Newsflash: Alfa Romeo viert 110de verjaardag met 625 pk sterke Giulia GTA

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+++ ALFA ROMEO has refocused its future product plan and will launch a new baby crossover designed to rival the Renault Captur in the next 2 years. The crossover will also be the Italian company’s first model to be offered with the option of fully electric power, official documents have revealed. The firm was relatively late bringing its first SUV, the Stelvio, to market in 2017 and since then Alfa Romeo has yet to broaden its SUV offering. Aware that it is losing out on valuable market share and profits, the Italian brand is refocusing its SUV plans and will bring 2 smaller models to market in the next 24 months. The first will be a version of the Tonale concept, first seen at last year’s Geneva Motor Show, but a smaller electric crossover will follow. The recent merger between Alfa Romeo’s owner, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and PSA (which owns Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall) gives it access to all of the necessary mechanical running gear to get a compact, fully electric crossover to market quickly. PSA’s strength in developing electric vehicles was one of the key benefits FCA identified in striking a deal. While unconfirmed, it’s almost certain that the future crossover will be based upon the Compact Modular Platform (CMP) that is used as a basis for the Peugeot e-208 and Opel Corsa-e. Currently the architecture can accommodate a 50 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 1 electric motor that drives the front axle for a maximum range of around 320 kilometres. For a compact B-segment crossover it’s unlikely Alfa Romeo will change the set-up of the architecture to accommodate 4-wheeldrive, given the car’s expected use as urban transport. This will also help keep the cost of the vehicle down. As well as a fully electric option, Alfa Romeo will offer conventional petrol engines for those not ready to make the jump to a full EV. The platform is originally PSA-engineered, so it’s likely that the 1.2-litre 3-cylinder engine from the current Corsa and 208 line-ups will find its way into the crossover. This will allow Alfa Romeo to further reduce costs and bring the vehicle to market more quickly. While the Italians will have little input into the running gear, the design will be unique. Slender LED headlamps and Alfa Romeo’s trademark trapezoidal grille will be its standout features, while its expected length of around 4.1 metres will make it a match for models such as the DS 3 Crossback. The as-yet-unnamed crossover will go a considerable way to helping boost Alfa Romeo’s sales figures, which didn’t take off in the way the company expected with the Stelvio. A model that will beat the crossover into showrooms is the all-new Tonale. It will sit in the segment above, rivalling models such as the Audi Q2 and Peugeot 2008. It will be around 4.25 metres long, and is due to go on sale at the end of this year. It won’t be offered as a fully electric model, but it will be available as a plug-in hybrid, using the platform and running gear that currently underpin the Jeep Renegade. This model will be Alfa Romeo’s first electrified vehicle, expected to pair a 1.3-litre engine with a small electric motor on the rear axle. This will enable the firm to develop four-wheel drive, with the electric motor powering the rear wheels and the engine driving the front axle. It should allow owners to travel up to 50 kilometres on pure-electric power. Rounding off the confirmed models due by 2022 will be facelifted versions of the Giulia and Stelvio, both expected in around 12 months. +++ 

+++ Approximately four years ago, in May 2016, an interesting report claimed BMW could develop a direct rival for the Porsche 911. It was believed it could continue the existence of the 6 Series Coupe and 6 Series Convertible but, as we all know, these 2 cars morphed into the revived 8 Series range. Does that mean that there are no longer chances of seeing a new sports car from the Bavarian company, developed as a competitor to the legendary 911? Not so fast, says BMW. In a recent interview, BMW Group design boss Adrian van Hooydonk commented on the speculations and even expressed his interest in the rumoured new model. Of course, his words are far from being a confirmation or anything close but it’s good to know that at least someone at BMW is thinking about a potential new performance model. In 2016, it was believed that the new 6 Series would be smaller than the model that was still on sale then and would put a huge focus on performance, rather than cabin comfort. In fact, there were speculations that the new coupe would use a stretched version of the platform that underpins the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra duo. The idea was to put 8-cylinder engines under the bonnet plus BMW’s twin-turbo inline-6 units. The only member of the 6 Series family that’s still on sale currently is the 6 Series GT, which is due to receive a facelift later this year. However, the oddly-shaped liftback is no longer available in the United States as BMW decided to discontinue it from the American market less than 2 years after it was introduced as a replacement for the 5 GT. +++ 

+++ This year marks the fifth birthday of the BUGATTI Chiron’s production that started in 2016, and right now, fewer than 100 of the 500 hypercars are still available. The automaker estimates that it will complete the limited run of 500 cars, which does not include other derivatives, such as the Divo or Centodieci, by the end of 2021, according to CEO Stephan Winkelmann. They will not rest on their laurels, though, as this year, Bugatti has a few surprises in store for us. The firm’s head honcho was not willing to divulge any specific details yet, except that they will stay true to their legacy. “All I can say is this: we’ll be presenting a few interesting surprises in 2020. We have several ideas and are continuing to work on the future of our traditional marque”, said Winkelmann. “We will present further high-performance vehicles in 2020, because Bugatti remains true to its philosophy of developing the best cars in the world”, he added. Bugatti has been flirting with the idea of launching a second product for many years, and while it still needs the Volkswagen Group’s blessing, the model is believed to be a 4-door GT or an SUV. Electrification would be required for the new vehicle, as it would help the automaker enter a new era, yet platform sharing is not on the agenda, so this means more money to be invested. It would be impossible to say no to a Bugatti Grand Tourer, if money is no issue, but an SUV seems like the right financial approach, even though it would be a controversial move for their traditional clientele if they go down this route. +++ 

+++ The CHEVROLET Corvette Z06 C8 could rival the Porsche 911 GT2 RS on track. A GT2 RS was spotted with a camouflaged C8, and it doesn’t appear to be a coincidence. Just when you thought mid-engine Corvette news would be falling off, Z06 rumours arrive to keep the fires burning. Of course, the Z06 hasn’t arrived yet, but we’re back to seeing camouflaged Corvettes and the hardcore racer is the next logical step. That’s supported by a recent Corvette spy video featuring an engine note that sounds nothing like the Stingray’s 6.2-litre V8. If this new sighting is any indication, Chevrolet could be aiming the Z06 very high into the supercar ranks. The GT2 RS is, in case you forgot, is one of the quickest production cars around a track that money can buy. It can lap the Nürburgring in 6 minutes 47 seconds thanks to a combination of aerodynamic witchcraft, exceptional suspension tuning, and 700 hp sitting on the rear wheels. By comparison, the not-at-all-incapable C7 ZR1 couldn’t break the 7-minute barrier with 55 more hp. This means Chevrolet is benchmarking the GT2 RS. It makes sense for the Z06, since that model has traditionally been the hardcore track machine in Corvette’s lineup. If that’s the case, we can better understand why we’re seeing such heavy camouflage on test vehicles. Large rear wings, suspension tweaks, and more power have been the crux of Z06 changes in the past. But if Chevrolet wants Nürburgring glory, in-depth aero updates to the Corvette are quite likely. That said, we must also offer a bit of caution with these musings. We have absolutely no context for the Facebook post, and Chevrolet is certainly mum on future Corvette projects. For all we know, a GT2 RS driver could’ve simply pulled into the lot to check out some weird-looking car covered with black sheets, but what are the odds of that happening? And if Chevrolet is benchmarking the GT2 RS, that doesn’t automatically mean Corvette engineers will be successful in matching the Porsche’s overall performance. However, the base model C8 already beats the C7 ZR1 to 60 mph, so yeah. Proceed with caution, but there’s some sound logic behind all this. In any case, we suspect the Z06 will arrive sooner than people realise. To campaign the C8.R in IMSA, Chevrolet must offer at least 300 production cars fitted with a version of its 5.5-litre flat-plane-crank V8. I don’t know exactly how long Chevrolet has to bring these cars to market, but the C8.R is racing this weekend at Daytona. And with camouflaged C8 sightings on the rise, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Z06 this summer. +++ 

+++ FORD said its 4th quarter results will be hit by a pre-tax loss of about $2.2 billion due to higher contributions to its employees pension plans. The charge is largely related to a drop in discount rates, the company said, as that leads to an increase in the amount of money to be contributed for future pension benefits. The U.S. automaker said it will record a $2 billion loss related to pension plans outside the United States and a $600 million loss associated with other post-retirement employee benefits plans globally. However, the overall loss was offset by a $400 million gain associated with pension plans in the United States. On an after-tax basis, the loss is expected to reduce Ford’s net income by about $1.7 billion in the fourth quarter. The loss will not impact the adjusted earnings per share as it is a special item, the company said. +++ 

+++ French prosecutors investigating a party that former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos GHOSN threw for his wife at the sumptuous Versailles palace will in the next few weeks ask judges to examine the case, bringing a prosecution a step closer. Prosecutors have been investigating whether Ghosn (now in Lebanon after he last month fled prosecution in Japan on financial misconduct charges) knowingly used company resources to throw a party that was for private purposes. An official with the prosecutor’s office in Nanterre, near Paris, which has been handling the investigation, told a judge or judges would be assigned to pursue the case against Ghosn. The judges have wider powers than prosecutors to pursue a criminal case. They can, in certain circumstances, order the detention of a suspect pending trial, or issue an international arrest warrant if the suspect is abroad. Jean-Yves Le Borgne, one of Ghosn’s legal team, said Ghosn had done nothing wrong over the party, but there may have been a misunderstanding between Versailles and party planners working for Ghosn. The lawyer said Ghosn had offered to pay back the €50,000 cost of renting the venue for the party. “Carlos Ghosn is ready to answer French justice. Regarding his possible travel to France, things are complicated”, Le Borgne added, citing a travel ban imposed by Lebanese prosecutors, and an international Interpol notice requesting Ghosn’s arrest, as demanded by Japanese authorities. Ghosn was once a giant of the global auto industry but is now a fugitive from Japanese justice. He last month slipped out of Japan, where he was subject to strict bail conditions, managing to board a private jet to Turkey and from there flying to Lebanon, his childhood home. He says the Japanese charges were fabricated as part of a plot to oust him from the Renault – Nissan alliance. The party at Versailles, principal residence of generations of French kings until the French revolution of 1789, took place on Oct. 8, 2016. Ghosn said it was to mark the 50th birthday of his wife, Carole. The case revolves around whether Ghosn was aware that Renault would end up footing the bill. Ghosn has denied any wrongdoing. He said the event was never presented as a corporate party, and he believed the venue was being offered free to him personally as a goodwill gesture by Versailles. He said he was later surprised to find out that it cost €50,000 and that the amount had been deducted from an allocation for the use of Versailles that Renault had been given in exchange for financing a renovation of the chateau. However, a spokeswoman for Versailles Palace said it was clear at the time the party took place that the event was presented as corporate in nature, and that the ultimate client the venue was dealing with was Renault-Nissan. “There was nothing which would allow us to believe this dinner was anything other than a corporate event”. She said that Versailles had documents demonstrating the parties were presented as corporate events, and said that Versailles was ready to share them with investigators. She declined to disclose the documents. Lebanon and Japan have about 40 days to decide whether ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn will be extradited to Japan or stand trial in Lebanon, a judicial source and a source close to Ghosn said, following his escape from Japan last month. Ghosn fled to Lebanon, his childhood home, as he was awaiting trial on charges of under-reporting earnings, breach of trust and misappropriation of company funds, all of which he denies. Japan and Lebanon have no extradition agreement and Lebanon does not typically hand over its nationals. Ghosn’s legal team is hoping to hold the trial in Lebanon, where the former auto executive has deep ties and hopes to clear his name. Japan has in recent days asked Lebanon to clarify what files Tokyo needs to send as part of an official extradition request, the two sources said. “They came back and requested a clarification. Today, we sent that to the Japanese”, the judicial source said. That communication is significant because, according to Lebanon’s rules for dealing with Interpol notices, it triggers a roughly 40-day period by the end of which agreement must be reached between the countries on where and how Ghosn will stand trial, the sources said. Japan must now either send a formal extradition request to Lebanon or send Ghosn’s file to Beirut and agree on a process for trying him there, the source close to Ghosn said. An Interpol spokesperson said the organization did not itself dictate a timeframe or require any action to be taken by countries and such a framework is set locally. Ghosn, who holds Lebanese, French, and Brazilian nationality, was questioned earlier this month by Lebanese prosecutors who confiscated his passport and imposed a travel ban as part of the Interpol arrest warrant process. The source close to Ghosn said the former executive can appeal to Lebanon’s prosecutor to drop the ban and return his passport if Japan does not respond within the timeframe. Japanese prosecutors have said they are still pushing for Ghosn to be tried in Japan. Ghosn has struck out at what he has called Japan’s unjust judicial system and said the alternative to fleeing would have been to spend the rest of his life languishing in Tokyo without a fair trial. +++ 

+++ Alfa Romeo is plotting a high-performance flagship version of its GIULIA QUADRIFOGLIO performance saloon with more than 600 hp. The Italian firm could revive its historic GTA nameplate for the new model, which is also expected to weigh around 20 kg less than the standard model. The new Quadrifoglio GTA is likely to use an uprated version of the standard model’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6. A quoted power figure of 625 hp represents a 115 hp boost over the current Quadrifoglio, and would give the new model a significant power advantage over its BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 rivals. While Alfa Romeo sells the Quadrifoglio with a manual gearbox in the US, the new model will likely be sold exclusively with the 8-speed automatic ‘box we get in Europe. Reports suggest the Quadrifoglio GTA could be unveiled in Milan on 24 June, at an event marking Alfa’s 110th birthday. Rumours of the new super-saloon come just 2 months after Alfa Romeo stopped development of its long-awaited GTV sports coupe and a successor to the 8C supercar. Mike Manley, CEO of parent company FCA, told investors that the company’s portfolio plan has been “significantly scaled back, with a corresponding reduction in capital spending”. Shortly after, the firm’s 4C sports car was taken off sale. Any new high-performance version of the Giulia can be expected to be sold in extremely limited numbers, as the company’s 5-year product plan, revealed in November, detailed just 2 new models: the Tonale compact SUV and a slightly smaller B-segment model. Currently the most potent variant of the Giulia Quadrifoglio on sale is the limited-run Racing Edition, which carries a bespoke motorsport-inspired paint scheme and gains 10 hp over the standard model, thanks to an Akrapovič titanium exhaust system. +++ 

+++ GLOBAL car sales fell last year and according to many experts, 2020 could be equally as painful for car manufacturers. Analysts from LMC Automotive say the number of vehicles sold in major global markets last year dropped to 90.3 million, well down on the 94.4 million sold the year prior and the record 95.2 million cars that were sold in 2017. A good portion of the sales fall came due to a slowdown in economic growth in China as well as the elimination of tax incentives for electric cars. In China alone, 2.3 million fewer cars were sold in 2019 than in 2018. Additionally, sales in India slowed due to a weakening economy and local credit crunch. Similarly, economic conditions haven’t been favorable to new car sales in Europe. LMC Automotive, indicates global car sales could fall to below 90 million this year. “There is unlikely to be any real support to the global total from the mature markets like western Europe and the United States”, director of global sales forecasts at LMC Jonathon Poskitt said. For the following few years, car sales are not expected to rebound as a result of lower demand for vehicles in wealthy cities crippled by traffic congestion and pollution. However, from 2023, demand for vehicles in less developed areas could have positive effects on the rest of the industry. “Many markets in the world are not yet at what we would consider to be mature levels, and as income grows so does the affordability of vehicle ownership”, said Poskitt. “Considering the low levels of car density in China and India alone, there remains the potential for solid market expansion as some of the more immediate headwinds ease”. +++ 

+++ JEEP is launching the new plug-in hybrid Renegade and Compass 4Xe in Europe, starting with a special ‘First Edition’ that’s now detailed on a dedicated web portal. The portal is already live in Italy and Spain, with other markets soon to follow. The new Jeep Renegade and Compass 4Xe First Edition models will be available in 2 configurations; the Urban, which is based on the S trim level, and Off-Road, which is based on the Trailhawk trim. Both First Edition variants will feature the most powerful 240 hp version of the new electrified powertrain, which combines a turbocharged 1.3-liter 4-cylinder petrol unit with an electric motor running the rear axle. Jeep expects the pure electric range to be up to 50 km, with the 4Xe models capable of reaching a top speed of 130 km/h in pure EV mode. 0-100 km/h comes in around 7 seconds while the top speed in hybrid mode is set at 200 km/h. The new Jeep Renegade and Compass 4Xe First Edition models will also feature a Wallbox charger as standard, which can fully charge the battery in 3.5 hours at 3.5 kW or 100 minutes if you upgrade it to its full 7.4 kW of charging power. There’s also exclusive equipment such as the 8.4 inch UConnect Nav infotainment system, a 7 inch digital display inside the instrument cluster, Blind Spot, Rear Camera, Park Assist, Parking sensors, Keyless go with Passive entry, electrical mirrors and other features specific for each model. Jeep will offer the new Renegade and Compass 4Xe First Edition models with a 5-year warranty for the vehicle and an 8-year warranty for the battery pack. +++ 

+++ MAZDA is expanding the engine lineup for the Mazda3 and CX-30 in Europe with a new Skyactiv-G 2.0 150 M Hybrid powertrain. This is a more powerful variant of the existing Skyactiv-G 2.0 122 M Hybrid engine. The new 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder gasoline unit assisted by a mild-hybrid system delivers 150 hp. The power increase is achieved by an adapted engine control unit, which also ensures that a higher engine torque is available from 4,000 rpm. Mazda didn’t reveal the peak torque figure, though. The new 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G petrol engine comes with cylinder deactivation as standard to reduce fuel consumption. Depending on the driving situation, the engine automatically switches between 2-cylinder and 4-cylinder operation. As with the other powertrains available for the Mazda3 and CX-30, the transmission choices for the new engine include a standard 6-speed Skyactiv-MT manual transmission or an optional 6-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic. The rest of the engine lineup remains unchanged for both the Mazda3 and CX-30. The base Skyactiv-G 2.0 122 M Hybrid petrol engine delivers 122 hp at 6,000 rpm and 213 Nm at 4,000 rpm. The Skyactiv-X 2.0 180 M Hybrid remains the most powerful petrol unit available delivering 180 hp at 6,000 rpm and 224 Nm at 3,000 rpm. This is the only engine that offers an available AWD system, both on the Mazda3 and CX-30. Skyactiv-X uses a revolutionary SPCCI (Spark Plug Controlled Compression Ignition) combustion process said to combine the advantages of a conventional petrol engine with the efficiency of a diesel. Speaking of diesel engines, the only choice is the Skyactiv-D 1.8 116 4-cylinder which produces 116 hp at 4,000 rpm and 270 Nm at 1,600-2,600 rpm. +++ 

+++ The next-generation MERCEDES-BENZ SL grand tourer has been spotted testing in production form for the first time ahead of its official unveiling later this year. The images look to be taken at a top-secret development facility. While under wraps, the prototype can be seen to sport a long, sloping bonnet, prominent rear haunches and an angular front grille design. The rounded rear end is similar to that of the Mercedes-AMG GT sports car, which will share a platform with the SL in its next iteration. The new SL will receive a traditional fabric hood in place of the folding hard-top arrangement that has been used for the past 2 incarnations. AMG boss Tobias Moers confirmed that the SL, which will go on sale by 2021, will be “aligned” with the next AMG GT. The duo’s shared aluminium-intensive platform, known as the Modular Sports Architecture (MSA), will increase the economies of scale and overall profitability of 2 of Mercedes’ most exclusive model lines. “We’re bringing back the historic DNA of the SL”, he said. “It’s far sportier this time round. It will have a perfect compromise between driving dynamics and comfort, because it’s still kind of a cruiser, too”. This is the first time AMG has overseen development of any SL across its previous 7 generations. Moers said: “Handing over SL to AMG as the performance and sports car brand is great. There’s lots of responsibility behind that, and I’m really honoured”. He also confirmed that the 8th generation SL would be offered only as a roadster, like its predecessor. Overall, the SL will be revived as a lighter, faster and more engaging model, which is why AMG has been tasked with heading up the project. Mercedes-Benz is considering adding more plug-in hybrids to its AMG performance-car lineup, as the automaker seeks to balance consumer demand for roaring combustion power with government pressure to meet stricter emissions rules. Fleet customers of the brand have responded well to a growing list of plug-in hybrid models for sale, ranging from compacts to full-size vehicles, Mercedes sales chief Britta Seeger said in an interview. Private consumers are also increasingly willing to consider alternatives to traditional gasoline or diesel engines, she said. “Over the past 12 to 18 months, we’ve really seen a mindset change and people are becoming much more open toward electric and hybrid cars”, Seeger said. “I see a lot of potential for AMG to grow further, both with traditional performance models as well as electrified versions like the upcoming GT 4-Door Coupe EQ hybrid”, she said. Traditional automakers have been forced to rethink the market as they confront new emissions rules, rapidly changing technology and potent competition from rivals such as Tesla and new tech-industry entrants. The future is particularly uncertain for performance brands like AMG that rely on the growl of a big engine to attract wealthy customers. With consumer demand for full-electric cars still unproven, plug-in hybrids may offer an attractive way for AMG to adapt without alienating range-anxious drivers unwilling to move away from combustion engines altogether. The GT 4-Door Coupe, a plug-in hybrid first shown as a concept in 2017, is due out this year. It pairs a gasoline-powered V8 engine with a hybrid drive unit derived from the Formula One racing program; an approach that delivers more than 800 hp, underscoring AMG’s high-performance roots. AMG also is developing a 2-seat supercar called the Project One, and is considering a plug-in hybrid version of the AMG 63 coupe and other models. Mercedes faced a turbulent 2019 that saw record global deliveries while profit margins were squeezed, and regulatory costs rose. In its latest profit warning, parent Daimler said that legal expenses related to diesel cheating allegations also hurt last year’s results. Still, there was good news as Mercedes outsold rival BMW for another year to keep the luxury crown. Demand for upscale cars proved more resilient than the general market (a trend Seeger expects to continue) even as tariffs, Brexit and geopolitical tensions keep automakers on high alert. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make concrete forecasts”, Seeger said. “I remain optimistic because demand for individual mobility and wealth creation in major markets continues to grow”. Like other European automakers facing tighter emissions rules, Daimler has pressed forward with plans to introduce a range of full-electric cars. Last year it rolled out the EQ C, a competitor to Tesla’s Model X. The fully electric EQ S concept shown in September, a sibling of the flagship S-class sedan, will serve as a basis for more purely battery-powered luxury cars as Daimler aims to offer more than 10 fully electric models by 2022. Full-electric AMGs may be considered at some point. For now, the unit will test the waters with the GT 4-Door Coupe and the plug-in hybrid Project One, planned for 2021. That car will supplement a 1.6-liter V6 engine with 4 electric motors, propelling it to 200 kph in less than 6 seconds. Electric mode lasts for just 25 kilometers. For the C63 and other models, plans are still fluid. While the global light-vehicle market forecast to shrink for a second straight year, according to Moody’s, prospects look more encouraging in the premium car segment, where buyers are less price sensitive. Still, profit margins from plug-in hybrid and electric cars are still lower than for traditional vehicles. Maintaining the price discipline to avoid steep discounts will be critical for Mercedes to protect returns. “It’s very important that we ensure profitable growth, not only chase volume”, Seeger said. +++ 

+++ NISSAN ’s newly appointed boss Makoto Uchida met with a group of U.S. dealers to hear what they had to say about the brand. He asked them to be brutally honest, and they didn’t disappoint blasting the brand for poor products and a reputation for being a “bargain-basement brand”. The first meeting was described as being rather enlightening, with retailers urging Uchida to take action on several fronts. Uchida met with a group of 9 U.S. dealers at Nissan North America’s headquarters in Nashville in order to find out first hand about the issues they are facing. “I want to know all the negatives”, a dealer in the room quoted the Nissan CEO as saying. “I’m here to listen, don’t hold anything back, even if it’s hard for me to hear”. What followed was simply what he asked for as the dealers were not shy to share their problems with Nissan’s boss. “We gave him an hour and a half of reality”, one of the dealers told. “We didn’t pull any punches. We were brutally honest”. The meeting came after Nissan’s U.S. dealer partners started voicing their concerns about the car maker’s strategy in its biggest market. US sales for Nissan dropped by 9.9 % to 1.35 million vehicles last year while the overall market is estimated to be down just by 1.2 %. Officially Nissan said that the drop in sales is partly due to their decision to cut back on rental fleet sales, but the dealers remain pretty worried. Uchida acknowledges that the U.S. market could make or break Nissan, according to another dealer in the meeting. “He was saying it will require a team of people to make this thing right, but that we’ll get there”, the dealer said. One of the things the dealers asked for is faster product updates, as the Japanese brand has one of the oldest model portfolios in the industry. Nissan said it will renew 70 % of it in the next 18 months. Until that happens, the dealers urged Uchida to give Nissan’s North American management greater autonomy and more financial and marketing support from Japan in order to increase sales. “If you don’t provide all the resources today, the check later on is going to be even greater”, one of the dealers reportedly said to Nissan’s boss. Another issue pointed out was the need to replace Nissan’s existing (and divisive) dealer incentive program that gives financial rewards to retailers when meeting their sales targets. This has been criticized for years as making it too hard for dealers to meet factory targets and remain profitable at the same time. Brand awareness was also one of the topics discussed, as the group asked Uchida among other things to alter the marketing strategy as the company’s current technology-focused marketing campaign isn’t working. “Our technology message is getting lost in translation”, Uchida was told. “Self-driving cars may be great in Japan or different parts of the world, but in the U.S., people are not responding to it”. The group left the meeting feeling optimistic as Uchida left a positive impression on them. “Uchida is not coming with a silver bullet, and he doesn’t have a cure for cancer”, one said. “But he showed up. He said, ‘Give me an opportunity, I want to see how fast I can get things done here’ ”. The participants even compared Uchida’s style to that of the former chairman Carlos Ghosn. “Uchida is humble and very interested in everybody’s opinion”, one dealer said. “It’s not ‘his way or the highway’ which was Carlos Ghosn’s mentality. No one in the room ever dared tell Carlos Ghosn what he didn’t want to hear”. +++ 

+++ SKODA has officially confirmed that the world premiere of the new generation Octavia RS will be take place at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, which runs between March 3 and 15. Dubbed the Octavia iV RS, it’s the first ‘RS’ performance model to feature an electrified powertrain, which is shared with its platform architecture siblings, the upcoming VW Golf GTE and next generation Cupra Leon. The Czech sports model will combine a 1.4-liter TSI petrol engine with an electric motor producing a combined output of 245 hp and 400 Nm. The 0 to 100 km/h sprint should take around 7 seconds, while the 13 kWh battery pack will give it an electric range of up to 55 km. Much like its Mk8 Golf cousin, the next Octavia RS will also offer conventional powertrains. These include a petrol model with VW’s EA888 2.0-liter turbo-4 and a similar output to the PHEV, but around 250 kg lighter. A diesel version will be offered too, tipped to retain the 2.0-liter TDI with a few modifications meant to make it more frugal and perhaps around 16 hp more powerful, lifting output to 200 hp. Skoda has reportedly chosen not to use the 2.0-liter twin-turbo diesel from the Kodiaq RS, which makes 240 hp and 500 Nm, in the top-spec Octavia. +++ 

+++ SUBARU has revealed an unnamed concept car previewing the design of its forthcoming electric rival for the Volkswagen T-Roc and Seat Ateca. Technical specifications on the prototype are yet to be confirmed but, given its size, I expect this is the first vehicle based on Toyota and Subaru’s forthcoming, jointly developed all-electric platform. Toyota and Subaru recently announced an agreement which will see the pair jointly develop a dedicated all-electric platform for larger vehicles. The new EV platform will reach the European markets in the early 2020s, underpinning a new C-segment SUV which will also be designed and built collaboratively by the 2 brands. Details on the new platform remain sparse, but Toyota and Subaru have claimed it will play to both brand’s strengths. As such, the pair’s new C-segment SUV will combine Toyota’s experience with electric technology with Subaru’s 4-wheeldrive expertise. The platform will also underpin a range of larger vehicles, including a D-segment saloon and SUV. Subaru and Toyota’s official render offers an indication of their new platform’s construction. It will feature an electric motor on the front axle and a low-mounted battery pack, presumably to benefit the car’s weight distribution and packaging. The styling of this new Subaru concept also matches the silhouette of the brands’ design sketch. The new electric platform will help Subaru achieve its long-term emissions goals. By 2030, the Japanese manufacturer is aiming for all-electric or hybrid-electric vehicles to account for at least 40 % of its global sales figures. By 2050, Subaru hopes to reduce the average CO2 emissions of its new vehicles by 90 %, when compared to 2010. The pair have also announced their wider electrification strategy which, due to the differing amounts of environmental legislation and infrastructure support for each country, will vary according to the region. Toyota says it will provide a “horses for courses” approach to electrification, aiming to offer the right products for the right markets, at the right time. As such, Toyota and Subaru will likely roll out its new electric platform in Japan, China and Europe first, where the electric market is strong and the supporting infrastructure is rapidly developing. Toyota is also keen to stress that hybrid powertrains will still form a key part of their electrification strategy and that it continues to research hydrogen technology. +++ 

+++ SUZUKI is co-operating with the Dutch authorities over their findings its diesel vehicles had broken the country’s emissions rules, and it is required to respond to the investigation by mid-February, it said. The Dutch road authority ruled that Suzuki’s Vitara and Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel models broke emissions rules and must be fixed or face a ban on sales across Europe. In a statement, Suzuki said diesel versions of its Vitara and S-Cross vehicles used engines and emissions software supplied by Fiat Chrysler. The Dutch authorities said the vehicles in question, which are no longer in production, showed emissions levels higher than allowed following a software update in 2017, Suzuki said. Earlier this week, the German authorities said they were investigating Mitsubishi for suspected use of illegal, emissions defeat devices installed in its diesel engines. Regulators across the world have been clamping down on emissions devices used in diesel models since Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it used illegal software to cheat U.S. emissions tests. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN Group boss Herbert Diess is sending a message to Elon Musk: We are coming for Tesla. While Tesla is paving the way in electric cars, VW is buying software companies and ramping up investments in sustainable vehicles and battery cells, Diess said. “It’s an open race”, Diess said in an interview. “We are quite optimistic that we still can keep the pace with Tesla and also at some stage probably overtake”, he said. Tesla’s market value surpassed VW’s for the first time this week, even as the U.S. company sells a fraction of the cars VW produces and has yet to record an annual profit. Still, Tesla has a competitive edge in electric cars and software, technologies that are underpinning a shift toward cleaner mobility. The threat is underscored by Musk’s plan to establish a factory near Berlin, in the heart of Germany’s automotive industry. Diess last week called on his top managers to speed up overhaul efforts to make the company more agile or risk being pushed aside. “The company which adopts fastest and is most innovative but also which has enough scale in the new world will make the race”, Diess said. Volkswagen has started building its first mass-market EV, the ID.3, in Germany. Tesla is not Diess’s only concern. The CEO was among executives who attended a dinner with U.S. president Donald Trump. While the meeting was “positive”, the threat of U.S. tariffs on European automakers has not been averted, Diess said. “It’s very difficult to read president Trump but he stated that he’s still not happy with Europe”, Diess said. “We’re doing what we can to avoid tariffs”. Volkswagen has been relatively resilient so far to industry headwinds exacerbated by trade friction, higher tariffs and a slowdown in China, the German automaker’s largest market. But, the company will have to comply with Europe’s new fleet emission targets, Diess said, meaning VW will have to sell more sustainable cars or face penalties. “2020 for the auto industry will be a very difficult year”, Diess said. “But we’re doing the right things to be competitive”. +++

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