Newsflash: Subaru gaat nieuwe BRZ niet in Europa verkopen


+++ Remember the Cygnet? The glorified Toyota iQ introduced to help ASTON MARTIN meet the European Union’s stringent emissions regulations was rumoured to get an electric version in 2013, but it never happened. Fast forward to 2018, the Lagonda All-Terrain signalled the revival of the luxury subbrand with an emphasis on EVs and was followed a year later by the Lagonda Vision. The 2 concepts will remain merely showcars for the time being as the Lagonda’s relaunch won’t happen before the middle of the decade. Aston Martin’s EV agenda also included the Rapide E at one point, a zero-emissions version of the gorgeous saloon. It was virtually ready to go into limited production, but the sleek EV was cancelled at the last moment. If you’re still hoping for a completely silent car from Gaydon, you’d better arm yourself with a lot of patience because it won’t be out until 2025 or 2026. That is the timeline provided by CEO Tobias Moers, the man who used to call the shots at Mercedes-AMG before moving to Aston Martin. Speaking of which, the 54-year-old German executive says the company’s very first electric vehicle will use technology developed by the 3-pointed star. The decision doesn’t come as a big surprise considering Mercedes will soon own a fifth of Aston Martin as part of a deeper alliance between the 2 brands. In exchange, the British brand will gain access to more Mercedes technology beyond the AMG V8 engine and some other bits as per the original tie-up from 2013. Interestingly, Moers also hinted the Valhalla could make the switch to a Mercedes-AMG powertrain as well. That comes somewhat of a surprise since Aston Martin has already teased the supercar’s new twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 hybrid, signalling the “TM01” powertrain’s advanced development stage. A final decision has not been taken yet, though. “We are still working on that hybrid drivetrain, but we now have alternatives. It’s too early to say”. The Valhalla will be followed by a new Vanquish, which it too will be a mid-engined supercar with a hybrid powertrain. Aston Martin could borrow Mercedes’ all-new electric platform scheduled to premiere next year with the EQS to launch an electric saloon with similar proportions. Moers promised new models using more Mercedes tech will begin to arrive by late 2022 / early 2023. A “product firework” is scheduled for 2023 when we might get to see the DB11 replacement. By 2024, every fourth or fifth car will be electrified, Moers promised. That will include a plug-in hybrid variant of the DBX SUV programmed for a 2023 launch. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY will launch its first electric model in 2025 and will switch to a fully electric vehicle line-up in 2030 as part of a bold new business strategy with the goal of becoming a “global leader in sustainable luxury mobility”. The British firm, owned by the Volkswagen Group, has committed to phasing out production of combustion-engined vehicles within a decade as a key part of its new Beyond100 plan. As part of this plan, Bentley will ramp up its push to electrification, and it has committed to reducing the environmental impact of its Crewe factory by 75% from 2010 levels within 5 years. Bentley boss Adrian Hallmark said: “Since 1919, Bentley has defined luxury grand touring. Being at the forefront of progress is part of our DNA; the original Bentley boys were pioneers and leaders. Now, as we look Beyond100, we will continue to lead by reinventing the company and becoming the world’s benchmark luxury car business”. Speaking about the commitment to switch to a fully electric line-up by 2030, Hallmark added: “This is profound change for the industry, and we want to lead that change. We’re not frightened by it, we’re inspired by it. The most important thing is not to just make electric cars: we’ve got to make Bentleys. We’ve got to take 100 years of Bentley DNA and put it in a modern context”. Bentley will launch 2 new plug-in hybrids in 2021, joining the existing Bentayga Hybrid, as part of a previous commitment to offer a PHEV version of every model by 2023. While unconfirmed, one of the models due in 2021 is set to be a Flying Spur PHEV, which has previously been spied testing and will use the powertrain featured in sister firm Porsche’s Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. Bentley has committed to offering only plug-in hybrid or fully electric models by 2026, and it will then phase out its hybrid offerings by 2030 to become a fully electric firm. That date matches the earliest date the UK government has targeted to ban the sale of new combustion-engined cars. As previously reported, the firm’s first EV in 2025 will be a high-riding saloon that, similar to the Jaguar I-Pace, will sit somewhere between an SUV and a traditional car. Technical details aren’t yet forthcoming, but during the Beyond100 presentation event Mattias Rabe, Bentley’s engineering boss, said it would be built on a “totally new platform”. That is likely to be a version of an electric-only architecture developed by sister firms Porsche and Audi. The firm previewed its electric future with last year’s EXP 100 GT concept car, which featured 4 electric motors to offer between 800 hp and 1.340 hp, depending on spec, with more than 1.500 Nm of torque and a 2.5 seconds 0-199 kph time. Bentley claimed a weight of 1.900 kg and a range of around 700 km, although both figures were based on admittedly optimistic developments in battery technology. Bentley says that the 2025 EV will be its first ‘cradle-to-grave’ carbon-neutral model. While Bentley has yet to confirm how many electric cars it has planned beyond the initial model, Rabe confirmed that the firm was “working on a whole family of electric vehicles”. Alongside the switch from combustion engines to electric motors, the Beyond100 plan also includes a ‘transformation programme’ designed to make Bentley a fully carbon-neutral organisation. The firm has already made its Crewe base the UK’s only carbon-neutral car factory, and it’s now targeting further measures to reduce the environmental impact of its operational environment, its major parts suppliers and its retailers. By the end of this year, Bentley will require all suppliers to have a sustainability audit, and by 2025 it will make its factory plastic-neutral and ‘climate-positive’ as part of a package of measures to further reduce its environmental impact. The focus on improving the firm’s sustainability has been accompanied by a major restructuring of the business. Bentley previously announced that it was aiming to cut 1.000 jobs through a voluntary redundancy programme, although this was reduced to 800 staff, including 200 contractors. Bentley says the success of the voluntary scheme means that fewer than 10 staff remain at risk of compulsory redundancy. Bentley says the measures means that it’s on track to achieve a positive financial performance this year, despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Bentley has also launched a programme to develop the new skills and “greater diversity of talent” that it says will be needed to produce future models in the electrified era. That includes investing in two new research-and-development buildings, a vehicle testing centre and a launch quality centre at its Crewe base and building closer ties with schools and colleges in the local area. It has also committed to attracting more diverse candidates for future job opportunities and is aiming for 30 % of its management staff to be “truly diverse”, up from less than 20 % at present. Bentley has also restructured its Mulliner bespoke division, built around 3 portfolios: Classic, Collections and Coachbuilt. +++ 

+++ BMW is set to supplement next year’s arrival of the i4 electric four-door coupe with an EV version of the venerable 3 Series, and prototypes are again out testing in Germany. A camouflaged prototype caught by our spy snappers appears almost identical to the current G20-generation 3 Series, although the addition of mandatory ‘electric test vehicle’ stickers and subtly reshaped front and rear ends hint that it’s an early test version for a zero-emissions model. Plug-in hybrid prototypes are also required to wear stickers, but the lack of exhausts at the rear is the biggest indication this is an EV. BMW is also covering up the front grille, reflecting the view that a production EV model would see the grille blanked to improve aeroydnamics, because less front cooling is required. The forthcoming i4 will be BMW’s first electric saloon, and the firm is yet to officially confirm plans for an electric 3 Series. A BMW spokesperson declined to comment on the test pictures but in a statement said: “By 2023, the BMW Group portfolio will include 25 electrified models, and half of those will be fully electric”. Munich had just launched its new iX3 electric SUV, with the 4 Series Gran Coupé-based i4 arriving in dealerships in mid-2021. BMW design chief Domagoj Dukec recently told that the decision to launch an i4 rather than an electric 3 Series was because “electrification is still at the point where some people doubt if they should go for it or not, and it’s still a little more expensive. So electric cars need more emotion, and we believe an electrified i4 makes more sense than an electric 3 Series”. But with sales of electric cars rising rapidly (and costs likely to drop as manufacturers achieve greater economies of scale) it’s likely there could be suffient demand for an electric 3 Series by 2023. It’s not yet known what powertrain an electric 3 Series would use, but it’s unlikely to share the performance-oriented i4’s flagship 530 hp, 4-wheeldrive set-up, given the 3 Series’ practical, executive billing. More likely is a variation of the as-yet unrevealed powertrain used by the iX3. As with the i4, however, the electric 3 Series would be a likely candidate for a dual-motor, 4-wheeldrive range-topper in the vein of the Tesla Model 3 Performance. The i4 sits atop a modified version of Munich’s CLAR architecture, which underpins the standard 3 Series and new 4 Series and is designed for both combustion engine and electric powertrains, so an electric 3 Series would be much cheaper to develop than an all-new, bespoke EV saloon. There’s no indication, either, as to what the new model could be called. An obvious choice would be i3, which has been hinted at in interviews, meaning BMW would link its mainstream flagship saloon with the radically styled hatchback EV that has been on sale since 2013. The 3 Series has been available in petrol-electric plug-in hybrid guise since 2016. The current 330e packs a combined 252 hp, offers an electric-only range of 60 km and can now be specified with 4-wheeldrive. +++ 

+++ A new lightweight carbon-and-composite car BODY structure could revolutionise the way electric cars are made in the next decade. Designed by Israeli defence and body panel company Plasan, it’s claimed to offer a weight reduction of up to 45 % over steel bodies and 20 % over aluminium bodies. Plasan has presented the new technology to global OEMs and motorsports companies, including some based in the UK, and recently went public with it. “We’re hopeful that in 2 to 3 years, there will be components built using our technology, with a full body following some years later”, chief designer Nir Kahn told. At the heart of Plasan’s technology are pull-extrusion ‘pultrusion’ carbonfibre beams with carbonfibre filaments distributed continuously through the full length of the tube walls, resulting in very strong, stiff yet light structural members. Each beam is bonded into composite body panels to make semi-structural bodysides, floor and roof. Then these sub-assemblies are joined with metal ‘nodes’. The nodes are made from two-piece pressed aluminium, intended to speed assembly. Plasan believes its design is a breakthrough because bodies can be built using existing production line equipment and with the same basic techniques as a conventional steel unibody. “We really see high production scale possible on cars (this isn’t limited to defence or motorsport applications) with annual production rates in the hundreds of thousands a year feasible”, said Plasan’s boss of composites, Ronen Berger. Although carbonfibre body technology is relatively expensive, Plasan estimates that the cost to save each kilogramme of weight in an electric car is justifiable at $10 per kg. “This makes it more cost effective than other methods of improving efficiency or range of electric cars”, said Kahn. “There’s a virtuous spiral by cutting weight”. +++ 

+++ Future BOWLER models could be based on current Land Rover bodystyles, raising the prospect of a rally-spec reworking of the new Defender in the future. Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations boss Michael van der Sande said the firm was still finalising long-term plans for the newly purchased Derbyshire firm, but he hinted at future projects, which could include different bodystyles. “Could we ever see Bowler getting involved with other products than the old Defender shape? Absolutely”, said ven der Sande. “We’ve just launched the new Defender, which is making quite a splash, and that needs to bed in from a Land Rover point of view. Bowler is going to be very busy with the CSP 575 for a little while, but in the course of time, whether it’s the Defender or other products from Land Rover that Bowler could sprinkle some off-road rally dust on, it’s absolutely possible”. Earlier this year we revealed that Land Rover was testing a range-topping V8 version of the latest Defender, as first prototypes for the model hit the roads in disguise. Prototypes of the hot 4×4 were running JLR’s 5.0-litre supercharged V8 in an unknown state of tune. With insiders confirming that it’s not a project under the Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) banner, it’s entirely possible that Bowler could be working on something special. It is understood that more ‘mainstream’ future high-end models, such as the new Range Rover, will move to using a twin-turbocharged V8 sourced from BMW. However, JLR has secured production of its venerable 5.0-litre ‘AJ’ V8 in-house for the foreseeable future after production at the long-standing Ford engine factory in Bridgend ceased earlier this year. +++ 

+++ Herbert DIESS admits that knowing how to build cars is just a small part of the business nowadays. All the experience Volkswagen has acquired on that skill along decades is not enough when you have to build electric cars, and these EVs have to integrate with the internet. That’s what the smartphone did for mobile phones. Diess definitely does not want his company to be a new Nokia, he told. The interview with Volkswagen Group’s CEO happened one week before its Supervisory Board meets to discuss expenses. According to Diess, the automaker knows it has to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic in the short term and climate change in the long term. Global warming is pushing cars to become electric, but we should add that it is not the only reason. In a world where energy efficiency increases its importance to become vital, wasting 60 % of such energy burning fuel inside engines does not make sense anymore. Diess knows that, and he is confident he has helped prepare Volkswagen for what’s to come in the best way possible. According to him, the Supervisory Board will discuss strategies for the next 4 to 5 years. Considering Europe will be an electric car hub, he believes Volkswagen is one of the most prepared companies for such a shift. For the automaker to achieve that, it must be worried beyond manufacturing vehicles that are powered by electricity. The CEO believes they have to be effectively integrated with the internet, just like smartphones proposed when the first iPhone appeared. Taking people places and carrying stuff will be just part of the mission – as much as making phone calls is not a smartphone’s main goal. To get there, Volkswagen intends to develop its own operating system and “to give it to other parties”. That more of an Android approach than what Apple did. Hon Hai (Foxconn) proposes to do the same thing, which shows automakers will not compete only with similar companies in this transportation revolution. Tesla could be considered the first outsider to such a traditional market, and Diess reputes it as a “very important competitor” because it already has capabilities Volkswagen is now willing to develop. Anyway, the CEO said that “the battle for market leadership” when it comes to EVs is still open. At least Diess knows what Volkswagen has to achieve to challenge the current leader. +++ 

+++ The passenger car registrations in EUROPE are down significantly so far this year, but the plug-in sales more than doubled and are approaching conventional hybrids. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) notes 8.57 million new passenger cars in the first 9 months of the year (down 29.3%) in the European Union plus EFTA (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland) and the United Kingdom. Plug-in electric car registrations increased by almost 103 % to 768.914 and an outstanding average market share of 9.0 % (3 times higher than a year ago)! Germany is now not only a top market but quite dominant with volume almost 2 times higher than the second best. +++

+++ FORD is pouring a significant amount of money into the development of electric powertrains, but it’s not ready to consign internal combustion technology to the pantheon of automotive history. Canadian union Unifor announced the Blue Oval will soon build a new engine with well over six liters of displacement in Windsor, Canada. Speaking at a press conference, Union leader Jerry Dias revealed the 6.8-liter engine will be manufactured in Canada. On its website, Unifor only refers to the engine as a 6.X-liter unit, and it doesn’t clarify its cylinder count. We’ve seen a 6.8-liter V10 before, it was called Triton and it notably powered the E-Series and the Super Duty, but it’s not too far-fetched to speculate the engine Dias was referring to is a V8. Nothing is official at this point, but the union leader’s comments have sent the rumor mill spinning at a speed normally reserved for superbike engines. The 6.8-liter could be related to the 7.3-liter Godzilla pushrod V8, which is available in the F-Series Super Duty and also built in Windsor. It adds the 6.8 might power the next Mustang that’s widely expected to make its debut by the end of 2022. If that’s accurate, the engine will likely end up in high-performance variants, like the GT500. It could also make its way to the 14th-generation F-150 line-up; Remember, unverified rumors claim the next-generation Raptor will put over 700 horsepower under the driver’s right foot in a bid to one-up Ram’s 1500 TRX. Hagerty offered a similar hypothesis: It claimed the 6.8 will be a de-stroked version of the 7.3, and it will be built out of aluminum instead of iron. It added the new eight will keep the bigger unit’s overhead-valve layout. Ford is keeping its lips sealed, so we’ll need to be patient to find out exactly what it plans to build in Windsor. In the same document, Unifor also confirmed production of the 5.0-liter eight will carry on in the Essex Engine Plant. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS has smashed Wall Street expectations in posting its third-quarter results. During the third quarter, the automaker’s North American operations earned $4.37 billion, a significant increase of 44 % over the same time period last year. Additionally, the automaker’s net income rose 74 % to $4.05 billion from the $2.35 billion of last quarter. Revenue hit $35.48 billion, roughly in line with the $35.51 billion that was expected. General Motors interim chief financial officer John Stapleton said sales in the U.S. and China had recovered faster than many expected and added that demand for full-size pickups and SUVs was particularly strong. During the third quarter, GM also repaid $5.2 billion of its revolving credit facilities and expects to repay the balance by year-end. Speaking with members of the media, GM chief executive Mary Barra downplayed the possibility that the outcome of the presidential election will hurt sales this year. “When we look at the election, we think the extended length of time to finalize the vote count was anticipated given the unique circumstances coming into this election”, she said. “There are a lot of moving pieces right but we’re hopeful that we’ll continue to have a strong recovery that we’ve seen in the United States and in China”. Speaking in July, then chief financial officer Dhivya Suryadevara said investors should expect a pretax profit from GM of $4 billion to $5 billion in the 4th quarter. General Motors has announced it is accepting job applications for the new Ultium Cells battery cell plant that it is building with LG Chem in Lordstown, Ohio. The new facility will create more than 1.100 new jobs in Northeast Ohio and job seekers can already apply for positions on the Ultium Cells website. The plant will begin actively hiring for key positions to execute the set up and launch of battery cell manufacturing. GM says additional job openings will be posted to the website as they become available. “We are excited to share our vision of an all-electric future as we begin adding members to our highly-technical battery cell manufacturing team”, said Thomas Gallagher, plant director, Ultium Cells LLC. “This facility will lead us into a new era of manufacturing and sustainability as we push toward a zero-emissions future. We are very grateful for the Lordstown community’s continued support”. GM is investing billions of dollars in its United States facilities to support EV manufacturing and that includes its share of the $2.3 billion investment in the Ultium Cells facility. Occupying an area of nearly 3 million-square-foot (about the size of 30 football fields), the plant will have annual capacity of more than 30 gigawatt hours and room for expansion. General Motors’ joint venture with LG Chem is expected to drive battery cell costs below $100 per kWh at full volume, with the new Ultium batteries expected to have some of the highest nickel and lowest cobalt content in a large format pouch cell. “We want to put everyone in an EV. The Ultium propulsion system allows us to provide customers with exactly what they want, whether it be a car, pickup or SUV”, said Ken Morris, GM vice president of Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs. “Our joint venture with LG Chem is exciting because we’re working together to drive down battery cell costs to accelerate EV adoption”. In the past month, GM has made 3 major announcements regarding its all-electric future: the recent unveiling of the Factory Zero electric vehicle assembly plant, the launch of the GMC Hummer EV electric pickup and the $2 billion investment to transition its Spring Hill, Tennessee plant to building EVs, including the Cadillac Lyriq. General Motors wants to begin selling full-size SUV models in China for the first time in their history, calling upon these flagship people haulers to help boost sales in the world’s largest car market. This is a major shift for GM, which currently produces all of its China-sold vehicles within the People’s Republic. The plan is to begin importing the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, as well as the Cadillac Escalade and the GMC Yukon Denali. The U.S. carmaker is currently showcasing these models at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, which kicked off earlier this week and will run through next week as well. “Our intention is to get customer reaction and find a way to sell these cars in China”, said GM China boss Julian Blissett. “We are looking into a variety of market sales plans for these vehicles, including online sales, leasing and others”, he added, without offering a detailed time frame for the execution of this plan. In the third quater of this year, GM’s Buick and Cadillac midsize SUVs helped the carmaker grow its sales in China by 12 %; its first quarterly growth in the past 2 years. However, the addition of full-size models should bring in a whole new customer base, as these trucks tend to have a third row of seats and plenty of room for 6 or even 7 people. This expansion would also see the GMC brand make its debut in China, officially (not through various importers). Blissett also said that his company expects to have “a strong November and December” in China, and is now considering exporting China-made EVs globally. +++ 

+++ Hyundai turned GENESIS into a standalone brand in 2015, pitting it against luxury leaders like BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, and others. However, it was only this year that the automaker’s first SUV arrived. Its lineup lacks hybrids and EVs, though that will change soon. The company said last month it’ll skip producing hybrids and jump straight to producing fully electric vehicles, and a new video from the Nurburgring shows that the development of such a vehicle is well underway. The video shows a camouflaged G80 saloon lapping the Nurburgring race track, which is where we’ve spotted the silent saloon earlier this year. While camouflage covers much of the vehicle, the closed-off grille up front is impossible to miss. EVs don’t need airflow like combustion-powered cars, and closing it off can improve aerodynamics and efficiency. The lack of tailpipes under the rear valance and no exhaust note are also clues about the powertrain. Sadly, I don’t know anything about what is motivating the eG80. This would be the brand’s first electric vehicle, so there’s nothing in the lineup that Genesis could slip in the saloon. However, Hyundai does have such a powertrain powering the Kona: a 204 hp single-motor setup offering 408 km of range. Genesis could adapt it for the G80, though 204 hp seems low for a car where the base model offers 306 hp. The eG80 is set to join a growing lineup as the automaker looks to expand its offerings twofold within a year. The GV80 SUV is one of those new models, and Genesis did just reveal the GV70 last month. There’s also an all-electric crossover in development that’d join the electrified G80 saloon. Or vice-versa. I don’t know when to expect either EV, though the company’s aggressive timeline tells us it shouldn’t be too long. +++ 

+++ The Volkswagen Group and GREECE signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a groundbreaking mobility system on the Mediterranean island of Astypalea. The idea is to deploy around 1.000 electric vehicles of various types from electric scooters (from Seat) through electric cars like ID.3, possibly ID.4 and the ID.Buzz that would replace about 1.500 conventional cars on the island today. Combined with dense charging network (by Volkswagen’s Elli subsidiary) and renewable electricity (solar and wind), it would become a “model island for climate-neutral mobility”. The project envisions year-round electric ride-sharing and vehicle sharing systems for residents (1.334) and tourists (over 72.000 a year). Commercial vehicles and utility vehicles will be electrified as well: “Commercial vehicles from local businesses as well as utility vehicles on the island, such as police vehicles, emergency services transport and public sector fleets, will also be electrified”. Since the island is relatively small (about 97 km2) it should be fairly easy to conduct broad electrification. It’s expected that the project initially will run for 6 years. “Astypalea currently only has a very limited public transport service with 2 buses that only operate on a small area of the island. At present, energy demand is almost entirely met by fossil fuel sources. The island aspires to become a pioneer for sustainable tourism over the coming years and is therefore backing sustainable mobility. The Hellenic Republic supports this transformation within the framework of its National Energy & Climate Plan”. +++ 

+++ HONDA more than doubled its full-year operating profit forecast as it reported second-quarter earnings grew 28 % amid a rebound in China after auto sales were squeezed by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Japan’s third-biggest automaker said it now forecasts a full-year operating profit of 420 billion yen ($4.06 billion) up from a previous prediction of a 200 billion yen profit. That was well above an average estimate for a 254.6 billion yen profit compiled from 19 analysts. For the second quarter, operating profit came in at 283 billion yen, up from 220 billion yen in the same period a year earlier. The upgrade came after a similar move by peer Toyota. Honda and peers like Toyota are focusing more on China, the world’s biggest auto market, as it leads a rebound in global demand that was hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. For the full business year, Honda said it expects to sell 4.6 million cars. That’s up from a previous forecast of 4.5 million, but still below the 4.79 million sold the previous year. Like other automakers, Honda is also accelerating a shift to electric cars and other zero-emission vehicles, a change in strategy that was behind its decision last month to end its participation as an engine supplier in the FIA Formula One World Championship. Honda last month launched its first mass-produced all-battery car this month, the E, and wants two-thirds of its output to be new-energy vehicles by 2030. In the United States, meanwhile, Honda is looking to win a bigger market share with redesigned SUVs as it chases a shift in consumer demand for larger, all-wheel drive models. In September Honda unveiled plans to deepen its partnership in North America with General Motors to jointly develop low-emission vehicles that would allow them to share technology and costs. +++ 

+++ Rumors about the eventual demise of the JAGUAR XE and XF have been floating around for a while now, and even though where there’s usually smoke there’s fire, the 2 sedans are now better looking, more modern and safer than they’ve ever been. Whether this means their long-term futures are secured, only time will tell. For now though, both nameplates remain extremely valuable for the British carmaker. “The XE and XF are a key part of our range for now”, said Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) British sales boss, Scott Dicken. “The cars are better than they’ve ever been. We’re looking at how the marketplace is evolving as we go into the future”. “While it’s a challenging market, saloons are a very important product for us. We need to look at the lifetime benefit not only for us but also retailers. The XE and XF are really strong used cars”, he added. The used car argument is a pretty interesting one, and shows that buyers still value Jaguar saloons, even though they might not be willing or have the means to spend sticker price on one. Yet, JLR seems to be all over the place as far as strategy is concerned regarding the 2 models. For example, they decided to slash prices on both in the United Kingdom, yet removed the XE from the North American market altogether, without giving this latest heavily updated and restyled variant a chance to convince buyers. +++ 

+++ The MASERATI MC20 is a very exciting car for the Italian manufacturer, but I an not a fan of how it looks. Frank Stephenson isn’t overly fond of the design either. Stephenson is one of the car industry’s most well-known designers and also happened to be the man that designed the Maserati MC12, the company’s most recent mid-engined supercar before the MC20. As such, he has the authority to speak on the design of the new car. According to him, it gets a 7.5 out of 10. One aspect that Stephenson likes about the MC20 is the fact that it is 2-tone. No matter what color customers opt for, the roof, pillars, side skirts, and rear fascia are finished in black. He is a big fan of 2-tone designs like this, commenting that it draws your attention to the ‘fuselage’ of the car, meaning the roof essentially disappears from view. He also likes aspects of the interior, including the graphics on the seats. He does have some complaints, however. Overall, Stephenson thinks the design of the MC20 is a little bland. At the rear end, he says Maserati could have knocked it out of the park if it opted for boomerang-shaped taillights like the 3200 GT. He also isn’t won over by the interior and is saddened by how digitized the cabin is, stating that physical controls and switches have an appeal that touchscreens and virtual buttons simply can’t match. +++ 

+++ It’s been a turbulent year for Aston Martin, and it ain’t over yet. Last week’s announcement about further investment, closer ties with MERCEDES-BENZ and a new product strategy was supposed to calm fears among the company’s shareholders and excite customers. So why do I feel so uneasy about it all? The ever-closer ties with Mercedes-Benz may seem like a good thing on the face of it (nobody, least of all Aston Martin, can go it alone in the 21st century) but I’m not sure what this latest announcement gives the British company over and above the deal that was struck in 2013. Back then it was about engines and “the use of certain components of electric/electronic architecture” in return for 5 % of the business. Now it’s “world-class technologies, including powertrain architecture (for conventional, hybrid and electric vehicles) and future-orientated electric/electronic architecture”, but in exchange for up to 20 % of the company. Sure, this new deal again cuts Aston Martin’s R&D costs, but it’s still a commercial relationship that has to be paid for. The new deal has an end date, too: 2027. At which time, I’m guessing, another deal will be struck with perhaps another, larger, chunk of Aston Martin heading Stuttgart’s way. My worries are 2-fold. First, there’s the greater influence Mercedes will have over the Aston Martin business. And let’s be honest, Mercedes doesn’t have the greatest record when it comes to long-term relationships. Chrysler, McLaren, Mitsubishi and Tesla all spring to mind. Secondly, when it comes to truly understanding what makes Aston Martin different, and building that all-important relationship with existing and future customers, we’re yet to see any signs of either from the new management team of chairman, clothing magnate and F1 team owner Lawrence Stroll, and his new CEO, former Mercedes man Tobias Moers. Aston Martin fans (including me), owners, potential owners and investors are waiting. +++ 

+++ According to unconfirmed media reports, NIO is preparing to expand its business beyond China, and start sales of ES8 and ES6 models in Europe in 2021. The target of the “Marco Polo” project is to sell some 7.000 EVs within 2 years. Reportedly, the first overseas NIO House store might be opened in Copenhagen, Denmark. Denmark is quite surprising, as we would expect that the absolute first market would be Norway, but maybe it’s not that important; at least not until the entire European EV market is booming. The media reports say also that an overseas business unit is already set up and sales should start as early as in the second half of 2021. Because the Chinese EV manufacturers are maturing, their products are really competitive now and demand for EVs in Europe is growing fast, we assume that most of the top Chinese New Energy Manufacturers will try their chances this way or another. Currently, the biggest Chinese manufacturer seems to be SAIC’s MG. It will be very interesting to see how well others will cope (including Xpeng, Aiways and BYD). +++ 

+++ SKODA has developed a light-up LED seatbelt buckle that it says could “eliminate” the hassle of trying to put on seatbelts at night. The patented buckle features a pair of multicoloured LED lights under a transparent eject button that operate in 2 modes. When nobody is in the seat, the lights glow white, making the buckle visible in the dark. However, once a passenger sits down, the second mode activates, causing the buckle to glow red to remind the passenger to put on the seatbelt. It then turns green once the belt is secure. The buckles feature a crystalline pattern on the transparent eject button, which Skoda said helps disperse light, increasing the button’s glow. Users can also programme the buckle to flash, making it even more noticeable at night. Skoda said the red glow will be particularly useful for parents who can “see immediately” if their children haven’t put on their belts properly but will improve safety for all passengers. The buckle is still under development, and Skoda said there are “no concrete plans at the moment” to say if and when it will roll out the technology on its production cars. Some Audi models already have belt buckles surrounded by a white LED strip, but this is less advanced and not intended as a safety feature. The LED buckle is the latest of several innovations recently pioneered by Skoda. Last year, the manufacturer filed 94 patent applications, more than any other company in the Czech Republic. The firm has also partnered with a number of start-up companies in Israel. In 2016, it established a standalone firm called Skoda Digliab to find start-ups developing technology that could benefit Skoda. Israeli start-ups are particularly highly regarded for their work in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. +++ 

+++ Question marks have been raised over the legitimacy of the latest vehicle to claim the title of “world’s fastest production car” after video footage of the SSC Tuatara reaching a two-way average speed of 316.11mph on a closed strip of state highway just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada failed to correlate with claims. After analysing SSC’s video footage (and applying a little mathematics relating to the car’s drive ratios) internet mathematicians said the true top speed of the Tuatara was around 250 mph, rather than the 331.15 mph touted by the clip. SSC’s CEO, Jerod Shelby, has since released a statement explaining that there had been a mix-up between the video and GPS data when the clip was edited together and, to remedy the issue, the company will rerun the attempt in “the very near future”. Shelby said that, after he and his team rewatched the raw video files from the attempt, they “were seeing the same doubts”. He continued, saying: “we were seeing different speeds for the very same run, and the more we looked and the more we tried to analyse, the more we were concerned there were doubts in the relationship between the video and the GPS”. There was also some conjecture surrounding the GPS tracking company which SSC supposedly used to validate the Tuatara’s record attempt. At the time, SSC said it used 15 satellites and the Austrian company Dewetron to record the attempt, but Dewetron has since released a statement saying it had no official involvement in the record. Shelby again offered a solution in his statement, saying that the next attempt will be performed under the watchful eye of “multiple GPS companies”, with representatives from each brand on-site to make sure the attempt is recorded as accurately as possible. It now remains to be seen whether the Tuatara’s second attempt will deliver a high enough top speed to claim the “world’s fastest” record from the Bugatti Chiron SuperSport. However, that record is surrounded in its own cloud of controversy as, to be officially recognised as a world record, the car’s top speed needs to be an average of 2 runs on the same piece of tarmac; the Chiron SuperSport’s 304.77 mph speed was only recorded in one direction. SSC pulled a similar trick in the early 2000s with the Ultimate Aero. In 2005, Bugatti held the world’s fastest production car record with the Veyron, which had a maximum speed of 253.81 mph. Just 2 years later, the Aero was launched and it beat the Veyron by almost 3 mph, posting a 2-way average speed of 257.41 mph. +++ 

+++ In late 2019, PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles signed a merger deal that would later be given the odd-sounding Sci-Fi name STELLANTIS . The lengthy process of combining 2 large automakers should be completed next year, but future plans for manufacturing and production are already being discussed. Those plans will likely mean fewer models and brands in the grand scheme of things. At the Chinese market, PSA sales have fallen drastically in recent years. On the FCA side, Jeep is currently the only brand offered in China and sales were down 36 % last year. Increasing competition from Japanese and Chinese manufacturers is a factor, and the numbers already have PSA executives considering options once Stellantis is finalized. PSA boss Carlos Tavares reportedly likened the effort to a fresh start in China, with PSA CFO Philippe de Rovira stating it wouldn’t be reasonable to continue with so many brands and platforms under the Stellantis umbrella. Of course, at such an early stage there are no details regarding which models or brands could get the ax for China. Stellantis will be the 4th largest automaker in the world with 13 specific brands, not the least of which being giants like Peugeot, Citroën, Opel and Jeep. The brands will retain their own identities (you won’t see Stellantis badges or branding) but the creation of common platforms for all automakers will certainly be a significant cost-cutting measure. What that means for the dozens upon dozens of models in this family remains to be seen. Perhaps of greater interest here, however, is how this talk of brand and model reductions for China might translate to other markets. Cost-cutting is certainly a goal of this merger, and if it’s not reasonable to expect all these brands to exist in China, one can conclude the ax will fall elsewhere. Chrysler is barely surviving as a brand, and Lancia is a mere shell of its former self. In short, the next couple of years could see some interesting and drastic changes emerge from the new Stellantis conglomeration. +++

+++ SUBARU has officially confirmed that the next-generation BRZ sports car will be unveiled on 18 November, but it won’t be coming to Europe. A spokesperson told that the coupé will be a US-only model and that there are “no plans” to launch it in Europe, as is the case with Nissan’s similarly positioned new 400Z. It remains unclear whether the BRZ’s Toyota GT86 sibling will be a global model. A recently released preview image gave little away beyond the design of the car’s new 10-spoke alloy wheels, but a prototype of the next-generation BRZ was spotted earlier this year, giving us a first look at the hotly anticipated coupé’s styling. As reported earlier this year, It will get 255 hp from a turbocharged petrol engine. Like its predecessor, it will be mechanically (and likely visually) identical to a Toyota model. A reveal date for the BRZ’s twin hasn’t yet been confirmed, however. The images reveal that the BRZ’s familiar curved silhouette forms the basis for the styling of the next-generation car, but we can see for certain that the front grille has been significantly enlargened and there are new light designs at both the front and rear. A similarly compact footprint to the outgoing model tallies with earlier reports that the Toyota-Subaru duo will swap from their current Subaru-derived underpinnings onto the TNGA architecture that underpins Toyota’s Corolla family hatchback and can be adapted to suit a rear-wheel-drive powertrain. Subaru has now confirmed that the second-generation car will be rear-wheel drive. As with the previous model, however, the BRZ and its GT86 sibling will use an engine from Subaru’s current line-up, likely the 2.4-litre 4-cylinder boxer motor found in the US-market Ascent SUV. Its 255 hp output represents a substantial upgrade over the 200 hp offered by the current BRZ’s naturally aspirated motor, which suggests Subaru and Toyota are looking to target more potent sports cars, such as the Alpine A110. Also on the cards is a comprehensive interior overhaul for both models, with improvements made in material quality, infotainment functionality and usability. The size and shape of this new prototype suggests, however, that there hasn’t been a move to significantly extend rear leg room to enhance the car’s grand touring potential. Subaru and Toyota extended their model development partnership last year, confirming that a successor to the GT86 and BRZ was under development. Sharing the high cost of designing and building a sports car makes it a more economically viable proposition, given that demand for such models has tailed off in recent years. The BRZ and the GT86 are 2 peas from the same pod, but we find out if the Subaru moniker makes it a different beast to the superb Toyota? The 2 firms will also collaborate on a new electric vehicle architecture with the ultimate aim of jointly launching an electric SUV with Subaru-derived four-wheel drive technology and Toyota’s powertrain hardware. The first sighting of a BRZ development mule came just 2 weeks after Subaru announced that it was ending production of the original model, 8 years after its launch. +++ 

+++ Aside from new window glass, how could the TESLA Cybertruck be changing? Jokes aside, when the Cybertruck came to life, most people were shocked at its crazy design. While it seemed to grow on many people, others still think it’s ridiculous. Tesla has at least one prototype that was used for test rides and has been spotted around California, but it seems it may have been thrown together somewhat quickly for the unveiling event. Not long after the Cybertruck was revealed, people took to Twitter to ask CEO Elon Musk to make some changes. Of course, there is a group of people who’d rather have an electric pickup with more traditional styling, but the other main concern was it may be simply too big. In its original form, the Cybertruck probably won’t fit in many garages. Musk agreed and talked about downsizing the electric pickup, but later threw out those plans. Now, the CEO has mentioned that the Cybertruck will undergo “small improvements” to its design. He also said he’ll reveal pictures of the new design “maybe in a month or so”. Will the design changes be really obvious, or only noticeable upon close inspection or if you know what to look for? Is this another one of Musk’s tactics to keep the news rolling and keep people’s interest piqued? Musk was talking on Twitter about Giga Texas and the Tesla Cybertuck when he was asked if he would reveal images of the Cybertruck’s new changes. Has Musk decided to go with the original plan to downsize the Cybertruck a bit? Perhaps the goal is to make it a bit less polarizing? Musk has already said on several occasions that Tesla was going to make the Cybertruck an even better cargo hauler and more versatile. He’s also made it clear that the production version will not be exactly like the prototype, and that it will, of course, be much better. At this point, it’s all just a guessing game. +++

+++ The TOYOTA Supra gets a removable roof panel for the Sport Top concept that debuts at this year’s SEMA360 show. The company isn’t showing the whole vehicle quite yet, but this teaser reveals what the build team has in mind. At last year’s SEMA show, Toyota showed the Supra Heritage Edition that dressed the news sports coupe in touches from the previous, 4th generation model. The upgrades included a retro-inspired wing, tweaked taillights with CNC-machined lenses, and a revised front splitter. This time the Toyota team takes the 4th generation Supra inspiration even further by engineering the new one to have a removable roof panel, similar to the piece available on the old one. This project is going to require significant engineering to make work. The team intends the top to come off in 2 pieces for easier storage in the boot. Ideally, a person would just need to press a button on the keyfob to unlatch them, but the crew is still working out this part. The team also plans on adding reinforcements under the Supra to maintain rigidity. Although given the model’s close relationship with the latest BMW Z4 convertible, the Supra should be fairly stiff already, so the builders might not have to do too much reinforcement. The Supra Sport Top concept has a few other special touches. The vehicle wears a bigger front splitter, broader side sills, and a larger diffuser. The body modifications don’t go too far but simply make the exterior look a bit more distinctive beyond just having the removable roof. When the rumour mill about the fifth generation Supra was really turning, there was speculation about Toyota offering a version of the coupe with a removable roof. It raises the question of whether this SEMA360 concept is the company’s way of testing the waters among fans. The product team might want to see a positive response before greenlighting a new variant of the model. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN launched two ID.4 electric SUV models in China, taking on Tesla in the world’s biggest auto market. The ID.4 Crozz model is being made by Volkswagen’s joint venture with the FAW Group, while the ID.4 X is produced by a separate venture with SAIC Motor. The models mark the start of a major push by Volkswagen into the electric vehicle market in China to take on the likes of Tesla and Nio. The German group did not disclose the price of the 2 models, but a presentation at the product launch said the starting price of the SUVs, which are larger than Tesla’s China-made Model 3 sedans, would be less than 250.000 yuan ($37.450) after electric vehicle subsidies from the Chinese government. The starting price for Model 3 sedans in China is currently 249.900 yuan, after subsidies. The ID.4 models will have driving ranges of over 400 kilometers and offer over-the-air software updates, Volkswagen executives said at the event. China chief Stephan Wöllenstein said Volkswagen would roll out eight ID. family electric models in China by 2023. Sales of electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen-powered vehicles in China are forecast to rise to 20 % of new car sales by 2025 from just 5 % now, the State Council said. Around 1.1 million such vehicles are expected to be sold in China this year. +++ 

+++ While the Toyota Yaris has gone through a hot-hatch metamorphosis, things used to be different. What used to be a small city car that could blend in with traffic has become a WRC inspired missile. Unfortunately, while the 3-door hatch will receive the full Gazoo Racing treatment, upgrades to the YARIS CROSS are limited to the aesthetic department. We know that the Japanese automaker’s racing DNA has trickled down to its road vehicles, but where did it come from? After getting so close to overall victory at the 24 hours of LeMans in 2016 (with their lead car breaking down at the last lap) they finally put that to rest with wins in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Regardless of how they produced their victories at LeMans, Toyota has recently blown up the world of rallying with the Yaris. After a long championship drought since the likes of Carlos Sainz Sr. and his Toyota Celica, Ott Tänak won the WRC world championship in 2019 behind the wheel of a Yaris. As the hot-hatch received one of the most powerful 3-cylinder engines fitted to a road car (rated at 262 hp), Toyota says that the Yaris Cross wouldn’t be able to handle the grunt. While things are looking bleak at the moment, the Japanese automaker has made it clear that they want to expand the GR lineup. “No plans that I’m aware of for a GR Yaris Cross”, said Sean Hanley, sales and marketing boss of Toyota Australia. “We’re happy to be bringing the GR Yaris to the market in the next month, but nothing that I’m aware of in terms of the Yaris Cross in that space”. +++

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