Newsflash: Mercedes CLE staat in de startblokken klaar

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+++ BMW planted its flag in the electric car segment when it released the i3 for the 2014 model year. Quirky and hugely innovative, the city-friendly hatchback was beloved by the few who “got it” and an oddity for most others. Either way, it has reached the end of the road in the United States. The last America-bound i3 will roll off the assembly line in July, meaning the EV will not return for the 2022 model year. There’s no word on what will happen to the final i3 sent there. It could earn a spot in BMW’s collection, or it could end up mercilessly street-parked in San Francisco. Act fast if you as an American want a shot at owning it: there are about 180 build slots left. With the i3 out of the picture, the i4 will become BMW’s entry-level electric car in the United States. It’s a 5-door sedan that’s effectively the electrified version of the redesigned 4-Series Gran Coupe, so it’s more closely aligned with BMW’s ethos, and it carries a base price of $56.395. For context, the i3 starts at $45.445. The EV will retire globally in June 2022 (along with the current 7 Series and X1). However, BMW hasn’t officially said when it will stop building the i3 for global markets, let alone what (if anything) will replace the model. While it seemingly came out of nowhere, it was the product of a decades-long research program whose aim was to figure out how to make a BMW city car. We wouldn’t be surprised to see another one sooner or later. As a side note, the i3 was such a break from tradition for the Bavarian brand that Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s design boss, told the car nearly made its debut without the signature twin-kidney grilles. Leaving it off made the front end look odd, the kidneys are part what defines a BMW’s design, so they were ultimately retained. +++ 

+++ CHEVROLET ‘s sixth-generation Camaro will not spawn a high-performance variant worthy of the Z/28 badge, according to a recent report. Its development has been canceled due in part to disappointing sales in the United States. Anonymous sources familiar with the contents of Chevrolet’s product pipeline told that the canned Z/28 would have received its own version of the naturally-aspirated, 5.5-liter V8 that will power the upcoming Corvette Z06. Fitted with a flat-plane crankshaft, the eight-cylinder should have developed about 600 horsepower in the Z/28, an increase of roughly 100 horses over the last-gen car’s 7.0-liter V8’s output, and it would have been available with a manual transmission. It sounds like it would have been the fiercest production Camaro to wear the Z/28 emblem. Blaming a controversial exterior design, sources hint Camaro sales are far too low to justify the development of a range-topping Z/28 model, even one built largely with off-the-shelf components. Camaro sales in the United States fell to 29.777 units in 2020, which was admittedly a tumultuous year for the whole industry. That’s a 38.3% drop compared to 2019. For context, Ford sold 61.090 units (-15.7%) of the Mustang, and 52.955 buyers (-13%) took home a Dodge Challenger. Another point worth mentioning is that Chevrolet parent company General Motors is investing a small fortune into the development of electric vehicles, including a battery-powered Silverado. Electrification is expensive, and it’s difficult to hear the incessant “the future is electric” jingle over the roar of a V8. While the Z/28’s demise will undoubtedly disappoint enthusiasts, there might be worse news on the horizon. The rumors claiming the sixth-generation Camaro will not be replaced are getting louder as the model prepares to celebrate its sixth birthday. Some of the unverified reports speculate the current car will soldier on until 2026 before going away for good. Chevrolet has remained tight-lipped about the Camaro’s future, however. +++ 

+++ 1 in every 9 new cars sold in EUROPE last year was an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, with low-emission car sales surging even as the Covid-19 pandemic knocked overall vehicle sales, the European Environment Agency said. The uptick in electric car sales caused a 12% drop in average CO2 emissions of new cars sold in Europe last year, compared with in 2019, reversing a trend that had seen such emissions increase for 3 consecutive years. It was the biggest annual drop in such emissions since the EU introduced its car CO2 standards in 2010. Of the 11.6 million new cars registered in the EU, Iceland, Norway and Britain last year, 11% were fully electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, according to the provisional data. Those vehicles tripled their share of new car sales, from 3.5% in 2019. Tougher CO2 targets for carmakers came into force last year, pushing carmakers to curb their fleet-wide emissions by selling more low-emission vehicles, buy credits from other carmakers that overachieved their targets, or face fines. The EEA did not confirm which carmakers met their targets. Countries including France and Germany also included electric vehicle subsidies in Covid-19 economic recovery packages last year. While overall new car sales dropped, Europe’s electric and plug-in hybrid car sales increased to more than 1 million in 2020. Campaign group Transport & Environment said the data showed the emissions targets were working, but urged Brussels to propose CO2 standards that would ban new petrol and diesel car sales by 2035, when it announces a package of climate policies next month. EU officials said policymakers have not yet confirmed which specific car CO2 targets the Commission will propose. The average car stays on the road for 10 to 15 years, and campaigners say selling polluting vehicles after 2035 would thwart the EU’s target to have net zero emissions by 2050. Average emissions for new cars registered in Europe were 107.8 grams of CO2 per kilometer in 2020, a decrease of 14.5 grams compared with 2019. +++ 

+++ HONDA is revealing a couple of little nuggets of information about its future EVs, shedding more light on the partnership between it and GM on electric vehicle technology. The big news is that Honda’s first new EV made in this partnership will be called Prologue, and it will be an SUV produced for the 2024 model year. Honda says the Prologue will ride on GM’s global EV platform and use GM’s Ultium battery technology. The company is also promising “versatility and driving range on par with our current lineup of rugged SUVs”. “Our first volume Honda BEV will begin our transition to electrification, and the name Honda Prologue signals the role it will play in leading to our zero-emission future”, says Dave Gardner, executive vicepresident of American Honda. “The Prologue will provide our customers with a battery-electric SUV with the excellent functionality and packaging they’ve come to expect from Honda”. It’s not just Honda that will join in on the fun, though. An electric Acura SUV was also announced today. Just like the Honda, it will use GM’s electric vehicle platform. A model year for the Acura wasn’t promised, but Honda claimed it would be revealed “in the 2024 calendar year”. Any details beyond what you see here are being kept under wraps by Honda. I’m told to expect more “specific details” to be released over the coming months. Basically, expect a slow drip of information about the Prologue leading up to a full reveal where Honda finally shares all there is to know about the SUV. Looking even further into the future, Honda promises EVs based on an in-house-developed EV platform sometime in the second half of this decade. For now, it’s calling this future platform “e:Architecture.” Ultimately, Honda promises that 100% of its auto sales in North America will be fully electric by 2040. The Prologue is the brand’s first step toward this ambitious goal. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES plans a brand-new, next-generation, midsize convertible, but it won’t be a C-Class. Autointernationaal understands this will be an all-new model intended as a catch-all car for the small and mid-size premium convertible market, and it’s being lined up to take on a new badge: Mercedes CLE, a nameplate the German brand has owned for a while, but recently renewed its trademark for. Brand executives have spoken in the past of a need to reduce complexity in the Mercedes portfolio, reaching a high of almost 50 vehicles in 2020 and only due to expand further still, with the rollout of EQ-badged electric models. Speaking earlier in the year, Mercedes research and development boss Marcus Schafer pointed to the brand’s convertible offerings as being “high density”, with the recently axed SLC, C-Class Cabriolet and E-Class Cabriolet all vying for space in a market that isn’t a big money maker. However, Schafer admitted that from a branding perspective the coupé and cabriolet models are important; for a premium car company such as Mercedes, being in this space lays down an important marker. “We want to focus on these models”, he explained. “They have their niche and their purpose. That’s why we are going to tailor exactly the right vehicle in this segment. There’s more to come on the coupé and cabriolet side in this mid-segment but it’s going to take a little bit more time before we can speak about it”. Before the new CLE arrives in 2023, the brand will reinvent the full-size SL as a sportier and more purposeful offering using a new platform developed by AMG. Similar treatment is being lined up for the CLE. It will be an all-new model, redefining a cluttered and less profitable market space than before with a distinctive look of its own. Think of it as a similar job to that undertaken by BMW with the latest 4 Series, now distant in looks from its 3 Series saloon sibling. Technical details are unknown at this stage, and an unveiling of the CLE is some way off (as said, there’s still the new SL to come first, later in 2021). However, the CLE is likely to be based on the same MRA-2 platform as the new C-Class and S-Class, rather than the SL’s new AMG-designed architecture. The flexibility of MRA-2 means that 4 and 6-cylinder power is possible, appealing to the CLE’s likely buyer. The latest C-Class is a 4-cylinder only affair and much of the CLE line-up will be too. The next C 63 model is anticipated to take on a new high-performance four-cylinder hybrid engine derived from the M139 2.0-litre turbo engine used in the A 45 superhatch. The larger S-Class, also on the MRA-2 platform, could lend a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-6 with 48-volt mild hybrid assistance, if Mercedes thinks a 6-cylinder option will be necessary. Apart from a 4-seat convertible, there will also be a fixed-roof coupé version of the CLE, though the model line-up is likely to be capped at just these, with no plans for a new mid-size 4-door coupé to sit between the CLA and the CLS. +++ 

+++ The average price of a new car in the United States ($41,263 last month) is higher today than ever before. Unfortunately for those looking to save a few bucks by buying used, the PRICE OF USED CARS is way up in 2021, too, and for a variety of reasons. In fact, according to a new study by iSeeCars.com, some lightly used models are actually selling for more money than they did when brand-new on the showroom floor. Depending on the sticker price, that cost increase over new could add several thousand dollars to the transaction price. Here’s the list, presented in order of percentage over the car’s new sticker price: Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Tesla Model 3, Honda Civic, Kia Rio, Subaru XV. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class represents the highest dollar amount that used buyers are paying over new at $7,447. Granted, some of these vehicles are so popular right now that dealers are charging more than their advertised sticker price. That means not all of these prices are apples-to-apples comparisons. Still, the old adage that a new car loses a huge chunk of its value as soon as it’s driven off the lot apparently isn’t always accurate. +++

+++ TESLA ‘s Model 3 has regained its top safety pick designations from 2 key groups after losing them recently. Last month Consumer Reports pulled its “Top Pick” status for Tesla’s Model 3 and Y vehicles built after April 27, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety planned to remove the vehicles’ “Top Safety Pick Plus” designation. The U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was no longer giving the Models 3 and Y check marks on its website for having forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and emergency brake support. That prompted the ratings groups’ actions. Both require electronic safety systems for the top safety designations. But the IIHS now says that it recently completed new evaluations of the camera-based front crash prevention system that comes with certain Tesla Model 3 vehicles. The camera-only system earned a superior rating for vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention and an advanced rating for pedestrian front crash prevention. The group says that the new ratings mean that the 2021 “Top Safety Pick Plus” extends to all Model 3s. IIHS hasn’t completed tests of the 2021 Tesla Model Y. Consumer Reports says that due to IIHS’ recent evaluations of Tesla’s new camera-based system on its Model 3 and Consumer Reports’ prior integration of IIHS ratings into its recommendations, it is restoring its Top Pick rating to the Model 3. +++

+++ VOLVO is “making good progress” toward a potential initial public offering by the end of this year, the chief executive of the Swedish premium auto brand told. “We are looking at the possibility of doing an IPO before the end of the year”, listing shares on the Nasdaq Stockholm exchange, company CEO Håkan Samuelsson said in an interview. Samuelsson and other Volvo executives laid out an extensive road map to becoming a fully electric car maker by 2030, including plans to sell 600.000 battery electric vehicles at mid-decade and build a European battery gigafactory in 2026. Volvo earlier this year scrapped a proposed merger with the company’s Chinese parent, Hong Kong-listed Geely Automobile. In March, Geely said Volvo would explore capital market options, including an initial public offering and stock market listing. Many startups have gone public in the United States and China over the past 2 years, following electric vehicle market leader Tesla in taking advantage of investor enthusiasm to raise cheap capital to compete with established brands such as Volvo. Samuelsson said Volvo and Geely will continue to share vehicle architectures, internal combustion powertrains and other components. But the companies will do so at “an arm’s length distance”, consistent with the way independent companies do business, he said. During the briefing, Volvo also said it plans to equip many of its future vehicles with self-driving technology, including standard lidar sensors from Luminar Technologies and computers from Nvidia. “Our goal is to build the safest cars possible, using all available technology”, Samuelsson said. As it launches new electric vehicles, Volvo also plans a slew of related products, including insurance and vehicle subscription payment plans offered directly by the automaker, Samuelsson said. “The whole vehicle business will be recurring revenue”, Samuelsson said. In Europe, the company plans to change its retail operations so that customers order new electric vehicles directly from the manufacturer, with dealers paid commissions to deliver them, Samuelsson said. In the United States, where laws protect existing dealers, Volvo will still sell vehicles through franchised retailers. For its future electric vehicles, Volvo is working with Swedish partner Northvolt on a new generation of batteries with higher energy and designed to be packaged as a structural element of the vehicle. The new batteries, due after 2025, will enable a longer driving range between charges (up to 1.000 km) and much faster charging times. Volvo and Northvolt are planning to build a European battery plant in 2026 with 50 gWh production capacity – enough to supply 500.000 vehicles or more, depending on battery size. In comparison, Tesla’s Nevada gigafactory has 35 gWh capacity. Samuelsson said Volvo next year will unveil the first of its new-generation electric vehicles, a flagship SUV (the third generation XC90) that will share its platform with additional models to follow. +++

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