Adding the Bowler team’s skills and experience to those of SV, Vehicle Personalisation and Classic is a key step in our strategy to create an exciting and diverse portfolio of products and businesses within Special Vehicle Operations. “Our immediate focus is on ensuring continuity of support for Bowler employees and customers during this transition to Jaguar Land Rover”. +++ 

+++ JEEP has confirmed technical details for its first plug-in hybrid, the Renegade PHEV. It’ll be followed by a plug-in hybrid version of the Compass. The electrified Renegade will use a 99 kW rear-mounted electric motor mated to the more powerful 134 kW tune of FCA’s 1.3-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. In all-wheel drive mode, there’s a total system output of 176 kW, good for a 0-100 km/h time of around 7.0 seconds. Jeep has said, however, the combined output will vary between trim levels, though on all variants it’ll be between 141 kW and 176 kW. The PHEV’s electric-only range is 49 km, capable of reaching speeds of up to 130 km/h. Jeep claims the Renegade’s CO2 emissions are lower than 50 g/km under NEDC2 standards. The Renegade PHEV swaps out the 1.3-litre’s existing 9-speed automatic transmission for a 6-speed automatic. There’s also a belt-activated generator for regenerative braking. Jeep says the hybrid system will significantly improve the Renegade’s off-road ability as the rear electric motor can precisely apportion its 258 Nm of torque between each rear wheel. The Renegade PHEV will be available in Jeep’s trail-rated Trailhawk trim and Jeep says the PHEV Trailhawk can wade through water up to 60 cm deep. You can use the Hybrid selector next to the gear shift to select between Electric, Hybrid or eSave modes. In eSave mode, the Renegade relies purely on the engine for propulsion and maintains or recharges the battery. The addition of the electric motor hasn’t robbed the cabin of any space, though the boot does lose 15 litres of volume. The electric motor is mounted on a modified version of the AWD Renegade’s rear subframe with the battery situated within the centre tunnel. To make room, the fuel tank (also located under the rear seat) has been reduced in capacity from 48 litres to 39 litres. Naturally, there’s a weight penalty in opting for the PHEV, the electrified Renegade weighing 120 kg more than a turbo-diesel Renegade. It’s set to go on sale in Europe in June 2020 with the Compass following later in the summer. Jeep’s European head of product marketing, Marco Pigozzi, says the Renegade PHEV is expected to be a volume seller for the brand and will be priced “aggressively”. These models will help Jeep reach the EU’s upcoming fleet-wide average emission target of 95 gram of CO2 per kilometre. +++ 

+++ LEXUS has confirmed that it has developed a twin-turbocharged V8 engine that will first be used in racing and then find its way into its road cars. In a press release detailing Lexus’s participation in next year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, Toyota Gazoo Racing confirmed that it will be running the Lexus LC for the third year in the event. Powering this racer will be a new twin-turbo V8 that is “destined for use on future road cars such as sports cars”. There’s been speculation for at least 2 years that Lexus has been working on a twin-turbocharged V8 engine. Reports have asserted that this powertrain will displace 4.0-liters, although no details have been provided by the company. The road car from Lexus most likely to use this engine will be the long-awaited Lexus LC F, spied testing on a number of occasions and promising performance well beyond the existing LC 500. As it stands, the flagship performance V8 from Lexus is naturally aspirated, displaces 5.0-liters and produces 471 hp at 7100 rpm and 539 Nm at 4,800 rpm. Putting the new twin-turbo V8 through its paces at May’s Nürburgring 24 Hours will be an excellent way for the company to fine-tune it and get it ready for the road. In addition, the Lexus LC competing will run new body and suspension structures focusing on low weight and high rigidity. It will also sport new stability control, traction control and ABS systems, all of which could find their way into future Lexus road cars. +++ 

+++ European supplies of the 2.0-litre version of the MAZDA MX-5 are going to be significantly limited in 2020 because of CO2 fleet average targets and currency fluctuations, the company has admitted. Some versions of the popular sports car will be axed entirely, and that dealers have been told to expect a 20 % reduction in sales in 2020. Mazda Europe has now confirmed that the 1.5-litre version of the MX-5 will indeed be its focus. A spokesman said, “We take a number of factors into consideration, not just the CO2 targets but also customer trends, pricing and currency exchange rates. But it is fair to say, yes, that there will be reduced supply of the 2.0-litre MX-5 in 2020”. The extra focus on the 1.5-litre MX-5 is indeed likely to have been caused by concerns over the potential penalties for not meeting fleet CO2 targets. The smaller-engined variant emits around 138 g/km of CO2, while the 2.0 model’s figures are all north of 155 g/km. The move is likely to be just one of dozens of adjustments to car engine line-ups over the next 12 months. Some manufacturers have expressed concerns that, in an attempt to avoid the EU’s CO2 penalties, they will be trying to push buyers into vehicles that are not fully in tune with customer demand, and at potentially higher prices. +++ 

+++ Earlier this year, MERCEDES BENZ revealed plug-in hybrid versions of the B-Class and A-Class subcompact hatchbacks for Europe, each with the 250e suffix. It seems they will be joined by a Mercedes-Benz CLA 250e quite soon. And it will be offered in both sedan and Shooting Brake forms. Since the CLA-Class is just a sleeker version of the A-Class, it should have exactly the same powertrain: a turbocharged 1.3-liter inline-4 and an electric motor. Combined horsepower will be 218 hp. Power will go to the front wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic. Thanks to a 15.6 kWh battery pack, it should have an electric range of about 50 kilometres. +++ 

+++ You could be in for a shock when you see the new OPEL Insignia. Although sales of family car models have been falling rapidly due to the onslaught of the SUV, Opel is taking a new approach which it thinks could reignite interest in the Insignia. “The industry is asking what happens after the SUV”, an insider told me. “And we think the new Insignia will be it. It’s the biggest metamorphosis of what we’ve seen so far from Opel”. Although he wouldn’t be drawn on any more details, understands that the current, low-slung Insignia Grand Sport, which has only just been facelifted, will be replaced by a crossover that’s somewhere between an SUV and an MPV. That doesn’t necessarily mean 7 seats, but a more premium and spacious high-riding model, along similar lines to the latest Renault Espace. As with the next Astra, the Insignia will switch from its current platform and engine tech, which come from previous owner GM, and take advantage of the latest systems from the PSA group. That means EMP2 platform technology that promises lower weights and associated efficiency gains, plus the latest infotainment and driver-assistance systems. EMP2 already underpins a range of Peugeots from the 308 to the 5008, as well as the Citroen C5 Aircross SUV and the premium DS 7 Crossback, while Opel uses the same platform for the Grandland X, which has just added a plug-in hybrid variant to its line-up. The new Insignia will stretch the EMP2 platform to its extreme; possibly beyond the 4.778 mm length and 2.793 mm wheelbase of the Peugeot 508. We’re unlikely to see the new Insignia until 2022 at the earliest, but it’s safe to assume that it will mirror other models in the PSA group with its choice of engines and technology. At least one plug-in hybrid version is likely, possibly more. In a bigger car than Astra, larger petrol and diesel engines will be a challenge without pushing the CO2 average up, hence a focus on plug-in tech. Opel is not alone in thinking of a radical way to replace its family hatch. It’s rumoured that Ford is thinking along similar lines with the replacement for its Mondeo, which has suffered a similar decline to the Insignia in recent years. Sales of the Insignia across Europe have dropped by around a third year on year in 2019, with the whole category down nearly 20 %. +++ 

+++ RIMAC is sharing more information about the real-world testing programme of the C_Two electric hypercar. The first batch of prototypes have been tested since spring on vehicle dynamics, powertrain and safety, with the Croatian company now entering the final development phase, with pre-production to launch in early 2020. Rimac will produce a total of 17 prototypes, each for different testing purposes, ranging from chassis rigidity to high-performance “autonomous driving” development. “We are working hard to shape this car exactly how we imagined it: a new breed of hypercar that unlocks the extreme performance of the electric drivetrain and new driving experience for the driver”, said Mate Rimac, founder and CEO of Rimac Automobili. “At the same time, it will be a technical masterpiece from an engineering point of view”, he added. “The C_Two will have a new driver feel, highly-communicative handling and first-class dynamics that will define our new car. We want this car to be intuitive and usable, yet sharp and capable. This process of testing and refinement is crucial to ensure we deliver on our promises: driving the C_Two will be something quite different”. Rimac Automobili will reveal the final production version of the C_Two at the Geneva Motor Show this March, with the first customer deliveries set to launch at the end of 2020. Rimac will also reveal there the final name of its new electric hypercar, leaving the C_Two for the concept versions we’ve seen so far. The production version of the Rimac C_Two will have some differences from the concepts of 2018 and 2019, featuring improvements in design, ergonomics and performance, according to the company. Production will be limited to 150 units, with each one priced from €2.4 million. The new electric hypercar is expected to offer a combined 1.914 hp and 2.300 Nm from its 4 electric motors, which draw energy from a 120 kWh battery pack. Rimac’s electric missile will feature all-wheel torque vectoring and a “uniquely adaptable” all-wheel drive system. 0-96 kph is done in a claimed 1.85 seconds while top speed will be set at 412 km/h. +++ 

+++ 5 of the world’s largest tech companies, including TESLA , have been accused of being complicit in the death of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo forced to mine cobalt, a metal used to make telephones and computers, in a landmark lawsuit. The legal complaint on behalf of 14 families from Congo was filed by International Rights Advocates, a United States based human rights non-profit, against Tesla, Apple, Google parent Alphabet, Microsoft and Dell Technologies. The companies were part of a system of forced labor that the families claimed led to the death and serious injury of their children, it said. It marked the first time the tech industry jointly has faced legal action over the source of its cobalt. Images in the court documents, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, showed children with disfigured or missing limbs. 6 of the 14 children in the case were killed in tunnel collapses, and the others suffered life-altering injuries, including paralysis, it said. “These companies (the richest companies in the world, these fancy gadget-making companies) have allowed children to be maimed and killed to get their cheap cobalt”, Terrence Collingsworth, an attorney representing the families, told. Cobalt is essential in making rechargeable lithium batteries used in millions of products sold by the tech industry. More than half of the world’s cobalt is produced in Congo. Global demand for the metal is expected to increase at 7 % to 13 % annually over the next decade, according to a 2018 study by the European Commission. The lawsuit said the children, some as young as 6 years old, were forced by their families’ extreme poverty to leave school and work in cobalt mining owned by the British mining company Glencore. Glencore has previously been accused of using child labor. Some children were paid as little as $1.50 per day, working 6 days a week, it said. In response to a request for comment, Dell said in an email that it has “never knowingly sourced operations” using child labor and has launched an investigation into the allegations. A spokesperson for Glencore said: “Glencore notes the allegations contained in a U.S. lawsuit filed on 15th December 2019. “Glencore’s production of cobalt in the DRC is a by-product of our industrial copper production. Glencore’s operations in the DRC do not purchase or process any artisanally mined ore. Glencore does not tolerate any form of child, forced, or compulsory labor”. Tesla, Apple, Google, Microsoft did not immediately respond for comment. The legal complaint argued that the companies all have the ability to overhaul their cobalt supply chains to ensure safer conditions. “I’ve never encountered or documented a more severe asymmetry in the allocation of income between the top of the supply chain and the bottom”, said Siddharth Kara, a researcher on modern slavery who is an expert witness in the case. “It’s that disconnect that makes this perhaps the worst injustice of slavery and child exploitation that I’ve seen in my two decades research”. More than 40 million people have been estimated to be captive in modern slavery, which includes forced labor and forced marriage, according to Walk Free and the International Labour Organization. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA has released another video of the upcoming GR Yaris hot hatch, this time featuring some early impressions from the factory WRC team, including Ott Tanak, Kris Meeke, Jari-Matti Latvala and team principal Tommi Makinen. The new Toyota GR Yaris will be a rally-inspired hot hatch, featuring all-wheel drive and a powerful turbocharged engine paired to a manual transmission. Details about the powertrain are not known yet, with rumors talking about a 4-cylinder or a 3-cylinder unit. In any case, the new hot Toyota “incorporates all the technologies, knowledge, and experience learned from WRC”, according to Gazoo Racing. That probably means that the final production car will most likely adopt a four-cylinder engine, which we expect to offer way more than the 212 hp of the previous limited edition Yaris GRMN. The red-black-white camouflaged prototype seen in the video is also a 3-door Yaris that features frameless doors, a bodystyle not seen before in the regular Yaris range, as well as rally wheels and tires. The interior features body-hugging GR-branded bucket seats. The exterior of the new Toyota GR Yaris will feature a wide bodykit, more aggressive bumpers, bigger wheels and a roof spoiler. Toyota’s new hot hatch will ride on wider tracks front and rear, along with a model-specific suspension design to support the WRC relationship; apparently, this will not be just a souped-up Yaris but rather a quite unique machine in the same vein with homologation specials of the past. Toyota will reveal the new GR Yaris at the Tokyo Auto Salon in full detail on January 10, so stay tuned. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will have a grand total of 4 hot Golf models in dealers before the end of next year, with the R going on sale a few months after the GTI, diesel GTD and plug-in hybrid GTE. Sources at the firm suggest that the GTI will be launched at the Geneva motor show in March and go on sale soon after. They also claim the R version will be shown in July at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The transformation from regular Golf to GTI is likely to be as subtly handled as previous variants. It will include the usual dual-exit tailpipes, red brake calipers, chunky air intakes and a bodykit extending around the lower portion of the car. In a reversal of original plans, Wolfsburg has decided not to make a more radical switch to hybrid power. Instead, the 8th generation Golf GTI is set to stick with much of the hardware that has made the seventh-generation model such a success, both critically and commercially. That means an updated version of the Audi-developed EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine used in the existing Mk7 Golf GTI. Again, like the current car, it will be offered with 2 power outputs: a standard output of around 245 hp and a more powerful 290 hp model, which will replace the MK7 Performance version. Althought previously thought the latter variant would wear the TCR badge, VW’s decision to leave the racing series as part of its plans to end all combustion-engined motorsport means it will feature the Clubsport nameplate instead. An increase in torque is claimed to establish new levels of performance. In the case of the higher-spec model, it is said the 0-100 kph time will be less than 6.0 seconds. Gearbox choices will include carry-over versions of today’s 6-speed manual and 7-speed dual-clutch items. As recently as late 2018, VW had planned to switch the Golf GTI to mild-hybrid power as the performance flagship of a new range of IQ-badged petrol-electric mild-hybrid models. That system is also based around the EA888 engine. However, it will not be used on the Golf GTI, under the instruction of VW Group chairman Herbert Diess, who reversed the decision of his predecessor Matthias Müller. The transversely mounted 2.0-litre 4-cylinder powerplant will be mated to an electric motor and 48 Volt electrical architecture. It is a set-up that VW plans to mirror on the smaller 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and 2.0-litre diesel units used on the new Mk8 Golf. The original plan had been to improve the Golf GTI’s low-end response with electric boosting. Additionally, the technology was to bring a coasting function that idles the engine on a trailing throttle and a recuperation system that harvests kinetic energy during braking. However, VW’s about-turn on hybrid technology should lead to the new GTI having a similar character to today’s car. The new Golf GTI is underpinned by a further-developed version of the existing model’s MQB platform, featuring a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension in combination with adaptive damping control. Engineers involved in the new car’s development say a lot of attention has been focused on steering accuracy. The electro-mechanical set-up of the outgoing model has been heavily reworked to provide it with added levels of feedback and a more direct ratio. Buyers will be restricted to just one bodystyle: a 5-door hatchback. The three-door will no longer be produced. Changes inside include a new digital cockpit with an optional head-up display unit and new switchgear, including a centre console featuring a stubby T-shaped gearlever for DSG-equipped versions. The new GTI is also expected to follow the mainstream model and get a technical overhaul. Most significantly, this includes the integration of a new, larger central digital screen that will have some touch functionality, but also a new tactile control system designed to make the most common control adjustments easier. A performance increase for the GTI is necessary to ensure that it occupies a performance level above the new GTE, revealed at the same time as the standard Golf. That model’s 245 hp comes from a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine combined with an electric motor, with a lower-powered 204 hp variant expected at a later date. It makes use of a 13 kWh battery that allows up to 70 kilometres of zero-emissions range, and can be taken up to 135 kph without any assistance from the engine. Performance figures are yet to be detailed, however, as are economy figures. Details of the GTD are even more scarce. We know it will use a variant of the Group’s well-established 2.0-litre diesel engine with mild-hybrid tech, but a power output is unconfirmed. The previous variant made 184 hp and 370 Nm, with both figures likely to be improved upon. The mild hybrid system should ensure even better economy, too. The R is again likely to use a heavily boosted EA888 motor with 333 hp in entry-level form, mated to all-wheel drive. Insiders suggest a range-topping R Plus is still on the cards, albeit with around 360 hp rather than the previously rumoured 400 hp. +++


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