Newsflash: Porsche broedt op BMW i4 concurrent

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+++ America is down, but it’s certainly not out. Last year the US produced almost 9 million of the world’s 78 million cars and commercial vehicles, making it the global No.2 behind China, but ahead of the likes of Japan, Germany and South Korea. So who’s the newest, unlikeliest leader of that still-healthy American portion of the automotive world? Sorry Elon Musk (49) of Tesla, Mary Barra (59) of GM and Bill Jr. (64) of Ford, but it’s an old bloke called Joe (78) of The White House. You’ve got it: this son of a car dealer, Joe BIDEN , is not only the president of America, he also decided last week to effectively step up and take over as the country’s most important, influential and wealthy (thanks to his Government’s colossal coffers) auto-industry dude. The man says he “loves cars” and I believe him. A few days ago (partly as Mr President, partly as a still-keen driver) he showed his commitment to the modern American automotive cause by being the first person outside Ford to test one of the firm’s EV prototypes, an F-150 Lightning pick-up. Biden surely wanted to, and did, deliver a clear message to the generally sleepy US auto industry that there have to be more cheap, mid-priced and expensive electric vehicles with blue oval, GM and Chrysler/Jeep badges. It seems he was heard, because the Lighting EV will start at around $40.000. Also imperative to him is that EVs from US firms proudly wear ‘Made in America’ stickers, plaques or engravings. Quite right, too. Whether or not you like Ol’ Joe’s politics and his healthy acceptance of (not unhealthy infatuation with) EVs, you have to admire him jumping the queue to drive the Lightning before anyone else while he yelped “this sucker is quick”. Priceless. And Only in America! His calm leadership qualities are a welcome change. Also positive is the long-overdue kick he’s just delivered to the US auto industry. Finally, it’s acknowledging that unless it takes drastic steps to build accessible EVs for America and the rest of the world (Europe included), it’ll end up as a sad local player, serving domestic customers only. The President is putting his country’s money where his mouth is thanks to his just-announced $174billion EV plan, with more than half that sum funding tax credits for the consumers he aims to persuade to swap their ICE cars and trucks for EVs. But Biden is not just about colossal vehicle-related projects and eye-watering spending. He and his team seem to be in touch with some far less glamorous, but still important things. That’s why he and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently launched some brief, but informative, potentially life-saving driver assistance and content on YouTube and elsewhere. Why should you care? Because you might want to look, listen, learn, and improve your tech/product knowledge, safety and security on the road. Also, we have to ask why the US’s nearly 80-year-old car guy President Joe can find the time, funding, and enthusiasm for vehicle-related matters such as these, yet our Prime Minister (the 50-something bicycling Boris) can’t, or won’t. Honestly, this sucker is slow. +++ 

+++ BMW will introduce the redesigned 2-Series Coupe later this year and new details are starting to emerge about the next-generation M2. The high-performance model will go into production in December of 2022 and be significantly more powerful than its predecessor. While nothing is official, the M2 will have a twin-turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that produces 480 hp. That’s a huge jump over the current M2 Competition which is rated at 410 hp. The model would also be significantly more powerful than the limited production M2 CS, which had 450 hp and could accelerate from 0-100 kph in 3.9 seconds. The new M2 will be offered exclusively with rear-wheel drive. That would buck the current trend, but a0ll-wheel drive could potentially be offered on future variants. Of course, that remains to be seen and we likely won’t find out for sure until late next year. +++ 

+++ FORD introduced its 7.3L Godzilla V8 engine back in 2020 to serve as a replacement for the old Modular V10. Due to its popularity, the Blue Oval made it avalable as a crate engine, and now it looks as if they will be making a twin-turbocharged version as well. The forced induction variant is being tested in at least 2 Ford Super Duty models. They are unsure if the engine will actually reach production, but the work is being put in to test it out in real-world conditions. Additionally, the testers are equipped with the twin-turbocharged engine featured heat shields on the front end corners, as well as a “modified hood treatment”. Back in December we reported that Ford was working on a more powerful “Megazilla” version of the engine, and this sounds like it could be it. As touched upon before, the Godzilla engine is primarily found in Ford’s Super Duty line of trucks, and in its current state, the highest available tune puts out 436 hp and 644 Nm. However, aftermarket companies have been able to comfortably extract over 700 hp from supercharging this engine, so I can’t help but be excited for the power potential of a factory twin-turbocharged version. It’s unclear what the applications of such an engine would be, but should it ever make it to production, whatever ends up happening with it will likely be interesting at the very least. +++ 

+++ The current LAND ROVER Defender is built on the same platform as the Discovery. While the latter wasn’t necessarily a sales disaster, the monumental success of the latest Defender led to a poor year for the Discovery. To combat the issue, the next variant of the Discovery will switch to JLR’s Electric Modular Architecture (EMA). While Jaguar Land Rover CEO Thierry Bolloré described the EMA platform as “battery-native” it isn’t a death sentence for internal combustion. The new architecture would allow for a full-hybrid or plug-in hybrid, accompanied by a petrol-powered 4-cylinder engine; yes, it would also support a full electric configuration. “The need for the Defender in terms of platform is different from the one that is going to carry Discovery, Discovery Sport, Velar and Evoque”, said Bolloré. Meanwhile, the Defender will use the Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA), which allows for battery-only models while maintaining compatibility for a longitudinally positioned engine, where the crankshaft is oriented along the long axis of the vehicle. The MLA platform would also allow JLR to offer a selection of electrified internal combustion engines for buyers getting cold feet about plug-in drivetrains. With a long-wheelbase Defender on the way in 12 to 18 months, Discovery sales will likely take another hit. The larger model is said to be aimed at the luxury SUV niche and will include seating for 7. While the news of a new platform is exciting, I’d wager that most prospective buyers should keep their feet on the ground. Rumour has it that the new EMA platform for the Discovery will debut at the end of the British automakers 2024 financial year on 31 March. +++ 

+++ The advent of safety tech may hasten the impending death of the MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS . Automatic braking tech in particular, along with other active safety features, may be the final nail in the coffin for stick shifts, which simply don’t perform or marry as well with those systems as their automatic counterparts. Truth be told, the writing has been on the wall for some time. Safety tech being mandated is the latest in a long line of shifts in the auto industry that will likely spell doom for the manual gearbox. With the proliferation of EVs, as well as the ever-increasing presence of self-driving tech, cars that come equipped with a manual gearbox make up a small percentage of sales. While previously buyers may have preferred the performance and fuel economy benefits of a manual vs. an automatic, modern technology has closed the gap in both areas, effectively relegating the manual gearbox to an enthusiast’s feature. Despite this, several automakers persist in their manual offerings. But the report questions how long these manufacturers will continue to offer a manual option when AEB systems are made mandatory. The mechanics of making AEB systems work with automatic transmissions are far less complex than doing so for manual cars. Subaru Canada does not offer their Eyesight safety suite on manual transmission cars. According to the company, this is because their manual vehicles do not have an electronic parking brake needed to prevent creep after AEB engagement. While implementation is technically possible (Mazda opts to stall the car if the clutch isn’t depressed), Subaru cites economic reasons for not doing so. Mazda Canada reported that in 2016, 19.2 % of cars sold were equipped with manual gearboxes, but in 2020, that figure had dropped down to just 6.4 %. With demand falling for manual gearboxes, it’s not hard to see why an extra mandated cost may simply force the bean counters to cull manuals altogether. Nevertheless, while Subaru Canada reports that stick shifts made less than 10 % of sales in 2019, demand for manual sports cars such as the WRX/STI and the BRZ increased in the 4 years between 2016 and 2020. A spokesman for product management at Subaru, Anton Pawczuk, said the company remains committed to offering manual-equipped vehicles. However, regulations could change that in the light of compulsory AEB systems. “If it becomes mandated one day, then we’ll have to take a look at it”, he said. Another contributing factor sure to be mentioned in the manual’s obituary is the shift in energy sources. Unless you’re BYD, fitting an EV with a manual transmission makes little sense. The same goes for hybrids, a technology that companies such as Toyota appear to be doubling down on. Jörg Trampler, director of electrified powertrain technology at ZF’s North American engineering center in Livonia, Michigan, states that adding manual shifting to a hybrid drivetrain requires additional technology, such as an electronic clutch. An e-clutch is needed to ensure seamless switching between internal combustion and electric power. It would thus seem inevitable that more manufacturers will opt not to adapt their latest tech to include the small band of row-your-own-gears enthusiasts. This becomes especially evident with the recent statistics from IHS Markit and ZF Group showing that the global market for manual transmissions is down to 17.1 percent, and just 1.2 percent for North America. The report goes on to say that IHS found that sales of electric vehicles eclipsed those of stick-shift cars in the United States last year. +++

+++ PORSCHE is building a business case for a seventh model line that could allow it to challenge the Tesla Model 3 and BMW i4 with an electric fastback-style saloon closely related to Audi’s A4 e-Tron. It is proposed that the new model will use the PPE platform developed in partnership by Porsche and Audi and sit beneath the Taycan at a starting price of around €75.000 in the Netherlands. Details remain scarce, although there have been suggestions that the new model might take the Cajun name first trademarked by Porsche in 2011. Insiders have told that Porsche’s third pure-electric model has been earmarked to share key platform, driveline and battery components with the upcoming Macan EV; alongside which it is expected to be produced at Porsche’s Leipzig plant in Germany. One engineer said: “The modular nature of the PPE platform will allow us to extend our electric car line-up with a range of different models. It is engineered for standard and high ground clearance. A second sedan saloon model is one possibility”. Audi and Porsche co-operated on the development of the Taycan and e-Tron GT and are presently involved in the joint engineering of the electric Macan and Q6 e-Tron. Previously, they worked together on the development of the Macan and Q5, as well as hybrid variants of the Cayenne and Q7. As with the A4 e-Tron, the proposed Porsche model is likely to offer the choice of single-motor rear-wheel-drive and dual-motor 4-wheeldrive powertrains. A decision on whether the new 5-door model will be produced has yet to be made, but sources say Porsche is building sufficient production capacity for a possible seventh model line with a €600 million upgrade to its Leipzig plant. The investment, announced last year, will enable the establishment of a new 75.500 square metre body shop. It will also allow Porsche to manufacture petrol, hybrid and electric drivelines on a single production line. Porsche’s Leipzig plant is also home to a 7 MW charging park and models currently produced there include the Macan, Panamera and Panamera Sport Turismo. +++ 

+++ The PORSCHE and Piëch families, who control Volkswagen’s largest shareholder, are prepared to take a direct stake in Porsche AG should the luxury carmaker be separately listed, 2 people familiar with the matter said. Such a move would loosen the families’ grip on Europe’s largest carmaker Volkswagen, in favour of direct ownership of the iconic sports car brand, founded by their ancestor Ferdinand Porsche, which dates back to 1931. Speculation about a listing of the unit earlier this year included estimates of a standalone valuation of Porsche AG ranging from €45 billion to €90 billion, compared with €135 billion for the Volkswagen group. While saying that a possible initial public offering (IPO) of Porsche AG is not high up on the agenda, Volkswagen continues to weigh scenarios for a listing, the people said, adding that the key obstacle remained VW’s complex stakeholder set-up. That set-up was carefully crafted in the wake of a failed takeover of Volkswagen by Porsche in 2009, which resulted in Volkswagen acquiring the well-known brand while the Porsche and Piech families became VW’s most influential investors. No decision has been made by Volkswagen on whether to separately list Porsche AG and there is no guarantee that such a move will happen, the people said. Today, the families hold all ordinary shares of Porsche Automobil Holding SE, which owns more than half of the voting rights as well as a 31.4 % equity stake in Volkswagen. Porsche Automobil Holding and Volkswagen declined to comment. Selling some voting rights in Volkswagen to co-shareholder Lower Saxony, which holds a 20 % voting stake, would be one way for the families to gain direct ownership in the namesake brand while keeping activist investors out, Stifel analysts say. “We believe this scenario would satisfy all parties”, they wrote, adding that while the families would regain some control of Porsche AG, Lower Saxony would have a blocking minority and unions would be happy about the cash inflow. Asked about a possible listing earlier this month, Volkswagen Chief Executive Herbert Diess said the group’s current cash flow was sufficient to fund an ambitious turnaround to become the world’s largest maker of electric vehicles. +++ 

+++ RENAULT ’s retro reboot is set to continue with an all-new, all-electric version of the Renault 4. Pictures of a proposed Renault 4 design have been uncovered on a trademarking website, as well as a new version of the Renault logo featuring the number 4. Renault chief executive officer Luca De Meo recently confirmed that there would be more retro-inspired models in the forthcoming line-up after the well received launch of the Renault 5 Prototype. “There have been so many products that made history, so it would be a pity not to reconnect with that long history and tradition. We’re not here to only look in the rear-view mirror, we’re here to reinvent things and I think the Renault 5 is a good example”, he told. “A lot of people say to me, ‘why are you doing retro design?’ This is not retro design, it’s just reinvention of a concept. In our library we have a lot of things that we can reinvent”. The Renault 4 concept, expected to be unveiled towards the end of this year to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the original car’s launch in 1961, has not yet been completed. As a result, the car in the trademarked images is likely to be one of a number of options put forward by Renault’s design team, led by Gilles Vidal. The new 4 will, however, follow the boxy, upright look of the original car, which was Renault’s answer to the Citroen 2CV and a pre-runner to today’s crop of small SUVs, such as Renault’s own Captur. The newcomer will aim to follow the original 4’s mantra of offering affordable, spacious transport for families, but with a dose of style, too. As with the new Renault 5, we’d expect to see a number of retro design touches on the R4, such as the headlights and grille sitting within a single frame, and design features on the front bumper that mimic the overriders seen on the original car’s steel bumpers. When the original R5 was launched, it borrowed mechanicals from the R4, but the roles are expected to be reversed this time around. De Meo has already confirmed that the R5 will use the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s CMF-B platform that underpins the Renault Zoe, and the same technology is expected to be used for the R4 to keep costs down. We’re some way off specifications for either model being finalised, but the Zoe has a 50 kWh battery and a maximum range of 380 km, with 50 W fast charging available. The Zoe comes with 2 electric motors, 1 with 136 hp and 1 with 109 hp. De Meo has already put a price target on the new Renault 5, telling: “The mission is to democratise electric technology in Europe, and you do that when you’re able to do a competitive electric car in the range of €20,000-€30,000– making money, obviously. +++ 

+++ VOLKSWAGEN plans to change its management structure. The move is aimed at ensuring better cooperation among the brands and at resolving conflicts of interest. 2 long-serving managers should take over the new roles. +++

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