Newsflash: Volkswagen heeft geen plannen voor een Golf GTI Clubsport S


+++ Chinese internet search giant Baidu officially opened APOLLO GO ROBOTAXI , its self-driving taxi service, to the public in Beijing, becoming the first company to carry passengers in autonomous vehicles in the capital. With a fleet of 40 vehicles, the service covers the largest total area and the longest road network of about 700 kilometers for an autonomous driving test area in China. It has established nearly 100 pickup and drop-off stations in residential and business areas in the Yizhuang area, Haidian and Shunyi districts of Beijing. Passengers in Beijing can now hail autonomous cabs free of charge via Baidu Maps or Apollo Go apps without advance reservation. The move came after the Beijing-based tech giant opened its robotaxi service to the public in Cangzhou in August, extending robotaxi coverage to the downtown area of a city for the first time in China. In April, Baidu opened its self-driving taxi service in Changsha. Robotaxi provides free rides to passengers across an area of 130 square kilometers. As the first city in China to regulate and open autonomous driving road test zones, Beijing has comprehensive infrastructure and policies to foster high-speed development of the industry. Last year, Beijing ranked first in China for the number of test licenses and vehicle categories, as well as diversity of test scenarios. In addition, Beijing has issued the most stringent safety requirements for manned autonomous driving tests in China to ensure the safety and reliability of the industry. The self-driving technology is expected to witness large-scale commercial application in the next 5 years, said Robin Li, chairman and CEO of Baidu. Li made the remarks at the Baidu World 2020, the company’s annual flagship technology conference held in Beijing last month. According to him, intelligent infrastructure based on the vehicle-road coordination system is expected to improve traffic efficiency by 15 % to 30 %, thus bringing in 2.4 % to 4.8 % absolute economic growth. “China is taking the lead in the autonomous driving sector around the world”, said Li Zhenyu, corporate vice-president of Baidu and general manager of the company’s intelligent driving group. He said that Baidu Apollo will continue to push forward the commercial application of autonomous driving. “Autonomous driving is definitely the future development direction of the automobile industry. It not only solves traffic safety problems, but also greatly improves the efficiency of transportation, brings about economic benefits and liberates people from repetitive driving”, said Jiang Zheng, a self-driving expert at China’s GAC research and development center. The launch of self-driving taxi services in some designated areas might be the best application scenario for the technologies due to high operating costs of private vehicles, Jiang said. China is planning to realize the scale production of vehicles capable of conditional autonomous driving and commercialization of highly autonomous vehicles in certain circumstances by 2025, according to a blueprint issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and nine other ministries. Baidu is one of several Chinese technology firms that have launched autonomous taxi services to the public in the country. Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing platform, announced in June the opening of its on-demand robotaxi service to passengers in parts of Shanghai. So far, road tests for self-driving vehicles are available in more than 20 provinces and cities in China. Companies such as SAIC Motor, BMW, Didi Chuxing and DeepBlue Technology have obtained authorization for passenger-carrying tests. Yang Diange, dean of the automobile engineering department at Tsinghua University, said the L4 self-driving vehicles are expected to enter into large-scale commercial use in 2030. Level 4 autonomy means the car can drive by itself in most conditions without a human driver. He noted more efforts are needed to make breakthrough in key technologies, including information safety, tests scenarios and laws and regulations. +++ 

+++ In a bid to expand its presence in China, AUDI signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with FAW, defining the framework for the joint production of electric vehicles based on the German carmaker’s PPE architecture, developed jointly with Porsche. Come 2024, several all-new Audi electric models will be produced for the Chinese market on this platform. The MoU was signed during the Germany-China Automobile Conference, currently held in Changchun. Audi already produces cars at 4 different locations in China through the FAW-VW joint venture: Changchun, Foshan, Tianjin and Qingdao, adding up to a total capacity of roughly 700.000 units. “This decision emphasizes the strategic importance of the Chinese market. We are thus actively pushing forward with innovations locally”, said Audi chairman Markus Duesmann. Meanwhile, Audi China president Werner Eichhorn had this to add: “This is a further milestone in our electrification strategy for the Chinese market. We are also confirming our commitment both to our longstanding Chinese partner FAW and to our activities in China, which we are now taking to a new level”. Right now, Audi and FAW are jointly producing the all-electric Q2L e-tron and the A6L TFSIe plug-in hybrid model, while the previously-imported e-Tron has been produced in Changchun since the end of last month. By 2025, Audi aims to have electrified vehicles make up a third of its Chinese sales. From January through September 2020, Audi sold 512.081 vehicles in China, marking a 4.5 % growth compared to last year despite the interruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. +++ 

+++ CADILLAC has been flirting with the idea of launching a sportier version of the Escalade for well over a decade now, yet that still hasn’t materialized. Nonetheless, with the SUV boom, now it might be a good time to finally launch an Escalade V, Escalade-V, Escalade-V Blackwing or whatever they might name it. So, are they going to make it? The Escalade’s product manager, Dave Schiavone, doesn’t rule it out. “Ever since we came out with the V-Series on the CTS, we’ve had dealers and customers asking for an Escalade V”, Schiavone said. “We’re always looking at opportunities, and where we can take portfolios”. If it does happen, the Escalade V would challenge the likes of the BMW X7 M50i and Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, and besides the sporty body kit that would help it differentiate from lesser versions of the Escalades, it would also need a powerful engine. A good candidate for the job would be the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that’s understood to power the upcoming CT5-V Blackwing, in turn sourced from Chevrolet’s Camaro ZL1. The rumored output should stand north of 650 hp and it is expected with at least 881 Nm of torque. If Cadillac decides to green-light the project, we wouldn’t expect it to launch sooner than 2022 or 2023. +++ 

+++ CHINA auto sales marked a 6th straight month of gain, rebounding a solid 12.8 % in September as the world’s biggest vehicle market comes off lows hit during the coronavirus lockdown. This time of year, known as “Golden September, Silver October”, is usually a highpoint in sales for the industry, with consumers venturing out to make purchases after having stayed away from showrooms during the stifling summer months. Sales reached 2.57 million vehicles last month but were still down 6.9 % for the year to date at 17.12 million vehicles, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). “Based on our dealer channel checks, the growth in momentum extended into the October Golden Week, as retail sales exceeded dealers’ expectations”, said Haitong International analyst Shi Ji. The Beijing auto show, promotional events and policies enacted by local governments to support the auto sector helped sales growth in September, senior CAAM official Chen Shihua told reporters. Passenger vehicle sales rose 8 % in September. Geely, Great Wall Motor and Toyota were among those that booked double-digit growth. New energy vehicles did particularly well with sales surging 67.7 % to 138.000 for their third consecutive month of gain. NEVs include battery-powered electric, plug-in petrol-electric hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. NEV makers such as home-grown Nio and Xpeng as well as foreign firms like Tesla are expanding manufacturing capacity in China where the government has aggressively promoted greener vehicles to reduce air pollution. Tesla cut prices for the Model S by around 4 % in the United States as well as other key markets like China. Tesla also cut the starting price of its Chinese-made Model 3 this month by about 8 %. +++

+++ General Motors is facing a second class-action lawsuit over 2015-2019 Chevrolet CORVETTE Z06 and Grand Sport wheels that can bend and crack. A class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is seeking millions of dollars in reimbursement for 18 owners named in the lawsuit, and all others who have reported issues with the wheels. In April, a separate class-action lawsuit over the same issue was filed in California. The lawsuit alleges the wheels of said models are “prone to deforming and cracking, without impact damage”. It adds that GM made the wheels with inferior material that is “cast, rather than forged, and is of insufficient strength, and insufficient quality, to withstand the torque and power input from the drivetrain”. Lawyers named in the lawsuit haven’t provided a figure for the exact amount of compensation they are seeking, but it could cost GM upwards of $18 million for each year of affected Corvette Z06 and Grand Sport models. 66 year old Vanessa Bishop Diggs is one of the hundreds of owners to report of wheels cracking and bending. Speaking with the media, she said she purchased a 2019 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 in May 2019, but just 1 year later and after driving roughly 15,000 miles, noticed the car started to “simmer and shimmy”. She soon discovered that she had 4 bent wheels. The warranty didn’t cover them and she was forced to pay $3,000 to replace them. “I don’t want the car now, even with the new rims on it, because it was sick”, Diggs said. “I don’t want to deal with it and the way General Motors is treating me, I don’t want it now”. Dozens of complaints have been made by owners at the Corvette Forum over the years. In 2017, Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter took to the forum to defend GM, stating that the company designs wheels “to withstand extreme pothole loads” and that “people are often surprised that a wheel can be bent or cracked without any visible damage to the tire or obvious scratches on the wheel”. GM has declined to comment on this latest class-action lawsuit and believes the damage is caused by regular wear and tear. While cast wheels can indeed bend and crack during every day driving, the fact that 250 complaints have been made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website indicates there probably is a specific issue with the Corvette’s wheels, even if GM has yet to admit it. +++ 

+++ With Audi announcing, teasing, or revealing an electric production car or concept virtually on a monthly basis, some would be tempted to believe the Four Rings are ignoring the ol’ internal combustion engine (ICE). Factor in the company’s decision to launch 20 EVs by the middle of the decade, it seems like the days of the TSI, TFSI, and TDI badges are numbered. However, that’s not the case. Audi CEO and R&D boss Markus Duesmann revealed the ICE still has a future despite the company’s electrification push. He argues “it will be a while” before the curtain will fall on traditional powertrains, and that includes the much-criticised DIESEL . As a matter of fact, he defends oil-burning mills by saying they’re “by far the most efficient” among the current crop of combustion engines. Duesmann, who is also the R&D chief for the whole Volkswagen Group and supervisory board chairman at Lamborghini among other roles, went on to mention Audi customers “still love diesels”. While the company pledges to keep the TDI alive, the high-ranked executive did admit having to tweak the exhaust to make diesels comply with stricter regulations has become “very expensive”. As a consequence, Audi believes the diesel engine has lost some of its appeal in some segments of the market. With Audi still seeing a future for internal combustion engines, Duesmann says efforts will continue to make them as fuel-efficient as possible. The head honcho believes the death of the ICE will come down to a political decision and it won’t happen simultaneously all over the world. Europe will likely be the last bastion of the diesel engine whereas the gasoline engine will have a longer life, especially in emerging markets. Audi is one of the very few premium automakers to invest in alternatively powered cars that still have combustion engines, with the A3, A4, and A5 g-Tron models compatible with compressed natural gas (CNG). At the same time, it’s also increasing efforts regarding hydrogen fuel cell technology following the reveal of several h-Tron concepts in past years. But make no mistake about it, the future is electric. The most exciting EV coming up from Audi is unquestionably the e-Tron GT. In a sea of zero-emissions SUVs from Ingolstadt, the electric sedan will spice up the green portfolio with an RS version that will likely mirror a hotter derivative of its sister model, the Porsche Taycan. +++ 

+++ Mercedes teased an assortment of electric vehicles last week and now the company has revealed future EQ MODELS will have “selectable soundscapes”. Since electric vehicles are quiet by nature, Mercedes is working to give them a “multi-sensory experience” which will help to make up for the missing V8 rumble. As part of this effort, a team of audio experts have created different soundscapes which can be accessed by using the MBUX infotainment system. The company didn’t go into too many details, but noted they paid attention to recreating the “driving sound” found in traditional vehicles. The so-called driving sound is pumped through interior speakers and is adjusted in response to nearly a dozen parameters such as acceleration, speed and energy recuperation. It also factors in the selected driving mode as the sound becomes more “dynamic” when Sport mode is selected. While it’s probably something people that will need to experience to fully appreciate, Mercedes said the driving sound was created to awaken emotions and inspire. The company also hinted additional driving sounds could be added in the future as part of over-the-air updates. Sound will also play an important role elsewhere as the company is developing a holistic sound concept that will also provide drivers with feedback. In particular, owners can expect acoustic cues when the car is started and when a charger is connected. Of course, exterior sounds are also important and required in a number of markets for safety reasons. As a result, EQ models will have an Acoustic Vehicle Alert System that uses speakers mounted in the bumpers to warn pedestrians when the vehicle is approaching at low speeds. +++ 

+++ General Motors filed an appeal with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, seeking reinstatement of its racketeering lawsuit against FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES . GM sued Fiat Chrysler last year charging the Italian-American automaker with bribing officials of the United Auto Workers union in order to gain advantages in 2009 and 2015 labor contracts that potentially put GM at a multibillion dollar labor cost disadvantage. A federal judge in Detroit threw out the lawsuit in July and rejected GM’s bid to have it reinstated the following month. Earlier this year, Fiat Chrysler had asked a U.S. court to toss out GM’s lawsuit, calling it baseless. +++ 

+++ FORD said it was moving full-scale production of its plug-in Kuga to next year as it reviews vehicles recalled in Europe. “We are moving full scale production of the Kuga PHEV to the 2021 model year. The first cars will be sold next year”, a company spokesman said in a statement. Ford of Europe was recalling 20.500 Kuga plug-in hybrids as 7 of the SUVs sold in the region caught fire while recharging. +++ 

+++ As far as many people are concerned, Tesla’s FULL SELF DRIVING CAPABILITY is way late and never coming. However, it really depends on how you look at it. We should have a much better idea about the status of the situation starting next week, as Tesla will release a “Limited FSD” on October 20 to a small number of “expert & careful drivers”, according to CEO Elon Musk. Back on September 22, Musk said Tesla hoped to release FSD in private beta form in about a month. Often this type of Musk tweet will come and go with little action. However, Tesla has been much more consistent lately with timing and promises related to Musk’s tweets. Perhaps we should say Musk seems to be much more conservative of late? At any rate, if the beta release happens on October 20, it’s right on target with Musk’s recent promise. The more important part about the CEO’s promise is yet to be seen, however. He calls the rewrite a “Quantum Leap”. It’s supposedly an order of magnitude beyond anything we’ve seen related to Tesla’s self-driving efforts to date. Musk wrote: “I think we’ll hopefully release a private beta of Autopilot, of the full self-driving version of Autopilot in, I think, a month or so, and then people will really understand just the magnitude of the change. It’s profound. So, yeah. Anyway, so, you’ll see it. It’s just like a hell of a step change, but because we had to rewrite everything (labeling software, just the entire code base) it took us quite a while. I call it like 4D in the sense that it’s three dimensions plus time. It’s just taken us a while to rewrite everything. And, so, you’ll see what it’s like. It’s amazing. Yeah. It’s just clearly going to work”. At this point, it becomes a waiting game. Hopefully, we’ll get reports about the technology on October 20, though Tesla may or may not allow this small group to share, at least initially. After that, the potential for an unassisted cross-country FSD trip and the release timeline is unknown. Nevertheless, this should prove very exciting for Tesla owners and the future. +++ 

+++ Cadillac has long been the best selling luxury brand from Detroit’s Big Three, but it has been overtaken by another General Motors brand, GMC . Figures from GM reveal that Denali and AT4-branded vehicles alone from GMC are outselling Cadillac models in the United States this year. This comes despite the recession and the coronavirus pandemic, with Denali and AT4 models accounting for 40 % of GMC’s retail sales in 2020. GMC has a key advantage over Cadillac, because it exclusively builds light trucks and SUVs, whereas Cadillac only recently expanded its range to include 3 crossovers. Unsurprisingly, GMC sales have experienced a decline in the first 9 months of 2020, falling by 16 % to 353.221 units. However, that fall isn’t as significant as the 17 % decline experienced by Chevrolet and the 25 % decline of Cadillac and Buick. According to vice president of global Buick and GMC, Duncan Aldred, Denali and AT4 models could soon account for as much as 50 % of GMC’s retail sales. These subbrands have provided GMC with its highest retail market share since 2005 in the first half of the year, and with an average transaction price 30 % higher than the industry average. “In its own right, Denali]would be a very, very successful luxury brand”, Aldred recently told the media. “We’re not doing this by discounting or trying to go to the lower end. We’re staying true to the vision of being the only premium brand that occupies this space”. President of the Americas operation and global forecasting at LMC Automotive, Jeff Schuster, added that GMC has morphed into a “stealth luxury brand” in recent years. “Having the luxury features and content in a brand that isn’t necessarily thought of as luxury is appealing to some buyers”, Schuster said. “It’s addressing part of the market that wasn’t getting fully addressed previously. Consumers are gravitating toward these subbrands”. GMC’s range will receive a further boost next year when the all-electric GMC Hummer pickup hits the market. +++ 

+++ HONDA has called on the British government to reduce its singular focus on electric cars and recognise the “important role” played by the latest hybrid models. In a sponsored post on the Conservative Home blog (presumably targeted with the hope of it being read by government figures) Honda Europe’s senior vice president, Ian Howells, said a “multi-pathway approach” is needed to ensure the United Kingdom can progress to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Howells calls for an approach “in which a broad range of technologies are used to deliver CO2 reductions quickly and effectively, while ensuring that personal mobility remains affordable and accessible to all. This is vital to the Government’s levelling up agenda and underpinning the fundamental principle of personal choice”. He also states that Honda’s intention to also achieve carbon neutrality globally will see a mixture of battery electric models, hybrids and “in time” hydrogen and decarbonised liquid fuels to ensure options are available across a broad spectrum of the market. While acknowledging pure EVs will play a “significant role” in this approach with significant benefits to consumers, Howells claims they “are not a silver bullet”. “Challenges around affordability, infrastructure and technology limitations mean that the government cannot rely solely on electric vehicles to completely replace internal combustion engines by 2035, if it does not also intend to restrict consumer choice. An approach that relies only on expensive electric cars risks turning driving into a privilege only afforded to the wealthy, while pricing those who most need it out of personal mobility”. Howells cites the UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre, which predicts that cost parity between EVs and petrol cars will not be reached by 2035, with larger models and SUVs taking far longer. Further claims by the senior Honda executive include a charging infrastructure that is “unevenly spread across the country” causing inequalities in less well served areas such as the Midlands and the North, and limited off-street parking. Howells even claims that there are “not enough raw materials for a full shift to battery electric cars” citing limits on global cobalt supply. He also states that lithium-ion battery tech is “reaching the limits of power and performance” because simply installing larger batteries incurs weight and cost penalties. Honda has recently launched its first electric series production car, the E, which has a relatively modest claimed EV range of 200 km. However, the firm also has the also-new (and more affordable) Jazz, which has moved to hybrid-only propulsion and is said to emit 30 % less CO2 than its non-hybrid predecessor. Howells claims that “there remains scope for significant ongoing emission reductions” as hybrid tech evolves further. Howells also cites the development of decarbonised liquid fuels, produced from renewable energy sources, as one which could reduce the CO2 produced by hybrids significantly in future. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI chief Chung Eui-sun has been named chairman of the automotive conglomerate to replace his 82-year-old father. The group’s board made the appointment official in a meeting. So far, his title was vice chairman, although he had taken over the running from Chung Mong-koo since 2018. Chung senior stepped down in February after 20 years at the helm and will become honorary chairman, as is customary in family-run conglomerates. Chung Eui-sung has had one of the longest apprenticeships among the scions of the chaebol, who are often helicoptered into executive position before they can tie their own shoelaces. He started working for Hyundai Precision Industries in 1994, before the car parts maker changed its name to Hyundai Mobis. He became president of Kia in 2005, when the subsidiary was struggling financially and overcame the crisis with design innovations. He became vice chairman of Hyundai in 2009 as markets around the world were reeling from the global financial crisis and successfully offered a buyback program in the U.S. for customers who lost their jobs within a year of buying a car, catapulting the group to one of the world’s top five players. One industry insider said, “Hyundai has a new leader at a time of major change in the auto industry where combustion engines are being replaced by eco-friendly, self-driving cars”. Hyundai and Kia are together the world’s fifth-largest carmaker, although they will fall to sixth place when Fiat Chrysler and PSA complete their merger next year under the name of Stellantis. +++ 

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER ‘s sales are continuing to rebound globally, with China as one of the most important driving forces. The British premium carmaker said that it sold 113.569 vehicles in the third quarter of this year, up more than 50 % from the second quarter. In China, the carmaker’s deliveries in the third quarter were 14.6 % more compared with the second quarter. Sales in September were 28.5 % higher than the same month last year. The carmaker said the Land Rover brand enjoyed an outstanding performance. Among others, Range Rover vehicle sales went up 30 % compared with the same quarter last year. Also, more than 3.000 customer orders have been placed for the new Defender, which hit the market in July. Deliveries of Jaguar in the third quarter were encouraging as well. The XF long wheelbase and the E-Pace posted sales growth of 20 % and 18.7 % year-on-year respectively. Meanwhile, the smaller XE long wheelbase maintained steady growth, up 12.7 % in September. Richard Shore, president of Jaguar Land Rover Integrated Marketing, Sales and Service in China, said: “Promoting sustainable growth remains our priority. The new Defender, which completes the Land Rover family, received unprecedented interest. We expect it to underpin our growth for the rest of 2020 and bring even more momentum into 2021”. Jaguar Land Rover said almost all of its retailers worldwide are now open or partially open and the company’s plants have resumed production. +++ 

+++ LEXUS has confirmed the CT, IS and RC are leaving the line-up in Western Europe. The RC F will continue to be available. This means the new IS will not come to Western Europe. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ launched a facelifted version of its E-Class in South Korea, which is expected to play a big role in cementing the German carmaker’s No. 1 position in the country’s imported car market. The E-Class is the most popular imported model in Korea. Sales of E-Class Benzes surpassed the 100.000 mark last year, which no other imported car model has achieved. In the first half of this year, 14.000 E-Class Benzes were sold, making it the most popular imported car during the period. To repay such devotion, Mercedes has come up with some technologies for the new E-Class lineup that are exclusive to the Korean and Chinese markets. The new E-Class shown in an online launch event was sportier and younger in design. The front has gone through a major revamp, with redesigned, rounder LED headlights. The company said its customers in South Korea have gotten younger over the years, with people in their 30s accounting for 36 % of E-Class sales in 2017 compared to 27 % in 2011. Technology-wise, the car comes with a touch-sensitive steering wheel, the first in the Mercedes lineup, with sensor mats around the rim allowing for driving assistance functions to more precisely detect whether the driver’s hands are on the steering wheel. The spokes on the steering wheel also have touch pads instead of analogue-style buttons. A large 12.3 inch infotainment display offers a new augmented reality navigation system, the first to be offered in the E-Class lineup. For South Korea and China, two of the biggest markets for the E-Class sedan, Mercedes-Benz is offering what it calls an Air Quality Package, which monitors the quality of air in and outside of the vehicle on a real-time basis and activates an air purification system to maintain the air quality within the car at a certain level. The new E-Class will come in 6 types of engine variants for Korean customers including gasoline, diesel and plug-in hybrid. +++

+++ NISSAN has teamed up with 5 other firms to develop a new autonomous mobility research project in the United Kingdom. ServCity, launched this month, is jointly funded by the government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility fund administered by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV). Over the next 30 months Nissan, along with the Connected Places Catapult, TRL, Hitachi, and the University of Nottingham, will help cities capitalise on the latest self-driving vehicle technology and integrate it into complex urban environments. “We are extremely proud to be a part of the ServCity project and are excited to trial our 100 % electric Leaf as test vehicles”, said Nissan’s Bob Bateman who is project manager  for the scheme. “Our Nissan Intelligent Mobility strategy strives to achieve a mobility future that is more electric, more autonomous and more connected and we look forward to working in collaboration with ServCity’s other partners to achieve this”. The ServCity project will capitalise on the experience and expertise from the HumanDrive project that wrapped up in February this year. HumanDrive worked on autonomous vehicles navigating roundabouts and country lanes without marking or kerbs and finished with a the UK longest and most complex autonomous drive from Cranfield to Sunderland. It will make use of a combination of test simulation, end-user experience research, and real-world trials to inform how cities can develop its future mobility solutions. “If society is to enjoy the benefits of self-driving vehicles, we need to ensure the technology can safely master a complex and lively modern city, with all its obstacles”, said Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi. “This project, backed by Government funding, will not only help make autonomous vehicles more user friendly, but also give users confidence that they can respond quickly and safely and to all types of challenges they face on the roads”. +++ 

+++ American auto safety regulators said they are investigating reports of fires in 3 electric Chevrolet Bolt ( OPEL AMPERA-E ) cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was opening a preliminary evaluation after reviewing reports of 3 Bolt EVs catching fire under the rear seat while parked and unattended. The NHTSA said: “in the 3 cases identified, fire damage appeared to be concentrated in the EV battery compartment area with penetration into the passenger compartment from under the rear seat”. The probe covers 77.842 Bolt cars from the 2017 through 2020 model years. GM said in an emailed statement it is “cooperating with NHTSA in their investigation and we are conducting our own investigation into these complaints as well”. NHTSA said the root cause of the fires is unknown. Smoke inhalation injuries were reported in a March 2019 incident in Belmont, Massachusetts. A Bolt caught fire in the driveway and the owner said strong fumes permeated the home during a three-hour fire requiring professional cleaning. The owners also reported they suffered headaches from contact with the smoke. +++

+++ TESLA said it has cut the price of its Model S Long Range by 4 % in the United States, days after the electric-car maker reported record quarterly deliveries. The company, which is expected to report third-quarter results on October 21, cut the price to $71,990 from $74,990 in the United States. It also trimmed the starting price of Model S by 3 % in China. Earlier this month, the carmaker cut the starting price of its Chinese-made Model 3 sedans by about 8 %. Tesla said it delivered 139.300 vehicles in the third quarter, a record for the company, yet shares fell as some analysts doubted if Tesla could hit its ambitious year-end target. The world’s largest carmaker has been trimming prices on various models in its lineup at the same time legacy automakers are trying to make inroads in the electric vehicle market by launching their own electric cars. Last week, the company’s chief executive officer Elon Musk told employees that Tesla has a chance to produce a half-million cars this year. Tesla said in January that 2020 vehicle deliveries should comfortably exceed 500.000 units, a forecast it has left unchanged despite the Covid-19 pandemic. This means the company will have to increase deliveries to nearly 182.000 in the 4th quarter to reach that target. +++ 

+++ While the TOYOTA GR Yaris AWD hot hatch has just started appearing on European and Japanese streets, it looks like the automaker is already working on an even more extreme version. At least that’s what spy shots taken at the Nürburgring Nordschleife seem to suggest. The images sent by my spy photographers reveal a hardcore GR Yaris prototype featuring new performance parts and measuring equipment. The most obvious additions over the stock car include the huge rear spoiler made up of 2 elements, new winglets on each side of the front bumper, as well as a pair of massive air outlets in the front fenders behind the front wheels. All these upgrades should improve the GR Yaris’ aerodynamic performance, especially the downforce on the rear axle. The black roof could be camouflage for a carbon fiber roof top, in which case we could be looking at a lightweight version of the subcompact hot hatch. A stiffer and lower sports suspension appears to be part of the package too. I can also spot some measuring equipment attached to the rear bumper and makeshift discs fitted on top of the rear alloy wheels. Judging by the helmet, a professional racing driver was behind the wheel of this prototype, indicating that Toyota is serious about improving the GR Yaris’ performance and handling. About that, the standard car offers enough power for most people, with the 1.6-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder petrol engine delivering 261 hp and 360 Nm. Hooked to a 6-speed manual transmission and 4-wheeldrive, the engine enables a 0-100 km/h sprint in less than 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 230 km/h. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will not launch a renewed assault on the front-wheel-drive Nürburgring lap record with a new generation of the GTI Clubsport S, the company has confirmed. The head of driving dynamics Karsten Schebsdat admitted that a follow-up to the 2-seat model is “not planned now”. No official reason has been given, but it is reasonable to assume that financial pressure from a combination of the pandemic and the costs of the Dieselgate scandal, believed to be up to €35 billion and still growing, is a key factor. The previous-generation GTI Clubsport S was limited to a production run of 400 cars. In December 2016, it set the lap record at the Nordschleife for front-wheel-drive production cars of 7 minutes 47.19 seconds  (2 seconds faster than the first attempt in May) with Volkswagen test driver Benny Leuchter at the wheel. It was beaten a year later by the Honda Civic Type R, which in turn was also pipped by the Renault Mégane RS Trophy-R in 2019 with a time of 7 minutes 40.1 seconds. The Clubsport S was the most powerful Golf GTI ever produced, putting out 310 hp. It also featured bespoke suspension components and tuning, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and new brakes. On top of that, the air conditioning, rear seats and some sound deadening were removed. It is unclear if VW will now turn to the forthcoming Golf R to become its base for lap-time supremacy, or simply not attempt to beat the Renault’s time. +++

+++ Nissan unveiled the Z PROTO last month and it looked virtually production ready. There’s a good reason for that as the production model will reportedly be almost identical to the concept. Nissan showed the Z Proto at a car meet last weekend and event was attended by several officials including Hiroshi Tamura is affectively known as Mr. GT-R. During the event, the chief product specialist reportedly said the production Z will “come out in this form”. That suggests road-going model will be identical to the Z Proto or only lightly changed. This seems logical, but a Nissan spokesperson was more cautious as they told: “it’s too hasty to say the design is settled at this point”. While some things could change, the Z Proto was well received thanks to its retro-inspired design which incorporated cues from the original Z as well as the 300ZX. The most controversial element was the rectangular air intake and hopefully that gives way to something more attractive. Nissan hasn’t said when the production model will be launched, but the Z Proto featured a twin-turbo V6 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. The engine is expected to be borrowed from the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400 so it should have an output of approximately 406 hp and 474 Nm. That would be a sizable improvement over the 370Z, which has 337 hp and 366 Nm, but it sounds like the model will still be affordable as Tamura reportedly said the next-generation Z will have a “buyable price”. +++

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