Newsflash: Renault presenteert haar elektrische cross-over volgende week

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+++ Mercedes-Benz boss Ola Källenius has firmly denied rumours that the firm is planning to take a controlling stake in ASTON MARTIN . He strongly denied reports that the company is set to increase its 5 % shareholding in the British brand, with which it has a technical partnership in both passenger cars and Formula 1 through its AMG performance car division. “No, we’re not going to take industrial control of Aston Martin. But we have a very successful co-operation with Aston Martin and that will continue”, said Källenius. The denial of the long-rumoured Aston Martin takeover comes after Mercedes-Benz announced sweeping changes to its operations, including a renewed focus on luxury and electrification, specifically through its EQ, AMG, Maybach and new G (Geländerwagen) sub-brands. In announcing the changes, Källenius said Mercedes-Benz aimed to reduce its fixed costs by up to 20 % before 2025 through cuts in personnel, administration and research and development spending. Mercedes-Benz’s current 5 % shareholding in Aston Martin was cemented in a technical partnership originally forged with AMG in 2013. Källenius recently hinted that the 2 firms could seek to deepen their ties: “The partnership is robust. Will it lead to more? Nothing I can comment on today”, he said at the recent S-Class launch. Since then, Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin have gradually increased their level of co-operation to include the supply of V8 petrol engines, electric platforms and, most recently, a sharing of hybrid drivetrains and intellectual property pertaining to components used in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team’s FW10 and FW11 race cars, as well as the RP20 F1 race car of Racing Point, which will switch to Aston Martin branding in 2021. Speculation of a possible Mercedes-Benz takeover intensified back in May when AMG chairman Tobias Moers was chosen to replace Andy Palmer as the CEO of Aston Martin. Previously, it had been reported that AMG F1 boss Toto Wolff had purchased 14.5 million shares in Aston Martin at a price of £7.975 million in a deal initiated by Canadian billionaire and Aston Martin majority shareholder Lawrence Stroll, through his investment company Yew Tree Overseas Ltd. Stroll, who has built a claimed £1.5 billion fortune through investments in fashion brands Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors, initiated a 16.7 % buyout of Aston Martin in January at a price of £182 million. Stroll’s investment formed part of £500 million in emergency funding provided to Aston Martin, which raised a further £207 million in equity and debt in June. Under its then chairman, Dieter Zetsche, Mercedes-Benz explored the possibility of using Aston Martin to coach-build limited-edition Maybach models. However, plans in this direction were abandoned after the construction of a secret concept car that was never shown in public, according to Mercedes-Benz officials privy to earlier dealings between the two car makers. +++ 

+++ AUDI ’s all-new Tesla Model S rival, the e-Tron GT, will be officially revealed at the beginning of next year. Prototypes have been spotted undergoing development testing at the Nurburgring ahead of its launch where it’s expected to cost in the region of €105,000 in The Netherlands. The fully electric saloon has been described by the company’s boss Markus Duesmann as “the most important vehicle for Audi, it is our halo car”. The e-Tron GT will be built at Audi’s Böllinger Höfe facility in Neckarsulm, the same factory where the Audi R8 supercar is currently produced. Audi has also confirmed development of a flagship RS version, which will be badged RS e-tron GT. The model will go on sale alongside the regular version in the middle of next year, but feature a unique look and chassis tuning as well as greater levels of performance. The finished product is expected to look almost identical to the concept from the 2018 Los Angeles Motor Show, with only a handful of tweaks to help it meet current safety regulations. The front grille will look a little narrower than the concept’s, while its touch sensitive doors will be replaced by conventional handles. The show car’s centre locking wheels will also be ditched, but Audi has confirmed that the finished car will feature 22-inch alloys. The car will get a retractable rear spoiler which can be retracted to reduce drag when driving on the motorway. The active wing will work alongside a sleek underbody aero, which will be more efficient than any of Audi’s combustion cars due to the lack of an exhaust system. The production e-tron GT will be based on the same platform as the Porsche Taycan, with the pair sharing around 60 % of componentry. However, the e-Tron GT will use 3 electric motors, whereas the Taycan only uses 2. Sending drive to all 4 wheels, Audi expects the e-Tron GT to accelerate from 0–100 kph in around 3.5 seconds. A unique software configuration (along with Porsche’s fastidious approach to reliability) will also allow it to achieve such figures repeatedly, even when the battery isn’t fully charged. A 96 kWh battery pack should also be available in the e-Tron GT, meaning the saloon will have a range of upwards of 400 km and be able to achieve an 80 % charge in 20 minutes, when plugged into a DC rapid-charger. An advanced torque vectoring system will allow Audi to control the e-Tron GT’s bulk. Despite a kerb weight of around 2 tonnes, the EV’s low centre of gravity should ensure a handling balance akin to that of the Taycan. This will be helped along by the location of battery pack and Audi’s decision to use carbon fibre for the e-Tron GT’s roof and aluminium for its doors; keeping the weightier components lower in the car’s chassis and reducing the top-heavy pendulum effect that would have been created if the entire car was made from steel. Speaking about the e-Tron GT concept at the 2018 LA Show (photo), Marc Lichte, head of Audi design, was very excited to be involved with the project. “It’s a dream to design a car like this”, Lichte told. “This is truly a design where the sketch becomes a reality”. The electric design presents additional challenges, too. As Lichte explains: “Other noises like road and wind noise become much more obvious without an engine. For example, we’ve designed the side mirrors to channel the air along the door skins instead of the window glass, so wind noise is less”. Like the outside, much of the concept’s interior design is likely to be carried over to the production e-Tron GT. That includes a centre span of the dashboard that flows into the doors to emphasise the cabin’s width. Whether the concept’s fully vegan materials will be used is less likely. +++ 

+++ BMW chief financial officer Nicolas Peter said Britain’s separation from the European Union could cost carmakers and suppliers up to €11 billion unless cross-border trade remains tariff-free and unbureaucratic. BMW has spent a low double-digit million euro amount this year to prepare for BREXIT , Peter told journalists during a virtual roundtable discussion. “The auto industry association ACEA has estimated that it could cost carmakers and suppliers €10 to €11 billion”, Peter said. “We need tariff-free trade. And even then, it needs to be seamless. We have a just-in-time manufacturing system so the administrative processing at customs needs to be efficient”. Furthermore Britain should continue to keep pace with European Union emissions requirements so that carmakers can offer the same cars in all European markets, Peter said. Strong demand for electric and hybrid cars has helped BMW stay ahead of projected fleet emissions reduction targets for 2020, Peter said. +++ 

+++ Want to drive the ballistic BUGATTI Chiron Pur Sport in real life? There are only 2 ways to do that. Okay, 3 if you have a rich friend/family member who bought one and will entrust you with it. Don’t go searching for driving gloves yet, unless you actually secured a build slot and are waiting for the Molsheim company to ship it over to you, or if you’re a journo with close ties to the French automaker, as that’s how you’re going to take a seat behind the wheel. Available to a select few to experience on public roads and at the Bilster Berg racetrack in Germany, the most agile version of the Chiron is finally complete. It took over 18 months of work, countless hours of development and more than 50.000 km of fine-tuning. The end result is what you’d except with the hypercar boasting advanced aerodynamics, several technical enhancements and a weight reduction over the ‘regular’ variant. “You have to experience this hyper sports car for yourself and feel what’s special about it in order to be able to appreciate the unbelievable work of the entire team”, said Bugatti president Stephan Winkelmann. “Our customers can therefore push the Chiron Pur Sport to its limits on the Bilster Berg race track and then experience its everyday usability on public roads”. Besides the wider air intakes, big front splitter, wheel arch ventilation, bigger diffuser and fixed 1.9 meter wide rear wing, the Chiron Pur Sport features more negative camber, a stiffer suspension and specially developed Michelin tires. The ESC Sport+ mode, which kicks in later than the regular ESC, allowing more slip and controlled drifts, is part of the package, alongside a shorter transmission ratio a quad-turbo 8.0-liter W16 that revs 200 rpm higher. The engine still produces 1.500 hp and 1.600 Nm, but due to improvements, the car has shaved one tenth of a second from the 0-100 km/h sprint, which now takes 2.3 instead of 2.4 seconds. From 0 to 200 km/h, it is 0.6 seconds faster, at 5.5 seconds, and in sixth gear, it sprints from 60 to 120 km/h in 3.4 instead of 7.4 seconds. Top speed is electronically capped at 350 km/h. +++ 

+++ Once upon a time, when the CHEVROLET Corvette still located its engine in its nose, it offered an appealing in-between performance trim. The C7 Corvette Grand Sport brought wider fender flares, suspension upgrades, and other performance goodies; essentially marrying the format of the more powerful Z06 with the entry-level Corvette Stingray’s LT1 V-8 engine. But the C8 Corvette will skip the Grand Sport version altogether. Sources from within GM apparently told that the blank space between the “base” Corvette (as if you could consider the entry-level C8’s spicy performance “basic”) and the expected Z06 model will instead be filled by the E-Ray hybrid. The long-expected E-Ray is anticipated to use the Corvette Stingray’s 6.2-liter V8 engine along with a pair of electric motors powering the front axle to both increase power and efficiency. And yes, the E-Ray’s layout would also upgrade the C8 from rear- to all-wheel drive. There’s no telling at this moment how much power the Corvette E-Ray might make, but it’ll likely be more than the regular 495 hp C8. Figure on somewhere around 550 to 600 hp, which would fit the E-Ray neatly between the Stingray and the 2022 Corvette Z06’s expected 600-hp-plus output. The Z06, by the way, will also get a special flat-plane crankshaft V8 that ditches pushrods for an overhead cam setup. Beyond that, the Corvette lineup will likely sprout a ZR1 with a twin-turbo version of the Z06’s engine, along with a 1.000-hp Zora hybrid model that combines the E-Ray’s electric motors with the ZR1’s turbocharged twin-cam, flat-plane-crank V-8. So, while the Grand Sport seemingly won’t make it back into the Corvette lineup, the E-Ray that takes its place (soon, we suspect, though the timing is hazy) will serve as the bridge between the current Stingray and the wilder models to come in the emerging C8 family. +++ 

+++ CHINA ‘s auto manufacturing sector rallied in the first 8 months of 2020 as the auto market maintained its recovery momentum, industry data showed. Profits of the auto manufacturing sector rose 1.5 % year on year to 308.48 billion yuan (about 45.3 billion U.S. dollars) from January to August; an improvement from the 5.9% drop seen in the January-July period, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics. The sector’s profits accounted for 8.3 % of all profits among industrial companies with annual revenues of more than 20 million yuan. Business revenues in the sector stood at 4.79 trillion yuan, falling 1.8 % year on year, narrowing 2.6 percentage points from the January-July period. China’s auto market, which was hit hard by the Covid-19 epidemic, started to recover in April thanks to unleashed pent-up demand and supportive policies. +++ 

+++ Someone in Stuttgart is surely prepping a banner with the words “Welcome Back, Arnold Schwarzenegger In a Font That Looks Like Lightning Bolts” splayed across it. That’s because Mercedes officially announced plans to bring an electric G-CLASS into production. Instead of spending a 7-figure sum to convert an old G into an EV, the former governor of California (or you, if you have lots of money) will soon be able to saunter over to the nearest Mercedes dealer and drive off in a factory-built model. The electric G-Class is part of an onslaught of EVs the 3-pointed star has plans to produce in the coming years. Alongside the forthcoming EQS flagship sedan, the German luxury brand will also sell a smaller EQE sedan, as well as EQS and EQE crossover SUVs. All 4 of these models will utilize the brand’s Electric Vehicle Architecture, which, as its name implies, is dedicated to EV models. A second electric-specific platform, dubbed the Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture, will underpin the brand’s compact and midsize EVs starting in the middle of the decade. It’s not just Benz-badged vehicles that will embrace electric powertrains, though, as Mercedes also announced the power source will find its way to AMG and Maybach models, too. In fact, I expect to see plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid variants of AMGs within the next year or 2. It also wouldn’t surprise us if the brand’s EQS and EQE sedans and SUVs welcome Maybach-badged stablemates that feature even greater opulence. +++

+++ GEELY reported a year-on-year sales increase for September. The company sold 126.400 units last month; up by about 11 % year-on-year. The figure also marked a month-on-month rise of 11 %. In the first 3 quarters of the year, Geely sold a total of 875.500 units, down by 9 % from the same period last year. The figure accounted for around 66 % of its full-year sales target, the carmaker said. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI and affiliate Kia were the world’s biggest combined seller of hydrogen fuel-cell cars from January to July this year and the fourth-largest of electric cars. The Korea Automotive Technology Institute said Hyundai and Kia sold 2.879 hydrogen vehicles in the first 7 months; a 59 % increase from a year ago. A distant second place went to Toyota with 439 cars, down 71 % from a year ago, followed by Honda’s 134. Hyundai and Kia also sold 60.707 electric cars, up 25 % from a year ago, coming fourth. Tesla was the global leader with sales of 191.971, followed by Renault Nissan’s 86.189 and Volkswagen’s 75.228. China’s BYD came fifth with 42.340. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) will usher in new noise-cancelling technology on the facelifted Range Rover Velar, XF and F-Pace, claiming it will reduce driver fatigue and enhance refinement. Developed by Israeli noise-cancelling specialist Silentium, the Active Acoustics system uses sensors on each wheel to monitor vibrations and produces a sound wave through the cabin’s Meridian sound system of the exact frequency needed to remove the unwanted noise. JLR claims that this will allow unexpected noises from potholes and rough surfaces to be “isolated and removed”, with the ability to lower individual noise ‘peaks’ by 10 dB and overall noise levels by 3 – 4dB. The manufacturer cites research that says reducing vehicle occupants’ exposure to low-frequency noises can help prevent fatigue on longer journeys. Tired motorists, it says, react 16.72 % slower on average to hazards or unexpected events than fully alert drivers. The Active Acoustics system is being rolled out in line with Jaguar Land Rover’s Destination Zero strategy, which aims to achieve a future of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion. An added benefit of the system for new plug-in hybrid versions of the Velar and F-Pace P400E is that the electrified powertrain can be “refined for lower CO2 emissions and efficiency with no impact on driver experience”. Iain Suffield, Jaguar Land Rover Refinement Advanced Technologies Specialist said: “We are committed to creating a haven for our customers and this new technology allows us to remove unwanted noises from the cabin. “It makes the experience more tranquil, improving passenger wellbeing and helping to reduce cognitive load and thus reaction times. This research is all part of the journey to Destination Zero”. +++ 

+++ In JAPAN , some of the most popular automobiles and motorcycles of yesteryear will be getting new life as major Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota have begun full-fledged servicing of these classic vehicles. The companies have resumed sales of parts that are no longer manufactured and undertaken repairs for such old models to extend their lifespans. These moves are aimed at maintaining a link to old car buffs while generating interest from a new generation by posting images on social media. In July, Toyota began to produce and sell replacement parts for its A80 model of the sports car Supra. The A80 model, which went on sale in 1993, is well known for appearing in the U.S. action film “The Fast and the Furious” (Japanese title: Wild Speed). Since sales ended in 2002, popularity has remained high among enthusiasts, with some A80s fetching prices higher than when the car was new. In general, sales of replacement parts for automobiles and motorbikes are halted about 10 years after production ends. As such, owners have to make do with similar parts when making repairs or doing other work on their vehicles. The prices of replacement parts for which production is restarted are set higher than those of conventional ones. For example, braking system parts cost from ¥70,000 to ¥120,000 or so, while door handles go for about ¥33,000. Even so, “It is welcome news for passionate fans”, says Naoto Enmei, 46, representative of Supra fan club with the nationwide membership of about 2.300. Toyota also has restarted sales of parts for its 2000GT sports car, which ended production in 1970. Nissan and Mazda are among other automakers that have taken similar actions. It has been quite awhile since the trend emerged that young people were spurning car ownership. However, events bringing together car buffs and their beloved automobiles have attracted attention on social media. “When people see these classic models that are timeless and sparkling with life, I think it will be hard not to understand the appeal”, said an automaker source. +++ 

+++ LEXUS has confirmed that the CT family hatchback, the IS compact saloon and the RC 4-seat coupe will soon be axed in Europe. The Japanese firm has already stopped importing the 3 models, meaning the only way to buy new is to pick a car from Lexus’s residual stock. A Lexus spokesperson said inventory levels for the CT and IS are expected to last a few weeks, while stock levels for the hybrid RC could stretch to the end of December. Lexus has also said that it has no direct replacements for any of these models planned; the firm is confident that its remaining offerings will serve the needs of buyers well. Trendy crossovers such as the UX and NX will fill the void left by the CT, while the larger ES saloon will plug the gap left by the IS. Lexus revealed its intention to remove the IS from the market earlier this year, alongside the launch of the all-new 4th generation model. Interestingly, while the hybrid RC line-up will disappear from showrooms, Lexus will continue to import the flagship V8 powered RC F until the model is either replaced or axed in a year-or-so’s time. The 462 hp BMW M4 rival was updated last summer with a few cosmetic and performance tweaks, and it still enjoys sales success. +++ 

+++ You’ve probably heard by now that Mercedes is doubling down on electrification by planning to roll out zero-emissions AMG and Maybach models, not to mention a G-Class EV. The EQE and EQS saloons will have SUV counterparts to follow the smaller EQA and EQB. Investing heavily in green models requires a more than generous budget, so Mercedes is cutting costs wherever it makes the most sense. In a move that while it doesn’t come as a big surprise is still sad to hear, the MANUAL TRANSMISSION is being phased out. It’s not going to happen overnight, but Mercedes’ R&D boss Marcus Schäffer told auto journalist Greg Kable the 3-pointed star will “eliminate manual transmissions”. The gradual retirement of the clutch pedal will affect mainly Europe rather than the United States where a stick shift hasn’t been available ever since the demise of the SLK 250 after the 2015 model year. Additional cost-cutting measures are being worked on as Mercedes will drastically reduce its traditional powertrain offerings. The Daimler brand says “investments in combustion engine development will decline quickly” as part of a greater plan to cut the number of ICE variants by a whopping 70 % by the end of the decade. There’s a pretty good chance the diesel engines are the most vulnerable given the stricter emissions regulations applicable in Europe. Not only that, but Marcus Schäffer also said the company plans for a “substantial reduction in platforms”. In other words, more and more models are going to share the same architectures in a bid to further save money by a wider spreading of the development costs. Despite Mercedes’ lineup being larger than ever, no specific model cuts have been announced, although the S-Class Coupe and S-Class Convertible have been recently phased out. The same Marcus Schaeffer previously told Autocar about how the company intends to streamline its portfolio. The short-term goal is to reduce fixed costs by more than 20 % by the middle of the decade when Mercedes aims to cut down on R&D expenditure by more than 20 % compared to 2019. Variable costs are also projected to go down by 1 % by then compared to last year’s levels. +++ 

+++ Who knew that a video about a crossover could discreetly include such an important announcement? It’s not even a new crossover as the MX-30 debuted about a year ago as an EV, with the Japanese market now getting a hybrid version of the crossover equipped with suicide doors. The video attached below shows MAZDA ’s boss Akira Marumoto talking about the company’s green push before getting to what we’re most interested in: the rotary engine. Jump to the 7:34 mark and turn on English subtitles to read the statement made by Mazda’s head honcho, reconfirming the rotary engine is coming back. As you may recall, the Zoom-Zoom company originally announced it would bring it back approximately 2 years ago. Fast forward to today, Akira Marumoto says they’ll begin testing a fleet of prototypes on the road as early as January 2021. Akira Marumoto goes on to mention the rotary engine will hit the market in the first half of 2022. It’s not known which specific models will get the setup beyond the MX-30, but the small cars will have first dibs. Fans of the Japanese brand will remember the company built a Mazda2 prototype back in 2012 that had a range-extending rotary engine, so this technology does not represent uncharted territory for the company. As for the new MX-30 flavor introduced in the Land of the Rising Sun, the crossover is equipped with an e-SkyActiv G 2.0-litre engine benefiting from mild-hybrid technology. It works together with a 5.1 kW assistmotor, a lithium/ion battery pack and an automatic transmission. Mazda will sell the vehicle in both two- and all-wheeldrive configurations. The company is already taking orders in Japan where it hopes to sell 1.000 units each month. +++ 

+++ Mazda will cease production of its 6 saloon and estate in diesel form this month, with the model moving to naturally-aspirated petrol power only in Europe. It’s believed that the long-standing 2.2-litre diesel unit would need redesigning in order to meet ever-toughening emissions legislation. The investment required to do would not be met with sales volumes significant enough to justify it. The MAZDA 6 diesel will still be available to order from stock until the end of the year, however, a spokesman has confirmed. A number of makers have, in recent years, slimmed down or entirely axed their diesel offerings for models where the fuel was previously a popular choice. This is particularly true in the business and fleet markets, where company car users are now strongly incentivised to choose plug-in hybrids or EVs rather than oil-burners. Mazda still offers the 2.2-litre diesel in the CX-5 and it’s unclear if that will soon face the axe too. It’s now the only diesel offering in Mazda’s 9-strong range of bodystyles, as the volume-selling 3 was introduced in 2019 with the SkyActiv X spark controlled compression ignition petrol engine claimed to offer the economy of a diesel with the driver appeal of a petrol. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ has no less than 8 compact cars in its lineup today. The range includes the Hatchback and Sedan versions of the A-Class, as well as the long wheelbase sold in China, the B-Class, CLA and CLA Shooting Brake, and the GLA plus GLB. The range will grow to include 2 zero-emission models in a few months, the EQA and EQB, as well as the T-Class van. Some may argue that’s a stretch for a single luxury brand and Daimler’s CEO, Ola Källenius, who replaced Dieter Zetsche last year, is among them. “Maybe we went at a bit too far to cover each and every space into each and every segment. Compact particularly comes to mind”, Källenius said earlier this week, during an online strategy presentation. “This is not where the main thrust should go, we should not become a competitor of the volume makers”, he explained. “We have a great opportunity for horizontal growth, not adding more cars to the compact segment, but finding more customer groups to come under the Mercedes master brand”. So, could this mean that they might kill some of the compact models? Not for the current generation, because these accounted for 25 % of Mercedes-Benz’s 2.38 million deliveries in 2019. “We will not take existing products out. We want to move them upwards in terms of their margin contribution”, Källenius noted. “We want to raise the bar to extract the maximum out of the existing portfolio”. The new-gen compact (and mid-size) vehicles will be underpinned by the Mercedes Modular Architecture (MMA). Unlike the Volkswagen Group’s MEB, which is EV-only, the platform will also support internal combustion engines, meaning that besides the fully electric models, it will be used for hybrids and plug-in hybrids too. +++ 

+++ Remember the weird MERCEDES-MAYBACH Vision Ultimate Luxury Concept that mixed a crossover-like ride height with the body of a 4-door saloon from the Auto China 2018 in Beijing, China? A vehicle similar to this is coming from the German brand. Internally, Mercedes allegedly calls this vehicle an SUL, which presumably stands for Sport Utility Limousine (think of this in the German sense of a saloon, rather than a stretched vehicle like in American parlance. Unfortunately, there aren’t many additional details about this high-riding four-door, including when it might arrive. The major question about this SUL is where it would fit in the Mercedes lineup. The company’s coupe-inspired crossovers would seem to appeal to the same people buying this vehicle. Also, the automaker is trying to simplify the range in some regions. The Mercedes-Maybach Vision Ultimate Luxury Concept had the shape of a big saloon but the ride height you’d expect from a SUV. The design featured a big grille with lots of vertical, chrome strakes, and there were narrow headlights in each corner. Brawny wings/fenders included extra cladding for a more rugged appearance. There was a vertically split moonroof, and this continued to a matching separation in the rear glass. After the concept’s debut, there was a rumour that Mercedes was discussing whether to put it into production, but there wasn’t yet a green light for doing so at the time. The idea of a high-riding sedan isn’t entirely new. For example, Volvo did it with the S60 Cross Country. The vehicle took the four-door and lifted the ride height by 65 millimetres. While not enough to make the vehicle a hardcore off-roader, the extra ride height helped deal with less-than-ideal roads. +++ 

+++ Former Aston Martin CEO and ex-Nissan chief planning officer Andy PALMER has joined a Slovakian-based venture to develop the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) battery production centre. The facility uses AI to commercialise battery cells up to 10 times faster than today’s most common processes. The company, called InoBat and financed by a private equity consortium led by Silicon Valley executive and venture capitalist Faysal Sohail, plans initially to build an R&D centre by 2022 to refine its flexible processes and then to make batteries for special applications on a low-volume production line. It will progress to a gigafactory on the same site in 2024. Palmer believes his considerable electrification experience, which includes leading the opening of three battery factories plus the launch of Nissan’s pioneering all-electric Leaf 15 years ago, can help speed the new company’s progress. “I was attracted initially to InoBat because, instead of rushing to build a gigafactory like everyone else, its idea was to start small and to use AI to iterate lots of battery combinations to find the best chemistry for each application”, said Palmer. Since leaving Aston Martin, he has begun working with a suite of new, high-tech companies mostly dedicated to what he calls “net-carbon-zero” mobility. Palmer said the most common current approach to battery design is for companies to “pile in to” the electrification market by adapting existing technology and hardware to fit widely varying applications. Using its rapid R&D capability, InoBat will take more trouble at the design stage, varying the chemistry in different applications to lower cost, bulk and weight in every application, and to bring benefits in energy density. Palmer said InoBat has no plans to restrict itself to the automotive sector but sees it as “an obvious target” early on. The company is expected to reveal the first of its new-tech battery designs within a few days. +++ 

+++ RENAULT is about to sharply ramp up its electrificaion drive and will next week unveil a new electric SUV concept alongside the production version of the Dacia Spring, said to be Europe’s most affordable EV. Few official details about Renault’s concept car have been released, but it’s likely to draw heavily on the boldly styled Morphoz concept shown earlier this year, albeit with more production-oriented styling details. The Morphoz was notable for its shape-shifting functionality, extending from 4.400 mm in length in City mode to a full 4.800 mm in Travel form. Although such technology is unlikely to make production in the coming years, the Morphoz was designed to showcase the flexibility of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance’s new CMF-EV platform, upon which next week’s concept will sit. The SUV has been described as Kadjar sized and will compete with mainstream electric cars such as the Skoda Enyaq and the Kia e-Niro. It will represent the beginning of a new styling direction for Renault, taking cues from some of the Morphoz’s less radical design elements. Expect slim wraparound LED light bars at the front and rear, flared wheel arches and a pointed rear overhang to be among its defining features, but some of the more dramatic lines will be toned down for production and the traditional large concept-style wheels will be dramatically downsized. The skateboard-style CMF-EV platform will underpin a range of “B+ and C+ segment” cars, which will sit above the Zoé and Twingo Electric in Renault’s EV line-up. Renault claims the batteries have been “streamlined” to allow the vehicle to sit closer to the floor and for the wheels to be pushed closer to the corners. Technical details of the concept car are also unconfirmed, but the Morphoz was equipped with a 40 kWh battery for a claimed range of 400 km, while offering space for an additional 50 kWh unit that extended the range to 650 km. The Dacia Spring has already been shown in near-production form ahead of its launch next year. It’s heavily based on the Chinese-market Renault K-ZE electric crossover, offers a claimed range of more than 200 km and has been designed with a dual focus on private buyers and car-sharing schemes. The company claims it will be Europe’s most affordable EV. At next week’s launch event, Renault will also provide more details on the European version of its Arkana coupé-SUV, which went on sale in Russia in 2018 but has now been given the go-ahead for a launch here. +++ 

+++ SKODA has completed trials of a new smartphone app that it believes could make life much easier for technicians at Skoda dealerships and service centres across Europe. Called the Sound Analyser, the app has been developed in-house by Skoda and is a simple diagnostics tool that warns of potential faults in Skoda cars by simply listening to the engine running. Skoda says the system is so sensitive it can hear even the slightest irregularity in the idling of the engine, and can suggest a range of services and fixes on the spot. The app records the sound of the engine and compares it with a set of control recordings of healthy Skodas. It can spot discrepancies in the sound signals, and uses an algorithm to suggest the best course of action to a technician. It converts the audio file into a spectrogram (a visual depiction of the acoustic signals) and compares them with the control set for deviations in the spectrogram pattern. The system has an accuracy of “over 90 %”, according to Skoda, and it doesn’t work on just engine issues. Apparently, the Sound Analyser app can also bring to the attention faults in the steering system, the gearbox and even the air conditioning compressor. The brand says more is to come, too. Trails of the app have been running since June 2019 across a range of 14 European markets, and a total of 245 Skoda dealers and service centres have taken part in the pilot. Stanislav Pekař, Skoda’s Head of After Sales said: “Sound Analyser is a prime example of the new opportunities digitalisation at our brand can create, even in terms of after sales. We will continue to consistently use artificial intelligence technologies to offer our customers an even more personalised service, thus enhancing the customer experience even further”. +++ 

+++ At Subiefest 2020, which was held last weekend and is one of the largest annual gatherings of SUBARU enthusiasts in the United States, the automaker set a new Guinness World Record. What for? Well, for the largest parade of Subaru cars, with 1.751 vehicles driven by their owners, breaking the previous 2015 record, when 549 cars attended. Instead of selling tickets, this year the company asked for a donation from each participant to Feeding America, with proceeds benefitting 2 local food banks, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and Second Harvest Orange County. The donations will provide 241.800 meals, and Subaru of America will match them, raising the number to 500.000. “In these trying times, we all search for stability in our daily lives”, said Subaru’s senior vicepresident, Alan Bethke. “We hope that through this donation to Feeding America, we can provide the comfort and stability of a meal for people who struggle with hunger in America. We must all stay safe, but remember to help others where we can”. The donations are part of a partnership between Subaru and Feeding America, which will provide 50 million meals to people impacted by the new disease. At this year’s Subiefest, Subaru previewed the second-generation BRZ. The sports car is due this fall with an evolutionary styling, more modern interior and probably a turbocharged 2.4-liter sourced from the Ascent and Legacy, where it develops 260 hp and 376 Nm. The power will be directed to the rear wheels most likely though a standard manual transmission or an optional automatic, and the range is expected to be topped by the STi, which could have around 300 hp. +++ 

+++ The Russian hacker arrested after trying to install ransomware in TESLA ’s computers gives us a fair idea of all the people that want to harm the company. People often claim all its quality issues must be internal sabotage, for example. Whether that is the case or not, Tesla has recently fired an employee for trying to undermine Fremont’s production, according to an internal email message. This employee did not have his identity revealed, but the document states he tried to “cover up his tracks,” saying a co-worker was to blame. He also tried to destroy a Tesla computer, which probably had evidence against him, and finally confessed after the company showed it knew it was his fault. he internal email was written last October 5 by Al Prescott, Tesla’s vice president of legal. It does not mention what this saboteur tried to do, only that the IT and InfoSec departments discovered the problem and took measures to “prevent further damage”. Also, according to the message, “production was running smoothly again a few hours later”. Apart from firing the saboteur, we wonder if Tesla will try to sue him or even get him arrested. Undermining production on purpose is a crime, and this guy could serve some time in jail for doing that. +++ 

+++ If you were doing research before buying the new TESLA MODEL Y , chances are you would find owners sending up online warnings about quality issues. Uneven panel gaps, misaligned trim, and paint defects are the common ones to look for, according to owner complaints, and it is up to the new buyer to either tolerate the issues and let Tesla Service fix them afterwards or refuse delivery and wait for another car (which does not guarantee to be built better). If this sounds ominous, know that the reaction common amongst new Tesla Model Y owners is a love of their new EV offset by disappointing quality issues. I’ve found the Model Y to be a pleasant adaptation of Tesla’s relatively affordable Model 3, albeit with far more interior room and a more useful cargo hold. My experiences, however, have been brief: not like the day-in, day-out use Model Ys are subjected to by their new owners. Let’s take a look at a few of the highest-profile examples of the Model Y’s teething issues that owners have raised to date: (By the way, we’re not including the amusing hardware-store parts one owner recently found underhood because it doesn’t seem to have any functional impact on the Tesla’s operation and as you can see below, there are far more serious flaws that are more widespread). In June, a few new Model Y owners sent photos to Electrek showing their SUVs’ back seats and seatbelts were not attached to their bases. As the images showed, underneath the seat are some metal brackets, the high battery voltage metal casing, and the high voltage system disconnect handle. Those items shouldn’t necessarily be accidentally exposed to occupants in the event of a collision that could dislodge the seat itself, to say nothing of the seatbelt (a safety device) not being truly attached to the car. These are the sorts of issues one hopes would be caught in even the loosest of quality control inspections before a new car is delivered to a customer. On October 1th, Reddit user Indescribable reported that his dad’s brand-spanking-new, straight-from-Tesla’s-Fremont-factory Model Y decided to part ways with its glass roof on the highway. Just 2 hours after his father took delivery of his new Tesla. The user described the impromptu convertible experience as follows: “Everything was going fine, and we were driving back home when we started to hear a ton of wind. I thought maybe a window was open but a minute later the entire glass roof just blew off”. The new convertible crossover was then driven back to the Tesla Service Center, the same place as the owner picked it up moments ago. Later on, the same Reddit user tweeted Elon Musk along with a clip of the Model Y driving without its glass roof, but no response from Tesla nor Elon Musk himself. Fortunately, the flying glass roof did not cause any accidents or injury to anyone on the road according to the Reddit user. The California Highway Patrol was notified about the road hazard. On June 20th, teslamotorclub.com member jb401 reported water leaking into their Model Y through the headliner and onto the front center console, originating from around the front edge of the glass roof. On June 29th, another club member, CT7Summits, reported and uploaded a video of a Model Y with water leaking into the rare hatch area. At first, the owner noticed a pool of water in the rear after taking the new Tesla through a carwash. They then attempted to recreate the issue, and unfortunately were successful in doing so. A significant amount of water was leaking into the car after only about five seconds of running a hose over the roof. The Tesla Service Center did take care of those problems. However, it certainly was not a welcome experience after spending upwards of $55,000 on a new electric crossover. As Tesla keeps on rushing to meet growing demand and chasing delivery numbers, it seems quality control is unable to keep up. The automaker appears to be letting more serious problems slip through the cracks beyond the minor fitment and paint issues that have impacted new Teslas in the past. Potential safety issues are not only avoidable, but unacceptable. I’ve reached out to Tesla for comment, but are waiting to hear back. Long story short, these issues should be taken care of before Tesla’s vehicles leave the Fremont factory. In the past, new Tesla models have suffered from initial quality woes before improving as the automaker gets better at building them, as was the case with the Model 3 and Model X. +++ 

+++ VOLVO is tipped to launch a new flagship SUV within the next couple of years, acting as a larger replacement for the XC90 and providing the company with a direct rival for the BMW X7 and the Mercedes GLS. Volvo is currently developing a new version of its large-car platform, SPA2. The brand’s current SPA architecture, which is found under Volvo’s “60” and “90” models, is unable to scale much larger than the current XC90. As such, if the firm wants to go after the flagship SUVs offered by Mercedes and BMW, the new XC100 will need to use this newly developed platform. SPA2 will be engineered to support vehicles up to 5.5 metres long. And crucially, the third Polestar model (a huge pure-electric SUV) will use the same underpinnings. The new vehicle has already been named internally with the project code V616. The “6” marks the prototype out as the largest model in Volvo’s range; the “1” means it’s the first generation of the vehicle and the final “6” is shorthand for its SUV body style. It’s said to be around 30 cm longer than the current XC90 and slightly longer than even the BMW X7, at 5.2 metres. Volvo will also scale-up the SUV’s wheelbase and rear overhang, which will improve both the amount of legroom in the second seating row, the amount of overall space in the third seating row and the car’s boot capacity. The XC100 is likely to feature a mixture of higher-end powertrains from the manufacturer’s line-up, with entry-level editions using a high-powered petrol-based mild-hybrid set-up, and alternatives available with both plug-in hybrid and pure-electric configurations. The new flagship SUV has been made possible not only by buyer trends in key markets, including the United States and China, but also by Volvo’s improved brand strength. This will support a new high point in the firm’s pricing strategy, because when equipped with more expensive powertrains, the XC100 could well cost more than €120.000 in the Netherlands. Elsewhere, Volvo’s CEO Håkan Samuelsson also confirmed that the next 40-series model will make its debut in 2021. He said: “Next year there will be another 40-series Volvo, which will also be electric. So we will have electric cars to support our ambition to sell half of our cars as all-electric five years from now”. +++

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