Newsflash: waarom Volkswagen voor een tijdloos design kiest

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+++ Lamborghini’s born-again Countach might not be the only retro-styled Italian supercar we’ll see in 2021. Unverified rumors claim that arch nemesis FERRARI is putting the final touches on a limited-edition model that will bring the spirit and design of the 330 P4 into the 21st century. Absolutely nothing is official at this stage, but rumors of a heritage-inspired model are simmering. The rumor comes from Ferrari owners who are often privy to insider information; that’s why few-off models are often sold out by the time they’re unveiled. With that said, the car is based on the LaFerrari Aperta. It’s reportedly called F251 internally, and it will be part of the Icona series of models that currently includes the Monza SP1 and the Monza SP2. I’m not sure why Ferrari would use a platform that hasn’t been in production since 2018; it’s not for the hybrid system, because the next Icona will allegedly eschew electrification and instead use a mid-mounted 6.5-liter V12 borrowed from the 812 Competizione. Visually, the model will borrow styling cues from the 330 P4, a V12-powered endurance race car introduced in 1967 and built for events like the 1.000 kilometers of Monza and the 24 Hours of Daytona. The connection with the LaFerrari Aperta suggests the F251 will arrive as a convertible. Photos posted may give us an early peek at the car. It’s fully draped in camouflage, so we still don’t know exactly what it looks like, but at least we’re nearly sure Ferrari is indeed testing something. Ferrari hasn’t commented on the report, and it hasn’t even hinted at its next Icona model. If the rumor is accurate, we won’t have to wait too long to see the car. It’s scheduled to make its debut at the Finali Mondiali taking place on the Mugello track in Italy in November 2021. +++

+++ German activists have filed a LAWSUIT AGAINST BMW AND DAIMLER for refusing to tighten carbon emissions goals and give up fossil fuel-emitting cars by 2030. It’s the first time German citizens have sued private companies for exacerbating climate change. The lawsuit from the heads of Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), a non-governmental organization (NGO), is similar to one being lined up for Volkswagen by the heads of Greenpeace’s Germany division in collaboration with Fridays for Future activist Clara Mayer and an unidentified landowner. However, this group has given Volkswagen until October 29 to respond. DUH also challenged energy firm Wintershall to restrict its emissions targets, but no suit has been filed against the company as of yet. Here’s what the cases mean, and why they matter: In May last year, Germany’s top court ruled the country’s climate law was not doing enough to protect future generations. It set carbon emissions budgets for major economic sectors, increased the percentage by which emissions must be reduced from 1990 levels by 2030 to 65 % from 55 %, and stated that Germany as a country must be carbon-neutral by 2045. While meeting these demands implies some restrictions to current generations’ lifestyles, not meeting them would force future generations to make significantly more drastic sacrifices in order to both survive in a warmer world, and prevent the problem from getting worse, the court argued at the time. In the same month, environmental groups in the Netherlands won a case against oil company Shell for not doing enough to mitigate its impact on the climate: the first private firm to be ordered by a court to reduce its emissions. On the back of those 2 rulings, the German activists are making their case. The case is important on 2 levels. Firstly, because of the legal precedent it could set, namely that companies are directly responsible for the effect on people’s lives of the emissions their products create. If the defendants win, citizens could be emboldened to sue other companies – from airlines to retailers to energy firms – for not doing enough to mitigate their impact on the planet. Secondly, because companies will be forced to prove in court that their emissions targets are as watertight as they say they are: stress-testing their claims that they are taking climate change seriously. Daimler and BMW have set a number of climate-related targets. Daimler aims to produce purely electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030, and provide an electric alternative for all models by 2025. BMW wants at least half of global sales to be EVs by 2030, and reduce CO2 emissions per vehicle by 40% in the same timeframe. Volkswagen has said it will stop producing fossil fuel-emitting cars by 2035. All 3 firms have stated that their targets are in line with the international Paris Agreement on tackling global warming. But the defendants argue that the companies’ goals aren’t enough to adhere to the German climate ruling and carbon emissions budgets set by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). By prolonging carbon-emitting activities, the companies are directly responsible for the constraints on individual rights that will have to endured in future if carbon budgets aren’t stuck to, the case argues. These are by no means the only firms to which such an argument could apply and if DUH wins, more lawsuits could follow. DUH wants both autos firms to legally commit to ending production of fossil fuel-emitting cars by 2030, and to ensure the CO2 emitted by their activities before those deadlines does not go beyond their fair share. What do they mean by their fair share? It’s a complex calculation, but put simply, the NGO has calculated a personal ‘carbon budget’ for each company, based on a figure put together by the IPCC of how much carbon we can still emit globally without warming the Earth beyond 1.7 degrees Celsius, and how much carbon the companies emitted in 2019. According to its calculations, the companies’ current climate goals aren’t enough to keep them within their allocated budget, meaning that even if everyone else sticks to their budgets, these companies’ activities would push emissions over the limit. Daimler said it did not see any grounds for the case. “We have long provided a clear statement for the path to climate neutrality: it is our aim to be fully electric by the end of the decade, wherever market conditions allow”. BMW said in a statement its climate targets were already at the forefront of the industry, and its goals were in line with the ambition of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees. Volkswagen said it would consider the case, but that it “does not view suing individual firms as a suitable method to tackle societal challenges”. It’s now up to Germany’s district court to decide whether the case should be taken forward. If it thinks so, the companies will be asked to present evidence to defend themselves against the charges, and a written debate between the 2 sides will ensue. A ruling could be years away. But the longer it takes, the higher the risk to the companies if they lose, as they could be left with very little time left to meet any court demands by 2030. +++

+++ LOTUS has revealed the all-new E-Sports platform, a modular, lightweight and EV-dedicated architecture that will underpin its future sportscar range. With the Emira being Lotus’ last ICE-powered sportscar, the development for the fully electric successors of the Elise, Exige, and Evora is already well underway. The electric architecture was developed through Project LEVA and it is 37 % lighter compared to that of the Emira V6. At the same time, it supports multiple layouts for the e-motors, different battery capacities, and wheelbase lengths. This is made possible thanks to the multiple interchangeable components of the die-cast rear subframe. The wheelbase will measure a minimum of 2.470 mm for the shorter variant of the upcoming 2-seater sports car and it will exceed 2.650 mm for the longer 2-seater and the 2+2 model. The entry-level version of the new 2-seater model will be fitted with a single motor producing 476 hp and a 66.4 kWh 8-module battery. The longer and more powerful variant will feature a twin-motor producing up to 884 hp and a larger 99.6 kWh 12-module battery pack. In both 2-seater models, the battery modules will be stacked between the seats (in a “chest configuration”, according to Lotus). The 2+2 electric model will be available in both single and twin-motor configurations, but only with the smaller 66.4 kWh 8-module battery. This time though the battery pack will be mounted within the floor, allowing room for an extra pair of seats. Lotus suggests that this layout is more suitable for vehicles with higher ride heights and a taller overall profile. The first model to use the new E-Sports architecture will be the 2-seater Type 135, expected for a 2026 launch. All future sportscars bearing the Lotus name are going to be produced in Hethel, UK, with the upcoming SUVs and sedans to be produced in its new factory in Wuhan, China. Lotus Engineering will also offer its new platform to other companies, including Alpine which was a development partner and will present its own electric sportscar. The E-Sports architecture will be showcased at the Low Carbon Vehicle event staged by Cenex, at Millbrook Proving Ground, UK, on September 22 and 23. As a reminder, Lotus has also announced the Premium architecture, another EV-specific platform reserved for the upcoming C-Segment and E-Segment vehicles. This one will support wheelbase lengths from 2.889 mm to 3.100 mm and above, using 92-120 kWh batteries. +++

+++ Mike MANLEY has stepped down as the head of Americas at Stellantis to take on a new role running one of the largest car dealer groups in the US. The 57-year-old Brit spent more than 20 years working for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and was a key figure in pushing through its merger with the PSA Group to form Stellantis. After various management roles at DaimlerChrysler, he was named Jeep boss in 2009 and thereafter helped to dramatically boost the fortunes of the brand. After Tavares was named CEO of the newly formed Stellantis, Manley was appointed as the head of Americas, with responsibility for the firm’s interested in the North American and Latin American regions. Manley has stepped down from Stellantis with immediate effect and from the start of November will take on a new role as the CEO of Autonation. Manley won’t be directly replaced, with Mark Stewart and Antonio Filosa, the Stellantis COOs for North America and South America respectively, now reporting directly to Tavares. Tavares said that it was a “privilege to know Mike first as a competitor, then as a partner and colleague in the creation of Stellantis, but, most importantly, always as a friend”. Manley, who will continue to sit on the board of the Stellantis Foundation charitable arm, said: “After 20 incredible, challenging and enjoyable years, and with Stellantis performing so strongly under Carlos’s leadership, the time feels right for me to open a new chapter”. +++

+++ Before TESLA considers rolling out a further expansion of its semi-autonomous driving technology, the automaker should take a hard look at what it’s already released, according to Jennifer Homendy, head of the National Transportation Safety Board. In an interview, Homendy said, “Basic safety issues have to be addressed before they’re then expanding it to other city streets and other areas”. Homendy further suggested that Tesla “has clearly misled numerous people to misuse and abuse technology”. It seems Homendy is referring in part to what she calls “misleading and irresponsible” naming and marketing of the automaker’s technology, which includes provisions to automatically steer, accelerate and brake but requires the full attention of a licensed driver who is ready and able to take over if and when the software encounters a situation it can’t handle. Tesla calls some of its technologies “Full Self Driving” and “Autopilot,” despite the fact that the vehicles are not actually capable of autonomously driving themselves. Tesla chief Elon Musk said earlier this month on Twitter that the automaker would launch the 10th version of its Full Self Driving (FSD) tech this month, which sounds good since Musk said the current Beta version 9.2 is “actually not great.” For those not keeping track, Musk and Tesla have been talking about FSD for a couple of years now and the current cost for new buyers is $10,000. Still, Tesla only activates the software needed to run the semi-autonomous tech on a case-by-case basis for certain owners who are part of the automaker’s early access program. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating Tesla’s Autopilot technology following an alarming number of crashes with stationary emergency vehicles. Two U.S. senators have similarly called on the Federal Trade Commission to probe Tesla for misleading statements about its semi-autonomous tech. +++

+++ Toyota chief executive Akio TOYODA has warned that millions of automotive jobs could be at risk if the Japanese government pursues an ambitious push for carbon neutrality. While speaking in his role as chairman of Japan’s automaker association, Toyoda explained that a radical shift to electric vehicles could cripple the company’s manufacturing industry. This comes as Japan pushes to become carbon neutral by 2050. “Japan is an export-reliant country”, Toyoda said. “Thus, carbon neutrality is tantamount to an issue of employment for Japan. Some politicians are saying that we need to turn all cars into EVs or that the manufacturing industry is an outmoded one but I don’t think that is the case. To protect the jobs and lives of Japanese people, I think it is necessary to bring our future in line with our efforts so far”. Toyoda noted that Japan produces about 10 million vehicles a year, roughly 50 % of which are exported. Forecasts predict the country could be producing 8 million vehicles annually with combustion engines, including hybrids and PHEVs, even in 2030 and made the argument that legislating them out of existence would cripple the job market. “This means that production of more than 8 million units would be lost, and the automotive industry could risk losing the majority of 5.5 million jobs”, Toyoda argued. “If they say internal combustion engines are the enemy, we would not be able to produce almost any vehicles”. Toyoda remains steadfast in his belief that hybrid vehicles are still an important bridge technology towards EVs and are particularly important in markets without a sizeable charging infrastructure. “In achieving carbon neutrality, the enemy is carbon dioxide, not internal combustion”, Toyoda said. “To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it is necessary to have practical and sustainable initiatives that are in line with different situations in various countries and regions”. +++

+++ TOYOTA boss Akio Toyoda is one of the most vocal opponents of banning the internal combustion engine. He renewed his call to reconsider the measures announced by various governments around the world and warned that bans could indirectly cause unemployment in Japan. “Carbon is our enemy, not the internal combustion engine,” he said during a Japan Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (JAMA) press conference. He’s the group’s chairman. He pointed out Japan’s car industry has cut its CO2 emissions by 23 % over the past 20 years, largely with hybrid technology like the system Toyota pioneered before a vast majority of its domestic and international rivals. In his view, the industry needs to “leverage the technological advantages that we have built up and take immediate steps to maximize CO2 reductions using the electrified vehicles we have now,” a strategy which would free up resources to develop solutions for other carbon-emitting industries. While he stopped short of citing examples, the experimental hydrogen-powered Corolla race car unveiled earlier in 2021 illustrates Toyoda’s point. It’s powered by a turbocharged 3-cylinder engine that burns hydrogen; unlike the Mirai, which is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell that generates electricity. The prototype has zero local carbon emissions, just like an EV, but it uses proven and existing technology. Toyota is also reportedly developing a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain to put in its bigger cars, like commercial vehicles and SUVs. Toyoda added that regulations written in and for Europe could have disastrous consequences on the Japanese economy. Japan’s car industry employs about 5.5 million people, a figure which represents 10% of the country’s workforce, and it exports about half of the roughly 10 million cars it builds annually. His team estimates that the annual production of battery- and hydrogen-powered cars will not reach the two-million mark by 2030, meaning Japan would be left with about eight million cars that it won’t be able to export to markets where the internal combustion engine will be banned, either directly or indirectly through strict regulations. In turn, this could cause Japan to lose “a vast majority” of industry jobs. “I would like policy makers to understand this point when addressing the environmental issue”, he stressed. This isn’t the first time Toyoda has boldly and openly criticized bans like the ones announced in Japan, the United Kingdom, New York, and California. In late 2020, he cautioned that forcing the industry to go all-electric could cause Japan to run out of electricity in the summer, and that bans threaten to make private car ownership “a flower on a high summer,” meaning out of reach for many consumers. Toyota investors have denounced him for questioning the bans, and Toyota is on track to release its first series-produced EV, the BZ4X, in 2022. Interestingly, Yamaha president Yoshihiro Hidaka (who is JAMA’s vice chairman) addressed the topic of electrifying the motorcycle segment during the same press conference. Yamaha is planning a range of electric two-wheelers, but he noted that, in his opinion, the optimal powertrain for motorcycles differs based on usage, displacement, and the needs of various communities. He said that, looking far ahead to 2050, other options such as hydrogen and synthetic fuel might be available to motorcycle manufacturers around the world. +++

+++ One of the stars of the 2021 Munich auto show was the VOLKSWAGEN ID.Life, a concept built to preview an entry-level electric car aimed at a relatively young target audience. While it might not reach production exactly as it was shown, it illustrates the direction that the German firm’s design language will take in the coming years. What stands out when you look at the ID.Life is that it shares no styling cues with Volkswagen’s existing electric cars, like the ID.4. It’s its own thing, with a handful of subtle retro touches if you look hard enough. Jozef Kabaň, the company’s head of design, told that was intentional; his team’s aim was not to make a smaller ID.3. It was to create a crossover with a timeless design, and this was especially important due to the technology packed in it. “Cars these days are technologically always on air, they get over-the-air updates so your car is always fresh, so it would be a shame if the design becomes outdated. We wanted to work on that even more”, Kabaň explained as he described the train of thought that shaped the ID.Life. He noted making a car with a strong character doesn’t always mean overloading it with unnecessary styling cues and add-ons, and the Life illustrates that well inside and out. Looking ahead, this approach to design will permeate the rest of the Volkswagen range to varying degrees. “Volkswagen’s design language always has to move in a more timeless direction. It fits the brand”, Kabaň said. “We want to be authentic and clear and use real materials; there’s no fake of any kind or trying to look like something else. Fake exhaust outlets, fake wood, and so on. We want our cars to be well balanced”, he added. This isn’t the first time that Volkswagen has built a concept to showcase the fun side of its modular MEB platform. It wowed us with the ID.Buggy, a heritage-inspired design study unveiled in 2019 that put a modern spin on the concept of a dune buggy, and previewed a new world of coachbuilt cars. Production was tentatively planned to start with the help of a third party until obstacles put the project on hiatus but the Buggy isn’t dead yet. Ralf Brandstätter, the CEO of the Volkswagen brand, told that the concept car’s future is “still in discussion”. As for the Life, the production model it will morph into is scheduled to land in showrooms in 2025. +++

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