Newsflash: nieuwe Toyota Yaris schittert in botstest


+++ My spy photographers have spotted the all-new, all-electric AUDI Q4 e-tron undergoing testing for the first time. The finished car is expected to go on sale at the end of this year, as the 4th electric crossover in Audi’s stable, joining the full-size e-Tron and e-Tron Sportback, as well as the Chinese-market electric version of the Q2. The Q4 e-tron is based on the same MEB underpinnings as the Volkswagen ID.4 and will share the same range of drivetrains and battery packs, with the flagship variant sporting a 306 hp twin-motor, 4-wheeldrive powertrain and an 82 kWh battery. Like the ID.4, the range-topping Q4 e-tron will have a 0–100 kph time of 6 seconds, a top speed of 180 kph and a maximum WLTP range of 450 km,  which is a constant set of statistics shared across all of Volkswagen’s flagship MEB-based crossovers. The MEB platform can also accommodate a range of lesser powertrains and battery packs, which could also make their way onto the Q4 e-tron. For example, the ID.4 will soon be available with a single 204 hp electric motor, powered by the same 82 kWh battery pack, which will boost the crossover’s range to 500 km. In addition, Volkswagen will soon offer a series of entry-level and mid-range ID.3 hatchbacks, powered by batteries ranging between 45 kWh and 77 kWh in capacity. If Audi chooses to take these options for the Q4 e-tron, the cells would provide a theoretical driving range of between 320 and 480 km. The design of the Q4 e-tron remains faithful to the concept we saw at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. It features a similar pair of LED headlamps, a kindred shoulder-line and near-identical grille, while the triangular vents on the front bumper have been transferred wholesale. We’re yet to see the cabin of the new Q4 e-tron, but it should be broadly similar to that of the Volkswagen ID.4. As such, the dashboard will likely feature a small digital gauge cluster, a row of capacitive heater controls and a new 12.3-inch infotainment system which will be angled slightly towards the driver. The concept’s quirky hexagonal steering wheel will be ditched for the production variant, while the show car’s 4-seat layout will be swapped for a more practical 5-seat arrangement. Like the ID.4, buyers will also be offered a range of premium toys, such as a customisable ambient lighting system, massaging seats and a panoramic sunroof. When the Q4 e-tron eventually goes on sale, it’ll join a growing marketplace of premium electric SUVs. Rivals include the Nissan Ariya, the Volvo XC40 Recharge P8, as well as the upcoming Tesla Model Y. +++ 

+++ BMW has partnered with a technology and data company, Tactile Mobility, to develop a new road-sensing system that can read the surface beneath a car’s wheels, adjusting the vehicle’s dynamics to optimise performance and traction. The technology will be fitted to BMW’s next generation of cars, which will begin arriving in showrooms from 2021. The “tactile sensing” system uses “built-in, non-visual sensors” to compare road conditions with vehicle behaviour, drawing data from the suspension, tyres, brakes, and powertrain. Readings create a ‘VehicleDNA’, a set of anonymised datapoints based on the car’s behaviour. This information is paired with ‘SurfaceDNA’, an equivalent set of values relating to the road conditions, including grip levels and the curvature of the road. As well as allowing the car itself to optimise its settings based on the road surface, Tactile Mobility’s status as a data-providing company could open the door for anonymised data about road conditions, as well as vehicle and traffic information, being shared with local authorities. BMW has previously developed technology that can adjust a car’s behaviour based on the road, with the systems fitted to the Rolls-Royce Phantom using sat-nav data to help choose the correct gear for bends, junctions, and hills, and a forward-facing camera providing information for the car’s suspension. The firm’s new tactile sensing technology system may well have applications for connected vehicles, which share data with each other as well as infrastructure installations, such as road-monitoring stations. Any future self-driving cars that may emerge over following years or decades could also benefit from the technology. Commenting on the partnership with BMW, Boaz Mizrachi, Tactile Mobility’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said the system would provide “smart and future automated vehicles with the sense of ‘touch’ and show the commercial viability of tactile sensing technology”. While connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) may seem a distant dream for many, a report written by KPMG and commissioned by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders previously estimated they will bring billions a year to the economy by 2030 and bring about thousands new automotive-sector jobs. Such vehicles are also predicted to prevent 25.000 accidents and save 2.500 lives by 2030. Critics, however, highlight that predictions related to the advent of autonomous cars have been optimistic, and timelines overly ambitious. Only last year Ford admitted it had “overestimated” the arrival AVs, and rowed back on plans to have self-driving cars on the road by 2021. But while the arrival of autonomous cars may be uncertain, given value placed on consumer data (even if it is anonymised) connected vehicles are a more surefire bet. +++ 

+++ Sales of passenger cars in CHINA rose in August as the industry recovered rapidly, data released by the China Passenger Car Association showed. The retail sales of passenger vehicles expanded 8.9 % to reach 1.7 million units last month, registering the fastest growth since May 2018, the association said in its latest monthly report. Better-than-expected car exports and expanding sales of new energy vehicles contributed to strong passenger car sales growth in July and August, the report said. In the first 8 months, passenger car sales fell 15.2 % year-on-year. The decline narrowed by 3.3 percentage points compared with the January-July period, the report showed. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said the customer confidence boost came after the government launched consumption season activities and promotion events of new energy vehicles in rural areas. Auto demand was suffering even before China shut down its factories and dealerships in February to fight the coronavirus. More new models will hit the market at upcoming Beijing auto show, and travel demands will increase during Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday in early October. The traditional “golden September and silver October”, which refers to the period of best market performance each year, will also see strong sales growth, the association estimated. The new energy vehicle segment achieved encouraging results in August, surging 25.8 % year-on-year to 109.000 units. For the year to date, sales reached 596.000 units. New energy vehicles include battery-powered electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Electric startups, from homegrown Nio and Xpeng to Tesla from the United States, are expanding manufacturing capacities in China, which play an important part in the market. Xu Haidong, the vice-chief engineer of CAAM, said that Chinese customers are gradually accepting the products of electric startups and the products have promising signs of development in the near future. Xpeng’s listing last month marked the latest Chinese electric startup’s effort to raise capital in the US, following Li Auto in July and Nio in September 2018, which will help them get a better foothold in fierce competitions in the Chinese market. The startups achieved strong performances in August. Nio delivered 3.965 units; accounting for an increase of 104.1 % year-on-year. In the first 8 months, Nio has delivered 21.600 electric cars, surpassing its total sales in 2019. Li Auto delivered 2.711 units last month, hitting a new record of its monthly delivery. WM Motor sold 2.057 units last month; surging 143 % year-on-year. The new energy vehicle sales rebound was fueled by rural new energy vehicles sales promotion events and local governments’ support, Xu said. The new energy vehicle will maintain promising growth in the next few months and is likely to reach 1.1 million vehicles for the full year, he added. Chinese car brands sold 655.000 passenger vehicles last month, growing 6.3 % year-on-year. Their market share saw a slight increase of 0.1 percentage points to 37.3 % in August, marking the first increase over the past 5 months. Xu said that the brands have made efforts to improve the appearance of their vehicles, as well as the quality and intelligent features to meet customer demand. Chinese automakers reported sales growth in August. Geely sold 113.443 cars; up 12 % year-on-year. Its Lynk & Co brand hit a new record of monthly sales to 17.098 units; increasing 56 % year-on-year. Changan Automobile reported sales of 169.415 units in August; increasing 35.6 % compared with last August. Seeing year-on-year growth for 5 consecutive months, the carmaker achieved sales of more than 1 million for the year to date. Great Wall Motors sold 89.442 cars last month with an increase of 27 % year-on-year. CAAM also noted that the sales of commercial vehicles was driven by government investment in infrastructure and as buyers upgraded to comply with stricter emissions rules. Sales of trucks and other commercial vehicles, which constitute around a quarter of the market, surged 41.6 % to 431.000 units in August. +++ 

+++ Death is always a shock, even when you know it’s coming, and last week’s revelation that the Skoda Citigo (and with it presumably the Volkswagen Up and Seat Mii) would not be replaced was very sad indeed. Such are the tight margins, CITY CARS tend to be clever, quirky and compromised, and therefore easy to love. If the Volkswagen Group can’t make a single-platform multi-brand car like this work financially, then you have to worry for everyone else, too. Last year, one senior industry boss told me that a manufacturer and retailer would celebrate taking €100 of profit each from the sale of such a car, and then live in hope of making a similar amount of money over the next 3 years on servicing. The effort was justified by the ability of these cars to draw new buyers into the brand, the theory being that winning over younger buyers on three-year PCP deals would mean a proportion of them were subsequently hooked into buying more profitable cars. There’s a logic to that, although it doesn’t always work: the Fiat 500 has long been Europe’s bestselling city car, with the Panda not far behind, but alas you don’t see a lot of other, larger Fiats on the roads. The bell has tolled for such enterprises as a result of the increasing encroachment of legislation. Rising emission, crash and tech requirements are making the cost of engineering and producing such cars too great. From an emissions point of view, the irony is clear: these lightweight, compact vehicles could and should be part of the pollution solution, but they are instead being forced out of production by the stringency of the law makers. However, the city car’s not finished yet, of course. Hyundai / Kia have recently refreshed their i10 / Picanto offerings, for instance. Others, such as Fiat, plan to extend the life of their current platforms for as long as possible, eking out profitability. Many more, such as Suzuki and Mitsubishi, will keep making the cars for less regulated markets. Others, led most overtly by the French, are letting more radical solutions permeate, most notably by breaking free of the auto regulators altogether. Here, quadricycle regulations are sparking innovation. Far less stringent crash regulations, justified by the lower speeds of city driving, allow for a far lower cost of development, and the subsequent lightweight structures are also ideal for electrification. You could argue the Renault Twizy, launched in 2012, was ahead of its time. The near-identical Seat Minimo, revealed in 2019 and tipped for 2021 production, certainly suggests so. Meanwhile, the Citroën Ami has already been launched in some markets, at a rough cost of a €3.000 down payment and €19 per month subscription thereafter. As ever, necessity is the mother of invention, if not always to everyone’s tastes. +++ 

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES has opened a new vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging plant that allows its EVs to act as an extension of the electricity grid. The facility at the Mirafiori factory in Turin, Italy, is the heart of FCA’s project. Created in partnership with the French energy storage firm Engie EPS and Italian energy supplier Terna, it’s intended to show that the technology is “ready to use and that its business model can be replicated in a fairly short time”. V2G charging (also known as bi-directional charging) allows electricity to flow both to and from EVs, meaning energy can be stored in the battery and then sold back to the grid when demand for power is high. This helps to stabilise the grid during periods of high demand, as well as reducing reliance on fossil fuels and reducing CO2 emissions. FCA hopes this will encourage EV uptake, particularly among business fleet owners. The project, which began at the end of 2019, comprises 2 phases. The first phase comprises today’s opening in Mirafiori of 32 chargers, which are capable of connecting 64 vehicles. This phase will pilot the technology of V2G using the recently revealed new Fiat 500 and demonstrate its feasibility. For the second phase, beginning in 2021, FCA will extend the facility to house up to 700 EVs, creating what it claims will be the “largest V2G facility ever built in the world”. FCA’s chief operational officer for Europe, ​​​​​​Pietro Gorlier, said “we are all-in where electric is concerned” and stressed that “electric products need to form part of an ecosystem that can support them”. FCA is the latest of several companies to investigate V2G charging. In July, Audi announced that it was trialling the technology with its e-Tron, after Nissan trialled a similar scheme that allowed its EV fleet customers to buy a V2G charger to draw energy from the grid to power their car and then sell it back when the car wasn’t in use. Similarly, Renault adapted a fleet of Zoé cars for V2G charging last year, introducing 15 across Europe. Unlike Nissan’s earlier system, which necessitated the installation of an energy storage unit in EV owners’ homes, these Zoé cars have energy storage units installed on board. FCA is also working with city authorities in Turin to introduce what it calls the Turin Geofencing Lab. Tested on the new Jeep Renegade 4xe plug-in hybrid, the Geofencing system uses sensors to allow the car to recognise when it’s entering a congested area. It then automatically switches the car to electric-only mode, thus reducing emissions. +++ 

+++ Former Nissan director Greg Kelly has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to understate the remuneration of his former boss Carlos GHOSN by billions of yen, during the first hearing of his trial at the Tokyo District Court; nearly 2 years after his arrest. Kelly, a U.S. citizen, has been indicted for conspiring to hide ¥9.1 billion worth of payments in compensation and retirement benefits over eight years through March 2018. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison. “I was not involved in a criminal conspiracy”, Kelly told the court in English. During the hearing, held the same day Kelly celebrated his 64th birthday, the prosecution argued that Ghosn’s income had totaled about ¥17 billion and that Kelly’s former boss had instructed him to find ways for Ghosn to receive full remuneration between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2017 without disclosing the entire sum. Prosecutors alleged that Nissan listed Ghosn’s payment as only about ¥7.9 billion in its financial reports, hiding payments totaling about ¥9.1 billion. Kelly stressed he had not violated any Japanese laws. He said he offered advice to Ghosn following consultations with Nissan’s in-house lawyers and independent attorneys, saying his suggestions were in line with Japan’s financial laws. He said he was hopeful that evidence to be presented in the trial would prove his innocence. “I believe the evidence will show” that I did not break the law, he said. Ghosn, who also faces aggravated breach of trust charges, has claimed he was a victim of a coup at the automaker. Kelly has been accused of having made suggestions regarding how to avoid listing the full remuneration in financial reports. Such methods included deferring payment until Ghosn’s retirement, in order to record the balance as compensation in an advisory role instead. During the hearing, Kelly praised Ghosn’s leadership, stressing that the former chief executive rescued the company from the brink of bankruptcy and proved experts, who believed Ghosn would fail, wrong. Calling Ghosn “an extraordinary executive”, Kelly stressed that Nissan became highly profitable under the charismatic CEO’s reign. “Mr. Ghosn fiercely protected Nissan’s independence”. Kelly spent more than 30 years with the Japanese automaker, becoming the first American to sit on its board. Nissan is also a defendant in the trial, being charged with misreporting Ghosn’s remuneration and other executives for years. The carmaker pleaded guilty during the hearing. Nissan has already accepted a penalty imposed by the Financial Services Agency and agreed to pay ¥2.42 billion in fines. Since Ghosn’s dramatic escape to Lebanon last December (befitting a Hollywood movie) Kelly has been left to face the trial alone. As Japan has no extradition treaty with Lebanon, odds that Ghosn will be tried in Japan are exceedingly slim. Renault owns around 43 % of Nissan shares, which in turn owns a 15 % stake in the French automaker. Kelly was arrested on November 19, 2018, the same day as Ghosn, and was jailed soon after he arrived in Japan for a Nissan board meeting. He was released on bail set at ¥70 million about a month after being jailed. Kelly has since been prohibited from leaving the country pending the ruling in his case. Kelly’s trial was originally planned for April but was postponed due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. It is expected to last about a year, with a total of 76 public hearings scheduled until July 9 next summer. Among the witnesses who will testify throughout the trial is Hiroto Saikawa, a former Nissan CEO who resigned in September last year after it emerged he had been overpaid roughly ¥47 million in an equity-linked remuneration scheme. +++ 

+++ HONDA will use the upcoming Bejing motor show to preview its second production EV, the first fully electric model from the brand to go on sale in China. Details of the new concept car, which has been teased with a rendering of its front-end design, remain thin on the ground. We can see, however, that it’s larger than the recently launched Honda E, appearing to be either a saloon or low-height crossover. Both bodystyles are popular in Asian markets. The car’s design also appears to move to a less retro-themed appoach than its supermini stablemate, instead taking a more futuristic look. A blanked-off grille is also visible, as is becoming common, because battery-electric models don’t require as much front-end air cooling as their combustion-engined equivalents. The as-yet-unnamed model isn’t yet confirmed for production, but it’s likely, given that Honda doesn’t have a full EV offering of any sort in China. However, a European debut isn’t likely for the model, with the focus instead on gaining a foothold in Asian markets. Given the car’s increased size and the hugely competitve EV market in China, expect it to offer significantly greater range than the quoted maximum of 220 km of the E. Official details will be announced when the Beijing motor show begins on 26 September. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI announced the launch of the overhauled version of its bestselling SUV Tucson in a world premiere online event. It is the 4th generation of the vehicle, released 5 years after the third generation. The all-new Tucson embraces a new exterior styling of Hyundai’s “sensuous sportiness” design identity, the automaker said. The Tucson‘s identity is emphasized through the “parametric dynamics” with kinetic jewel surface details, it explained. Hyundai said it expected the new model to appeal to customers with its cutting-edge design, greater room, enhanced digital capabilities and fuel efficiency. “The all-new Tucson will become the SUV that completes the sensuous sportiness and at the same time, best expresses Hyundai’s challenging and bold spirit”, said Lee Sang-yup, the head of the Hyundai Global Design Center. The Tucson is an important launch for the automaker, as it is among its most popular, racking up global sales of more than 7 million units since its original launch in 2004, the company said. Focus was on integrating technologies with drivers’ lifestyles, Hyundai said. For instance, the half-mirror daytime running lamps are assimilated seamlessly within the parametric grille. For the interior, the automaker installed a vertically stacked, dual 10.25-inch full-touch screen, a multi-air ventilation system and hoodless digital gauge cluster. For global markets, the all-new Tucson will go on sale in the first half of 2021, Hyundai said. “The Tucson proudly stands in our lineup as the most dynamic SUV design and conveys a trendsetting spirit”, said Lee Sang-yup. “We didn’t want to create just another SUV, we wanted to create something iconic”. The Tucson is one of Hyundai’s bestselling models. Last year, it sold 541.916 units globally, becoming the most sold SUV model for the automaker. In South Korea, it was the 4th most sold model in the SUV lineup following the Santa Fe, Palisade and Kona. +++ 

+++ INFOTAINMENT SYSTEMS have revolutionised car dashboards, but a recent study by Rivervale Leasing has revealed 60 % of drivers simply do not trust the tech. In a study of 1.000 British motorists, 6 out of 10 said don’t have confidence in in-car infotainment, while a third said that the systems in their cars had failed them. The top reasons for complains from infotainment, according to a 2020 Initial Quality Study by JD Power, found that voice recognition, smart phone connectivity, touch screens, navigation systems and bluetooth. Almost half (49 %) said that infotainment systems were a distraction, 77 % of the survey’s respondents admitted to being more distracted while driving now compared to 5 years ago, while 63 % said that there should be some kind of limitation to the systems while the vehicle is operational. A quarter said said that sat navs were the most distracting infotainment feature, while 19 % said that they were the most useful feature. Topping that list however was dashboard traffic alerts, with 37 % deeming them the most useful infotainment feature. Only 16 % said that they were in favour of voice control features, with 38 % backing the traditional style with buttons, and whereas 46 % wanting a touch screen. +++ 

+++ Britain’s first major post-Brexit trade has been secured following a “historic” agreement with Japan. The country has been working on new trade deals since formally departing from the European Union. The Japanese deal is of particular interest with manufacturers Nissan and Toyota among the carmakers with operations in the UK. They will now benefit on reduced tariffs on imported parts. The deal means Britain’s tariffs on JAPANESE CARS will now be gradually reduced, hitting zero by 2026, much like Japan’s agreement with the EU. “This is a historic moment for the UK and Japan as our first major post-Brexit trade deal”, said British trade minister Liz Truss. “The agreement we have negotiated, in record time and in challenging circumstances, goes far beyond the existing EU deal, as it secures new wins for British businesses in our great manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries”. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) welcomed the news. “While we await the full terms of the agreement and, in particular, evidence that it will deliver in full on industry’s priorities for the progressive lifting of tariffs and reduction of regulatory barriers”, it said in a statement. “The conclusion of such a free-trade agreement represents a significant milestone for our industries”. British business groups wlso elcomed the deal, and hoped that it could pave the way for additional deals with other nations. “We hope the spirit of both ambition and compromise will help land further continuity deals such as with Turkey and Canada, as well as an agreement with the EU, which is of utmost importance to members”, said Allie Renison, head of Europe and Trade Policy at the Institute of Directors. Japan had been able to secure the deal by January 1, but the deal was reached in just 3 months. Japan was looking to use the deal as a gateway into the EU, but there are fears a no-deal Brexit could hamper that. Now 99 % of exports to Japan will be tariff free, which could increase trade by €17 billion. In 2018 that figure sat at €32 billion. +++ 

+++ KIA ‘s rollout of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) has shifted up a gear with the confirmation of seven dedicated electric models due to launch by 2027. The “diverse” lineup of EVs will include models across several vehicle segments, the Korean firm claims. The first, internally subbed CV, was spotted in camouflage earlier this year by spy photographers. The plan for 7 dedicated EVs expands on Kia’s previously announced Plan S strategy, which will result in it having 11 EVs (some as variants of existing models) on sale within the next 5 years. “Kia has sold more than 100.000 BEVs worldwide since 2011”, said Kia president and CEO Ho Sung Song. “By refocusing our business on electrification, we’re aiming for BEVs to account for 25 % of our total worldwide sales by 2029”. In “advanced markets” for electification, such as Korea, North America and Europe, that figure is predicted to be 20 % by 2025. While specific segments for each electric model aren’t detailed, Kia said in its statment that it will “respond to market demands by offering diversified product types, with a range of models suitable for urban centres, long-range journeys and performance driving”. A preview sketch of all the models shows crossovers and SUVs will be a core focus. Most will be based off its new Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), with claims of “best-in-class interior spaciousness” for each. Kia is also “exploring the creation of” subscription services, such as that offered by Volvo, alongside EV battery leasing and rental programmes. The brand will expand its number of dedicated service and maintenance bays at dealers for EVs globally, too. Charging infrastructure is also an area that Kia and the wider Hyundai Motor Group will invest in. In Europe, more than 2.400 Kia-branded EV chargers will be installed at dealers, and there are plans to accelerate that in line with the market. This expands on the brand’s investment in high-speed charging specialist Ionity. +++ 

+++ I often dip a toe into the sprawling world of patent and trademark applications, where sometimes we find some interesting automotive tidbits. It can be a frustrating digital superhighway to navigate, but I know my way around the curves and that brought me to a couple of recent filings from Toyota. Specifically, I found trademarks for TX350 and TX500h filed on September 8. I know this alphanumeric layout doesn’t fall to Toyota, but rather, the automaker’s upscale LEXUS division. We also know the X designation denotes an SUV in the Lexus lineup, and h of course denotes a hybrid. 350 and 500 also exist as monikers in various Lexus model lines, both on the coupe and SUV side. So, what does this mean for the automaker’s future? That’s a good question, and it’s one where the rumour mill is quite silent at the moment. I know American NX sales were down 5.4 % in 2019 and fell 17.9 % through the first quarter of 2020. I also know sales of the larger and considerably older GX dropped slightly last year but fell 5.7 % through the first quarter of this year. Sales of the LX flagship SUV are down a whopping 30.9 % through the first quarter, so it’s conceivable that a new TX model could replace any of these lines. But we have some additional insight that could point us towards a GX replacement. For starters, we’ve already heard a new flagship LQ could enter the SUV mix, either replacing or simply slotting above the LX. If we jump back several years, we also have an old report that Lexus was actually planning a GX replacement called the TX. Additionally, that report pinged the TX as a 7-seater unibody design versus the body-on-frame construction employed by the GX. Considering the vast majority of Lexus luxury SUV owners likely aren’t interested in the rugged off-road benefits offered by such construction, swapping it for a unibody 3-row crossover certainly makes sense. At this point, it’s all pure speculation. I’ve heard precious little from Lexus and I’ve had nothing in terms of spy photos for over a year. The filings are only at the US Patent and Trademark office, further suggesting this could be a U.S.-only model. And there’s always the possibility that Lexus is simply protecting its TX branding for possible future use. +++ 

+++ Last time I interviewed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) boss Mike Manley, he told me that of all the brands he was responsible for, MASERATI was the one that excited him most. So it was only right that we met up again at the unveiling of the MC20 in Modena; a car that heralds another new dawn for the famous Italian brand. Manley would be the first to admit Maserati has had its ups and downs over the years. But this time there’s a fully funded, long-term plan with design, performance, luxury materials, technology and customisation at its heart. And a ‘BEVolution’! Battery-electric vehicles are key. I visited the new Maserati Innovation Lab, with its dynamic simulator that lets engineers do over 90 % of a new car’s development work before taking to the test track. It massively reduces the cost and time to get a car to market; the new MC20 took just 2 years. I also met with new Maserati CEO Davide Grasso. Manley has a knack of surrounding himself with great people with a deep understanding of how to develop brands, and Grasso is another brilliant appointment. This is his first foray into the car world having worked in senior positions at Nike before becoming CEO of Converse. There he revitalised a famous old brand that was a pale shadow of its former self – sound familiar? Grasso told a story of how, while Chief Marketing Officer of Nike, he invited US basketball legend Michael Jordan to address his staff. Jordan cited preparation as the main reason for his success on the court: nobody was better prepared. And Grasso told me about the preparation he did before joining, including an honest look at problems of the past. The result is a completely reshaped management team, including restructuring Maserati’s quality team. They’ve got plenty of work ahead, not just in delivering great cars, but in re-establishing the Maserati brand. It needs a point of difference (and relevance) in an increasingly crowded luxury car market. I’m excited to see how they get on. +++ 

+++ Spy photographers have spotted the new MCLAREN Sports Series supercar undergoing development testing. The British brand’s updated entry-level model will go on sale in 2021, sporting a new carbon-fibre chassis and a hybrid powertrain, and acting as a fresh rival for the Ferrari F8 Tributo and Lamborghini Huracan. Unlike our previously spied mule, which wore a modified version of the McLaren 570S’s bodywork, the latest development vehicle features all-new styling, marking the first time we’ve seen the next-generation model’s production panelling. The new supercar’s design uses many of the same themes as the McLaren GT, sharing the same high-mounted, slim LED headlamps, similar engine intakes and right-angled tail. Even the shape of the model’s glasshouse looks familiar and, underneath the camouflage, the bumper vents appear to share kindred styling. Although there’s no official word on the new car’s powertrain, there’s a few telltale signs on the bodywork about what’s lurking underneath. First off, there’s a big “hybrid prototype” sticker fixed to the mule’s side skirts and above that, there’s an unusually shaped filler door, which could house a charging socket. The next-generation supercar’s bodywork will be propped up by an all-new carbon-fibre monocoque, which McLaren previously teased with a single image. It replaces the firm’s old Monocell platform, which has been a base for McLaren’s production cars since the original MP4-12C. However, for this next-generation model, McLaren has started afresh. The new chassis has been designed to accommodate the batteries and electrical architecture required for hybrid drive, and it also incorporates fresh weight-saving tactics to offset the added bulk that comes with these components. McLaren has confirmed that the platform will be manufactured at its £50 million composites base in Sheffield and it will be used first in the next entry-level Sport Series model, which will replace the 570S from next year. The company is yet to confirm any technical details on the new model’s hybrid powertrain, but I expect it will feature a twin-turbocharged V6 engine, at least a couple of electric motors and a battery pack big enough for a pure-electric range of around 30 km. Like the firm’s outgoing 3.8-litre V8 engine, this new V6 will be developed by McLaren’s time-honoured engine partner, Ricardo, and I expect the PHEV system’s total power output will increase over the 570S. McLaren’s Automotive boss, Mike Flewitt, described the new chassis as “every bit as revolutionary as the MonoCell we introduced with the 12C, when we first embarked on making production vehicles a decade ago”. He added: “This new, ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre chassis boasts greater structural integrity and higher levels of quality than ever before. Our advanced expertise in lightweight composites processes and manufacturing, combined with our experience in cutting-edge battery technology and high-performance hybrid propulsion systems, mean that we are ideally placed to deliver to customers levels of electrified high-performance motoring that until now have simply been unattainable”. The push towards hybrid drive forms part of McLaren’s £1.2 billion Track 25 business plan, which will see 18 new petrol-hybrid powered McLarens launched by 2025. The company says it is currently evaluating a new high-power battery pack for a full EV setup that will offer a claimed 30 minutes of electric range around a race track. +++ 

+++ Major Chinese automaker SAIC MOTOR will launch at least 10 models of hydrogen-fueled vehicle by 2025, the company announced. It is expected to produce and sell 10.000 fuel cell cars and set up a special team to oversee research and development (R&D) and operation of its fuel cell project, said Wang Xiaoqiu, president of SAIC Motor. Wang added that the company will deepen cooperation with upstream and downstream companies to jointly promote the development of the industrial chain. The company started its fuel cell vehicle project in 2001 and has invested more than 3 billion yuan ($439 million) on R&D. It has obtained 511 patents in the fuel cell sector. According to a plan drawn up in 2016 by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China will promote the application of 1 million vehicles and build up over 1,000 hydrogen filling stations by 2030. The interior has had a similarly dramatic makeover. +++

+++ TOYOTA won’t expand further in India due to the country’s high tax regime, a blow for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s trying to lure global companies to offset the deep economic malaise brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. India is planning to offer incentives worth $23 billion to attract firms to set up manufacturing, people familiar with the matter said last week, including production-linked breaks for automakers. The South Asian country is the 4th biggest car market in the world but international players have struggled to find a niche in a sector that’s dominated by cheap, fossil-fueled vehicles. The government keeps taxes on cars and motorbikes so high that companies find it hard to build scale, said Shekar Viswanathan, vice chairman of Toyota’s local unit, Toyota Kirloskar Motor. The high levies also put owning a car out of reach of many consumers, meaning factories are idled and jobs aren’t created, he said. “The message we are getting, after we have come here and invested money, is that we don’t want you”, Viswanathan said in an interview. In the absence of any reforms, “we won’t exit India, but we won’t scale up”. Toyota, one of the world’s biggest carmakers, began operating in India in 1997. Its local unit is 89 % owned by the Japanese company and has a small market share: just 2.6 % in August versus almost 5 % a year earlier, Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations data shows. In India, motor vehicles including cars, 2-wheelers and SUVs (although not electric vehicles), attract taxes as high as 28 %. On top of that, there can be additional levies, ranging from 1 % to as much as 22 %, based on a car’s type, length or engine size. The tax on a 4-meter long SUV with an engine capacity of more than 1.500 cc works out to be as high as 50 %. The additional levies are typically imposed on what are considered to be luxury goods. As well as cars, in India that can include cigarettes and sparkling water. General Motors quit the market in 2017 while Ford agreed last year to move most of its assets in India into a joint venture with Mahindra after struggling for more than 2 decades to win over buyers. That effectively ended independent operations in a country Ford had once said it wanted to be 1 of its top 3 markets by 2020. Such punitive taxes discourage foreign investment, erode automakers’ margins and make the cost of launching new products “prohibitive”, Viswanathan said. “You’d think the auto sector is making drugs or liquor”, he said. Toyota, which also has an alliance with Suzuki to sell some of it’s compact cars under its own brand, is currently utilizing just about 20 % of its capacity at a second plant in India. Taxes on electric vehicles, currently 5 %, will probably also go up once sales increase, Viswanathan said, referring to what he says has become a pattern with successive governments in India. While discussions are ongoing between ministries for a reduction in taxes, there may not any immediate agreement on an actual cut, India’s Heavy Industries Minister Prakash Javadekar said earlier this month. Automobile sales in India were weathering a slump before the coronavirus pandemic, with at least half a million jobs lost. A lobby group has predicted it may take as many as 4 years for sales to return to levels seen before the slowdown. The biggest players are the local units of Suzuki Maruti and Hyundai, which have cornered the market for compact, affordable cars. They have a combined share of almost 70 %. Toyota in India has largely pivoted toward hybrid vehicles, which attract taxes of as much as 43 % because they aren’t purely electric. But in a nation where few can even afford a car, let alone a more environmentally friendly one, EVs or their hybrid cousins have yet to gain much acceptance. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla, has said import duties would make his vehicles unaffordable in India. “ ‘Market India’ always has to precede ‘factory India’, and this is something the politicians and bureaucrats don’t understand”, Viswanathan said. Modi’s much-touted Make in India is another program aimed at attracting foreign companies. India needs to have demand for a product before asking firms to set up shop, yet “at the slightest sign of a product doing well, they slap it with a higher and higher tax rate”, he said. +++ 

+++ The new TOYOTA YARIS has scored 5 stars in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash tests, setting the benchmark for small family car safety since the crash test body updated its testing protocols. The Yaris, tested in Hybrid guise, is the first car to tackle the new NCAP programme, which features an overhauled frontal offset crash test. Other changes include the introduction of a countermeasure for injuries in far-side impacts and a mobile progressive deformable barrier test. The Yaris performed well across these tests, with its small size making it one of the least-damaging cars with which to be involved in a crash, while its expansive centre-mounted airbags were found to offer good protection against far-side impacts. The latest Toyota Safety Sense programme can now stop the Yaris mid-turn to avoid a crash with oncoming traffic. “Congratulations to Toyota on a top rating for the Yaris”, said Euro NCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen. “This has been a tough year for all concerned, and I’m grateful to Euro NCAP’s labs and employees, who have worked hard to deliver safety while staying safe”. Although the Yaris is the only car to tackle the revised test so far, 2 other cars were tested against the 2019 protocols. These were the Renault Clio E-Tech hybrid, which matched the standard Clio with 5 stars, and the Audi e-tron Sportback, which also received the full star rating. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will continue to grow its SUV portfolio in China, offering at least 17 different models by the end of 2022, a senior executive said. Volkswagen Group China CEO Stephan Wöllenstein said the namesake brand has 10 SUV models in the market, with another 3 gasoline models and 4 pure electric models to come in the next 2 years. Wöllenstein said the move will make China the market where Volkswagen offers the largest number of SUVs. He made the remarks last week in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, where the German carmaker offered an opportunity for journalists to test drive all of its SUVs, both imported and those made in China. Volkswagen had 3 SUVs in China in early 2018. The successive launches of SUVs by its 2 Chinese joint ventures have made Volkswagen the most popular choice among SUV buyers since 2019. Jia Mingdi, president of SAIC Volkswagen’s sales operations, said the joint venture has sold 2.8 million SUVs since the first model, the Tiguan, was launched 10 years ago. Currently, SUVs account for around 30 % of Volkswagen’s vehicle sales in China. The current rate of SUVs at Volkswagen’s sales is lower than the average figure of 46.5 % in the first 8 months this year in China’s passenger vehicle market, according to statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Wöllenstein said SUVs are also becoming more popular in other parts of the world. “It is easier to get in and out than sedans, and the high seating positions make people feel more confident”, he said. The carmaker has decided to start its massive electrification campaign with SUVs as well. Its 2 joint ventures FAW-Volkswagen and SAIC Volkswagen will launch at least 4 SUVs built on the German carmaker’s electric car-only MEB platform. The first one, the ID.4, will start production in the 4th quarter this year and will be launched around Spring Festival. Wöllenstein said these new models will cover basically all segments of the SUV market and also mark the end of Volkswagen’s SUV campaign that began 2,5 years ago. He said the upcoming facelifts and later generations will meet current customer demand in the Chinese market. In 2019, Volkswagen sold 812.500 SUVs to Chinese customers; up 81.6 % year-on-year. +++ 

+++ The growth in online services has sparked a huge rise in subscription-based business, in areas as diverse as television (Netflix), music (Spotify) and even magazines (Readly). Now VOLVO , along with other car firms, believes that this business model is set to change the way people access cars. After running a number of trials, the Swedish firm recently rolled out its Care by Volvo subscription service, giving customers rapid access to new cars with no deposit and no contract. Volvo believes the subscription model (which is also being adopted by related firms Polestar and Geely) will be part of a wider online revolution in car sales. +++


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