Newsflash: Chevrolet Corvette komt er ook in hybride uitvoering

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+++ ASTON MARTIN has used what would’ve been its Geneva motor show press conference to introduce future executive chairman Lawrence Stroll, alongside a host of new models. Held instead at Aston’s headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire after the Geneva show was cancelled, the short conference stream saw Canadian billionaire Stroll make his first appearance alongside CEO Andy Palmer since he led a consortium to take a major stake in the British brand. Introducing the conference, Stroll outlined the reasons for his investments, stating that the company has “the brand, products, engineering excellence and potential to become one of the world’s pre-eminent car manufacturers”. He restated his aims to “reset the business plan”, starting by rebalancing supply to ensure dealer inventories are more in line with demand, and giving the firm the “financial security” to deliver crucial new models such as the DBX. Stroll also confirmed that Aston is “committed” to launching its long-mooted range of mid-engined cars, starting with the Valkyrie, continuing with the Valhalla and, eventually, also featuring a new Vanquish. Key to generating interest in this car will be Aston Martin’s return to Formula One for the first time since 1960. “We are bringing a lot more than money”, Stroll said. “I have a long history in building luxury global brands in both private and public sectors. As executive chairman I will ultimately be responsible for the strategy we are implementing. The foundation of the strategy is returning Aston Martin to a works Formula One team on the grid for 2021. It is operating under its own brand allowing it to reach an audience of two billion and to engage and entertain our customers at 22 locations every year. It’s very exciting for all parties and should underpin the building of our brand globally and allow us to achieve our ambition that Aston Martin will become a pre-eminent luxury brand globally”. Stroll claims these mid-engined cars will take technology from Aston Martin’s works F1 team, although the Valkyrie and Valhalla were cars developed up until this point under Aston’s now dead partnership with Red Bull. F1 will have “a halo effect, a trickle down effect” for the whole company, claims Stroll. His interests lie firmly in making the most of the brand’s racing heritage, citing the company’s foundations in 1913, with the name stemming from founders Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford’s bike racing experience up Aston Hill in Buckinghamshire. During the conference, CEO Andy Palmer and chief creative office Marek Reichman also joined Stroll to introduce the new roofless V12 Speedster to the world, alongside the new Vantage Roadster and a Q by Aston Martin edition of the DBX. Stroll’s consortium now owns 16.7 % of Aston Martin, with the investment and a new rights issue giving the maker a £500 million cash boost at a vital time. 2019, described as a “very disappointing year” by Palmer, saw the firm issue a profit warning due to “challenging trading conditions”. Its stock price plummeted from the brand’s float in 2018, seeing it fall to around 20 % of that value. +++ 

+++ AUDI promised to make its large touchscreen and digital dashboard standard in new A3 Sportback in Europe, giving the car a boost in its tense battle with the Mercedes-Benz A class and BMW 1 series. Audi revealed the compact premium hatchback online in place of a physical unveil at the Geneva auto show after Swiss authorities last week prohibited large events from taking place to help stop the spread of the the corona virus.The current A3 was Audi’s best-selling model in Europe last year with a volume of 123.591, putting it ahead of the A4. The new A3 Sportback will come with a 10.1-inch touchscreen that delivers Audi’s Connect online services as well as satellite navigation and traditional media entertainment. Also standard is the virtual cockpit digital dashboard that connects to the central touchscreen to mirror satellite navigation maps. In the A4 the virtual cockpit costs 600 euros to add in Germany. The new A3 Sportback goes on sale immediately with the choice of a 1.5-liter turbocharged gasoline engine and a 2.0-liter diesel. Deliveries start in May. A mild-hybrid version of the 1.5-liter unit with engine deactivation will follow shortly after the launch, while a plug-in hybrid drivetrain with two power outputs will go on sale “a few months after launch”, Audi said when revealing the car. Further gasoline and diesel engines will also follow, Audi said. The A3 Sportback will be joined by a new sedan model at a later date, Audi sales boss Hildegard Wortmann said during the car’s reveal. Also in the pipeline are performance S3 and RS3 models. Audi won’t make a 3-door version of the car. Technology in the car includes Car-to-X communication so the vehicle can share information with other vehicles and roadside infrastructure such as traffic lights, where the technology exists. Examples of its use would include alerting the driver to empty parking spaces or giving information on traffic light changes. The car includes the third generation of Audi’s modular infotainment platform called MIB 3. The platform has 10 times more computer power than the previous-generation model and is linked online via a faster version of 4G (also known as LTE) called LTE Advanced. Owners can connect to the car using the myAudi app, which allows the transfer of navigation routes to the car, as well as streaming music and remotely unlocking the car. An Audi Connect key will be offered after the car’s launch to allow the driver to remotely start the car via an Android smartphone. Phones can connect remotely to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in the dash screen through wireless charging. Amazon’s handsfree Alexa voice service will also be offered starting in mid-2020, allowing voice control of smart home devices, for example. The design of the car has been given a more dynamic look through the inclusion of concave flanks on the vehicle side, Audi said. The wide Audi hexagonal grille is bordered by angular air intakes. Models with less than 150 hp come with a less expensive torsion beam rear suspension while more powerful versions are given a more sophisticated multi-link setup at the rear. The car comes with up to 3 radars as well as cameras and ultrasonic sensors to inform a range of active safety equipment. The collision avoidance assist function helps drivers steer around an obstacle using targeted braking of the wheels and applying steering torque. The car is also available with corrective steering if the car moves toward a lane marker without using the indicators. Adaptive cruise assist also adapts to local speed limits using information taken from local speed limit signs. +++ 

+++ A test mule for the latest-generation BMW 7-Series has been scooped testing under the skin of a current model and is shaping up to be quite a special thing. This is not the first time spy photographers have snapped the new 7-Series out-and-about as in November last year, an electric 7-Series mule was spotted with very little camouflage. The latest spy shots show a more traditional combustion-powered prototype. The most significant new model in the 7th-generation 7-Series family will be the arrival of an all-electric variant, potentially dubbed the i7. It is claimed that entry-level variants will feature an 80 kWh battery pack while the range-topper could sport a massive 120 kWh battery allowing for up to 700 km of range. It is claimed this flagship could also churn out as much as 650 hp thanks to a pair of powerful electric motors. A number of petrol, diesel, and hybrid versions of the latest 7-Series will also be available from launch. Because the test mule in question is wearing the skin of the current 7-Series, it’s difficult to say how the new vehicle will look until we start seeing prototypes wearing their production skin. If I was to guess, I’d say the new 7-Series won’t be radically different than the outgoing model but could sport sharper details including headlights and taillights as well as front kidney grilles similar to the Concept 4 and Concept i4. The first full-body next-gen BMW 7-Series prototypes are tipped to be around 6-7 months away while the new car is slated to arrive in 2022. +++ 

+++ Luxury carmaker Bentley said free trade with Europe not the United States was its priority as Britain negotiates its new relationship with the European Union, and worse terms could force it to do more work on its British-made cars abroad. Britain formally left the EU on January 31, but little will change in its relationship with the bloc this year and a new partnership will not come into force until 2021. While the government views a free trade deal with the United States as a prize, the car industry fears BREXIT could lead to delays, tariffs and new paperwork with the EU, its biggest export market. “As a luxury player with 24 % of our sales in the EU and 90 % of our parts purchases, it would help us greatly if we didn’t have to pay more for them or get less margin back for the products that we finish and send”, chief executive Adrian Hallmark told. “When we look at the current model, where we just bring in built bodies and then do everything else here, it may be that we do more outside of the UK and then do the rest here. It may shift the balance but we’re a long, long way from those discussions”. Although eradicating the 2.5 % tariff on the 22 % of cars it sells to the U.S. would be a boost, the firm would lose out overall if the EU imposed the maximum 10 % tariffs on the 24 % of vehicles to Europe and up to 4% on components, Hallmark said. Aston Martin’s boss Andy Palmer also told the firm was focused on maintaining frictionless trade with the EU. And McLaren Automotive said that if the EU imposed the highest tariff, the share of the company’s roughly 4.700 sales which go to the EU could fall from 18 % to as low as 12 %. “Our competitors coming into the UK would have the same tariffs”, boss Mike Flewitt told. The exact effect of better terms with Washington but worse with Brussels would vary between companies. Ford could be particularly affected as it imports all the cars it sells in Britain where it is the top brand, but makes nearly 1.1 million engines that are shipped to several countries, risking delays and charges. PSA is also set to make an investment decision this year on whether to keep open its Ellesmere Port car plant and its boss suggested the company could seek compensation. But the head of its British brand has previously said Brexit could allow it to grow its share and carmakers may weigh up whether building in Britain for domestic buyers, rather than export, gives a competitive advantage. Nissan, which was encouraged to set up in Britain as a gateway to the continent, has said its entire business in Europe would be unsustainable if high tariffs are imposed. “It makes no sense. Who wins if you put a tariff on?” said Flewitt. +++

+++ The official owner’s manual for the new CHEVROLET Corvette Stingray has just hit the web and it indicates that a hybrid variant of the new mid-engined sports car is indeed on the cards. The owner’s manual, recently shared online, reveals there is a secondary fuse box in the transmission tunnel and beneath the prominent center console dividing the driver and passenger. A diagram of this fuse box reveals that it features a fuse for a ‘Power sounder module/Pedestrian friendly alert function’ and a fuse for a ‘Lithium ion battery module’. The first of those fuses, #7, has the same label as the #34 fuse of the Chevrolet Bolt that provides the EV with a Pedestrian Friendly Alert Function that sees it emit a sound to alert pedestrians of its presence. This could mean a hybrid variant of the new Corvette will include an electric-only driving mode. As for the ‘Lithium ion battery module’, it is fuse #12 and again points towards a hybrid Corvette. It is believed, albeit unconfirmed, that the hybrid Corvette will feature a battery pack in the car’s center tunnel as well as an electric motor powering the front wheels. While much of the early talk about a hybrid Corvette related to a range-topping model with hypercar levels of power, it has since been claimed that all future variants of the C8, including the Stingray, could be available with an optional hybrid powertrain. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER chief executive Ola Källenius said the automaker has ‘no issues’ securing electric vehicle battery cells, and is ramping up battery production to meet high demand for plug-in models. “There is such a high demand for plug-ins, we are ramping up battery production as we speak”, Källenius told reporters on a conference call. Daimler plans to add electric vehicle capacity this year and next year. Kaellenius said demand for plug-in hybrid models is driven in part by German companies guiding employees who get company cars as a benefit to choose electrified models. The German government also gives substantial tax breaks for hybrid and electric models compared to internal combustion vehicles. Because of those factors, “demand just went through the roof”, Källenius said. +++ 

+++ ELECTRIC cars are only bought by “green addicts” and lack broader appeal needed to reach mainstream consumers, PSA chief executive Carlos Tavares said. “When some markets are cancelling some subsidies, demand collapses”, Tavares said about electric car sales during a conference call arranged to replace a roundtable discussion at the Geneva car show, which was canceled. “The battle from now on is that zero emission vehicles become affordable between now and 2025”, Tavares said. “We are selling our electric vehicles to green addicts. We didn’t move to the pragmatists”, Tavares said, referring to Peugeot’s difficulties in selling electric cars to mainstream consumers. The lack of a dense charging network, the limited operating range of electric cars as well as uncertainties surrounding the long-term price of electricity, are hindering a broader adoption of electric cars, Tavares said. This is the reason Peugeot decided to develop vehicle platforms which are capable of including fully electric, hybrid or just combustion engines. “So that we can adapt in a very agile way what the consumers are asking”, Tavares said. +++ 

+++ FORD has confirmed that an all-electric version of its Transit van will hit the North American and Canadian marketplace in 2022. The reinvented Transit will be built in America, most likely at a new purpose-built EV production facility in Michigan and forms part of the company’s $11.5 billion global electrification strategy. The new Transit will largely retain the silhouette of the current model, but, as is usually the case with EV versions of combustion vehicles, it will likely feature a blanked-off grille and bespoke lighting clusters. Ford has revealed that, like the current Transit, the electric version will be available to buy in van, truck and cutaway cab forms. Buyers can also choose from three body length and roof height options. It is not yet known what will power the electric Transit, although it can be expected to share some hardware with the recently revealed Mach-E electric SUV. Ford has confirmed that the new Transit will offer enhanced connectivity functions over the current van, with a number of features aimed at reducing waste and improving fleet efficiency. Inbuilt 4G functionality allows fleet managers to access live location and fault diagnostic data, as well as imposing virtual perimeters and monitoring driving behaviour. The commercial vehicle will be sold as standard with a suite of advanced driver assistance programmes, including automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist and automatic high-beam headlights. It has not yet been confirmed when the electric Transit will be offered overseas, but it will likely arrive in Europe shortly after the upcoming plug-in hybrid variant. Ford president Jim Farley said: “Commercial vehicles are a critical component to our big bet on electrification. As leaders in this space, we are accelerating our plans to create solutions that help businesses run better, starting with our all-electric Transit and F-150. This Transit isn’t just about creating an electric drivetrain, it’s about designing and developing a digital product that propels fleets forward”. Ford will reveal pricing and specifications for the electric Transit at a later date. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS executives will tackle one of their toughest tasks: persuading investors that a Detroit automaker can catch up with Elon Musk and Tesla as vehicles go electric. Even as global markets reel from coronavirus fears, Tesla’s valuation is outpacing that of GM and most other legacy automakers. Tesla’s market cap hovers around $144 billion, more than 3 times GM’s $45 billion. GM is by far the larger manufacturer by volume, and generates more cash and profits. But in the electric vehicle market, Tesla is the leader. Last year, Tesla sold 367.500 electric vehicles globally, including 223.000 in the United States. GM sold just 16.400 Chevrolet Bolt EVs to U.S. buyers and 60.000 Baojun E-Series models in China with joint venture partner SAIC Motor. GM chief executive officer Mary Barra and president Mark Reuss have ramped up electric vehicle development over the past 3 years, focusing on a proprietary battery, a low-cost flexible vehicle design and a blueprint for high-volume production, mainly in China. The company has revealed its electric vehicle strategy in incremental steps, announcing the Hummer brand will be reborn as an electric pickup and partnering with Korean battery maker LG Chem to build a $2.3 billion battery plant near a shuttered GM car plant in Lordstown. GM is now trying to put the broader picture into focus for investors. GM has said it aims to reduce the cost of battery cells, the single greatest expense in electric vehicles, to less than $100 per kilowatt-hour. That in turn could slash the cost of battery packs for electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt by up to 45 %, experts say. GM is also developing an advanced battery, in partnership with LG Chem and Honda, that will be smaller than current EV batteries, can be charged more quickly and will provide more energy. Musk has told investors that Tesla has battery cost and range breakthroughs in the works that it will describe at a “Battery Day” in April. Barra has said GM plans to spend more on electric vehicles than on gasoline-powered cars over the next five years. But it has not put a figure on how much it will invest in its efforts to rival Tesla and traditional competitors such as Volkswagen or Ford as the electric vehicle market develops. Barra has, however, promised that GM will make money on electric cars by 2021. +++ 

+++ HONDA will cut back production at 2 of its Japanese factories due to parts shortages from China because of the corona virus outbreak. The car manufacturer will reduce output by a few hundred vehicles at 2 of its plants in Saitama Prefecture. The cutbacks are expected to last for a few days beginning early this month. The factories in question produce the HR-V and the Odyssey minivan. These 2 factories aren’t the only locations impacted by the corona virus. Honda operates 3 plants in Wuhan, China, the city at the center of the outbreak and isn’t expected to restart production at these sites until March 11. According to an executive at a Honda parts supplier, “components for items such as brakes and doors have shown signs of shortages” in recent weeks. It is understood that the cutbacks will only see a reduction in output of a few hundred vehicles at the 2 plants. Honda is far from the only Japanese car manufacturer to be impacted by the corona virus. Throughout March, Nissan will suspend Saturday and Sunday production at a subsidiary plant in Fukuoka Prefecture. In February, Nissan scaled production at this same site for 4 days, reducing output by several thousand vehicles. A Nissan subsidiary in Kanagawa Prefecture will suspend operations for 2 days in March. Mazda has also pushed back production of several models as many of its parts are produced in the virus-hit Hubei Province of China. +++

+++ HYUNDAI executive vice chairman Chung Euisun sent a letter to employees highlighting the group’s all-out efforts to secure safety and minimize business risk under its contingency plan. Chung said in an email that the group has been “actively cooperating with the government-led measures”, vowing to fully support employees’ safety with “all available resources”. He added that the group’s affiliates have been monitoring the Covid-19 outbreak closely, seeking measures to minimize business risk from the virus. Admitting that some business setbacks due to the Covid-19 are inevitable, Chung said he appreciates the unionized workers’ efforts to overcome the situation. According to Hyundai, the accumulated loss caused by the viruss at its manufacturing plants came to 120.000 vehicles. From February 4 to 7, Hyundai stopped operation of part of its manufacturing lines at the Ulsan plants due to disruption of parts supplies delivered from China. On Friday, the group stopped operations of its Ulsan manufacturing plant’s second factory after an employee who works there was confirmed with Covid-19. A Hyundai Mobis employee was also confirmed of infection, leading to a shutdown of its Mabuk research center in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. According to market figures, Hyundai saw a 26.4 percent fall on-year in domestic sales in recent weeks at 39.290 units. Its sister company Kia sold 28.681 units in February, which fell by 13.7 % on-year. In February, Hyundai saw a 95 % drop in vehicles sold wholesale in China from the previous month. Some 2.000 Hyundai vehicles and 1.000 Kia cars were sold wholesale in China last month, according to the automaker. +++  

+++ The supply chain issues for MERCEDES-BENZ ’ EQ C have presented a steep learning curve, according to R&D board member Markus Schäfer, but he says the maker is back on track to produce 50.000 units of the electric cross-ver this year. Issues with Mercedes’ battery supplier, LG Chem, had led to widespread reports that Mercedes would not fulfil its production goals this year, but Schäfer said it was, once again, on course to achieve targets. “It’s definitely a new game, dealing with new platforms, dealing with an EV. The issue was not driven by the factory or production process but rather from the battery factory and battery equipment. For sure, this was a learning curve and in a new field. But this is one out of 45 models and is not the rule. The ramping up of the battery plant with €700 million investment in LG Chem (which supplies EQC batteries) was definitely a challenge and limiting factor. So far, we have overcome the issues and are planning significant numbers for the EQC; returning to the initial number of 50.000 we expected for this year”. He added that he could not predict world events such as the coronavirus or natural disaster (“I don’t have a crystal ball”) and their possible effects on production but said: “Everything that is in our hands has been done to secure stable output of the EQC”. +++

 

+++ PININFARINA has dropped a pair of teaser images providing the world with a glimpse of its Pura Vision, a concept that previews the Italian marque’s first SUV. The vehicle, recently revealed to a select group of reporters at Pininfarina’s headquarters near Turin, will be positioned as a 4 or 5 seat SUV that offers performance to rival the Lamborghini Urus as well as looks and practicality to match the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo. Little of the Pininfarina Pura Vision is visible in this teaser shot but we are provided with a glimpse of the extremely sleek shape of the SUV, including its low-slung, Shooting Brake-style roof. It features suicide rear doors, 26 inch wheels, lacks a traditional front grille and has “extremely muscular haunches”. The Pura Vision is also said to sport a glass roof. Like the Pininfarina Battista hypercar, the Pura Vision will be all-electric and feature a battery pack and 4 electric motors to combine to produce 1.000 hp, allowing the SUV to hit 100 km/h in less than 3 seconds and a top speed exceeding 290 km/h, all while allowing for 550 km of range. Stopping power will be provided by carbon ceramic brakes. Inside, it is reported the SUV concept takes inspiration from Italy’s finest yachts and customers will have the option of floors finished in unvarnished wood. Automobili Pininfarina head of design Luca Borgogno told the production model will feature smaller 24 inch wheels and have traditional rear doors as opposed to the suicide doors of the concept. At least 3 other Pininfarina models will use the same platform as the Pura Vision. These are expected to be a smaller SUV, a grand-touring coupe, and a 2-door convertible. +++

 

+++ TESLA is working on a high-performance Model S Plaid but, if you can’t wait, the company has introduced a new Track package for the Model 3. Available exclusively on the range-topping Model 3 Performance with the Performance Upgrade, the Track pack is billed as a “complete hardware package designed to give you maximum cornering force, braking performance and high-speed stability for the best lap times”. The package costs $5,500 and features 20 inch Zero-G Performance wheels with Tesla branded center caps. The wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and backed up by high-performance brake pads and “track-focused brake fluid”. The Track pack is expected to begin shipping in April and Tesla notes the $5,500 price tag includes shipping and installation at a service center of your choice. The company also cautioned that the new wheels and tires could affect the car’s original 481 km range. It remains unclear how much of a difference the Track package will make, but the Performance Upgrade already includes 20 inch wheels and performance brakes. It also adds a lowered suspension, a carbon fiber rear spoiler and alloy pedals. Besides the styling tweaks, the Performance Upgrade includes a Track Mode and an increased top speed. The latter means the car can hit 260 km/h instead of the usual 233 km/h. However, the 0-100 km/h time remains unchanged at 3.3 seconds. Of course, getting a car in this specification won’t be cheap.  On the bright side, the model is still faster and more affordable the Mercedes-AMG C 63. +++

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