Newsflash: Volkswagen ID.3 pakt zilver in december

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+++ In 2003, the BENTLEY Continental GT marked a major transition for the British brand as its first product to ride on a platform shared with Volkswagen Group products. It turned out to be a massive success. A recently completed Conti GT V8 in Orange Flame set the milestone of the company completing 80.000 units. Bentley collected a few special versions of the Continental GT to commemorate the achievement. The family gathering included the first production-spec Conti GT to roll off the line. The company has kept it taxed and tested in its fleet. There was also a first-gen Continental Supersports, which was a sporty variant that Bentley unveiled in 2009. It had a 6.0-litre W12 pumping out 630 hp and could reach 329 kph. The company included some of the record-setting and racing models. For example, the grand tourer earned a speed record on ice in 2007 by going 321.65 kph on a frozen section of the sea off the coast of Finland. There have been two generations of GT3 race cars with victories that include a win at the 2020 12 Hours of Bathurst in Australia. Plus, the Bentley earned a Production Class record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2019. A Conti GT also competed in a round of the 2020 Ice Race GT in Zell Am See, Austria. Rounding out the display, there was a second-gen Continental GT V8 S in the colour Jetstream. Finally, a Dragon Red convertible from the current press fleet was there. Bentley says there are 17 billion ways a customer could specify the current Continental GT. This is mostly because of the huge number of paint, trim, and upholstery options that the company offers. +++

+++ The point where petrol and diesel cars and electric cars are COMPARABLE on purchase price will likely come in 2026, but not because EVs will get much cheaper, according to Richard Parry-Jones. Speaking at a conference, Parry-Jones (an engineering consultant best known for his 38-year career at Ford, where he became product development boss and chief technology officer) said the gap will close because the cost of making internal combustion engines (ICEs) will rise. He explained: “I think fundamentally batteries are more expensive than current combustion technology. The main reason for the gap closing is not because the batteries are coming down, although they are. It’s actually because the ICE cost is going up. They’re meeting the middle”. Parry-Jones echoed car makers in saying that emissions control systems for ICEs are becoming “very expensive” and could become prohibitively so in the coming years. Price parity will therefore happen “probably about 2026”. However, he said that one way the cost of batteries could come down is by reducing the “layers of redundant mechanical protection” found in the latest EV battery systems. The effect of the UK’s proposed 2030 ban on the sale of new ICE cars on residual values is also a hot topic; Parry-Jones reckons it will be influenced more by city air quality than a focus on CO2 emission. “I think the best way for the industry to secure the value of the vehicles going forward is to make damn sure that the real-world emissions of the engines we’re selling are very good and meet the goals of city leaders”, he said. “We’ll probably see a difference in demand for ICE vehicles in cities versus outside cities. I can imagine people in cities with maybe higher taxation, congestion charges, pollution charges; these will disincentivise second-hand buyers from buying those cars in cities. But in rural areas, where air quality demands are much lower, the demand will be quite high, so I could see regional separation for the demand pattern going forward”. Parry-Jones also insists that the problem of ’embedded CO2’ in the production of EVs (usually greater than an equivalent ICE car) is “not really something you can technically influence. It’s bound to the chemistry of the cells we’re using; they’re hungry for energy in terms of manufacturing. Most of it is in the cell production phase, not in the raw materials. So getting lithium and other materials isn’t a major contributor. The only way we’re going to offeset that is to shift over the generation base for making electricity away from coal, away from oil and gas and towards renewables and nuclear”. OEMs will be paying very close attention to the electricity generation mix of the country from which cells are sourced in future, said Parry-Jones, citing Poland as an example of a country that has a coal-heavy mix, compared with France, which is heavily reliant on hydroelectric and nuclear power generation. “I reckon it will be about 2030 before those generating plant change-overs have had enough effect to reduce the embedded carbon to the comparable level of an ICE engine”, he said. “That doesn’t mean that buying an EV is bad, it just means the payback period in terms of CO2 is longer than it will be in the future”.

+++ The Renault Zoé overtook the Tesla Model 3 to become the bestselling battery ELECTRIC vehicle (BEV) in Europe in 2020, with the total 1.42 million BEV and plug-in hybrid cars sold representing a 147 % year-on-year increase. According to data from car industry analysts Jato Dynamics, electrified vehicles (either full-EV or PHEV models) accounted for 12 % of all cars sold across 23 European markets, including the European Union member states, the UK, Norway and Switzerland. The sharp rise in electrified vehicle sales was driven by the increasing availability of both EVs and PHEVs and the need of manufacturers to increase sales of low-emission cars to avoid EU emissions fines. The Renault Zoé led the sales of full BEVs, with the 99.261 examples sold in 2020 a 118 % year-on-year increase. That helped the Zoé pass the Tesla Model 3, 2019’s best-selling BEV. Tesla sold 85.713 Model 3 cars, representing a 9 % year-on-year fall. The new Volkswagen ID.3 hatch was third on the bestseller chart, with 56.118 units sold, despite only going on sale in the middle of last year. Notably, Jato data shows the ID.3 was the second bestselling car overall across a wider market of 27 European countries in December, with 27.997 models sold during the month. It was beaten by only the Volkswagen Golf, which sold 30.073. Volkswagen heavily pushed ID.3 sales in December in a bid to minimise an EU fine due to a manufacturer pool led by the VW Group narrowly missing its CO2 target. Spearheaded by the ID.3, the Volkswagen Group models accounted for 25.2 % of all BEVs sold in the 23 major European markets in 2020. The recently discontinued e-Golf and Audi e-Tron featured alongside the ID.3 in the top 10 BEVs. The Volkswagen Group’s success meant it passed Tesla to become Europe’s biggest EV manufacturer, with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance also moving up to second. While Tesla accounted for 31 % of all EV sales in 2019, its 13.3 % market share in 2020 was only the third highest. Meanwhile, the Mercedes-Benz A 250e was the biggest-selling PHEV in 2020, with 29.427 sold. Sales of the Mitsubishi Outlander, which led the market in 2019, fell by 21 % to 26,673 models, narrowly ahead of the Volvo XC40 Recharge T4/T5 and Volkswagen Passat GTE. Bestselling battery electric vehicles in Europe region in 2020 were: 1) Renault Zoe: 99.261, 2) Tesla Model 3: 85.713, 3) Volkswagen ID.3: 56.118, 4) Hyundai Kona Electric: 47.796, 5) Volkswagen e-Golf: 33.650, 6) Peugeot e-208: 31.287, 7) Kia e-Niro: 31.019, 8) 8 Nissan Leaf: 30.916, 9) Audi e-Tron: 26.454, 10) BMW i3: 23.113 +++

+++ FORD has applied for a trademark on the Thunderbird name, which has previously been used by the company and could hint at a future return of the nameplate. The trademark was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on January 13 and would be applied to “motor vehicles, namely concept motor vehicles; four-wheeled motor vehicles”, according to the application. The name was first used on a production car in 1955. The car was initially a two-seater convertible meant to cruise down the boulevards, rather than attack tracks. Its diminutive size and large motor, though, did mean that some brave privateers chose it to take on the world’s race tracks. In production from 1955 through 1997, the Thunderbird had a brief hiatus before coming back as a retro roadster, not unlike the Prowler or the Beetle, from 2002 to 2005. What will now come of the name remains to be seen. We might have already had our first hint when Jason Castriota, Ford’s global brand director for battery electric vehicles, recently said in an interview that the Blue Oval wanted to dip back into the heritage names for future electric vehicles. Speaking about the Mustang Mach-E, Castriota said that the name’s success meant that Ford might use a heritage name again. Although the Mustang nameplate can’t be applied to everything, “we feel that it’s definitely worthwhile exploring the other potentials for our great brands”. With EVs being the flavor of the day, the Mach-E earning praise, and a shrinking population of people who would be upset by the evolving names, it may behoove Ford to find ways to incorporate more of its great nameplates into its electric offensive. Could the Thunderbird be one of them? +++

+++ Trademarks filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office suggest that GENESIS is looking to electrify the majority of its lineup. The brand was on a spree filing trademark applications for the eG70, eGV70, eG80, eGV80, eG90, and eGV90. The familiarity of the names implies that if used (you never know, they might just be securing them without having reached a final decision yet), these will be additions to the existing lineup, rather than new models. In their push to add electrification to as many cars as possible, brands are turning to hybrids to fill the gap as dedicated EVs are being developed and the strength of the market’s appetite for fully electric vehicles is determined. That said, it would make a lot of sense if the “e” moniker was applied on hybrid or better yet, plug-in hybrid variants, much like how BMW uses the “e” on PHEV versions of its regular ICE models, such as the 320e and 520e. Hyundai has previously stated that it is embarking on a “top-down” approach to EVs. The strategy would start with expensive EVs and allow the technology to trickle down to more affordable models. Genesis has revealed that its first EV, tentatively called the JW, is due this year. Moreover, its full electric lineup will reportedly be further expanded by 2024. It must be noted that the premium brand’s upcoming EVs are expected to be based on Hyundai’s dedicated e-GMP platform, something that gives more credence to the idea that these supplementary “e” monikers are reserved for PHEVs. As a result of that platform disparity, most other automakers have chosen to simply treat their EVs as separate model lines with unique names. Nevertheless, we should get a good hint as to what Genesis will do when the crossover we saw testing a few days ago is revealed later this year. +++

+++ JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) reported pre-tax profits of £439 million in the final quarter of 2020; a boost of £374 million over the preceding 3 months. The company said its figures for the third quarter of the fiscal year (October-December 2020) reflect its best-ever third quarter cash flow on record, with profits up £121 million year on year. Car sales in most regions increased as global markets began to reopen following the easing of lockdown measures, with JLR’s 128.469 sales up 13.1 % on the previous quarter. However, the company notes that sales were still 9 % lower than in the final 3 months of 2019, before the pandemic took hold. A 20 % quarterly sales boost in China (one of the brand’s biggest markets) is cited as a significant factor in the recovery, and while most regions recorded a year-on-year drop, China was up 19.1% on 2019. Overall, JLR generated £6 billion in revenue in the quarter, up £1.6 billion on the second fiscal quarter but £300 million less than in the same period in 2019. It lists a “favourable sales mix, cost performance and partial reversal of prior-period reserves for emissions and residual values” as factors in the partial recovery. It paid £37 million in ‘exceptional charges’, including £35 million allocated to EU fleet CO2 emissions fines, down from an allocated £90 million in 2020 as a result of the marque’s increasingly large electrified vehicle offering. The new Project Charge+ transformation initiative saved JLR £400 million across the quarter, half in costs and half in “investment efficiencies”. For the year to date, the company has saved £2.2 billion and says it is on track to achieve its £2.5 billion sales target by the end of the financial year, on 31 March 2021. In the same period, free cash flow totalled £562 million, cash and short-term investments rose to £4.5 billion and total liquidity stood at £6.4 billion, including £1.9 billion in undrawn credit facility. Looking ahead, the company says it is “encouraged” by the agreement of a UK-EU trade deal, although it notes the risks posed by increased border administration procedures and welcomes the news that recent approved vaccines could bring an end to the pandemic. JLR has introduced several new and updated models to the market in recent months and now has 20 electrified cars (8 PHEVs, 11 MHEV-equipped options and the fully electric Jaguar I-Pace) in showrooms. It expects sales to increase gradually as a result and for its final results for the 2020/21 financial year to reflect strong profit margins and positive free cash flow. CEO Thierry Bolloré, ending his first full quarter at the helm of the British manufacturer, said: “This performance is a credit to the outstanding efforts of the employees of Jaguar Land Rover to overcome many challenges this year and I would like to thank every one of our colleagues for their contribution, particularly those who are working safely in our plants and facilities. Looking ahead, these challenges continue, including the Covid pandemic and its impact on the global economy, the UK’s new trading relationship with the EU and the significant technological changes taking place in the automotive industry. In this environment, I’m working with my management team on plans to realise an exciting future for Jaguar Land Rover, which I look forward to sharing in due course”. +++

+++ LOTUS ’ current engineering chief, Matt Windle, has been named the new managing director of the firm, replacing Phil Popham. Windle will begin his new duties immediately, with Popham remaining with the company until the end of March to aid the transition. Popham has decided to step down from his role to pursue personal projects. The industry veteran has been at the helm of Lotus since 2018 and played a key role in reshaping the business after it came under the control of Chinese car giant Geely. Windle, 49, has been Lotus’s executive director of engineering since rejoining the company in 2017, with responsibility for the firm’s engineering department and expanding the Lotus Engineering consultancy business. Windle is a Lotus veteran, having first joined the firm as a CAD designer in 1998. During his career, he has also worked for Caterham, Tesla and Volvo. Windle said: “It is an honour to be appointed managing director of Lotus. Of the many manufacturers I have worked with over the years, Lotus has been the one closest to my heart. This period since 2018 has been the most exciting of my career and the scale of the global opportunity ahead of us is both inspiring and all-consuming”. Popham described Windle as “a long-standing ‘Lotus man’ I’m proud to welcome as my successor”. As the new head of Lotus, Windle will be responsible for overseeing the reinvention of the brand with an all-new model line-up, starting with the Evija electric hypercar. The current Elise, Exige and Evora will go out of production this year with a new car, codenamed Type 131, replacing them next year. The firm is also developing its first SUV and working with Alpine on the joint development of an electric sports car. Those models are the result of the Vision 80 strategy that Popham led the development of. During his time at the firm, Popham has also overseen heavy investment in Lotus’s Hethel headquarters to ready it for production of the Evija and other new projects. +++

+++ The market situation in Europe, in general, is pretty weak. According to Jato Dynamics’ report for 27-individual markets, in December new passenger car sales went down by 3.8 % to 1.21 million. The overall result for 2020 is the lowest since 1993: 11.94 million (down 24 % year-over-year). It would be even worse without various incentives in major markets. PLUG-IN cars noted an exceptionally great month with over 292.000 sales (up 271 % year-over-year) and a market share of 24.1 %. That’s about the same as the level of diesel sales. “Demand for gasoline and diesel cars (including hybrids and mild-hybrids) fell by 23 % each, in contrast with a 271 % increase in pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids (EVs). These results close the gap between EVs and diesel cars, with EVs registering a 24.1 % market share, compared to the 24.7 % share seen for diesel cars. This is particularly significant when compared to December 2019 when EVs made up only 6.3 % of total registrations”. In 2020, about 1.42 million plug-in electric cars were sold in Europe; 147 % more than in 2019 (575.000). The average market increased to 12 % (data limited to 23-European countries). An interesting finding is that the Volkswagen Group has almost doubled its share within the BEV segment to 25.2 % (one in four all-electric cars), while Tesla dropped from 31 % in 2019 to 13.3 % in 2020. In December, the Volkswagen ID.3 (27.997) happened to be the second best-selling car overall, outsold only by the Volkswagen Golf (30.073). However, the Tesla Model 3 was not far away and actually improved its volume by 11 % year-over-year to 24.567. +++

+++ While snow covered mountain roads are far from the ideal environment for a focused performance model like the new 718 Cayman GT4 RS, PORSCHE ’s engineers need to test all their vehicles under different kind of conditions no matter how harsh or extreme. The most extreme Cayman yet that I previously spotted following a new 992 GT3 is still expected to be introduced later this year. The prototype is still covered in some areas, most notably at the front fenders hiding a set of delicious vents, but we can see that it will look more threatening than the regular 718 Cayman GT4. A new hood, with air ducts, is part of the visual upgrade, alongside the bumper with big air intakes, massive rear wing, two exhaust pipes incorporated into the diffuser, and extra cooling on the sides for the engine, including the two panels that have replaced the rear quarter windows. The Y-spoke center-locking wheels, wrapped in grippy tires from Michelin, cover the upgraded brakes, with big drilled discs and yellow calipers. This model will also feature a different suspension set-up, yet as you can imagine, details are scarce at the moment. An upgraded version of the naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-6 engine, from the 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Boxster Spyder, will power the 718 Cayman GT4 RS. In the 2 lesser models, it kicks out 420 hp and 420 Nm, for a 0-100 km/h of 4.4 seconds and a 304 km/h top speed in the fixed-roof model. Expect more power from the GT4 RS though, with some reports claiming that it might arrive with 450 hp, whereas others believing that it will boast up to 500 hp. Still, since Porsche won’t let it cannibalize the new 911 GT3, which is expected with approximately 510-520 hp, the latter scenario seems unlikely, doesn’t it? +++

+++ Spy photos from last September captured a camouflage SEAT Arona crossover, hiding mild changes to the front and rear fascias. 4 months later, there’s a new batch showing the car has shed no camouflage, though it does look a tad different from the test vehicle spotted last year. The popular crossover was captured during winter testing ahead of its likely debut in the second half of 2021. The facelift involves a new lower mesh grille and intakes tucked to the bumper’s edges. At the rear, we can expected a tweaked rear bumper design and tailpipes with a slightly different trapezoidal shape. The model is expected to receive the requisite mid-cycle updates like tweaked headlight and taillight designs, reshaped grille, and other small changes. This being a mid-cycle refresh means there likely won’t be changes made to the available powertrains. The crossover already has a robust lineup of engines (turbo petrol, diesel, and compressed natural gas). There are rumours of a mild-hybrid powertrain that could come to the crossover; however, that remains speculation. The interior isn’t expected to change much. The Arona was an all-new model for the 2017 model year, and Seat has done a lot to keep it feeling fresh. After its debut, the automaker added a fully digital instrument cluster. For the refresh, Seat’s expected to upgrade the infotainment system to what’s offered in the Leon, and rumours hint that the Arona could see an upgrade in material quality, too. +++

+++ A production-ready prototype for TOYOTA ‘s new-generation Aygo has been winter testing ahead of the model’s expected unveiling around the end of this year. New images give a much clearer idea of what to expect from Toyota’s reborn city car, and suggest that the Aygo is in an advanced stage of testing. Familiar Aygo design cues include slim overhangs, vertical rear lights, wheels pushed to the edges of the bodywork and a short, upright body. Cues, such as the shape of the rear end from the side, will be taken from the latest Yaris. The optional canvas roof will return for the third-generation car. Toyota Europe boss Johan van Zyl confirmed last year that a new-generation Aygo is coming and will be designed and engineered in Brussels, Belgium. It will be assembled at the same plant as the current car, in Kolín, the Czech Republic, with Toyota taking control of the facility from the PSA Group. The current Aygo is built there alongside the platform-sharing Peugeot 108 and Citroën C1. However, there are no successors planned for either French model, so the Japanese maker will go it alone in the hope of capitalising on other manufacturers (such as Ford, Opel and Renault) giving up on the A-segment. Vice president of Toyota Motor Europe Matt Harrison claimed the current Aygo is a “profitable business equation for us”, unlike many of its rivals. “We have an awful lot of equity in Aygo”, Harrison said. “We’re selling 100.000 a year. It’s got a personality all of its own so it gives to the brand rather than takes away. It’s the most relevant car for a young audience so it’s the access point of the brand”. Little technical detail on the new Aygo has been made public. It’s likely the model will be based on the same (albeit shortened) TNGA GA-B small car platform as the Yaris. That should substantially improve chassis stiffness, benefiting ride, handling and refinement. As well as the standard version, Autointernationaal understands a crossover-style variant could be on the cards, too. With Harrison acknowledging that this segment is “all about affordablity”, the Aygo is expected to be launched with a conventional petrol engine at first. However, a lower-cost adaptation of the Yaris’s hybrid system is likely in time, given the pressures of CO2 corporate fleet average emissions. Toyota is unlikely to offer a battery-electric version of the Aygo for some time. “The small car segment is all about affordability”, said Harrison in 2019. “We don’t see that as being optimal for full electric”. The car’s reveal date is also a mystery. Rumours suggest a 2021 unveiling is on the cards, and if that is the case, we could see the new car in showrooms by early 2022. +++

+++ Car production in the UNITED KINGDOM dropped by almost a third in 2020 to reach its lowest level since 1984, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has revealed. Extended factory shutdowns and reduced consumer demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic meant that just 920.928 cars were built in 2020; a drop of 29.3 % on 2019 and around £10.5 billion in value lost. SMMT boss Mike Hawes described the results as “the worst in a generation” but said they were “absolutely no surprise”. He warned that any recovery in 2021 would be only marginal and dependant on just how long the UK and other key export countries remain in lockdown with showrooms closed. An independent forecast predicts the recovery to reach about one million cars produced in 2021, still way short of the generational high of 1.7 million cars in 2016. The last time car production dipped below 1.0m was in the depths of the global financial crisis in 2009. Of the 920.928 cars built in the UK last year, almost 750.000 were exported. The UK’s top export market remains the European Union, with just over 400.000 models shipped there. The fact that such a large proportion of new cars built in the UK were EU bound shows how important it was for the UK car industry to benefit from tariff-free trade with the EU. “It does deliver plenty of what we needed”, said Hawes, commenting on the Brexit deal. “If we reflect on its nature and ambition, it was better than we probably expected. The automotive industry arguably did pretty well. We know the government actively sought to protect and safeguard the industry”. The key export markets of the US and Japan dropped, but there were rises in China and South Korea, countries that came out of shorter, sharper lockdowns faster than the likes of Europe and the US. Amid the gloom, the UK did manage to increase the proportion of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid models it makes relative to pure petrol, diesel and mild hybrids. This stood at 18.8 % of all cars built, up from 14.8 % a year before. Almost 8 in 10 of these were exported. However, this figure will have to increase dramatically ahead of the government’s plan to ban the sale of everything but plug-in hybrids and electric cars from 2030, with plug-in hybrids following 5 years later. If car manufacturing is to continue to thrive in the UK after this date, investment will need to be made in the next few years to prepare the factories for this switch. Now there is clarity on both Brexit and the 2030 date, and a stay of execution on rules of origin on where batteries are sourced for electric cars, Hawes said the UK “had a window to attract investment” to build electric cars here. Investments already made on this include Nissan’s to build larger battery packs in Sunderland, and £2.6 billion committed last year by Britishvolt to build a gigafactory in Blyth. This £2.6 billion made up the bulk of the £3.23 billion publicly invested in UK automotive manufacturing last year. Of the manufacturers building cars in the UK, Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant had the biggest drop, falling 47 % after it produced 32.234 Astras. Jaguar Land Rover’s plants in Castle Bromwich, Solihull and Halewood had a combined drop of 36.7 % after producing 243.908 cars. This fall meant Nissan became the UK’s largest car producer, with 245.649 cars built, a drop of 29.1 % on 2019. The Nissan Qashqai, in its final full year of production in its current guise, was the UK’s most exported car. +++

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