Newsflash: Chevrolet Corvette Zora wordt meer dan 1.000 pk sterk


+++ Even before the pandemic, beleaguered ASTON MARTIN was facing a crucial year, with its future essentially staked on one big bet: the DBX. When Aston Martin was floated in 2018, it was valued at £4.3 billion, with an initial share price of £19. On 13 May, when it announced a £118.9 million pre-tax loss in the first quarter of 2020 due to the pandemic, those shares hit a low of 35.4 pence. Aston Martin recently announced plans to cut up to 500 jobs, as part of a major cost saving programme tied to reducing production levels of its sports car lines. It’s a bleak picture, but there is hope: billionaire Lawrence Stroll led investment worth more than £500 million in the firm, becoming its new chairman. And that deal (reworked after Covid-19 caused an earlier dip in the share price) ensures Aston Martin has the money needed to bring the DBX to production at its new factory in St Athan, Wales. With the firm reducing sports car output, the DBX will become even more crucial as the brand’s volume seller, and the post lockdown return to production is clearly focused on ensuring the SUV goes on sale on time. Early demand suggests Aston Martin can sell its first SUV in the volumes and at the margins needed to boost profits and fuel investment in its sports cars. Losing weeks of production will have hurt, but Aston Martin insists deliveries are broadly on track. Once they start, it must ensure a steady stream of buyers, boosting turnover, which should calm the fears of those investors. It all rests on the DBX. Beyond new metal, Aston Martin has also snapped up current Mercedes-AMG chief Tobias Moers to replace Andy Palmer as chief executive officer. Moers saw a major expansion at the Affalterbach firm since taking over the top role in 2013, with sales rising from around 70.000 to 132.000 in 2019. It’s this experience that Lawrence Stroll says will be crucial to reviving Aston Martin’s fortunes. Given Stroll has already outlined changes to the brand’s “second century” plan such as delaying the relaunch of the Lagonda brand, it remains to be seen what further changes Moers might make once he takes office in August. The upcoming line-up of mid-engined models powered by V6 hybrid powertrains seems unlikely to change, with the firm instead making fewer cars while increasing exclusivity. The future of Aston Martin depends entirely on profits made from the DBX. St Athan, as home of the SUV, must get up and running smoothly if the company is to survive. It has been a tumultuous time for Aston: having announced its life-saving strategy to focus on the DBX and delay its plans for electrification and relaunching of the Lagonda brand, along came the coronavirus. However, against that backdrop, billionaire Stroll completed his purchase of a 25 % stake, which should significantly bolster the firm’s chances. According to Aston Martin, St Athan was already “running successfully” before manufacturing had to be suspended and is now back “on track to commence customer deliveries in summer”. The firm remains confident that it will hit its stated production goal of 5.000 DBX units annually from 2021. +++ 

+++ There will be more derivatives of the ASTON MARTIN DBX in 2021, thanks to a healthy book of orders for the standard car. The announcement was made as part of the firm’s first-quarter financial report, in which new executive chairman Lawrence Stroll said the Porsche Cayenne rival’s launch plan remains on track despite shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Stroll said: “With St Athan reopened safely last week, I’m extremely pleased that the 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 the DBX, we plan to unveil future derivatives starting from 2021”. While CEO Andy Palmer has been open about plans to introduce a hybrid version of the DBX during its life cycle, this isn’t due for at least 2 years, and the use of the word ‘derivatives’ strongly suggests more bodystyles are coming. Sources suggest that Aston Martin is very keen to leverage the heavy investment in the DBX’s all-new platform as much as possible, intending to cover more bases than the existing model does. Earlier this year, executive vice-president and chief creative officer Marek Reichman told that 2 options under investigation are a sleeker, more coupé-like DBX and a stretched wheelbase variant. Reichman said: “We’ll never go down in size, but maybe it’s less capacity. So the wheelbase may remain the same, but maybe the box shrinks a little bit. Because in terms of downsizing, we’re never going to be a Macan versus a Cayenne. +++ 

+++ Whether you prefer the sleek looks of a sport coupe, the wind-in-your-hair exhilaration of a convertible or the flexible practicality of a four-door sedan, BMW has an 8 Series to suit your fancy. And if you’re in the market right now and live in the United States, you may find that your local BMW dealership is willing to take $18,124 off the sticker price. That figure reflects the discount buyers are getting off the 8 Series’ average $122,395 retail price. Most of the 8 Series models in American showrooms today are 2019 models, and that’s the model year to which the discount above applies. This represents the largest discount on a new car in America this month, based on the dollar amount off the car’s sticker price, and the third largest discount by percentage. And it means the average transaction price for a BMW 8 Series is hovering at $104,271. If you’re not into BMWs, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT boasts the second largest monetary discount this month, with buyers averaging $16,713 off the Benz’s $176,035 sticker price. Another Mercedes, the S-Class, is next with a $11,452 discount. After that comes a pair of Maserati sedans, the Quattroporte and Ghibli, each with discounts of around $11,000. Since the Ghibli’s base price is so much lower than that of its larger sibling, that represents a much larger 13.5% cut from its average retail price of $81,384 for an out-the-door cost of $70,373. +++ 

+++ Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is in talks with Chinese electric car maker BYD for the supply of EV batteries from a facility in the UK, it is being reported. A source with knowledge of the talks says the talks could potentially result in BYD installing a UK battery production hub operated independently of JLR. Such a move would be a major boost to the UK’s battery cell production activity, which is modest in comparison to other big global players. The government launched the Faraday Battery Challenge in 2017 in an attempt to attract cell production to Britain. The source also claims JLR and BYD are considering collaborating on the development of electric propulsion systems. The British maker already has an alliance with BMW for the development of electrified powertrains, formalised last year. It’s not clear if the BYD deal would change that or not. BYD’s European presence was up until recently limited to electric buses, which it builds in Hungary and France. Last month it launched the Tang EV600, an electric SUV that will mark the firm’s entry into the market and is due to first go on sale in Norway later this year. JLR is investing heavily in an electrified future. It is pumping £1 billion into its Castle Bromwich and Solihull factories to overhaul them in preparation for a new modular platform that allows combustion engine, hybrid and fully electric propulsion options. With the I-Pace based on an older platform, it will form the basis for the upcoming XJ saloon, alongside the J-Pace flagship SUV and Land Rover’s upcoming Road Rover model. It is thought Jaguar is also strongly considering turning the F-Type sports car into an EV in future, too. +++ 

+++ Long before the current C8 generation CHEVROLET CORVETTE was introduced, the American car manufacturer went on a trademarking spree to secure the rights to Zora in markets around the world. In fact, it made more than 30 trademark applications for the name in 2014 alone, including in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, Moldova, Iceland, Australia, the European Union, Bahrain, Vietnam, Chile, Singapore, Mexico, Zimbabwe and others. Chevrolet most recently filed to trademark the Zora name in the Philippines on February 14. When news first emerged of Chevrolet filing to trademark the name, it was speculated the C8 Corvette could be dubbed the Zora in honor of the late Zora Arkus-Duntov, who is considered the “father” of the Corvette. However, that hasn’t been the case with the current C8 model, which is instead using the Stingray name. It is now thought that the Zora moniker will be affixed to a future performance version of the C8 Corvette, with the most likely candidate being the claimed hybrid range-topper. It is widely believed that the flagship version of the C8 Corvette will utilize a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter LT7 V8 paired with a hybrid-electric powertrain that could churn out upwards of 1.000 hp and 1.355 Nm. This engine will inevitably be mated to a bespoke transmission, or a heavily-upgraded variant of the Stingray’s 8-speed and paired to an all-wheeldrive system. If a future version of the Corvette is indeed in the works with the Zora nameplate, we likely won’t see it for quite some time. In fact, it may not premiere until 2023 and hit the market as a 2024 model. +++ 

+++ CHINA ’s premium and luxury passenger car retail sales jumped 28 % from a year earlier, the best performing sector as the industry, the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said, as the country gradually recovers from the coronavirus. Overall passenger car sales in May rose 1.9 % from a year earlier to 1.61 million. The association said during an online briefing that the retail sales growth beat expections and signalled a recovery in the passenger car market. However, it forecasts sales in June will fall, citing last year’s strong figure. Tesla sold 11.065 Shanghai-made Model 3 electric sedans in May; up 205 % compared to April. Tesla sold 3.635 vehicles in April, down from around 10.160 units in March, CPCA data showed. An executive at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), owned by India’s Tata Motors, said the firm expects sales of China’s luxury car segment this year to be level with last year or see slight growth. +++ 

+++ CITROEN has confirmed the reinvented C4 will make its official debut 30th June. The bold new crossover is expected to reach the market between late 2020 and early 2021 and, when it goes on sale, it’ll act as a taller riding alternative to the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. Citroen announced the new C4’s launch date on Twitter. The vehicle shown wears an ‘ë-C4’ moniker, which will be the nameplate used on the all-electric variant. Petrol and diesel-powered cars are expected to retain the previous model’s C4 badge. The decision to abandon the traditional C-segment bodystyle in favour of something bolder and more SUV inspired is Citroen’s way of trying to carve out a niche in a highly competitive market. The previous C4, which was a fairly conservative hatchback, was removed from sale in 2017 as the brand began to reinvent its image. Earlier this year, Vincent Cobée, Citroen’s new CEO, said: “I would agree that the C-segment has been a fairly traditional sector and is probably right for changes. One idea is to find the proper balance between affordability, versatility and comfort, better access, and better visibility, as there’s probably also a need for more spice in the style”. The next-generation C4 will be a staunch departure from the previous model, ushering in a new design language for the French firm. Laurence Hansen, Citroen product and strategy director, said: “Customers want a design renewal and it’s a great way for us to show our creativity. We have a strong legacy in this segment and we know what we need to do and to avoid. The car we have designed is the best of different worlds. It will have a strong personality and the new lighting signature from the 19_19 concept”. As well as capitalising on the continued rise of crossover sales, the new C4 will also tap into another growing segment: EVs. The C4 will be based on the PSA Group’s CMP platform that enables Citroen to offer the crossover with petrol and diesel power, plus a fully electric alternative, badged the ë-C4. The basic architecture can be found on the latest Peugeot 2008, which uses a 50 kWh battery to deliver a real-world range of around 320 kilometres. The platform also supports a 1.5-litre diesel engine plus a 1.2-litre 3-cylinder turbo. Both are expected to be offered in the new C4. Sales in the traditional C-segment have fallen gradually over the last few years, as buyers continue to flock towards crossovers and SUVs. Manufacturers are recognising this, too: recently revealed that Alfa Romeo will replace the Giulietta by an electric B-segment SUV vehicle. However, Citroen believes its new strategy in the segment will reverse that trend. “We will come with a new concept”, Hansen added. “I had a great chance to drive it and when you have the hydraulic suspension and electric drive it truly makes a great difference”. +++ 

+++ General Motors is allocating a substantial amount of money to the development of ELECTRIC technology, but Mary Barra, the firm’s CEO, conceded that battery-powered cars won’t fully replace their gasoline-burning counterparts for several decades. She stressed the shift is ongoing, but she hinted it will be slower than many assume. “We believe the transition will happen over time”, affirmed Barra. She added that not every car will be electric in 2040. “It will happen in a little bit longer period, but it will happen”, she told. She was presumably talking about the United States market; the situation is markedly different in Europe and in China, where strict government regulations (and even stricter ones on the horizon) are accelerating the shift towards electric cars. On the surface, it doesn’t look like General Motors has much invested in electrification; the only battery-powered model it sells in America in 2020 is the Chevrolet Bolt (Opel Ampera-e), which undeniably remains a niche vehicle. Sales totaled 16.418 units in 2019, meaning the Corvette beat it by about 1.500 sales. In comparison, Cadillac sold 35.424 examples of the aging last-generation Escalade during the same time period. And yet, the company isn’t giving up. It has numerous electric models in the pipeline including a slightly larger version of the aforementioned Bolt, the much-hyped Hummer pickup and an electric crossover assigned to the Cadillac brand. These models (and others) will use the Ultium battery technology that General Motors is currently developing. Its engineers are also working on a modular platform capable of underpinning a wide variety of cars. Bringing these innovations to the market is a Herculean task. EVs may not take over for decades, but Barra and her team must believe their 2 % market share will increase significantly in the coming years if they’re approving these programs. Autonomous technology is even costlier, more complicated, and more time-consuming to develop. Barra nonetheless expects to see the first General Motors-built driverless vehicles on the road by 2025. “I definitely think it will happen within the next 5 years. Our Cruise team is continuing to develop technology so it’s safer than a human driver. I think you’ll see it clearly within 5 years”, she said. Her statement is vague but realistic. Alphabet-owned Waymo has already deployed autonomous shuttles, so there’s no reason to think General Motors won’t be able to operate a comparable program by the middle of the 2020s. It pumped over $1 billion into Cruise to make it happen. However, there’s a massive difference between deploying a shuttle in an environment that’s relatively easy to handle, like Phoenix’s suburbs, and navigating a more complex situation such as a blizzard on an unlit stretch of I-80 about 150 miles east of Evanston, Wyoming. As for her claim that technology is safer than a human driver, the jury is still out. It’s an assertion we hear from a vast majority of the companies who are peddling (or plan to peddle) autonomous technology, which makes sense. It helps them market their products, and in turn allows them to entice clients and investors. Not everyone agrees with it, though. Humans cause 94 % of car accidents, but research carried out by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) found autonomous cars will only prevent about a third of those. +++ 

+++ It appears that the FORD product news just keeps coming in this past weekend as we finally stand to learn more about the recently announced Mustang Mach 1. While we already knew that it was coming via some leaked documents in April, Ford has just recently announced the comeback of the Mach 1 moniker. It’s pretty hard to believe that the last time Mustang and Mach 1 were found in the same model name was 16 years ago in the 4th-generation Mustang, and if we go back even further, the original Mach 1 debuting as a performance package in 1969. It has been confirmed that the Mustang Mach 1 will be powered by the familiar 5.0-litre Coyote V8, and that it will definitely be building on the performance chops of the Mustang Bullitt. Sources have stated that Ford is looking at achieving 525 hp and 610 Nm with the new Mach 1, well over the 480 hp and 420 Nm that the Bullitt is capable of. This also ties in with the rumour that the Mustang Shelby GT350 is bowing out in 2020, as the supposed power figures place the Mustang Mach 1 as a replacement. It’s still not known exactly how Ford is maximising the Coyote V8 to produce the target numbers, but given the gradual increase in horsepower for the naturally aspirated engine over the years plus the potential for great power gains via aftermarket parts, it’s not something that Ford will have a hard time doing. For now, those are the targets; we’ll learn more as we get closer to the reveal later this year. Heck, with the way things are going, don’t you think a sub-500 bhp Mustang might be a thing of the past? +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS ‘ (GM) commitment to China will not change and Sino-US relations will not affect its strategy as a company, said a senior executive at the United States’ largest carmaker. “What happens at the government level has almost no impact on our strategy at the company level”, said Julian Blissett, president of GM China. “GM is still committed to China, we are still investing extremely heavily in China. In products and technology, brand, or the overall company strategy, I don’t see anything that has changed”. Blissett said it will make big investments in the next 5 years in all its 5 brands in China: Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac as well as China-specific Wuling and Baojun. He did not give an estimate of the amount of investment but said the carmaker will produce more models in China and procure parts from local suppliers as it enters an electrification campaign. In March, GM said it would invest $20 billion by 2025 in electric and automated vehicles as it races to catch up with Elon Musk’s Tesla. “We have already established a good working relationship and supply agreement with battery supplier CATL”, said Blissett. “We will work very closely with this Chinese company in the future”. “We are not planning on importing any major components for new energy vehicles. The drive units, batteries, motors, etc, will be made locally in China”, said Blissett. GM is the second-most popular international carmaker in China, after Volkswagen. Last year, it delivered more than 3 million vehicles in the country, more than in the United States. Blissett said GM is confident in the country’s economy “short, medium and long-term”. He said a 6.8 percent fall in China’s GDP in the first quarter of 2020 showed that Covid-19 had dealt a blow to the Chinese economy. But he added that the effect is far less powerful than in Europe and particularly the United States, thanks to the Chinese government’s fast and effective response to the pandemic. Blissett also said that China’s move to set no economic growth target for 2020 is a “smart move” as there are many uncertainties. He said the car market in China was hit hardest in February, when the corona virus was at its peak in the country, but has since turned for the better. GM said its sales in China fell 43.3 % in the first 3 months of 2020 compared with the same period of 2019. In April, its joint venture SAIC-GM, which manufactures Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac vehicles, sold 111.155 vehicles; up 13.6 % year-on-year. SAIC-GM-Wuling, a GM venture with SAIC and Guangxi Automobile Group, said its sales jumped 13.5 % to more than 127.000 units in April. “We are still not where we were a year ago but the tempo and the trajectory have been extremely positive”, said Blissett. +++ 

+++ GREAT WALL MOTORS , China’s leading SUV and pickup manufacturer, saw vehicle sales rise 1 % month-on-month to 81.901 units in May, achieving the highest monthly figure since the Covid-19 outbreak. Haval, the carmaker’s leading brand, drove the overall sales growth of Great Wall Motors with 51.915 units in May. Sales of the Haval H6 model reached 22.691, remaining the bestselling SUV in China for 84 months, the company said. Great Wall pickups continued to lead the domestic market with sales of new vehicles hitting 22.543 in May; up 43 % month-on-month. ORA, a new energy brand of Great Wall Motors, secured orders of 2.333 units in May, with a month-on-month growth of 32 %. Headquartered in Baoding, North China’s Hebei province, Great Wall Motors owns several SUV and car brands including Haval, Great Wall, WEY and ORA. +++ 

+++ Earlier this week, I attended the official launch of the new HONDA Jazz and its freshly introduced sibling, the Jazz Crosstar. It has some body cladding, a raised ride height, roof rails and a few other trinkets. And for this, Honda expects you to pay more than €2.000 more than you would for a regular Jazz Executive, complete with the same trick hybrid powertrain. Now, you’d understand this if the Crosstar offered an extra 50 litres of boot space or more rear legroom. But in fact, its cabin accommodation is basically the same and, wait for it, the boot is actually smaller because there’s a subwoofer in there. I drove these cars for half a day each and while I could see several reasons why someone would buy a Jazz, I came away utterly confused by the Crosstar. Not for the first time, Honda has surprised and bewildered me in equal measure. The Jazz’s regular customer base tends to be, well, those of advancing years. Perhaps they want the raised ride height to make it a little easier to get in and out? I could see why that would make sense. And yet do they really have need of an upgraded stereo system, with the aforementioned subwoofer? The Crosstar’s oddest spec quirk is the fact that while it does away with the heated steering wheel that comes as standard on regular Jazz Executive editions, it does get water-repellent seat fabric. I’m sure that in the depths of some internal Honda marketing presentation there’s a pic of a young couple leaping into their Crosstar after some early-morning surfing. Active lifestyles and all that. But the people who might actually buy it? I’m not convinced. Truth is, the Crosstar is precisely the sort of vehicle that thrives on finance deals: offering the appeal of something slightly different, with a comprehensive specification, for a premium that will undoubtedly boil down to a few euros per week over a 3-year contract. And that is why it won’t surprise me in the slightest if, now that I’ve said all of this, Honda is able to present statistics in 12 months’ time to show how the Crosstar actually accounts for 1 in 3 Jazz models being sold in Europe. It really could be one of those cars that makes no sense … until you look at the monthlies. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI and its affiliate Kia said their combined electric vehicle (EV) sales jumped 58 % in the January-May period from a year earlier on demand from Europe. Hyundai and Kia sold 40.182 all-electric vehicles in the first 5 months; up from 25.454 units in the year-ago period, the companies said. Hyundai sells the pure electric Kona and the Ioniq Electric in global markets, while Kia sells the e-Niro and e-Soul. “Demand for EVs is on the rise in Europe as the European Union strengthens emissions standards. Korean carmakers will benefit from rising EV demand there and local governments’ subsidies for EVs”, a company spokesman said. Hyundai and Kia plan to strengthen their environmentally friendly vehicle lineup in response to customers’ changing appetite and stricter emission standards. Hyundai plans to launch a large electrified model based on the EV concept 45, which was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, and an all-new electric crossover plus an electrified G80 sedan under its independent brand Genesis next year. Kia is developing an electric vehicle under the project name of CV and plans to launch the second-generation e-Niro. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) won’t restart production Castle Bromwich factory until 10 August at the earliest, it has been confirmed. The plant, which produces the Jaguar XE and XF saloons and the F-Type sports car, is the base for more than 2.000 employees. It will also be the production site for the upcoming XJ electric saloon, which is due to be launched later this year. JLR confirmed that production at Castle Bromwich will progressively recommence from 10 August, subject to market conditions. However, there will be “small pockets of business-critical activity” at the site to prepare for new model introductions; likely meaning the factory is being readied for early production of the XJ. The extended shutdown is further evidence of a dire few months for the new car market and a slow recovery ahead, with a number of British brands such as Aston Martin, Bentley and McLaren recently announcing job losses across the UK. It will be the last major JLR production facility to open, with Chinese production recommencing back in February and about 2.000 employees returning to Solihull last month. The company’s Halewood, Merseyside plant will open next week, too. Some 38.000 people are employed by JLR across the country, but 20.000 of those have been furloughed under the UK government’s emergency scheme during the coronavirus pandemic. While European sales of the XE and XF had been struggling to hit expectations before the pandemic, it’s a different story in China. JLR claims the bulk of global demand for Jaguar has been in China, where long-wheelbase versions of the 2 models are locally produced. +++ 

+++ While the new LAND ROVER DEFENDER has officially landed on U.S. shores, it will be in short supply. Like so many other vehicles on the market, production of the Defender has been impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The factory that handles production of the new Defender in Nitra, Slovakia, was shut down for no less than 8 weeks and is now only starting to resume production back up to pre-Covid 19 levels. Land Rover has delivered several hundred Defender models to dealerships in the United States and is starting the first customer deliveries to those at the front of the waiting list. The British car manufacturer expects all of its 188 dealerships in the U.S. to take delivery of at least one Defender by July. The delay in production means some customers will have to wait a little longer than they may have expected. +++ 

+++ Like its sporty CLA 35 and GLA 35 siblings, the MERCEDES-AMG GLB 35 is due to play second fiddle to an even more powerful 45-badged sibling. While the 3-pointed star has yet to reveal the boxy SUV’s most sporting model, a recent patent filed by the company with the United States Patent and Trademark Office appears to include illustrations of an upcoming Mercedes-AMG GLB 45. Admittedly, it’s possible that these images show the already revealed GLB 35. A handful of distinct cues, however, give me reason to believe that’s not the case. Go on, give the illustrations a look and see if you spot the telltale signs of a 45-badged Mercedes-AMG model. See it? Those 4 exhaust pipes poking out of the rear bumper are a detail missing from the GLB 35, which features just 2 exhaust tips. Furthermore, the front bumper includes slight alterations to the lower fascia, including additional detail work within the stylized cooling ducts at the left and right corners of the SUV. Yes, the changes are subtle, but is that really surprising? Consider the GLA 35 and GLA 45 look largely the same, save for the models’ mildly massaged front fascias, different exhaust tip orientations and altered rear wings (the latter of which appears unchanged between the GLB 35 and GLB 45). The real magic of the GLB 45 is not its exterior decor anyway, but what sits under the hood. In place of the lesser 35’s 306 hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, the GLB 45 ought to employ a hand-assembled 387 hp unit, which should shave more than 0.5 second from the GLB 35’s manufacturer-estimated 5.2-second trot to 100 kph. Additionally, I anticipate the all-wheeldrive SUV will incorporate torque-vectoring at the rear axle to better help it carve through corners. An 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is due to serve as the broker between the engine and the drive wheels. Expect the GLB 45 to arrive before the end of the year as a 2021 model year vehicle. While pricing for even the GLB 35 remains under wraps, we anticipate both it and the forthcoming GLB 45 to closely mirror the starting sums of the CLA 35 and CLA 45 sedans (or four-door coupe, if you prefer). As such, plan on dropping north of €88.000 for the racy GLB 45 in The Netherlands, and that’s before diving into the models’ options menus. +++ 

+++ When I told you about the MG Cyberster, we also mentioned the E-Motion. Presented in 2017, the electric coupe was expected to premiere in 2020. With the Covid-19 pandemics and MG’s silence, I thought it was going to be postponed. Yet, Chinese patent images were found that reveal the production version of the E-Motion. The E-Motion would be totally electric and cost around €40,000. The production vehicle will be very similar to the concept apart from the headlights. Instead of the elegant round design with a cover that made it look angry, the production E-Motion has almond-shaped headlights. With that, the new electric coupe front end lost character and looks very much like an Aston Martin. If you consider one of these Gaydon machines can cost way more than €40.000, that can be something the MG buyers may like. On the other hand, Aston Martin may not be very pleased. The side and the rear of the E-Motion have been mostly preserved. The few changes both present relate more to production, cost, and legal demands, such as the replacement of the cameras for rear-view mirrors, and conventional doors. The front seats are also apparently the same ones the concept had, with power adjustments. The dashboard image allows us to see that the E-Motion will have a giant heads-up display. Around the cluster, flat surfaces suggest a massive screen for controlling the infotainment system, air conditioning, and other car functions; either that or a bizarre design. If the car can still preserve the 500 km of range and the acceleration time of less than 4 seconds, the MG E-Motion may repeat the ZS EV success. We would just suggest that MG gets back to the front fascia of the concept presented back in 2017. It would be a lot more MG than what the patent images show, like the Cyberster is. +++ 

+++ The new boss of luxury EV maker PININFARINA has told that the 1.900 hp Battista hypercar is on course to reach customers this year, and said that new technology partnerships will accelerate the firm’s subsequent plans. Industry veteran Per Svantesson was recently appointed CEO as part of a management reshuffle. The Swede, who had served as chief operating officer since 2018, replaced Michael Perschke. Former Ferrari and Maserati engineer Paolo Dellachà’s role has been expanded to chief product and engineering officer, replacing Christian Jung, while a new sales boss has also been appointed. Despite the reshuffle, Svantesson said the focus for the firm is unchanged: “Our brand is based on what Pininfarina stands for, which is design. Our plan is to offer amazing design with revolutionary technology”. Pininfarina plans to produce 150 examples of the €2.2 million Battista, which uses a Rimac powertrain and Svantesson said that a key focus of the new management team is “getting the design into the hands of customers”. He added: “Producing high-performance cars like this requires complete attention to detail. It’s one thing making a beautiful design, but we need to promise a lot to customers and then keep that promise through ownership”. Depending on the ongoing coronavirus restrictions, Svantesson said the Battista should be ready for buyers and potential new customers by late summer, with first deliveries due later this year. There have been rumours of limited sales, but Svantesson insisted they are “in a good place”. He added: “We’ve got around 100 people who want a test drive. People love the design and the brand and can relate to the company, but some have never driven an EV before, and that dynamic experience is key”. The Battista is intended to serve as the halo car for the Pininfarina brand. It will be followed by a range of luxury EVs designed to take on the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. The first is planned to be a Urus-rivalling 1.000 hp SUV costing around €350.000, and is set to be previewed by the Pura Vision concept later this year. The SUV was originally set to use a platform from Rivian, but the American start-up’s tie-up with Amazon ended that deal. Svantesson said Automobili Pininfarina is in talks with several new partners over the likes of platform and powertrain technology. “The general plan is still the same, but I can’t promise the launch cycle will be the same as previously”, he said. “We’re looking at some interesting opportunities, and we’ve been presented with some lately that are making us look at the sequencing of future models. I can promise that we won’t be slowing down but speeding up”. Svantesson declined to name any potential new partners but hinted that they include a number of large mainstream car companies. He suggested that recent changes in the industry and the current disruption “does appear to have made people in the industry more open to sharing and co-operating with technology”. Pininfarina is open to taking technology from large OEMs, but as Svantesson added: “A key for us is we need to add a performance objective, and we have to ensure any technology we use can cope with that. The Pura Vision will produce 1.000 hp, and not every mainstream firm is producing technology to support that. We need technology to meet the unique expectations of our customers”. Like the historic design house, Pininfarina is owned by Indian automotive giant Mahindra Group and Svantesson said that his firm has the “personal backing” of billionaire founder Anand Mahindra, by whom he was initially appointed chief operating officer. He added: “I would never have accepted the challenge if not for the circumstances. It has been a very strategic approach by Mahindra to build this company”. +++ 

+++ Although it has yet to deliver a single saleable vehicle for public consumption, RIVIAN appears ready to add 2 new products to its upcoming model line in the upcoming years: The R1V and R2X. The electric automaker recently applied for the names with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If Rivian’s already revealed models, the R1S SUV and R1T truck, serve as precedents, then it’s possible the R1V name denotes an upcoming van the brand plans to sell to the public. While a company spokesperson noted “trademarks aren’t vehicle programs” and that Rivian files such applications “for all kinds of stuff”, Rivian may see value in selling a passenger-friendly variant of the Prime delivery vans it’s building for Amazon. Such a model may even share the full array of powertrain options that motivate the R1S and R1T, both of which off up to 750 hp from 4 electric motors (one for each wheel). The R2X, meanwhile, likely signals Rivian’s intentions to produce a more affordable and smaller model. What X signifies is anyone’s guess. However, if we were the gambling type, we might wager the letter denotes an off-road-oriented sedan or wagon; something along the lines of the Subaru Outback. That’s purely conjecture, though, and it is equally as likely such a model takes on a completely different form entirely. There is also the chance Rivian applied for the trademark for no particular product-related reason at all. Look for deliveries of the 2021 R1T and R1S to begin before the year’s end. If all goes according to plan, then Rivian may even announce further additions to its model line before the calendar turns to 2021. Who knows? Maybe the company will even confirm it is working on a passenger van dubbed R1V and a more affordable model that goes by the name R2X. +++ 

+++ BJEV, the largest electric car maker in China, said that its fleet of vehicles with SWAPPABLE BATTERIES will grow to around 30,000 by the end of 2020. It is also planning to build 100 battery swap stations in the second half of 2020, in cities including Beijing and Xiamen in Fujian province, bringing the total to 300. The announcement came as building battery swap stations was included in China’s Government Work Report in May. It was a sign of the nation’s approval of a technology that many believe is the answer to people’s doubts over electric vehicles. Lian Qingfeng, BJEV’s spokesman, said inconvenient charging has replaced mileage anxiety as the biggest factor that dissuades potential electric car buyers. He said charging at private garage piles is the best way for electric cars, but less than half of Chinese electric car owners have a private garage or even a fixed parking space. Battery swap technology solves this problem. At BJEV’s battery swap stations, vehicles can get their empty batteries replaced by fully-charged ones within 90 seconds. The technology solves another problem as well: depreciation. Electric cars are more expensive than gasoline ones because of the batteries, which usually account for some 40 % of a vehicle’s cost. Added to this, as scientists develop batteries with longer ranges, it becomes harder for second-hand electric cars to fetch a decent price compared to gasoline ones. Lian said the company is considering selling vehicles without batteries, which they can get at battery swap stations. In this way, people can pay much less to buy an electric car and not worry about the depreciation of aged batteries. William Li, founder of China’s leading electric car startup Nio, has a similar argument. He says vehicles with swappable batteries enable car owners to continuously benefit from progress in battery technology. Statistics show that electric cars had an average range of 160 kilometers in 2015 with the figure rising to 350 km in 2019. Their power consumption per 100 km fell from 17 kWh to 14 kWh. Economically, the battery swap stations are working well. A station with 28 batteries needs no more than 70 square meters of space and costs 3 million yuan ($423.649) to build. It usually takes 30 months to make money, said Wang Chunfeng, a senior sales executive at BAIC Group. Customers of BJEV’s charging stations are usually taxi companies. A survey shows that vehicles with swappable batteries can take 25 % more orders than electric vehicles that have to be charged. Nio, which has 132 stations across 58 cities serving only private cars, are doing a decent business too. The company said that they have completed more than 500.000 swaps as of May since the first station was set up in 2017. “That means it works for individuals as well. But if you serve private car owners, you have to have a bigger network of more battery swap stations”, said Wang. +++ 

+++ TESLA is considering building a new gigafactory in the United Kingdom, with reports suggesting that the electric car firm is evaluating a potential site in Somerset. The Department for International Trade (DIT) is currently looking for a 4 million square foot site that the Californian firm could use to build a research, development and manufacturing plant. It is unknown how many sites have been identified, but the list is believed to include the Gravity industrial park, a ‘smart campus’ currently being developed near Bridgwater in Somerset. The 635-acre site is being built on the site of a former Royal Ordnance Factory, and is intended to attract innovative technology companies. Tesla boss Elon Musk is reported to have visited the UK last week to discuss plans for the UK facility, although it is unclear if he would have visited the Bridgwater site. The DIT would not confirm the reports it is working with Tesla, but did say that it is looking for manufacturing sites for electric vehicles. In a statement, it said: “The government is working with industry to help make the UK the location of choice to develop world-class electric vehicle technologies. DIT is working closely with partners to scope out sites for new investment into electric vehicle research, development and manufacturing across the UK”. There is no confirmation on whether any UK facility would be a full car production factory or would focus on specific technology such as batteries. Last year, Tesla chose to locate its first European factory near Berlin in Germany, with Musk saying that site was chosen over the UK because of “Brexit uncertainty”. The German site will house production of the Model 3, Model Y and batteries, and is expected to come on stream in 2021. Tesla currently has car production plants in Arizona and California in the US, and recently opened a gigafactory in Shanghai, China, to build models for the world’s biggest car market. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA has started selling its first plug-in hybrid SUV in Japan as it looks to commit more to the electric vehicle market. The new RAV4, loaded with a newly developed high-powered motor that provides a longer range and better acceleration than its conventional hybrid model released in April last year, went on sale with a price tag starting at ¥4.69 million ($42,840). The SUV has an overall range of 1.300 kilometers, the automaker said, adding that it can travel up to 95 km on battery power alone. Equipped with on-board power sockets, the car can be used as a power source that lasts more than 3 days in outdoor or emergency situations. “The use of electricity has brought better traveling performance and comfortability, as well as improved eco-friendliness”, said a Toyota official in charge of the model’s development. The automaker aims to sell 300 units per month. +++ 


+++ VOLKSWAGEN boss Herbert Diess has apologised to the carmaker’s supervisory board after accusing some of its members of leaking confidential information to the press. The German company said that Diess had apologised to the 19-member board for making “inappropriate and wrong” statements at an internal event, without giving details. A spokesman for Porsche Automobil Holding SE, the holding company of the Piëch and Porsche families that controls Volkswagen, said Diess told an internal meeting that members of the supervisory board’s executive committee had leaked information to the media, calling such actions “crimes”. The CEO’s comments were seen as an attack on the company’s directors, prompting the supervisory board to convene an extraordinary meeting to discuss the matter, 2 sources familiar with the matter told. The public announcement here of his apology amounts to a severe admonishment of Diess, who saw his responsibilities reduced after infighting over the pace and scope of costcutting plans. “The members of the Supervisory Board accepted the apology of Dr. Diess, and will continue to support him in his work”, the board said in a brief statement. The 2 sources told that Diess’s accusations came after German media reported he had sounded out labour chief Jörg Hofmann about extending his contract as CEO. Hofmann, who is head of Germany’s largest union IG Metall, sits on the Volkswagen supervisory board’s executive committee. Volkswagen’s worker representatives control 9 seats on the board and have the power to veto contract extensions. A spokesman for the supervisory board declined to comment on the details of the clash, apart from saying it was not related to a review into how the company came to publish a racist advert. Volkswagen replaced Diess as the CEO of its main VW brand and installed chief operating officer Ralf Brandstätter to lead cost cutting efforts at the company’s largest plants in Germany. The carmaker employs 297.000 people in Germany, most of them at the VW brand. Diess remains group CEO, a position he has held since 2018. The incident appears to follow a pattern at the carmaker where board members lose backing if their cost cutting and efficiency measures threaten too many local jobs, prompting the company’s powerful labour leaders to flex their muscles. Bernd Pischetsrieder, Volkswagen CEO from 2002-2006, and Wolfgang Bernhard, VW brand chief from 2005-2007, were forced out of their jobs after repeated clashes with Volkswagen’s works council. +++ 

+++ Betting big on the South Korean market with a focus on superior customer service, VOLVO has introduced a lifetime auto parts warranty here (the first such guarantee by a carmaker there) while vowing to increase its network by 25 %. “The introduction of lifetime warranty will dramatically decrease consumer concerns over the maintenance cost of an imported vehicle, as well as enable them to enjoy the attractive features of our vehicles for a long time”, said Volvo Cars Korea CEO Lee Yoon-mo. The automaker has been recording double-digit growth for 8 consecutive years and sold a total of 10.570 units of cars last year; about 24 % increase on-year. It has also marked over 10.000 units of annual sales last year for the first time. Based on such momentum, the automaker said it would continue to give priority to customer service and network expansion so customers can enjoy the experience of “Swedish luxury”. The lifetime service will allow customers to receive repairs on auto parts that have been changed at its official after sales service center, regardless of the number of times they have received the service and how long they have had the car. Those who have changed auto parts after June 1 and have agreed to offer personal information to Volvo Cars Korea will be eligible to receive the lifetime warranty, the company said. But those who change the registered owner certificate or personally repair or remodel the vehicle’s auto parts will not be eligible, according to Volvo. Currently, there are 27 service centers across the country with 3 more sceduled to open in Busan, Cheonan and Suwon this year. The automaker said it has been diversifying service center locations to increase contact point for customers. In May, Volvo Cars Korea opened its first service center on Jeju Island, a region which has risen as a new market for imported car sales following the influx of population and high demand of travelers. In April, 2 service centers opened in Gyeonggi Province: in Pangyo and Uijeongbu. +++

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