Newsflash: Porsche komt met Cayenne Coupé GTS

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+++ The Mercedes motorsport boss’s future has been the subject of intense speculation for months, with his current contract running out at the end of 2020. Last year he emerged as a candidate to potentially replace Chase Carey as the boss of the Formula 1, while more recently he has been linked with opportunities at ASTON MARTIN . While it is understood a personal financial investment in Aston Martin could be on the cards, he is clear that his focus is on sorting out a new deal to remain at Mercedes. Wolff said that the impact of the corona virus pandemic had put a halt to talks with his bosses about his future. But, despite expressing some unease about unidentified developments in F1, he said that he was all set to stay where he is. “I’m in the 8th year now”, he said. “I love sports and this team. However, I am somewhat surprised by the turn of events over the winter and by the behaviour of individual people. “Of course, this also has to do with my decision on what to do in 2020 and beyond. But I am and will remain the head of Mercedes Motorsport and F1 boss, and nothing will change in the short term”. Asked about the speculation over his Mercedes future, Wolff said: “In most stories that could be read about it, people added up 1 + 1 and turned it into 3. “What is my current status? My participation in Mercedes is solid, my contract runs until the end of 2020, and we are still in good discussions about what we want to do together. “We are discussing. But all of this has been pushed into the background by Corona. We all have bigger problems to solve now: human problems in our companies”. He added: “I’m not going to become CEO of Aston Martin, and I’m not going to make a strategic investment there either”. Wolff is a good friend with Aston Martin executive chairman Lawrence Stroll and, although a personal financial investment in the company is possible, he is clear that there is no intention to do anything else. “Stroll and his team are a big customer of our racing team”, he said. “They purchase engines, gearboxes and suspension parts from Mercedes. In addition, Lawrence has been a good friend of mine for many years, regardless of our business relationships”. +++

+++ Development of the new generation BMW 4-Series is almost complete. It’s a few months away from being shown to the world. The sports coupe will be unveiled in June. Naturally, since the 2020 Detroit Auto Show has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the vehicle should be presented online. The first member of the new 4-Series lineup to be uncovered will likely be the Coupe, followed by the Convertible and the 5-door Gran Coupe. All of them will be based on the CLAR platform, shared with the latest 3-Series, and will come with the controversial mega double kidney grilles up front that have been leaked several times. The same front treatment will be adopted by the new M3 and M4 as well. Inside, all 3 models will mirror the looks of the latest 3-Series. As a result, users should expect the identical dashboard layout, with the infotainment screen sitting in the middle, next to the digital instrument cluster and above the central air vents. Every button and knob will carry over with no changes whatsoever, though the backseat will be more cramped in the 2-door 4-Series. The entire engine lineup will be shared with the premium compact sedan and estate and will include the usual 4- and 6-cylinder petrol and diesel mills. A plug-in hybrid is understood to join the range as well, while the new M4, as well as the M3, will use the 3.0-liter 6-pot from the X3 M and X4 M, producing up to 510 hp in the Competition versions. One of the most recognisable grille designs in the industry is staying put. BMW will continue to use its iconic double kidney bean grille design (large or small), even as the automaker moves toward offering more electric vehicles. Domagoj Dukec, BMW’s design department head, said in a recent interview. BMW is moving ahead with 3 distinct lines of vehicles: the core products, the high-performance M models and the electric-powered i brand. While each is distinct with a different purpose and customer base, Dukec told that BMW doesn’t want 3 different identities as they are all BMW vehicles. “We want to strengthen BMW as a brand with the help of two sub-brands which have two different roles”, Dukec told. That means keeping the kidney grille. Grilles and grille sizes have been a point of contention for BMW ever since the introduction of the refreshed 7 Series and the recently introduced X7, which featured upsized grilles. Things grew more contentious with the BMW Concept 4, which featured a massive kidney bean grille. The BMW Concept i4 also featured an enormous grill that made many people wonder what’s in store for the rest of the BMW lineup. Many of today’s electric vehicles don’t have a traditional grille like you’d expect to find on a petrol-powered car. EVs still require some cooling, but there’s more leeway with the design. You can even see a difference in grille designs between the Concept 4 and Concept i4, with the petrol-powered grille featuring larger openings for cooling. BMW is shifting gears as it focuses more on electric vehicles. We’ll see the all-new 4 Series debut in June, giving us our first look at the company’s new design direction for grilles. We’ll see how cohesive that corporate design language is when the production version of the electrified i4 breaks cover. +++

 

+++ Were you hoping for CADILLAC to launch a punchier version of the XT4? Well, tough luck, because that won’t happen. Sources familiar with the company’s product plans say that the premium compact crossover will not be offered with a V6, even though there is just about enough room under the hood to fit it. Such a model would not justify the premium and would also pose a threat for the bigger XT5, which is graced with a 3.6-liter V6 delivering 310 hp and 367 Nm. Things don’t look promising for a possible XT4-V performance model either, as Cadillac reportedly has no plans to give it a shot. This version was rumored to use the CT4-V’s 2.7-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that pumps out 320 hp and 500 Nm. This means that North American buyers of the XT4 will have to settle for the 2.0-liter turbo-4 that’s matched to a 9-speed automatic transmission and develops 237 hp and 350 Nm. In Europe, on the other hand, the XT4 is powered by the new 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine, which delivers 168 hp and 380 Nm in combination with a 9-speed automatic transmission. In the U.S., Cadillac’s rival to the likes of the Audi Q3, Volvo XC40, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA and others is offered in 3 trim levels: Luxury, Premium Luxury and Sport. The base model comes with LED exterior lights, automatic emergency braking, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and more. The XT4 Premium Luxury adds leather trim, electrically-operated tailgate, front and rear park assist, lane change alert with side blind zone alert, and rear cross traffic alert. The Sport model brings 18-inch wheels, glossy black exterior accents, special interior trim, carbon fiber or wood decor, and a sports steering wheel. +++

+++ CHINA decided to loosen market access requirements for New Energy Vehicle (NEV) manufacturers, in an effort to further unlock the industry’s vitality amid the Covid-19 outbreak and better promote its development. The requirement demanding NEV producers to possess design and development abilities shall be scrapped to leave more room for their development, while a higher standard for after-sales services will be imposed, said the statement of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). NEV makers will also be allowed to halt production for up to 24 months, an extension of 12 months from the prior regulation, the MIIT said. China decided in late March to extend subsidies and tax exemptions for NEV purchases by another 2 years, which were set to expire at the end of this year, as part of efforts to help the industry survive the tough times as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted supply chain overseas. Data showed that China’s auto output and sales in the January-February period plunged by 45.8 % and 42 % to 2.05 million units and 2.24 million units, respectively. +++

+++ DAIMLER expects to post a positive margin on Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and vans in the first quarter, thanks to rebounding sales in China and solid demand in the United States, chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm said. Sales of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars in March in the United States showed no corona impact thanks to demand for SUVs, Wilhelm said, adding that sales in China had rebounded. “We see early signs of a recovery in China. Group sales returned to 60.000 units; almost at prior year levels in March”, Wilhelm said, adding that production had returned to a 2 shift system at Daimler’s plant in Beijing. +++

+++ More people are willing to drive an ELECTRIC car following the positive environmental impact brought about by the coronavirus lockdown, according to Venson. Thanks to the government-enforced lockdowns around the world, life has changed dramatically and 45 % of those surveyed by Venson Automotive Solutions said that the improvement of air pollution levels worldwide has made them reconsider whether of not they’d own an electric car. A further 17 % said it backed-up their already-made decision to switch to an EV. Of those motorists who are now reconsidering EV ownership, 19 % of those said their next company car or private purchase would definitely be an EV, with the other 26 % saying that they would become an EV driver at some point in the next 5 years. Those statistics follow another EV attitudes survey conducted by Venson in July 2019, in which 41 % of people said they were considering moving to an EV, but 31 % said that wouldn’t for another 10-15 years. “Reducing emissions has been a hot topic and a clear government, business and personal target for several years now, but still the growth of electric vehicle (EV) ownership has been slow”, said Alison Bell, marketing director at Venson Automotive Solutions. “This is despite evidence that transport is responsible for 23 % of global emissions, and driving petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles contributes 72 % of the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. “In recent years we have seen the cost of electric vehicles fall, battery efficiency increase, and the network of both public and private charging points grow significantly. All of these steps have boosted consumer confidence in an EV future, however whilst ownership is increasing, we still have a long way to go. “Having said that, fleet managers looking to introduce fully-electric fleets could find employees more open to the idea now they have seen the global benefits it could bring to the environment”. +++ 

+++ At this point, it’s pretty much a requirement that any article relating to the Nissan GT-R mentions its age. That’s because the production version of this car debuted clear back in 2007 at the Tokyo Motor Show. It went on sale for the 2009 model year, and in the decade since, it’s received just 2 minor updates. Fortunately, it was an amazing performance machine when it launched, so in that respect, it’s still impressive in 2020. But in the face of ever-increasing supercar competition, why hasn’t Nissan evolved Godzilla to the next level? Nissan’s chief product specialist, Hiroshi Tamura-san, a proper GT-R enthusiast, offered some insight into future models that could include everything from traditional internal-combustion power to hybrids and fully electric models. Obviously none of that has happened yet, and Nissan’s lack of GT-R development is rooted in affordability. Allegedly, keeping the GT-R relatively affordable is a key component for Nissan, at least according to Tamura-san. By not significantly changing the car over a decade, apparently it’s kept Godzilla from becoming an even more expensive piece of unobtanium for the masses. There’s just one problem with that logic: it has become just that, at least in Nismo trim. While the Nismo gets you an even 600 hp, the bones are still a decade old. The interior and exterior design is, for the most part, a decade old. A recent road test of the Nismo found it could reach 100 kph in 2.9 seconds; a feat bested by the all-new Porsche 911 Turbo S with a base price nearly equal to the Nismo, never mind the vastly less expensive 2020 Corvette. Perhaps a better theory on the GT-R’s age is that Nissan simply can’t afford to do anything new. The automaker’s financial woes are well-known at this point; earlier this year, the company closed all U.S. operations for 2 days simply to save a bit of cash. With the corona virus taking a further toll, it’s hard to say what the GT-R’s future might hold. For that matter, it’s not clear how well Nissan as a company will weather the current financial storm. But for now at least, the good ol’ GT-R soldiers on. +++ 

+++ Temperature checkpoints and posters telling workers to keep more than a metre apart at Japanese automaker HONDA ’s reopened plant in the Chinese city of Wuhan show how the coronavirus has created a new normal on the factory floor. The plant, a Honda joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Group was shut in late January when authorities ordered a lockdown in Wuhan in a bid to snuff out the coronavirus, which emerged there late last year. It reopened on March 11 to resume operations in stages and is now back to pre-virus production levels, Li Shiquan, assistant director of the joint venture’s No. 2 final assembly plant, told. Returning workers were asked to report where they had been since the epidemic started and temperature checkpoints were set up, Li said. About 98 % of its 12.000 workers were now back and were putting in over-time to make up for lost production, he said. The joint venture produced 800.000 cars last year. “We have many customers who are waiting for cars so this week we have arranged for each worker to work 1.5 hours more”, he said, adding that a typical shift was 8 hours. A sign hanging from the ceiling in the factory said the goal was 1.237 cars that day; 17 % higher than the 1.060 it usually produced. Plants at Honda’s Guangzhou-based joint venture with GAC are also running extra shifts, GAC’s chairman Zeng Qinghong told analysts on its earnings call last week. The central industrial hub of Wuhan started allowing people to leave the city in what is seen as a turning point for China’s fight against the corona virus. China’s factories begun to reopen weeks ago as infection rates in their localities began to drop off. Now other countries such as Italy and United States are trying to curb the spread of the virus by asking workplaces to shut and the public to stay home. Honda has suspended operations in the United States and Canada, its biggest manufacturing hub, until May 1. It has also stopped output at plants in countries ranging from Britain to Thailand, and has announced intermittent stoppages at some of its Japanese plants. The Wuhan plant reopened after the government approved its plan to curb infection risks, Li said. The plant’s smoking and rest areas have been shut to stop people from gathering while meetings have to be held on video links. Workers needing a rest from the assembly line are encouraged to sit on red stools spaced out on the factory floor, Li said. Reporters on a visit to the factory saw workers dressed in white overalls, rubber gloves and masks. Posters told them to keep a metre apart at all times, though that was not always adhered to. Pasted on pillars were QR codes, which workers use their mobile phones to scan in order to fill in (once a day) forms asking about any coughing or contacts with unwell people. Li said no coronavirus cases had been found since the plant resumed operations. The plant’s more than 500 suppliers in Wuhan had also been allowed to resume operations on March 11, Li said, adding that Dongfeng Honda had provided them with some help but he did not go into details. Separately, Honda said it will put many of its 20,000 or so workers in the United States on temporary leave as, just like other carmakers, it has halted production since the pneumonia-causing virus spread started disrupting the supply chain and denting demand. Japan’s second-largest carmaker said it will extend the suspension of Honda plants in the United States and Canada until May 1. Honda will continue to pay the workers their salaries through April 12, and thereafter they will be covered by unemployment benefits from their local municipalities. +++ 

+++ The KIA Sorento has been crowned Britain’s most satisfying car to own in the 2020 Driver Power rankings, which surveys new car satisfaction. The survey saw the Sorento take top honors with an impressive score of 92.05 %. The Korean SUV was also rated to have the best interior, as well as the best practicality rating. Rounding out the top 5 were the Peugeot 3008, Lexus RX, Kia Niro and Mazda CX-5. According to owners, the Sorento also happens to have the most comfortable seats, while topping the tables for interior storage, rear legroom and even child-friendly features. “These wins for Kia are especially important to us as they’re voted for by our customers, people who live with our vehicles day to day. It’s also humbling to see a range of our vehicles praised for important and relevant ownership elements like infotainment and practicality. We at Kia alongside our dealer partners take huge pride in these awards and will continue to listen to our customers and deliver what they want”, said Kia UK president and CEO, Paul Philpott. The top 10 was once again dominated by cars from Asian brands with 7 models, with the other positions held besides the well-performing Peugeot 3008 that finished second, by 2 Skoda vehicles: the Kodiaq and Superb. As for the full rankings, here they are: 1. Kia Sorento Mk3 – 92.05 %, 2. Peugeot 3008 Mk2 – 92.04 %, 3. Lexus RX Mk4 – 91.98 %, 4. Kia Niro– 91.82 %, 5. Mazda CX-5 Mk2 – 91.75 %, 6. Skoda Kodiaq – 91.73 %, 7. Toyota Corolla Mk12 – 91.71 %, 8. Lexus IS Mk3 – 91.64 %, 9. Hyundai Ioniq – 91.61 %, 10. Skoda Superb Mk3 – 91.59 %, 11. Mazda 6 Mk3 – 91.59 %, 12. Toyota RAV4 Mk5 – 91.45 %, 13. Kia Sportage Mk4 – 91.44 %, 14. Volvo XC40 – 91.38 %, 15. Skoda Karoq– 91.29 %, 16. Toyota Prius Mk4 – 91.28 %, 17. Subaru Outback Mk3 – 91.12 %, 18. Kia Ceed Mk3 – 90.98 %, 19. Lexus CT – 90.89 %, 20. Subaru Forester – 90.66 %, 21. Honda CR-V Mk5 – 90.64 %, 22. Seat Arona – 90.63 %, 23. Kia Rio Mk4 – 90.56 %, 24. Nissan Leaf Mk2 – 90.55 %, 25. Toyota C-HR– 90.49 %, 26. Mazda MX-5 Mk4 – 90.47 %, 27. Kia Stonic – 90.41 %, 28. Citroën C4 Grand Space Tourer – 90.38 %, 29. Kia Picanto Mk3 – 90.34 %, 30. Volvo XC60 Mk2 – 90.34 %, 31. Seat Leon Mk3 – 90.28 %, 32. Lexus UX– 90.27 %, 33. Subaru XV Mk2 – 90.22 %, 34. Skoda Octavia Mk3 – 90.18 %, 35. Peugeot 2008 Mk1 – 90.14 %, 36. Mercedes-Benz A-Class Mk4 – 90.14 %, 37. Renault Zoé – 90.11 %, 38. Mazda 3 Mk4 – 90.06 %, 39. Honda Civic Mk10 – 89.98 %, 40. BMW 5 Series / M5 Mk7 – 89.82 %, 41. Ford Kuga Mk2 – 89.75 %, 42. Lexus NX– 89.71 %, 43. Toyota Yaris Mk4 – 89.70 %, 44. Peugeot 208 Mk2 – 89.70 %, 45. Fiat 500 – 89.63 %, 46. Audi Q5 / SQ5 Mk2 – 89.57 %, 47. Jaguar XF Mk2 – 89.49 %, 48. Nissan Juke Mk1 – 89.41 %, 49. BMW X3 Mk3 – 89.39 %, 50. Volkswagen Golf Mk7 – 89.29 %, 51. Volkswagen Tiguan (Allspace) Mk2 – 89.21 %, 52. Audi Q2 – 89.20 %, 53. Hyundai Tucson Mk2 – 89.14 %, 54. Suzuki Vitara Mk4 – 89.14 %, 55. MG ZS– 89.12 %, 56. Nissan Qashqai Mk2 – 89.12 %, 57. Honda Jazz Mk3 – 89.11 %, 58. BMW X1 Mk2 – 89.08 %, 59. Vauxhall Astra Mk7 – 88.99 %, 60. Hyundai Kona – 88.99 %, 61. Seat Ateca – 88.94 %, 62. Renault Clio Mk5 – 88.84 %, 63. Peugeot 308 Mk2 – 88.81 %, 64. Audi Q3 / RS Q3 Mk2 – 88.77 %, 65. Renault Kadjar– 88.75 %, 66. Citroën C3 Aircross – 88.74 %, 67. Mitsubishi Outlander Mk3 – 88.73 %, 68. Hyundai i20 Mk2 – 88.71 %, 69. Vauxhall Grandland X – 88.62 %, 70. Audi A5 / RS 5 / S5 Mk2 – 88.59 %, 71. Ford Fiesta Mk8 – 88.59 %, 72. Citroën C1 Mk2 – 88.58 %, 73. Citroën C4 Cactus – 88.48 %, 74. MG 3 – 88.44 %, 75. Renault Captur Mk1 – 88.43 %. +++ 

+++ NISSAN is looking to cut over 10,000 jobs temporarily in the United States and Europe, as local production remains suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak, sources close to the matter said. Nissan is considering reducing its workforce in the U.S. market in addition to plans already outlined to temporarily lay off most of the 6,000 workers at its plant in Sunderland in Britain and around 3,000 in Spain. Its 3 vehicle assembly and engine plants in Tennessee and Mississippi have been suspended since March 20. The suspension was originally scheduled to continue through Monday but was extended until late April. Even before the pandemic, Nissan, Japan’s third-biggest carmaker by volume, had planned to cut 12.500 jobs or nearly 10 % of its total global workforce as part of the restructuring. The automaker has been struggling with faltering vehicle sales following the ouster of Carlos Ghosn as chairman. Nissan in February reported its first quarterly net loss in 11 years for the October to December period and cut its earnings forecast. Nissan said its sales in China fell 44.9 % from a year earlier to 73.297 units in March, as the coronavirus epidemic continues to hit the world’s biggest car market. Nissan, which has a joint venture with Hubei-based Dongfeng Motor, said it sees “signs of recovery in the market”, according to a statement. Rival Toyota’s China sales dropped 15.9 % year-on-year in March while Honda’s fell 50.8 %. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE will expand its SUV range with a new GTS version of the Cayenne Coupé that will feature a range of bespoke styling cues. Caught virtually undisguised by spy photographers as it underwent cold-weather testing, the Cayenne Coupé GTS will bridge the performance gap between the S and top-rung Turbo models while offering more enthusiast appeal. Telltale signs that this is a never-before-seen Cayenne Coupé variant include a pair of elliptical tailpipes, bespoke alloy wheels and a colour-matching body kit. The Coupé’s distinctive rear light bar appears to be darker than on the standard car, as do the headlight bezels. The new arrival will join the recently updated Macan GTS in showrooms and, like that model, is expected to offer improved dynamics over the S, courtesy of a revamped suspension set-up that will include air springs as standard. It also appears to ride significantly closer to the ground than existing Cayenne models. For reference, the Macan GTS sits 15 mm lower than other models in the range, which, Porsche claims, allows the SUV to offer the “the agility and responsiveness of a true sports car”. The brakes will likely be upgraded as well. The prototype had the Cayenne’s optional 440 mm discs behind its front wheels. The Cayenne Coupé GTS can be expected to take its power from the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 found in the equivalent version of the Panamera. It puts out 462 hp in that application, which would position the GTS between the 440 hp S and the 550 hp Turbo models. There’s no word yet on what we can expect in terms of performance, but a 0-100 kph time of under 5 seconds and a top speed nudging 275 kph seems reasonable, given the GTS’s mid-range billing and emphasis on enhanced dynamics. +++ 

+++ Contrary to what’s been going on in global markets, passenger car sales in RUSSIA for the month of March were actually up 23 %, compared to the same period last year. According to analytical agency Autostat, this happened because consumers wanted to purchase new vehicles ahead of anticipated price spikes, following the ruble’s sharp decline. However, this trend is expected to be short lived. Now that dealerships are closed across the country as a precaution against the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, consumers are forced to only make online purchases, which means that sales will likely take a dive this month, as reported by Autonews Europe. No fewer than 160.640 new cars were sold in the month of March, marking a 16 % increase for the first quarter year-on-year, totaling 375.649. However, this was no more than people wanting to buy a car at an old price, fearing what may come next following the ruble’s fall. “There will be a downturn, and it will be severe”, said Autostat exec Sergei Udalov, adding that the decline in sales for the month of April could peak as high as 80 % to 90 %. He also said that the only chance of a recovery will be with domestic manufacturers, who can afford to keep prices lower seen as how their assembly parts are produced locally. Sales already began to slow down at the end of last month, when a self-isolation regime was put into place. Russia has thus far reported 7.497 cases of Covid-19 and 58 deaths. +++ 

+++ SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES may soon be a common sight in China and the industry could see rapid growth as the Covid-19 outbreak has underlined the importance of such vehicles during an epidemic, industry experts said. “Autonomous driving has entered a new stage in China. We expect the segment to see major consolidation this year”, said Han Xu, founder and CEO of WeRide, a Chinese smart mobility company. “Investors have realized that autonomous driving will be implemented on a large scale over the next 3 to 5 years. They have also realized that it is no longer a high-risk investment and more capital is needed to expand business and boost technological stability”, he said. Autonomous driving gained traction and investments recently as investors started becoming more cautious about investing in a string of industries after the epidemic. The sector has been seeing a flurry of big deals like the autonomous driving unit of Didi Chuxing getting a $300 million investment from Japanese tech giant SoftBank. Another autonomous driving firm Pony.ai finished its new round of funding totaling $462 million last month. Wu Gansha, CEO of Chinese self-driving startup Uisee, believes that the sector is now ready for a take-off. “Investors are more confident on the commercialization of intelligent driving and hence willing to invest. From this year, we should start seeing large-scale commercialization of driverless vehicles”, he said. “We have been seeing a healthy pickup in orders”, said Wu, whose startup focuses on high-level autonomous driving and completed a new round of financing in February. During the epidemic, several hospitals and companies used self-driving vehicles to deliver necessities like masks and meals to patients and medical workers. “Self driving has great application scenarios during the epidemic. If pure self-driving can be achieved, it is ideal to transport suspected patients as cross infection risks can be avoided”, said Han from WeRide. By the end of last year, WeRide had launched trial runs of its Robo-Taxi in a 144 square kilometer area in South China’s Guangzhou city. Passengers can order a self-driving taxi via its app and experience a driverless journey. Earlier this year, China unveiled a blueprint to boost autonomous driving in the country. According to the blueprint, the country will realize “scale production of vehicles capable of conditional autonomous driving and commercialization of high-level autonomous vehicles in certain scenarios by 2025”. “Smart vehicles have become a global strategy and China has a strategic edge in developing smart cars with the complete automobile industry and evolving information technology”, the document said. In March, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology launched classification standards for autonomous driving in China, which has pressed the fast-forward button for the country’s autonomous driving industry. Buoyed by the brighter market prospects, Han from WeRide said that his company plans to expand its operations in Guangzhou and deploy several hundred units of RoboTaxi this year. He said that the company could achieve complete unmanned vehicle operations in Guangzhou by next year, once the existing stipulation on security personnel for the vehicles is removed. As of now, 6 cities in China have allowed autonomous vehicle makers to undertake passenger tests, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Guangzhou. +++ 

+++ Dit you think the TESLA Model S Performance and Model X Performance had reached the limit of their acceleration? Think again. As standard, the 2 flagship Tesla models are among the fastest-accelerating vehicles on the planet, regardless of class. In fact, the Model S Performance can hit 60 mph (96 km/h) in less than 2.5 seconds while the Model X Performance can reach the same mark in under 3 seconds. However, a new software feature the electric automaker has rolled out to customers. Known as ‘Cheetah Stance,’ the new feature adjusts the adaptive suspension of the EVs to provide the best possible launch. More specifically, the front suspension is lowered and the damping is optimized when drivers firmly press the brake with their left foot and press and hold the accelerator with their right foot. This will enable ‘Launch Mode’ and the Model S and Model X promise to scurry off the line even quicker than before. It remains to be seen if it will also be introduced to the Model 3 and Model Y Performance, but it seems unlikely as neither of them are available with Tesla’s Adaptive Suspension system. +++ 

+++ Spy photographers have spotted an undisguised Volkswagen TIGUAN mule undergoing testing. The facelifted SUV will go on sale later this year, sporting a new plug-in hybrid powertrain and a range of cosmetic and technology updates; most of which will be lifted from the recently launched Mk8 Golf. Volkswagen recently confirmed that the Tiguan would receive a PHEV powertrain by the end of 2020. Specifications for the system are yet to be announced but, seeing that the Tiguan shares its MQB underpinnings with the recently launched Cupra Formentor, it’ll likely use the same powertrain as the Spanish car. The Skoda’s system consists of a 1.4-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, a compact electric motor and a 13 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which offers a maximum output of 245 hp and 400 Nm of torque. The same drivetrain will also feature in the Volkswagen Golf GTE, Passat GTE and forthcoming Arteon GTE; all of which should be on sale before the end of 2020. Performance figures are also yet to be announced, but such a system would put the Tiguan GTE on equal-footing with the SUV’s current flagship model, the 230 hp 2.0 TSI. That car can manage the 0–100 kph sprint in 6.3 seconds, which should be achievable with the Volkswagen Group’s PHEV powertrain. In addition, the Tiguan’s larger dimensions mean the PHEV powertrain shouldn’t have a massive impact on the SUV’s practicality. The previous-generation Golf GTE sacrificed around 100 litres of storage space to accommodate the battery pack, but the extra space around the Tiguan’s rear axle should mean that its 615 litre boot will be largely unaffected. Styling updates follow the conventional facelift formula. The updated Tiguan will get tweaked front and rear bumpers and a fresh radiator grille, new LED headlamps and a pair of revised rear lamps; both of which will feature new lighting signatures. The SUV’s fascia will also adopt the same U-shaped intake design as the Golf. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN hopes to partially reopen its plant in Spain’s Navarra region on April 20 after its closure in mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak, a spokesman for the plant said. The plant in northern Spain should reopen with 1 of its 3 daily shifts operating during 4 days in the first week, and the goal is to extend it to 2 shifts the following week, depending on how well the supply chain works, the spokesman added. All workers would wear masks and gloves, and the plant’s disinfection would be intensified, he added. The plant has around 4.800 workers and produces the Polo and T-Cross models. +++

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