Newsflash: nieuwe V6 motor van Maserati wordt 550 pk sterk


+++ FORD is now offering a range of connected vehicle services for free to European customers, allowing them to monitor and control a number of features in their cars from their smartphone. The offer is eligible for both new and existing models fitted with a FordPass Connect modem and includes services like checking the vehicle’s health, fuel and oil levels, range, and locking/unlocking doors via the company’s FordPass mobile app. Previously, Ford offered these services to new vehicle customers under a 2-year trial subscription for €99, but the company has now waived the subscription fees for the aforementioned connected features. With the FordPass app, drivers can also enjoy features such as remotely starting the vehicle’s engine (for models fitted with an automatic transmission) as well as operating the climate control system before setting out. The app also shows the vehicle’s precise location and can send push notifications and in-app alerts, such as low tire pressure or a burned light bulb. Owners of electrified models, such as the new Kuga PHEV, will also enjoy additional features; alongside the usual battery level and electric range information, the FordPass app can inform owners about the off-peak electricity tariffs when scheduling their charging while it can also warm or cool the cabin while the vehicle is plugged in while still allowing the battery to offer the maximum driving range. “From now on, every customer in Europe who buys a Ford can benefit from a range of complementary connected vehicle services. This is an important part of delivering on our promise to make smart vehicles for a smart world”, said Richard Bunn, FordPass director of Ford Europe. +++ 

+++ The FORD MUSTANG MACH-E has yet to arrive in showrooms and already it appears many American dealerships are asking premiums for the all-electric crossover. Prices for the entry-level Mustang Mach-E starts at $43,895, but the first examples to hit the roads will be the appropriately named Mach-E First Edition, which starts at $59,900. Ford has been accepting pre-orders for quite some time now, but those who failed to secure an order may have to pay an expensive premium at their local dealership. Dealerships are adding excessive premiums to the EV, with one person claiming a local dealer is requesting $15,000 extra for the Mach-E. While trying to make a quick buck out of a new model is nothing new, I don’t condone it, and the good news is that there is a way for customers looking to lock in a Mustang Mach-E without paying a cent over the normal price. In fact, there is a growing list of dealerships that have confirmed they will not charge customers an Additional Dealer Markup (ADM). In the lead up to the Mustang Mach-E’s market launch, Ford has dropped new information about some of the perks buyers will enjoy. Most recently, Ford said buyers in the U.S. will receive 250 kilowatt-hours of free charging from Electrify America’s fast-charger network. That equates to between 3 and 5 full DC fast charges depending on the Mach-E variant and the size of its battery pack. Earlier this month, Ford also announced the range-topping Mach-E GT will be available in Cyber Orange and Dark Matter Gray, in addition to the existing Rapid Red Metallic, Star White Metallic Tri-Coat, Iconic Silver, Grabber Blue, Shadow Black, and Space White. +++ 

+++ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) expects car sales in ITALY to fall by at least 35 % this year due to the new coronavirus crisis, Pietro Gorlier, FCA’s chief operating officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa said. The first half of the year saw a 50 % year-on-year drop with sales close to zero in March and April, Gorlier said, adding that there were still 450.000 vehicles in stock. +++ 

+++ Over the past few days, I understand Tata Sons’ top people have been conducting final interviews for the person who’ll step into some of the most prized and most difficult shoes in the business as CEO of JAGUAR LAND ROVER . The process has been going on for a while; it was announced back in January that Ralf Speth would be stepping down (or should that be up?) to become non-executive vice chairman of JLR and to sit on the board of Tata Sons. No doubt he is involved in the process of appointing his successor, along with chairman of the board of Tata Sons, Natarajan Chandrasekaran. But with just 3 months until the new CEO takes over, they haven’t got long to make the right decision. And how crucial that decision is. The Jaguar Land Rover story has had its twists and turns under Speth’s leadership, but he has helped to build JLR into a firm that is the envy of the world. Few car companies have the provenance that both Jaguar and Land Rover have. JLR is not, and never should be, just another premium auto maker. The world has enough of them: homogeneous posh car brands that are seemingly interchangeable: BMW, Mercedes, Audi, plus others that want to be like them. JLR doesn’t and shouldn’t. Jaguar and Land Rover are different; they always have been and always must be. And JLR needs a leader with a degree of provenance and difference, too: someone who can bring about real change, but also a degree of stability. More than anything, these great brands need to be understood. And there are not many people I can think of across the industry who could do that, who can see and maximise the opportunity the engineering revolution ahead of us can bring for these great British companies. There’s also one other must-have: whoever it is has to have the personality to inspire the company and its customers in equal measure. We should find out who it is very soon, so let’s hope Tata Sons makes the right decision. +++ 

+++ From the beginning of this month, launches of a series of new car models have been announced by automakers in JAPAN , who had been refraining from doing so due to the coronavirus outbreak. Amid a sharp decrease in automobile sales around the world, companies have continued to adjust production while planning to promptly recover by featuring cars with newly equipped technology. Nissan held a presentation of its new SUV model Kicks. The hybrid vehicle uses e-Power, the company’s unique technology, to strengthen acceleration performance. This was the first time in about 10 years that Nissan has domestically introduced a new ordinary car. This is the first step to recover for Nissan, which has delayed launching new models within Japan, resulting in its sluggish domestic sales. “Japan is an important market”, Asako Hoshino, an executive vice president of the company, said at an online briefing. “Beginning with the Kicks line, we will deliver more of our attractive cars”. Toyota released the luxury SUV model Harrier, which has been fully revamped for the first time in 7 years, on June 17. Daihatsu launched Taft, a light SUV with enhancing collision safety performance using a newly-developed sensor, on June 10. Honda and Mazda also plan to introduce mass-produced electric vehicles for the first time in the future. The domestic sales of new cars in May dropped by 45 % from the figure in the same month last year. Because the economic prospects are uncertain, many people concerned are adopting a cautious approach with an official of Japan Automobile Dealers Association saying, “It is difficult to recover all at once”, after June. In response to the recovery of demand for new cars, on the other hand, Toyota will reduce the scale of production adjustment to a roughly 10 % drop in July and a roughly 40 % reduction in June, differing from their initial plans. Mazda’s production in June almost halved from the same month last year. But the company is expected to recover up to 75 % in July. Whether a series of new car launches will trigger a turnaround in sales is under great scrutiny. +++ 

+++ KIA unveiled its new Carnival minivan on Wednesday. The vehicle has undergone a full facelift for the first time in 6 years. Its headlights are connected to the grille, giving it a bolder and more voluminous look. It also sports tail lights on the rear. The chassis is 40 mm wider and 10 mm longer than the previous model. The new Carnival will hit showrooms in the third quarter. Kia has topped the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study in the US, securing the highest rank for 6 consecutive years as a mass market auto brand, the firm said Thursday. The J.D. Power IQS is a US study that began in 1987 and assesses vehicle product quality based on the problems experienced by owners during their first 90 days of ownership. Using the 223 criteria, a total of 189 vehicles from 31 brands (13 premium and 18 mass market) have been evaluated this year, with a lower score reflecting higher quality. All the vehicles were 2020 models. Kia earned 136 points, compared with the overall average of 166 points, placing it in a tie with Dodge. Kia’s compact sedan K3, Soul, Sorento and Carnival got top marks for quality in each category, placing the automaker in a tie with Cadillac for the segment winner award. This General Motors brand also had 4 of its vehicles top the list. Additionally, 7 of Hyundai Motor Group’s models won awards for quality, including the Genesis G70, Tucson and Veloster. +++ 

+++ MASERATI ‘s forthcoming twin-turbo V6 will reportedly produce 550 hp in some applications and displace 3.0-litres. After debuting in the MC20 mid-engine sports car, the powerplant will allegedly be under the hood of at least 3 more models. The mill will be Maserati’s replacement for its Ferrari-sourced V8. In addition to the MC20, the new V6 will be available in the upcoming successors to the GranTurismo and GranCabrio. It’ll be under the bonnet of a forthcoming smaller SUV slotting below the Levante. The version for the sports cars will allegedly make 550 hp and the SUV will have 530 hp. Even the standard version of the engine will reportedly have a level of electrification. This is contrary to earlier reports that indicate there would be a separate hybrid model. It’s possible that there could be multiple levels of electrical assistance. The twin-turbo V6 will allegedly use a technology called turbulent jet ignition. The system uses the space usually for the spark plug to create a chamber for ultra lean-burning combustion. This setup boosts efficiency and reduces emissions. Mahle previously supplied similar tech to the Ferrari Formula One team. Maserati will be busy debuting new models for the rest of the year. The refreshed Ghibli will arrive with a hybrid powertrain on July 15 and electrically assisted versions of the refreshed Levante plus Quattroporte will come later. The MC20 will have its unveiling in September after a delay from the original plan to premiere it in May due to the coronavirus pandemic. The smaller, still-unnamed SUV will arrive in 2021. +++ 

+++ The MCLAREN Group looks set to arrange a loan from the National Bank of Bahrain as it seeks the finances with which to address an urgent cash shortfall. The move would allow the company to obtain at least the first stage of the required refinancing from a ‘friendly’ organisation that shares a significant part of its ownership with McLaren itself. The NBB is 44 % owned by the Mumtalakat Holding Company, Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, which also owns 56 % of McLaren. A loan between the 2 parties would be on more favourable terms than those available on the financial markets. Court documents have indicated that McLaren is seeking £280 million, and that new funding is required by mid-July as the impact of the Covid-19 crisis hits the company hard. McLaren Holdings recently launched a legal action in order to free up its Woking properties and collection of historic cars to help raise cash via mortgages, or a sale of the latter. The company has several options open, using both the properties and the car collection. However thus far any move has been blocked by a group of bondholders who have security over the key assets, and don’t want to release them to be used to raise new funding. They have their own plan to provide McLaren with a loan, but on terms that are not acceptable to the company. McLaren noted that the bond holders “are seeking to create a situation in which the Group has no choice but to accept their alternative financing proposal on terms dictated by them, regardless of the impact on the Group’s other creditors and its stakeholders”. Last week, a judge agreed to fast-track a trial through the UK courts starting on July 2 as McLaren seeks to release its assets and proceed with its own plans to raise cash. It’s understood that the NBB loan could potentially happen in the short term, and without that legal action first proving successful. In effect, the Bahrain connections mean that it won’t necessarily be a requirement that the properties and heritage cars are released and available as security. +++ 

+++ If you want to gauge just how agile a car is and how controllable it is in sudden manoeuvres, then subjecting it to the industry standard moose test yields clear irrefutable results. It highlights how heavier cars or ones with a higher centre of gravity don’t perform as well as lighter, better balanced cars. What’s even more interesting is that it shows differences between the same car fitted with either a traditional petrol power plant or an electric (or electrified) powertrain. A great example of how this can really differ based on what powers a car is the MINI 3-door hatchback which was recently launched as the all-electric Cooper SE. Reviewers have said it’s undeniably fun to drive and that it retains the characteristic Mini handling. However, based on testfindings, it’s clear that it’s not quite as good through the corners as the petrol-burning Mini.The Mini Cooper 5-door model was tested a few years back and its maximum speed was 80 km/h; chances are, if they had tested the lighter 3-door Mini Cooper it could have been even faster. The recently tested Cooper SE only managed a maximum speed through the manoeuvre of 77 km/h. This is due to the SE’s higher overall mass: it’s around 200 kg heavier than a comparable 3-door Cooper S and this does have a negative effect on the way it handles. That’s why even the slightly larger and heavier 5-door Cooper S still beat it in the moose test. And since the Cooper SE shares its motor with the i3S, it’s worth noting that the BMW was able to complete the moose test at 79 km/h. Not quite as good as the petrol-burning Cooper S, but better than the Cooper SE, probably due to its better-balanced rear-wheel drive chassis. +++ 

+++ Truth be told, MITSUBISHI isn’t selling well in Europe. The dominance of the Outlander PHEV in the Old Continent isn’t enough to keep the brand alive, despite an impressive resilience from increased number of competitors and newer rivals in the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle segment. In fact, Mitsubishi CEO Takao Kato said that the shift in strategy back in 2017 financial year only led to a 30 % increase in cost compared to the most recent fiscal year that ended last March, but not with profits. With that, it doesn’t take a genius to know that it’s time for a change in pace in these megamarkets, as Kato referred to Europe as a megamarket. “Under such circumstances, we made a shift in policy to ‘small but beautiful’ “, Kato said. The ‘small but beautiful’ isn’t actually explained further by Kato in the report, although we can assume that he’s referring to a small number of vehicles in the marque’s European lineup, reserved for those that still sell to European customers. The Outlander PHEV will likely remain, considering that it’s getting a next-generation model by the end of this year. However, the exact list of nameplates to soldier on in Europe is yet to be revealed. Mitsubishi said that its new midterm plan will be revealed in a few weeks, which will probably happen around June 30 at the brand’s financial report for the quarter. What’s definite is Mitsubishi’s shift in focus to the ASEAN market, particularly in its midsize SUV and pickup truck where it currently has a fighting chance. Under the Renault – Mitsubishi -Nissan alliance’s leader-follower strategy, Mitsubishi will lead the way in the ASEAN countries, as well as in plugin hybrid technology. +++ 

+++ NISSAN has dropped another teaser of its upcoming Ariya electric crossover and announced it will officially premiere in July. Previewed by the Ariya Concept that debuted at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, it will boast a similar lighting signature at the front, with the traditional grille flanked by 2 LED strips. It still features a sloping roofline and roof-mounted spoiler, and when it debuts in a few weeks, it will have toned down bumpers, more conventional door handles and few other revisions, as previewed by the patent images that surfaced online in April. Slotting under the new generation X-Trail in terms of size, the crossover will ride on a dedicated electric vehicle platform. It is expected with the ProPilot semi-autonomous driving system, which will support hands-off driving on the motorway, as well as the latest safety and technology systems available at Nissan. I don’t know anything about the powertrain, except that it will be fully electric and will comprise 2 motors: one on each axle. “The world is looking for a leap forward. The Ariya Concept answered the call with its rethinking of the crossover segment from the ground up, including striking design features, interior amenities and space, and sports car-like performance”, the automaker said in the short release accompanying the teaser. “Even a conventional element like the traditional front grille has evolved into a stunning ‘shield’ to protect important technology used for the latest ProPilot driver assistance”. Nissan said that car sales in Japan were recovering after a drop in demand in April and May due to the impact of the coronavirus. “If you look at the market, in April and May there was a big decline in demand, but this is recovering sharply”, executive vice president Asako Hoshino said during a livestreamed event to launch the e-Power version of the automaker’s Kicks SUV model for the Japan market. “If this situation lasts, we believe demand will return to pre-coronavirus levels”, she added. +++ 

+++ PSA chief executive Carlos Tavares is confident a $50 billion merger of the maker of Peugeot vehicles with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will proceed as planned and deliver synergies of at least €3.7 billion. The deal to create the world’s 4th-largest carmaker has become even more vital because of the impact of the coronavirus crisis and to speed up cost savings, Tavares told PSA’s annual shareholder meeting. “The merger with FCA is the best among the solutions to cope with the crisis and its uncertainties”. Global car sales have slumped as measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic forced production lines to shut and showrooms to close, with carmakers scrambling to conserve cash in the industry’s worst since the 2008-09 financial crisis. Tavares also played down fresh European Union antitrust scrutiny of the planned merger, adding that he was confident it would be finalised in the first quarter 2021 “at the latest”. “The timetable of the merger with FCA is being strictly respected”, he said, adding that projected synergies of €3.7 billion from the deal was a “floor”. EU antitrust regulators last week began a 4-month investigation into the deal, saying it may harm competition in small vans in 14 European countries and Great Britain. The 2 carmakers declined to offer concessions to allay EU concerns during its preliminary review of the deal, which has already received the green light in the United States, China, Japan and Russia. Tavares said the “time has not come to discuss this issue” when asked if terms could be revised to reflect the downturn in the global auto industry, adding that the benefits of the deal must be appreciated over the long term and PSA was focused on the binding agreement with FCA. PSA and FCA have however already revised one aspect of the merger. In May, they said that they would not pay their planned ordinary dividend on 2019 results, citing the negative impact of the pandemic. A €1.1 billion ordinary dividend for both FCA and PSA was announced in December as part of their agreement. +++ 

+++ Detroit-area automakers made their strongest showing ever in an annual survey of vehicle QUALITY , as once-dominant Japanese brands faded. The annual survey by J.D. Power also found that luxury brands performed below the industry average, often because they come equipped with more glitchy new electronics than mainstream brands. Most Detroit-area brands outpaced the industry average in problems per 100 vehicles, with Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge brand tying for first place with Kia of South Korea. It was the first time a Detroit brand finished first in the survey, now in its 34th year. 5 of the top 10 brands were from Detroit, with Chevrolet and Ram tied for third, followed by Genesis, Mitsubishi, Buick, GMC, Volkswagen and Hyundai. Dodge and Kia tied at 136 problems per 100 vehicles. Land Rover ranked last with owners reporting 228 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Audi, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar. Toyota, which traditionally ranks in the top 10, dropped below the industry average to 21st out of 32 brands included in the survey with 177 problems per 100 vehicles. Detroit automakers benefited from a change in the study’s methodology, which was updated this year to include more questions about new technology, said Doug Betts, president of J.D. Power’s Automotive Division and a former quality chief for Fiat Chrysler. The survey is redone every 5 years, and questions were added about features that didn’t exist during the last update, he said. As a result, owners reported more problems within the first 90 days of owning 2020 models, raising the industry average from a record low 93 problems per 100 vehicles last year to 166 problems this year. That doesn’t mean quality is getting worse; it just means that more questions were asked about newer features, Betts said. Some questions, such as those about exterior rust or outside lights failing, were dropped from the survey because they don’t happen very often anymore, he said. Infotainment systems remained the most problematic category, accounting for almost one-quarter of all problems. The biggest owner complaints were about poor voice recognition systems or difficulty connecting vehicles to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay systems. In the past, the survey found mechanical problems often plagued Detroit automakers. But over the years, the differences evened out with nearly all automakers performing well, Betts said. That leaves the performance of new technology as the main factor differentiating between brands. “More and more of these features, if they don’t work the way you want them to work, and they’re not useful to you, that’s a problem you can’t get fixed”, Betts said. Detroit automakers have paid more attention to getting these systems right, while Japanese automakers generally haven’t done as well, he added. The Dodge brand, which for years has ranked low in quality, was aided by its relatively old model lineup, because engineers have had time to work out bugs, Betts said. The highest-ranked vehicle in the survey was the Chevrolet Sonic (Aveo), with only 103 problems per 100 vehicles, largely because it’s been produced for 8 years and doesn’t have many new electronic features, Betts said. For the first time, the survey included a score for electric car maker Tesla, which had a very high 250 problems per 100 vehicles. Betts said the score can’t be ranked against other brands because J.D. Power wasn’t able to survey Tesla owners in all states. In 15 states, J.D. Power needs a manufacturer’s permission to survey owners, which Tesla refuses to allow, Betts said. So the score doesn’t include states including California, where Tesla sells many of its vehicles, he said. Most of Tesla’s problems came from the manufacturing process such as paint defects, poorly fitting body panels and squeaks and rattles, Betts said. The survey, taken from February through May, was based on responses from 87.282 people who bought or leased 2020 model year vehicles, J.D. Power said. +++ 

+++ More than 50 % of British motorists said that they would be more likely to take up EV ownership if the government introduced a SCRAPPAGE SCHEME for petrol and diesel cars. The findings from a nationwide survey from nationwide EV charge point installer Smart Home Charge at a time where speculation suggests that the announcement of such a scheme could be just around the corner as the government pushes towards a zero-emissions future. In the survey, 50.4 % of respondents said they would either ‘definitely’ buy a new EV or would be ‘more likely to’ if a scrappage scheme was to be introduced. However just 10 % said that such a scheme would not pursuade them to buy an EV, while 7.3 % said they would be more inclined to lease or rent an EV rather than buy one outright. “Our survey has shown that most people understand how petrol and diesel cars can negatively impact their local environment, particularly air quality”, said Danny Morgan, editor at Smart Home Charge. “It also shows many people are willing to do something about it, including switching to an electric car. “But buying any brand new or used car can be a significant investment, so a Government contribution in the form of a scrappage scheme to encourage electric car ownership would not only be a boost to the UK automotive industry but would also be a big step in helping this country achieve its net-zero carbon economy target by 2050”. The same survey also quizzed people about the effects of the coronavirus lockdown. Most (99.3 %) said that they had noticed less conjestion, while 88.3 % said they noticed there being less noise pollution: 98.3 % agreed that electric cars would help reduce noise pollution further. On the subject of air quality, nearly three quarters of the survey’s participants (72.5 %) said that air quality was ‘very important’ to them, with 97 % reporting that the lockdown had a positive effect on air quality. A further 68.4 % blamed petrol and diesel cars for having a negative impact on air quality. Following the changes brought about by the lockdown, 26 % said that they would now try to drive less, with 19.2 % saying they would now consider walking or cycling instead for short trips into town or to the shops. “Air quality and noise pollution have always been quite abstract things to discuss”, said Smart Home Charge editor Danny Morgan. “We know we want less pollution, but we’ve never really experienced what it would be like in our towns and cities. Plus, driving is part of the fabric of everyday life, so we don’t always make the connection between the two. However, one positive from the lockdown has meant far fewer cars on the road and, for the first time in a long time, people have experienced the benefits of quieter roads and less pollution from car tailpipes. Clearly, electric cars won’t solve the congestion problems we have, but the knock-on effect has been people are more willing to consider a fully electric car because their priorities have changed: better air quality and less noise are both something to strive for and EVs can help with that”. +++ 

+++ The road to fully SELF-DRIVING CARS looks to have sped up significantly thanks to the use of deepfake software, a technology that can generate thousands of photo-realistic images in minutes. The use of deepfake tech means self-driving systems can be ‘taught’ to recognise countless driving environments, allowing developers to simulate different weather conditions, times of day, buildings, and other variables, such as altered road markings. These simulations are photorealistic, despite being confined to the virtual world, and can recreate road environments from anywhere in the world. Exposing autonomous car systems to a variety of driving environments is vital, as any truly self driving car that may arrive in the future must be able to deal with the infinitely variable road environments that exist from hour to hour around the globe. By bringing these situations out of the real world and into the virtual one, developers are able to significantly speed up how quickly self-driving vehicles will arrive. The breakthrough comes from Oxford-based firm Oxbotica, which says the deepfake tech can produce “thousands of accurately-labelled, true-to-life experiences and rehearsals”, with a level of detail that recreates individual raindrops on windscreens. Paul Newman, co-founder and chief technology officer at Oxbotica, said deepfakes present “an incredible opportunity for us to increase the speed and efficiency” of self-driving car development, adding that the software: “enables us to test countless scenarios, which will not only enable us to scale our real-world testing exponentially; it’ll also be safer”. Oxbotica says that while there will never be a substitute for real-world testing, deepfakes mean a far greater number of scenarios can be used than if on-road testing were the only source of machine learning. The company is using two different pieces of software in its deepfake trials, with one creating the fake images, and another detecting which images are real, and which are reproductions. Once the detection software is unable to tell the difference between a real scenario and a rendered one, the creation software is then judged ready to generate scenarios to ‘teach’ self-driving car systems. Deepfakes (the word is a blend of ‘deep learning’ and ‘fake’) came to prominence in viral and other online videos, with the sophisticated software allowing people’s faces to be digitally imposed on the bodies of others, with a high degree of realism. While there have been significant concerns that deepfakes allow, for example, foreign states to create fake videos of politicians in compromising or controversial situations, the technology is now clearly being put to a more positive use. +++ 

+++ TESLA plans to build a battery research and manufacturing facility in Fremont, California, to be operated around the clock, under a project dubbed Roadrunner, documents from the city government showed. The plan signals the U.S. electric vehicle maker’s efforts to make its own automotive batteries, EVs’ most expensive components. Tesla, which said it currently has a “small-scale” battery manufacturing operation in Fremont, applied for city government approval to build an expanded battery operation. It estimated construction of the project, including the installation of all manufacturing equipment, can be completed in around 3 months. Workers assigned to the facility would total 470, of which 400 would “work in shifts, such that there are 100 employees working at manufacturing and production operations at any given time, all day, every day”. Chief executive Elon Musk earlier this week said it will give a tour of Tesla’s battery cell production on September 15, the tentative date for what the automaker has dubbed Battery Day. Tesla currently produces batteries with Panasonic at the so-called Gigafactory in Nevada. It also has battery contracts with LG Chem and CATL. +++ 

+++ TOPLESS DRIVING is not as risky as you might think. A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that late-model convertibles are statistically just as safe as their hardtop counterparts. If you’ve been on the fence about purchasing a topless summer cruiser, this might be just the nudge you needed. “Despite the relatively flimsy appearance of their roof structures, late-model convertibles are no riskier than non-convertibles, according to the analysis of crash and fatality rates”, the Institute said in its announcement. Author Eric Teoh compiled National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) injury and fatality data from 2014 to 2018, comparing convertibles to their fixed-roof equivalents. Accounting for factors such as impairment and seat belt use and the circumstances of individual accidents, he found that crashes involving convertibles produced in the past five years were not statistically more likely to result in injury or death. “These findings don’t suggest that convertibles offer better protection for their occupants than other cars, but they do indicate there’s no statistical basis for concerns that the lack of a permanent roof makes them more dangerous”, said Teoh, IIHS director of statistical services. There were some other noteworthy findings, likely due to the recreational aspirations of convertible buyers. They were involved in 6 % fewer accidents per miles traveled than their equivalent hardtops. On the flip side (so to speak), drivers and passengers are more likely to be ejected from convertible models when an accident does happen. In this case, the fatality data back up common sense. “21 % of the convertible drivers killed in crashes were ejected from the vehicle, compared with 17 % for conventional cars. Among rollover crashes, the likelihood of ejection was 43 % for convertibles versus 35 % for their nonconvertible counterparts”, the study found. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA is recalling about 752/000 gas-electric hybrid vehicles worldwide because the engines can lose power and stall. The recall covers certain 2013 to 2015 Prius and 2014 to 2017 Prius+ hybrids. The company says in a statement that the hybrids are designed to go into a fail-safe mode if there are faults in the hybrid system. But in rare instances, they may not go into fail-safe and the engines could lose power and stall. Toyota says that power steering and braking would stay on, but at higher speeds, the stalling could raise the risk of a crash. Dealers will update the hybrid software at no cost to owners. Anyone who had an inverter failure with the system faults will get a new one, the company says. Owners will be notified in late August. +++ 

+++ TVR is attempting to raise fresh capital in order to take its reborn Griffith sports car to production, having outlined to investors a plan for adding new derivatives and even future-proofing the model for the electric age. There have been no public updates from the company since March, when it confirmed that a planning application had been submitted to Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council for refurbishing a factory on an industrial estate in Ebbw Vale, South Wales. The building is to be turned around by the Welsh government before being leased to TVR. The council said a decision on planning approval still hasn’t been made. The Welsh government told earlier this year that the site would become TVR’s factory only once the company could prove that it had raised the capital needed to start car production. TVR chairman Les Edgar previously claimed that factory delays were the result of European Union bureaucracy caused by the Welsh government’s involvement. Company accounts published in March reveal that TVR is owed more than £8.23 million from debtors, has net assets of just over £2.1 million and, despite having road-registered one Griffith earlier this year, has no listed employees beyond company directors. TVR must also pay off a £2 million loan from the Welsh government and a £3 million loan from financial firm Fiduciam Nominees. Despite TVR’s directors revealing a requirement for additional funding via securitisation bonds and insisting they “have no particular reason to expect that such funding will not be secured”, auditors stated that a “material uncertainty exists that may cast doubt on the company’s ability to continue as a going concern”. TVR is attempting to raise £25 million by issuing bonds on the Dublin stock exchange through Irish firm Audacia Capital, having been unsuccessful with London-based Pello Capital. It’s believed that all of that sum is required to take the Griffith through to production and tool the Ebbw Vale factory. TVR is now predominantly targeting enthusiast investors who understand the brand, its history and its Blackpool roots. In an investment overview published by Audacia, TVR maintains that it has an order book in excess of £40 million, with the first year’s production of the Griffith Launch Edition sold out. However, at least a small number of orders have been cancelled by depositors who were originally expecting to receive their cars more than 1 year ago. When asked to comment on funding status, TVR chief executive officer Jim Berriman claimed there had been some “game-changing progress” in the past couple of months and that there’s a proposed timeline for the factory to be up and running. “We’re working closely with our Welsh government partners on realising this”, he said. The investor overview also details TVR’s product plan. It intends to initially focus on the UK, before sales in Continental Europe and eventual expansion into North America, the Middle East, Japan and Australia. The Griffith Launch Edition is described as “the first product in a sustained product portfolio expansion”, which will include convertible versions, hotter derivatives, track-only specials, more than one facelift and a one-make racing series. TVR also claims hybrid and battery-electric powertrains would be available before 2030 and likely to be sourced from Ford, which supplies the Griffith’s 5.0-litre V8. The document also reveals plans even beyond the Griffith, with cars at different price points said to be “under strategic evaluation”. +++ 

+++ During an online conference, VOLKSWAGEN sales boss Christian Dahlheim spoke about the car industry bouncing back to pre-coronavirus levels, stating that the recovery could last into 2022 as far as Europe is concerned. He also said that in terms of global markets, China will most likely recover the quickest, while the U.S. market’s recovery remains somewhat difficult to predict. “The U.S. is probably the same picture as Europe, but it is probably the most difficult to predict”. The German carmaker thus expects to see a V-shaped recovery going forward into 2022. “The question is how steep is that V”, stated Dahlheim.
While the VW exec didn’t expand on why the U.S. recovery is more difficult to forecast, analysts have claimed that a rebound could be halted by a resurgence in coronavirus cases. “There is a threat of demand being impacted by another wave of the pandemic”, said Cox Automotive economist Jonathan Smoke in an interview earlier this month. As for where Dahlheim’s optimism lies, it is with China, the VW Group’s largest market. “In China the V has been very steep so we expect China to come back to normal levels. It’s already there right now and will continue to do so”. Then there’s South America, where the turnaround could “last well into 2023”, added the sales executive, who also believes that economic recovery will be impacted by the resulting increase in national debt moving forward. “So far we see very encouraging signs of demand recovery as the dealers reopen, but we do expect a certain economic impact. The governments still have to pay back the money”. +++

+++ My spy photographers have spotted a plug-in hybrid version of the upcoming VOLKSWAGEN TRANSPORTER T7 undergoing testing at the Nurburgring. Due to go on sale next year it will compete against the likes of the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter and Vauxhall Vivaro. The main giveaway that this is the plug-in hybrid version of Volkswagen’s next-generation Transporter is the extra filler door on the van’s front right quarter panel, which is hiding a charging socket. The latest images also offer further substance to the rumours that the new Transporter will make the shift to Volkswagen’s MQB underpinnings. All of the company’s current PHEV models are based on this platform and Volkswagen is unlikely to develop an all-new chassis to house the technology in the Transporter, due to the high costs involved. As such, the new plug-in hybrid Transporter should feature the same powertrain as the Golf GTE. That powertrain comprises a turbocharged 1.4-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine and a 115 hp electric motor, for a maximum combined output of 245 hp and 400 Nm of torque. The rest of the Transporter’s engine range will be made up of the Volkswagen Group’s familiar range of turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel engines, which are used in cars such as the Tiguan and Passat. Like the T6.1, this new model should be offered with either front- or four- wheeldrive, too. The styling of the new Transporter will be an evolution of the current model but with touches taken from the brand’s latest passenger car range. The spy shoes show it has slightly more rounded corners and a wider glasshouse, while the front end styling also mimics that of the new Golf, sharing a similar radiator grille, bumper shape and LED headlamp design, with winglets that extend into the front quarter panel. Volkswagen has also extended the Transporter’s dashboard and windscreen over the front axle and slimmed down the A-pillars. The German firm has added a new quarter light window above the A-panel in an effort to improve visibility and allow more light into the cabin. Inside, I expect the Transporter T7 will feature a similar range of technology upgrades to the Golf, with the range topping model receiving a digital instrument binnacle and a new 10-inch infotainment system, along with the usual driver assistance technology, such as lane-keeping assist, cruise control and a blind-spot monitoring system. The previous-generation Transporter T6.1 was also available with an all-electric powertrain, which was developed collaboratively with the German tuning company, ABT. The system comprises a 112 hp electric motor and a 37.3 kWh battery pack, offering a claimed range of 150 kilometres. As such, an all-electric version of the new T7 is a probability in the van’s lifetime. +++

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