Newsflash: vernieuwde Hyundai i30 N wordt 300 pk sterk

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+++ ASTON MARTIN ’s immediate priorities will be restarting manufacturing and launching production of its crucial first SUV, the luxury carmaker’s new boss, Formula 1 team owner Lawrence Stroll, said. The Canadian businessman has just taken charge of the British firm after taking a personal stake as the head of a consortium of investors seeking to turn around the fortunes of a brand famous for its association with James Bond. Like thousands of firms, Aston Martin suspended production at 2 factories in late March under the stringent lockdown against the coronavirus outbreak. It extended the suspension to April 27 last week. “In this first year we will reset the business”, Stroll, the company’s new executive chairman, said. “Our most pressing objective is to plan to restart our manufacturing operations, particularly to start production of the brand’s first SUV and to bring the organization back to full operating life”. He also said Aston Martin would be building its order book and would invest in developing mid-engined cars, while looking at electric car production in the longer term. Stroll has completed his purchase of a 25 % stake in the firm. His consortium has passed on some of its shares to 2 further investor consortiums, one of which is led by Mercedes-AMG F1 team principal Toto Wolff. In January, Stroll’s investment fund had agreed to take a 16.7% stake in Aston Martin. The deal also included a £318 million cash infusion through a new rights issue for a total of £500 million. However, given Aston Martin’s dramatically reduced share price in the interim, Stroll and his fellow investors have radically reworked the agreement to take on a quarter of its shares. Stroll said: “In the midst of the most challenging environment globally that any of us have ever experienced, all of my and the management team’s energies will now be dedicated to building on the inherent strengths of the company, its brand, engineering, and the skills of its people to forge the foundations of a bright future”. Stroll also reiterated the company’s plans to build profits initially, principally by fulfilling pre-orders for the DBX, which are said to number more than 2.500, and by reducing supply to meet demand in order to add make its current sports car range more desirable. “Also, we will continue to focus significant effort and investment into the continued development of our range of mid-engined cars. These are a crucial next stage in the expansion of our product line-up. Descended from the awesome Valkyrie hypercar, the Valhalla and Vanquish are set to position Aston Martin firmly in this sector and complete our range of highly engineered and beautiful sports cars. In the longer term, we intend to commit to producing electric cars to combine performance and luxury with environmental sustainability”. Stroll also emphasised his plans to enter Aston Martin in Formula 1 from 2021, describing it as a crucial marketing platform for the brand. He owns the Racing Point F1 team, for which his son Lance drives and which will be rebranded. He has previously been linked to a deal with the Mercedes team, should the manufacturer decide to withdraw from F1. However, all parties stressed that Wolff’s involvement as the head of another investment consortium is in a private role and not related to any involvement in either Mercedes’ or Aston Martin’s F1 plans. Mercedes is a minority shareholder in Aston Martin, as well as supplying parts to the firm. +++

+++ Mercedes-AMG’s dominance in the mega hatch segment is about to end with the introduction of the new generation AUDI RS3 Sportback. A rival to the likes of AMG’s A 45 and A 45 S, the top dog in Audi‘s new A3 lineup was spied testing recently, revealing the big body kit that will visually set it apart from the regular A3. The car has a new front bumper, with redesigned grille and large air intakes on each side, as well as bloated fenders on all 4 corners with air outlets behind the front wheels. It also sports bigger side skirts, a rear bumper with integrated diffuser and roof-mounted spoiler that seems similar to the standard models. It also gets the RS-series’ trademark twin oval exhausts; both incorporate 2 separate pipes. The interior has yet to open up to the camera, but we all know what the differences will be over the regular models. Besides body-hugging front seats, the sporty atmosphere will be complimented by special upholstery and trim, with contrast stitching and piping, RS badging and different graphics for the infotainment system and digital instrument gauges. An updated variant of the 2.5-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder gasoline engine is expected to provide it with around 420 hp and 500 Nm in the standard model. That’s 20 hp more than the current RS3, but opting for the rumored Performance version could let users enjoy up to 450 hp. The Quattro all-wheel drive system will be standard, with a dual-clutch automatic transmission sending the power to the wheels and it could also feature a Drift mode. The RS3 Sportback should be unveiled later this year and will be joined later by the RS3 Sedan, which will pack the same upgrades in a 4-door bodystyle. +++ 

+++ The Ford Mustang has held on to the crown as the world’s BEST SELLING SPORTS COUPE . Since 2015. Quoting data from IHS Markit, which defines 2-door fixed-roof and open-top vehicles as sports coupes, the Dearborn automaker states that 102.090 units of the muscle car were registered globally in 2019. Sales in France nearly doubled, while in Germany and Poland rose by almost 50 %. “We’re proud of our growing Mustang stable and performance variants. From Sweden to Shanghai, more and more driving enthusiasts are enjoying the feeling of freedom and the American open road in these new Mustangs”, said chief operating officer Jim Farley. “We are honored to serve our owners, enthusiasts and fans for 56 years and counting”, he added, referring to the car’s 56th anniversary celebrated on April 17. The 6th generation Mustang entered production in 2014 at the Flat Rock assembly plant in Michigan and was facelifted 3 years later. +++ 

+++ CHINA is expected to complete the formulation of a framework for driving-assist functions and low-level autonomous driving by the end of 2020, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The ministry released the goal as part of several major tasks it will focus on this year. Specifically, the ministry will coordinate efforts in developing standards mainly for advanced driving assist systems, autonomous driving, information safety and connectivity and conduct pilot programs involving some carmakers and vehicles to evaluate the results. The move is designed to further improve smart vehicle standards and pave the way for formulation of standards for high-level autonomous driving, the ministry said. China unveiled an ambitious blueprint in February to develop its own standards for autonomous vehicles by 2025, covering technological innovation, infrastructure, legislation, supervision and network safety. The country set a target to realize “scale production of vehicles capable of conditional autonomous driving and commercialization of highly autonomous vehicles in certain circumstances” by the end of the year. The blueprint said China is expected to build a complete set of standards for autonomous vehicles between 2035 and 2050. Autonomous driving is growing more popular in the capital market. “Investors have realized that autonomous driving will be implemented on a large scale over the next 3 to 5 years”, said Han Xu, founder and CEO of WeRide, a Chinese smart mobility company. “They’ve also realized that it is no longer a high-risk investment and more capital is needed to expand business and boost technological stability”. Statistics from the China EV 100, an automotive think tank, show autonomous driving companies raised $3.5 billion in the first quarter of this year; up 34 % from the same period last year. In China, Didi Chuxing received a $300 million investment from Japanese tech giant Soft-Bank in March. Pony.ai finished a new round of funding in February, raising $462 million in investments, of which $400 million came from Japanese automaker Toyota. After its latest round of fundraising, Pony.ai has a valuation of over $3 billion. The company is now providing an autonomous and contactless last-mile delivery service to customers in California. It is the first time the company has deployed its robotaxi fleet for the delivery of goods. James Peng, CEO of Pony.ai, said Chinese autonomous driving companies are seeing rapid development and catching up with the global giants. He added China has several advantages in developing the technology, including the vast market demand, diverse traffic scenarios and the reserves of professionals in artificial intelligence. “If you look around, if you will find that China is the only match for the US in terms of AI related human resources”, Peng said. UISEE, another Chinese startup focused on high-level autonomous driving, also finished its round-B financing in February, securing tens of millions of dollars in investment from German industrial giant Bosch. Wu Gansha, founder of the startup established in 2016, told local media that 2020 will mark the start of commercializing autonomous driving. Thomas Fang, a partner in the China office of global consulting firm Roland Berger, said China’s new infrastructure plan will further boost the development of autonomous driving in the country. “5 out of 7 aspects in the plan, including 5G, have something to do with smart vehicles”, Fang said. He estimates that robotaxis will be the most important business mode for autonomous driving in the passenger vehicle market. “Chinese people’s enthusiasm for robotaxis is growing, from 25 % in January 2017 to over 30 % in July 2019 in surveys”, Fang said. Roland Berger estimates that by 2030 smart vehicles could account for 41 % of fleet operators and government agencies’ purchases. Consulting firm McKinsey said China has the potential to become the world’s largest market for autonomous vehicles. “In China, we believe fully autonomous vehicles will see mass deployment in 9 or 10 years”, analysts at the company wrote in a research note last year. It expected such vehicles could account for as much as 66 % of the passenger-kilometers traveled in 2040, generating market revenue of $1.1 trillion from mobility services and $0.9 trillion from sales of autonomous vehicles by that year. In unit terms, that means autonomous vehicles will make up just over 40 % of new vehicle sales in 2040, and 12 % of the vehicle installed base, McKinsey said. +++

+++ Volkswagen has reached settlements with 200.000 of the 260.000 CLAIMANTS participating in a class action lawsuit brought by German consumer group VZBV over the carmaker’s rigging of diesel emissions tests, the carmaker said. A further 21.000 cases were still being reviewed for possible payouts of €1.350 – €6.250 per car and the deadline for participating in the settlement has been extended to April 30, Volkswagen added. The exact amount depends on the age and model of the owner’s car. Volkswagen will pay out a total of €620 million. It had set aside €830 million to cover the costs of settlements with all participants of in the VZBV class action. The deal marks a further step in the German carmaker’s efforts to make amends after it admitted in 2015 to using illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel engine tests. The effort has cost Volkswagen more than $30 billion in vehicle refits, fines and provisions. Nearly all U.S. owners of affected cars agreed to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016 in the United States, but VW has said there was no legal basis for consumers in Germany to seek compensation due to differences in law. +++ 

+++ A third of drivers in the United Kingdom think having access to a car has become more important as a result of the CORONA VIRUS lockdown, according to the RAC. However, the motoring organisation’s research shows one in 10 drivers has stopped driving completely as the country has ground to a halt. In its study of more than 1.500 motorists, the RAC found drivers are depending on their wheels to help them through day-to-day life under lockdown, with 75 % of respondents saying they use the car for permitted food shopping. Similarly, 28 % said they use the car to get to pharmacies, while a fifth (18 %) claimed they need their car to provide care or help to a vulnerable person. Despite this, the majority (60 %) of respondents said they were now using their cars once a week or less, suggesting drivers are following the lockdown guidance and limiting trips out. But while the research shows 10 % of the population has stopped driving altogether, almost as many (9 %) are still using their car most days. The RAC’s study also showed the public followed the guidance over the warm Easter weekend, with 97 % of respondents staying at home over the break. As a result, the organisation has seen a dip in the number of breakdown callouts it receives, although it confesses that there was “an unexpected spike in breakdowns”. The news comes as the UK endures a 4th week of lockdown, with the public urged to stay at home to slow the spread of coronavirus. Citizens are allowed to leave home for exercise once a day, or to go shopping for food. They can also leave for medical reasons, or to do work that cannot be done from home. “These figures highlight the important role the private car still plays in enabling people to complete their essential journeys during lockdown”, said RAC breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis. “The reality for many people is that they still rely on the car for certain trips, be it for weekly food shopping, to get to and from work or when looking after a vulnerable person. “The government has indicated that food shopping should be done as infrequently as possible, and consequently many people are using their cars to carry heavy bags of groceries. But only using cars infrequently can lead to problems, particularly with batteries. Fortunately, the RAC is still on hand to sort out these issues enabling drivers to keep using their cars when they need to, alongside providing assistance to hundreds of emergency service vehicles and thousands of key workers who are RAC members. What is vital however, is that drivers heed the government advice and strictly use their cars for essential trips only. It’s encouraging to see just how many drivers reported they stayed at home over Easter, but there appears to be a small proportion who continue to get in the car either to drive somewhere for exercise, or to keep their vehicle’s battery healthy. While the temptation might be there with the car sitting outside and largely unused, we really do urge people to think twice before they get behind the wheel. Every unnecessary journey potentially adds to the burden on our emergency services”. +++ 

+++ One of my spy photographers shared photos of a FERRARI Portofino prototype that has reappeared being tested on the road. While the photographer first suspected it could have been a test mule for the Roma, I believe it’s a prototype for a refreshed version of the Portofino. A couple of things point us to the Portofino conclusion. In particular, there’s the fact that the only part of the car that Ferrari cared to cover was the front fascia. If it were an old Roma mule, we would have expected the whole thing to be covered, or if it were using an existing body, not to have any coverings. Looking closely at the nose, I can also see that the headlights have been changed. They don’t rise up at the corners like the current car, and in fact the inner corners dip down slightly toward the grille. They’re well-integrated, too, not just afterthoughts on any old test car. The rest of the car is identical to the current Portofino, so while there is evidence of a refresh, it should be a mild one. That would also make sense, as the model was introduced at the end of 2017. As such, some updates wouldn’t be unusual, but there wouldn’t be a need for a major overhaul. It is possible that the updated car could come with an updated powertrain. The Roma, which shares the same wheelbase as the Portofino, gets a twin-turbo 3.9-liter V8 making 611 hp. That would be a nice little improvement, and likely easy fit, for the Portofino, which makes 592 hp from its twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8. If this refresh comes to fruition, we’ll probably see it either late this year or early next year. +++ 

+++ Despite once controlling more than 50 % of the car market in Italy, the FIAT brand took a massive market share hit last month, with official figures falling to 9.9 % according to the transportation ministry. The Italian car market lost 85 % of its volume after showrooms began closing down by the second week of March, with sales plummeting by 91 %. As for why the company’s market share went down so much in its home market, industry experts point to reasons such as a lack of investment in the lineup. Fiat’s share dropped to less than 40 % in 1990 and below 30 % in 1998. When Sergio Marchionne was named CEO back in 2004, the market share stood at 21 %, where it still hovered even as recently as 2017. By 2019, the number was 15 %. This year, Fiat saw its market share recover to 17 percent in January and February, before reaching this historic low in March, although market researcher Dataforce sees the number at 10.4 % instead of 9.9 %. In any case, both are still historic lows. Outside of Italy, the carmaker’s sales have remained relatively steady, mostly because of the 500’s popularity, as 140.530 buyers in Europe landed the stylish minicar back in 2019. As for the rest of its range, Fiat was forced to drop a number of low-volume models in the past 3 years, and has since to find replacements for them. Production of the Grande Punto, which was once a top-seller in Italy, stopped in July of 2018. Right now, the Italian brand is only selling a total of 5 passenger car models in the 500, Panda, 500X, 500L and the Tipo, and if you count all the 500 variations as one nameplate, then you’re left with just 3 models. +++

+++ FORD has no plans to introduce a range-topping RS version of the current Focus. Earlier, is had already become clear that any 4th generation Focus RS would hinge on development of a a high-output hybrid powertrain that would minimise the performance model’s impact on Ford’s fleet average CO2 emissions. It has now been confirmed, however, that development of such a system for the model has been deemed not cost-effective and so Ford isn’t planning a new Focus RS. A Ford spokesperson said: “As a result of pan-European emissions standards, increased CO2 taxation and the high cost of developing an RS with some form of electrification for a relatively low volume of vehicles, we are not planning another RS version of the Focus. We remain committed to Ford Performance vehicles in Europe as part of our DNA, with cars like the multi-award-winning Focus ST and Fiesta ST, as well as our Mustang and Ranger Raptor models”. I wasn’t expecting to see a new Focus RS until 2022 at the earliest. Earlier this year, a senior source at Ford told: “We are waiting for our engineering team to come up with a solution on the powertrain, and that is not easy given the new fleet CO2 regulations”. With no Focus RS on the cards, the Focus ST, which currently heads up the model range with 280 hp in its most potent guise, will remain the hottest variant for the foreseeable future. +++ 

+++ In GERMANY , carmakers including Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz will restart production at some German factories this week after the country eased restrictions designed to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany has achieved a “fragile intermediate success” in its the fight against the coronavirus and that its emergence from lockdown would begin with the partial reopening of shops next week and schools starting May 4. Unlike Italy and Spain, Germany never banned car production, though factories came to a standstill after authorities restricted the movement of people and ordered the closure of car dealerships. Volkswagen said it will start producing cars for its core brand in Zwickau and in Bratislava (Slovakia) on April 20. Plants in Russia, Spain, Portugal and the United States will ramp up production from April 27 onwards. Plants in South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico will reopen in May. “With the decisions by the federal and state governments in Germany and the loosening of restrictions in other European states, conditions have been established for the gradual resumption of production”, Ralf Brandstätter, chief operating officer of the Volkswagen brand, said in a statement. The carmaker has retooled production to ensure that workers remain 1.5 metres apart while on the job. Other measures include the staggering of shifts and lunch breaks, plus steps to change worker interaction in VW’s supply chain. “In the light of the pandemic, we need to adapt our routines. One answer is our new agreement on health protection”, said Bernd Osterloh, chairman of the company’s Works Council. “With about 100 measures, we are keeping the risk of infection at Volkswagen as low as possible”. In China, where Volkswagen has already implemented health measures, 32 of the 33 plants have resumed production and no coronavirus infections among employees have been reported. Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler said its plants in Hamburg, Berlin and Untertürkheim will resume production this week. Its Berlin plant makes engine-management systems for vehicles sold in China. Production will initially start in a 1-shift system, Daimler said, with plants in Sindelfingen and Bremen also preparing to ramp up production. German peer BMW said it had no information about the timetable for resuming production. The Munich-based manufacturer has suspended production until the end of April. +++ 

+++ It looks like the pieces from the rumormill continue to come together around the upgraded HYUNDAI i30 N. In 2018, Korean outlet Motorgraph wrote that Hyundai was working on a Theta III engine for front and rear wheeldrive, and midengine applications. The 2.5-liter turbocharged versions would be rated at 280 hp when turning the front wheels, 300 hp when turning the rears. Fast forward to last week, when a keen spotter sent a picture of a i30 N prototype with a piece of paper bearing the words “2.5 Turbo Engine T-GDi” taped to its door. That engine would indeed be the Theta III Smartstream turbocharged 4-cylinder known to be headed for Hyundai Group products like the Kia Sorento and Genesis GV80. The mill makes 277 hp in the Sorento and 300 hp in the GV80. Since the i30 N pulls with its front axle, the question is whether the old intel about 280 hp still holds. If so, and that engine were slotted into a new generation of the i30 N, 280 hp could be the output served up in the standard model. Currently, the base model makes 250 hp from its 2.0-liter Theta II turbo 4-cylinder. That output can be upped to 275 hp with the Performance Package. The honchos in the N division make a point of saying their hot hatches are about more than numbers. Nevertheless, getting to the triple-century mark would make a better story for the buyers who care about spec sheets as much as handling, competitors like the Honda Civic Type R making 310 hp. This 2.5-liter would also be a likely candidate for the coming Tucson N, making 300 hp. Before we see how this turns out for the i30 N, the next big step for the 5-door is an 8-speed, wet-clutch DCT. The new transmission will get extras like an extra oil pump and accumulator, too. +++ 

+++ My spy photographers have spotted a facelifted version of the JAGUAR XF undergoing testing. The British brand’s updated midsized saloon will make its debut later this year with a handful of styling and technology tweaks, offering fresh competition for the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series. The heavy cladding around this mule’s nose and tail makes it difficult to pinpoint the car’s exterior revisions. However, if the XF follows the trend of the recently refreshed XE saloon, the updates should be fairly subtle, stretching to a pair of slimmer headlamps, new LED lighting graphics, a fresh radiator grille and a pair of reshaped bumpers. Jaguar’s interior revisions should be more thorough. Each of the brand’s most recent models have benefitted from a massive technology upgrade, moving to Jaguar’s new Touch Pro Duo infotainment setup. The system will replace the XF’s aging 8 inch touchscreen and rotary knobs with a 10.2 inch central screen and a secondary display for climate control functions. Like the XE, the XF’s analogue dials will be replaced with a customisable digital instrument panel. Jaguar’s “Clearsight” rear-view mirror should also feature, allowing the driver to to switch between a conventional mirror and images relayed from a rear-facing camera, giving the driver a wider angle view, which is less affected by adverse weather and unobstructed by rear-seat passengers. Details on powertrain updates are still scarce, but the new XF is likely to have a similar engine line-up to the current model. Buyers will be offered the same mix of 4- or 6-cylinder units, ranging in output between 163 hp for the entry-level diesel and 300 hp for the flagship V6-engined petrol model. A simplified trim level, as used elsewhere in the Jaguar range, is also likely to be introduced. Buyers will be offered the choice of either a comfort-biased base model or sporty, R-Dynamic variant as a starting point, which they can then choose to upgrade with JLR’s S, SE or HSE option packages. +++ 

+++ Late last year, Hyundai announced its high-performance N brand would expand to include SUVs. Then, just a few months later in March, I got my first spy photos of the Hyundai KONA N, heavily camouflaged during some cold-weather testing. Rumours have suggested it’d be mechanically similar to the i30 N, meaning the Kona N would use the same turbocharged 2.0-litre engine. The performance crossover could have up to 275 hp on tap. When it arrives, it will also be the first N model with allwheel drive, putting power to all 4 wheels through an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. A 6-speed manual is also possible. Visually, Hyundai will give the Kona N its own splash of personality. Hyundai will replace the black plastic along the bottom of the Kona with colour-matching parts. The automaker will give it unique, 19 inch N-brand wheels, red brake calipers, unique mesh grille, skid plates and 2 massive exhaust outlets. Spy photos also show the Kona N riding lower to the ground, which could mean the automaker upgraded its suspension. We’ll likely see the Hyundai Kona N debut sometime this summer. That’ll be in July, though who knows what could happen as the corona virus pandemic continues to spread. July is also the rumoured month Kona N production could begin, too. The Kona N will arrive alongside the refreshed Kona, both of which are set to arrive as models for 2021. +++ 

+++ It’s no secret that MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS are becoming increasingly rare, but a new report from CNBC puts things into perspective. Only 41 of 327 new vehicles offer a manual transmission in the United States. That’s a little over 12 % of all new models. While that number actually doesn’t sound too bad, it’s far lower than 9 years ago. Back in 2011, 37 % percent of vehicles sold in America were offered with a DIY gearbox. The shift (pun intended) hasn’t happened overnight, but manuals have been disappearing from a number of new and updated models. The Mazda6 dropped the stick for 2019 and so did the Chevrolet Corvette. Of course, there are a few hold outs. Most recently, Cadillac announced the CT4- and CT5-V Blackwing would be offered with a manual transmission. The news came shortly after Mini confirmed the manual was making a return for 2021 after a short hiatus. However, there is a bit of sad trend going on. Manual transmissions are increasingly being limited to extremely hard to come by base models that mostly owe their existence to advertise a lower entry price and sports cars. However, these are for very different reasons as performance models are aimed at enthusiasts who still like shifting for themselves. Cheap cars, on the other hand, have manuals to keep prices down. The latter comes pretty clear when you look at cars that cost less than $20,000. The redesigned Nissan Versa comes standard with a 5-speed manual and so does the Chevrolet Spark. However, the Honda Fit (Jazz) and Toyota Yaris are bit more modern as they come with a 6-speed stick. With automakers eliminating sedans to build more crossovers, it’s likely that manuals will continue to decline in popularity. That’s even before you factor in the onslaught on electric vehicles on the horizon. +++ 

+++ MASERATI is gearing up to begin a bold ‘new era’ later this year but will give its Quattroporte saloon one more facelift before it enters a new generation in 2023. This will be the second round of significant updates for the Italian firm’s flagship luxury saloon, which launched in its current form in 2013 and was overhauled in 2016. The headline change for the Quattroporte will be the introduction of a plug-in hybrid powertrain and the roll-out of WLTP-compliant exhaust filters across the line-up. It’s also likely the saloon will follow its smaller Ghibli stablemate in gaining Level 2 autonomous driving capabilities. Visual modifications to the exterior will be minor. The 2021 modelyear Quattroporte will retain the current car’s concave grille, crescent-shaped headlights and prominent trident badge, but a revised lower air intake will adopt a thicker surround, while the grille’s 10 slats will be thickened up as well. Elsewhere, the Porsche Panamera rival’s design remains largely untouched, as is the case with the interior, which will be largely identical to that of the current car. The infotainment system, however, is likely to be revised for improved ease of use and to give access to the driver assistance functions. Maserati recently announced it was postponing its bold brand relaunch from May to September, as the European car industry entered a state of shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event is likely to give us our first look at the updated Ghibli and Quattroporte, but the headline unveiling will be that of the new MC20 mid-engined sports car, which is set to make use of conventional, hybrid and electric powertrains. +++ 

+++ MAZDA has a newly published patent in Japan that could point to a return for the brand’s rotary engine. The paperwork describes a powertrain with a front-mounted combustion engine with the help of an electric motor turning the rear wheels. The front would have an electric motor in each wheel with a capacitor system powering them. The result is an electric all-wheel drive vehicle that Mazda believes could have weight savings over other existing methods of achieving this layout. The tech that Mazda describes uses a relatively small 3.5 kWh lithium-ion battery operating at 48 volts. It can get away with this tiny capacity because of the capacitor system that is underneath the bonnet with the combustion engine. The system charges using regenerative braking, when the voltage between terminals of the capacitor reaches a certain level then the charge goes to the battery. Alternatively, if the driver needs the acceleration, and the capacitor doesn’t have enough energy to power the in-wheel motors, then the battery can supply the charge. As Mazda’s patent explains it, the weight savings also come from the capacitor being lighter than a battery for powering the in-wheel motors. Plus, the high-voltage wiring only needs to run from the motors in the front wheels to the capacitor that’s underneath the bonnet. Keeping these components closer together means less wiring and therefore lower weight. When setting off and during low-speed driving, the combustion engine and its electric motor drive the rear wheels. The in-wheel motors “generate an output only when a large output is required in the high vehicle speed range”, according to the patent. It’s worth noting that the patent document describes ways of achieving this layout with rotary, inline, or V-configuration engines. However, the paperwork notes that the rotary is particularly useful for this system because of its compact dimensions. If the rotary doesn’t come back in the way this patent describes, the motoring world might still see the Wankel’s return. The automaker is investigating using the engine as a small range extender for its MX-30 electric crossover. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ moves forward with electrification of its lineup with the goal to put on the market 20 plug-in hybrid EQ Power models by the end of 2020. The entire range (from the A to the S Class, from the GLA to the GLE) will be available as PHEVs. The German manufacturer names PHEVs “the key bridging technology” to purely electric mobility. Because some 90 % of journeys are under 50 km, the right plug-in hybrid solution might actually eliminate the use of internal combustion engines, or keep use to a minimum. The third generation of Mercedes-Benz plug-in hybrids will get relatively large lithium-ion batteries (produced by the Daimler’s subsidiary Deutsche Accumotive) to significantly increase the actieradius. Interestingly, the new models will also be capable of DC fast charging, although we are not sure whether it brings much of value on long-distance travel in a PHEV. The new EQ Power for compact models (like the A-Class) is described as follows: All-electric range of up to 77 km NEDC; 15.6 kWh battery pack, liquid cooled, from Deutsche Accumotive pack; 37 Ah lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt (Li-NMC) cells; total weight of the pack is around 150 kg; acceleration 0-100 km/h in 6.6 seconds (A-Class); top speed of 140 km/h in EV mode or 235 km/h in hybrid mode (A-Class); System output of 218 hp and an overall maximum torque of 450 Nm, including 75 kW electric motor (gearbox-mounted, permanently excited synchronous machine with an internal rotor) and a 1.33-litre 4-cylinder engine and 8G-DCT dual-clutch transmission; no need for a classic 12 Volt starter; charging from 10 to 100 % SoC in 1 hour 45 minutes, using a 7.4 kW AC wallbox; DC fast charging option, from 10 to 80 % SoC in approx. 25 minutes; Virtually no restrictions on luggage compartment. The new EQ Power for large models (like the S-Class or the new Mercedes GLE 350de 4Matic) is equipped with a 2 times bigger battery pack (31.2 kWh) and 100 kW electric motor/power electronics: All-electric range of up to 106 km NEDC; 31.2 kWh battery pack (total), liquid cooled, from Deutsche Accumotive pack, 37 Ah lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt (Li-NMC) cells; acceleration 0-100 km/h in 6.8 seconds, top speed of 160 km/h in EV mode or 210 km/h in hybrid mode; System output of 320 hp and an overall maximum torque of 700 Nm, including: 100 kW electric motor (gearbox-mounted, permanently excited synchronous machine with an internal rotor), an engine and a 9G-Tronic dual-clutch transmission; no need for a classic 12 Volt starter; DC fast charging option, from 10 to 80 % SoC in approx. 20 minutes or in approx. 30 minutes (10-100% SoC); Virtually no restrictions on luggage compartment. +++ 

+++ RENAULT will stop production of gasoline passenger vehicles in China and concentrate its efforts to explore opportunities in the segments of light commercial vehicles and electric cars. The carmaker said that it will sell its 50 % stake in its Chinese joint venture Dongfeng Renault to its partner Dongfeng, which will end the 6-year partnership after it didn’t succeed in its attempt to secure a foothold in the competitive Chinese market. Renault promised to provide aftersales service for its 300.000 customers through its dealers as well as partners within the Renault-Nissan alliance. Dongfeng Renault was approved in late 2013 and started production in 2016. It produces 3 SUVs and 1 electric car at a plant in Wuhan. The joint venture’s sales peaked in 2017 with 72.200 vehicles sold, but have since fallen sharply. Last year, sales were just 18.000 in the country; a drop in the ocean of China’s annual 23 million passenger car market. In the first 3 months this year, its sales totaled 663. Francois Provost, Renault’s senior vice-president and chairman of its China operations, was confident the company’s cars excel in design and quality, but its short history in China has affected its popularity. “The size of our share is low because we are a new brand in China. A major challenge for us is low brand awareness, so we don’t have enough inflow of customers to our showrooms”, Provost told at a car launch event late last year. Renault had thus planned to avoid confrontation with Volkswagen and Toyota but develop its niche following. Now, however, the carmaker is retreating from the whole gasoline passenger vehicle market, saying further development for the sector will be detailed later within a future new mid-term plan. “We are opening a new chapter in China. We will concentrate on electric vehicles and light commercial vehicles, the 2 main drivers for future clean mobility, and more efficiently leverage our relationship with Nissan”, Provost said. Renault expects China’s light commercial vehicle market to grow and decides to explore its potential with its joint venture with Chinese carmaker Brilliance and exports China-made vehicles into overseas markets. The company said Renault Brilliance Jinbei, launched in December 2017, is a “sword arm” for its light commercial vehicle business in China, where 3.3 million such vehicles were sold in 2019. Jinbei has 1.5 million customers in China and its sales hit close to 162.000 in 2019. Renault said it is helping the joint venture to modernize Jinbei models and will expand its lineup with 5 core models by 2023. The budding electric car segment will be another pillar of Renault’s new era in the country. Last year, around 860.000 electric vehicles were sold in China, which has been the world’s largest market for such vehicles since 2015. Renault expects electric car sales to grow from 5 % in China now to reach 25 % by 2030. Renault has sold close to 270.000 electric vehicles in the world since 2011. The company said it will reinforce its partnership eGT with Nissan and Dongfeng. It is also a shareholder of JAC Motors’ new energy vehicle arm, which was established in 2015. It is expected to have 4 models in the market, covering 45 % of the segments. Renault has 40 manufacturing sites globally, with 3.8 million vehicles sold last year. +++ 

+++ 2 years ago, SUBARU applied to trademark the name Evoltis in the U.S. At the time, it was thought the name would accompany the brand’s new plug-in hybrid or some component of the hybrid system. Instead, the PHEV the Americans got was the Crosstrek Hybrid name to active use, after Subaru retired the first non-plug-in Crosstrek Hybrid in 2016. Whither the Evoltis, then? Subaru will apply the moniker to a coming battery-electric crossover it is developing with Toyota. The automaker previewed the concept version of the crossover in January of this year during a technical meeting in Japan, built atop a flexible platform to accommodate multiple production vehicles from both brands. Subaru’s known for exciting concepts that get stripped to comparative blandness for production. Perhaps tired of the ensuing vitriol, reports say Subaru’s inverting the process this time, the production model promising to be more radical than the concept. That won’t be difficult, seeing the concept looked like an appliance from a low-budget sci-fi movie, and if not for the Pleiades badge on the front fascia most enthusiasts probably would have thought the concept was a Toyota. Underneath the eventual sheetmetal, rumors figure electric motors turning both axles will combine to produce about 280 hp, supplied by a battery stout enough for a range of more than 480 kilometres – note: that could be a Japanese-cycle figure for range. The concept sat next to a cutaway of a boxer engine, so it’s possible there’ll be a number of powertrains on offer. Additional tech could include the next generation of Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistants and cameras providing a 360-degree view around the crossover. The debut’s been mentioned for October 2021, which would be the same month as the next Tokyo Motor Show. Market launch won’t happen until nearly 2025. Reports say the Subie/Toyota platform is being developed for midsize and large sedans, but when it comes to crossovers, the platform will support C-segment entries like the Crosstrek (XV in Europe) although some believe the larger Forester and Toyota RAV4 could be included, too. Those crossovers are all smaller than the Ascent, though; the Forester is 14 inches shorter in length, the Crosstrek 21 inches shorter. Considering Subaru’s plans for 40 % of its sales to be electrified by 2030, there’ll be a lot of realigning before everything’s sorted, so we’ll look forward to Tokyo 2021 to know more. +++

+++ The past few months have been full of lust and clamoring for the TOYOTA GR Yaris that debuted at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon for markets including Japan and Europe. However, there will also be a hot Corolla. Arriving by 2022, it will get the same 1.6-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder as the GR Yaris. The Corolla will make 260 hp. Although we’re already talking about a much peppier Corolla thanks to the engine swap alone, we should expect a GR Corolla could be a noticeably less aggressive animal than the GR Yaris. The latter car’s World-Rally-Championship-inspired allwheel drive won’t make it to the Corolla; a feature that helps the supermini get from 0 to 100 kph in 5.5 seconds, and the GR Yaris can be optioned with limited slip differentials on front and rear axles. That Corolla must make do sending its power to the front axle. Furthermore, it is a lot heavier than the GR Yaris. I believe the GR Corolla’s price should come in around €50.000 in the Netherlands. +++ 

+++ New Jersey-based TRITON Solar, not known to me before, today announced an all-new all-electric 8-seat SUV: the Model H with exceptional specs. Triton says that the Model H will be equipped with a massive 200 kWh battery to get 1.100 kilometres of range on a single charge! Well, the range might be really long but I am not so sure if a 200 kWh would be enough to go 1.100 kilometres in such a huge vehicle. On the powertrain side there will be 4 electric motors: 1 per wheel, for all-wheel drive and a total system output of 1.500 hp. According to Triton, it should be enough for 0-100 kph in 2.9 seconds. The company says that this is the SUV “to carry and pull heavy loads without compromising the driving comfort”. The towing capacity will be 6.985 kg. The promise made today is so good that some might wonder whether it’s too good to be true. “The project has been ongoing for the last 18 months, and the CEO of Triton Solar, Himanshu Patel, recently mentioned the same in a press release 2 months back. Things have been serious in the last 12 months since the official beginning of the project within the Triton Solar team, along with the announcement of multiple international partnerships for the same”. Triton Solar (with its TritonEV subsidiary) announced that it’s accepting pre-orders with $5.000 deposits, although the first 100 first Founder’s Edition requires a further $135.000 within 5 working days. We advise extreme caution on sending any money to unknown companies. “First 100 pre-order customers will be delivered the Founder’s Edition version along with unique additions to the standard specifications which shall never be manufactured again. First 100 pre order customers are required to make an initial $5,000 credit card payment, plus a $135,000 wire transfer payment due in 5 business working days. Reservations are not final until the wire transfer payment is received. Details for the wire transfer will be shared over the email post the initial credit card payment”. The first 100 pre-order customers will be delivered the Founder’s Edition, which shall have unique surprise features added on top of the standard features. In the life span of Triton Model H, only 100 Founder’s Edition versions will be made. The booking will completely be on a first-come-first-serve basis. Since there is no info about the launch date, production site and the website does not look too encouraging, to be honest, it might be just a marketing test. The website says that the in-house battery is better than anything else, which makes us skeptical until we see some proof: “Triton Solar battereis which are half the size &half the weight compared to all available battereis across the globe”. +++ 

+++ There’s little room left in VOLKSWAGEN ’s line-up for more SUVs, according to the firm’s R&D boss, Frank Welsch. The German maker has 14 SUVs in its range globally, up from 2 just a few years ago. Although Welsch wouldn’t go so far as to confirm there would be no more, he said the brand has ample numbers for its need. “I don’t think the growth in SUVs is over, but we have enough. We do not need 10 more. We have to take care. We must have a portfolio that is efficient as a volume player. “If we have too many models and sell 30.000 or 40.000 units a year, we can’t make money. We will focus on the cars that can be successful”. SUVs confirmed for launch are in the electric ID family and include standard and coupé variants of the ID 4. Welsch added that VW would cull models on its MQB platform “step by step”. Models on that architecture include the Arteon, Touran and Passat, but Welsch didn’t detail which models will go. With the launch of new models, in particular in its ID family, and the axing of others, Welsch predicted the number of cars offered will be similar. “I don’t think we’ll have more cars than we have today. For SUVs, we are represented in every segment”, he said. +++

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