Newsflash: vernieuwde BMW M5 wordt ook leverbaar in lichtgewicht CS variant

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+++ ASTON MARTIN posted a pre-tax loss of €133 million in the first 3 months of this year, with sales falling by nearly half due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. but the firm insists the crucial new DBX remains on track to go on sale this summer. The British firm sold 578 cars from January until the end of March; a 45 % drop from the 1.057 in the same 3 months of 2019. Notably, the average selling price of each car was €105.000, compared with an average of €185.000 in 2019. The firm attributed that to not having any limited-run special models on sale in the quarter. Aston Martin was hit hard by coronvirus lockdowns in place in China and other Asian countries for much of January and February. Sales in the region were down 74 %, with those in China falling by 86 %. In the United Kingdom, sales fell only 3 %, due to the lockdown only beginning in late March. Notably, sales in the US were down by 57 %, despite restrictions there only being introduced in March. Aston Martin chiefs attributed some of the total decline in sales to a planned step to reduce dealer stock to balance its supply and demand. The fall in the number of cars sold and their asking price meant Aston’s first quarter revenue of €90 million was 60 % down on the same period in 2019. The pre-tax loss of €133 million compares with a € 20 million loss in 2019. During the first quarter, 93 % of Aston Martin’s dealer network was either forced to close or was limited in capacity and production was suspended at both factories during March. But the firm says all 18 dealers in China, and more than 15 % worldwide, are now fully open. Aston Martin also resumed production at its St Athan plant, where the new DBX is produced, on 5 May. The firm says it remains on track to begin deliveries of the SUV this summer. During the quarter, a group led by billionaire Lance Stroll completed an investment in the firm that raised €610 million in equity capital. As part of that deal, Stroll was named Aston Martin’s new chairman. Stroll said: “I am extremely pleased that DBX remains on track for deliveries in the summer and has a strong order book behind it extending into 2021. Based on these successful initial orders for DBX, we plan to unveil future derivatives starting from 2021”. Stroll added that work on the Valkyrie hypercar “continues”, along with “refreshes” of the firm’s core sports car range. Aston Martin said the Valkyrie will now be launched late this year, due to delays sparked by the closure of its test facilities. The company said it is expecting trading to remain “challenging” this year due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and “as is prudent, the company continues to review all future funding and refinancing options to increase liquidity”. Stroll added: “While in the short term, as anticipated, we will have some difficulties due to the onset of Covid-19, having been in the business for a few weeks now, I am even more enthusiastic and confident in the multi-year plan that we have set out to bring new and exciting products to market to drive demand and build the Aston Martin brand”. +++

+++ The BMW M5 is due to receive a mid-life facelift next year, following updates to the regular 5 Series, and snappers have caught what appears to be a new lightweight Clubsport range-topper being prepared for launch. Aside from the unique angled design of its front grille vanes, it will feature much larger lower air intakes than those of even the current top-rung M5, the Competition. It also has larger front and rear brake discs behind non-standard performance alloy wheels and sports a subtle rear spoiler and prominent diffuser for enhanced downforce at speed. Rumours circulating online suggest that any new Clubsport variant of the M5 could pack a newly developed twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 for a power boost over the 600 hp standard car and the 625 hp M5 Competition. Although this is yet to be confirmed, we can be certain that the Clubsport car will be lighter and more track-focused than both existing versions of the M5. Likely additions (based on the CS version of the smaller M3) include a carbonfibre front splitter and bonnet, sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, lightweight staggered alloy wheels, Alcantara-trimmed interior elements and bucket-style sports seats. With these features in place, the M3 CS saved 10 kg over the standard M3 and offered a lower centre of gravity. Elsewhere, I expect a firmer suspension set-up for keener cornering response, carbon-ceramic brakes as standard and a bespoke performance exhaust. As has been the case with all previous Clubsport M cars, the M5 CS will likely command a significant premium over the standard M5. +++ 

+++ Ultraviolet light’s ability to kill viruses has moved this technology to the forefront of the fight against the CORONA VIRUS . Now the Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) says it is exploring the idea of using UV light to disinfect automobile interiors, turning the humble dome light into a weapon against the spread of disease. “The HMG is about to use UV light sterilization technology on their vehicles”, the company recently announced on its website. It goes on to say that “HMG is planning to develop an interior cabin light that also contains a sterilization feature”. Using a ceiling-mounted device is ideal “because it could sterilize the seats, floor mats, dashboard, and the steering wheel all at the same time”. Besides using UV light to disinfect surfaces, HMG is investigating its use to remove airborne pathogens as well. UV light, however, is dangerous to human skin, so the feature would be used only when no one is in the vehicle. The practice of using UV light fixtures to reduce pathogens dates back at least to the 1930s, when it was used successfully in school buildings in Philadelphia. Today, UV light is employed as a surface disinfectant for subway cars and hospital operating rooms among other public areas. Hyundai gave no timeline for when the technology might appear in vehicles. +++ 

+++ FORD says its all-electric Mustang Mach-E stays up to date all the time thanks to quick and easy Over The Air (OTA) updates that can be done from anywhere, including your home. According to the Blue Oval, many updates can be completed in under 2 minutes and many of them are virtually invisible to customers. That’s because they are enabled by a cloud-connected platform that keeps current software running until a new version is ready to go.
Unlike some vehicles that require owners to wait while a software update takes place, Ford claims the Mach-E allows secure updates to download in the background. Options vary from the mandatory software updates to enhancements of the SYNC communications and entertainment system, as well as upgrades that enhance performance, quality, capability and convenience. “The beauty of the Mustang Mach-E is that what our customers experience on day one is just the beginning; it will evolve to add even more features and capabilities over time”, said John Vangelov, connected services manager at Ford. “Our clever over-the-air updates also minimize downtime through incredibly fast activation and ensure your Mustang Mach-E is always getting better, even when you’re asleep”. In addition to SYNC updates, nearly all Mustang Mach-E computer modules can be updated wirelessly, allowing Ford to offer performance enhancements and entirely new features that might not exist when customers take delivery of their electric crossover. Ford expects to roll out its first updates within 6 months after the first Mustang Mach-E vehicles reach buyers. Owners will receive notifications detailing software updates when they are available. Using either Wi-Fi or cellular connections, the updates can be then applied. Owners can select a regular time (midnight, for example) for updates while their Mustang Mach-E is parked. Many updates will be completed almost instantly after a customer starts their vehicle, with in-vehicle alerts notifying them of the improvements that have been installed. In the case of more complex updates that might require the vehicle to be parked for longer, customers can schedule them to take place when they find it most convenient. While the Mustang Mach-E is the first Ford model to get over-the-air updates, it won’t be the last. Starting this year, the Blue Oval will roll out OTA on most redesigned vehicles in the United States. +++
 

+++ HYUNDAI plans to launch a next-generation electric vehicle (EV) next year with an exclusively electric assembly line. South Korea’s largest automaker confirmed that it recently told its labor union about the plan, which it calls its NE project, during a meeting held at the company’s main factory in Ulsan. The company hopes to launch the vehicle as early as January 2021. Hyundai is planning to shift 2 assembly lines at the factory to become exclusive to electric car manufacturing. The lines will use the Electric-Global Modular Platform, or E-GMP, the company’s self-developed EV car body platform that it started developing last year. The new EVs are expected to be designed based on the concept car dubbed 45 that Hyundai Motor showcased during the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. At the moment, all EVs from Hyundai, including its high-selling Kona and Ioniq, are made by running gasoline model assembly lines then replacing engines and related parts with electric motors. With the launch of NE, Hyundai believes its new electric cars will have more interior space and improved performance, as EVs don’t require much space for engines like traditional fossil fuel vehicles. Hyundai’s current electric cars have less space in the backseats, due to the space required to store the batteries. Hyundai said it is still working to finalize the design and other features for the forthcoming EVs. But that plan isn’t expected to be well-received among unionized workers, who fear employment cuts from Hyundai shifting to EV production. Electric cars require fewer parts than traditional fossil fuel vehicles in manufacturing, which could result in job cuts. The automaker’s union has been working with management since last year to negotiate expected reductions in positions, electing a moderate leader who is known to favor practical solutions over protests. An advisory committee in October recommended that Hyundai cut its workforce by up to 40 %, or 10.000 workers, by 2025 to keep its head above water. And as Hyundai focuses more on EV production and shifts away from fossil fuel vehicle production, those job losses are likely to accelerate. Last year, the Hyundai Group sold 24 electric models around the world. In the next 5 years, it will expand the lineup to include 13 gasoline hybrids, 6 plug-in hybrids, 23 all-electric and 2 hydrogen fuel-cell electric cars. “Electric cars require fewer parts to be manufactured, and we are not trying to deny that”, Hyundai spokesperson Kim Tae-sik said. “But that doesn’t immediately equate to any job cuts. A plan is a plan, and we are going to be working with the union on future projects”. The third generation i10, however, will stick to internal combustion engines, at least for the foreseeable future, as there is no plan to launch an electric variant. The brand’s Dutch product & pricing director, Ralf Van Nuffel, said Hyundai is approaching the EV game “from top to bottom”, as they believe the money lies in the upper segments. “When it comes to electrification, Hyundai applies the cascade principle: we let our innovations filter through from top to bottom”, said Van Nuffel. “We do this because our resources are not infinite and we are currently focusing on slightly larger models that can also be electrified competitively”. In the long run, the exec sees an electric variant of the city car, which would take on the Volkswagen e-Up, the Skoda Citigo-E iV and the Seat Mii Electric. Nonetheless, given the average lifespan of today’s cars of only 6 years, it’s unknown whether the current iteration of the i10 is up for electrification. +++ 

+++ While some automakers have directed a huge chunk of their revenue to the research and development of new HYDROGEN powered cars, other have said a definite “no” to this technology. Volkswagen is part of this group, as they are not interested in launching a fuel cell vehicle, at least not with their Passenger Cars division in the near future, the company’s technical chief, Matthias Rabe, said. “As a group, we look in that direction, but for Volkswagen in the near future, it’s not an option”, Rabe answered when asked about the possible implementation of the fuel cell technology into its passenger cars. Furthermore, the exec believes that hydrogen’s best application in the automotive field is in commercial vehicles, as it takes just a few minutes to fill the tank of a truck or a bus and the only emissions are water vapors. Now, VW may not be interested in launching a hydrogen-powered car, as their sole focus these days is on the expansion of the ID family of electric vehicles, which is led by the new ID.3, but Audi remains an important player in this field. The Ingolstadt brand has been experimenting with this technology for a few years now, implementing it in different models and constantly refining it. Thus, Volkswagen pretty much has the tech available at its disposal for when they change their mind, and they probably will, as even Matthias Rabe said “in the near future” when denying rumors of a hydrogen-powered model. +++ 

+++ Hyundai and KIA , the 2 largest automakers in Korea, have resumed operations at most of their overseas plants with the coronavirus pandemic starting to wane. Except Hyundai’s plant in Brazil and a Kia’s factory in Mexico, all of their remaining plants are now running, even though they are maintaining production at a reduced levels. Resumption of those factories is expected to help the 2 Korean automakers get back to where they were before the Covid-19 pandemic started. Hyundai, which has a combined capacity of 5.5 million vehicles, has 7 domestic factories and 10 overseas plants, with 4 of them in China and the rest in the United States, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Russia, India and Brazil. The automaker restarted its U.S. plant last week, and its Brazil plant is suspended through May 26. Kia, which has the total capacity of 3.84 million cars, has 8 production bases in South Korea and 7 overseas factories: 3 in China and the others in the United States, Slovakia, Mexico and India. The automaker restarted its U.S. plant last week and is planning to resume production at its Mexico plant this week. The 2 automakers have been suffering as they suspended operations at all of their overseas auto assembly plants except those in China. The coronavirus outbreak also disrupted global dealership activities, which slowed sales. For the 4 months of this year, the 2 companies, which together form the fifth-largest automaker in the world by sales, sold a total of 1.85 million cars; down 19 % from 2.27 million cars posted in the same period a year earlier. Hyundai’s overseas sales plummeted 70.4 % on year to 88.037 units last month, with total quarterly sales dropping below 1 million units for the first time in 9 years. Overseas sales for Kia for the month sharply dropped 54.9 % to 83.855 units. +++ 

+++ In a new interview published by LOTUS , the company’s senior engineer Richard Hill has shared more information on the company’s upcoming all-electric Evija hypercar. Hill, Lotus’ chief engineer of aerodynamics and thermal management, has worked at the company’s Hethel headquarter since 1986. He collaborates with the exterior designers of new Lotus vehicles throughout the design process and also helps to ensure that all vehicle cooling, cabin ventilation , thermal management systems work correctly. Question: What’s the overall philosophy behind the Evija’s aerodynamics? Answer: “It’s about keeping the airflow low and flat at the front and guiding it through the body to emerge high at the rear. Put simply, it transforms the whole car into an inverted wing to produce that all-important dynamic downforce”. Q: How would you compare the Evija’s aerodynamic performance to that of a regular sports car? A: “It’s like comparing a fighter jet to a child’s kite”. Q: Can you explain the car’s porosity in aerodynamic terms? A: “Most cars have to punch a hole in the air, to get through using brute force, but the Evija is unique because of its porosity. The car literally ‘breathes’ the air. The front acts like a mouth; it ingests the air, sucks every kilogram of value from it (in this case, the downforce) then exhales it through that dramatic rear end”. Q: What role does that deep front splitter play? A: “It’s designed in three sections; the larger central area provides air to cool the battery pack, which is mid-mounted behind the 2 seats, while the air channeled through the 2 smaller outer sections cools the front e-axle. The splitter minimises the amount of air allowed under the vehicle, thus reducing drag and lift on the underbody. It also provides something for the difference in pressure between the upper and lower splitter surfaces to push down on, so generating downforce”. Q: Are the Venturi tunnels through the rear quarters part of the porosity? A: “Yes, they feed the wake rearward to help cut drag. Think of it this way; without them the Evija would be like a parachute but with them it’s a butterfly net, and they make the car unique in the hypercar world”. Q: What is the effect of the Evija’s active aerodynamics? A: “The rear wing elevates from its resting position flush to the upper bodywork. It’s deployed into ‘clean’ air above the Evija, creating further downforce at the rear wheels. The car also has an F1-style Drag Reduction System (DRS), which is a horizontal plane mounted centrally at the rear, and deploying it make the car faster”. Q: Lotus pioneered the full carbon fibre chassis in Formula 1 and the Evija is the first Lotus road car to use that technology. How has that helped to guide the aerodynamics? A: “The chassis a single piece of moulded carbon fibre for exceptional strength, rigidity and safety. The underside is sculpted to force the airflow through the rear diffuser and into the Evija’s wake, causing an ‘upwash’ and the car’s phenomenal level of downforce”. Q: The Evija is set to be the world’s lightest EV hypercar. Does weight affect aerodynamic performance? A: “The car’s weight has no effect on overall aerodynamics. However, the lighter the car, the larger the percentage of overall grip is achieved through downforce and the lower the inertia of the car to change direction”. Q: Can you confirm the drag coefficient and downforce figures for Evija? A: “We will release that data later this year when final testing is complete”. +++ 

+++ The MERCEDES-BENZ S-Class is the best-selling full-size luxury sedan by a wide margin and the brand will not be ceding any ground. To ensure its domination, Mercedes is giving the S-Class a major rework to make it more stylish and high-tech than ever. Code-named W223, the next S-Class will be less conservative and more elegant in design. When the current generation made its debut in the midst of the Great Recession, Mercedes had made the deliberate choice to go low-key. Now, the brand is making up for lost time with taut, elegant surfacing, better proportions thanks to a lengthened dash-to-axle ratio, and a more rakish C-pillar. Leading the design charge will be a new grille flanked by adaptive LED headlights with far more capability to bend light. Inside, Mercedes will respond to the Tesla effect with a pair of massive screens, one horizontal in front of the driver (as in the current model) and a Tesla-sized vertical screen in the center of the dramatic dash. The driving experience will be enhanced with Level 3 semi-autonomous technology. Powertrains will include rear and all-wheel drive, motivated by mild hybrid gasoline engines and plug-in hybrids with the ability to drive on pure electricity for some distance. I expect to see Mercedes’ recently developed 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 with 48 volt mild hybrid power under the hood, as well as the familiar AMG-developed 4.0-liter twinturbo V8, likewise enhanced with 48 volt tech. High-performance AMG models are expected to follow shortly after the standard car, as will Maybach ultra-luxury limousines. The new S-Class has been in the works for years, so the brand will try to keep its launch target later this year, but it might get pushed into 2021 depending on the economy. +++ 

+++ MINI is working on a facelift voor the Countryman. There will be a handful of relatively minor changes. The most noticeable are updated headlights which now feature square accents hiding behind the lenses. It’s possible the model could be equipped with a modestly revised grille too. The minor revisions continue out back as the 2021 modelyear Countryman features new Union Jack-inspired taillights. They echo the ones found the facelifted Hatch. While the exterior changes are barely noticeable, bigger updates will occur in the cabin. The facelifted Countryman will have a new digital instrument cluster, an updated infotainment system and a compact shifter. +++ 

+++ At the Fit4All Gym in Illinois, owner David Tate considers Elon MUSK a huge ally in the fight against government coronavirus orders that Tate says are driving him into the poorhouse. Tate reopened his 250-member gym in defiance of state orders on Monday, the same day Musk restarted his huge San Francisco Bay Area factory despite being told not to by the county Health Department. Like other business owners hit hard by coronavirus shutdown orders, Tate says Musk is a leader in the growing movement to reopen in the face of government orders, giving smaller businesses a boost and letting them know they’re not in the fight alone. Musk, with 34 million Twitter followers, has openly defied an order from the Alameda County Health Department to conduct only minimum operations at the plant in Fremont, California, that normally employs 10.000 people. On Twitter he has made derisive comments about the county’s top health official. He has called the stay-home restrictions “fascist” and said they rob people of freedom. While Musk is getting support on social media from his devoted followers and even president Donald Trump, his actions might cost him in the long run. Many who buy his expensive electric vehicles do so because they tilt to the left politically and want to make a statement about protecting the environment. And they have criticized Musk in the past when he’s allied too closely with Trump. For instance, early in Trump’s term, Musk got pushback for serving on two of the president’s business advisory councils. He stepped down after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. Still, Musk is admired by business owners like Tate who think government shouldn’t be telling them to stay closed if they’re willing to take precautions to reopen safely. “We needed somebody with a voice as big as his to step up and say what he did”, Tate said. “When you have a voice like his come out, it lets other people come out and say it’s OK to have a different opinion”. Public health experts say shutting down businesses and orders that keep people at home have worked in limiting the virus’ spread and helping to keep many hospital systems from being overwhelmed. The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but it has claimed more than 80.000 lives in the U.S. alone. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned bluntly of “really serious” consequences of suffering, death and deeper economic damage if state and local officials lift stay-at-home orders too quickly. “My concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks”, he told senators at a hearing. “The consequences could be really serious”. In fact, he said opening too soon “could turn the clock back” and that not only would cause “some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery”. Still, Musk’s fans, who admire his smarts and how he’s shaken up the auto business and launched rockets into space, will love how he has resisted authorities, said Erik Gordon, a business and law professor at the University of Michigan. Electric car buyers who aren’t necessarily Musk disciples, however, won’t have the same opinion. “They are more in favor of safety and more in favor of protecting workers”, Gordon said. “The crowd that sees ultra-wealthy techno-elite CEOs as a menace to society will hate it”. Within California, where Tesla was born, Musk has had a long history and in some ways personifies the Silicon Valley ethos of innovation, starting with his electric car designs and later moving into building rocket ships with his company SpaceX. His first 2 Tesla dealerships were set in tony Menlo Park in Silicon Valley and in west Los Angeles. When he opened the Fremont plant in 2010 at a recently shuttered factory that was jointly run by General Motors and Toyota, he was embraced with open arms by another California legend, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The relationship has been fruitful for Tesla, netting Musk hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, including 9 years of sales tax exemptions totaling nearly $250 million. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2015 that Tesla had reaped $4.9 billion in government subsidies nationwide. Governor Gavin Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco, said that he has had a years-long relationship with Musk, noting that Tesla is “a company that this state has substantively supported for now many, many years” and said he anticipated the relationship would continue. But Tesla’s reopening flies in the face of Newsom’s statewide order, which allows counties to begin reopening if they have met benchmarks including testing capacity, hospitalizations and contact tracing. Alameda County is behind on several of the indicators, including completing fewer than 30 tests per day per 100.00 people; Newsom’s order requires counties to hit 200 tests per day. Tesla’s factory reopened Monday with Musk practically daring local authorities to arrest him. The plant apparently continued operations on Tuesday. The company met a Monday deadline to submit a site-specific plan to protect worker safety, which Alameda County’s Public Health Department is reviewing, said county spokeswoman Neetu Balram. The department has deemed the factory a nonessential business that can’t fully open under virus restrictions. The plant in Fremont, a city of more than 230.000 people, had been closed since March 23. Alameda County was among 6 San Francisco Bay Area counties that were the first in the nation to impose stay-at-home orders in mid-March. Newsom has repeatedly said that counties can impose restrictions that are more stringent than state orders. The order in the Bay Area, which Tesla has sued to overturn, has been extended until the end of the month. But counties plan to allow some limited business and manufacturing starting May 18, the same day Detroit automakers plan to reopen auto assembly plants. Some auto parts plants were to restart production this week. The Detroit automakers’ 150.000 U.S. workers are represented by the United Auto Workers union, which has negotiated for added safety precautions. Tesla’s workers do not have a union. Tesla says it has a plan to maintain worker safety, including the wearing of gloves and masks, installing barriers between workers and maintaining social distancing. It also will do temperature checks at selected sites, the plan said. +++ 

+++ According to a person with knowledge of NISSAN ’s financial strategy, the Japanese carmaker is planning on cutting about 300 billion yen ($2.8 billion) in annual fixed costs and restructuring charges. The individual did not want to be identified since the information has not been made public yet. These new initiatives are said to be part of a 3-year plan that will be unveiled along with financial results on May 28. Other big moves will include the phasing out of the Datsun brand, but also the closure of a production line in addition to the recently shut down operation in Indonesia. Nissan will also look to cut additional costs like those required by marketing and research. These plans still need to be reviewed by Nissan’s board, which means that some of them may change, as per people familiar with the talks surrounding this restructuring plan. “Nissan will announce a revised mid-term plan along with fiscal year 2019 financial results on May 28”, said a company spokeswoman. “We do not have any further comments on this subject”. Nissan shares have plummeted more than 40 % this year, declining more than Toyota’s or Honda’s. Now, charged with the turn-around is chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta, who is said to be the architect of the plan. As for Datsun, while the downmarket brand is mostly aimed at developing economies such as India, Nissan is said to be favoring its main markets moving forward, such as the US, Japan and China, while putting an emphasis on revitalizing the Infiniti brand. In Europe, Nissan will continue to rely on its alliance with Renault, focusing on selling crossovers and electric cars. +++ 

+++ Sales of new cars in RUSSIA plummeted by 72.4 % in April compared with a year earlier, the Association of European Businesses (AEB) said, as the coronavirus outbreak slowed production and halted some dealer operations. Just 38.922 new cars and light commercial vehicles were sold in Russia in April, which saw the biggest monthly sales fall ever recorded by AEB after a 4 % rise the previous month. The most popular were Lada cars, made by Avtovaz, which accounted for around a quarter of April sales with 9.396 units. April was part of a non-working period in Russia, ordered by president Vladimir Putin to stop the spread of the coronavirus, bringing the economy to a halt as factories and businesses were forced to suspend operations and citizens asked to self-isolate. ” ‘Black April’ 2020 strongly challenged dealer liquidity and mid-term even their sustainability”, said Thomas Staertzel, AEB Automobile Manufacturers Committee chairman. “Dealers are preparing for a restart, although I do not expect much better sales results in May”. People rushed to buy cars in March, with sales jumping 22.7 % as they expected prices to rise after a fall in the rouble due to lower oil prices and the coronavirus outbreak, analytical agency Autostat said last month.
Russia has reported 232.243 coronavirus cases and 2.116 deaths. +++
 

+++ Cupra, SEAT ’s performance-focussed brand, could soon launch a hot version of the el-Born EV. The Spanish brand has recently filed trademark applications for both the “Cupra Born” and “Cupra el-Born” nameplates. The Cupra el-Born would be based on the Volkswagen Group’s dedicated MEB electric underpinnings. Unlike the standard Seat el-Born, though, this Cupra variant should feature a more powerful electric motor, supplied by a larger-capacity battery pack. Specifications for Cupra’s hot el-Born are yet to be confirmed, but it could feature a modified version of the 306 hp electric powertrain found in the ID. Crozz concept, which uses a 77 kWh battery pack. Seat executives have previously confirmed that the standard rear wheel-drive el-Born will have “up to 204 hp” and a 0–100 kph time of 7.5 seconds. We’ve also been informed that the Volkswagen Group’s 62 kWh battery pack will also be available, providing a range of up to 420 km on the WLTP test cycle. The standard electric hatchback will also be available with more modest power outputs, powered by smaller battery packs and lower price-tags. In addition, both versions of the EV should offer support for 100 kW DC charging, allowing them to recover an 80 % charge in as little as 47 minutes. The production model el-Born will retain a similar profile to the Volkswagen ID.3 and the el-Born concept, which made its debut at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. When it enters production, it will take on established battery-powered C-Segment models such as the Nissan Leaf and Kia e-Niro. Styling features include a short bonnet, a fared-in radiator grille incorporating some neat triangular patterns, large front quarter light windows and a large tailgate spoiler. The C-pillar is also likely to be blacked-out, to give the impression of a “floating” roof. The el-Born concept looks similar in length to a Leon, but it rides on larger wheels up to 20 inches in diameter. Like all of the Volkswagen Group’s MEB cars, the el-Born also has a long wheelbase relative to its overall length, which should allow it to deliver the interior space of a car from the class above. The performance-focussed Cupra el-Born will likely feature the same range of sporty styling cues as the forthcoming Volkswagen ID.3 R, with a lowered ride-height, unique alloy wheels, aggressive front and rear bumpers, wider side skirts and a larger rear spoiler. Like the Volkswagen’s cabin, the el-Born will be both modern and functional inside, with a digital instrument binnacle, a floating 10 inch infotainment screen and a touch-sensitive strip which controls the car’s heating and ventilation. Boot space should be on par with the existing Leon, but expect more legroom for rear seat passengers. Should the el-Born follow the ID.3’s principle, its pricing should start from around €35.500 in the Netherlands. Seat has stated that it will be the second of the Volkswagen Group brands to bring an MEB car to market, following the ID.3. To that end, the first el-Borns are likely to arrive in dealers towards the end of 2020. +++ 

+++ The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) in Australia has issued a ‘stop drive warning’ for vehicles fitted with potentially fatal TAKATA AIRBAGS . In a series of press releases, the FCAI detailed that there are thousands of vehicles on Australian roads fitted with Takata’s deadly Alpha and non-Alpha airbags and is telling people to stop driving their cars immediately. Among the most popular models with potentially dangerous airbags fitted include the 1998-2000 Honda CR-V, 1997-1999 Toyota RAV4, 1997-2000 Mitsubishi Lancer, Space Star and Parejo, as well as all versions of the E46 BMW 3-Series sold between 1997 and 2000. In the state of New South Wales, there are nearly 70.000 vehicles on the roads that need to have their airbags replaced and of those, 2.146 are critical Alpha and non-Alpha types. In Victoria, there are 68.000 vehicles in need of an airbag recall with 2.716 of them featuring the Alpha and non-Alpha types. In Queensland there are 1.798 vehicles with these deadly airbag types on the roads while in the Australian Capital Territory there are 195, South Australia has 315, in the Northern Territory there are 85, Western Australia has 608 impacted vehicles on its roads, and in Tasmania there are 63 with the critical Alpha and non-Alpha type. “These are the worst of the worst”, FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said. “They have been declared critical for a very important reason: they are high-risk and can kill vehicle drivers and occupants. Any vehicle with critical Alpha or critical non-Alpha type airbags should not be driven at all”. Concerned owners are being urged to visit the ismyairbagsafe portal to see if their vehicle has a Takata airbag that needs to be replaced. +++ 

+++ While TATA MOTORS has previously insisted that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is not for sale, it does continue to look for a strategic partner for its British subsidiary. But according to market analysis, Tata Motors doesn’t just need help for Jaguar Land Rover, but it needs Jaguar Land Rover itself, because the Indian conglomerate is said to be wroth nothing without it. Investment group CLSA has said that Tata Motors faces increased debt because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, and that its plan to deleverage may be delayed by 4 to 6 quarters. “JLR is the only driver of its valuation”, said analyst Amyn Pirani. “We believe future equity infusions are also likely to be utilised for loss funding and hence we do not attribute any equity value to its India business”. In India, demand for cars has slumped since the onset of the coronavirus, and dealers have not been able to acquire any new cars since April. The coronavirus has also brought a sudden halt to Jaguar Land Rover’s turnaround plans. The company could see its profit margin hit by as much as 3 % for the 2020 fiscal year with its earnings before interest and tax could be lower than anticipated because of the decrease in sales brought about by the crisis. +++ 

+++ TESLA has risen to the No. 3 spot in sales of imported cars in South Korea. According to first quarter figures announced by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Tesla sold 4.070 cars here to come third after Mercedes-Benz’ 15.400 and BMW’s 11.331, outpacing Chevrolet’s 3.810, Volvo’s 3.190 and Audi’s 3.190 vehicles. Tesla even sold more electric cars than homegrown Hyundai and Kia’s combined 2.881. Until 2015 the import market was dominated by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen and Audi, but emissions-rigging scandals since late 2015 caused Volkswagen and Audi sales to plummet. Tesla began expanding its customer base here with the lower-priced Model 3 in November of 2019. It was first launched in the U.S. in 2016, but production glitches delayed the rollout here until last year. Over the period the price tag rose from some W20 million to W53.7 million, but that falls again to less than W40 million including various government subsidies for eco-friendly cars. Tesla’s sales in South Korea have been zooming since November, when it launched the Model 3. It is relatively expensive compared to gas or diesel cars but much cheaper than the original Teslas. In terms of performance, the Model 3 boasts higher than usual offerings in the market with the lowest-performing trim rated at 283 hp. Domestic automakers have had their production and sales disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and import automakers have benefited. According to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA), aggregate sales of imported cars for the first 3 months this year rose 4.8 % from a year earlier to 54,469 units. With that trend, some expect Tesla’s local sales to continue to remain strong this year. Sales data for Tesla in the first quarter was released by the ministry as the company didn’t register itself as an importer with KAIDA. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will supplement the regular Golf GTI with a hardcore TCR model, which will bridge the gap with the upcoming Golf R AWD model. From a visual standpoint, there isn’t that big a difference compared to the Golf GTI on which the TCR is based. Exceptions include the redesigned front bumper with a larger lower air intake and thin apron, the bigger roof-mounted spoiler, and a few tweaks to the rear diffuser, which still incorporates dual exhaust pipes. UAside from the body-hugging front seats, it will feature more exclusive upholstery. Carbon fiber trim could be part of the offering and Volkswagen will probably go the extra mile and add model-specific loading screen animations for the new infotainment system and digital instrument cluster. The new TCR will retain the standard Golf GTI Mk8’s front-wheel drive system and will be powered by a 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine hooked up to a dual-clutch automatic transmission. Output and torque figures remain a mystery, but we could be looking at around 290 hp. The Golf GTI has 245 hp available on tap. Meanwhile, the upcoming Golf R’s 4-banger should deliver around 333 hp to the all-wheel drive system. The range-topping fast Golf is expected sometime this summer, whereas the Golf GTI TCR should follow before the end of the year. +++ 

+++ VOLVO is working with SK Telecom to develop a next-generation infotainment system that will appeal to local customers, who are known to have high standards when it comes to in-car electronics. The two companies signed the agreement Monday. Volvo Korea said the new infotainment system will be installed in Volvo models starting 2022. The new system will integrate SK Telecom’s T map navigation, Nugu voice recognition system and the FLO music service into a single unified system. The company said T map is the best traffic and mapping system in South Korea. “The paradigm of today’s automobile industry is quickly changing to connection and fusion of information technology into products”, Volvo Korea CEO Lee Yun-mo said in a statement. “By partnering with SK Telecom, which leads in global ICT technology, our customers will be able to experience the best-connected services”. While Volvo has done well with South Korean consumers, the lack of a solid navigation system is one weakness in the market. The automaker was the first in the industry to introduce the Apple CarPlay system and has been providing smartphone-connected infotainment systems in all of its offerings.  The Swedish automaker sold more than 10.000 vehicles in South Korea for the first time last year, a benchmark achieved by only a few auto brands in the market. The company is targeting 12.000 units this year while upgrading its maintenance offerings and opening more service centers in the country. Volvo Korea sold a total of 10.570 vehicles last year; up 24 % from a year earlier. During the same period, the aggregate sales of import automobiles fell 6.1 %. “The current automotive industry is rapidly changing amid integration with IT technologies. Our core value is beyond offering the joy of driving, but with innovative and optimized driving experience. Through the collaboration with SKT, local customers will be able to enjoy top-quality connected services”. said Lee Yoon-mo. +++

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