Newsflash: Hyundai promoveert Ioniq tot apart automerk

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+++ Cars have some pretty remarkable capabilities nowadays, from advanced stability and traction control systems to adjustable engine and transmission settings. They all depend on a plethora of sensors and computers to run it all. But to optimize these systems even farther, AUDI is planning on using a single, powerful computer to control both powertrain and chassis components. Audi hopes this solo computer solution will be able to have each set of vehicle systems complement each other and see improved driving characteristics and even possible efficiency gains. The computer Audi has in mind is approximately 10 times more powerful than the chassis and powertrain computers the company already uses, and it would be receiving data and making decisions via around 90 sensors and controllers, rather than the 20 or so the chassis computer has access to now. Not only will the computer have more information and computing power, but it will be able to coordinate how it responds to the information between the powertrain and chassis. There’s potential here for the system to have less intrusive traction and stability control, better gear selection, smoother ride quality, more precise torque vectoring and motor control, and more; all because instead of more limited systems working semi-independently, you’d have one unified, optimized system. As a more basic example, consider how Mazda has a system that slightly cuts power at turn-in to improve response and reduce driver effort when cornering. But the Audi system opens up possibilities for little improvements like that everywhere. Audi hasn’t given a specific time frame for when we’ll see its central powertrain and chassis computer reach production, but it noted that it should show up in the near future. It highlighted that it’s a modular system that will be applicable to internal combustion, hybrid and fully electric cars. With that in mind, we’d expect the first cars to get it in the next year or 2. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY has revealed a groundbreaking 3 year research study that could be a game changer for electric vehicle drivetrains. The study, dubbed ‘Octopus’ (Optimised Components, Test and simulatiOn, toolkits for Powertrains which integrate Ultra high-speed motor Solutions), followed an initial 18 month investigation into electric drive systems for high performance vehicles. The latest study is intended to help in the development of the first all-electric Bentley, which is set to arrive by 2026. The Octopus development exceeded the latest permanent magnet motor performance and also negated the need for both rare-earth magnets and copper windings, making it both cost-effective and recyclable. From here, next generation materials and manufacturer and simulation processes will be added to the motor, power electronics and packaging transmission design in order for Bentley to deliver a full e-axle powertrain within the next 6 years. “We have made no secret of our ambition to lead the way in the delivery of sustainable luxury mobility, called Beyond100”, said Stefan Fischer, Bentley’s director of powertrain engineering. “We have a clear roadmap to offer a hybrid option for every model by 2023, starting with the Bentayga Hybrid and our next goal moves towards a fully electric Bentley by 2026. “However today, there remains challenges and package constraints on the viability and flexibility of electric vehicle powertrains that are able to fully support EV architectures. “With the industry, technologies and cars changing faster than ever before, research projects such as Octopus are crucial to deliver innovative technologies and overcome challenges for the next generation of mobility solutions”. Octopus is in partnership with Innovate UK and is an OLEV funded project. “The IDP Programme is playing a significant part in the UK’s push to net zero carbon by providing support for the development of ground-breaking zero emission technologies”, said Francesca Iudicello, programme manager for low and zero emission vehicles at Innovate UK. “The APEX and Octopus projects are an outstanding example of how the partnership between a UK SME and a global OEM can continue through the different development stage of motor drives, which puts UK innovation at the forefront of the high performance PEMDs market worldwide”. +++ 

+++ For a car advertised as sporty, the first-ever BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe performed poorly in the moose test. The premium subcompact model could not return to its initial lane quick enough after swerving to avoid the imaginary obstacle at 78 km/h. The changes in weight transfer and Bridgestone Turanza T005 standard tires pushed it into the cones every time and they had to lower the speed to 68 km/h in order for the M235i Gran Coupe to leave the cones intact, which is a poor result for such a vehicle. In fact, it is comparable to the new Suzuki Jimny, which managed to complete the test at the same speed without being all over the place. The Volkswagen Golf did it at 69 km/h, whereas one of the 2-Series Gran Coupe’s biggest rivals, the Mercedes-Benz CLA 200, did it at 41 mph 66 km/h. Despite sharing the 2-Series nameplate with the rear wheeldrive, 2-door models, the M235i Gran Coupe is built on a front wheeldrive biased, all wheeldrive platform, which is also used by the 1-Series, X1 and X2. It can cover the 0 to 100 km/h mark in 4.9 seconds and has a 250 km/h top speed thanks to its 306 hp and 450 Nm of torque 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. +++ 

+++ Joe Biden is running for president, and one of his video is raising eyebrows as he suggests General Motors is working on an electric CHEVROLET CORVETTE that can hit 322 km/h. Biden was talking about how electric vehicles can enable American automakers to “own the 21st century market”. He then goes on to say: “They tell me, and I’m looking forward, if it’s true to driving one, that they’re making an electric Corvette that can go 322 km/h”. While Biden did throw out a cautionary “if it’s true”, he then says: “You think I’m kidding? I’m not kidding”. While this would seem to suggest Biden has some insider knowledge, GM spokesperson Jeannine Ginivan told: “I don’t know who ‘they’ are who told him that, but we don’t have any news about any new electric Corvette”. I’ve previously reported on rumored Corvette hybrids, but it seems Biden might be on to something. One of sources confirmed the company is planning an all-electric Corvette. They said the model is likely at least 2 years away as it will follow other performance versions of the car. Previous reports have indicated the Corvette platform was developed with electrification in mind and rumors have suggested there will be a high-performance plug-in hybrid which produces 1.014 hp thanks to a twin-turbo V8 engine and a front-mounted electric motor. Of course, both Biden and the source said this Corvette would be an electric vehicle.  That’s pretty interesting, but there’s also the possibility Biden was talking about the Genovation GXE which is an electric Corvette C7 which can hit 354 km/h. +++ 

+++ Authorities and carmakers in CHINA are stepping up efforts to make it easier and faster to charge electric vehicles, as charging convenience and time is dwarfing mileage anxiety as the top concern for potential buyers. Last week, China’s Ministry of Transport issued a document, saying it will encourage local governments to build fast-charging facilities in rest areas along the country’s major expressways. This is one of the latest moves from the central government to bolster infrastructure in the emerging industry. Earlier this year, building a better charging network was listed as part of the nation’s new infrastructure initiative and included in the State Council’s Government Work Report. China already has the world’s largest charging network for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. By the end of June, there were 1.32 million charging pillars in the country, of which 558.000 were for public use, according to the National Energy Administration. The administration said it is working on a plan to expand the network. Such moves are essential, according to carmakers and users. Despite the number, more than 3 vehicles have to share 1 charging pillar in the country. Stephan Wöllenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China, said current electric cars in the Chinese market have an average range from 400 to 600 kilometers, which is similar to gasoline vehicles. He said the inadequate charging network and slow charging are becoming major concerns that dissuade some potential buyers. Volkswagen is partnering with local Chinese companies to help solve the problem. Earlier this year, the German carmaker announced a plan to produce flexible charging stations in China. Due to compact dimensions, charging stations could be set up almost anywhere where there would be a need or where no charging infrastructure is yet available, according to Volkswagen. The flexible charging points could also be turned into fixed charging points when connected to the low voltage grid. According to Volkswagen, this would require less effort and cost compared to permanently installed quick charging points. In the second half of 2019, Volkswagen expanded its joint ventures with FAW, JAC Motors and Star Charge, which covers development and production of Wallbox chargers and charging pillars. Tesla is updating its charging network too, with the first supercharger version 3 in Beijing put into use last week. It is the third of its kind in the Chinese mainland. The supercharger supports peak rates of up to 250 kW per car. At this rate, a Model 3 can recover up to 200 km of charge in 15 minutes. “Combined with other improvements, V3 Supercharging will ultimately cut the amount of time customers spend charging by an average of 50 percent, as modeled on our fleet data”, said Tesla when announcing the new charger in 2019. Tesla has a goal to add 4.000 superchargers including V3 ones this year into its charging network in China, which is double the figure of those built over the past 5 years combined. Mercedes-Benz is working with Chinese battery maker CATL to cut charging times. The German premium carmaker said for its EQ S sedan, which will be delivered in 2021, the development goal is a range of more than 700 km and a reducing by half of the time it takes to charge compared to current models. Besides charging pillars, some Chinese carmakers including BJEV and Nio are promoting battery swap technology. Statistics from the Ministry and Information Technology show that China had 449 battery swap stations by the end of June this year across the country. Battery swapping will help extend the life of batteries, enhance safety and lower costs for electric car buyers, said Xin Guobin, a vice-minster of industry and information technology, at a news conference in July. He added that the technology will be piloted in regions including Beijing and Hainan province. At BJEV’s battery swap stations, vehicles can get their empty batteries replaced by fully-charged ones within 90 seconds. The company is also planning to build 100 battery swap stations in the second half of 2020, in cities including Beijing and Xiamen in Fujian province, bringing its total to 300. BJEV inked a deal with State Grid EV Service last month, and their battery swap stations have started operations in Jinan and Qingdao in Shandong province. +++ 

+++ DRIVER ASSISTANCE SYSTEMS are designed to save lives, but they’re far from perfect. A new study from AAA makes that plainly clear as it found, over the course of 6.437 km, active safety systems experience an “issue” an average of every 12.9 km. The study involved a number of different 2019 and 2020 models including a BMW X7, a Ford Edge and a Subaru Outback. All were equipped with some form of semi-autonomous driving technology. Most of the issues can be chalked up to lane-keeping assist systems as they were responsible for 73 % of events in the test. Unsurprisingly, the condition of the road and lane markings had a huge impact on their effectiveness. In particular, the study found that on fresh pavement with well-defined lane markers, all the systems were able to maintain consistent lane positioning. However, most roads aren’t new and the condition of lane markings can vary greatly. That wasn’t the only issue as the study found the systems had trouble keeping vehicles in their lane. They would also come “too close” to other vehicles or guardrails. The study also found driver assistance systems are “far from 100% reliable”. Of note, the models had trouble dealing with a simulated disabled vehicle that was partially blocking a lane of traffic. The BMW X7 hit the simulated vehicle on 2 of 3 runs. In one instance, the SUV didn’t even recognize the obstacle and it plowed into it at 46.5 km/h. However, it recognized the vehicle on the second run and applied the brakes reducing the impact speed to 40.4 km/h. In the third run, the simulated vehicle was detected early enough that a collision was avoided. The Outback only hit the simulated vehicle once and at a significantly reduced speed of 23.1 km/h. Overall, AAA says a collision occurred 66 % of the time. However, the average impact speed was 40.2 km/h, which was lower than the set speed of 48.3 km/h.  It’s also worth mentioning these systems weren’t really designed to detect vehicles only partially blocking a lane. On the bright side, the various adaptive cruise control systems with stop-and-go / traffic jam assist worked well. AAA says they made “no contact with the lead vehicle during any test run”. According to AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations, Greg Brannon, “With the number of issues we experienced in testing, it is unclear how these systems enhance the driving experience in their current form”. He added: “In the long run, a bad experience with current technology may set back public acceptance of more fully automated vehicles in the future”. +++ 

+++ DS AUTOMOBILES came to China in 2012, but the following years have been lackluster. The premium arm of French carmaker PSA suffered from poor brand-promotion and broke up with its joint venture partner earlier this year. It is not quitting the Chinese market though. in Shanghai, a city nicknamed Paris of the East, the French marque announced its decision to make a second run in the world’s largest market. “We reaffirm our ambition to be recognized as a premium brand in China, as the unique French premium brand”. said DS China Managing Director Nicolas Monnot. He added that DS has learnt from the past, admitting that the brand’s unstable positioning and vague image made many confused about what they really wanted to achieve. “Look at the market. There are so many brands, so many proposals and so many possibilities for the Chinese customers. If you are not clear what you are, what you stand for and what is you reason to be in this market, people forget you”, Monnot said. This time, the niche marque wants to revamp its image in China with a special focus on French fashion and haute couture, which is well reflected in its new slogan that reads “aesthetics drives further”. “Yes, it’s our common belief that injecting more aesthetics in everyday life makes the world better”, Monnot said. He said there was a lot of debate about what features to emphasize and finally they decided on style and French luxury knowhow. “We hope people also notice the word Paris under the logo; a simple but efficient way to remind customers on our origins and roots from Paris”, Monnot said. But he was quick to add that technology is also important. The company doesn’t want customers to regard its vehicles as luxurious but lacking technology. Alexandre Fils, product and marketing director of DS China, said bold designs, cutting-edge technologies and attention to detail are shared values among French luxury and haute couture companies. The DS 9 it presented is such a representation. It is positioned as a mid-large size sedan, with a wheelbase measuring almost 2.900 mm. The sedan is over 4.900 mm, larger than most competitors. “DS designers want to create a moving sculpture with a perfect blend between timeless large surfaces, graphical lines and luxury details”, Fils said. DS also presented its 7 Crossback and the electric vehicle 3 Crossback E-Tense, which is scheduled to make the Chinese debut in 2021. After 5 consecutive years of global decline, DS sales rose 16 % to 61.989 last year, boosted by the launches of the new 7 Crossback and 3 Crossback. “The future of a brand hinges on its credibility and success. If one looks at what DS did in 2019, obviously the future of DS is not an issue”, CEO Beatrice Foucher told. +++ 

+++ Jim Farey will lead FORD into the future as the global auto industry faces a new era of autonomous and electric vehicles. The company named Farley, 58, as its new CEO effective from October 1, replacing Jim Hackett, who will retire after 3 years at the helm. Farley, who has been with Ford for more than a decade, has been chief operating officer since February. He faces tough challenges as the industry emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Ford is losing money and is transitioning from an aging model lineup to new vehicles, including those powered by electricity. It’s also in the midst of an $11 billion restructuring plan to cut costs, bureaucracy and make money off its autonomous vehicle unit. Executive chairman Bill Ford, the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford, said the board briefly discussed looking outside for a CEO, but was inspired by Farley’s leadership and felt the company is moving in the right direction. “We talked about it and we did throw some names around”, he said. “Every time we did that, we always felt that Jim Farley rose to the top”. As Chief Operating Officer, Farley led the company’s global markets and product development. He was in charge as Ford rolled out a revamped F-150 pickup (the USA’s bestselling vehicle), the new Bronco SUV and the electric Mustang Mach-E crossover. Farley, who was hired away from Toyota by then-CEO Alan Mulally in 2007 to run Ford’s marketing operations, said that his main goal is for a smooth transition. But he has plans for the future that will be announced later. The company, he said, would continue on the path set by Hackett, with priorities of reaching a 10 % profit margin in North America; seeking immediate material and warranty cost improvements; fixing under-performing businesses; maximizing opportunities in commercial vehicles; and outperforming the industry in rolling out new models. The 117-year-old company, he said, would grow and expand where it is strong, like making the transition from internal combustion engines to electric-powered commercial vehicles. It also wants to move more toward digital sales and add revenue from services such as electric vehicle charging and software, he said in an interview. Ford has been phasing out most cars in recent years because they didn’t make money. But that has left the company without low-priced vehicles. Farley said he wants to change that by using Ford’s lower cost structure “to really create a lineup of more affordable products that go below what we offer today, so the brand is approachable and affordable, but do so in a profitable way”. He wouldn’t say whether the new vehicles would be cars or SUVs. In a nod to the changing auto industry, Farley left out traditional rivals General Motors and Fiat Chrysler when naming Ford’s competitors. Instead, he identified them as retail giant Amazon; Chinese search engine Baidu; electric car maker Tesla; iPhone maker Apple; and Japanese automaker Toyota. Farley said that he’s optimistic about Ford’s future as new products arrive and cost-cutting takes hold. Hackett, a retired Steelcase office furniture CEO who had run Ford’s mobility efforts, will stay on as an adviser through March. Bill Ford praised Hackett for taking difficult steps to modernize the company, reducing bureaucracy and preparing it for the future. “We now have compelling plans for electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as full vehicle connectivity. And we are becoming much more nimble”, Ford said. He cited Ford’s quick shift to make ventilators, face shields and other protective equipment at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Hackett also made the difficult decision to move Ford out of the sedan business in the US as the market shifted dramatically to SUVs and pickups. +++ 

+++ Chinese carmaker GEELY plans to use a platform developed with input from Volvo to build new models in Malaysia for its partly owned Proton brand; a strategy that shows how it aims to accelerate its push to become China’s first global auto giant. The yet-to-be-finalised plans for Proton are just one strand of a Geely project to revamp factories at home and abroad using joint platforms it has been perfecting with Volvo since 2013. Geely bought the Swedish brand 10 years ago for $1.8 billion; a deal that raised its international profile and sent shockwaves through the global auto trade. Senior Geely officials and engineers told that a project dubbed Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) will allow them to develop, design and build different types of compact cars with similar mechanical layout faster than before, and at lower cost. They said CMA, along with a platform for smaller cars known as B-segment Modular Architecture (BMA) that Geely plans to roll out for Proton, allow them to harness the Swedish automaker’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 at Geely Automobile Research Institute, confirming the Proton plan during an interview in Ningbo, south of Shanghai. Li declined to disclose details of general investment, financial targets or a timetable for expansion plans. From its lowly foundation in 1986 in Taizhou on the east coast as a maker of refrigerator parts, Geely has grown into one of the biggest players in China, the world’s largest auto market accounting for nearly one in every three passenger cars sold around the planet. Geely now sells more than 2 million cars a year across all brands, ranking it not far from the world’s top 10 automakers by unit sales. The CMA platform in particular will allow Geely and Volvo to design vehicles more quickly and cost-effectively, Li said, providing a technological springboard towards a higher market share at a time when the auto industry must embrace a future featuring electric and autonomously driven transport. Like Geely (an anglicisation of the Chinese word for ‘lucky’) domestic peers Great Wall Motor and GAC have branched out with their own versions of vehicle platforms, harbouring greater ambitions for selling cars in major Western markets. But grand plans have previously been delayed, or simply cancelled, amid a lack of practical preparedness, analysts have said, against a backdrop of years of trade tensions between China and the United States that have roiled the global economy. At the same time, attention has been diverted to deal with stalling sales at home as the pace of China’s growth has slowed. In its pursuit of global automaker status, Hangzhou-based Geely is now holding talks to merge the Volvo business with its Hong Kong-listed Geely Automobile; worth about $22 billion by market value, bigger then famed industry names like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Nissan. As well as the 49.9% stake it took in Proton 3 years ago, the broader Geely group (Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, led by Taizhou-born billionaire Li Shufu) now also comprises a 9.7 % stake in Daimler and a majority stake in British sport car brand Lotus. And while giants from Toyota to Volkswagen and General Motors have followed a similar shared platform projects for their respective brands, Geely’s strategy is a first for a Chinese company. The automaker plans to develop all its future models for the Geely and Lynk & Co brands on CMA or other related product platforms, like BMA. It is also developing a new architecture to accelerate the launch of pure battery electric vehicles with intelligent connectivity functions, said Li, a former Ford engineer. In addition, Geely wants to shift development of next generations of some popular existing models, like Borui and Emgrand sedans, to those architectures, he said. It takes around 18 months for Geely to significantly change a CMA-based car, versus 24-30 months to do so on a non-CMA-based model. Using CMA, plant managers can switch production of different models to maintain smooth overall capacity utilisation rates at production lines, said Oskar Falk, the Volvo-trained head at Geely and Volvo’s first joint production site in Taizhou. The plant already exports the Polestar 2 and is preparing to make Volvo’s first battery-powered electric vehicle, the XC40 Recharge P8, Falk said. Geely also plans to start exporting China-made Lynk & Co 01 crossovers to Europe this year. +++ 

+++ GREAT WALL MOTOR , China’s largest SUV and pickup manufacturer, reported rise in production and sales in July. The Baoding, Hebei-headquartered company manufactured 73.610 cars last month; up 22.98 % year-on-year. Sales in July climbed 29.79 % year-on-year to 78.339 units. In the January-July period, Great Wall Motor manufactured 464.643 cars; down 16.58 % year-on-year. Sales during the same period went down 14.53 % year-on-year to 473.436 units. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI is creating a family of electric vehicles it will sell under the Ioniq brand as part of its drive to become the world’s third-largest seller of EVs by 2025, the company said. Hyundai said the elevation of Ioniq from an individual vehicle nameplate to a brand will help support its goal of capturing 10 % of global EV sales in 2025. With electric vehicles still struggling to gain traction in most major markets, Hyundai’s main competitors will likely include traditional automakers Volkswagen and General Motors, both of which have announced plans to build and sell 1 million or more electric vehicles a year by 2025. Tesla, which makes only electric vehicles, aims to retain its current position as the world’s EV leader. Chief executive Elon Musk has said he expects the company to sell “a few million” vehicles in 2025. Ioniq was launched 4 years ago as a vehicle name plate under the Hyundai brand. The compact hatchback was offered with a choice of 3 powertrains: Conventional gas-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure battery electric. Those models will continue in production. Starting in early 2021, Hyundai said it plans to introduce 3 all-electric models under the Ioniq brand. They include the Ioniq 5, a midsize crossover based on the 2019 Hyundai 45 concept; in 2022, the Ioniq 6 sedan, based on the Hyundai Prophecy concept unveiled earlier this year, and in early 2024, the Ioniq 7, a large crossover. The 3 new Ioniq models will be built on a dedicated EV platform known internally as E-GMP, for Electric Global Modular Platform, which will “enable fast charging capability and plentiful driving range”, the company said in a statement. +++ 

+++ In JAPAN , the nation’s 5 major automakers saw sharp plunges in net profit for the April-June quarter due to the coronavirus pandemic, with their business forecasts for the full year heading in different directions as prospects become murky. The spread of the virus hit the car makers’ production and sales, causing their sales to fall 40 % to 60 % in the April-June period compared to the same period in the previous year. The financial results of 7 major automotive companies have been released for the April-June period. Of the 7, only Toyota and Suzuki posted net profits in the first quarter. Toyota stayed in the black with its operating profit, which indicates the profitability of its core business, and net profit, despite recording a 40 % decline in sales from a year earlier. Toyota’s new car sales recovered at a faster-than-expected pace in countries such as China, where economic activity resumed early, and the company’s repeated cost-cutting efforts had a positive effect on its results. Toyota’s new car sales in China, which excludes the sales of Daihatsu and Hino, fell by about 70 % of a year before in February, but returned to positive territory in April. Toyota’s sales volume in the May-July period is estimated to be about 20 % greater than what it was a year ago. It also expects global new car sales to turn positive in the January-March period in 2021, as there are signs of recovery in its sales in the U.S. market. Of the 5 companies that posted a net loss in the April-June period, Honda and Subaru are expected to continue on a recovery trend in the U.S. and Chinese markets. They expect to secure net profits in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, in the hope that consumer confidence and purchasing power will be improved due to the resumption of economic activity. Nissan and Mitsubishi are expected to post huge net losses in the fiscal year ending March 2021, due to the closure of unprofitable plants and other expenses that put pressure on their earnings. Nissan’s earnings were affected by the spread of the novel coronavirus and the deadlocked expansion plan by former chairman Carlos Ghosn. Foreign automakers, especially in Europe, also suffered a significant decline in earnings as a result of cities being locked down for infection control. Earnings at Volkswagen slipped to a loss of €1.6 billion in the April-June period. Renault, which is allied with Nissan and Mitsubishi, posted a huge loss of €7.3 billion in the January-June period. With a risk that the coronavirus outbreak could expand again, a Toyota official expressed concern over domestic and overseas auto markets, saying, “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future”. Subaru president Tomomi Nakamura explained that the company’s full-year earnings forecast “does not assume a global second wave of the coronavirus”. “The difference in earning power is clearly evident in the April-June period”, said Seiji Sugiura, senior analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute. “There is a downside risk for all companies if the spread of infections continues”, he said, noting that the situation will continue to be unpredictable. +++ 

+++ MAHINDRA is looking for investment partners for its domestic electric vehicles business and is finalizing investment plans for its Automobili Pininfarina unit, the group’s managing director said. The automaker wants to be a key player in mass-market electric vehicles (EVs) through its unit Mahindra Electric and in the high-end segment through Europe-based Pininfarina, which is building an electric hypercar Battista, Pawan Goenka said. Mahindra is seeking financial or strategic investors for Mahindra Electric, Goenka told a news conference after the group’s quarterly earnings. For Pininfarina, it is finalizing how much investment it needs for future projects and will then decide how to raise funds, Goenka said, adding that this could include taking a strategic partner. Mahindra said in June that it was evaluating all its businesses and would continue to invest only in those where it sees a strategic advantage or can get an 18 % return. It has said that EVs are strategic to its growth. As part of this evaluation, Mahindra has also decided not to proceed with the bid made by its North American unit to supply vehicles to the U.S. Postal Service, group CFO Anish Shah told at the same press conference. The project would have required an investment of close to $500 million and given “the current environment and the focus on capital allocation” it would not have met the company’s targeted return on investment, he said. Shah said the North America business is also under review and Mahindra will have more clarity on its future once litigation with carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (about a copycat Jeep) in that region ends. Mahindra reported a sharp fall in profit for the April-June quarter to 1.12 billion rupees ($15 million), compared with 23.14 billion rupees a year earlier, due to lockdowns and disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. +++ 

+++ Another facelifted MASERATI Quattroporte prototype has been spotted, this time on the back of a trailer, wearing even more camouflage than before, but there’s a good reason for that: it sports the production taillights. The lighting units have a very Audi-ish feel and the bumper lines look a bit softer. The front bumper, grille and headlights will also be revised, yet it is on the inside where the biggest changes will occur, as the Trident brand’s flagship sedan will embrace a new 10.1-inch infotainment system. There is a good chance that it might even get a fully digital instrument cluster, which will make it look and feel a bit more modern, something that it desperately needs, considering that the 6th generation has been around since 2012. An updated engine range is also on the cards for the Quattroporte, and the Ghibli’s mild-hybrid 2.0-liter 4-pot, with 330 hp, is also expected to be introduced. The Trofeo version will sit at the top of the lineup and will be presented on August 10. Elsewhere, the 3.0- and 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 and V8 are expected to be retained. The facelifted Quattroporte should debut later this year, though the unveiling of the Quattroporte Trofeo (and Ghibli) seems like a very good place to present it. +++ 

+++ To call the new BMW 4-Series simply ‘controversial’ might be an understatement and thankfully I’m not alone on this one. BMW apparently needed a strong visual differentiator for the new 4-Series, which is understandable, but their decision to slap a set of MASSIVE KIDNEY GRILLES on its face in such a shocking way led to many strong reactions from fans and media. Frank Stephenson is now also reacting to the new BMW 4-Series, going through the ins and outs of its styling and sharing his opinion on the looks of the new German coupe. As a reminder, Stephenson is responsible for the designs of many iconic models, including the McLaren P1, the Maserati MC12, the Fiat 500, as well as the original BMW X5. While liking a design or not is always going to be a subjective matter, watching a professional designer deep-dive into the styling details of a vehicle is certainly interesting. Especially when the vehicle in question is the new BMW 4-Series. As Stephenson notes, BMW is one of those brands that should be treated with gloves but at the same time, the carmaker has to keep things moving forward and evolve its design language. But still, some of the choices BMW made with the 4-Series are straight-up baffling. That of course includes the huge nostrils upfront which, according to Stephenson, simply don’t match the rest of the car’s design language. The grille looks unrefined and like it was designed from an entirely unrelated department compared to the rest of the vehicle. In the end, that face is what makes the new 4-Series more of a disappointment than anything else. +++ 

+++ It was more than 3 years ago when MERCEDES-AMG unveiled the GT Concept with a plug-in hybrid powertrain featuring a combined output of 816 hp. The Geneva showcar evolved into the confusingly named GT 4-Door Coupe as a sportier take on the CLS recipe. The model’s lineup currently tops out with the GT 63 S sans electrification. The plug-in hybrid derivative has been spied repeatedly and is expected to morph into the GT 73e in the following months or early next year. It looks like it won’t be the only AMG to feature a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 working together with an electric motor as a new report states the next S 63 will rock a similar if not identical setup. That’s the story I’m hearing. It is claimed the fullsize saloon in its sportiest guise will boast a 612 hp combustion engine and a 204 hp electric motor. That would give it a total output of almost 816 hp in a car believed to go by the lengthy name of Mercedes-AMG S 63 EQ Performance 4Matic+. Interestingly, the report goes on to specify AMG will not offer a conventionally powered S 63, meaning the top athlete in the S-Class lineup will come exclusively in electrified guise. As we’re sure you’ve heard by now, the AMG S 65 will not return for the W223 generation as the twin-turbo V12 engine (now with all-wheel drive for the first time) is set to become a Maybach-only affair. The S 63 will be the only full-fat AMG model of the next S-Class seeing as how aside from the S 65’s demise. The S-Class Coupe and Convertible will be phased out together with their spicy S 63 and S 65 derivatives. While the standard S-Class will premiere on September 2, the S 63 is expected to debut sometime in 2021 and go on sale later that fall. +++ 

+++ The NISSAN GT-R is probably one of the longest-running platform used for a nameplate in automobile history. The first production-spec version of the current GT-R was introduced in the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. Though it has undergone several updates, including the latest GT-R50 by Italdesign, the R35 GT-R is essentially the same underneath its skin and long overdue for a major redesign. But it won’t be long until we see the next-generation flagship Nissan sports car. Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta told that the company is in the process of massive lineup revamp and yes, that includes the GT-R. Nissan is already working on the GT-R’s redesign, which could come out in 2023. That’s just a mere 2 years; a fairly short time in GT-R years. The Japanese company is considering a performance-oriented hybrid powertrain for the GT-R, but it will be a kinetic energy recovery system. If that sounds familiar, Nissan’s Le Mans race car, the GT-R LM Nismo, uses the same technology. +++ 

+++ OPEL has been spied testing the facelifted iteration of the Crossland X, and it appears at first sight that the subcompact crossover might bring more than revised looks. The enclosed grille is not the only design change in store for the facelifted Crossland. There’s also a new front bumper with repositioned creases for the fog lamps and 2 wide air intakes further down. The headlamps appear to carry over with the same shape and graphics, and so does the entire back end, despite the partially hidden tailgate and quarter panels. If you’re tempted to think the Crossland will get an all-electric variant, that’s highly unlikely because the new-generation Mokka-e already covers that segment for Opel. Another reason why we won’t see a Crossland EV is the fact that its PF1 platform does not support electrification. We should see some updates to the engines for lower emissions and minor changes to the interior, though. So what’s with the 2021 Crossland’s enclosed grille then? Well, it’s for aesthetic purposes only, namely to tie the subcompact crossover to the all-new Mokka. Opel has already announced that all future models will get the new Vizor front fascia that debuted on the new Mokka and it looks like the Crossland (losing the ‘X’) will make no exception. We should learn more about the updated Crossland perhaps later this year or in early 2021. +++ 

+++ The merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA continues to inch forward, but that hasn’t stopped the latter company from eyeing a return to the United States. PSA has been working on a U.S. launch for years and PSA’s North American CEO, Larry Dominique, has confirmed PEUGEOT will make its return by 2023. While that’s only a couple of years away, the company is still trying to figure out a dealer network. However, some things have already been decided as Peugeot will franchise dealerships rather than adopt a direct sales approach. The company will also prioritize online sales which have become increasingly popular during the pandemic. Dominique went on to suggest Peugeot dealerships will be simple and relatively small. As he explained, their research has shown consumers are looking for a “simpler, more efficient process”. However, this hasn’t been reflected in dealership thinking as “our retail structure defaults to spending money on fountains and Taj Mahals; a good example of disconnect or lack of reality, if you ask me”. He went on to criticize “huge dealerships costing tens of millions of dollars” and automakers pushing dealers to build bigger and more expensive stores. In particular, he noted certain dealers had to use a specific type of marble in the construction of their stores. That might be good for consistency, but it probably doesn’t matter much at the end of the day. While a lot of details need to be worked out, Dominique has previously said the company is eyeing 15 states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington) for its U.S. return. +++ 

+++ TESLA will build 4.000 supercharger piles in China this year; a figure that will double those it built in the past 5 years. Tesla said it is in the process of executing the plan, when its version 3 supercharging station in Beijing was revealed. This station is also its third in the Chinese mainland. The V3 supercharger is more efficient than its predecessor. The company said a Model 3 can get a range of 200 km in 15 minutes when using a V3 supercharger. Tesla said it will speed up the building of V3 stations in major cities in China, which is one of the most important markets for Tesla cars, especially the Model 3. Tesla has now built more than 2.500 superchargers and around 2.400 destination chargers in the country. Established in 2003, Tesla is one of the most famous electric car brands globally. Its sales in the second quarter of 2020 totaled 90.650, which is a quarterly sales record for the company. It has manufacturing facilities in the United States and China. A new plant in Germany is under construction. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA warned of a 64 percent drop in full-year net profit and reported a slump in quarterly earnings, as the coronavirus pandemic shreds the global auto market. Japan’s top car maker, which had previously declined to give a bottom-line forecast because of ongoing uncertainty, now projects net profit at 730 billion yen ($6.9 billion) for the fiscal year to March, down from 2.07 trillion yen the previous year. Its forecast of annual operating profit remained unchanged at 500 billion yen; down nearly 80 % from the previous year. “The impact of Covid-19 is wide-ranging, significant and serious, and it is expected that weakness will continue for the time being”, Toyota said in a statement. The warning came as Toyota reported a 74.3 % plunge in net profit for the 3 months to June, with quarterly revenue down more than 40 %. By region, operating profit in Japan dropped more than 80 % in April-June, while it logged losses in North America and Europe. Carmakers around the world have been battered by the pandemic, with many relying on government help, as it slams the global economy into reverse and forces people to stay at home. “It was a tough quarter for all Japanese automakers. Toyota was no exception”, said Satoru Takada, auto analyst at TIW, a Tokyo-based research and consulting firm. “Production is recovering from the pandemic impact, after hitting rock bottom in April and May, but sales are expected to remain stagnant for now”, Takada told AFP before Toyota released the latest results. General Motors fell into the red in the second quarter with a $758 million loss, reversing a quarterly net profit a year ago. Toyota’s smaller domestic rival Nissan warned of a massive $6.4 billion net loss for the current fiscal year, while Honda reported a net loss for the quarter and forecast a much-reduced full-year profit. Toyota said the pandemic and the response to the virus had “adversely affected” the firm “in a number of ways”. It cited falling demand, as well as the temporary suspension of production at plants in Japan and overseas and hits to Toyota dealers, distributors, and third-party suppliers. “The duration of the global spread of Covid-19 and the resulting future effects are uncertain”, the firm warned, adding it was “difficult to predict” the final impact of the virus on its business. Toyota upgraded its group’s global sales target to 9.1 million units for the fiscal year from its earlier estimate of 8.9 million units. “Negative factors have outnumbered positive ones, but Toyota is still less affected than its rivals”, Takada said. +++ 

+++ VLF introduced the Fisker Karma-based Destino V8 at the 2016 North American International Auto Show and it appears the company continued to talk with the reborn Karma Automotive. However, things have soured as VLF is accusing Karma of stealing plans for an electric Humvee. According to the lawsuit, VLF shared plans about the vehicle with Karma as part of a proposed partnership last fall. That deal would have involved building the vehicle for the Chinese market, but Karma is accused of trying to steal it. The lawsuit says Karma CEO Lance Zhou used information provided by VLF to contact their manufacturing partners in an “effort to bring the electric Humvee to market, in China, on its own”. It goes on to allege that Karma’s “dismal sales” and “unfathomable losses” created a “vicious financial vortex” and this caused Karma’s parent company, the Wanxiang Group, to pressure Zhou to “turn the company around using any means possible”. It remains unclear how things will play out, but VLF is reportedly asking for at least €15.5 million in damages. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that Karma has been accused of stealing intellectual property. 3 years ago, there was the case of PowerSource, which was a company that offered an upgrade module for the original Fisker Karma. The module increased the car’s performance while also extending its electric-only range. Interestingly enough, the reborn Karma Revero had virtually the same changes and this quickly raised suspicions that Karma stole their technology and even used a “spy car” to do it. +++ 

+++ Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker XPENG , backed by Alibaba and Xiaomi, has filed to list its shares in New York, seeking to ride enthusiasm for EVs even as U.S.-China relations are strained. The move comes as share prices of EV makers including Tesla and Nio have surged in recent months. Shares in Xpeng rival Li Auto soared more than 50 % following its debut on Nasdaq, after the Chinese automaker sold shares to investors in its $1.1 billion IPO. The exuberance contrasts with relations between Washington and Beijing, which are at their worst in decades over accusations of spying, a trade war, the coronavirus and Hong Kong. Before 6 year old Xpeng sought permission to list on the New York Stock Exchange, it raised $900 million from investors in its latest funding round. This followed $400 million in fund-raising in November. The latest investors include Alibaba, Qatar Investment Authority and Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala. Guangzhou-based Xpeng, led by chief executive He Xiaopeng, has sold over 20.000 electric vehicles, including new P7 sedans and G3. It builds cars in 2 factories in China. Funds from the IPO will go towards research and development in areas such as intelligent vehicle technologies and sales expansion, the company said in a filing to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. +++

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