Newsflash: BMW werkt aan M4 CS


+++ AUDI has brought development of Project Artemis (the development of a new hightech electric flagship model) fully in-house, with project chief Alex Hitzinger stepping back from his role to take on a new task. Artemis was a standalone business set up within Audi to develop a new Mercedes-Benz EQS rivalling electric saloon, which is known internally as Landjet and is tipped to go on sale as the A9 e-Tron. The unit was led by Hitzinger, who previously worked on Apple’s car project and ran Porsche’s Le Mans-winning LMP1 sports car programme. Audi has now confirmed that the project will be brought in-house, with its technical boss, Oliver Hoffmann, taking over control. It said that “following the successful conclusion of the conceptual phase”, vehicle development will be led by Audi’s technical department with Cariad, the Volkswagen Group’s software arm (previously known as Car.Software), taking over all software development. Audi boss Markus Duesmann thanked Hitzinger for “his commitment to the early phase” of the project, adding: “Without this work, coupled with his experience and his knowhow, the vehicle wouldn’t be delivered to our customers in 2025”. The reshuffle comes after reports that Audi and Volkswagen Group bosses had been concerned about the progress of the Artemis project. There were worries that the project was pursuing too many ideas that weren’t suitable for mass production. The movements within Artemis follows a wider reshuffle of the Volkswagen Group’s EV programmes, which includes the development of the new SSP platform (a fusion of the existing MEB and PPE architectures), which is due in 2024. The A9 e-Tron is due to be the first car built on that platform, which will eventually underpin around 80 % of the Volkswagen Group’s EVs, as well as being the first to feature a new version of the VW.OS operating system software. +++

+++ New spy shots have emerged that appear to showcase a hardcore variant of the BMW M4, potentially dubbed the M4 CS or M4 CSL. My spy photographers have snapped a handful of heavily-camouflaged M4 prototypes testing in recent months. The first thing that stands out with this BMW M4 CS / CSL variant is the fitment of a larger front splitter to aid in aerodynamics. Elsewhere, the side skirts appear a little more pronounced than the standard M4 and M4 Competition models and we can expect a unique set of wheels sitting over gold brake calipers. The only styling change that’s immediately obvious from the rear is an enlarged lip spoiler. Regardless of whether this new version of the BMW M4 is dubbed the CS or the CSL, we do have a reasonably good idea of what to expect from it. For example, BMW will probably follow a similar formula to other CS / CSL models launched in the past by shedding some excess pounds thanks to the fitment of new carbon fiber parts. The car could probably also make do with less soundproofing. In addition, BMW’s M division will inevitably have some fun with the sports car’s 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged straight-6, altering it so it delivers in excess of the 510 hp and 650 Nm delivered by the M4 Competition. It remains unclear if the car will be offered with a 6-speed manual gearbox or simply the 8-speed automatic offered in the regular M4 and M4 Competition models. +++

+++ China’s largest SUV and pickup maker GREAT WALL MOTORS signed a 10-year deal with the country’s power battery giant CATL, as electrification is gaining momentum in the global automotive industry. Great Wall Motors said the 2 will leverage their respective advantages to promote the progress of new energy vehicle technologies and contribute to China’s goals of peaking carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. CATL is one of the world’s largest electric car battery makers. Besides Chinese electric carmakers, it has been supplying batteries to big names including BMW and Daimler. The partnership is expected to consolidate their relationship. The 2 companies started to co-develop vehicle models in 2016. Since then, they have joined hands in R&D, and CATL has provided batteries for Great Wall Motors’ Ora models. Ora is one of the most popular electric car brands in China. Great Wall Motors expects the brand’s global sales to reach 1 million by 2023. Electric cars and hydrogen vehicles are part of the carmaker’s efforts to develop into a global technology company. Later this year, the company will roll out its first large-sized hydrogen fuel-cell SUV model, which will have a range of 840 kilometers, and launch a fleet of 100 hydrogen heavy trucks. It plans to invest 3 billion yuan ($456.4 million) over 3 years into hydrogen-related research and development, as part of its efforts to become a major company in the global fuel cell vehicle market. In May, it inked a deal with Sinopec to conduct in-depth cooperation in the fields of hydrogen energy technology research and development. +++

+++ HONGQI , an automobile brand under China’s leading automaker FAW Group, posted rising sales in the first 5 months of the year. A total of 118.000 Hongqi-branded vehicles were sold from January to May; up 116 % year-on-year, according to FAW Group. The group plans to double its 2020 sales of Hongqi vehicles to 400.000 units this year. The brand has rolled out multiple high-end models as well as new-energy vehicles. Hongqi, meaning “red flag”, is China’s iconic sedan brand. Established in 1958, the brand has been used in parades for national celebrations. Founded in 1953 in the northeastern city of Changchun, capital of Jilin province, FAW Group is regarded as the cradle of China’s auto industry. +++

+++ JIDU AUTO , the joint venture of Chinese internet and artificial intelligence technology company Baidu and carmaker Geely Holding Group, has decided the design of its first electric car and is expected to unveil it at the Beijing auto show next year. Xia Yiping, CEO of Jidu, announced that the vehicle will cater to younger users and be priced above 200.000 yuan ($31.337) due to “the relatively high costs of smart car components”. It will have Level 4 autonomous driving smart architecture called Jidu Evolving Technology. It will be based on Baidu’s Apollo self-driving technology and Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture, an open-source EV platform. Jidu has no plans to build its own plant. “We use the advantages that Geely’s supply chain brings to us”, Xia said. He added that can encourage suppliers to work with the new brand while reducing costs. Jidu will develop its own sales channels, he said. According to Xia, Jidu plans a new round of funding in the third or fourth quarter of this year. The company hopes to invest 50 billion yuan in research and development over the next 5 years. Jidu was founded in March with a registered capital of 2 billion yuan. It has 200 employees so far but the number is expected to shoot up to roughly 3.000 by the end of 2022, including 400-500 software engineers. +++

+++ British startup LUNAZ said that former soccer star David Beckham has bought a 10 % stake in the company which converts gasoline car engines to electric powertains. “I was drawn to the company through their work restoring some of the most beautiful classic cars through upcycling and electrification”, said Beckham. The startup started its electrification of gasoline passenger cars from 2019, including classic ones from marques including Bentley and Rolls-Royce. Lunaz said it is planning to make its foray into the segment of industrial vehicles on a mass global scale. “Our approach will save fleet operators capital while dramatically reducing waste in the global drive towards de-carbonization”, said Lunaz founder and CEO David Lorenz. The company said its proprietary powertrain is modular, so it can be applied to nearly every class, size and classification of vehicle. It will begin with industrial vehicles including refuse trucks, of which 80 million currently exist in the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States. By 2030 when internal combustion engine bans in major markets come into effect, more than 2 billion conventionally powered vehicles will exist on the planet, said Lunaz. It said remanufacturing, upcycling and electrification can prevent a large proportion of these vehicles from being scrapped, and this approach is in line with the principles of the rapidly emerging circular economy. +++

+++ Chinese leading electric car startup NIO said that it delivered 6.711 vehicles in May; up 95.3 % from the same month last year. The cumulative deliveries of the New York-listed startup’s 3 models reached 109.514 vehicles by the end of last month. Nio said its deliveries in May was affected by chip shortages and logistical adjustments, but it will accelerate vehicle delivery in June to make up for the delay caused last month. The New York-listed startup said it will maintain the target of 21.000 to 22.000 vehicles in the second quarter of 2021. Nio is the most popular premium electric car brand in China. Late last month, it said JAC, a State-owned carmaker which has been producing Nio models, will expand its annual production capacity to 240.000 units. Their contract has been renewed for another 3 years to May 2024. China is the world’s largest market for electric cars and plug-in hybrids. A total of 732.000 such vehicles were sold in the first 4 months of the year; up 249.2 % year-on-year, according to statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. +++

+++ NISSAN says a survey it has commissioned shows that European EV drivers are driving further on average than users of internal combustion engine (ICE) fitted cars. To help further understand the driving experiences and perception of European motorists, the study reveals EV drivers are becoming trailblazers on European roads, totalling on average more than 14.200 km yearly. This compares with an average 13.600 km for their ICE counterparts. “This research reiterates that electric driving is not only a smart option beneficial to the environment but also a fun, exciting and convenient choice for the owners. It is no surprise that people now drive EVs further than ICE cars. We are confident that with more EV on the road dispelling myths, range anxiety will soon be in the past”, said Arnaud Charpentier, region vice president, Product Strategy and Pricing, at Nissan. Almost half (47 %) of ICE drivers say the main advantage of a petrol or diesel car is greater range autonomy. Likewise, when looking into the reasons behind the 30 % of ICE drivers who are unlikely to consider a fully electric vehicle, the majority (58 %) said the biggest concern is that EVs have low driving range autonomy. Further exploration into factors that would convince drivers to switch unsurprisingly reveal: 1) 38 % of ICE drivers believe the biggest pull-factor would be greater range. 2) 32 % of ICE drivers would be drawn by ease of charging. 3) 30 % note having a better charging infrastructure would persuade them to switch. However, despite these results, drawing comparison with those who have already converted to an electric car, EV drivers confidently counteract these fears. Some 70 % of existing EV drivers note their experience of range has been better than they expected. These findings, Nissan maintains,  serve as a strong indication to ICE drivers that range should not be a deterring factor for switching to an EV. +++

+++ The Toyota Corolla lineup has expanded thanks to the introduction of the Corolla Cross, but that doesn’t mean the company is moving away from SEDANS . During a panel discussion at Toyota Motor’s North American HQ in Texas, officials reiterated their commitment to sedans at a time when consumers are buying trucks and SUVs in increasing numbers. In particular, they said investing in sedans is a “good” long term decision as there is and will still be a market for sedans in the future. Officials went on to note that while sedan sales have fallen in the past few years, they seem to have stabilized a bit. Toyota also stands to benefit from the death of competing sedans such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Impala, Ford Focus and Fusion – just to name a few. In essence, the sedan market could consolidate around the remaining entries and this could help to further stabilize sales. While officials admitted there could be changes to the sedan portfolio in the future, nothing has been decided as of yet. Furthermore, the company is happy having a roughly 20 % share of the car market in the United States. At the end of the day, there are consumers who like sedans and aren’t interested in buying crossovers. There might not be as many of them as there used to be, but they exist and Toyota wants to have something that appeals to them. Speaking of which, affordability is a strong suit of sedans and something that draws consumers to them. That trend will likely continue, but Toyota has high hopes for the upcoming Corolla Cross as they expect the crossover to be responsible for approximately a third of Corolla sales. +++

+++ TOYOTA has asked its parts suppliers to reduce carbon emissions, the company said. Japan’s largest carmaker, which plans to be carbon neutral by 2050, has also provided a target to suppliers to achieve carbon neutrality, a Toyota spokeswoman said. “Carbon neutrality is not something a company can achieve alone, so we asked our suppliers to work together towards achieving it”, she said. Toyota will set an initial target for main auto parts suppliers to cut carbon emissions by 3 % this year from the year before, it reported. Toyota chief Akio Toyoda, in his capacity as head of the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association, said in April that Japan’s auto industry can lead the country’s push to achieve carbon neutrality. +++

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