Newsflash: nieuwe Volkswagen Golf R debuteert op 4 november

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+++ I first heard rumours about a hot version of the AUDI Q5 almost 5 years ago. Through the years, we’ve heard many different reports trying to predict when the performance SUV will debut and what form it will take. It turns out all of them were wrong as a manager for the brand has recently confirmed an RS Q5 is not coming anytime soon. Michaela Benz, product manager for the Q5 series, confirmed there are no immediate plans for an RS Q5 debut. While that’s not good news, at least her words don’t seem to rule out the performance version for the future. “We’re happy that our RS models are receiving such a good reception”, she started. “But we will start with the normal SQ5 TDI and TFSI in their respective markets and see what comes”. Benz seems to be on the same page as Michael Crusius, midsize SUV spokesperson for Audi, who said a few months back that ”it remains exciting to see, but this is a topic that we cannot delve into”. If I have to summarise, it seems that there’s no final decision taken yet but the door is not fully closed for a future release. Let’s assume there’s an RS Q5 coming, but what will power it? My educated guess is the RS5’s powertrain or a twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 with 450 hp and 600 Nm. Of course, with Europe’s ever-stricter emissions standards, I won’t be surprised if Audi decides to move to some sort of an electrified system but, again, nothing can be confirmed at this point. +++

+++ The United States and Brazil, the 2 leading ethanol producers, see potential for a large increase in global use of the BIOFUEL as an outright way to cut carbon emissions while the world transitions to all-electric cars, according to industry representatives this week. “There is a lot of hope to cut emissions related to electric vehicles, but the current fleet will still be around for a long time”, said Brian Healy, director for ethanol market development at the U.S. Grains Council, adding that biofuel blending in combustion engine cars is the quickest way to improve air quality. Speaking during the Datagro’s International Conference on Sugar and Ethanol this week, Healy said countries should move faster to implement plans to blend ethanol to gasoline. Several countries and regions around the world are discussing or setting targets to increase use of biofuels such as China, Canada, Britain, India, Mexico, Vietnam, South Africa and Australia. But there have been delays everywhere. Analysts see an unwillingness from some countries to depend on renewable energy sources if they can not produce them, as is the case with China which postponed its target for a national E10 blending policy. Lara Bacellar, trading manager at Brazil’s Copersucar, one of the world’s largest ethanol merchants, said that if all mandates and policies for blending in the world were fulfilled, including the U.S. E15 proposition, demand could jump as much as 55 billion liters per year. “Those actions would go in the direction to meet the Paris climate agreement, using a product that is efficient to cut emissions and is available”, she said. Experts see blending as a particularly wise strategy to cut pollution in emerging economies, where the EV revolution is seen taking much longer to happen due to the need of heavy investments in the charging infrastructure. +++

+++ I’ve always been a big fan of Mini, from the very first time I drove a pretty ropey original back in the eighties. There’s just something very cool, charming and, ultimately, fun about every Mini I’ve ever come across. I’m also a big fan of what BMW has done with one of the greatest British car brands. I love the fact that it has stayed true to the style and character of the cars, if not the engineering ethos behind the original. I know there are plenty of traditionalists who rightly point out that Mini cars aren’t very mini any more. But try and make a Mini today that does what the Mini did way back when and you’ll struggle to make it legal. The demands of legislators (but, more importantly, consumers) mean that Mini today has to be different. I still want that cool, charm and fun, but I want it in a package that’s built to BMW standards, that I can get in and out of easily (and so can the dog!) and that has all the latest technology (both luxury and safety) on board. Mini has always been very good at listening, which is why I’m so excited by the future outlined this week. 3 new Mini cars that, I reckon, are just what customers want. BMW has also done a great job of Rolls-Royce, with the latest, excellent Ghost arriving in rather plush showrooms this week. Again, it has listened to customers and produced exactly what’s ordered. Which brings me to BMW itself. And here the picture is slightly less clear. BMW was always the Ultimate Driving Machine, and it still builds cars that are brilliant to drive, but the purity around what the brand stands for seems to have been diluted of late. Maybe that’s down to the proliferation of models, because for some, notably the X cars, being the ultimate driving machines doesn’t matter as much to owners. Many rival brands have always said they wanted to be like BMW. Now it seems BMW wants to be like the others. +++

+++ CHINA needs to step up the recycling and repurposing of batteries for electric vehicles in order to ease supply strains and curb pollution and carbon emissions, environmental group Greenpeace said. Though the deployment of electric vehicles is an important environmental initiative, the manufacturing of batteries is energy- and carbon-intensive and puts the supply of key raw materials like lithium and cobalt under severe strain, the group said in a research report. “We’re about to see a tidal wave of old EV batteries hit China”, said Ada Kong, Greenpeace East Asia’s senior programme manager. “How the government responds will have huge ramifications for Xi Jinping’s 2060 carbon neutral commitment”. Greenpeace said 12.85 million tonnes of EV lithium-ion batteries will go offline worldwide between 2021 and 2030, while more than 10 million tonnes of lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese will be mined for new batteries. Repurposed batteries could be used as backup power systems for China’s 5G stations or reused in shared e-bikes, and would save 63 million tonnes of carbon emissions from new battery manufacturing, it estimated. It said total global demand for energy storage could be met by old EV batteries by 2030. China, the world’s biggest EV user and EV battery manufacturer, has launched its own battery recycling schemes to cope with the expected surge in utilisation, and is also implementing tracing systems that will track the entire lifespan of a battery from manufacturing to disposal. +++

+++ Renault has become the latest car maker to cut a number of DIESEL models from its line-up as firms balance falling demand for the fuel and increasingly stringent emissions regulations. This comes as figures reveal that the number of diesels on sale has nearly halved in the past 5 years. Renault’s cull is so drastic that, by the end of this year, only one of its models (the Mégane) will offer a diesel engine. The Kadjar can no longer be ordered as a diesel, while such versions of the Clio and Captur won’t make it to 2021. Earlier this month, Ford dropped diesel engines from the Fiesta range due to them taking less than 3 % of sales, while even the fleet-friendly Mazda 6 will become petrol-only by the end of this year. A few brands, such as Alfa Romeo and Jaguar, have increased their range of diesel offerings, but they’re in the overwhelming minority. Makers including Porsche, Toyota, Volvo and most Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brands have either ditched diesel entirely or intend to move away from it over the next couple of years. But even those that have previously stood by the fuel have shed variants, including BMW, Opel and the majority of the Volkswagen Group brands. Volkswagen (the focus of the Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal that began in 2015) in particular has decimated its diesel offerings, getting rid of more than half. Mercedes-Benz is the only big German brand to have maintained its diesel offerings in the past half-decade. CEO Ola Källenius said last year that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the fuel’s future, noting that it offers a 15-20% economy benefit over petrol. Mercedes is also attempting to further future-proof by expanding its range of diesel-electric plug-in hybrids; a powertrain no other manufacturer currently makes. However, Mercedes is an outlier when you look at wider market trends. There are multiple factors at play here, all influenced by one another. On the private buyer side, public attitudes towards the fuel have changed dramatically, bolstered by continuing government and local authority efforts to remove older diesel vehicles from urban areas and promote less polluting alternatives. On the fleet side, benefit-in-kind tax changes have increasingly encouraged business users into plug-in hybrid and particularly electric cars. The effect on the industry is obvious: manufacturers are increasingly reluctant to spend huge amounts on developing diesel engines to meet ever more stringent European Union rules if that investment can’t be matched by sales revenue. Can we finally conclude that the death of diesel is inevitable and imminent? The figures speak for themselves. +++

+++ FISKER has officially gone public, trading on the New York Stock Exchange under “FSR”, the company announced. It was taken public as part of a merger/acquisition by Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp. “All the external pieces are now in place to execute our unique, asset-light business strategy, with today’s funding and the strategic cooperation announced with Magna on October 15”, said Fisker chairman and chief executive officer, Henrik Fisker, in the company’s announcement. “We can now fully turn our attention to developing and launching the revolutionary, all-electric Fisker Ocean into the heart of the midsize SUV market, expected to commence in Q4 2022. We appreciate the confidence from all our shareholders and intend to deliver on our stated goals”. Fisker announced last week that auto supplier Magna will provide the vehicle platform and build the electric carmaker’s Ocean SUV. As part of the deal, Magna will receive warrants to purchase a stake of up to 6 % in Fisker, giving the EV maker an overall valuation of about $3 billion, Fisker told. “As a result of the completion of the transaction, Fisker expects to have in excess of $1.0 billion (net of transaction fees and expenses) of cash on the balance sheet and no funded debt. This amount is expected to fully fund Fisker operations and the development of the Ocean program through the planned start of production in the 4th quarter of 2022”. While Magna has built vehicles for traditional automakers for years, analysts and investors have speculated it could eventually build for technology companies like Apple. +++

+++ FORD will begin issuing recall notices to owners of the new Kuga PHEV, having approved a fix for a potentially dangerous battery fault that came to light in August. The company earlier halted sales of the plug-in hybrid SUV due to concerns about overheating battery packs, advising owners to leave their vehicles in EV Auto mode and avoid plugging them in. At the time, Ford said “information from the field indicates that 4 vehicle fires are likely to have been caused by the overheating of the high-voltage batteries” and halted the sale of all Kuga PHEV models built before 26 June. Now, the company has agreed on a fix for the problem and will carry out the necessary repair to all affected vehicles between late December 2020 and March 2021. The process will involve the replacement of the traction battery pack and will be rolled out to cars in the order in which they were sold, with older models the first to be recalled, and as yet undelivered, pre-26 June models remaining in Ford’s hands until the fix is carried out. An official statement said: “The root cause has been identified as a battery cell contamination issue in our supplier’s production process and we have determined that the best course of action for the safety of our existing customers is to replace the drive battery pack”. Until affected customers have had the fix carried out, they are advised to leave their car in EV Auto mode and continue to not plug it in. Ford has provided extended warranties or €500 fuel vouchers in compensation. It is believed up to 27.000 cars globally are affected, but it remains unclear why the problem only affects cars built in that date range. Fires in combustion-engined vehicles are nothing new, but they’re rarer in electrified vehicles, due to their relatively small numbers. EV fires can be volatile, however, with first responders and firefighters now provided specific EV training to ensure the high-voltage power system is switched off as a priority. No injuries are reported to have occurred in the 4 fires that alerted Ford to the problem. +++

+++ GENESIS has unveiled its new luxury mid-sized SUV, the GV70. The car is the fifth model of Hyunday’s luxury brand and its second SUV. It is smaller than the GV80 that hit showrooms in January. The GV70 features the same design characteristics as other recent Genesis models, including the crested grill and linear “quad” signal lights. With the model’s name inspired by the initials of the brand Genesis and its “versatility”, the carmaker said the mid-size SUV was built with an elegant finish and a dynamic design (the brand’s design philosophy known as “athletic elegance”) which will differentiate itself from its rivals. For those seeking a more sporty option, the GV70 sport package was also revealed, which accentuates the athletic part of its design thanks to a dark chrome garnish and a special steering wheel. Senior vice president at Hyundai, Lee Sang-yup, said that the GV70 retains elements of Genesis’ design DNA such as “two line” and “wing face” but also has links to its Korean root. “We hope the interior design inspired by ‘the beauty of blank space’ which is traditionally appreciated in Korea, will present Genesis customers with a premium special experience”, Lee said. +++

+++ A federal judge has granted a last-minute request to stop the U.S. government from turning over to Japan 2 men accused of helping smuggle former Nissan chairman Carlos GHOSN out of the country while he was awaiting trial on financial crimes. U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani in Boston granted a request by lawyers for U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, to delay the transfer shortly before the 2 men were set to be placed on a flight to Japan. The State Department informed them it had approved Japan’s extradition request. Talwani put on hold their transfer while she reviewed the Taylors’ emergency petition challenging that decision. The department’s decision came after the Taylors lost an earlier court challenge to their potential extradition following their arrests in May. In a joint statement, 2 lawyers for the Taylors, Ty Cobb and Paul Kelly, said they were actively seeking to have the State Department and White House reconsider the decision authorizing the surrender of their clients. “It would be a great injustice for these 2 U.S. citizens to be surrendered to Japan”, they said. The State Department and White House declined comment. Prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated a “brazen” escape in which Ghosn fled Japan on December 29, 2019, hidden in a box and on a private jet before reaching Lebanon, his childhood home, which has no extradition treaty with Japan. Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan’s financial statements. Ghosn denies wrongdoing. Prosecutors said the elder Taylor, a private security specialist, and his son received $1.3 million for their services. Their lawyers previously argued they could not be extradited because Japanese penal code does not make it a crime to help someone “bail jump”. +++

+++ Having already presented the new GTD, GTE, GTI and GTI Clubsport, Volkswagen will now complete its compact hot hatch range by unveiling the range-topping GOLF R on Wednesday, November 4. Power will still be supplied by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, albeit with new features, such as variable valve timing with dual camshaft adjustment and water-cooled exhaust gas that routes to the turbo in the cylinder head. Volkswagen has yet to share any specifications, but the 4-pot is rumored to deliver 333 hp through the latest-generation 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive Haldex system, controlled by a Vehicle Dynamics Manager. This has been integrated with other running gear systems, including the adaptive chassis control and the electronic front differential lock, aiding the car’s traction and cornering. The sporty R suit will help set it apart from the front-wheel drive Golf lineup, with a model-specific front end that will feature a unique grille design and larger air intakes. The new Golf R is expected with a bigger roof-mounted wing and a four-fin diffuser, with cutouts on each side for the quad exhaust pipes. The lightweight wheels and R badges will round out the looks. We have yet to take a detailed look inside, but if anything, it should launch with front seats with extra bolstering, exclusive upholstery options, enhanced by the R branding, plus dedicated menus for the digital instrument cluster and infotainment system. The new Golf R will be put together at the Wolfsburg plant in Germany, which is where all Golf models come to life. +++

+++ Whenever a bad story emerges, automakers either take a long time to answer or do not answer at all. Tesla already killed its PR department. Volkswagen still has a robust one, but it did not answer our questions on Christian Stadler’s ID.3 issues with its 12 Volt battery. Anyway, that one-case story led us to discover more vehicles are involved: allegedly “at least 30”, according to an owner that also had problems. Stadler mentioned that the situation with his ID.3 would be due to a bus (an internal communications network device) draining energy from the 12 Volt battery. The owner said his situation was different: both his keys disconnected from the car, making it not respond as if the battery was dead. This same owner told me the Volkswagen ID. First Movers Club Facebook group revealed these other cases. I have requested access to the group but still did not manage to get in. Anyway, commenters on the ID.3 group are already taking precautions. Ed Stratton said “just a few owners of the new Volkswagen ID.3 have reported that they left their car parked for a day or two and came back to find it completely dead”. His suggestion is to put a CTEK battery monitor to wirelessly check how well it is and a CTEK battery booster not to get stranded with the car. I am still unsure how many of these problems are related to the 12 Volt battery discharging and how many are disconnected keys that make it look like the battery is dead. Anyway, this is apparently related to the software issues the car has had even before it was presented. Volkswagen did not hide the ID.3 would be delivered without all the functionalities the company had promised for it due to software development issues. Those problems would have made VW demote Christian Senger, its former Head of Software, back in July. A software update (version 0570) is supposed to fix the issue, but you can only have it with an appointment at your dealership. Stadler said his dealer had a waiting line of 2 weeks, but I am not sure it refers to the software update or just to regular services that were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As I already mentioned, 12V battery issues are pretty common with electric cars. Elon Musk promised in September that an update would help owners deal with the dying batteries that made a Model 3 get stranded, for example. According to engineers that prefer to remain anonymous, the clicks that you hear when you turn an electric car on refer to clamp 30 (for all things that need to work with the ignition off) and clamp 15 (with the ignition on), apart from the circuit breakers that disconnect the high-voltage battery pack. There would be 2 kinds of EVs around. The first group would recharge the 12 Volt battery whenever “a certain voltage threshold is broken”. The second one would only do that when the car is ready to roll. Hyundai has a convenient solution for the issue on the Ioniq Hybrid called Battery Reset Switch. It is a button that recharges the 12 V battery with the help of the DC-to-DC converter and makes the car run again. After a quick research, I found out that the Nexo also offers this. Back to the ID.3, my sources told us that what leads to the 12 Volt battery issues in EVs is “leaving the ignition on, a door or bonnet open or the car unlocked in some cases, so the car does not go into hibernation”. I have never given it a thought, but the fact that an EV does not make a sound when it is on probably helps this be rather common. If the car is still on or has any component draining energy from the 12V battery, that leads it to die, the DC-to-DC converter to do nothing, and the voltage level to drop below the one high voltage circuits need to close. My sources still have not tested the ID.3, but they suspect its battery problems could have been caused by something the owners forgot to do or by a software error preventing the car from properly shutting down. The former is more likely according to the information I have already gathered. +++

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER ‘s sales recovery in China has brought strong results for the second quarter of the British premium carmaker’s fiscal year. The carmaker has released its financial results, with its global revenue in the 3 months ending on September 30 reaching 4.4 billion pounds ($655.7 million), with a free cash flow of 463 million pounds, as sales and revenue recovered from the impact of Covid-19 in the first quarter. Global retail sales in the quarter totalled 113.569 units; up 53.3 % from the previous quarter, with almost all retailers now open. Sales in China were up 14.6 % on the prior quarter while global sales of the new Defender rose to 4.508 units in the month of September, said Jaguar Land Rover in a statement. Adrian Mardell, Jaguar Land Rover’s chief financial officer, said: “While sales and profitability have not fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels in most markets, it was particularly encouraging to see China sales up year-on-year and global sales of the new Land Rover Defender starting to ramp up”. He said the carmaker’s Charge+ cost and cash efficiency program also contributed significantly to the better results in the quarter. “Charge+ remains on track to deliver 2.5 billion pounds of saving this year and, with continued strong liquidity, Jaguar Land Rover is well-placed to benefit from further market recovery in the second half and beyond”, Mardell said. The company expects the recovery in sales, revenue and profitability to continue in the second half of the 2020/2021 fiscal year thanks to Charge+ and an expanded line-up of models. Jaguar Land Rover CEO Thierry Bollore said: “Although Jaguar Land Rover is not immune to the headwinds impacting the global automotive industry, it has the foundations in place to generate long-term sustainable profitability”. +++

+++ In JAPAN , total global output by the 8 major automakers rose 1.7 % in September from a year earlier to nearly 2.42 million units amid signs of the Chinese and U.S. markets’ recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, data showed. The increase, compared with a 12.1 % fall in August, was propelled by Toyota, whose global production grew 11.7 % from a year earlier to 841.915 vehicles, marking the first increase in 9 months. Backed by a 48.5 % surge in China, the world’s biggest car market, and robust sales of new models, such as the Harrier, a SUV sold in Japan, the production figure was the highest level on record for September. Toyota’s global output has been gradually trending toward a recovery after tumbling 54.4 % in May amid the global health crisis. It reported a 6.7 % fall in August and a 10.2 % drop in July. Subaru, which has its sole overseas plant in the United States, also logged a 13.0 % rise in global output to 96.231 units, also an all-time high for September. Suzuki’s global output jumped 19.1 %, while that of Honda rose 9.9 % and Mazda grew 1.0 %. But Mitsubishi, which forms a 3-way alliance with Nissan and Renault, saw a 39.9 % drop in its global output. Nissan, which continues to struggle in the U.S. market, reported a 20.0 % fall, while Daihatsu, known for its minivehicles, registered a 4.9 % decline. In the first 6 months of fiscal 2020 through September, total global output by the automakers marked a decline of 29.1 % to 9.79 million units. Their global sales dropped 22.7 % to 10.77 million units in the first half. +++

+++ Ford is going to offer its latest hands-free driver-assistance system with the new 2021 F-150 and MUSTANG MACH-E models but there’s a catch. While customers will get the necessary hardware for the system to work with their new 2021 F-150 or Mustang Mach-E, either as standard equipment or an option on certain trims, Ford’s hands-free driver-assistance system won’t come online until the third quarter of 2021 via an over-the-air software patch. Ford said that the new Active Drive Assist will be standard for the 2021 F-150 Limited and for the 2021 Mustang Mach-E Premium and First Edition models. As for the rest of the F-150’s range, the hands-free driver assistance system will be a $1.595 option while Mustang Mach-E Select buyers can get it as part of the $3.200 Comfort and Technology Package, which also includes a 360-degree camera, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Ford will also offer the hardware for the Active Drive Assist, which includes a forward-facing camera and radar sensors among others, as a separate ‘prep package’ together with the Active Park Assist 2.0 for $895, which includes a $100 early adopter incentive. Customers will then have to pay $600 for a 3-year subscription for the software of the hands-free Active Drive Assist, when that is ready to launch, in which case they’ll receive it via an over-the-air update. So to sum up, owners of upper level trim cars that already come equipped with the hardware as standard, will pay $600 for the software subscription. Otherwise, owners of lower trim levels will have to pay for the hardware (via options) and an additional $600 for the software. “In the second half of 2021, new customers will be able to purchase the hardware and software together in the Ford Co-Pilot Active 2.0 package, without the need for an Over-the-Air Update to initiate the feature”, the company said in a statement. Ford’s new Active Drive Assist system builds upon the existing adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function and the Lane Centering and Speed Sign recognition systems. The system will allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel on prequalified sections of divided highways, the so-called ‘Hands-Free Zones’ that make up over 100.000 miles of North American roads. Ford’s new system also uses an advanced driver-facing camera that will track eye gaze and head position to make sure drivers are paying attention to the road while in Hands-Free mode, as well as when they are using the hands-on Lane Centering mode. “As breakthroughs in new technology allow us to help reduce the stress of long highway drives, it’s important to make sure these capabilities can be enjoyed by the largest spread of people possible”, said Hau Thai-Tang, chief product platform, and operations officer, Ford Motor Company. “Active Drive Assist can help improve the driving experience while ensuring people remain aware and fully in control, all for a price unmatched by our competitors; a commitment to affordable innovations that has driven us since Henry Ford put the world on wheels”. Ford expects to sell more than 100.000 F-150 and Mustang Mach-E equipped with Active Drive Assist technology hardware in their first year in the market. +++

+++ POLESTAR , the electric-car maker controlled by Volvo Cars and its parent, Zhejiang Geely Holding, seeks to raise millions in external funding. The automaker is in advanced talks with investors to raise $800 million to $900 million, according to Reuters, while Bloomberg has reported that the figure is at least $500 million. Both are attributing the information to people familiar with the matter. Polestar’s first effort to raise funds outside of its parent company comes as the global auto industry continues investing in electric technologies after EV makers from Tesla to Nio report sustained sales growth. Polestar is seeking a valuation of about $6 billion, Bloomberg was told by one of the people, who requested anonymity because the discussions are private. A funding round hasn’t been finalized, and terms could still change, the source said. One of Reuters’ sources said the investment would put Polestar’s valuation at more than $5 billion, adding that the Sweden-based company is in final funding talks with Chinese investors including Beijing E-Town International Investment & Development. Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said last year that Volvo is seeking a valuation for Polestar that’s comparable with peers such as Tesla and Nio. The funding will help Polestar expand production and its lineup, sources said. Polestar started output in March of its first mass market electric car, the Polestar 2, which is a rival to the Tesla Model 3. In September, the automaker said it would put another car, the Polestar Precept, into production. Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath told last month said the Precept, which he said will be in development for another 3 years, is an indication to potential investors that the automaker is already looking 8 to 10 years into the future. “It is so important for people to understand what type of premium brand, what type of sporty brand we are aim to be”, he said. “With Polestar Precept nobody will ask me anymore, ‘Will you always stay that close to Volvo?’ It’s so clear that this is a car that you would not have within the Volvo brand”. Polestar has positioned itself as a rival to Tesla, currently the world’s No. 1 manufacturer of electric vehicles. Sales of the cleaner, more intelligent cars have been soaring in Europe and recovering in China as consumers opt for vehicles that are better for the environment. Electric cars release about 40 % less carbon dioxide than an average internal combustion engine during operation, according to analysis. Separately, Polestar said that it has initiated a voluntary safety recall for some of its Polestar 2 cars. An official communication will be sent to affected customers starting November 2. The recall involves the replacement of faulty inverters, and some 4.586 vehicles are impacted. The inverters transform the stored energy in the battery into the power required by the electric motors. A second service campaign, also outlined in the October 29 notice, relates to the car’s high voltage coolant heater, which needs to be replaced in some early production models. The affected vehicles that involves number 3.150. Volvo Cars and Geely both form part of the stable of Chinese billionaire Li Shufu, who has a net worth of about $20.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Li, who also is also Daimler AG’s largest shareholder, has championed consolidation as a way for automakers to pool resources for initiatives like self-driving cars and electrification. He has built a global automaking empire over the past two decades, securing stakes in European legacy brands such as Lotus as well as investing in Malaysian auto company Proton. +++

+++ Human rights organisation Amnesty International has warned of “sportswashing” should plans for a F1 race in SAUDI ARABIA happen. A street race in Jeddah is on the provisional 2021 schedule that was shown to team bosses at a meeting of the F1 Commission. Longer term there are plans to hold the race at the Al-Qiddiya entertainment complex that is being constructed in Riyadh. F1 has already forged close links via the country through Saudi petrochemical giant Aramco, one of its main commercial partners. The company has also featured as the title sponsor of races, including this year’s Hungarian and Spanish GPs. Saudi Arabia has already hosted international motor racing events, with Formula E races first held on the streets of Riyadh in December 2018. Amnesty has long campaigned against human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and highlighted the country’s links to sport. Earlier this year it cautioned against an ultimately failed takeover of Newcastle United FC by Saudi interests via the country’s sovereign wealth fund, known as the Public Investment Fund, which also owns Aramco. PIF has been spending heavily internationally this year, and has actively targeted companies that have been hit by the Covid-19 crisis. It has declared new interests in a range of major names, including Uber, BP, Boeing, Citigroup, Facebook, Marriott, Disney, Cisco, Bank of America, Shell, Total, Qualcomm, IBM and Starbucks. It also announced a $418 million stake in Live Nation, a sister company to F1. This week’s news of a potential F1 race in the country generated a quick response from the Amnesty organisation. “Formula 1 should realise that a Saudi Grand Prix in 2021 would be part of ongoing efforts to sportswash the country’s abysmal human rights record”, said Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns. “The failed attempt to buy Newcastle United obviously hasn’t deterred the Saudi authorities, who apparently still see elite-level sport as a means of rebranding their severely tarnished reputation. Despite the fanfare over Saudi women finally being allowed to drive a car without being arrested, the authorities have recently locked up and tortured several leading women’s rights activists, including Loujain al-Hathloul and Nassima al-Sada. If a Saudi Grand Prix goes ahead, at the very least F1 should insist that all contracts contain stringent labour standards across all supply chains, and that all race events are open to everyone without discrimination”. Jakens asked for support from the sport’s stakeholders: “In the lead-up to a race in Jeddah, we would urge all F1 drivers, owners and teams to consider speaking out about the human rights situation in the country, including by expressing solidarity with jailed human rights defenders”. When asked about Amnesty’s views F1 would not comment specifically on Saudi Arabia, noting that the event has not been officially announced. However a spokesperson stressed that the organisation maintains a focus on human rights issues, telling: “For decades F1 has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits. Sports like F1 are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement. We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect these rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered”. +++

+++ President Moon Jae-in of SOUTH KOREA visited Hyundai’s Ulsan plant for a tour of its future automobile production sites and reaffirmed the government’s strong willingness to foster eco-friendly future cars, officials said. Moon was accompanied by Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Euisun, deputy prime minister Hong Nam-ki and the ministers of industry, environment and transportation. At the production sites, Moon reaffirmed the government’s plans to invest more than 20 trillion won ($17 billion) in green mobility areas such as electric and hydrogen cars, saying the global auto market will be rapidly reshaped around such cars and the nation must respond boldly and promptly to remain an automobile powerhouse. He reiterated the nation’s plans to produce 1.13 million electric vehicles and 200.000 hydrogen cars by 2025, and to become the first country to commercialize Level 4 self-driving cars in 2027. President Moon also praised the efforts of Hyundai and the Ulsan City to invest in future hydrogen mobility. “When global automakers were focusing on developing electric vehicles, Hyundai Motor boldly invested in developing hydrogen cars along with electric vehicles to produce the world’s first hydrogen car, and is currently the No. 1 in sales”, Moon said at the tour site. He also spoke highly of Ulsan City, saying it had led the nation in future cars and hydrogen cars. “Ulsan City is leading the supply of hydrogen fueling stations and hydrogen vehicles, and helping companies innovate with a special hydrogen regulatory free zone”, he said. After the event, Moon examined the future cars displayed inside and outside the venue with the ministers and the Hyundai Motor Group chairman. He visited future mobility exhibits on urban air transport, a Genesis concept car, the next-generation hydrogen truck Neptune and EV platform E-GMP. Hyundai’s Ulsan plant is the cradle of the South Korean automobile industry, where production of the Pony (Korea’s first mass-produced car) began. It produces 38.2 % of the nation’s vehicles. The Ioniq 5, which uses an EV-exclusive platform, E-GMP, will also be produced at the Ulsan plant from next year. More than 100 people attended the event, representing the government, future car companies, consumers, students and related associations. +++

+++ The claimed top speed run of the SSC Tuatara has been called into question, forcing the automaker to admit that video reportedly showing the car hit 532 km/h was inaccurate. Earlier this week, people called into question the video. They assert that based on the video released and the location of the run, it was simply impossible for the car to be traveling as fast as the telemetry system overlaid on the clip indicated. In short, the people measured the distances and landmarks on Google Maps where the record-setting run took place and compared them to the video, concluding that the car was traveling significantly slower than the telemetry would have you believe. In response to these videos and reports across social media and various forums, SSC released a statement claiming that “globally respected GPS data-measurement manufacturer” Dewetron had validated the Tuatara’s claim of a 2-way average top speed run of 508.73 km/h. Shortly after, Dewetron released its own statement, revealing this was not true. “Despite the information published on the website of SSC North America, Dewetron did not validate any data from world record attempts or preceding tests”, the statement reads. “Nobody of Dewetron’s employees was present during the test drive or involved in the associated preparations. Since the results of measurement data highly rely on the right setup, on the regular calibration of the systems and sensors in use as well as on many other parameters, we are not able to guarantee the accuracy or correctness of the outcome. As of this moment, Dewetron did not receive the measurement file of the test drive. As a result of the absence during the test drive paired with the missing data, Dewetron is not able to make any further statements about the world record attempt under question”. Dewetron did clarify that it did provide remote training to SSC about how to use and configure its GPS system and software. SSC North America chief executive Jerod Shelby has since released a statement of his own, admitting that the video of the run “had been substantially incorrect” but stated the speeds “and the numbers are indeed on our side”. So, where does this leave us? Well, the onus is still very much on SSC to prove that its top speed runs were legitimate. All we have at the moment is an inaccurate video and statements from SSC defending its top speed claim. Expect to hear more on this story as it develops. +++

+++ TESLA plans to add at least one new service center every week in 2021. The electric carmaker has been expanding its network of service centers and Superchargers to keep up with its growing fleet. Last week, analysts at Brokerage RBC noted that Tesla’s investment in service and quality has not been enough to keep up with its increasing sales and has the potential to damage the brand. “Service could be particularly important as Tesla continues to try to expand outside its core market”. The company, which has repeatedly said that it needs to expand its service center locations, operates 466 service centers around the world. +++

+++ TOYOTA said its global production in September hit a record high amid strong demand from China, indicating a recovery from the sales slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The global output of 841.915 vehicles for September; up 11.7 % from a year earlier, also marked the first year-on-year increase in 9 months. Led by a 48.5 % jump in China, the production figure was the highest on record for September, according to the major automaker. Toyota’s global sales also increased 1.9 % to 837.049 units propelled by high demand in China, the world’s largest auto market, as well as the popularity of new models. The company’s global output has been gradually trending towards a recovery after tumbling 54.4 % in May amid the Covid-19 crisis. It reported a 6.7 % fall in August and a 10.2 % drop in July. “It is hard to predict whether we will continue to recover or see impacts of the novel coronavirus again”, a Toyota official said. In September, the carmaker’s overseas output increased 16.3 % to 536.287 units, with production up 19.9 % in Europe and 8.3 % in North America. Domestic production rose 4.5 % to 305.628 vehicles, thanks to the popularity of the Harrier SUV and the Yaris. In the April to September period, Toyota logged a 23.1 % decline in global production from a year earlier to 3.501.041 units due to the pandemic. Sales dropped 19.0 % to 4.011.479 vehicles during the 6-month period. Meanwhile, Toyota is also stepping up efforts to develop batteries for electric vehicles, as the government aims to expand the use of EVs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Government sources said that the industry ministry will include the support for battery development in an action plan it aims to compile at the end of this year, following Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Japan to net zero by 2050. Batteries take up around 30 % of costs to develop an electric car and directly influence the performance of the vehicle. Toyota and Panasonic have tied up in manufacturing and selling batteries for EVs, while Honda and General Motors are also jointly developing batteries and battery components for their vehicles. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will push the technological development of solid-state batteries, which are believed to help improve the driving range of EVs and charge quicker than existing lithium-ion batteries. It will also strengthen efforts to ensure the supply of rare metals and other key materials used in making the batteries, the sources said. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN aims to “democratize” the imported vehicle market in South Korea with a robust lineup of eight models, the company said. Reiterating the goal the company announced in 2018, the automaker said it aimed to expand its vehicle portfolio in South Korea and offer them at reasonable prices to compete with Korean brand automobiles. With its popular SUV model Tiguan in lead, the automaker said its sales tripled in the first 3 quarters this year, compared to the same time a year earlier. Adding the sales performances of its luxury flagship SUV, the new Touareg, and the brand’s most successful liftback, the Arteon, Volkswagen Korea sold 10.276 units up to September this year, entering the 10.000-unit club within the 3 quarters, the automaker said. According to the data provided by the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, Volkswagen Korea sold 3.080 units during the first 3 quarters of 2019. Volkswagen said it would expand its segment models from hatchbacks and sedans to SUVs by 2022 and also introduce more powertrain choices, including diesel, gasoline and electric vehicles for its goal to “democratize” the imported vehicle market. “We will expand the vehicle lineup to 8 models in South Korea by 2022 and also diversify the powertrain choices”, Volkswagen Korea’s Managing Director Stefan Krapp said. The 8 models include the T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace, Touareg, Jetta, Passat GT, Golf and Arteon. +++

+++ VOLVO ’s Accident Research Team has been in operation since 1970, acting as the carmaker’s very own CSI unit, if you will. Their task is to be ready at all times and to help the Swedish brand learn from real-life accidents in order to improve their passenger cars. Whenever an accident involving a Volvo car takes place around Gothenburg, Sweden, the team will arrive at the scene and begin an investigation, documenting their findings in great detail. “The Accident Research Team hard work and research allows Volvo Cars to make sure that a tragic traffic accident can lead to something good: ever safer cars”, said Volvo Safety Center boss, Malin Ekholm. “By closely analyzing what has happened during each phase of an accident, the team provides crucial information on what can be improved on our cars”. Once they arrive at the scene of a crash, they begin by asking questions such as: “How forceful was the impact?” ; “How quickly did the active safety systems intervene?” ; “How are the passengers?”. Then they look at the weather, time of day, conditions of the road markings and so on. Afterwards, the team will return to HQ and begin contacting the driver in order to gain access to the vehicle and examine it. They will also request publicly accessible police reports. The team will then try to understand how the driver experienced the accident, which is where Volvo’s own behavioral scientists come in. Finally, they will look at medical records, with biomechanics experts and physicists analyzing the effects of the crash. Volvo’s Accident Research Team will look at around 30-50 crashes in person every year, but will also rely on different personnel and emergency services closer to the site for incidents all over the globe. +++

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