Newsflash: BMW X5 wordt ook leverbaar in waterstof uitvoering

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+++ AUDI boss Markus Duesmann told a German paper that his company is looking to get back to pre-Covid19 sales levels within the next 2 or 3 years. The carmaker is betting everything on the rising demand for electric vehicles, which benefit from government incentives. With that in mind, Audi hopes to sell some 40.000 e-Tron models this year, after parting with 17.000 units in the first 6 months of 2020. “We certainly expect the coronavirus crisis to have longer-term effects”, Duesmann told. “We have had a very difficult second quarter. Things are slowly picking up, but not as a sharp ‘V’ as one would wish for”, he said, while adding that some countries (like China) have rebounded quicker than others. While the e-Tron stands as a very important model for the Ingolstadt-based brand, Duesmann admitted that Tesla continues to have a significant technological lead in several areas. “Currently, Tesla has larger batteries because their cars are built around the batteries. Tesla is 2 years ahead in terms of computing and software architecture, and in autonomous driving as well”. Separately, it is now being reported that Volkswagen sales boss Jürgen Stackmann might be leaving his post as part of a larger management reshuffle. So far, we’ve seen Skoda chief Bernhard Maier, Traton head Andreas Renschler, commercials vehicles head Thomas Sedran and software head Christian Senger all step down. Speaking of the latter, Duesmann is now overseeing the Group’s Software Unit, and has already replaced Senger with Dirk Hilgenberg, a former senior vice president of manufacturing engineering at BMW. +++ 

+++ Back in March, BMW announced plans for a hydrogen-powered X5 scheduled for a limited production run come 2022. Now, it’s being reported that the vehicle will be called the i Hydrogen Next, just like the concept unveiled in Frankfurt last year. The carmaker now plans to produce as many drive variants as possible until one technology proves dominant with the masses. The technology “could have the potential to become another pillar in the portfolio of BMW”, stated CEO Oliver Zipse. Hydrogen fuel cell systems are still regarded as viable alternatives to fully-electric drivetrains, because the former offer faster refueling (3-4 minutes) and longer ranges. That however hasn’t stopped some carmakers from giving up on fuel cell tech due to high costs. Germany is looking to take the lead in the fuel cell sector after having presented a €7 billion plan last month to support its domestic hydrogen industry. The EU’s largest car market is targeting 5 gigawatts of green hydrogen production capacity by 2030, which then would double by 2035. Back to the i Hydrogen NEXT, its fuel cells were developed in partnership with Toyota and word has it that it will put down a total output of 374 hp. “The hydrogen fuel cell technology could quite feasibly become the 4th pillar of our powertrain portfolio in the long term”, said BMW board member Klaus Fröhlich back in March. “The upper-end models in our extremely popular X family would make particularly more suitable candidates here”. Does this mean we can expect to see a FCV version of the BMW X7? It kind of sounds like it, although it surely won’t happen anytime soon. +++ 

+++ CADILLAC is embracing a new naming scheme that embraces marks ending in ‘iq’. The first model to don such a moniker is the forthcoming Lyriq electric crossover. The American luxury brand will maintain the ‘iq’ momentum with the Celestiq; an electric flagship sedan concept that previews a production model bearing the same name. While General Motors has yet to announce what other ‘iq’ names it has in store for Cadillac, the company recently registered the Optiq and Symboliq (as well as Cadillac Optiq and Cadillac Symboliq) marks with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property. Admittedly, it’s possible General Motors merely applied for these trademarks to ensure no other company did, and the American automaker has no actual plans to apply the names to future Cadillac models. Given Cadillac’s claimed commitment to its new naming structure, though, it’s far more likely the Optiq and Symboliq marks will adorn forthcoming vehicles from the brand. If the Lyriq and Celestiq are any indication of what’s to come from Cadillac, then the Optiq and Symboliq may emerge as dedicated battery-electric vehicles. Nevertheless, it’s possible the names will appear on fuel-fed Cadillacs with internal combustion engines. Whether the Optiq and Symboliq represent all-new models or merely updates of the brand’s current alpha-numeric-badged products is not known at the moment. I reached out to Cadillac for comment on the Optiq and Symboliq marks, but have yet to hear back from a brand spokesperson. Hopefully, I’ll soon know if Cadillac merely trademarked these names as a Symboliq gesture toward, or as a true commitment to the Optiqs of, ditching alphanumeric marks for vocable monikers. +++ 

+++ DAIMLER ’s top labor leaders are rejecting possible factory closures or renegotiation of a pact that rules out forced layoffs until 2030, signaling tension with management that wants to make deeper cost cuts. If an agreement can’t be reached during a meeting, labor unions will rally their ranks at all factories and inform them about next steps, Daimler’s works council said. The labor deal and related job guarantees “are not up for debate”, the works council said in the memo signed by Michael Brecht, Daimler’s top labor representative and supervisory board member, and his deputy, Ergun Luemali. “We’re also not talking about factory closures”, they wrote. A spokeswoman for Daimler declined to comment on the letter. After weathering a dramatic slump last quarter better than feared, the maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars is turning attention back to the restructuring that management was struggling to get off the ground before the coronavirus pandemic. Daimler executives view the industry’s crisis as a catalyst for making the organization more efficient and nimble and for improving profit margins that have fallen behind its rivals. CEO Ola Källenius said that restructuring measures will stretch through 2025 instead of 2022, as initially planned. He declined to provide updated savings targets, citing ongoing talks with labor officials. Personnel chief Wilfried Porth said earlier this month Daimler must cut more than 15.000 jobs through voluntary measures and attrition to avoid forced layoffs. Daimler has expanded its labor-cost savings target to €2 billion from €1.4 billion, which could jeopardize roughly 20.000 positions, people familiar with the matter said. Some German media report that as many as 30.000 jobs could be eliminated worldwide. Daimler’s labor leaders remain open for talks over joint efforts to improve earnings, but said management has not addressed plans for headcount reductions, factory closures or labor deal changes in recent negotiations. “Therefore we expect from the company’s leadership to decisively oppose the speculation by the media”, they said in the letter. Daimler employs almost 300.000 people across the globe. Daimler is in the midst of an interesting process of reconstructing its business. Or, rather, restructuring its operations, which includes deeper ties with other manufacturers, rethinking of the Smart brand, and turning Mercedes-Benz into a much more than just a carmaker. In fact, Daimler’s lead designer believes the marque is already more of a lifestyle brand than an automaker. In a recent interview, Daimler and Mercedes chief design officer Gorden Wagener provided details about the latter’s transition into a luxury lifestyle brand that offers a wide range of products, varying from small electric city cars to Maybach limousines. “I don’t see us as an automotive company so much but more of a lifestyle and luxury brand as our work goes way beyond cars”, Wagener said when asked to define the company he is working for. “We already feature in the list of the most influential lifestyle brands and our vision, for the next 10 years, is to make Mercedes the most loved luxury brand. We know we have the potential and to do so will come from design, from creating emotion. This doesn’t just come from the products, but the ecosystem around it”. Getting back to the automotive aspect of Mercedes’ business, Wagener assured the brand’s electric concept cars are as close as possible to the actual production EQ branded electric vehicles. Of course, don’t expect to see anything close to the shape-shifting Vision AVTR concept on the assembly lines but the “Vision cars are around 80 % reality, so you will see much of what is on the concept cars in our production EQs”. I am also happy to learn about Mercedes’ intentions to turn EQ into a lot more than just a line of electric vehicles. Eventually, Wagener wants to see it become a standalone brand but at least for now he sees it “as an independent brand taking on the whole Mercedes product family from A to S”. +++ 

+++ The new FORD Bronco has been dominating the headlines and a new report says a pickup version is in the works. This new truck will battle the Jeep Gladiator. This shouldn’t be too surprising as the Bronco is based on an upgraded version of the Ranger’s frame. Unfortunately, the truck is several years off as it should arrive in mid-2024 as a 2025 model. However, Ford has reportedly prioritized development and this could result in a launch as early as 2022. Like the Gladiator, the Bronco pickup will reportedly be offered exclusively in a crew cab configuration. It’s also slated to feature the same equipment and trim levels as the standard model. Engine options would presumably carryover and include a 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder that develops 274 hp and 420 Nm. There should also be a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 with 314 hp and 542 Nm. While the standard Bronco is expected to get a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 engine in the future, possibly in the Bronco Raptor, it reportedly won’t be offered on the pickup. Instead, the magazine speculates it could receive a 5.0-liter V8. Putting that aside, we can expect a 7-speed manual and a 10-speed automatic transmission. Both should be paired to a standard 4-wheel drive system. +++ 

+++ The son of former Nissan chairman Carlos GHOSN made about $500,000 in crypto currency payments to 1 of the 2 Massachusetts men who helped him escape from Japan, U.S. prosecutors said in a court filing. Federal prosecutors in filing said the payments went to Peter Taylor after he and his father, U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor, helped Ghosn flee in a box and private jet to avoid facing financial charges. The cryptocurrency, or digital currency, payments from Ghosn’s son, Anthony Ghosn, were on top of $862,500 Ghosn himself had wired to a company Peter Taylor managed in October, 2 months before his December 29 escape, prosecutors said. Prosecutors detailed the payments in a filing arguing against the Taylors’ latest bid to be released on bail. They have been in jail since their arrests in May at the request of Japan, which is seeking their extradition. U.S. prosecutors cited the money in arguing that both the elder Taylor, a private security specialist, and his son pose a severe flight risk, saying they “now have access to Ghosn’s vast resources with which to flee”. Prosecutors cited a recent TV interview Ghosn gave in which he said he was helping everyone who stood with him. Ghosn fled to Lebanon, his childhood home, after being charged with engaging in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan’s financial statements. He denies wrongdoing. The Taylors argue the charges against them are fatally flawed as the Japanese penal code does not make it a criminal offense to help someone “bail jump” unless that person is in custody. A federal judge will hear arguments on their latest bid for bail later this month. +++ 

+++ BMW has showcased the kidney grille that will be used by the all-electric INEXT when it hits the assembly line in 2021. As the BMW iNext will be an all-electric vehicle, it doesn’t need a traditional front grille to cool an engine. Nevertheless, the German automaker has decided its front end should still be defined by a kidney grille, albeit one that is solid and rather than providing any type of cooling, it instead houses a bunch of important technologies. According to BMW, the iNext’s grille houses various radar functions, camera technology and other sensors that are key in ensuring the vehicle is ready for fully automated driving. The grille was developed at BMW Group’s Landshut Lightweight Construction and Technology Center (LuTZ). BMW refers to the grille as the ‘eye’ of the iNext and says the Landshut site will produce a host of other innovative components for the car, including its innovative electric drive system. “Automated driving is a huge chance for Germany as an industrial location. With future-oriented technologies, we are generating decisive competitive advantages. Especially during the current transformation of our sector, our in-house component production at Landshut is assuming more than ever the role of an innovation hub”, member of the board of management of BMW responsible for Purchasing and Supplier Network, Andreas Wendt said. “In addition to highly automated driving, mobility of the future will be characterized by electric mobility and digitalisation, the iNext is synonymous with all of this, as are Landshut and the BMW Group in Lower Bavaria”. Underpinning the iNext will be the automaker’s fifth-generation eDrive system that will be good for 530 hp and complete with a lightweight 80 kWh battery pack. +++ 

+++ JEEP is busily putting the final touches on the fifth generation Grand Cherokee, but the current version isn’t ready yet, so the SUV will have its final modelyear changes. Introduced at the 2009 edition of the New York Auto Show, the fourth generation Grand Cherokee is the oldest model in the Jeep line-up by a significant margin. Even Ralph Gilles, the head of design for Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), recently admitted that “it’s getting on”. For 2021, it will gain a package named 80th Anniversary Edition that will commemorate the original Jeep’s 80th birthday. It will be based on the midrange Limited trim level. I don’t know what the 80th Anniversary Edition package will consist of, or whether it will also be available on other Jeep models. The Limited trim level will gain an option package named Sun & Sound that will add a dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a 506-watt Alpine stereo with 9 speakers. Other small changes are in the pipeline, like a new 18-inch wheel design for the entrylevel Laredo model. The rest of the range will carry on largely unchanged. It will be the proverbial calm before the storm; the production run will be cut short to make space for the fifth-generation model that will arrive in showrooms as a 2022 model. It will wear a new design, its engine roster will be overhauled, and, significantly, it will reportedly shift to Alfa Romeo’s Giorgio platform. The next-generation SUV will make its debut by the end of 2020. I know the line-up will include a direct replacement for the current 5-seater model, and a 3-row variant with seating for up to 7 passengers. Looking ahead, Jeep will resurrect the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer nameplates on a pair of body-on-frame SUVs built using components borrowed from the Ram 1500 pickup. +++ 

+++ British sports car firm LOTUS will establish a new advanced technology centre in partnership on the campus of the University of Warwick, with the facility playing a key role in the development of future electric powertrains. The new facility will be built on the University of Warwick’s Wellesbourne campus and will include offices, workshops and laboratory space. As well as an advanced technology centre for Lotus Cars, the site will be the headquarters of Lotus Engineering, the consultancy division of Geely-owned Group Lotus. Around 130 engineers will work at the site initially, with Lotus saying it offers “capacity for many new jobs as the facility is further established”. The advanced technology centre will complement Lotus Cars’ existing base in Hethel, Norfolk, which employs around 500 staff. Lotus Cars boss Phil Popham described Wellesbourne as “the perfect home” for the new centre. He added: “Our engineering and R&D strategy around advanced propulsion systems is lock-in-step with the government’s vision and broader global ambitions for a low-carbon automotive future. “We look forward to working in collaboration with government and with our new campus neighbours on this future. Having research partners at the university will bring significant benefits, as will the Midlands location, which is both very accessible and home to a rich pool of automotive talent”. Lotus is currently gearing up to launch the Evija electric hypercar, which will be followed by a range of  electric and electrified models. It is understood that a new sports car powered by a hybridised V6 powertrain will be revealed next year, possibly reviving the Esprit nameplate. Matt Windle, Lotus Cars’ engineering boss, said: “Our team and specialist skills have grown significantly in the last 2 years as renewed impetus has been put in to the business with new shareholders and management. The all-electric Evija hypercar is the first new Lotus Cars product for us to deliver, with significant focus on this at Wellesbourne as we complete the project and continue to advance its technologies for our future programmes”. +++ 

+++ The Cadillac LYRIQ will be a very important car for the automaker not just because of its electric powertrain, but also due to the technologies it will come loaded with. Taking pride of place on the dashboard of the Lyriq will be a massive screen that measures 33 inches (83.8 cm) wide and is 5 inches (12.7 cm) tall. Cadillac is clearly going all-in on expansive driver and infotainment displays, as the new Escalade has a screen array that measures 38 inches (96.5 cm). However, whereas the Escalade features 2 separate screens that have been neatly joined together, the display of the Lyriq will be a single piece of curved glass. The senior design manager for UI at General Motors, Bill Thompson, said the size of the screen makes it unique. “The size of the Lyriq display is a huge differentiator for us”, he said. “The form factor is going to be very industry-leading. The huge 33 inch display is a very big differentiator for us, even among the other brands in our portfolio. All this information and all this intelligence will get passed down to the rest of the company. It’s the platform itself that is all new”. The screen of the Lyriq will be divided into 3 zones. On the left will be an area that allows drivers to control various interior features like the lighting and head-up display. The second zone will be a high-definition instrument panel while the third will be dedicated to navigation and infotainment features. The zones to the left and right will be touch-sensitive, while drivers will use a rotary dial to adjust the center digital instrument cluster zone. “When you’re welcomed into the Lyriq, having this large display once it recognizes you and invites you in, it tells you pertinent details of your trip, calendar events that you have coming up, and lets you know your range”, Thompson added. The Lyriq is set to be unveiled on August 6. +++ 

+++ Daimler flagged signs of recovering demand for top-end MERCEDES-BENZ models and electric vehicles, sending its shares higher. CEO Ola Källenius said its Mercedes-Benz cars and vans division appeared set for a rise in 2020 operating profit. Mercedes-Benz says it will focus on high-end cars to hike profits. “We are now seeing the first signs of a sales recovery especially at Mercedes-Benz passenger cars”, Källenius told journalists on a call. “I see the strongest growth in the upper end of the segments where we are active”, he said. The share rise came as Daimler confirmed second-quarter results it pre-released last week, including revenue down 30 % and an loss of €1.68 billion. “This share move is partially due to the relief that things are not getting worse, and maybe there is also a bit of Tesla euphoria at work”, Nord LB analyst Frank Schwope said. Mercedes engineers helped Tesla develop its electric cars. The U.S. electric carmaker posted a 4th consecutive quarterly profit, making it eligible to join the largest stock index, an expectation which has helped boost its shares by 500 % this year. Källenius is leading a cost-cutting drive to improve profitability as the pandemic hits sales and is also taking aim at production of high-margin models. +++ 

+++ Tesla boss Elon Musk urged miners to produce more NICKEL , a key ingredient in the batteries that power the company’s electric cars, warning the current cost of batteries remained a big hurdle to the company’s growth. “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way”, Musk said. Nickel makes batteries energy dense so cars can run further on a single charge, and Tesla needs the metal more than ever as it looks to ramp up production of trucks and solar projects that use a lot of nickel. Musk’s call for greater nickel mining comes even as prices for battery materials wallow around rock bottom. However, traders and analysts say the kinds of volumes Tesla would need are unlikely to make a compelling business case for miners to invest in increased production, nor are they likely to boost prices in the medium term. Tesla currently sources nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) batteries from LG Chem and nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA) batteries from Panasonic. These companies indirectly buy nickel from mining companies in a long auto supply chain. Tesla doesn’t disclose which nickel miners are in its supply chain. Given Tesla’s focus on sustainability, the company is likely to prefer to buy from miners of higher-grade nickel sulphide, which requires less power to process than laterite ore, said Lachlan Shaw of National Australia Bank. There are 3 key suppliers: Brazil’s Vale, which operates in Canada using some hydropower, Russia’s Norilsk Nickel and BHP Group’s operations in Western Australia. “Vale is in the box seat”, he said. While electric vehicles consume a much smaller amount of nickel than traditional industries such as stainless steel makers, EVs are expected to be the quickest growth market for nickel miners. Nickel consumption in EV battery materials is expected to soar 64 % between 2019 and 2025, research firm Wood Mackensie said, although it added that satisfying this demand could be challenging for an industry that has been slow to add capacity in a timely and cost-effective manner. “He needs nickel, so he hopes nickel prices will go lower and lower”, said a China-based nickel trader. “Prices will not be impacted in the short-term because the market is in surplus”. Nickel hit a 14-month low of $10,865 a tonne in March but has since recovered to $13,180, still down by some 30 % from 5-year peaks seen in September. Prices rallied 2.6 % partly on Tesla’s bullish outlook, a trader said. Tesla posted a second-quarter profit, but Musk said he would prioritise growth over profit going forward, and focus on making Tesla vehicles more affordable. “The real limitation on Tesla growth is cell production at affordable price. That’s the real limit”, Musk said, adding the company would expand its business with Panasonic and CATL and “possibly with others”. Tesla is expected to reveal technological advances at its Battery Day event in September. +++ 

+++ If you make the POLESTAR 2 your next car of choice, you’ll be able to enjoy its much talked about Android-powered infotainment system, featuring built-in Google apps and services. You also get 3 year’s worth of Internet connectivity included in the purchase price, which means you’ll be able to enjoy podcasts, radio, audio books and music, while also using the Google Assistant, which you can operate via voice commands. “Hey Google, play some music”, is just one of the many commands you can give and the software does the rest. “By partnering with Google, we ensure that the infotainment system stays as cutting edge in the future as it is today”, said Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath. “Developers are able to join the open ecosystem to adapt appropriate apps for use in the car, and create new ones. Customers will benefit from a car that seamlessly integrates into their digital lives”. Google also wants to make it easier for developers to comply with driver-distraction guidelines and restrictions, and will be providing media app templates for the 2’s Android Automotive OS. Meanwhile, Polestar is releasing a new version of its system emulator for the Android Studio development platform, which now boasts full implementation of embedded Google apps and services. The following apps are scheduled to be available in the Polestar 2: Castbox and Pocket Casts (podcast apps), Libby (library app), iHeartRadio, Swedish Radio Play and NRK Radio (radio apps), Bauer Media Auto’s Magic Radio and Radioplayer apps, plus Spotify (music and podcasts). The latter is arguably the crown jewel here. “At Spotify, we want to make listening to your favourite music and podcasts easily accessible; whether that’s at home, on the go or in the car”, says the company’s vice president of Product, Sten Garmark. “We’re looking forward to introducing our innovative integration with the new Polestar 2 infotainment system on Google’s Android Automotive platform. This collaboration creates a seamless, high-quality listening experience for our users on the road”. The Polestar 2 packs 408 hp and 660 Nm, and a 78 kWh battery pack for a total range of 443 km. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has announced the first limited edition version of the recently unveiled Twingo Z.E. electric city car. It’s called the Vibes and it brings with it colorful accents inside and out, including a new exclusive Valencia Orange exterior paint. Mind you, while this limited-run model celebrates the arrival of the Twingo Z.E., it will also be offered later on petrol-powered Twingo models. Based on the Intens trim level, the Twingo Z.E. Vibes features white accents on the grille, 16 inch white diamond alloy wheels with orange lug nuts, as well as stripes on the rear doors. Depending on the exterior color (any of the paints available for the Twingo Z.E. plus the new Valencia Orange), the stripes can be white and grey or orange and grey. The Twingo Z.E. Vibes also features a specific graphic on the right rear fender above the charging port, symbolizing a battery. Rounding out the exterior tweaks is a Vibes monogram on the rear doors, integrated in the side protection strips. The colored stripes are echoed inside the special edition Twingo Z.E. above the 7 inch EasyLink central display. Additionally, the seats come in an exclusive finish with mixed leather/cloth upholstery and orange accents. The limited-run EV also features unique door sills, overlay floor mats and an anodized orange gear selector base. Renault will begin sales of the Twingo Z.E. Vibes in France in September, along with the regular Twingo Z.E. lineup. As a reminder, the Twingo Z.E. packs a 22 kWh battery for a range of 180 km in the WLTP test cycle. The battery powers a small rear-mounted electric motor delivering 81 hp and 160 Nm. +++ 

+++ Croatian EV specialist RIMAC has named ex-Aston Martin and Tesla engineer Chris Porritt as its new chief technology officer. Reporting directly to company founder and CEO Mate Rimac, Porritt (who also served as head of special projects at Apple) will oversee the development of future models, following the recent completion of the production line for the 1.900 hp C_Two hypercar. Porritt brings 3 decades of automotive industry experience to the role, having previously overseen the production of Aston Martin’s limited-run One-77 and V12 Vantage Zagato supercars and worked closely with Elon Musk to test new technology for Tesla models. Porritt said: “The opportunity to join Rimac Automobili is an engineer’s dream. Since nearly every key component is designed and built in-house by Rimac, this gives us the freedom to create something that’s unlike anything else that has been done before in the hypercar world”. He added: “What the team has already achieved with the development of C_Two thus far is phenomenal, and I look forward to guiding the engineering development of future Rimac products that will push the envelope of performance”. He joins Rimac as the firm’s pivotal C_Two gears up for production in 2021; 2 years since it was revealed in concept form at the Paris motor show. The 150 hand-built customer cars are claimed to accelerate from 0-100 kph in less than 2.0 seconds, making it one of the fastest production cars in the world. Last month, Rimac revealed that 4 testing prototypes had been completed, with an additional 13 needed for crash testing and homologation purposes. Prior to Porritt’s arrival, Rimac had secured an €80 million investment from Hyundai as part of a new partnership that will result in the firms collaborating on a range of performance EVs. Porsche also increased its stake in Rimac from 10 % to 15 % last year, following the launch of its own electric sports car, the Taycan. Additional big-name industry partners include Koenigsegg, Automobili Pininfarina and Aston Martin, for which Rimac helped develop the hybrid powertrain for the upcoming Valkyrie hypercar. Although it has now launched 2 bespoke models, Mate Rimac describes his brand’s main purpose as “helping other companies to build interesting products and electrified, connected, smart vehicles”. Although there have been hints that future models could be produced in higher numbers, marketing chief Marta Longin told last year that hypercars will remain the focus and that Rimac is “always going to be niche”. +++ 

+++ ROLLS-ROYCE appears to be working on a droptop version of the Sweptail that is likely to be an upcoming one-off or concept. The images come from a design filing in Brazil on July 21. The roof is the most visually interesting aspect of this vehicle. The renderings don’t make it explicitly clear whether the pieces running from the top to the sides of the rear deck are fixed in place or removable. My guess is that this is a bikini-style covering in a style similar to the Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder. The front end design looks straight from the Sweptail. There are large, circular headlights with skinny LED strips above them. Rolls-Royce’ trademark multi-slatted grille occupies the space between the lamps. Compared to the Sweptail, the chrome rib on the bonnet is absent from this vehicle. Looking at the rear in profile, the deck and the bumper taper to a point in a style that’s similar to Sweptail. Looking from the top, there are vertical lines across the boot. I suspect this is teak wood decking similar to the back of some of Rolls’ previous droptop vehicles, like the Dawn. As a final touch, there are skinny LED taillights. A BMW trademark filing from 2018 for “Boat Tail” might indicate the intended name for this vehicle. The moniker would certainly fit with the wood on the rear deck. It would match well with the Sweptail, too. If this model is like the Sweptail, then expect Rolls-Royce to make just one of them and charge a massive price for it. The company never confirmed the cost of acquiring the earlier model, but there was a rumour that the figure was as high as €11.5 million. A debut date for this vehicle is a complete mystery. With the cancellation of so many automotive gatherings due to Covid-19, it’s hard to know where Rolls-Royce could hold the debut. A dedicated event is an option, though. +++ 

+++ TESLA boss Elon Musk has said the electric vehicle maker will prioritise boosting growth by making its car more affordable after the firm posted a 4th consecutive quarterly profit for the first time. Tesla achieved a net profit of $104 million between April and June, with total revenues of $6.04 billion. Although revenues were down 4.9 % year on year, the figure still exceeded estimates given the ongoing market uncertainty caused by the corona virus. Posting a profit for four consecutive quarters is a major milestone for Tesla and clears the way for the firm’s stock to be included on the S&P 500 index, which would likely further increase demand for shares. Tesla share value has risen by more than 500 % over the past year. In a conference call about the financial results, Musk said he remained concerned about the price of Tesla’s cars. He said: “The thing that bugs me most right now is that our cars are not affordable enough and we need to fix that. We just want to be like slightly profitable, maximise growth and make the cars as affordable as possible”. Musk noted that the high price of batteries is a key reason that electric cars remain relatively expensive to buy and urged mining firms to increase production of nickel ; a key element in their production. He added: “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently, in an environmentally sensitive way”. Tesla produced 82.272 cars in the past 3 months, with 90.891 deliveries to customers. While only 5 % lower year on year, production was down 59 % compared with the first 3 months of 2020, due to the forced closure of Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California because of the coronavirus lockdown. Of the 90.891 cars Tesla delivered to customers, 80.277 were Model 3 or Model Y, with 10.614 Model S or Model X. The firm said it is still aiming to deliver half a million cars this year, although it noted that Covid-19 disruption had made this “difficult”. Tesla has also confirmed that it will build a new factory in Texas, which will be used to make the Cybertruck and a second production line for the Model Y. The plant will be built in Travis County near Austin, the state capital of Texas, and will employ more than 5.000 workers. Musk said work on the factory is already under way. Although it is not known when it will open, Tesla has previously said the Cybertruck will go on sale in late 2021. The Texas factory will be the firm’s second dedicated car factory in the US, joining the Model 3 and Model Y plant in Fremont. Tesla also constructs cars at its Nevada factory. It recently opened a gigafactory in Shanghai, China, and is working on its first European production facility near Berlin in Germany. Basing the Cybertruck facility in Texas offers several benefits for Tesla. The state is the biggest market in the US for pick-up trucks and also has no corporate income tax. Travis County has also offered Tesla around $60 million in tax breaks. Musk suggests that the electric automaker could release a new small entry-level model. “It is important to make the car affordable. I think we will not succeed in our mission if we do not make cars affordable”, Musk said. “Like the thing that bugs me the most about where we are right now is that our cars are not affordable enough. We need to fix that”. Tesla’s entry-level Model 3 starts at €49,998 in the Netherlands and while that’s a reasonable price for the range, performance, and technology you get, it is more than many new car buyers are willing to spend, particularly when you can be good (but basic) conventional powered C segment hatchbacks for half the price. Musk was later asked about a potential new Tesla with a lower price point and while the executive couldn’t offer specifics, he did indicate such a vehicle is likely. “Don’t think we can comment on our detailed product road map beyond what’s announced because I think we want to reserve that for product launches”, he said, “but it would be reasonable to assume that we would make a compact vehicle of some kind and probably a higher capacity vehicle of some kind. These are likely things at some point. But I do think there’s a long way to go with 3 and Y and with Cybertruck and Semi. So it’s a long way to go with those. I think we’ll do the obvious things”. This is not the first time we have heard about a new entry-level EV from the brand. In fact, it was only in June that Tesla launched a design contest in China for a new model. While unconfirmed, it is claimed this vehicle will be a small car designed to slot below the Model 3. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA will make 2 % fewer vehicles globally in August than originally planned, the Japanese automaker said, as output recovers gradually from a steep drop because of the corona virus pandemic. The company said it aimed to make 15.000 fewer vehicles than its initial plan, which was around 750.000. August’s reduction is smaller than the cut of 10 % seen in July and June’s 40 %. As Japan fears a second wave of infections spreading from the capital, one Toyota employee working at its headquarters has tested positive for coronavirus since developing symptoms earlier this month, the company said. Toyota added it disinfected the affected work sites on July 17 and restarted operation shortly afterwards. In the midst of the pandemic, the company also plans to skip media briefings for its fiscal first and third quarterly results, but only release filings, a company spokeswoman told. Global automakers are slowly getting vehicle production back on track after the closure this year of many plants to curb the spread of the virus, although many still anticipate that output and sales will be lower than last year. The updated production plan represents an output cut of 9 % from a year ago. Toyota said it would produce 6.000 fewer vehicles at home, and 9.000 less overseas. +++ 

+++ For the longer term, TVR has already begun making plans to adapt Ford’s hybrid technology to its future models and says that it could even equip the Griffith as such, although there are no present plans to do so. “We would be crazy not to be working on an electrification strategy”, said Berriman. “We want to avoid any accusation of being dinosaurs who only want to make cars with big V8s. Our aim for the future is to create a sustainable, multi-model business, and that very much includes electrification”. As for racing? “We have a couple of options”, said TVR boss LesEdgar. “Our real dream is to compete at Le Mans; you could make a great race car out of the Griffith as it stands. But we can’t look at that yet, for money and attention-span reasons. But a one-make series does look attractive. The old TVR Tuscan Challenge was a big part of British racing and Ginetta is showing how it can work today. It’s a great way of developing the car, it’s great PR and it even drives revenue. So we’re looking at it closely, and when the time is right, we’ll do it”. +++ 

+++ One of the most challenging trials for new cars is the moose test, as it highlights the way vehicles behave in extreme evasive maneuvers. From the suspension setup to the steering, tires and the driver’s skills, every aspect counts and makes a difference between acing and failing the challenge. A lot of models fell victim to the test over the years, and now the list has gained a new, and probably unlikely, name: the youngest VOLKSWAGEN Golf. Equipped with Bridgestone Turanza T005 tires, the all-new German compact hatchback understeered and couldn’t get back in the initial lane quick enough at 77 km/h, so it ended up hitting the cones. In fact, the driver had to lower the speed to 69 km/h in order for the Golf to behave appropriately, but the result was described as unsatisfactory for a vehicle in this class. Nonetheless, it did behave a tad better than the Mercedes-Benz CLA, which was tested a few months ago. The four-door model rode on Bridgestone Turanza T005 tires as well and managed to do the maneuver at 66 km/h. It could have been worse though, as the Golf’s bigger sibling, the new Volkswagen Passat, in plug-in hybrid GTE form, alongside its Czech cousin, the Skoda Superb iV, couldn’t stay within the cones due to the excessive oversteer. The Toyota RAV4 almost tipped over last fall during the test, while 2 of its biggest rivals, the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sorento aced it. +++

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