Newsflash: Renault twijfelt over opvolger voor Mégane

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+++ ASTON MARTIN is looking to help its customers around the world by extending all new vehicle warranties that are due to expire or have expired either since March 14 or January 1st (in case of China), to June 30. The British carmaker is working closely with its dealer network in order to facilitate this strategy, meant to mitigate potential effects of lockdowns associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. Servicing requirements are also being relaxed, with owners now not having to worry about failing to adhere to specified intervals, which before would have invalidated their warranty coverage. This rule is being waived until restrictions change and appropriate dealer operations resume. So as of right now, all Aston Martin cars serviced within 3 months or 3.000 kilometres (whichever comes first) of the in-car service indicator will be protected in full via warranty. So if you need to take your Aston into the shop, know that delaying the visit will not invalidate your warranty, unless you were supposed to do so before the lockdown started. “For all of us, the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown has been, and will continue to be, a very trying time”, said Aston Martin director of client services, Andy West. “While issues such as car maintenance and warranty cover are, quite rightly, not top of mind for many we want to let our customers know that in partnership with our global dealer network we are doing all we can to support them, and their sports cars, through this period and will be looking forward to helping them get back behind the wheel of their beloved Aston Martin sports cars when it is safe and appropriate to do so”. +++ 

+++ If you’re any type of car enthusiast, you get stoked whenever BMW comes out with an all-new M3, which has only taken place a total of 5 times up until now. The M3 iteration of the 3-Series kicked off with the E30 generation in 1986, followed by the E36 in 1992, the E46 in 2000, the V8 powered E90 in 2007 and then the F80 generation in 2014. Up next is the G80 model, which we know will bring with it some pretty big changes. Before I break everything down, let’s just say that on paper, the G80 promises to be the best all-round M3 in history, which means that once you get behind the wheel, you’ll probably forget all about any possible issues you might have with its styling. Speaking of which: odds are, you need to accept the massive grille. Even though some G80 M3 prototypes have tried to fool us by making the grille surround appear “normal sized”, leaked images as well as other various spy images point to the all-new M3 featuring the same large kidney grille design as its 2-door sibling, the M4, which we know for a fact will rock giant nostrils. Otherwise, the German sports sedan will employ bulkier fenders both front and rear, larger side sills, a small trunk lid spoiler, a different rear bumper with a diffuser and quad exhaust pipes. This one’s easy. Spy images already revealed the sports seats and M badges, plus I know to expect different trim levels (possibly carbon fiber inserts) and the familiar 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 10.25-inch infotainment display. What we can however confirm right now is that the new M3 will indeed be available with a 6-speed manual gearbox, which should thrill those of you who still appreciate being able to change gears yourselves. The new M3 will ride on BMW’s CLAR platform, which means it should be lighter and more agile than the F80-generation model. “We are aware there is a large fanbase of M cars around the world and we will do all we can to excite them and everything we can do not to disappoint them”, said BMW M division chief Carsten Piers in an interview. The new M3 will also boast the latest 3-Series’ stroke-dependent damper technology, to go with a wider track and a new bespoke adaptive suspension system. As for performance, that’s coming from a new S58 engine, the same one you’ll find in the X3 M and X4 M. It is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six, which will lay down 480 hp in the base M3 and 510 hp in the M3 Competition. Everything will be sent to the road via a rear-wheel biased all-wheel drive system, although word has it that RWD variants will be the only ones to come with the previously-mentioned manual gearbox. +++

+++ The first examples of the BUGATTI Divo hypercar are now being handed over to customers, the firm has announced, almost 2 years on from the new track-focussed Bugatti’s debut at the 2018 Monterey car week. Based on the Chiron, the Bugatti Divo is lighter and more agile, reflecting an appetite among Bugatti’s clientele for (in the words of the project’s manager, Pierre Rummelfanger) a “corner hungry” car. The Divo is named after legendary racing driver Albert Divo and celebrates Bugatti’s ‘coachbuilding tradition’. Only 40 will be built, with all of them sold prior to the car’s public unveiling in 2018. “Our customers and fans were waiting for a special vehicle which would tell a further story for the brand in addition to the Chiron”, said Bugatti boss Stephan Winkelmann at the time. “The Bugatti team was also very eager to implement a project like this”. It features bespoke bodywork that majors on aerodynamic optimisation; the Divo gets a totally new front end, gaping air intakes and slim LED lights. There’s an ‘optimised air curtain’ and a new, wider front spoiler, which helps the Divo develop an additional 90 kg of downforce than a Chiron. Various vanes direct cool air to the brakes, while the flanks are similarly aggressive, with large ducts and sharp creases. On the roof there’s a flow-optimised air duct, while the rear spoiler is 23 % wider than before and can be set to different angles depending on which drive mode the car is in. Bugatti says this improves downforce and efficiency, as well as higher air brake performance. The car’s rear lighting graphic is new, too, and features multiple OLED elements. Made up of 44 fins, the lamps are partly produced using advanced 3D printing techniques. The 2-tone colour scheme comprises shades of Titanium Liquid Silver and Divo Racing Blue, while the spoiler, diffuser and air outlets get a bare carbon finish. The Divo shares the Chiron’s quad-turbo, 8.0 litre W16 engine with 1.500 hp and 1.600 Nm, as well as the same 7-speed DSG automatic box and 4-wheeldrive system. Bugatti says the Divo will cover 0-100 kph in 2.4 seconds and hit 380 kph flat out. Meanwhile, the Divo is claimed to be capable of pulling 1.6 G of lateral acceleration in bends and is 8 seconds faster around the 6.2 km Nardo handling track. The lightweight wheels, carbon fibre intercooler cover and reduced use of sound insulation allow a 35 kg weight saving. Inside, the Divo gets a matt carbon dashboard, with Divo Grey Alcantara seats. Bugatti claims these seats offer more lateral support, while the similarly-trimmed steering wheel gets longer paddles for greater control. Larger armrests and calf supports aim to improve comfort. According to Winkelmann, the Divo aims to “thrill people throughout the world”, giving Bugatti the chance to “interpret the brand DNA in terms of agile, nimble handling in a significantly more performance-oriented way”. +++ 

+++ CHINA will slash subsidies of new energy vehicles (NEV), including EVs, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen vehicles, by 10 % this year. The Chinese government announced plans back in 2015 to eventually end subsidies this year but in March said it would extend them in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Under the latest plan, subsidies for buying NEVs will extend to 2022 with tax exemptions on new vehicle purchases also sticking around for 2 years. While this all sounds very good, there is one key change and that is that the subsidies will only apply to passenger cars that cost less than 300.000 yuan ($42.376). This means that premium NEVs from the likes of BMW and Daimler will be excluded. Additionally, the Tesla Model 3 which starts at 323.800 yuan ($45.819) is excluded from the scheme. The Chinese finance ministry added that it will, in principle, cut subsidies by 20 % in 2021 and 30 % in 2022. It added that it will raise the requirements for the driving range and power efficiency of cars that qualify for the subsidies. “This extending of subsidies will give the industry long term support but is unlikely to impact short term sales much”, secretary general at China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said. China has a target of NEVs accounting for a fifth of all auto sales by 2025 compared to the current 5 %. Last year, more than 25 million vehicles were sold in the country of which 1.2 million were NEVs. Tesla’s prices for 2 China made model 3 variants rose after authorities cut subsidies in the world’s biggest auto market. China cut subsidies on electric vehicles by 10 % this year, effective April 23, but there will be a three-month transition period. After the adjustment, the starting price for the Shanghai-made Standard Range Model 3 sedans will rise to 303,550 yuan ($42,900) from 299,050 yuan, while Long Range Model 3 cars, which Tesla plans to roll out from June this year, will be priced at 344,050 yuan versus 339,050 yuan, a company website showed. Prices for those models before subsidies remain unchanged. Tesla, which started delivering cars from its $2 billion Shanghai factory last year, saw its China registrations rose to 12.709 units in March from 2.314 in February. Hit by the coronavirus epidemic, China’s overall car sales fell 42 % in the first 3 months compared with a year earlier. But the auto industry expects sales to recover as the government promises more supportive policies to boost consumption. +++ 

+++ FERRARI plans to reveal 2 new models this year and its commercial chief has hinted they will continue the push into new markets. The firm launched 5 new models in 2019, including the F8 Tributo, SF90 Stradale and Roma, as part of a major range expansion that’s set to include 15 cars in a 5 year window. At the unveiling of the Roma, Enrico Galliera said 2020 would be “a year of consolidation” to support those launches. But when asked more recently if that meant Ferrari won’t unveil any new cars this year, he told: “We’re always planning to do something more and we intend to make some news. We will launch 2 new models by the end of the year”. Galliera was speaking before the Covid-19 pandemic forced Ferrari to suspend production at its Maranello factory and the ongoing threat could lead to the unveilings being delayed. Ferrari is understood to be amending its plans for the rest of this year before an investors’ presentation in May but, with production slated to resume this month, it could still continue with its expansion. According to Galliera, the new cars were scheduled to be revealed in the second half of the year before the closure. While he wouldn’t offer any details about them, he did hint that they will continue Ferrari’s range expansion, saying: “We’ll keep looking at new, untapped markets”. Regarding 2020, Galliera said: “We need to consolidate the launch of our 5 products from last year but, while doing that, we don’t stop looking for opportunities to grow as a company and business”. When asked what segments Ferrari is looking at, beyond the Purosangue SUV that’s due in 2022, Galliera said: “Potentially every segment is of interest to us, with the caveat that Ferrari is in the luxury sports car market. “We can enter every market in which we can deliver a car that meets our position as a luxury car firm. We have certain limitations connected to the sportiness of the car: Ferrari is a sports car manufacturer. “When we look at new segments, we have to keep in mind the soul and positioning of the Ferrari brand, and that’s our only limitation. There are some natural segments, such as sports and GT cars, but we can look to others as long as they’re consistent with our heritage”. +++ 

+++ An average of 750 workers of the FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA) Melfi assembly plant in southern Italy will be back to work next week to prepare the facility for the final development of the group’s new hybrid cars, a union representative said. Marco Lomio, of UILM, said the automaker had informed unions that workers would have to complete cars left unfinished on assembly lines when the plant was shut in mid-March following rules imposed by Rome to stem the coronavirus spread. “We’ll start with 500 people on Monday and we’ll peak on Wednesday with around 1.000 workers”, Lomio said. This would then allow FCA to have lines free to build prototypes of new plug-in hybrid versions of Jeep’s Compass and Renegade models, he said. The partial restart of operations at Melfi, which normally employs 7.400 workers, adds to FCA plan to resume van production in Atessa plant, in central Italy, a week before a national lockdown imposed by the Rome government is officially due to end. Around 6.000 Atessa workers out of a total of 6.500 are expected to be back to work on Monday, according to a source. As for Atessa, in Melfi FCA has sought a green light from local authorities, relying on their tacit consent, as it makes use of a provision in Italy’s lockdown laws that allows companies whose activity can be linked to “essential” sectors to reopen, Lomio said. Building prototypes of new hybrid cars is considered part of R&D activities, deemed essential by the government. Lomio said FCA would probably restart developing those prototypes immediately from May 4. He added that, following production stoppage linked to the virus emergency, FCA would hardly start selling new hybrid version of Jeep’s Compass and Renegade models before September, compared with the automaker’s plan prior to the outbreak to start in July. +++ 

+++ FORD is famously remaking its lineup by phasing out cars like the Ka+ and Mondeo while doubling down on high-riding crossovers and SUVs like the forthcoming Puma ST. But while the automaker offeres high performance ST versions of stalwart ‘ute models like the Explorer and Edge, we shouldn’t anticipate a Kuga ST. Ford has no plans to make a performance version of this SUV, despite rumors (and hopes) to the contrary. That would leave the 225 hp 2.5 PHEV the most powerful Kuga variant available. It’s a curious decision, given that Ford offers a 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-4 mill and the option of allwheel drive in the Lincoln Corsair, which rides on the same platform as the Kuga. That engine is rated at 295 hp. Ford only whetted enthusiasts’ hopes when it brought a pair of modified Kugas to SEMA last fall, including an Air Design USA Sport Hybrid; a lowered version of the SUV that sported a sharp, 2-tone black-and-white paint job, 20 inch wheels and Pirelli tires, plus Borla cat-black exhaust with black chrome tips. So for now, that’s probably as close as we’ll get to imagining what could’ve been. +++ 

+++ GENESIS , Hyundai’s premium brand, has begun to gear up for its much-anticipated expansion into the European market with the appointment of a new sales boss for the region. Genesis Motor Europe has named former Aston Martin and Maserati executive Enrique Lorenzana as its head of sales. The Korean brand has yet to confirm when it will launch in the region or what its initial model line-up will comprise. It was initially planning a roll-out in 2020. The appointment of Lorenzana gives some indication of the premium market Genesis will be aiming for in Europe. He most recently served as Aston Martin’s head of European sales, following a 7-year spell at Maserati. The Spaniard has also previously worked at Audi and Kia. Genesis boss William Lee said Lorenzana’s appointment “shows that Genesis is strongly committed to Europe and its automotive luxury market”. Genesis was launched by the Hyundai Motor Group in 2015, taking its name from the long-running Hyundai Genesis executive saloon. The first bespoke Genesis model, the G70, went on sale in 2017, and has since been followed by the G80 and G90. The brand has also revealed its first SUV, the GV80, and last year showed the Mint electric city car concept. Genesis has already launched in countries including South Korea, China, the US and Russia. +++ 

+++ In GERMANY , a number of car manufacturers receiving state aid are expected to still pay out their shareholders billions of euros through dividends. The likes of Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler are receiving state aid in the form of Germany’s short-time work scheme that will allow them to protect jobs and continue to pay employees. Despite this, they are all expected to pay out billions to shareholders at their upcoming Annual General Meetings based on last year’s profits, sparking criticism. “Those who rely on state aid cannot simultaneously distribute profits to shareholders. This is the ugly face of capitalism”, the chief whip of the SPD, the junior partner in Germany’s ruling grand coalition, Carsten Schneider, said. Volkswagen has placed approximately 80.000 employees on short-time work funded by the government and is expected to pay out roughly €3.3 billion in dividends at its AGM which was scheduled for May 7 but has since been postponed. BMW is in a similar position and has roughly 20.000 employees on short-time work but also intends on paying dividends, saying it is important for investor confidence. “Reliability towards our investors creates trust and maintains the attractiveness of BMW as an investment”, the company said. Daimler has also placed thousands of workers on the state-funded scheme and will also pay its dividends. However, it says the payouts will be reduced significantly from last year. +++ 

+++ China’s GREAT WALL MOTOR said it had swung to net loss in the first quarter this year after its profit dropped 13.6 % last year, as the coronavirus epidemic hits the world’s biggest auto market. The Baoding based company, which has a joint venture with BMW, said in a stock exchange filing it reported a 650 million yuan ($92 million) net loss in the first 3 months this year; down 184 % from a 773.3 million yuan profit a year earlier. Hit by the corona virus epidemic, China’s overall car sales fell 42 % in the first 3 months compared with a year earlier. Sales of Great Wall, which is known for its popular SUVs, dropped 47%. Great Wall said the epidemic’s impact on auto sales and devaluation of the Russian rouble were the reasons for the profit drop in the first 3 months this year. Great Wall is building cars from its plant in Russia. It also agreed to buy 2 plants in India and Thailand from General Motors and expects transactions for both factories to be completed in the second half of 2020, and will revamp their production lines to make its models. In 2019, Great Wall reported a 4.49 billion yuan profit; down from the previous year’s 5.2 billion yuan. Rival Geely Automobile’s profit dropped 35 % last year while BYD fell 42 %. Great Wall chairman Wei Jianjun said earlier the firm does not want to enter into a price war in the market slowdown. Great Wall now aims to sell 1.02 million units in 2020; down from last year’s sales of 1.06 million units. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI said it expects only a modest recovery in Chinese auto demand and weak sales elsewhere this year after the coronavirus pandemic caused first-quarter vehicle sales to tumble 18 %. Hyundai, which with Kia forms the world’s No.5 automotive group, joins a growing number of carmakers forecasting a bleak year. “Demand is expected to worsen in the second quarter due to the prolonged suspension of dealer operations and factory operations in overseas markets”, Hyundai’s chief financial officer Kim Sang-hyun said in an earnings call. “Global automakers are expected to see their profitability decline in earnest”. Hyundai said global auto demand fell 24 % in the first quarter and more than 40 % in March. Tracking the spread of the outbreak, declines for Hyundai’s first-quarter retail vehicle sales were sharpest in China where they slumped 43 %. In South Korea, they dropped 14 % while in the United States, they fell 11 %. With the outlook for many countries’ recoveries from the pandemic unclear, Hyundai has suspended operations at its plants in the United States, India and Brazil. But its China, South Korea, Russia, Czech Republic and Turkey plants have resumed production after suspensions. “Although we forecast a sales recovery in the second half, annual demand is expected to drop sharply”, said Koo Za-yong, head of Hyundai’s investor relations. He added that China (where the coronavirus has been largely contained) would likely see only a modest recovery as the economy reels from the fallout of the pandemic. But while vehicle sales tumbled in the first quarter, a cheaper South Korean won and improved sales of higher-end models helped Hyundai’s revenue climb 6 % to 25 trillion won ($20.4 billion). Net profit slid 44 % to 463 billion won ($376 million), hit by the slump in China sales, a smaller profit from its affiliates and financial losses. By comparison, Daimler warned of a near 70 % plunge in core earnings for the quarter just ended. +++

+++ KARMA continues to roll out versions of their E-Flex platform and the latest is certainly the most interesting as it’s designed for use on electric supercars. Known as the “High-Performance E-Flex platform”, the architecture is designed for supercars equipped with front and rear electric motors. The company says they’ll have a combined output of 1.115 hp and 14.000 Nm. The latter number is a bit nonsensical, but the figure is less than the 15.574 Nm generated by the upcoming GMC Hummer EV. Getting back to useful specifications, Karma says models based on the platform should be able to accelerate from 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) in less than 1.9 seconds. The architecture also accommodates a “flat-floor battery” which could provide a range of up to 400 miles (644 km). There’s no word on when we can expect an electric supercar based on the platform, but Karma’s Chief Technology Officer, Kevin Zhang, said “Our latest E-Flex platform is well-suited for supercar configurations and is designed to be outfitted to high-performance vehicles such as Karma’s SC2 concept car”. The SC2 concept debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show last year and it had many of the same specifications mentioned above. However, the concept had slightly shorter range of 350 miles (563 km). Other highlights included carbon ceramic brakes, a pushrod suspension and torque vectoring technology. Karma appears to be eager to share the platform as they said “Using the Karma E-Flex Platform, vehicle manufacturers can optimize development costs to engineer, test, certify and build an EREV or BEV platform, allowing electrification of their products with greater speed and efficiency”. However, it remains unclear if any companies are actually interested. +++

+++ The KIA Stinger hit the market in 2017, spending the first year of its life earning plaudits for terrific handling at an unbeatable price. Although the Stinger could shake the competition, starting in 2018 and ever since, the Stinger couldn’t shake rumors that it won’t get a second generation. In fact, tangential questions about the Kia began in late 2017, with the assertion that Kia needed to upgrade its dealer network if it really wanted to take on the Germans. Once sales in the key North American market began to soften, then slide, that put blood in the water. Kia’s head of design couldn’t put off the sharks in October 2018, telling that the sedan wasn’t selling as well as expected. Now, the situation has gotten worse thanks to the corona virus catastrophe and the need to conserve resources. Kia had already opted not to put a new powertrain into the Stinger refresh, saving money by adding more power to the current 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 with a revised exhaust. Of course, the rumors of axing are still only rumors and the Stinger is still only 3 years old. Anything can happen, apparently including the remote possibilities the Stinger morphs into a different kind of vehicle or goes electric. If the sales numbers continue as they’ve been going, however, something will need to happen; after an 18 % dip from 2018 to 2019 in U.S. sales, the Stinger’s already down 21 % so far this year. In the Netherlands, 8 units of the Stinger were sold in 2019 compared to 30 the year before. In the first 3 months of 2020, only one car found a buyer. +++ 

+++ The London Electric Vehicle Company ( LEVC ) has warned suppliers that it will not be able to fulfill payments for a least a month, reports suggest. A letter was written by the Coventry-based electric taxi and van maker to its production partners earlier this month. It says the firm has invoked a ‘force majeure’ clause in its contract, increasing the difficulties automotive suppliers face during the coronavirus pandemic. LEVC, owned by Chinese giant Geely, told suppliers that “despite LEVC’s implementation of measures to minimise the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic to maintain production and keep its offices and sites open, the situation has escalated beyond control”. It continued: “As a result, we will be unable to meet our obligations in relation to your agreement including, without limitation, our ability to: schedule future orders, process and receive supplies, permit access to our site, process payments; or otherwise continue to provide normal supplier support services”. The letter claimed the force majeure clause would remain until at least 1 May, although given it was sent earlier this month, that may be extended further. Responding to a request for comment, LEVC released a statement: “The temporary suspension of manufacturing and adjustment to production schedules has resulted in a requirement to notify its production suppliers of a force majeure situation for a short period of time. LEVC’s business plan for this year remains unchanged and the company is committed to a long term relationship with all of its business partners, and looks forward to returning to full production of the TX electric taxi as soon as possible”. LEVC shut its manufacturing operations in Coventry on 26 March along with the majority of the industry, with no definite re-opening date. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is the latest automaker to announce a home delivery service for new car buyers. The service, which appears to be exclusive to the German market, expands upon the marque’s online store for new vehicles that it launched back in 2016. The online store was revamped in December 2019 and has since attracted roughly 400.000 visitors. Those shopping for a new Mercedes can do so exclusively online and select to have the vehicle delivered to their desired address. What’s more, this delivery service is offered free of charge. Like other car manufacturers and dealerships, Mercedes-Benz sees a bright future for online vehicle sales and expects roughly 25 % of its sales to come through online channels by 2025. Contactless car delivery is on the rise across the industry. Vehicles delivered directly to customers should be sanitized inside and out by someone wearing protective clothing, making use of a disinfectant spray containing at least 70 % isopropyl alcohol to ensure viruses and bacteria are killed. +++ 

+++ A series of what initially appear to be intriguing new patent images of a wild hypercar from PORSCHE have been making the online rounds, but what’s the story here; is it really a new model or something else? The patent images were shared by Autointernationaal.nl on 13 April before being picked up and shared by a multitude of sites claiming that we could be looking at a production version for a successor to the 918 Spyder based around the gorgeous 917 Concept unveiled last year by the German brand with more dramatic aero additions. Viewed from the front, the car sports massive haunches just like the 917 Concept as well as a set of LED headlights and aerodynamic add-ons on either side of the bumper. A number of other aspects of the design are particularly eye-catching, including the wraparound windshield and side windows that remind us of various Koenigsegg models. Simply put, those claims are not true. For starters, what is not mentioned anywhere in those reports is that the patent application is clearly marked as “Vehicle Toys”, which could mean 1 or both of 2 things: Porsche is just making sure that no one gets any smart ideas of duplicating the design, and it has already, or is planning to in the near future, to release a scale toy model. As far as the car in the patents looking slightly altered with additional aero-addenda and different 5 spoke wheels, that is absolutely true, but it’s not the first time Porsche has shown this specific variant of the 917 Living Legend. A quick search online reveals that the same exact vehicle with the aero addons and wheels was featured in Porsche’s official online and museum footage from early 2019, putting the next hypercar theory to rest. It is no secret that Porsche will develop a successor to the 918 Spyder. Could this be it? As I’ve explained above, the answer is no. However, it’s certainly possible and totally plausible that Porsche’s designers might borrow styling cues from the 1:1 scale clay model for a future model, be that for the aforementioned halo hypercar or perhaps even a special, but digitally only, Vision Gran Turismo concept. +++ 

+++ The future of the RENAULT Megane is in doubt, senior company bosses have revealed. The Megane has been a staple of the French firm’s lineup since it was launched back in 1995 but dwindling sales and an increased focus on developing electric vehicles have called into question the model’s future. Laurens van den Acker, Renault’s design chief, told that the company is looking at whether the development costs assigned for the Megane could be better used elsewhere. “Inevitably, once we’re starting to add a range of EVs to our line-up, some of the other vehicles are going to have to go because we just can’t afford to develop all of this at the same time”, van den Acker explained. “The Megane is in a segment that’s increasingly under pressure. You have to put your money where the future of the market is”. Sales for the Megane have been falling steadily since 2010 where 465.732 examples were sold across Europe. That figure has more than halved in less than 10 years as 209.845 models were sold in 2019. +++ 

+++ SUBARU will allegedly stop taking orders for the BRZ in Japan on July 20, the automaker’s press relation’s department in the country said. The Tokyo Subaru dealer body also published this date for the end of orders on its BRZ site. The next-generation BRZ (and presumably its Toyota GT86 sibling) will arrive at the earliest in March 2021, but the coronavirus outbreak will possibly force the timing to be later than that. They will ride on a modified version of the current chassis, despite previous rumours of a switch to the Toyota TGNA platform. The BRZ and GT86 will allegedly use a naturally aspirated version of the Subaru FA24 2.4-litre flat-4 engine. It will purportedly make 220 hp and 240 Nm. In comparison, the existing 2.0-litre flat-4 powerplant has 205 hp and 211 Nm (or 204 Nm the automatic gearbox). The 6-speed manual gearbox will reportedly carry over to the new models, but there will be a new automatic transmission with an emphasis on performing well in a sporty vehicle. Automatics are increasingly popular around the world, especially in North America, and the companies want to cater the vehicle to this segment of the market. Subaru and Toyota announced in September that they were collaborating on the next-generation BRZ / GT86. They didn’t offer any specifics at that time. As further evidence of the models’ imminent demise, Subaru launched the Final Edition 86 in Germany as the last special model before the vehicle’s retirement. +++ 

+++ TESLA has rolled out another over-the-air software package for the Model S and X Performance variants, this time boosting performance and bringing claims of greater thermal efficiency. The update is automatically installed in examples of the 2 models running the latest ‘Raven’ powertrain and is claimed to drop the Model S 0-60 mph time from 2.5 seconds to 2.3 seconds. The Model X’s is reduced from 2.7 seconds to 2.6 seconds. It’s not immediately clear exactly how this performance boost is achieved (some US media are claiming a peak power increase) but the firm lists improvements to its launch control system as part of the update. The car can now adopt a ‘Cheetah Stance’, lowering the front axle and adjusting the damping to boost traction off the line. Just as intriguing are claims of “improved thermal endurance” with the new upgrades for “more back-to-back runs”. Again, no detail of how this is achieved has been provided, but the update is likely a response to numerous tests claiming Porsche’s new Taycan is more capable of repeatable launch performance without drop-off. The update is one of countless upgrades that Tesla has rolled out free of charge to owners over the past few years. Software improvements have boosted range and added a variety of novel new features, including Dog and Sentry modes last year. +++ 

+++ The days appear to be numbered for TOYOTA ’s V8 engine as a number of upcoming models are rumored to adopt a twin-turbo V6. While I’ve heard this countless times before, a source filled in some details. According to the insider, Toyota will phase out mass production of their V8 engine over the course of the next 3 years. As part of this effort, the company’s plant in Huntsville, Alabama will reportedly amass a collection of components to build 30.000 V8 engines for the current Tundra and Sequoia. Once all those components have been made, the company will begin replacing V8 tooling with new machinery for V6 engines. The plant will then assemble its last V8s before being fully converted over to building the new turbocharged V6s. The company also builds V8 engines in Japan, at their Tahara plant, but it will reportedly stop mass production in the next 2 or 3 years. The facility will then be converted to building turbocharged V6s, but it could retain some limited production for V8 engines. Toyota declined to comment on its future product plans, but a number of upcoming models are expected to eschew V8 engines. These include the next-generation Tundra and Sequoia. However, Toyota won’t phase out V8s altogether. Last December, Lexus confirmed a new twin-turbo V8 for its LC race car and noted the engine was also “destined for use on future road cars such as sports cars”. That engine is expected to power the upcoming LC F and could also be installed in the next-generation LX. While nothing is official, increasing fuel economy and emission standards are pushing automakers to become more eco-friendly and that likely means V8s won’t be as common as they once were. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED STATES , the head of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union has expressed concerns about re-opening car factories and Michigan’s economy in early May. Citing insufficient scientific data, UAW president Rory Gamble said the union is not comfortable sending its members back to work. This comes despite plans from the likes of Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to start bringing UAW workers back to vehicle manufacturing jobs on May 4. “At this point in time, the UAW does not believe the scientific data is conclusive that it is safe to have our members back in the workplace. We have not done enough testing to really understand the threat our members face”, Gamble said. “We strongly suggest to our companies in all sectors that an early May date is too soon and too risky to our members, their families and their communities”. On Thursday, GM started notifying front line managers to come back to work next week to get trained on new safety protocols designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. “What we are doing is making sure the people who are going to lead in our plant facilities and lead period, understand the protocols well enough”, GM’s global head of manufacturing Gerald Johnson said. Elsewhere, Toyota has said it expects to gradually resume North American production starting May 4 and will employ new safety procedures. It will add temperature checks for all plant employees, provide personal protective gear, use touchless entrances and exits and bar non-emergency use of elevators. A person familiar with Ford’s production plans says it too is considering asking some workers to return next week. FCA has also said it is targeting a date of May 4 to resume production. UAW local 668 president Tony Mann of Saginaw reiterated Gamble’s view that it could prove too soon to return to work to WNEM. “I mean he (Rory Gamble) wants to make sure that General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have the proper PPE or protective equipment and that the protocols are in place that will keep the employees and members safe”, he said. “The big concern is I want to make sure that when I come home, I’m not bringing something with me that possibly my family could contract”. +++ 

+++ WAYMO , the self-driving development company established by Google, has introduced the latest, fifth-generation Driver suite of hardware and software that basically allows a car to be driven without human input. The company’s fifth-generation suite of autonomous driving technologies is completely redesigned following 20 million of self-driven miles on public roads and more than 10 billion miles of simulation. The result is a package that’s not only more powerful and capable than its predecessor but also at half the cost of the previous-generation package, indicating at Waymo’s lead in this race towards fully autonomous driving. The package includes Waymo’s new lidar sensors, which create a 360 degree system and paints a 3D picture of the vehicle’s surroundings. With the use of lidars, the system can measure the size and distance of objects around the car that are over 300 meters away, offering enhanced spatial resolution and accuracy compared to the previous system. The lidars are combined with new cameras as well, which are unsurprisingly much better than before; they can capture more detail and provide sharper images, even in the toughest driving conditions. The combination of the new lidars and cameras also means that Waymo’s cars can now identify things like pedestrians and stop signs from over 500 meters away. Waymo’s latest self-driving package also includes next-generation radar sensors, which can instantaneously detect and measure an object’s velocity even in the toughest weather conditions, like fog, rain, and snow, providing a persistent view of the vehicle’s entire surroundings. In fact, for the fifth-generation suite, Waymo created the world’s first imaging radar system for autonomous driving, offering the absolute best in resolution, range, and field of view. The first test vehicle to have Waymo’s new ‘Driver’ suite of sensors and software is the electric Jaguar I-Pace, which benefits from having most of the onboard hardware mounted in the frunk, leaving the majority of the boot space free for luggage. +++

 

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