Newsflash: doorstart Borgward lijkt te mislukken


+++ BMW has begun road testing its third-generation X1 ahead of an expected debut in the first half of 2022. The compact SUV, which is technically closely linked to the latest 1 Series hatchback, was seen with the disguise typical of a model that’s not all that far from an unveiling. However, given that the current X1 has only just been facelifted, having first gone on sale in 2015, I don’t expect to see the new car becoming official during next year. Visually, it appears the next X1 will feature a design evolved from that of the newer, bolder X2, as well as the new 1 Series. What appear to be enlarged kidney grilles fit into this, while the overall shape is more angular and distinctive. It also seems to be slightly larger, with more of an upright roofline to help differentiate the X1 from the X2. Inside, we will see the latest generation of infotainment, comfort and safety technology to bring the Audi Q3 rival in line with newer challengers and the rest of BMW’s range. But more interesting are the powertrain choices set to be on offer. understands the new X1 will make use of a heavily reworked version of the current model’s UKL platform. Although details of that aren’t yet official, the Munich brand confirmed last month that an electric version of the next X1 (likely dubbed iX1 in line with the sub-brand naming strategy) will arrive by 2023. This will sit alongside existing petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid variants expected to arrive a year prior. Details of the iX1 are thin on the ground, but expect some relation to the recently revealed iX3, which uses a 286 hp single-motor rear-wheel-drive powertrain and promises a WLTP range of 430 km. The iX1 will form a core part of BMW’s ambition to introduce 25 further electrified models by 2023. That’s expecially true, due to the standard X1’s popularity: nearly 110.000 examples were registered in Europe alone throughout 2019. +++ 

+++ The long-promised European reintroduction of historic German marque BORGWARD appears to have been put on hold as the Chinese-backed firm has quietly wound down its presence in the market. The revived brand has run into difficulties after Chinese commercial vehicle manufacturer Foton sold its majority 67 % stake to ride-hailing and car-rental firm Ucar in 2019 for $614 million. Ucar’s use of the Borgward BX5 and BX7 for its mobility services in China initially bolstered the brand’s struggling sales, but an innovative retail model is said to have become an obstacle to its wider roll-out. Borgward has sold just 5.000 vehicles in the first half of 2020 and faces further uncertainty as Ucar shareholder Charles Zhengyao Lu has become the subject of an accountancy scandal. Borgward’s sole European outpost in Luxembourg is still trading and salesman André Lacerda says: “We are very satisfied with the business”. The dealership is reported to have sold more than 100 cars since mid-2018, with the BX5 and BX7 still offered for sale at €36,200 and €44,200. Lacerda told that there’s no indication Borgward is plotting to withdraw from Europe, but sales figures have fallen someway short of the brand’s original ambition to shift 800.000 units globally by 2020. The brand no longer maintains its European headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, as was the case in 2018. The most recent news update on the brand’s European website is from 14 December 2018, while the electric BXi7 SUV appears no closer to launch than it did when it was revealed in 2017. Borgward had planned to open a bespoke European factory in Bremen, Germany, but its reservation on the 140.000 m2 site lapsed in June 2019. +++ 

+++ CHINA became the world’s largest auto market in 2009. The market soared in the following 10 years, with vehicles sales reaching 25.77 million in 2019, almost double the 2009 figure. But Chinese brands, despite the home-field advantage, lost their market share during the decade. The downward spiral, compounded by the pandemic, is moving even deeper in 2020. In the first 7 months this year, sales of passenger vehicles for Chinese carmakers reached a combined 3.43 million; down 25 % year-on-year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. They accounted for 36 % of all passenger vehicles sold in the country; down 3.2 percentage points from the same period last year and down 10 percentage points from 2010. Li Xianjun, a professor at the School of Vehicle and Mobility at Tsinghua University, said the most likely reason for the slide is that Chinese carmakers lacks vision and patience. He said Chinese brands’ most popular models are usually short-lived, and they don’t have classic vehicles like the Toyota Corolla, or Volkswagen Jetta that can keep their charm for decades. “The problem is they failed to keep up with the tempo of the game and even more important is they are not patient enough compared with overseas brands”, Li said. Automakers from Toyota to Volkswagen and General Motors have followed a similar shared platform for their respective brands, and leading Chinese brands are now starting to move in the same direction. At the Chengdu auto show in late July, China’s top private carmaker Geely announced plans to build more models on its Compact Modular Platform, which was co-developed with its Swedish carmaker Volvo. Cumulative sales of vehicles built on the architecture surpassed 600.000 units by the end of July. The platform allows different brands to develop, design and build different types of compact cars with similar mechanical layout faster than before and at lower cost. It thus provides a technological springboard towards a higher market share at a time when the auto industry must embrace a future featuring electric and autonomously-driven transportation. Geely has decided to build more models on the platform, which had been reserved until recently for vehicles by Volvo, Polestar and Lynk & Co. Feng Qingfeng, vice-president of Geely Auto, said: “The Compact Modular Architecture is the DNA behind our evolutionary automotive manufacturing and development ecosystem. CMA not only gives Geely a future-proof vehicle architecture, it also allows us to endow each new product with pedigree genes in terms of safety, sportiness, and intelligence”. The company said CMA, along with a smaller car platform designed for Proton, allow them to harness Volvo’s technologies and Geely’s capabilities in cost control, supply chain management and local production. “CMA will be the core of Geely’s future architecture design. We learn technologies and build up talents through developing it”, said Li Li, vice-president of Geely Automobile Research Institute. Li confirmed the Proton plan during an interview. Geely is also developing a new architecture to accelerate the launch of pure battery electric vehicles with intelligent connectivity functions. The first model based on the architecture will make its debut at the Beijing auto show next month, said Geely president An Conghui. Great Wall Motors, which is China’s largest SUV maker, is rolling out vehicle platforms as well. Earlier this month, it unveiled 3 at a time, coded Lemon, Tank and Smart Coffee. Lemon is flexible and scalable, spanning sub-compact to full-size vehicle bodies and variants of SUVs, sedans and MPVs. It also covers four powertrains: internal combustion engines, hybrids, electric and fuel-cell vehicles. Tank is a platform for off-road vehicles. It will feature 2 and 3-liter turbocharged engines and a vertically deployed 9-speed automatic gearbox, which is also China’s first. The third brand is coded Smart Coffee. Great Wall Motors said it covers autonomous driving, electrical systems, and smart cabins. It is compatible with the Ethernet, 5G and vehicle-to-everything technology. Based on the smart system, Level 3 autonomous driving will start to work from 2021 and will grow into Level 4 and above. Great Wall Motors said more than 50 test vehicles have conducted road trips passing 1 million km. The company calls the Smart Coffee brand the “digital engine” of its transition to a global mobility company. +++ 

+++ Just before Land Rover launched the new Defender, the automaker said the reborn icon had been put through 1.2 million kilometers of testing. I’m not sure if it’s Ineos ribbing the established competition, but the petrochemical-company-turned-truck-maker likes to stress that its GRENADIER will be put through 1.8 million kilometers of testing before being released for sale to the public. It features a diesel 3.0-liter BMW inline-6, the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission and the bespoke transfer case. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: That ZF 8-speed auto will be the only transmission offered. The gearbox has a manual mode for those who know what they’re doing to choose the gear they want, but the development team decided against a manual because “the auto is the best option. It offers the full suite of functionality for the experienced drivers but also for the inexperienced drivers”. Hardcore old-school off-roaders are already heading for the door, I know. Yet there are plenty of workaday utilitarian types who have plenty of other things to do than worry about shifting gears. And in the U.S., Toyota hasn’t offered a manual Land Cruiser in donkey’s years, but you’ll hear few overlanders say a bad thing about it (well, about that part of it …). I’m sure the choice of BMW engines made it easier to go exclusively with a ZF transmission (Toyota, again, did the same thing on the GR Supra, eh?). I’m on the record as saying I’m looking forward to this vehicle, but (not to be cynics) we’re also looking forward to hearing the first stories of Grenadiers breaking down in the bush, because I want to know: 1. What breaks under hard yards, and 2. How easy it is to get parts for a modern BMW engine in the bush. The 2-speed transfer was drawn up from a blank sheet of paper and provides full-time 4-wheel drive. High- and low-range and the differential lock are manually selected. Gearbox engineer Job Zwollow does say “diff lock”, singular. However, there will be a center diff lock standard on the Grenadier and locking diffs for the front and rear axles available as cost options. That info on the diffs comes from a Facebook Q&A Evans hosted to answer the enthusiast public’s questions, and it gets into arcane details such as articulation, trailing arms, and wheel bearings among many other things. Over the next year or more, Ineos will build 100 vehicle prototypes and dispatch them around the world, working to avoid the aforementioned breakages, so there’s no telling what will change between now and 2023. The company’s still making all the right noises, though, with one of its engineers saying it’s “critical that this vehicle is simple and easy to maintain, which is why we’re avoiding any complexity that isn’t required to make this a workhorse utility vehicle”. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI ranked first in satisfaction for high-tech automobiles in the US mass market, according to the latest survey of US research firm JD Power. Hyundai ranked highest in the mass-market segment with a score of 556, offering an above-average level of technologies and scoring well for excellence in execution. Subaru (541) ranked second, followed by Kia (538), Nissan (534) and Ram (520). In the luxury segment, Genesis (559) placed 6th. Volvo ranked highest overall with an innovation index score of 617. It was followed by BMW (583), Cadillac (577) and Mercedes-Benz (567). Genesis G70, alongside the Cadillac Escalade, tied to receive the luxury model emerging automation award for rear cross traffic warning technology. The Kia Sportage received the infotainment and connectivity award in the mass market segment for its navigation live traffic technology. The rankings are based on responses from 82.527 owners of new 2020 models who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership between February and May 2020. It focused on areas including convenience, the latest automation technology, energy, sustainability, infotainment, connectivity, innovation level, technology reliability and completeness, JD Power said. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen has started assembling the ID.4 at the Zwickau plant in Germany ahead of its official world premiere that’s scheduled for the end of September. Part of VW Group’s ambition to become the world market leader in electric mobility, with €33 billion investments until 2024, including €11 billion injected into the Volkswagen brand, the facility has welcomed a €1.2 billion cash injection. Converted to e-mobility in a premiere for a large car manufacturing plant, the Zwickau factory’s transformation will be completed this year. In 2021, it will have a production capacity of around 300.000 EVs, all of which will be built on the MEB platform, like the ID.3 and ID.4 crossover. According to the automaker, the site is set to become the “largest and most efficient EV factory in Europe”. “We are right on schedule with the Volkswagen brand’s transformation process to e-mobility”, commented Thomas Ulbrich, board member for E-mobility. “The second model in the ID. family is already rolling off the assembly line where, only recently, ICEs were still being built”. With a drag coefficient of 0.28, scalable battery packs and a range of more than 500 km in the WLTP cycle, the ID.4 will launch initially with rear-wheel drive, whereas the all-wheel drive variant will join the lineup at a later date. Rear-wheel drive models are expected with 204 hp and 310 Nm of torque, whereas the 4Motion variants should offer 306 hp and 450 Nm. The ID.4 will launch in Europe and China at first, and in the United States later on. Pre-production has already started at Anting, China, and will be followed by the Chattanooga, Tennessee, site in 2022. “Following the ID.3, this is already the second model based on the modular electric drive matrix”, said Ralf Brandstätter, chief executive officer of the Volkswagen brand. MEB is a modular car platform designed purely for electric vehicles from Volkswagen. The plant in Zwickau will play a “key role in the system changeover to e-mobility”. Conversions in the Zwickau plant are scheduled to be completed this year, according to Volkswagen. In 2021, the “first full production year as an EV factory”, around 300,000 electric vehicles will be produced based on MEB. Preparations to roll out the ID.4 at international level are also in full swing. Pre-production of the electric cross-over has already started at the Anting plant in Shanghai in East China, while the Chattanooga site in the United States is scheduled to start production in 2022. For 2025, the Volkswagen brand expects to produce 1.5 million electric cars. +++ 

+++ Companies in JAPAN ’s automobile industry are bolstering services that reduce customers’ need for contact with other people as they adapt to the novel coronavirus. Automakers such as Nissan and Toyota have adopted online car sales services. While sales of vehicles are usually done in person at a dealership, online sales are popular in the United States. In Japan, such services had been limited to imported cars, but Nissan has recently introduced an online chat service for potential car buyers. Nissan has seen the number of visitors to its dealers drop by up to 60 % from previous years. A Nissan public relations official said that the company hopes to “reduce the amount of time customers spend at a dealer as much as possible” in a bid to boost sales amid the coronavirus crisis. In late May, Toyota began to accept test drive reservations and conduct sales services on the internet. While the signing of the contract is still done at an outlet, users said they feel safe not having to go to a dealer to look at which cars they want to buy. Car sharing services have also gained popularity as an alternative to public transport, as people try to avoid infection risks mainly on trains. The number of members of the Times Car Share service, offered by Park24, climbed by some 56,000 in the 4 months from late February. Around 80 % of new subscribers to the service during the coronavirus crisis switched from trains. One factor behind the popularity of car sharing services is that users can apply without having to meet staff at an office, unlike with car rental companies. Times Car Share makes sure to disinfect the interior of its cars regularly and place disinfectant sprays inside the cars for users who are concerned about the virus being passed on from other users. Park24 launched a service in late July that allows long-term use of its cars and is cheaper than car rental services. “We hope customers will use it as a mode of transport that avoids contact with other people”, a company employee said. In Japan, the cut in the environmental tax on automobiles might again be extended to help prop up the economy during the coronavirus epidemic, sources said. The tax break is set to expire next March and a study is being conducted on whether to include the second extension in the industry ministry’s tax system reform requests for fiscal 2021, which will be compiled next month, the sources said. The issue is likely to undergo a fuller discussion later this year during the ruling coalition’s work on tax reforms. The environmental tax, a local levy, is collected when automobiles are purchased. The tax rate is lower for fuel-efficient vehicles, standing at zero percent for electric and fuel cell vehicles. The tax rate was cut by 1 point when the consumption tax was raised to 10 % from 8 % on October 1 last year. The tax break was initially set to expire at the end of September, but the ruling coalition decided in April to extend it six months until the end of March 2021 after consumption slumped amid the coronavirus crisis. Since it is unclear when the epidemic will subside, the automobile industry has found itself in dire straits. Even if the virus is contained by the end of March, the economy is expected to take more time to recover. The government is increasingly concerned that if the environmental tax break is scrapped at the end of March 2021, the move may be perceived by consumers as a de facto tax hike, which will affect the entire economy severely. In the meantime, some lawmakers in the ruling bloc expect the government to begin drawing up additional economic stimulus measures from this autumn or later. In that case, full-scale discussions on the second extension of the auto tax break may start before late this year, people familiar with the matter said. The government may also study the possibility of reducing other automobile-related taxes, they said. +++ 

+++ JEEP has been hard at work on something Grand. A recent, teasing social post from the brand made that clear, with a photo of the Grand Canyon overlaid with a definition of the word “grand” (“magnificent and striking in appearance, size, or style”) and the copy “coming soon”. Since that initial shot across our bow, I now know which vehicle is on its way and that “soon” means September 3. On that date, we’ll finally see the all-new Grand Wagoneer fully revealed (the initial teaser could also have been referring to a new Grand Cherokee, a vehicle slated to get a redesign very soon). It’s shaping up to be something special if the subsequent images are anything to go by, and you can head here for everything we know so far about the new Grand Wagoneer. One image shows the “WAG” portion of a hood badge perched above what appears to be a luxed-up, 7-rectangle spin on the so-called “muscle grille” sported by some fullsize Jeep SUVs from 1981 through 1985. We’ll find out all there is to know about this highly anticipated new Jeep on September 3, including how closely it hews to the original Grand Wagoneer’s boxy, rugged style and whether fans of the old truck view the new one as a poser or worthy successor. However that shakes out, there’s no doubt the new Grand Wagoneer SUV is a big (or even Grand) deal for the brand, giving it a competitor to big-buck SUVs such as the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Range Rover, and Mercedes-Benz GLS. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN has unveiled the lightweight carbonfibre architecture that will underpin its upcoming electrified models as it gears up to launch its first hybrid next year. Developed at the firm’s new Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) in Sheffield, the platform has been designed with a focus on lightness to cancel out the added weight of an electrified powertrain. McLaren has unveiled the lightweight carbonfibre architecture that will underpin its upcoming electrified models as it gears up to launch its first hybrid next year.  It is said to use “world-first processes and techniques” in an effort to reduce weight while maintaining structural integrity and improving safety. Software determines the ideal shape and orientation for each sheet of carbonfibre cloth, for example, to optimise the shell’s strength and weight. CEO Mike Flewitt previously told that his ambition was “to launch the hybrid at the same weight as the outgoing car”. He added: “We’re not going to hit that, but we’re going to be within 30 – 40 kg. When you think the P1 hybrid system was 140 kg, we’ve done a huge amount to manage the weight”. A prototype of the new ‘Monocell’ architecture (codenamed PLT-MCTC-01; Prototype Lightweight Tub, McLaren Composites Technology Centre, Number One) left the €56 million MCTC facility in 2019, with a crash testing programme set to get underway ahead of the launch of the first Monocell-based car. McLaren previously said the Sheffield site’s workforce would swell from 60 workers to more than 200 when the architecture enters production. Carbonfibre tubs for the Speedtail hybrid hypercar and new McLaren GT are produced by an Austrian firm called Carbo Tech, but the MCTC will handle production of the new Monocell unit. The company is transitioning to a maker of electrified sports cars and will roll out hybrid powertrains to all of its Sports Series models, which will each be based on the new architecture. Earlier this year, the company’s first hybrid Sports Series model (the P1 and Speedtail belong to the Ultimate Series line-up) was spotted in prototype form, revealing a production design similar to that of the new GT. Current Sports Series models include the 600LT, 570S and 540C. The as-yet unnamed plug-in hybrid model will take its power from a twin-turbocharged petrol V6 mated to an electric motor of unknown capacity. Performance figures remain unconfirmed, but it’s expected to manage 30 km of electric-only range from a single charge. McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt said:“The new ground-breaking vehicle architecture is every bit as revolutionary as the Monocell chassis we introduced with the company’s first car, the 12C, when we first embarked on making production vehicles a decade ago. This new, ultra-lightweight carbon fibre chassis boasts greater structural integrity and higher levels of quality than ever before with our new MCTC facility quickly becoming recognised as a global centre of excellence in composite materials science and manufacturing. Our advanced expertise in light weight composites processes and manufacturing combined with our experience in cutting-edge battery technology and high-performance hybrid propulsion systems means we are ideally placed to deliver to customers levels of electrified high-performance motoring that until now have simply been unattainable”. +++ 

+++ Booming sales of crossovers and SUV cars have already spelled the end of several models, and it appears that the MINI Cabrio is on the list too. The open-top subcompact is not that popular nor cheap to buy, so the carmaker has reportedly decided to drop it altogether. The information comes via supply chain sources and if accurate, then the MINI Cabrio will bite the dust in February 2024, when production of the current generation is allegedly scheduled to end. I contacted MINI for an official statement, but a spokesperson declined to confirm it, saying only that “the Convertible remains an appealing model in MINI’s lineup”. The statement is not backed up by the sales charts. +++ 

+++ “A 3-year crush, a 5-year relationship and finally there comes marriage today”, said NIO founder and CEO William Li, in high spirits, at the company’s showroom in downtown Beijing. Li was not summarizing his romantic life, although Nio showrooms have become popular marriage proposal sites for its fans. He was unveiling the company’s battery swap initiative, called BaaS, or battery as a service. BaaS enables people to buy an electric car without buying its battery pack. Car owners pay monthly rental fees for their use, and they can even choose battery packs of different capacities if they want. “To offer customers more choice is always something good. And charging and battery swap do not contradict each other. Our goal is that customers can charge the cars, swap and upgrade their batteries”. Nio started offering a battery swap service since 2018 through a financial program. Different from BaaS, car owners must pay for the battery packs as well. “Buying a vehicle without buying the battery is what the electric car sector should be like”, said Li. Li said the idea of battery swap first emerged in 2012 when he did a survey at Biauto, a Chinese car comparison website he founded, about electric cars. The survey of 64.000 respondents showed that almost half of them were worried about inconvenient charging and over 30 % said the battery cost would be exorbitant. “So since we founded Nio in 2015, everything we do, including our chassis design, centers around battery swap. And finally, 8 years later, it has become a reality”, Li said. What excites Li is that BaaS solves such concerns as battery cost, the vehicle’s residual value and inconvenient charging. The battery pack is the most expensive component of an electric car, accounting for around half of a car’s total cost. Baas slashes electric cars’ price tags by up to almost 20 % and is thus expected to make them more competitive compared with gasoline cars. “We believe with BaaS, more customers of gasoline cars will consider electric vehicles”, Li said. In terms of charging, not every one in big cities can have a private charging pole. And for those who do, it usually takes hours to get a vehicle fully charged. Battery swap, in comparison, takes minutes. Li said a station the size of 3 parking spaces can offer batteries for 96 vehicles a day. He said the company is working on second generation stations, which will be able to serve 400 vehicles per day. So far Nio has 143 battery swapping stations in 64 cities around China, with it taking 3 minutes to swap a spent battery pack for a fully charged one. Li said Nio is on average building 1 station a week and plans to build 300 new stations in 2021. Frank Schlenstedt, a technology chief at an automation company in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, has been using his Nio ES8 mainly via battery swap. He has completed lengthy trips from Suzhou to Beijing, Harbin in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province and Shenzhen in South China’s Shenzhen province. Schlenstedt said battery swap is one of the reasons that he decided on the startup’s vehicle, because it represents innovation. “Battery swap is not a new concept, but Nio is the first to make it a reality”, he said. The concept-to-reality process took 5 years. “You could not sell electric cars without batteries until very recently, and you had many government departments to convince”, said Li. Li said in addition to “patient communications” with them, over 1.200 patents Nio has developed and more than 800.000 swaps done over the years helped to persuade them. “I was moved when a senior government official said ‘There must be something real about battery swap if so many people like it’ “, said Li. China has led the world in new energy sales in the past 5 years and has built 38.000 charging stations, 449 battery swap stations and 1.3 million charging poles, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information. Building battery swap stations was included in this year’s central government work report as part of efforts to boost the country’s new energy vehicle segment. Xin Guobin, vice-minister of industry and information, told a news conference in July that battery swapping will be further promoted. The technology will help extend the life of batteries, enhance safety and lower costs for buyers, Xin said, adding that enterprises will be encouraged to develop new battery charging and swapping technologies. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen has given the 9th generation PASSAT a definitive go-ahead after more than a year of internal debate over the future of the German saloon and estate. The decision comes after Volkswagen Group chairman Herbert Diess had cast doubt on whether the Passat would be replaced. He cited the increasing popularity of the similarly sized Arteon and plans to produce the well-received electric ID.Vizzion concept in saloon and estate bodystyles from 2023 onwards as possible reasons not to continue beyond today’s car, which was introduced in 2015. Set for a showroom launch early in 2023, the new Passat will share its platform, drivetrains and electrical architecture with the Skoda Superb. Both will be produced in a new greenfield factory to be established by Skoda as part of a major expansion of its production capacity. The move will bring an end to the production of the Passat at Volkswagen’s Emden factory in Germany after more than 36 years, according to Volkswagen sources, who say the plant will be soon begin a comprehensive reconstruction for the ID.4, which is scheduled to be produced there from 2022. The decision to push ahead with the Passat will also end Volkswagen’s strategy of offering 2 different versions of the mid-sized model. Currently, European versions are based on the MQB platform, while the Passat sold in the US and through one sales channel in China continues to be based on the old PQ46 platform, which dates back to the 6th generation model introduced in 2005. From 2023, however, all Passats will be underpinned by an updated version of the MQB platform used by today’s model and supporting both front- and four- wheeldrive. It’s claimed to provide scope for not only an increased number of mild and plug-in petrol and diesel hybrids but also the packaging of a fully electric drivetrain. The refocused Passat is targeting a more upmarket audience, but will need to prove itself against established performers like the BMW 3 series and Mercedes C-Class. The styling of the new model, known internally as the B9, has already been completed, say Volkswagen insiders. They suggest it will take on an even more versatile role, with accommodation and load-carrying ability high priorities. One insider said: “With the Arteon, we already have a style leader in the segment. This leaves the door open for the Passat to become even more space-orientated than today’s model”. It remains to be seen whether Volkswagen continues with a traditional 4-door saloon model or adopts the 5-door liftback design of the Superb. What is certain, though, is that the Variant model will continue. A longer wheelbase and wider tracks are set to provide it with greater space than today’s model. It is thought the new car will have a more conservative design than its similarly sized range-mates, the Arteon and a production version of the ID.Vizzion, to differentiate the 3 cars. Also planned is a follow-up to the Passat Alltrack, featuring increased ride height and additional bodyside cladding. The Passat first entered production in 1973 and recently notched up its 30-millionth sale, making it the second-most-successful Volkswagen model by sales after the Golf. Despite its ongoing success, though, concerns about the Passat’s continued sales prospects in key global markets are said to have led to the serious doubts over whether it would progress beyond today’s 8th generation model. “I’m not sure we need 3 models of similar size that all compete in the same segment. We will have to look closely at how we progress with the Passat”, Diess told ahead of the recent decision to approve the 9th generation model. Pressure from Volkswagen’s Chinese operations, which sell both the US- and Europe-spec Passat through different sales channels, is claimed to have been key in the decision to continue with the 9th generation model, which has been conceived to support Level 3 autonomous driving technology as well as 5G connectivity functions. +++ 

+++ Due to their low centers of gravity, electric vehicles have a big advantage over the ICE-powered cars in the moose test, but does this apply to the PORSCHE Taycan Turbo S? Actually, it depends on the driver’s skills and the width of the road, because the zero-emission Tesla Model S challenger from Stuttgart is a very big car, so not hitting the cones is tricky. In its defense, though, the range-topping Taycan, which was the one subjected to the test, handles more like a sports car than a luxury sedan, with almost no body roll, especially in the Sport+ driving mode, and after many failed attempts, it did pass at 78 km/h. That is a good result, but not an outstanding one. The Tesla Model 3 tested last year passed with flying colors, with an entry speed of 83 km/h. +++ 

+++ To say 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone is a tremendous understatement. Since is all about cars, my focus is on the auto industry and I’ve certainly seen some financial upheavals in recent months. A new study takes a deeper dive into the situation that doesn’t just cover the overall scene, but interesting stats per vehicle. And the numbers are surprising. The study comes from a German website and it shows how various automakers are weathering the coronavirus pandemic from a deeper financial standpoint. By that, we mean the study looks at overall PROFITS and losses, but it also applies those statistics to a per-car level. For example, the study says Volkswagen sales are down by 28 % so far through 2020, but that figure alone doesn’t tell the full story because it lacks the context of vehicle production, company efficiency, and other ways automakers earn revenue. Taking a deeper look, the study shows Volkswagen has lost the equivalent of approximately €415 per car sold in 2020. Meanwhile, Toyota sales are down 29 %, slightly more than VW, but the company made money per car: €533 to be exact. Additionally, the report states BMW has lost approximately €1.100) per car, with Mercedes-Benz dropping less than €600 per car. The news isn’t all bad for German brands, however. Despite the downturn, Porsche is reportedly showing a profit of nearly €10,000 per car, while in the US, Tesla is up by €3,000 per car. The report attributes at least some of Tesla’s profit to the sale of carbon dioxide certificates to other automakers; basically a way to shuffle around numbers relating to emissions regulations. +++ 

+++ RENAULT SAMSUNG ‘s compact sport utility vehicle XM3 is gaining praise from young consumers in South Korea for its unique design, according to market watchers. The XM3 reportedly sold 10.000 units in just 49 days after its release in March, a record for the company. The compact SUV sold over 5.000 units monthly for 4 consecutive months following its launch, accumulating sales of 24.161 units as of July; the highest figure in 4 months, in the domestic compact SUV market. The vehicle’s unique exterior design was a key factor that attracted customers. The XM3 combines the design of a sedan and a premium SUV along with a coupe rear roof. Its competitive pricing also made it an attractive choice for customers in their 20s and 30s, who comprised almost half of total consumers. +++ 

+++ Proving the old adage that trouble can come from anywhere, the latest CO2 emissions data for Europe highlights that one of the many headwinds is blowing from the direction of one of the most popular and most profitable areas of the car-making business. For many years, SUV cars have been the panacea for under-pressure companies, a few inches of ride height seemingly transforming buyers’ interpretations and luring them into spending several thousands more on what’s often simply a higher hatchback. So long beset by wafer-thin margins, firms couldn’t believe their luck. Proving the old adage that trouble can come from anywhere, the latest CO2 emissions data for Europe highlights that one of the many headwinds is blowing from the direction of one of the most popular and most profitable areas of the car-making business. For many years, SUVs have been the panacea for under-pressure companies, a few inches of ride height seemingly transforming buyers’ interpretations and luring them into spending several thousands more on what’s often simply a higher hatchback. So long beset by wafer-thin margins, firms couldn’t believe their luck. At the start of the SUV boom, when accountants, engineers and factories were focused on switching on the income in larger car sectors, these inevitably heavier and less aerodynamic vehicles were happily (or ignorantly) powered by diesel, which, for all its faults, has always held a considerable CO2 advantage over petrol. Things are very different now, with buyers eschewing diesel but largely unable or unwilling to pay extra for a plug-in hybrid. The result? The very cars generating the profits for firms to invest in this once-in-a-generation technology shift are at risk of attracting emissions fines that curtail their value. No one is going to stop building SUVs (they’re too profitable for that) but an indication of the issues they’re causing is shown in the latest, typically excellent JATO Dynamics summary of calculated CO2 averages so far this year. It highlights that, after years of reducing CO2 via huge investments in cleaner engine technology, the industry is now back to where it was in 2014. Thank you, SUVs and petrol. But there can be no excuses; the EU has outlined a phased goal from 2020, whereby marques must, in very simple terms, average 95 g/km of CO2 per car sold or face stringent fines. At the end of last year, the European industry was, at an average, a massive 27.2 g/km over that target. There are success stories, led by Toyota, Citroën and Nissan. Each is tackling the challenge differently. Toyota sits pretty thanks to its long-held focus on hybrids. Citroën benefits from selling plenty of small, light cars and a relatively low proportion of SUVs (30 %). And 9 % of Nissan’s sales in Europe are of the electric Leaf, offsetting the fact that 72 % of its total is from SUVs. Others companies face far greater problems, but even these leaders are feeling the pressure. In truth, there’s only one answer, and it’s not such a happy story for the bottom line: if you want to keep making SUVs, you must keep ploughing profits into making more plug-in hybrids and electric cars. +++ 

+++ Shares of TESLA surged past the $2.000 mark for the first time as the electric car maker extended its recent rally ahead of an upcoming share split. The company’s stock closed at a record high $2.001.83; up 6.6 % for the day. With many investors betting Tesla will be added to the S&P 500 after a strong quarterly report last month, the stock has surged over 300 % in 2020. The stock has jumped 45 % just since August 11, when Tesla announced a 5-for-1 stock split. The surge put Tesla’s stock market value at $372 billion, greater than all but 7 of the S&P 500’s components. Tesla’s stock is among the highest priced, per share, on Wall Street, and the Palo Alto, California-based company has said it was looking to make its shares more accessible to employees and investors. However, with Robinhood and other brokerages increasingly letting customers by fractions of individual shares, the benefit of stock splits has become less obvious, making Tesla’s rally following the announcement of its stock split surprising to some professional investors. Tesla’s stock is currently priced at an exceedingly high 148 times expected earnings and that valuation will not be affected by the upcoming stock split. Tesla will start rolling out “made-in-China” Model Y vehicles at its factory in Shanghai starting in 2021. Investors expect important announcements when Tesla holds its long-awaited Battery Day on September 22, the same day as its annual shareholder meeting. The company is expected to present battery innovations, with analysts at Morgan Stanley predicting a company announcement on supplying “superior” battery packs to the auto industry. +++ 

+++ The TOYOTA Supra may reign as the automaker’s flagship sports car right now, but let’s all be reminded that an upcoming hypercar is underway. Teased at a track video driven by Toyota CEO and President Akio Toyoda himself, the GR Super Sport hypercar’s development is probably on-going right now. This latest bit of news might be connected to that, though we have to put emphasis on might. Toyota filed a patent for a canopy section at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. There are 2 patents applied by Toyota. One is for the latches on the left and right side of the car, describing how they will unlock to open the door. The other patent is for the side sill of the vehicle, which is believed to the GR Super Sport hypercar, allowing ingress and egress. While the canopy patent application isn’t a telltale sign of the current work employed on the GR Super Sport hypercar, we can’t help but believe that it is so considering that there isn’t any other vehicle that this patent will be needed for (plus the shape of the illustration). Then again, take these speculations with a healthy dose of skepticism. This patent may or may not really be for the Toyota hypercar. For now, what we know is that the GR Super Sport is built as a road-legal model, as part of the homologation process for the race car competing in FIA’s newly established hypercar class. The road-going version is expected to carry a hybrid powertrain that produces a total output of around 1.000 hp. +++ 

+++ The death of a VOLKSWAGEN employee suspected to have illegally recorded 50 hours of conversations from the company’s internal meetings is treated by German prosecutors as a likely suicide. While authorities did not comment on the identity of the deceased man found inside a burned-out car near Helmstedt earlier this month, they did say he was the owner of the vehicle. Mind you, the car had already been confirmed as being registered in his name. The dead person was a VW employee who had done business with Bosnian supplier Prevent Group. According to the Braunschweig public prosecutor, initial evidence points to suicide. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said there are many indications of a suicide, although that hypothesis has not been conclusively clarified. Volkswagen said it was shocked by the incident and that it would support prosecutors where possible. “To our knowledge there is so far no reliable information on what led to the incident”, the automaker was quoted as saying. VW and the Bosnian supplier group fell out in 2016 following a disagreement over pricing that prompted Prevent subsidiaries to halt deliveries of seat covers and cast iron parts for gear boxes. This caused production losses at 6 Volkswagen plants. The 2 companies have since been involved in claims and counterclaims for damages caused by the dispute. In March 2018, Volkswagen Group terminated all contracts with Prevent. The former VW employee, now found dead, allegedly had secretly recorded conversations from internal meetings in 2017 and 2018 dedicated to eliminating the supplier. Last month, the carmaker filed a criminal complaint against its employee and suspended him pending the result of an investigation. Prevent maintained it had no knowledge of the recordings. In addition to the death of the former VW procurement manager, the Braunschweig public prosecutor said it was also investigating the circumstances of a possible arson attack on the man’s house. The building caught fire in May and was completely destroyed. +++

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