Newsflash: nieuwe Subaru WRX STI wordt 406 pk sterk


+++ While vegan leather is already a thing in the car industry, AUDI plans to step up the game by offering upholstery made of PET. The first model to get it will be the new generation A3. The compact car will feature up to 89 % of its textiles made from recycled plastic and it’s said to take up to 45 PET bottles with a 1.5-liter capacity to create the upholstery for 1 seat. Furthermore, another 62 PET bottles will be used for the carpet. The recyclable material cannot be used to make the entire seat upholstery in the upcoming A3 yet, as “the lower layer of woven material, which is connected to the upper material with adhesive, is what poses the challenge”, explained the chief of the textiles division, Ute Gronheim. “We are working on replacing this with recyclable polyester. It is our goal to make the seat upholstery completely from unmixed material, so that it can be recycled again. We are no longer far away from this”, he added. When it launches, likely in a few months, the new A3 will be available with 3 different material designs. ‘Torsion’ with yellow contrast stitching is one of them, alongside the ‘Puls’ material, which can be combined with artificial leather-wrapped side bolsters. The S Line grade will get a black and silver combo with rock gray stitching, and later on, Audi will launch a black and red option with contrast stitching. Expected at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show next week, the new A3 will be based on the MQB Evo platform, which supports electrification. It will sport an evolutionary design on the outside and an overhauled cabin, as well as the latest technology gear and safety systems. Topping the range will be the S3 and RS3 hot hatchbacks. +++ 

+++ DS ‘ new flagship, the 9 midsize sedan, will be available initially with a plug-in hybrid powertrain that will produce 360 hp in the most powerful 4-wheeldrive version. The DS 9 will debut at the Geneva auto show in March 3. It will be built in China and launched in around 40 markets, including in Europe, in the second half of 2020. It is the third vehicle designed expressly for DS, following the 7 Crossback, launched in 2018, and the 3 Crossback, which came on the market in 2019. Earlier DS vehicles were adapted from Citroen models. DS did not release a price or detailed technical specifications, but the DS 9 will have many similarities with the Peugeot 508, which is also built on PSA Group’s EMP2 architecture for compact and midsize vehicles. The DS 9 will have an extended wheelbase for more rear-seat room, much like the Peugeot 508L, which is built in Wuhan, China, for the Chinese market. Although the DS 9 has fastback styling, it is not a liftback like the 508. The DS 9’s styling is distinguished by the use of more chrome than on the Peugeot 508, most prominently a strip that runs down the center of the hood. It also does not carry over the frameless doors from the 508. Tail lights mounted at the top corners of the rear window recall the original Citroen DS from 1955. Other styling touches include a 2-tone black roof and flush-mounted door handles. Inside, the DS 9 includes the brand’s signature pearl-stitched upholstery, “guillochage” pattern on metal touch surfaces, and seat patterns that recall a metal-link watch band. DS is promoting rear-seat legroom and amenities, with individually adjustable seats, separate climate controls, ambient customizable lighting, and a multi-function armrest that includes USB ports. The DS 9’s 2.900 mm wheelbase is 110 mm longer than the standard Peugeot 508’s. The DS 9 is likely to be mechanically similar to other high-end PSA Group vehicles on the EMP2 architecture, including the DS 7 Crossback and Peugeot 3008 and 508, all of which are available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain with CO2 emissions figures of around 30 grams per kilometer on the WLTP scale. First deliveries of the DS 9 will have a turbocharged gasoline engine paired with an electric motor for a total of 225 horsepower, and an all-electric range of 40 to 50 kilometers. Later versions of the drivetrain will have 250 hp with longer electric range, and 360 hp and 4-wheeldrive. A non-hybrid gasoline engine with 225 hp will also be offered. DS says the 11.9 kilowatt-hour battery can be fully charged in one hour 30 minutes with a 7.4 kilowatt plug. Like the 7 Crossback, the DS 9 features Active Scan suspension, which takes data from a front-mounted camera and other sensors to adjust suspension damping to changes in the road surface. Other technologies include Drive Assist, which combines adaptive cruise control and lane positioning to allow “semi-autonomous” driving, including in traffic jams. The DS 9 is the third in a promised 6 new models to be launched by the brand starting in 2018. DS was the fastest-growing PSA Group brand last year, with global sales of around 62.000 units; a 17 % increase. Sales in Europe grew by 21 % to 56,000 units. The brand has a new CEO, Beatrice Foucher, who took over from Yves Bonnefont in January. Sales in the midsize premium segment grew strongly last year in Europe, increasing by 21 % to 540.175 with the introduction of the Tesla Model 3, according to data from JATO Dynamics. The Mercedes C-Class led the segment with 112.439 sales, followed by the BMW 3-Series (111.589), Audi A4 (102.783) and Tesla Model 3 (94.492). +++ 

+++ The organizers of the GENEVA CAR SHOW pressed exhibitors from corona virus-infected areas to check staff for symptoms before arriving in Switzerland and pledged to step up cleaning and disinfection at the congress center. Geneva is set to host the show next week but restrictions on travel have caused other fairs including the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Frankfurt’s Light + Building fair and the Beijing Auto Show to be postponed or canceled. “In the context of the coronavirus epidemic afflicting China, Palexpo SA is carefully observing the situation and its possible implications”, the Geneva exhibition center said. “The organizers encourage exhibitors from at-risk areas to ensure that their staff pass the necessary checks and do not show any symptoms of infection in the 14 days prior to their arrival in Switzerland, so as to avoid any risk of spread”. Palexpo said it is in regular contact with the General Directorate of Health of the Republic and Canton of Geneva and its medical advisor to develop a sanitary action plan, adjustable in real time. The Geneva car show will include visitors and exhibitors from Northern Italy, such as Ferrari’s Chief Executive Louis Camilleri and Chinese executives from Smart, a brand which is jointly run by Germany’s Daimler and China’s Geely. The World Health Organisation, which is also based in Geneva, said there was no need to adopt measures which “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade”. +++

+++ Renault said it had filed a civil-party petition after French prosecutors last week opened a formal investigation into alleged misappropriation of funds at the French carmaker. “Renault will continue to fully cooperate with the judicial authorities”, the company said in a short statement, adding it reserved “the right to seek damages based on the outcome of the investigation”. Last week, French prosecutors 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 HYUNDAI Kona is a relatively new product on the market. More precisely, it was launched in 2017, and while I’ve seen spy photos with the South Korean crossover, they were depicting a potential performance version of the model. This is the first time a prototype of the facelifted Kona was photographed. The test car is wearing an extensive amount of camouflage. That is surprising, considering the fact that I am expecting just a minor mid-cycle refresh. Something similar happened with the updated Kia Rio, which was spied last month looking like a brand new model but actually being just a facelifted version. Despite the heavy disguise, it’s easily visible that the design of the front end will remain unchanged, at least when it comes to the headlights layout. My spies told me we should expect small changes to the fascia and we suppose these could include a new grille pattern and, possibly, headlights with updated internal graphics. Similar small tweaks should be seen at the back, as well. Again, the prototype was heavily camouflaged around the rear end but don’t let the disguise fool you: no major visual improvements are planned. Not much else can be said at the moment about the facelifted Kona. Word on the street is the crossover should also get updated and more efficient engines, together with a few upgrades for the interior. The latest addition to the Kona’s lineup is the Kona Hybrid, which was launched in the UK last summer. The eco-friendly crossover from South Korea packs a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder and electric motor with a total combined output of 141 hp and 265 Nm. +++ 

+++ The JAGUAR F-Pace arrived in 2016 for the 2017 model year and signalled a new direction for the British brand. It was the company’s first SUV and came at the right time to capitalise on burgeoning consumer trends. In 2019, the F-Pace accounted for half of all Jaguar sales in the U.S., which is probably why the automaker is preparing a mid-cycle refresh for the model. Competition has only grown since 2017. New spy photos show F-Pace development is ongoing. Jaguar sticks to the script when it comes to the visual changes of the model’s facelift. That means there’ll be new headlights that should flank a redesigned grille. Camouflaged and cladding still cover much of the front, but I could spot a redesigned front bumper, too. I couldn’t see the lower intakes, but they should look different, also, when the updated model arrives. At the rear, there’ll be new taillights and a redesigned rear bumper. Camouflage still hides many of the changes, but the oddly shaped exhaust tips are something to note. Previous spy photos showed an F-Pace with circular exhaust tips poking through round holes, or no visible exhaust tips at all. Now, I saw stadium-shaped exhaust tips poking through rectangular holes. Even parts of the circular cutouts were still visible. The F-Pace’s interior is heavily covered according to my photographers, hiding any changes made. However, the updated SUV should receive Jaguar’s latest infotainment system. Any changes to the F-Pace’s powertrains remain a mystery, though Jaguar will likely tweak them. There’s also the possibility Jaguar could add some form of electrification to the model, too, such as Jaguar Land Rover’s new hybridised Ingenium 3.0-litre inline-6 engine. I don’t expect to learn any powertrain information until Jaguar reveals the refreshed F-Pace sometime later this year. It could go on sale in late 2020 or early 2021 as a 2021 model. +++


+++ South Korea’s LG Chem said it will exclusively supply electric vehicle batteries to U.S. electric carmaker LUCID MOTORS , which plans to start production of its Air sedan later this year. The South Korean EV battery maker, which counts General Motors and Volkswagen among its customers, will supply cylindrical batteries for the Air models starting in the second half of this year to 2023, the company said in a statement. LG Chem did not reveal the size or value of the supply contract with Lucid Motors under the contract. +++ 

+++ MORGAN kicked off the new decade with a brand new aluminium platform that replaced the brand’s previous steel chassis after 83 years in use. The British company also ditched the V8 engines and replaced them with twin-turbo, inline-6 units from BMW. The revolution will continue with an all-new Morgan model, confirmed for a debut at the upcoming 2020 Geneva Motor Show next week. The announcement confirms we will be dealing with a 4-cylinder car, which makes us believe that Morgan will reveal a new generation Plus 4. The current model is powered by a 156 hp engine sourced from Ford and offers a 0 to 100 kph acceleration in just 7.5 seconds. Obviously, as Morgan says, the sports car will ride on the new aluminium architecture, which, compared to Morgan’s previous aluminium chassis, is twice as rigid and weighs just 97 kilo. Earlier this year, Morgan released the Plus 4 70th Anniversary Edition featuring a gold frame with a platinum body as a last hurrah for the outgoing model. This is another reason why we believe the manufacturer will show a completely overhauled Plus 4 in Geneva. All will be revealed on March 3 so stay tuned. +++ 

+++ NISSAN gave the starkest warning yet on the future of the automaker’s car factories in western Europe, with a plant in the UK threatened by Brexit and another in Spain suffering from a slump in demand. The Sunderland site in England, which makes models that account for the bulk of European sales, remains under a cloud of uncertainty, Gianluca de Ficchy, chairman of Nissan Europe, said. Should Britain fail to reach a free-trade agreement with the European Union, a resulting 10 % tariff on cars and parts could not only spell the demise of the plant, which sends about three-quarters of its output to the continent, but also of Nissan’s entire European strategy, the executive said. “We would not be viable”, he said. “We just wouldn’t be able to sell our cars”. Nissan’s latest warning on Sunderland, the UK’s biggest auto plant, comes after prime minister Boris Johnson began talks aimed at hammering out a trade deal with the EU before the end of the year. Adding to the pressure on the Asian manufacturer are declining sales and profitability. Nissan cut its full-year profit outlook this month and scrapped its year-end dividend payout, with the carmaker’s stock down about 21 % since the start of 2020. A turnaround plan isn’t due for another 3 months. Sunderland builds the Qashqai, the Nissan’s European best-seller, along with the Juke and the electric Leaf. De Ficchy raised the possibility that the models could be made at partner Renault’s plants, but such a production upheaval would be costly and take years to put in place at a time when the car market is becoming increasingly competitive and undergoing an technological shift. “My working hypothesis is to stay in Europe with a factory in England”, de Ficchy said. Nissan nevertheless sees lower European sales in 2020, mostly due to its model range, and last year opted not to make the X-Trail in Britain. To encourage a revival, Nissan unveiled a new version of its Juke, aimed at the European market, earlier this month. The same platform is being used by Renault to build the latest versions of the Clio and Captur. In Spain, Nissan’s Barcelona plant is experiencing a drop in volumes and “is a subject that we are examining,” de Ficchy said. Nissan has met Spanish unions to explain a need “to review our strategy in Europe including in Barcelona”. Nissan has already announced it will shed 600 jobs at the plant and any further decisions could be made in a few months, the executive said. The site also makes pickups for Daimler and Renault, with the German company recently announcing that it plans to pull production. Nissan has been mired in near-constant turmoil since the November 2018 arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn on charges of financial misconduct. Hiroto Saikawa, Ghosn’s successor and accuser, was ousted over issues of his own compensation, while efforts are ongoing to improve fraught relations with partner Renault. By slashing its dividend payout to the lowest level since 2011 and pursuing a plan to cut 12.500 jobs globally, Nissan is trying to free up cash for investment in the next-generation technology needed to stay competitive in electric vehicles and self-driving cars. It has promised a detailed mid-term plan in May, which will be coordinated with one by Renault. The alliance, which also includes Mitsubishi Motors, agreed last month to coordinate strategies and name leaders for regions and technologies in a move designed to reverse managerial paralysis and a rapid deterioration in profitability over the past year. Nissan has also made cars for more than a decade at a plant in St. Petersburg to serve the Russian market. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE is hoping to succeed where other brands, including fellow German brand Opel, have failed, with its first pop-up store in Europe. The sports-car maker plans to open the store in April close to its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Porsche will use its ‘Porsche Now’ store format that can be used flexibly and at short notice to establish a store in different locations as a complement to the automaker’s dealerships. In 2018, Opel’s pop-up store in Stuttgart closed, reportedly due to low sales and the high cost of the site. The Stuttgart store will be Porsche’s fourth global pop-up store. The automaker already operates stores in Richmond, Canada; Blumenau, Brazil; and Xinyi,Taiwan and the brand says more will follow. “The sales pop-ups are a great opportunity to introduce new target groups to our brand quickly, attractively and market-specifically and to make contact with them”, said Marco Kana, Porsche’s head of retail sales. Porsche sales jumped 15 % to 31.600 last year in Germany and a further boost is expected this year from the recent introduction of the brand’s first full-electric sports car, the Taycan. +++ 

+++ After watching a stream of top executives follow Carlos Tavares to PSA Group in the past several years, RENAULT scored a big win when it landed Gilles Le Borgne as executive vice president of engineering. Renault’s interim CEO, Clothilde Delbos wasted no time showcasing Le Borgne at the automaker’s 2019 financial results presentation on February 13. Le Borgne, who watched Tavares turn around a money-losing PSA and later Opel with a relentless focus on efficiency, was blunt in his diagnosis of Renault and alliance partner Nissan’s engineering shortcomings. “I saw huge assets, but also huge areas for improvements”, Le Borgne told investors, analysts and journalists who had gathered at Renault headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt on the outskirts of Paris. “Engineering and capex-wise, we are really far from excellence”. Le Borgne, 57, had a hand in most of PSA’s platforms and advanced projects over the past 2 decades. He joined Renault on January 6. His comments came as Delbos announced that Renault would seek to cut €2 billion in operating expenses in the next 3 years. All areas are fair game for cuts, with “no taboos”, she said, language that was echoed by her counterpart at Nissan, Makoto Uchida. These are tough times for the alliance, which has been reeling from the November 2018 arrest of chairman Carlos Ghosn. Sales are down; Nissan announced its first quarterly loss since 2009; and Renault posted its first annual loss in a decade. The 2 companies are intertwined financially (Renault holds 43 % of Nissan, which has a 15 % stake in Renault) and in areas such as purchasing. But Ghosn’s arrest revealed severe frictions between the Japanese and French companies, and generated reports that collaborations had come to a virtual standstill (which both Renault and Nissan executives denied). Le Borgne is expected to play a central role in getting the alliance back into the black, Delbos said, adding that he was joining other “new talents” on the executive committee, including Denis Le Vot, the former head of Nissan North America, and incoming CEO Luca De Meo. By any measure, Le Borgne is a leading star of the French automotive industry. Earlier this month, he was named “Man of the Year” by the French magazine Journal de l’Automobile, which cited his efficient and innovative r&d work at PSA and the expectation that he would revitalize Renault. Le Borgne cited several areas where Renault is falling short, including validation costs, standardization and outsourcing. The group benefits from a worldwide network of technical centers, in Brazil, India, Korea, Romania and Spain, he said, but those assets could be better utilized. “We must leverage these assets and those competencies”, Le Borgne said. “It’s not really the case today”. Most important, Renault and Nissan need to go beyond mere platform sharing to collaborate on the “top hat”: the body and other components that sit on the platform, he said. The automakers collaborated on the CMF (common module family) platforms, which underpin minicars (CMF-A), small cars (CMF-B), compact and midsize (CMF-C/D) and electric vehicles (CMF-EV). According to the 2017 alliance midterm plan, they will be used by 70 % of all vehicles by 2022. Among vehicles that share platforms are the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar compact SUVs, Nissan X-Trail and Renault Koleos midsize SUVs, and the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke small SUVs. CMF electric vehicles have not yet been launched. “From what I saw, those platforms are efficient in terms of product, in terms of space, in terms of the way they are constructed”, Le Borgne said. “But at the same time, the body types are being done in different places. And frankly, that’s silly”. Said Delbos: “We don’t share enough in terms of upper body and commonality. If we shared more, we would have less expenses in r&d, more savings in purchasing. It would be worse without the alliance”, she added, “but it’s not sufficient today”. One path to more efficiency is the new “leader-follower” product development plan that the alliance unveiled in January as part of a global reorganization of its operations, Le Borgne said. Under the plan, Nissan, Renault or Mitsubishi will take the leadership of r&d and product development for a certain project, with the other companies sending engineers to assist and to make sure their requirements are met. In the current system, teams across the alliance work together. “We need to extend ‘leader-follower’ on the top hats”, he said. But the news was not all bad, Le Borgne said, adding that he has driven “each and every” car in Renault’s lineup, including commuting to work in vehicles with the E-Tech hybrid system, which Renault is promoting as a lower-cost alternative to competitors’ hybrid and plug-in hybrid systems. The new Clio and Captur, which will both get the system this summer, in particular, “are really gorgeous and really high-performing”, he said. “It’s far more efficient than the conventional 48 volt hybrids that you find in the competitors”, he said, describing E-Tech as a “golden nugget”. “At the same time it’s affordable, which is important because battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are expensive”, he added. +++


+++ The SUBARU WRX STI is getting pretty long-in-tooth, but an all-new model is on the horizon and it could have 91 hp and 96 Nm more than its predecessor. The next-generation WRX STI will arrive in 2021 and feature a turbocharged 2.4-liter boxer engine that produces “no less than” 406 hp and 489 Nm. The engine will be based on the turbocharged 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that resides in the Ascent. However, it will feature a host of changes which are rumored to include new pistons, a reinforced crankshaft as well as upgraded valves and ports. The publication also notes the “boost pressure will be tweaked” and this seems to suggest there will be a revised turbocharged. While nothing is official, engineers reportedly benchmarked the engine against the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder created by Mercedes-AMG. The latest version of the engine was unveiled last summer and it produces up to 421 hp and 500 Nm. Less is known about the standard WRX, but it will likely adopt a detuned version of the STI’s engine. There’s no word on how much power it will have, but the WRX currently has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 272 hp and 349 Nm. Subaru has been tight-lipped about the next-generation of performance cars, but previous reports haves suggested the models will continue to be offered with a manual transmission. The vehicles were also previewed by the Viziv Performance concept which was unveiled at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. The production models are slated to ride on the Subaru Global Platform and feature the company’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system. +++ 

+++ While plans develop for hot new versions of VOLKSWAGEN ’s electric-powered ID models, the company’s R division is expanding into a new niche for its combustion-engined cars. Having recently added the 300 hp T-Roc R to its ranks, Volkswagen’s performance division has now turned its attention to the Arteon line-up. A new 333 hp range-topping Arteon R will arrive during the final quarter of 2020 as part of the range’s mid-life facelift, and it’s already been spotted out testing with the usual R design cues such as quad tailpipes and blue brake callipers. Following the hot version of the Arteon saloon, Volkswagen R plans to unleash a similarly powered version of the upcoming Arteon Shooting Brake in the first half of 2021. The coupé-cum-estate, which will be launched in standard form first at the start of the year, has the distinction of being among the last all-new combustion-engined models developed by Volkswagen. In a bid for added practicality and greater load space, the Arteon Shooting Brake adopts a longer roof and sloping tailgate. The result gives it what Volkswagen insiders describe as “estate-like qualities while retaining its characteristic styling”. Power for the new Arteon R is due to come from the same version of Volkswagen’s turbocharged 2.0-litre engine that is earmarked for the new Golf R, which is also set to be launched during the second half of 2020. According to details revealed at a recent Volkswagen dealer presentation in Germany, the 4-cylinder petrol unit is claimed to develop up to 333 hp. It sends its drive through a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and a 4-wheeldrive system that has been reworked to provide a more rearward apportioning of drive. By comparison, the most powerful of today’s Arteon models, the 2.0 TSI, offers 190hp. +++

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