Newsflash: Renault stoft oude modelnamen af

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+++ BMW will add another member to its SUV line-up next year with the arrival of the X8, a more style-driven counterpart to the full-size X7. As with that model, it will challenge cars such as the Mercedes GLS, Audi Q8 and Range Rover. BMW has owned the X8 trademark for a number of years, and the car’s launch will see the company’s range of X-badged SUVs expand to 10 models in total. Under the skin, the BMW X8 shares its running gear with the X7. In common with other even-numbered BMW SUVs, such as the X4 and X6, the flagship X8 will be a coupe-inspired model, but aimed primarily at markets such as China and the United States. It will be more rakish than the X7, but the X8 won’t go down the full coupe-SUV route. It will retain an upright profile, but there will be a number of design changes in the surfacing of the bodywork. It will be similar in concept to the Audi Q8, which uses the same running gear and nose as the Q7, but has its own design from the A-pillars back. The X8’s upright front end will feature the X7’s huge kidney grilles, but they will be flanked by split-level LED headlights; a design theme that will be seen on other new and next-generation range-topping BMWs, such as the soon-to-be-facelifted X7 and the new 7 Series, due in 2022. Elsewhere, the tough-looking and imposing design of the X7 will give way slightly to sportier sweeps and touches. At the rear there are far more pronounced wheelarch lines, and a back bumper that’s home to 2 oversized exhausts. I haven’t caught sight of the X8’s interior, but it’s likely to be less of a departure than the exterior and use the same advanced design and technology as the X7. Dual 12.3-inch displays up front will appear with BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment system. With BMW resisting the urge to make the X8 a true coupé-SUV, the more upright rear end could still be home to a third row of seats, making it a sportier, but slightly less spacious alternative to the X7. The X8’s focus as a sportier alternative to the X7 is hinted at by further trademark activity. Although BMW’s M division hasn’t touched the X7, a filing for an X8 M has been spotted among other BMW applications. Such a model would more than likely use the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 fitted in the BMW X5 M Competition. In that car it develops 625 hp, which can propel the X5 M from 0-100 kph in 3.8 seconds. Similar power and performance would see the X8 M compete with models such as the Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo. Plug-in hybrid power has yet to appear in the X7, but our spy shots suggest that the X8 could introduce an electrified powertrain to the top end of BMW’s SUV line-up. Test mules have been spied wearing ‘hybrid test vehicle’ stickers. It’s likely that the hybrid X8 will also turn to the X5 for its plug-in technology, this time from the xDrive45e. That model’s turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-6, electric motor and 24 kWh lithium-ion battery are good for 400 hp and a maximum electric range of 80 km, although the heavier X8 will likely offer shorter EV running. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS has a plan: to beat Tesla as the leader for electric vehicles in the US. In fact, Mary Barra said herself that GM is “committed to fighting for EV market share until we are number 1 in North America”. The idea is to invest $27 billion, present 30 EVs and sell 1 million electric cars globally by 2025. GM’s plan is to drop battery pack prices through a high production scale and offer so many electric car options that buyers will eventually choose one. I am not sure how the goal to sell 1 million cars globally will make GM an EV leader in the US. Regardless, Volkswagen came up with the same idea a lot earlier. The immediate effect is that Volkswagen expects to produce (and sell) 1 million electric cars globally by 2022; 3 years earlier than GM. While the American company is still speaking about its future electric vehicles with its Ultium batteries, Volkswagen already sells 2 cars with its MEB platform: the ID.3 and the ID.4. The latter will also be sold and manufactured in the US. One aspect the analysts point out as a competitive advantage is that Tesla presents quality issues with its cars. We have confirmed that more than once, but GM cannot say it is much better when it comes to electric cars. The Bolt EV (Opel Ampera-e in Europe) recently had a battery pack recall, and we have also shown it has a chronic defect on its torsion beam. All things considered, what can GM offer that Volkswagen isn’t already trying and that Tesla may not try to assimilate? +++ 

+++ Vehicle safety body GLOBAL NCAP has again thrown a spotlight on the disparity between the safety standards we are accustomed to in Europe and those of cars sold in lower-income markets, which the United Nations says account for 90 % of the world’s 1.3 million annual road deaths. The Renault Kwid, already lambasted after poor results in India and Brazil, scored just 2 stars in Global NCAP’s recent Safer Cars for Africa test, despite the criteria being lower than in Europe and the US. The poor result also comes in spite of the Kwid receiving safety upgrades including driver and passenger airbags. The Kwid is closely related to the Dacia Spring Electric, which is expected to be the cheapest mass-production electric car when it goes on sale in Europe later this year. The Spring Electric will require significant structural upgrades over the Kwid, as well as the inclusion of electronic safety systems, in order to meet European safety standards. Back in 2018, Suzuki was criticised after the Swift built by subsidiary Maruti Suzuki, India’s biggest car maker, scored just 2 stars, with its bodyshell being described by Global NCAP as “unstable”. The Swift sold in markets such as India and Africa hides its poor safety well, because it’s visually identical to the Swift sold in the UK, a car that scored 3 stars in the notably more stringent Euro NCAP test. So are manufacturers guilty of applying different safety standards when it comes to the quality of materials in cars that look identical? Most definitely in the case of the Kwid, said Alejandro Furas, technical director at Global NCAP, who believes different-quality steel and even lower-quality welding are used in order to cut costs. “If you look at the Kwid, the Brazilian version has way more reinforcements in the A-pillar than the Indian one and we see that from stripping the car”, he said. The Kwid was significantly upgraded for Brazil in response to a public outcry when it failed its initial crash test there. Car makers and automotive industry associations refute this, pointing out that their cars meet the regulatory standards of the countries in which they are sold. However, Global NCAP president David Ward said this argument isn’t acceptable. He even accused some associations of “moral bankruptcy”, with the caveat that they’re supporting their weakest members’ position. Neither the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers nor the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers South Africa responded to the accusations. The same goes for both Suzuki and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, which not only produces the Kwid but also owns the Datsun brand that was rebuked for the poor safety of its Go model. Another manufacturer that failed to respond to our questions was Chinese firm Great Wall. In the latest tests, its Steed pick-up scored 0 stars and, shockingly, one of the front wheels intruded so far into the interior during the frontal offset crash test that it was almost touching the driver’s seat; something Furas said he had never seen before. There are positive changes coming, though. Global NCAP plans to introduce even more stringent tests in India to assess side impact protection and possibly even electronic stability control. The implementation of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) is the best solution, particularly in a country like India, where a large number of road injuries and fatalities happen to motorcyclists and passengers and, as in Africa, many road users ignore rules and law enforcement is lacking. “A car with more ADAS features is far, far more important than one with a good crash test result, because the whole idea is to stop the crash”, said Sorabjee. What everyone does agree on, however, is that there need to be minimum global standards. The International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, the umbrella organisation of all the vehicle manufacturer associations, stated in its Global Road Safety manifesto last year that governments worldwide “should use the experience gained in a number of well-developed markets to set minimum vehicle safety standards for all new vehicles sold on their territory”. +++ 

+++ The next generation HONDA HR-V will bear minimal resemblance to the current car. Expected to be launched in 2022, the HR-V looks set to adopt a heavily raked roofline for a coupé-style silhouette, similar to that of similarly positioned models, including the Kia Xceed and upcoming Renault Arkana. However, the raised ride height implies the HR-V will retain its SUV billing in order to distance it from the next-gen Civic hatchback, also arriving on 2022. Beyond the new shape, we can see slim LED headlights, mounted high and angled for a more aggressive look than the current car, while the leading edge of the bonnet looks to protrude over the grille, much like that of recently spotted test mules for the next Civic. The rear door handles can still be found behind the rear window, as on the second-gen car, while straighter window lines and a more prominent spoiler could signal a design influence from the chunky first-gen model, which was an early entry into the now-burgeoning compact SUV segment. As for mechanical tweaks, it seems likely Honda will revamp the HR-V’s powertrain line-up. The 1.5-litre petrol will b electrified. The Japanese brand has vowed to phase out all pure-combustion engines in Europe by 2022, so the next HR-V will likely offer a variation of the larger CR-V Hybrid’s petrol-electric engine, and a pure-electric option is almost a certainty. Honda Europe vice president Ian Howells also recently hinted that the firm is exploring further alternative fuel options, including biomass and hydrogen, but no further official details have been offered yet. The cabin will offer a new 9.0 inch infotainment touchscreen and usher in new driver aids and technology. +++ 

+++ Mitsubishi’s surprise announcement in July that it will throw in the towel and exit Europe highlights the wide-reaching problems that car manufacturers from JAPAN , with the notable exception of Toyota, are facing in the region. Ever more stringent local emissions and technical legislation combined with the region’s desire for ultra-sophisticated smaller cars has recently made Europe a far tougher place to do business, especially if all your big markets are elsewhere. Mitsubishi said it will leave after the current generation of cars finishes production to concentrate on its profitable South-East Asia market, bringing to an end its run in the region that began in 1975. It follows out of the door Japanese small car specialist Daihatsu, which left in 2013. Subaru is now barely clinging on, selling just 13.359 cars across Europe in the 9 months to the end of September, according to figures from Jato Dynamics. Suzuki, meanwhile, has had to sharply adjust its line-up to meet new legislation, resulting in a drop of 40 % in sales across the region, far worse than the pandemic-induced overall market fall of 29 %. Nissan, too, has fallen low after regularly competing with Toyota for the title of number one Asian maker in Europe, posting sales of less than half those of Toyota in the first 10 months of the year. Its market share in Western Europe was cut to 2.5 % as Toyota raised its share on the back of hybrid growth to 5.4 %, according to data from European car makers’ association ACEA. Honda’s sales, meanwhile, reached just 40.640 in the same period, albeit with a sales drop more in line with the overall market at -33 %. The Japanese car makers are driving against a harsh combination of headwinds. “From emissions regulations to tough market conditions, premium segment pressure and domestic competition pricing, they’re facing a nightmare scenario when it comes to the question of viable profitability in Europe”, said Sammy Chan, senior analyst at LMC Automotive. The toughest of these headwinds right now looks like emissions, with the threat of fines from both the European Union and, from next year, the UK under its carbon-copy emissions regulations. “With CO2 targets so stringent in Europe, a clear BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) strategy is needed to flourish in the next decade”, Chan said. “It can’t be said that Mazda, Suzuki and Subaru have identified BEV strategies in Europe at this moment”. These aren’t problems that are unique to Japanese manufacturers, but the fact remains that Europe is at best a secondary market for most of them. Suzuki, for example, makes just 14 % of its sales revenue from Europe and Subaru is predominantly a North American company. Add in production for many models in Japan, where a strong yen has kept export prices high for many years, and it looks gloomy. Why would you react to European demands for things such as pricey soft-touch plastics and ambient lighting for your next model when it’s unlikely to cause much of a sales ripple here compared with blockbuster markets like China or the US? The solution is partnerships, and for 3 of these brands that means a tie-up with Toyota. Japan’s biggest car maker now owns a stake in Subaru (20%), Suzuki (5%) and Mazda (5%) and has solved the short-term emissions problems of all 3 in Europe. Suzuki, for example, which had to kill sales of its popular Jimny due to its high emissions, now sells rebadged versions of the Toyota RAV4 plug-in hybrid (the Across) and Corolla Touring Sports hybrid (the Swace) in Europe. Mazda had already joined with Toyota to pool its emissions and thus take advantage of Toyota’s hybrid-lowered average CO2 emissions in the EU, and it will now get a rebadged Yaris hybrid to sell to replace its 2. All 3 of the rebadged models will be built in Europe. Subaru, meanwhile, uses Toyota hybrid technology in its XV and Forester. Looking further in the future, Toyota is working with Suzuki, Subaru and Mazda on a shared electric platform, dubbed e-TNGA. Nissan, of course, has its alliance partnership with Renault to give it a competitive edge, but while the two have been slow to fully share technology (Nissan’s new E-Power hybrid technology due next year has nothing to do with Renault’s new E-Tech hybrid, for example), Nissan has announced that Renault will not just build but also design the next Micra. Nissan’s financial woes could yet mean further restructuring in Europe after the announced closure of its factory in Barcelona, Spain, this year, but a smooth launch of the new Qashqai in 2021 could put the brand on an even keel. Honda’s future is more uncertain after it announced the decision to shut both of its European plants, one of which is in Swindon. However, LMC Automotive predicts that Honda’s annual sales will climb to nearer 200.000 in Europe as new models arrive with hybrid power, such as the next Civic. Could another Japanese maker exit the region? That depends on their electric strategy, according to LMC Automotive. Chan said: “For now, we forecast these brands continuing in Europe, although this may hinge on the success of their upcoming EVs”. +++ 

+++ Over the last few years, rumours surrounding MAZDA have often focused on 2 things: the rotary engine’s return and the launch of inline-6 engines. Neither are well-kept secrets at this point, with the rotary returning in early 2022. However, the start of production of its inline-6 engines has been a mystery until now. The automaker will begin producing inline-6 powered cars in early 2022. ‘Mazda-affiliated parts makers’ are the source of the production date. According to these sources, production of those vehicles will begin at the company’s Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture factory early next year. Rumours continue to note that the mill will be offered in petrol, diesel, and Skyactiv-X variants. The early 2022 date is notable because it was believed that the new mills wouldn’t arrive until after 2022, powering new rear-wheel-drive vehicles. Mazda is working to develop large and small product categories, according to the report, with large products including SUVs. 2 will succeed the CX-5 and CX-8, though Mazda is likely to continue offering all 4. A November report suggested that the next-gen CX-5 would go premium to compete against the likes of Mercedes and BMW and get a new name: the CX-50. It’d offer the company’s new inline-6 engines with 3.0- and 3.3-litre displacements. Mazda is a small automaker in a rapidly changing industry. Sales have stayed consistent over the last decade, with 2020 closing up 0.2 % over 2019. MX-5 sales were up 13.6 %. However, the competition will only increase, and Mazda is best trying to position itself for that reality. The inline-6 engine’s introduction is paired with the company’s shift toward offering rear-wheel drive for sportier driving dynamics. It’s unclear when we’ll see Mazda’s new inline-6 models, though there have been rumours that Mazda won’t reveal any new products until 2022. +++ 

+++ Chinese electric vehicle firm NIO has revealed its first saloon car, the ET7, which is due to go on sale in the country in 2022 with a range of 1.000 km and offering autonomous driving features. The firm, founded by Chinese tech entrepreneur Williams Li, currently offers a range of electric SUVs and crossovers aimed at the fast-growing Chinese premium market. It also has aspirations to eventually expand globally. While Nio, which floated on the New York Stock Exchange, has struggled for funding, it secured a major investment last year and has experienced a surge in sales in China. The firm sold 36.721 vehicles last year; a 111 % year-on-year increase. As with its existing models the new Tesla Model S rival, revealed at the firm’s annual Nio Day event, is built on a lightweight steel and aluminium chassis, and is powered by 2 electric motors. A front-mounted permanent magnet motor produces 245 hp, with an induction motor on the rear axle offering 408 hp. The 2 units have a maximum combined output of 653 hp and also offers 830 Nm of torque. That gives the ET7 a 0-100 kph time of 3.9 seconds. Nio says more a more efficient electric drive system, lightweight chassis and a drag coefficient of 0.23 have helped to improve the range offered from the silicon carbide batteries. The ET7 will be offered with 3 battery sizes. The entry level 70 kWh unit offers a 500 km range, with a 100 kWh version offering 700 km. The top 150 kWh battery has a claimed range of 1.000 km. All the figures are calculated using the Chinese NEDC system. The machine features Nio’s battery swap technology, allowing drivers to switch battery packs at special stations to avoid charging times. Nio says the ET7 also features a range of advanced driver assistance features that will enable it to offer autonomous driving. The system uses 33 high-performance sensing units, which it says are built into the body of the car for optimum design, with its autonomous systems powered by an advanced computer system capable of generating 8GB of data per second. The ET7 is 5.098 mm long, 1.987 mm wide and 1.505 mm high, with a wheelbase of 3.060 mm. As with existing Nio models, the interior dashboard is dominated by a large touchscreen (12.8 inch in this case) which can be operated by Nio’s Nomi in-car AI system. It also features a 23-speaker sound system as standard. The ET7 is due to launch in China early in 2022, with a starting price of around €60.000, although this can be reduced by opting to pay for batteries through a subscription service. While 19 of the ET7’s driver assistance features will be standard, accessing the full AD as a Service feature will require a monthly subscription of around €90. +++ 

+++ OPEL has confirmed that its famous OPC badge will return by 2022. The first performance model planned is a hot electric version of the Mokka, which will be closely followed by a more spritely version of the Corsa based on the ‘e’ electric supermini. The Mokka will be the first new OPC model since 2015 and it’s shaping up to be a radical departure from Opel’s tried-and-tested formula. “We will introduce a Mokka OPC early in 2022 and it will be with an electric engine”, a spokesman said. However, it doesn’t sound like the new Mokka OPC (Opel Performance Centre) will have any more power than the standard crossover. When pressed, the spokesman said: “If you’re asking about top speed and acceleration, we have more than enough. But we can add performance in other ways”. Performance figures for the new Mokka-e are yet to be officially released but, as it’ll be mechanically identical to the Peugeot e-2008, it should share the same 0–100 kph time of 9 seconds flat. The Mokka-e is based on PSA’s CMP platform and it uses the French firm’s ubiquitous 136 hp electric motor, which features in everything from the Corsa to the Vivaro panel van. It’ll be powered by the brand’s 50 kWh battery pack, which should be good for a maximum range of 320 km. Although there will be no power upgrades, we would expect handling tweaks. Revised suspension and steering would be easier to engineer than more power, while changes to the electronic steering settings and driver modes will also give the car a sharper focus. Despite the lack of power upgrades, the spokesman remained confident about the Mokka OPC’s capability, stating: “This is, I would say, a vehicle with a higher level of performance than anybody would expect. I would say this is a performance car in the noble sense of the word performance, not silly supercar performance. This is not a vehicle that is going to be embarrassed by the ST range of one of our competitors”. Although Opel won’t switch-up the powertrain for its Mokka OPC, the model’s styling will evolve. With its short and front and rear overhangs, the Mokka should lend itself well to a OPC makeover, with larger alloy wheels, a new tailgate spoiler, oversized air intakes and a more aggressive front splitter expected. Inside, Opel will likely add figure-hugging bucket seats, along with some subtle OPC badging, a thicker sports steering wheel and red trim. The digital display (including that on the Mokka’s new Pure Panel) will also likely be spruced up with new OPC graphics. I know about the Mokka OPC, and a new Corsa OPC that’s also in the pipeline, but Opel’s OPC story won’t stop there. The Vivaro van, which sits on PSA’s larger EMP2 platform, has also been readied for EV tech and should also get the OPC treatment in the near future, with beefed up looks and lower suspension. Opel has confirmed that the Corsa OPC will return to showrooms by 2022, and it’ll be powered by a pure-electric powertrain. When it arrives, the new Corsa OPC will act as an alternative to the petrol-powered Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI, as well as a direct competitor for the sporty electric Cupra el-Born. We haven’t had a OPC badged Opel since the last Corsa was axed in 2019, and this new model will be a radical departure from the hot hatchback’s formula. The old torque-steer prone car’s turbocharged 4-cylinder powertrain will be swapped for the 136 hp electric motor and 50 kWh battery pack found in the standard Corsa-e. The new Corsa OPC will focus on suspension, braking and steering upgrades for its performance edge. Despite this, the new Corsa OPC should be fairly spritely. The Corsa-e’s 7.6-second 0–100 kph time isn’t too far behind the old Corsa OPC’s 6.8-second effort and I expect the EV will be quicker from 0–50 kph as its electric motor can apply all of its 260 Nm of torque from a standstill. One thing Opel will carry over from the old Corsa OPC will be its styling package. Like its predecessor, the new hot hatchback will feature a deeper front splitter, larger alloy wheels, a taller tailgate spoiler and an air intake above the front grille, as seen on the last Corsa OPC. Opel has already dabbled with a performance version of the Corsa-e. Back in 2019, the firm launched the world’s first pure-electric rally car, based on the EV supermini. The formula was surprisingly similar to that of the upcoming Corsa OPC; there wasn’t any extra power over the standard car, but Opel fitted a range of chassis and handling upgrades. +++ 

+++ RENAULT will reinvent a number of its classic models as electric cars as part of a bold turnaround plan set to be unveiled by new boss Luca de Meo, according to reports. Former Seat boss de Meo was given the top job at the French giant last year. He has been working on a new business plan to boost sales and reposition the firm, which began last September with the unveiling of a major internal restructure. De Meo is now set to unveil the next phase in his plan on Thursday January 14, in an event billed as a ‘Renaulution’. Sources state that De Meo’s plan will focus on future product ranges and will include the revival of at least 2 classic nameplates to strengthen the focus on Renault’s French heritage. They will include an electric reinvention of the 4L, based on the city car originally launched in the 1960s as a rival to the Mini and Fiat 500. An electric version of the Renault 5, originally offered in 2 generations from 1972 until it was replaced by the Clio in 1996, is also reportedly set to be revealed. No more details of the models have been given, but they could use the new Renault – Nissan -Mitsubishi alliance CMF-EV electric platform, which Renault will first use for the forthcoming production version of the Megane eVision. The Megane eVision is a crossover that uses the long-running nameplate of the firm’s family hatch, and also features a retro-infused design with numerous nods to Renault’s past. As with the Megane, reviving classic model names such as the 4 and 5 would be a way for Renault to pitch early electric models to a more style-focused audience, in a similar way to how Fiat has positioned its new electric 500. Renault will reveal 3 electric models for its Alpine subbrand. Renault bosses have been considering turning Alpine into an electric-only performance brand, with a reshuffle last year securing the firm’s long-term future. Do Meo’s plan is also set to include culling several long-running models that have waned in popularity in recent years, including the Espace. +++ 

+++ SKODA is a bit of a ‘problem’ for the Volkswagen Group because it takes advantage of the VW-engineered platforms and combines them with the lower wages in the Czech Republic. Some would also argue the generally more spacious Skoda models are more desirable than the equivalent VWs, and they’re also typically cheaper. VW Group’s sales chief, Christian Dahlheim, told it won’t reposition the Mladá Boleslav brand by moving it downmarket to chase Renault’s budget arm Dacia. Doing so would reduce the risk of overlapping with the VW core brand and Seat, but it’s not going to happen. Instead, VAG will stick to the tried-and-tested formula, which it claims gives Skoda the “biggest growth potential” among the Group’s volume brands. Dahlheim said: “We don’t like the comparison with Dacia because we do not want to reduce Skoda to tapping into that competitor. Skoda has fabulous competitors with the French brands and, of course, Ford”. He went on to say the Czech brand can attract even more “traditional mainstream” customers without having to steer towards becoming a low-budget brand. +++ 

+++ According to a report, the highly anticipated €20,000 TESLA compact car may be coming to market much sooner than previous information suggested. I recently reported about Tesla China’s Supercharger facility and upcoming R&D centre. With that news, many suggested Tesla may be pushing forward with the design and eventual production of a smaller, cheaper model for the Chinese market. Fast-forward to the present, and a Gigafactory Shanghai eco-assessment report included a teaser about a third Tesla model that will be produced in China. The information teases that Tesla may have plans to produce the cheaper model as soon as next year. It will be built on the Model 3 chassis and carry a price tag ranging from €20.000 and €25.000. The report points out that Tesla’s accelerating sales in the country may be key to moving forward with the launch of a less expensive model. Based on reports, the new Tesla model was approved in China back in September 2020. Final product verification efforts are expected to be finished this March 2021. A smaller Tesla makes perfect sense for the market in China. The same can be said about Europe. While it doesn’t make as much sense for Tesla to bring such a model to the States, at least based on current car-buying trends, we’re confident many people would buy it. +++ 

+++ The danger of drivers becoming distracted by ever larger in-car TOUCH SCREENSis becoming the focus of potential new legislation as countries grapple with the reasons why road deaths and accidents are no longer falling but plateauing. Currently, there is little in the way of regulation surrounding the design of infotainment systems and both safety experts and legislators are worried car makers are losing sight of the distraction factor in their rush to add ever more functions via the touchscreen. Just how distracting they can be was revealed in a 2020 study by TRL (Transport Research Laboratory). It found that operating features within Apple CarPlay and Android Auto significantly increased driver reaction times to an emergency event, even more so than texting or driving under the influence of alcohol or cannabis. The results were an eye-opener to Neale Kinnear, head of behavioural science at TRL and organiser of the study. He had expected significant distraction but the length of time drivers took their eyes off the road for certain events went beyond his predictions. “I was surprised by the extent”, he told. “Items such as choosing a music track, for example, on Spotify took up to 20 seconds. We just don’t have any way of understanding the impact of that on safety in the real world”. There are signs governments are trying to find out. The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) this year asked for experts to consult on its Roads Policing Review, established to discover why reductions in road deaths and injuries had plateaued. The DfT considered whether infotainment systems might be to blame, given that cars themselves are becoming inherently safer. “Advances in car infotainment systems and mobile phone technology mean that there are increasing sources of potential distraction for drivers”, it wrote in the consultation introduction. Kinnear wants to establish testing standards that are the equivalent of Euro NCAP but for distraction. “We would like to see an attention standard: what’s the level of attention the driver should be paying to the road?” he said. TRL is in talks with the likes of the DfT and Massachusetts Institute of Technology about the possibility of setting up a testing protocol. The TRL study figures show that using voice control was less distracting than using the touchscreen but still more distracting than if you were driving at the drink-drive limit or, in the case of Apple CarPlay voice control, even texting. Free from any standards or protocols, car makers are shifting more of the control of the car’s ancillary devices to the dash-mounted screen. Led by the example of Tesla, which set the screen standard with the massive 17.0 inch display on the Model S, car makers are tripping over themselves to increase screen size and, in doing so, burnish their tech credentials. The Honda E comes with two 12.0 inch screens that run across the width of the dashboard. Ford’s Mach E electric SUV has a 15.5 inch screen and next year’s Cadillac Escalade SUV will have a whopping 38 inch curved screen. Touchscreens are becoming the norm. In the US, 82 % of cars sold in 2019 had one, compared with 53 % 5 years previously, according to data from IHS Markit. The design of the interface obviously has a bearing on the distraction. TRL used Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone-mirroring screens for its study because the look and action is common to all screens that offer them, but car makers approach their own design interface in many different ways. A test this year by Autocar sibling brand What Car? ranked 20 screens, with the MG ZS EV’s 8.0 inch touchscreen marked the worst for distraction and the BMW 3 Series with Live Cockpit Professional the best. The test concluded that all screens were worse than physical buttons for time taken to enact a task. For example, adjusting the heater fan on a touchscreen rather than a dial or physical switch can take more than twice as long, while zooming out on sat-nav or finding a radio station can take up to 8 times as long. A mix of (more) technology and legislation could be the answer. The increased prevalence of automatic emergency braking has spared the blushes (if not the lives) of an increasing number of distracted drivers and lane assist can prevent them drifting into the oncoming lane. Eye-trackers are also being considered by the European Union to warn drivers if their gaze has shifted away from the road ahead for too long. This is likely to be more important as elements of autonomous driving are allowed, but there’s a use for it to alert drivers to just how long they’ve been looking at the screen. The TRL study found that drivers greatly underestimated how long their eyes were off the road while operating screen functions. Kinnear worries that post-Covid budget constraints will kick any government action into the long grass, but it’s clear that action needs to be taken as the digital arms race continues unabated. “They aren’t many standards car makers have to meet [in screen design] so they design features they want the drivers to engage with or sell. That means the inclusion of features such as being able to read text messages just became a standard part”, said Kinnear. “But we really have to question whether that’s a benefit or actually a detriment to attention”. +++ 

+++ Car registrations in the UNITED KINGDOM fell by around 29.4 % in the last year, with the 1.63 million cars sold the lowest total since 1992 as the industry was hit hard by the effects of Covid-19 lockdowns. But sales of both electric cars and plug-in hybrids both rose sharply, with plug-in cars now accounting for more than 10 % of UK sales. According to preliminary data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 1.631.064 cars were sold in the UK last year. That’s around 600.000 fewer cars were sold in 2020 than in 2019, representing the largest year-on-year decline since 1943, when sales slumped because many car plants were repurposed to produce military equipment. The bulk of the sales decline in 2020 was attributed to the first lockdown from March-June last year, where many dealerships were shut. During the second lockdown in November last year, dealerships were able to continue offering ‘click-and-collect’ online sales, which will also be allowed during the new lockdown recently introduced in England by the UK government. At the start of 2019 (before the coronavirus pandemic began) the SMMT had estimated that around 2.2 million cars would be sold in the UK this year. “The big issue last year was the effect of Covid and that is continuing into 2021. Overall, there’s no surprise it was a very, very difficult year”, said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “There are unprecedented levels and it’s challenging the industry continuously”. But while the overall figures were grim, there were some positive signs for the industry. Sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrids both increased substantially, with plug-ins accounting for one in 10 of all cars sold in the UK last year. The UK is set to ban sales of all non-zero emission cars, with the exception of certain hybrids, by 2030. Hawes said that, based on provisional data, the UK fared worse than Germany, France and The Netherlands, but slightly outperformed Italy. He added: “It’s notable that all those countries had some form of incentive for buyers, to boost new cars sales, sometimes confined just to PHEVs and battery electric vehicles. We haven’t, so we haven’t seen any artificial demand. “That means the 29 % decline is something the industry is basically having to cope with”, who noted that the SMMT didn’t expect to regain those sales in the coming years. The sales decline was particularly sharp in the fleet and business sectors. In December, sales of private cars fell by 26.6 %, with fleet sales declining 31 % and business sales dropping 41 %. While every sector of the market declined in terms of total sales last year, some performed better than others. Sales of B segment cars showed the smallest decline in terms of total sales, and the overall market share of such vehicles grew from 29.7 % to 31.2 %. “If you think about the effects of Covid with some people coming out of shared or public transport and going into the market for a new or used car, it makes sense in that regard”, said Hawes. “It will be a rocky few months but we hope as the year goes on it gets more positive”. Sales of specialist sports cars rose by 7.0 %. The rise in the number of BEVs and PHEVs on sale in the UK helped to significantly increase sales of both last year. A total of 108.205 EVs were sold, representing a 180 % year-on-year rise and rising from 1.6 % of the overall UK car market to 6.6 %. Meanwhile, PHEV sales rose 90 % to 66.877, rising from 1.5 % to 4.1 % of the market. That means that 10.7 % of all cars sold in the UK in 2020 had some level of zero emission running capability and could be plugged in. With standard hybrids included, 17.5 % of cars registered in the UK last year were electrified. Sales of mild hybrid petrol and diesel cars both increased. While encouraging, Hawes noted those figures would need to continue rising given the UK government’s target of banning most internal combustion engined cars by 2020. “Overall it’s a significant achievement that we want to continue, and we expect that to continue”, said Hawes. Hawes noted that the Covid-19 restrictions helped EVs to achieve a higher market share this year, noting that they made up a larger percentage of vehicles sold during the first lockdown, in part due to certain firms such as Tesla having waiting lists for EVs and offering contactless delivery. While they remain the 2 most popular fuel types, the market share of both petrol and diesel cars declined in 2020. Sales of diesels fell 55.0 %, from 581.774 in 2019 to 261.772, while mild hybrid diesel sales rose from 33.931 to 60.953. Combined, diesel-engined cars now account for 19.7 % of the UK market. That compares to 25.2 % in 2019 and represents their lowest market share since 2001 when they accounted for 17.8 %. The 903.961 petrol cars sold represented a 39.0 % decline on the 1.482.409 registrations in 2019, while mild hybrid petrol sales grew 184.1 % from 41.955 to 119.179. When combined, standard and mild hybrid petrol vehicles account for 62.7 % of the overall car market, compared to 64.8 % in 2019. The SMMT had originally forecast that the market would recover to sales of around 2 million units this year, although that was made ahead of the November lockdown. With further restrictions now being introduced and likely to be in place for several months Hawes said it was “highly unlikely” that figure would be delivered, and the SMMT is currently working on a revised forecast for 2021. Hawes anticipates the revised figure will be under two million units. “Last year we lost around 500.000 to 750.000 units between March and May, and we never recovered it”, said Hawes. “There was a slight uptick in July, but we never got that original loss back. Private buyers may come back in the market later this year, but fleets just delayed. So any loss that we now see in January and February may come back, but it depends on mitigating factors. “It’s important we can still go click-and-collect, because that’s the minimum we need to keep sales going and to keep the manufacturing going”. Britain’s best-selling new cars (the 10 most popular cars in the UK throughout 2020) were: 1. Ford Fiesta – 49.174, 2. Vauxhall Corsa – 46.439, 3. Volkswagen Golf – 43.109, 4. Ford Focus – 39.372, 5. Mercedes-Benz A-Class – 37.608, 6. Nissan Qashqai – 33.972, 7. Mini – 31.233, 8. Volkswagen Polo – 26.965, 9. Ford Puma – 26.294 and 10. Volvo XC40 – 25.023. Last year was difficult for every manufacturer, but Tesla ended it on a high, with its Model 3 being the UK’s best-selling car in December, according to the SMMT. While overall new car registrations fell by 29.4 % year on year across 2020, December was kinder to manufacturers, with a comparatively mild 10.9 % drop in sales. A total of 1.631.064 new cars were registered in the UK in 2020, compared with 2.311.140 in 2019. In December, 132.682 cars were registered, down from 148.997 in December 2019. Just shy of 6.000 examples of Tesla’s entry-level EV were registered in December, making it the best-selling car of the month. Its 5.798 registrations gave it an advantage of more than 1.000 over the next most popular car, the new Volkswagen Golf (4.470) and more than 2.000 over the Ford Fiesta (3.367). It’s not far off double the number of new ID.3 electric cars that Volkswagen registered, too. Tesla’s achievement is notable because this is only the second time that the brand has topped the SMMT’s table. The Model 3 was also the UK’s best-selling car in April, following a boom in online orders before the car industry locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The reasons for Tesla’s success in December are more opaque but are likely due to the timing of its latest batch of deliveries, which arrived in November. This was too late for the Model 3 to keep its title of Europe’s best-selling electric car, which it lost to the ID.3 in October, but will have considerably bolstered its performance in the UK ratings. As well as the Model 3, demand for all EVs surged in 2020. Hybrids and electric cars enjoyed their best year yet, together accounting for more than one in 10 registrations, up from around one in 30 in 2019. Demand for EVs grew by 185.9 % in 2020, with 108.205 such cars finding buyers. Plug-in hybrids also gained popularity, with registrations rising 91.2% to 66.877. A combination of increased public awareness of the environmental benefits of EVs and stiff new regulations, such as the UK government’s planned 2030 ban on new ICE vehicle sales, are among the factors behind this rise. +++

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