+++ BMWlast used the Neue Klasse (German for ‘New Class’) designation for a series of new models it launched between 1961 and 1977. These models saved the company from bankruptcy, redefined it and basically turned into the BMW we know today, so now that the manufacturer has announced it will introduce a new Neue Klasse of electric vehicles, we are intrigued to see where they will take the automaker. The big twist with the new Neue Klasse is that the vehicles under this programme will be electric and they will all be built atop a new modular chassis architecture. The first model to debut as part of this programme will either be the 3 Series electric equivalent or the electric correspondent of the X3 (which may or may not still be called iX3) and it is expected to debut in 2025. If you were interested in this new line of fully-electric BMWs, then perhaps this interview with the automaker’s CEO, Oliver Zipse, might shed more light on the matter for you. In the interview, Zipse doesn’t make any major announcements, but he does help us better understand what BMW wants to achieve with the new Neue Klasse. Based on information shared by the BMW CEO, the big news actually seems to be the platform. Zipse points out that with it, the Bavarians want to make the Perfect electrically driven car. “We’re establishing that with the design of the architecture, asking how do we put a battery efficiently into the car, where do you put the drivetrain? On the rear: excellent! But it must also be all-wheel drive, you must also be able to put [a motor] on the front axle. If it’s a pure battery electric vehicle (BEV), that system set-up must be 100 per cent correct”. The platform will also employ as may recycled or sustainable materials as possible, ones that will then be easy to recycle when the vehicle reaches the end of its life. There is also financial incentive to try to reuse materials, because their cost has been slowly going up and the upward trend is set to continue. Interestingly, the new platform will still support internal combustion engines, as Zipse points out: “At a later point in time, you might put another type of engine, combustion, on the front axle”, adds the 57-year-old CEO. ‘The architecture is still BEV-centric. It will give you the absolute best electrical driving performance like any pure electric platform; there is no contradiction at all. BMW is currently powering its EVs with its fifth-generation batteries, but with the Neue Klasse, it will also debut its next (6th) generation batteries. They will have higher energy density, faster charging capability and they will require fewer rare earth minerals than what is needed today. The automaker doesn’t expect its solid state batteries to be commercially ready by the time it starts rolling out Neue Klasse models. Zipse said: “We’ve just invested into solid state and very rapidly we will have the first showcases of it. But there’s a big difference between a prototype in the test field and industrialisation. The Neue Klasse will not start with solid state but with the architecture spanning maybe 15, 20 years, the likelihood that the Neue Klasse will see solid state at some point is very high”. When it comes to self-driving, it seems Neue Klasse BMWs will only be Level 2 at launch, but they should be upgraded to Level 3 at some point after, and since the manufacturer wants to use this new platform for well over a decade, it is also being engineered with Level 4 autonomy in mind. Zipse also noted that there could be overlap between BMW’s ICE and EV ranges in the future, even once Neue Klasse models will be added to the range. For example, the 3 Series-equivalent EV will be launched at the same time as the next-generation 3 Series and the 2 will most likely coexist until around the end of the decade. +++
+++ Analyst and journalist Matthias Schmidt is the go-to source for tracking the evolution of the ELECTRIC CAR MARKET and recently he released his observations on western Europe for the first half of 2021. Points of note included battery-electric vehicle (BEV) registrations surpassing those of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) in June, the first time it has happened this year. In the same month, all plug-in registrations topped 20% of the total for only the second time ever. Germany registered most BEVs and the UK was second (148.700 versus 73.900). The Volkswagen Group dominated BEV registrations, with a 25.4 % market share. So far, so good. But the success (and growing fears around the climate crisis) has led law makers to want to get a hurry-on. The EU Commission is now pushing to change the passenger car fleet average CO2 emission targets in 2030 to be 55 % below the 2020/21 average, rather than the currently regulated drop of 37.5 %. Why is this such an issue when customer demand is so strong now, and growing? Because while making the cars is no problem, someone has to pay for the cost of developing them. With BEV margins so slight, and so heavily dependent on government grants at current levels, car makers are relying on the sale of petrol and diesel (ICE) cars to drive the profits to fund the transition. And the less time they have to do that, the more they have to sell as quickly as possible. Highlighting the problem last week, Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess said: “Maintaining high cash flows from our ICE business to finance the transition will be paramount”. It’s a brave admission, given many will see it as standing in the way of the environmental benefits (VW itself estimates it accounts for about 2 % of the world’s CO2 output), but it is worth highlighting that it is the pace of progress that is being disputed, not whether change is needed. The contradiction is clear, but the calculation required to deliver a clearer picture of the right path to take harder. Could it be that giving established car makers longer to transition would also be better for the planet? Maybe so, but who’d dare to make the case? Admission time: a few weeks back, I stated that the average classic car owner emits as much CO2 in a year as is generated from charging a mobile phone for six months. How far out my maths was depends on who I talk to – but after much discussion, a fairer claim would be that it is as much as manufacturing and charging 40 smartphones for 12 months. +++
+++ We’ve seen numerous GENESIS GV60 prototypes in recent months. The first dedicated electric vehicle from Hyundai’s luxury branch will slot below the GV70, but until now it’s only been assumed the name is GV60. That’s now confirmed, but not by Genesis. Rather, the name and some basic vehicle specifications cropped up during official certification testing. The GV60 went through Korea Emissions and Noise Certification and passed. The tests also revealed some power ratings that I suspect Genesis didn’t want public just yet. The GV60 will have 3 performance grades, with the entry-level model turning just the rear wheels through a single electric motor. Power output is listed as 231 hp, while a mid-level all-wheel-drive long-range model will have a combined 330 hp. The range-topping GV60 reportedly offers twin electric motors producing 218 hp each, delivering a combined 436 hp. These numbers could vary slightly depending on market, but you get the idea. It’s interesting to note that the GV60 shares the same platform as the Kia EV6, but Kia still gets the higher-output version. The twin motors in the EV6 GT punch out 580 hp, which tells us Genesis is focused more on the luxury aspect of motoring in the GV60 versus sheer performance. The certification tests didn’t offer ranges for the various GV60 trims, but it will likely fall in the 300-mile range similar to the GV60’s other platform-sharing sibling, the Hyundai Ioniq 5. The release of this information usually comes just weeks before an official manufacturer debut. I originally thought that could happen in June, but with this latest development, a debut possibly before the end of August or sometime in September is virtually guaranteed. +++
+++ HONDA boss Jean-Marc Streng has confirmed that the brand will introduce a second all-electric model within the next 2 years, joining the Honda E city car. Streng said: “We are going to bring a new model of BEV in 2023. That’s the next step, which will help us to have a wider offer”. Although Streng wouldn’t be drawn on any more details on the new model, he did say, “It’s going to be an offer in the right segment, which will achieve more sales”. It is likely to be a crossover, similar to the Honda SUV e:concept revealed at last year’s Beijing Motor Show. It will get slim LED lights surrounding a blanked-off grille with the same bold Honda logo in the middle. As with the upcoming HR-V, clean lines down the sides of the new EV will only be interrupted by a dark lower sill section, designed like many current electric cars to hide the additional height needed to fit the battery. Slim rear LED lights will help to accentuate the car’s width. Size-wise I expect the new model to sit somewhere between the popular Jazz Crosstar model (which accounts for over 50 % of all Jazz sales) and the new HR-V. Honda’s engineering boss had previously confirmed to us that an all-electric compact SUV would soon follow the e hatchback and that it would be based on the same platform. Those underpinnings will have to be stretched to incorporate a larger body and decent-sized boot, but expect a similarly futuristic interior to the Honda e’s in the new model, with dual 12.3-inch widescreen displays plus a couple of six-inch monitors at either side relaying a video feed from cameras in place of door mirrors. There’s no word yet on what tech might be under the skin, but I expect a bigger battery than the E’s 35.5 kWh unit to give a range in excess of 320 km, plus similar fast-charging capability to the smaller car. Honda’s e city car is already doing strong business, bringing new, younger customers to the firm. “We have more than 85 % conquest customers,” said Streng. “So we’re bringing new customers to the brand and seeing a decrease of the average age”. In just 2 years, the average age of a Honda buyer has dropped by 4 years, according to Streng. The new all-electric Honda will join a range that will be fully electrified by 2022, as Streng explains: “Our target was to be electrified by 2022 and we are going to achieve this goal. We have hybrid for the Jazz and Jazz Crosstar, we open orders for HR-V in August (and launch the car in October) and having driven the car in Japan, you get a seamless transition between the 3 modes: petrol, hybrid and free electric. We have CR-V hybrid and we will come with a new Civic next year, which is electrified”. Performance fans will be pleased to hear that there will definitely be a new Civic Type R when the new model is launched. Streng confirmed the model’s arrival, while revealing the hot hatchback’s importance when it comes to winning new customers. With Honda’s range expanding, Streng and his team have been restructuring the firm’s dealer network with fewer franchises, but it doesn’t seem to have had an effect on sales, with strong results since showrooms reopened earlier in the year. “In May, we had the best retail volume in 5 years for Honda, the best profitable business for dealers in terms of turnover, new and used. What is important is growing the business, but in a healthy way. It’s very easy for us to go in all directions, but we want to make sure, for our dealers and ourself, we are growing nicely and without stress”. But how has the current shortage of semi-conductor components affected supply of new Hondas for dealers to sell? “To be honest, so far, not so much”, says Streng. “Because we have secured some good supply between November last year and April this year. “Overall, we see that we have much less impact than probably our competitors right now. So we have good availability and can offer customers a very quick delivery”.
+++ Honda will revive the fabled INTEGRA name after a break of 15 years for a new ‘compact premium’ car that’s set to arrive next year. The Integra name was used for four generations of sports coupé that were produced by the Japanese firm from 1986 until 2006. Its return in 2022 was confirmed by Acura (Honda’s American-market premium brand) during the launch of the NSX Type S. Acura said that the revived Integra will “rejoin the performance brand’s product portfolio as a new compact premium entrant” and released a single teaser image showing part of the front end of the new car, which features Integra written beneath the headlights. Acura brand officer Jon Ikeda said that the new Integra would offer “the same fun-to-drive spirit and DNA of the original”. No further details of the machine have been revealed, including whether it would be offered in markets outside of North America or if a range-topping performance variants carrying Honda’s Type R or Acura’s Type S branding would be produced. The revived Integra could be produced at Honda’s plant in Marysville, Ohio, where it would serve as a logical replacement for the NSX. The hybrid supercar will cease production there once the 350 Type S versions are finished. As with the previous versions, the new Integra could use underpinning from the Civic. The Honda Integra was launched in 1985, replacing the Quint as a sports coupé closely based on the Civic. It was initially built in Japan and was one of two models that were badged as Acura when that brand launched in America. The 4th-generation Integra, which was branded the Acura RSX in the USA, went out of production in 2006. +++
+++ NISSAN picked 17 August as the day to reveal the new Z sports car, and that’s just around the corner. The company released a teaser on Instagram to hype the car’s debut while showing off a bit of the coupe. The company previewed the new model with the Z Proto concept late last year, and spy photos appeared to show that the final product wouldn’t stray far from the concept’s design. The new teasers emphasise the similarities. The teaser shows the car hidden in shadow, though I do get a peek of the pale yellow exterior colour. It looks identical to the colour Nissan used on the Z Proto. Nissan didn’t provide any additional details about the car in the Instagram posts, so we will have to wait for next week to learn about the car. However, there are rumours to help fill in the gaps. Nissan is expected to install the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 from the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport for the new Z. The engine should produce around 400 hp and 350 Nm of torque, sending power to the rear wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox or an automatic. Those wanting the new Z that offers more may have to wait for the Z Nismo that’s rumoured to arrive early next year, though nothing is set in stone. None of the teasers preview the Z’s interior, though it, too, shouldn’t stray far from what Nissan showed off in the Proto. We’re hoping to learn next week when Nissan plans to open the order books for the cars. One rumour pointed to 15 November as being the date, which could mean we could see the car go on sale sometime early next year. Nissan will hopefully let us know soon. +++
+++ Even though PORSCHE was believed to also launch a Sport Turismo (estate) version of the Taycan after launching the crossover-like Cross Turismo, it seems the manufacturer has other ideas. While the model is still being considered, along with a coupe and convertible, it looks like Porsche could actually launch a Cross version of the Taycan saloon. This patent image from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) site give us a very strong indication of what the next Taycan model to be launched will be. They show what is very clearly the three-box Taycan, but with the slightly higher ride height and the plastic body cladding from the Cross Turismo raised estate. The front and rear bumpers are also different and MotorTrend suggests that the rear quarter panel area is also slightly different, although we honestly can’t really tell. It doesn’t appear to be sitting on the same rims as the Taycan Cross Turismo, though, and they just appear to be the regular 21-inch ten-spoke design. Porsche announced the Taycan with the Mission E concept, which essentially previewed the Cross Turismo model, making the automaker’s intention to give the vehicle more of an off-road character obvious. It would therefore be no real surprise if this Cross saloon would make it into production, especially since it’s not that different to the regular saloon and it would definitely appeal to those looking for slightly taller Porsche EV but at the same time don’t like the load lugger body style. The only odd part about these patent drawings having surfaced is the fact that a Cross saloon was never even rumoured to be in the works, just the versions mentioned in this article’s first paragraph. +++
+++ The TOYOTA COROLLA might not be the most exciting automobile in the world, but let’s be brutally honest and admit enthusiasts only represent a tiny fraction of the new car market. The vast majority of buyers are looking for a reliable, fuel-efficient, and practical vehicle easy on the wallet, and the Corolla fits that bill perfectly. It’s been around for 55 years, spanning twelve generations, and is now celebrating an important milestone. Vehicle number 50.000.000 has been sold, reinforcing the model’s status as the best-selling car ever. It’s way ahead of the Volkswagen Golf, which is 8 years younger than the Corolla, and has yet to reach the 40 million mark. It’s worth noting Toyota is referring to all cars that have used this moniker, and that includes a multitude of body styles: hatchback, saloon, estate, coupe, and minivan. The recently announced high-riding Corolla Cross will undoubtedly fuel demand for the moniker even more, which is insanely popular as Toyota says it’s selling a Corolla-badged car once every 28 seconds in more than 150 countries around the globe. Cars carrying this nameplate are being produced at no fewer than 12 factories across the world. Fun fact: Australia was its first export market, with 15 examples of a 2-door saloon equipped with the 1.1-litre engine shipped from Japan in November 1966. The latest-generation model has been around since 2018 and Toyota has added a bit of excitement to the lineup with an Apex Edition. However, a true sporty version is expected to arrive sooner rather than later, taking the shape of a Gazoo Racing-badged hatchback. There are rumours it will use a turbocharged 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine adapted from the GR Yaris hot hatch. I’m hearing the GR Corolla will offer a manual gearbox and all-wheel drive, with Toyota planning a more practical estate version equipped with a different 2.0-litre electrified petrol engine. +++