Newsflash: BMW gaat nieuwe 5- en 7-serie ook in volledig elektrische uitvoering leveren

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+++ Outside the German town of Arnstadt, workers for CATL are building Europe’s biggest electric-car BATTERY PLANT . The site, which covers an area equivalent to about 100 soccer fields, previously housed one of the continent’s largest solar-panel factories. During a visit in October, wooden crates filled with surplus equipment were stacked up outside the metal-clad structure to make way for car-battery-making equipment. Bulldozers swarmed a nearby lot to prep for construction of a new building. The $2 billion project is one of about a half dozen battery factories under construction in Germany alone. It worries European policymakers, who are desperate to ensure their auto industry does not lose competitiveness in the transition to electric vehicles. EV sales in Europe are expected to jump to 7.7 million in 2030 from just under half a million in 2019. Those vehicles will mainly be powered by batteries from Asian manufacturers such as CATL, unless European companies fight back and build a local supply chain. EVs and clean transportation are at the heart of the European Union’s Green Deal; a more than €1 trillion European Commission policy initiative aimed at making the EU carbon neutral by 2050. The plan includes replacing large power plants with smaller, more local, renewable energy sources while eliminating combustion engines in buses, cars and trucks. After betting on diesel for too long, European politicians and the heads of Volkswagen Group, Daimler and BMW are vowing to build a greener supply chain for all of those vehicles. “If we let China own the battery, then we lose out on the centerpiece of electric cars”, says German deputy Economy minister Thomas Bareiss. “I’m not sure that’s the best approach for our auto industry”. Europe has only a patchwork of small battery players. The biggest chunk of the value of a European-made electric car belongs to Asia: China, Korea and Japan account for more than 80 % of the world’s EV battery production and companies such as CATL, LG Chem and Samsung SDI control Europe’s biggest battery factories. To change that, the European Commission set up the Battery Alliance initiative. In December it approved €3.2 billion in aid for projects approved or currently under way at 17 companies, including BASF, BMW and Fortum. The measure is meant to encourage greater investment in factories by these and other European companies. National governments are also committing large sums to battery efforts, especially in Germany. In early February its economy minister, Peter Altmaier, announced a €5 billion project for battery cells in Germany and France. Altmaier has been a leading proponent of developing a local battery sector. The goal, as he sees it, is to build “the best and most sustainable batteries in Germany and Europe”. There is no other option, he has said, if its automakers are to succeed. European players, including Belgian materials technology company Umicore and BASF, make battery materials from catalysts to cathodes. But there is little mining of key ingredients such as lithium, and no capacity to turn those resources into high-quality vehicle batteries. A desire to bring lithium and other materials closer to the production line is partly driving the efforts. “Lithium hydroxide doesn’t travel well”, say Andreas Scherer of AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group. “It doesn’t like to sit in a bag in the belly of a ship for 6 weeks. That’s bad for quality”. Stringent environmental rules and community opposition to more mines could slow the momentum. Landowners and environmental groups fear the resulting emissions and pollution. Finland’s Keliber in November postponed its planned initial public offering and the construction of a lithium mine on appeals against its environmental permit. Some countries are pushing ahead. Support from the European Commission to mine battery metals (and the potential riches) motivated Dietrich Wanke to trade a career in Australian mining for the green hills of the Lavant valley in Wolfsberg, Austria. Wanke is the CEO of European Lithium, a startup mining company that aims to become a supplier of raw material for batteries. It operates from an abandoned test tunnel in Austria, where government geologists looking for uranium in the 1980s found lithium instead. “We won’t be able to produce the absolute cheapest material. It is clearly a commodity mined in Europe, according to European laws and environmental standards”, Wanke says. “It must be seen as a unique product, contributing to the reduction in CO2 emissions in Europe”. The Wolfsberg project is traditional hard-rock mining, with the ensuing environmental consequences. Another startup, or junior miner, Vulcan Energy Resources, claims it will produce the material with no CO2 emissions by adding lithium-extraction facilities to existing geothermal power plants feeding on underground reservoirs in southern Germany. The method is similar to what Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is researching in California’s Salton Sea. “By 2028, forecasters see Europe alone needing more lithium than is being produced in the entire world today”, says Vulcan Energy’s managing director, Francis Wedin. Still, the efforts now could be too little, too late. “European manufacturers have dragged their feet”, says Jose Lazuen, senior automotive practice analyst at Roskill. “Asian producers started taking positions in Europe 2 or 3 years ago because they knew Europeans would need batteries”. While others are talking, the Chinese are busy building out capacity in Arnstadt for what is shaping up to be another clean energy fight. The battleground is a former solar panel factory where 2 previous German owners failed to compete against low-price competition from China. As Germany’s deputy economy minister, Bareiss, says, “It’s about staying in the game and playing a role in a critical technology”. +++ 

+++ BMW is gearing up to launch an assortment of electric vehicles including the iX3, i4 and iNext. Now, it appears the next-generation 5- and 7- Series could be among them. The 7-Series will gain an electric variant in 2022. A 5-Series EV will then follow “shortly afterwards”. The so-called i7 could be offered with multiple batteries packs. Nothing is official, but the base i7 could have a 80 kWh battery while the range-topping variant might have a larger 120 kWh battery which could allow for a range of up to 700 km. The i7 could be offered with varying electric motors. The range-topping variant is said to have 2 which would give the model all-wheel drive as well as combined output of around 659 hp. The 5- and 7- Series are also slated to be offered with petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains. With the addition of pure electric variants, BMW will have effectively covered all of the bases. The multi-powertrain strategy has an added benefit as BMW will be able to ramp up production of variants that prove popular. If the electric 5- and 7-Series take off, BMW could increase production of those variants while curtailing production of less popular versions. The opposite is also true as the company could focus on petrol and diesel versions if the EVs fail to resonate with consumers. While both models are still a ways off, the i4 is expected to be previewed next month. The model will go into production in 2021 and feature an electric powertrain that develops around 530 hp. BMW has previously said this will enable the 4-door Gran Coupe to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in approximately 4 seconds and hit a top speed in excess of 125 mph (200 km/h). Furthermore, the i4 will have a roughly 80 kWh battery which allows for a range of approximately 600 km in the WLTP cycle. BMW will continue to grow sales globally while at the same time lowering its European average emissions of carbon dioxide by around 20 % this year, chief financial officer Nicolas Peter said. Carmakers need to lower their output of carbon dioxide; a greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, but carmakers have struggled to meet stricter emissions goals as clients increasingly choose to buy heavier SUVs. “The fleet average emissions will go down significantly in 2020 by around 20 %”, Peter told. BMW’s fleet average emissions were 128 grams per kilometer in 2018 and just below that in 2019, he said. In 2020, BMW’s fleet average emissions will be just over 100 grams per kilometer and the carmaker will meet the emissions standards for 2021, thanks to higher sales of electrified vehicles and more efficient combustion engines, he said. Peter reiterated that BMW expected to grow sales in 2020. “We have started well into January and grew sales in China”, Peter said, adding that the carmaker had sold around 175.000 cars in January. +++ 

+++ The BUGATTI 16C Galibier concept was unveiled over a decade ago and it instantly spawned speculation about a possible production variant. While that obviously never happened, but Bugatti intended to produce the Galibier once the Veyron went out of production. So what caused the change in plans? A series of “far-reaching visual modifications” which were ordered by executives in response to feedback from consumers. Among the changes mentioned by Hagerty are an extra 1.524 mm in length and nearly 152 mm in height. If those modifications weren’t dramatic enough, the model was also equipped with a “small, notchback-like trunk due to anticipated demand from buyers in the ever-important Chinese market”. The resulting vehicle lost all of the Galibier’s charm and Bugatti design director Achim Anscheidt told: “The ill-fated demand for an uber Rolls-Royce Phantom with even more luxury and greater comfort in a package that could nonetheless take a corner with aplomb and cruise at 402 km/h was bound to fail”. He added the concept’s good looks got lost in a “patchwork of overly ambitious and conflicting Excel sheet demands”. So how bad was it? Anscheidt said the model looked like a “dachshund” from the sides and a “bowler hat on wheels” from the back. It’s hard to imagine something that atrocious, but that’s what Bugatti customers apparently wanted. Thankfully the monstrosity was killed by a “rather powerful and influential gentleman from Salzburg, Austria”. That, of course, appears to be a reference to Volkswagen’s Ferdinand Piëch. With the Galibier dead, Bugatti could have found itself in the unenviable position of not having a car ready by the time the Veyron was phased out. That didn’t happen as Anscheidt and Walter de Silva could see which way the wind was blowing. As the Galibier morphed into a bloated whale, a small group of people began working on a ‘Plan B’ in the summer of 2011. Unlike the Galibier, this model would be a direct successor to the Veyron. The rest is history as that model is now known as the Chiron. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER said it would revamp the management of its finance, production and development portfolios to remove duplicate layers between Mercedes-Benz and Daimler. As a result, Daimler’s chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm will take over responsibility as finance chief at Mercedes-Benz from April 1 and Mercedes-Benz chief financial officer Frank Lindenberg will leave, the company said. Wolf-Dieter Kurz will take on responsibility for product strategy and steering at Mercedes-Benz Cars. He is currently responsible for the business cases of product projects. Daimler chief executive Ola Källenius will take over responsibility for Mercedes Vans from Wilfried Porth, who retains his role as head of human resources, Daimler said. Markus Schaefer, currently management board member for Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars development, will become chief operating officer at Daimler. The changes take effect on April 1. Daimler is the world’s best-selling premium automaker and largest producer of commercial vehicles. It suffered a steep decline in profit last year that forced the company to slash the dividend to the lowest level since the financial crisis. At the vans unit, a relatively small part of the business, earnings before interest and taxes swung to a negative €3.1 billion in 2019. After 3 profit warnings in less than a year, Källenius last week promised to deliver on significantly higher margins and said he will consider selling assets to channel more money into automaking. +++ 

+++ The expansion of the DS range is set to continue with an all-new 4 and 4 Crossback, and the first prototype has now been spotted testing. Tipped to go on sale in 2021, the second-generation C-segment car will be the next core model to be launched from the PSA Group’s premium brand after a large saloon that’s due in the coming months. As announced in 2017, DS still intends to have 6 models on sale by 2023. The new 4 line-up will reflect that of the previous-generation car, which was taken off sale in 2018. That means there will be a traditional hatchback version to rival the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and a jacked-up model with crossover styling cues to go up against the Mercedes-Benz GLA. Both should ditch the pop-out rear windows criticised on the old car. Expect the new 4 to make use of the PSA Group’s versatile EMP2 platform in its latest iteration. While that means an electric version is unlikely, we should see an E-Tense plug-in hybrid variant alongside petrols and diesels, as PSA has made a commitment to electrify every new model it launches. +++ 

+++ New cars sales in EUROPE climbed to 15.757.412 units last year, marking the best result in over a decade. According to JATO Dynamics, the result marks the 6th year of consecutive gains and an additional 171.452 vehicles were registered compared to 2018. Despite the increase, the automotive analytics company noted things aren’t as rosy as they seem. In particular, they said the “positive results can be largely explained by purchases made in December to get ahead of the new EU emissions regulations that took effect at the beginning of 2020”. This last minute push helped to reverse a negative trend as sales were actually down 0.4 % from January to November. The biggest markets last year where Germany, the United Kingdom and France. They were followed by Italy and Spain. Breaking down things a bit further, 1.28 million electrified vehicles were registered in 2019. Of them, 28 % were battery electric vehicles and this represents 356.300 units as well as 2.3 % of the total passenger car registrations in Europe. The latter is a new record for electric vehicles and should largely be credited to the Tesla Model 3. Tesla’s entry-level electric vehicle achieved enormous levels of success during its first year in the market and became the topselling pure electric car. Europeans snapped up over 95.000 units and this made the Model 3 the 51st most popular vehicle on the continent. JATO Dynamics global analyst Felipe Munoz said: “There is no doubt that the Model 3 disrupted the European market by becoming the topselling electric car and outselling other key premium models”. However, he noted the Model 3 is a sedan and that’s “not necessarily the bodytype that consumers are looking for”. So if customers aren’t looking for sedans, what do they want? Crossovers and SUVs, obviously. Last year, they accounted for 38.3 % of the European market which was a new record and an increase of approximately 3 % from last year. Unsurprisingly, the gains came at the expense of city, subcompact, compact, midsize and executive low cars. The only other vehicle type to gain market share was vans which were up 0.4 %. While crossovers and SUVs are growing in popularity, the 4 most popular vehicles in Europe last year were all low cars. They include the Volkswagen Golf (410.330 units), Renault Clio (319.136 units), Volkswagen Polo (256.259 units) and Ford Fiesta (228.183 units). The most popular SUV was the Volkswagen Tiguan which garnered 224.890 sales. +++ 

+++ Shortly after General Motors made the shock decision to kill off the Holden brand, rival FORD has reiterated its commitment to the Australian market. Ford Australia & New Zealand president and chief executive Kay Hart has revealed the car manufacturer will spend roughly $500 million across the country in 2020. She added that Ford is looking to also hire new staff. “I am sure there is some great talent in that Holden team. We would definitely be looking for that skill set that would fit with us and there may well be opportunities for that team at Ford in the future”, she said. Australian Federal Industry minister Karen Andrews was in contact with Hart in the wake of the Holden news and said that Ford will not follow in the footsteps of GM. “They are very focused on design and engineering so I am not foreseeing any imminent issues with Ford”, Andrews said. Hart added to this by saying that Ford is “excited” about its future in Australia. “Ford Australia is committed to our operations here in Australia and we’re excited about what our future lies ahead for us here”, she said. “As a company, they will make that decision based on what is right for the corporation globally, but at the moment we are extremely committed”. Ford employs approximately 2.000 people across the country, including engineers and designers as well as technical and automotive specialists. Jim Farley could get as much as a 32 % raise when he becomes Ford’s chief operating officer on March 1, according to a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the U.S. Ford, in the filing, said Farley’s total compensation will rise to $8.29 million; up nearly $2 million from his current compensation as president of new business, technology and strategy at the automaker. The compensation payouts reflect base salary, stock grants and yearly bonus targets. The 57-year-old’s base salary will rise to $1.4 million from $1.1 million. His annual bonus target will rise to $1.89 million from $1.375 million and his annual stock grant will rise to $5 million from $3.82 million. The compensation committee on Ford’s board of directors approved the changes last week. Farley earned $5.86 million in 2018. Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of automotive who will retire effective March 1, received $5.81 million. Ford announced Farley’s promotion on February 7 along with the retirement of Hinrichs, 53, his primary rival at the company. Farley joined Ford in 2007 from Toyota as global head of marketing and sales and went on to lead Lincoln, South America, Ford of Europe and all of Ford’s global markets in successive roles. His latest role will be his most challenging, as he attempts to steer Ford through a transformation of its product portfolio at a time when it’s under intense pressure from Wall Street to deliver profits. +++ 

+++ French prosecutors have stepped up their investigation into alleged misappropriation of funds at Renault by former boss Carlos GHOSN , saying a judge had now been assigned to the case to launch a formal investigation. The prosecutor’s office in Nanterre, on the outskirts of Paris, had since last year been looking into a party Ghosn had thrown for his wife at the sumptuous Versailles palace among other financial dealings. It said in a statement a judge would now examine several charges linked to Renault and levelled at an unnamed person or people. A judicial source confirmed that Ghosn was among them. A lawyer for Ghosn said he welcomed the opportunity to give his version of the events. “We will provide our explanations to the designated magistrate after we can finally have access to the case file”, lawyer Jean-Yves Le Borgne told. Ghosn, now in Lebanon after he last month fled prosecution in Japan on financial misconduct charges, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Judges, who have wider powers than investigators to pursue a criminal case, were set to get involved, potentially bringing prosecution a step closer. The prosecutor’s office said the case involved suspect financial flows between Renault and a car dealership in Oman, as well as spending on trips and events. Prosecutors had been looking into whether Ghosn knowingly used company resources to throw a party that was for private purposes (his wife’s birthday) in 2016. Ghosn’s lawyers have said he did nothing wrong, but there may have been a misunderstanding between Versailles and party planners over who was to foot the bill for renting the venue. Another event at Versailles in 2014, when Ghosn held a corporate party to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of Renault’s alliance with Nissan, will now also fall under the scope of the investigation, the judicial source said. At a news conference in January, Ghosn rejected allegations that most of the guests at the party (paid for by RNBV, a Dutch-based holding company for Renault and Nissan) were his own friends and family, saying the companies had invited business contacts from dealerships and other partners. Renault conducted its own internal inquiry into Ghosn’s time at the carmaker and handed over information to prosecutors last year. This included its probe into millions of euros described as dealer incentives to an Omani distributor. +++ 

+++ Octogenarian Chung Mong-koo will step down from the chairmanship of HYUNDAI ; a post he has held since 1999, the automaker said. The 82-year-old had already surrendered most of his duties to his son Chung Eui-sun. He will formally relinquish his post next month. Out of courtesy he will remain honorary chairman and keep his position as registered executive at parts-making subsidiary Hyundai Mobis. Chung Eui-sun has been leading the country’s second-largest conglomerate since he became CEO last year but is not expected to succeed his father as chairman immediately. Meanwhile, Hyundai changed its articles of incorporation to expand its areas of business from the manufacture and sale of “various vehicles” to “other forms of mobility”. The move sets the automaker on course to manufacture and sell aircraft amid plans for flying cars. If Chung Mong-koo can be credited with turning Hyundai into a global automaker, his son aspires to transform the carmaker into a comprehensive “mobility service company”. At last month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Hyundai joined hands with Uber to unveil a prototype of an “urban air mobility vehicle” called the S-A1 as well as a self-driving shuttle that transforms itself into a mobile hotel and cafe. Hyundai is also participating in the Farnborough Air Show in the U.K. in July. +++ 

+++ JAPAN is looking to be proactive with regards to this latest Corona virus outbreak and is setting up a joint task force between the car industry and the government. The goal is for automakers and suppliers to receive help and overcome disruptions caused by the recent pandemic. The task force will share information and offer financing and policy support should the situation get worse. The group will also monitor any new developments and coordinate communication, while working alongside the Japanese government in an attempt to solve all the supply chain issues. Carmakers such as Nissan have already taken costly measures such as closing part of their production lines; Nissan did so in Kyushu, southwest Japan, and will also halt output until February 24. Meanwhile, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Toyota have halted some operations in China, though they’ve yet to do so in Japan. The effects of the Corona virus outbreak have been worldwide, disrupting the supply of everything from transmissions to steering systems. Earlier this month, Hyundai and Renault suspended production in South Korea, Fiat halted 500L production in Serbia due to component shortages, while Nissan said that it may face stoppages at plants in both Europe and the United States. China’s Hubei province, home to Nissan’s Chinese partner, Dongfeng Motor, continues to be on lockdown, especially in Wuhan, which is where the virus originated from. All factories in that province will remain shut down until at least the end of this week. +++ 

+++ KIA has begun accepting preorders for its new Sorento ahead of an official launch next month. The 4th generation Sorento has been fully redesigned 6 years after its most recent revamp. The updated model includes new architecture that improves the interior size and road performance, Korea’s second-largest automaker announced in a statement. The new Sorento also has more interior space, the company’s statement said, owing to less engine space and a longer wheelbase. The SUV will also be available as a 6-seater, with 2 individual second-row seats, or a regular 5-seater option. The architecture update has helped the new Sorento shed 80 kilo in weight for better performance. The gasoline turbo hybrid model of the new Sorento, equipped a 1.6-liter gasoline engine, is rated at 230 hp and has a fuel economy of 15.3 kilometers per liter. The diesel version, with a 2.2-liter engine, is rated at 202 hp. The SUV gets 14.3 kilometers per liter. Kia added that the new Sorento is the first vehicle from the Hyundai Motor Group that is equipped with a new multi-collision avoidance system that allows the car to automatically apply the brakes when airbags deploy, which can reduce the likelihood of secondary collisions. The SUV is the first from Kia to include the Kia Pay system, which allows drivers to pay for gas and parking through the infotainment system. It also has a 360-degree remote view through its infotainment display system for easier parking. +++ 

+++ MAZDA is indeed expected to unveil a new large, high-end platform in the fiscal year through March 2023, but until then, the Japanese car manufacturer will be resigned to updating its existing models. Prior to this new platform becoming a reality, there are a number of developments that Mazda is hopeful will keep its image up-to-date and encourage sales. For starters, there is the brand’s advanced Skyactiv-X engine, introduced last year. This powertrain uses technology ordinarily found in a diesel engine to burn petrol at a leaner rate. The result is an engine that provides better fuel economy, burns cooler, and provides better power and torque figures than a traditional small-capacity petrol engine. Unfortunately for Mazda, not that many customers are opting for the Skyactiv-X. Just 4 % of new Mazda3s are being equipped with the engine and just 2 % CX-30s have it. Mazda will also start accepting orders for the all-electric MX-30 by March 2021. However, this vehicle is only expected to sell in small numbers, at least according to suppliers. In the coming years, Mazda can be expected to also add new safety features to its current models, while offering new financing arrangements. According to a Mazda dealership executive in western Japan, such changes do help to attract customers. “Yes, they do serve as a useful final nudge to persuade customers to buy but few customers come to a dealership because they want to buy a car with minor changes”. In an age where the auto industry is changing at an extraordinary pace, it will be interesting to see if Mazda’s lack of all-new models will hurt it over the next couple of years. +++ 

+++ PEUGEOT will start selling the Landtrek, a 1 ton pickup developed with the Chinese automaker Changan Automobile, at the end of this year, starting in South and Central America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Landtrek will be available with diesel or gasoline engines and several body styles, including 2-door, 4-door and chassis cab, which can be customized for different applications. It can be ordered in rear- or fourwheeldrive. The pickup is not expected to be sold in Europe, Peugeot said. Renault and Mercedes recently launched one-ton pickups in Europe, based on the Nissan Navara, but with little sales success. Fiat also launched a 1-ton pickup based on the Mitsubishi L200. Peugeot CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato told in November that the Landtrek had undergone 2 million kilometers of testing on all kinds of terrain. “It must be unstoppable”, he said, adding that reliability was the most important factor in the segment. “I won’t launch it until the global ecosystem, such as spare parts, is ready, because it must be able to be maintained everywhere in the world”, Imparato said. “I want to put the focus on the fact that everywhere in Africa you can get this car repaired”. The Landtrek will be built first in China and later in South America, he said. Peugeot said the global market for 1-ton pickups was more than 2.4 million units, but Imparato declined to offer specific sales targets, noting how hard it was to get buyers to switch brands. Payload in some versions is up to 1.2 tons, Peugeot said, and towing capacity is up to 3 tons. On 4-door versions, the rear seat back can be split 60/40, which Peugeot says is a first in the segment. The front console can be flipped around to serve as a work table for rear seat occupants. Some versions have a 10 inch central touch screen. Other interior amenities include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Driver assistance includes hill descent control, lane departure warning and trailer swing control, which acts to slow the truck as soon as weaving is detected. The Landtrek can be ordered with up to four cameras that in 4×4 versions are combined to give a 360 degree image when negotiation obstacles or trails. 2 powertrains are available. A 1.9 liter turbocharged diesel engine produces 150 hp and 350 Nm of torque, with a 6-speed manual gearbox. A 2.4 liter turbocharged gasoline engine produces 210 hp and 320 Nm, with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The Landtrek is the second pickup in Peugeot’s global lineup. The automaker launched a pickup in 2017 aimed at the North African market, based on a model sold by Dongfeng Motor, PSA Group’s Chinese partner. Changan is also selling a version of the Landtrek called the Kaicheng F70. The Chinese automaker has been a joint venture partner of PSA Group, but the partnership is in the process of being dissolved. +++ 

+++ SKODA will unveil the new generation Octavia RS at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show on March 3. The first model to premiere will be the Octavia RS iV, a plug-in hybrid version of the sporty car. It will combine the 1.4-liter TSI petrol engine with an electric motor for a total output of 245 hp. It will arrive exclusively with a 6-speed DSG automatic transmission and will be launched in June. At the end of August, the gasoline-powered version of the Octavia RS will join the lineup with a 2.0-liter TSI engine rated at 245 hp matched to a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The lineup will be complete by the diesel offering, which will be introduced at the end of summer with a 2.0-liter TDI, making 200 hp, hooked up to a 7-speed DSG. Surprisingly, there isn’t anything about a 4-wheeldrive version of the Octavia RS, yet if that’s something you must have, then you will have to settle for the regular Octavia 4×4. A new variant will reportedly launch end of August as well, with the 200 hp 2.0-liter TSI petrol engine and a 7-speed DSG, joining other AWD versions of the car, such as the 190 hp and 150 hp 2.0 TDI. Other mills will include the 110 hp 1.0 TSI with a 6-speed manual and the 110 hp 1.0 TSI mild-hybrid with a 7-speed DSG set to launch in June, together with the 204 hp 1.4-liter PHEV. 2 months later, Skoda will launch the bi-fuel petrol and CNG option, which is listed as having a 131 hp 1.5-liter TSI married to a 7-speed DSG. +++

+++ Another day, another rumor regarding the next-generation SUBARU BRZ and Toyota GT86 twins. An unnamed insider claims that the new models could launch as early as July 2021. The new GR86 and BRZ will adopt a modified version of Toyota’s TNGA architecture and the naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter boxer 4-cylinder engine of the outgoing models will be replaced with the turbocharged 2.4-liter engine of the Subaru Legacy, Outback, and Ascent. This engine is good for 260 hp and 375 Nm and will give the GR86 and BRZ twins some much-needed extra oomph. Interestingly, Toyota recently launched the Supra in the U.S and Europe with an entry-level 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder offering up 255 hp and 400 Nm so it’ll be interesting to see how the Japanese car manufacturer aims to differentiate the GR86 from the base Supra and sell both models at the same time. 1 key differentiating factor between the new GR86 and the Supra will likely be the fact that the former is available with a 6-speed manual transmission while the Supra remains exclusively (for now, at least) available with a ZF 8-speed automatic. +++ 

+++ Last time I wrote about the Cybertruck’s reservations, TESLA electric pickup scored over 200.000 of them, including 146.000 in the first 24 hours after the presentation. That was back in November, 2019, as the latest analysis reveals that more than half a million people are directly interested in purchasing it: Elon Musk’s company has gathered over 535.000 pre-orders. At $100 each, this means that Tesla has collected more than $53.500.000. The deposits are refundable, though, so do these numbers represent anything important? Realistically speaking, some of those who placed a deposit did so while the hype was still real and many of them have not seen the Cybertruck in person, let alone drive it, so it’s impossible to tell how many will change their minds and demand their money back. If Tesla sticks to the plan and doesn’t delay the production of the Cybertruck, something that the Californian automaker is famous for, then the first owners should expect to take delivery in 2021 at the earliest. Until then, it’s up to Elon Musk to keep a strong interest in the zero-emission vehicle, and I’m certain that he has a lot of things in mind on how to do that. Let’s just hope he took dancing lessons if he decides to show his moves again. The base Cybertruck is offered with a single electric motor, has a 0-96 km/h of 6.5 seconds and a targeted range of over 400 km. The mid-spec dual-motor version hits 96 km/h in 4.5 seconds and can travel for over 480 km on a single charge. The top tri-motor promises to get you to 96 km/h in 2.9 seconds and give you a range of 800 km. +++ 

+++ Denso’s electrification director for Europe, Ulrich Schwarz, does not believe the supplier’s close ties with TOYOTA , which is Denso’s largest shareholder and a big believer in hybrids, stalled its efforts to develop solutions for full electric cars. He explains why in an interview. Q: Did Denso’s close ties with Toyota make the company late to move into full electrification because your biggest shareholder was more focused on hybrids? A: I don’t think we are late. We are working on technology that can either be used in hybrids or battery-electric vehicles. Toyota was using the majority of these components for hybrids, but Denso’s technology is scalable, which means it can be applied to any kind of electrified car. That being said, we are not just following Toyota. We provide our technology to all customers at different levels of electrification. This location (Denso’s 15-year-old Aachen Engineering Center in Wegberg, Germany) was founded to establish ties with the European automotive community. Q: What is the biggest challenge that you and your team currently face? A: Our daily challenge is to make sure we make strategic choices. We don’t just follow our customers blindly. We analyze the markets, the different technologies and the business opportunities available to identify the win-win for Denso and the chosen customer. That requires deep strategic thinking. Q: Could you give an example? A: Sometimes we try to guide our customers a little because we have proven technology. For instance, we might say, “Why don’t you consider using our inverter to help reduce the costs?” But, of course, we are flexible. Ultimately, we want to have a sustainable business. Part of our strategy is to try to find the best spots for our products. We have a lot of technology they want, whether that is for a full hybrid, plug-in hybrid, full-electric vehicle or fuel-cell car, because our products are modular and scalable. Q: Which of your products give you the greatest hope for the future? A: My answer is very simple: all of them. Electric motors, inverters and battery management systems will be needed by everyone. It’s unlikely every customer will buy all 3 from us, but we will continue to push our products in parallel. Denso’s own data shows you have a global market share of more than 30 % for inverters and battery management systems. Q: Do you expect to boost share in those sectors or is the goal to maintain your lead? A: Based on our history and our experience in these sectors we have a very good chance to increase our market share. Q: Does Denso need to fill in any white spaces when it comes to the products it offers in Europe? A: We are happy with our portfolio, however, we want to offer more than a single component or subsystem. We want to be a systems supplier. That’s why we formed a joint venture company (BluE Nexus) with Japanese transmission supplier Aisin AW to develop and sell drive modules used for hybrid and electric vehicles. We provide the inverter for the system. We are also collaborating more with our thermal division. We believe doing this will benefit the customer because the components will be optimized to work together. Q: Denso is relatively unknown to people in Europe. What is being done to change that? A: We are not very well known by the public but the automotive industry knows Denso extremely well. We are not lacking in requests for quotations. We are discussing plenty of business opportunities with automakers in Europe. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN and the German consumer protection organisation have agreed to resume talks aimed at reaching a deal in a class action lawsuit over the carmaker’s rigging of diesel emissions tests. VW admitted using illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel engine tests in 2015, a scandal which has cost it more than $30 billion in vehicle refits, fines and provisions. Nearly all U.S. owners of affected cars agreed to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016 in the United States, but VW has said there was no legal basis for consumers in Germany to seek compensation due to differences in law. A court in the town of Brunswick, which has urged Volkswagen to settle the lawsuit, said the parties to the case had agreed on the advice of the court to resume discussions to try to reach a settlement. State-financed consumer protection organisation Vzbv said it had accepted the court invitation and said talks should take place soon. A Volkswagen spokesman confirmed the new talks, but declined to comment further. Vzbv said it had not changed its demand that any settlement must be fair, transparent and verifiable. Vzbv has said it aimed to show that owners of VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat cars with so-called type EA189 diesel engines have been intentionally harmed by VW’s use of software that was used to cheat emissions tests. The German class action was made possible after the cabinet approved a draft law in 2018 allowing consumer protection organisations to litigate on behalf of consumers, avoiding the high legal costs that might put people off legal action. When the diesel scandal broke, 2.4 million cars with defeat devices were on German roads. In the meantime, most have received a software update. Volkswagen finance chief Frank Witter will leave the German car group in the summer of 2021. Witter, who is 60 years old, declined to extend his contract by 5 years for personal reasons and is instead opting for a nine-month extension this autumn. +++

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